LG has always been an underdog compared to Samsung despite the fact that it has made some great devices and even despite having had the first mover's advantage with respect to several smartphone innovations (read: LG Optimus 2X and LG G Flex).But Samsung still rules the phablet category with its Galaxy Note series. The Galaxy Note 3, its latest entrant, is a really good device. The G Pro 2 is LG's effort to topple Samsung from its throne. We try to find out if this phablet can actually pull some trick out of its bag and ruffle Samsung's feathers.
Look and Feel
It is not often that we see manufacturers stray from the tried and tested, especially in the case of smartphone designs. The LG G Pro 2 is a standard oversized candybar, but there is a subtle design element that sets it apart from the competition. Introduced in the LG G2, this phablet also has the volume rocker and power button below the camera on its rear. This alone might not be groundbreaking innovation but it does add a bit of pizazz to the phone. As we stated in our review of the LG G Flex, the placement feels odd for certain functions like capturing screenshots.
At 8.3mm, the G Pro 2 is quite slim, and LG has done a good job of keeping the bezels really small. Our large hands found it easy to grip the phablet, which has a width of 81.9mm. For the price premium the G Pro 2 demands, the copious use of plastic makes it look cheap. There is only a thin strip of metal running around the edges, and the aforementioned buttons on the rear are also made of metal. On the bottom edge are the microphone and the Micro-USB port. Another microphone, an infrared LED and the 3.5mm audio jack sit on the top edge. The ambient light sensor, front camera and earpiece are above the display.
Feature and Specifications
Whilemost 2014 flagships have been based on the Snapdragon 801, LG has decided to go with the slightly older Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.26GHz with an integrated Adreno 330 GPU. LG provides an ample 3GB of RAM. The specific variant of this device on sale in India is the D838, which has 16GB of internal storage space. If that isn't sufficient, one can add up to 32GB more using a microSD memory card.
The LG G Pro 2 has a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilsation, and can shoot videos at UHD resolution. Even the 2.1-megapixel front camera can shoot videos at 1080p.
LG's now-common Optimus UI skin runs on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat on the G Pro 2. While the icons look cartoonish and are ugly in our opinion, the functionality that LG offers is almost on par with Samsung's TouchWiz UI. There are a few garish lockscreen animations too. However, the Knock Code option for unlocking the device is probably one of the most interesting software tweaks made by any Android manufacturer. It is not gimmicky and works really well.
LG bundles a few apps apart from the staple Google ones. To make use of the infrared LED, LG provides QuickRemote which works on a multitude of devices ranging from televisions to air conditioners. It works like a charm and is lots of fun to use. Box is preinstalled for cloud storage, and you even get 50GB of space free for a year. Polaris Viewer 5 works well for viewing documents but it doesn't allow editing them.
We think LG missed an opportunity by not packing a stylus (and compatible apps) with the G Pro 2. Samsung has done well by targeting the crowd that wants to take notes or make doodles on the fly with their S-Pen stylus on the Galaxy Note series of phablets. The screen size is almost perfect for it.
The 13-megapixel camera on the LG G Pro 2 has optical image stabilisation which works well. Focusing on the intended subject was not a hassle at all, and the camera did manage to capture some decent images in favourable lighting conditions. The details were good and noise levels were low. When zoomed in however, it looked as though the phone's software was overprocessing images which resulted in smudged details.
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While the camera app has a ton of modes, the Magic Focus mode which promises to let users recompose shots after they're taken, looked the most promising. HTC and Nokia already have their versions of the same tool, so we were intrigued. Sadly, the desired effect was not all that good, since one absolutely must have super-stable hands for the camera to focus on the entire image and later allow the user to define focus areas. We did manage grab a few decent pictures but the overall experience wasn't too good.
This is a really snappy phablet in daily usage, and multitasking was a cinch. This is primarily because of the 3GB of RAM under the hood. The benchmark numbers also seem to reflect this.
The 1W speaker is really loud and we ended up turning down the volume for ringtones. It is also quite clear, but it still doesn't come close to HTC's BoomSound speakers. Also, the bundled earphones are of really good quality.
Frankly, we are baffled beyond wits here. LG's official price for the G Pro 2 is Rs.51,500, which is super steep. However, a stroll through the major e-commerce websites reveals discounted prices ranging from approximately Rs.35,600 to Rs. 48,500. The G Pro 2 is an absolute steal if we consider the low end of that price range, but there's no telling how long it will be available so cheap.
Without considering such a steep discount, the G Pro 2 goes right up against the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which comes with an S-Pen stylus but lacks 4K video recording. All said and done, the G Pro 2 is definitely a good alternative, but it just falls short of being our first choice.