LG Optimus G Pro (unlocked) review: No stylus, but still a phablet done right

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 9.0

Average User Rating

5 stars 1 user review
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The LG Optimus G Pro packs a sharp and crisp display, a blazing Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, and Android Jelly Bean.

The Bad The Optimus G Pro's hefty size can be cumbersome to handle and it doesn't come with a stylus.

The Bottom Line Though it lacks a stylus and it won't fit everyone's lifestyle, the LG Optimus G Pro's beautiful touch screen and ultrafast CPU do this handset justice.

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Debuting at Mobile World Congress, the LG Optimus G Pro is a 5.5-inch device that will launch in Korea this month, followed by a North American release in Q2. The handset is actually LG's third crack at the phone/tablet hybrid niche, after its Optimus Vu and Vu II (the U.S. carrier, Verizon, released the former as the LG Intuition , which received a lukewarm response).

But this phone is more than just another attempt; it shows how the third time can indeed be a charm. Not only does it boast powerful quad-core specs, it also features the more common 16:9 aspect ratio (as opposed to the wonky 4:3 ratio its predecessor had) on a vivid touch screen. In both looks and performance, it's the closest any handset comes to rivaling the reigning king of phablets, the Galaxy Note 2 .

Unfortunately, the G Pro lacks a stylus. Even the Vu had one, and Samsung developed its S Pen stylus specifically for the Note, which tucks into the handset and has its own tech to enhance productivity. The G Pro doesn't even have a simple analog stylus, and while this doesn't render the phone completely useless, it prevents the G Pro from usurping the Note 2 altogether.

Editors' note: This review is of the unlocked, global version of the Optimus G Pro. For the U.S. version on AT&T, read our review here.

Design
One of the first things I noticed about the LG Optimus G Pro was how thin it was. Though this keeps it lightweight for its size (at 6.2 ounces) and sleek, the slim 0.25-inch profile also made it feel too fragile and slightly cumbersome to navigate with one hand.

There were a lot of times when I used my thumb to tap something on one side of the screen only to have the bottom part of my thumb accidentally select and open something on the opposite side. To help with one-handed operation, LG did include some additional settings, like letting you adjust the keyboard or number pad to the left or right side.

LG Optimus G Pro screenshot
You can situate the Optimus G Pro's number pad to one side for easier one-handed navigation. Lynn La/CNET

Overall, however, the device is attractive. You can see that LG is trying to give its top-tier phones a more cohesive look, and the handset flaunts the same glittery (bathroom-esque) tile design seen on the Nexus 4 and the Vu II. Personally, I find its design a step up from both the LG Intuition and the original Optimus G .

The phone measures 5.875 inches tall and 3 inches wide. On the left, you have a flushed volume rocker that's situated quite low on the edge -- almost right in the middle of the body. I found myself often pressing the empty space between the rocker and the QuickMemo shortcut key (which sits right above it), when trying to turn up the sound. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a small collapsible TV antenna on the right corner. On the right is a sleep/power button and at the very bottom is a Micro-USB port for charging.

Of course, what's most noticeable about the G Pro is that 5.5-inch full-HD IPS screen. It has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and 400ppi. It sports a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is more standard on mobile phones than the Intuition's 4:3 ratio.

Like most high-end LG handsets, its screen is bright and extremely responsive. I like how the display edges are similar to the Nexus 4's, in that it contours down toward the bezel. It has a wide viewing angle, and you can see images clearly in both indoor and outdoor lighting. Colors are vibrant, icons are sharp, and text looks crisp.

LG Optimus G Pro keyboard
Using the Optimus G Pro's virtual keyboard proved to be difficult on my relatively small hands. Sarah Tew/CNET

I also have to say that watching videos on this was really enjoyable, more so than on the Intuition. Having that much more real estate is a relief to the eyes, and it gave me a more encompassing and engrossing experience than those offered on smaller handsets.

I did see, however, that the whites on the screen had a slightly cold, blue-grayish tint to them. It's too subtle to notice at first, but when I compared it side by side with an iPhone, the tint was more apparent.

In addition, though the screen size is great for entertainment, other things had to take some getting used to. For example, texting became much more cumbersome, especially in landscape mode. Taking into account that I have small hands, it was hard reaching letters that were in the middle of the keyboard. Also, the unit doesn't ship with a stylus, which would be beneficial for tasks such as these.

Above the display is a 2-megapixel camera and below it are two hot keys that light up when in use (back and menu), and a physical home button. This home key is a flush, narrow oval that can also light up with several different LED colors that I found to be a nice deliberate touch.

The back of the device houses a 13-megapixel camera with flash. A small strip of chrome encircles the lens, which bubbles up ever so slightly out of the back plate. To the left is a small audio speaker. Using a small indentation on the left edge, you can pop off the backing and access the 3,140mAh battery and both the Micro-SIM and microSD card slots. Underneath the plate is an NFC chip. Lastly, the handset is capable of wireless charging, but you'll need to buy a special back plate from LG to make use of it.

Software features and UI
The phone includes 2GB of RAM and runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. You'll find a bunch of standard Google apps like Messenger, Maps with Navigation, Local, Voice Search, Talk, Chrome, Gmail, Search, Plus, YouTube, and access to Play Movies and TV, Books, and Store. Because it's running Jelly Bean, you'll also get Google Now , which is search-based digital "assistant" tied into Google Search and Voice Search. To access Google Now, hold down the home key and press the Google logo that pops up at the bottom of the screen.

Other task management apps include a native browser and e-mail client, music and video players, a calculator, a weather app, two video editors, a notebook, a memo pad, a to-do list, an alarm clock, a voice recorder, a dictionary, and a calendar. There's also the mobile office suite, Polaris Office 4, LG's app and game portal called SmartWorld, and SmartShare, which lets you share multimedia between DLNA-certified devices.

LG Optimus G Pro screenshot
QSlide lets you overlay apps while you browse your phone and access other apps. Lynn La/CNET

Because we got our hands on a Korean handset, there's also a slew of Korean apps. I won't go over these, but if and when the G Pro comes to a U.S. carrier, you can bet that the handset will include carrier specific apps that I'll note.

You'll also get the note-taking feature, QuickMemo, which lets you jot down notes and doodles either directly onto whatever your screen is displaying at the moment, or a memo pad. This is one productivity app for which a stylus would be especially handy. There's also QSlide, LG's multitasking window that was introduced with the last Optimus G. Back then, QSlide only let you overlay a video while you browsed through your phone and accessed other apps. Now however, you can view other apps, like the browser, simultaneously, and you can resize your QSlide window, too.

Camera and video
The 13-megapixel camera comes with loads of options, such as: four photo sizes (from 1,280x960 to 4,160x3,120 pixels); a 15x digital zoom; a flash; geotagging; a timer; four color effects; five white balances; five ISO options (from 100 to 800); six scene modes; three focuses; a brightness meter; a voice-activated shutter; and a time-machine option that enables the camera to take shots even before you press the shutter.

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LG Optimus G Pro (unlocked)

Part Number: OPTIMUSGPROULK

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