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LG G Pad 7.0 review: LG G Pad 7.0 is a supremely simple budget tablet

The Good The LG G Pad 7.0 starts at $150 and its simple design is comfortable to hold. It has an IR blaster, a microSD card expansion slot and an IPS screen with wide viewing angles. It also features dual-window functionality and comes in a 4G LTE version.

The Bad The Wi-Fi model has only a paltry 8GB of internal storage. The screen is slow to respond when switching orientation and the rear speakers are easily blocked when you hold the tablet in landscape.

The Bottom Line The LG G Pad 7.0 is a basic budget tablet that slightly outmatches its competition with a supremely comfortable build, modest software extras and bargain-basement pricing.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

The basic specs on the LG G Pad 7.0 wouldn't turn any heads on the street, but its low $150 starting price makes it a cheap thrill for bargain hunters.

A sharp IPS screen, an IR blaster (for remote-control capabilities) and the perk of dual-window functionality give it an edge over other cheap tablets and, though its bare-bones build oscillates aesthetically between minimalist and straight-up boring, it's exceptionally comfortable to use.

To be sure, the LG G Pad 7.0 is a budget tablet with some shortcomings -- the measly 8GB of internal storage on the Wi-Fi-only model is most notable -- yet its modest offerings are solid fare for its price range. If an upgrade to a faster processor and sharper screen is desirable, the Google Nexus 7 remains the best Android tablet for $80 more at $229; however, the LG G Pad 7.0 is a capable slate for casual use.

Editors' note: Since the LG G Pad 7.0 is a smaller version of the LG G Pad 10.1, parts of this review are similar to that of the 10-inch model.

Design

The LG G Pad 7.0 appropriately looks like the little sibling of the LG G Pad 10.1 . There's not much to its design; a smooth, matte back panel wraps around to the front bezels of the screen and it brandishes an LG (or AT&T) logo on the back. There are a headphone jack, IR blaster and microSD card expansion slot on the top edge, a power button and volume rocker on the top right corner and a Micro-USB port on the bottom.

Dimensions compared

Tested spec LG G Pad 7.0 Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 Toshiba Excite Go Google Nexus 7
Weight in pounds 0.65 0.61 0.78 0.66
Width in inches (landscape) 7.4 7.4 7.8 7.8
Height in inches 4.5 4.2 4.7 4.5
Depth in inches 0.4 0.35 0.43 0.34
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.7 0.6 0.7 1

The tablet features a native portrait orientation and the dual speakers on the bottom half of the back help signify this. Unfortunately, when you're watching video in landscape mode, it's easy to block the speakers by holding the tablet.

When clutching the tablet in one hand, the rounded edges help your fingers conform to the curves, and the same goes for the corners; palms easily curl around the smooth arcs for a harmonious holding experience.

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The LTE model also has a slot for the SIM card. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The smooth finish on the back is comfortable to hold onto and feels nice in your hands -- like a polished decorative rock -- but lacks grip support. The matte surface also attracts smudges easily, depending on how greasy your hands are.

Features

The LG G Pad 7.0 runs on Android 4.4.2 with LG's Optimus overlay. The user interface offers a variety of customization options not typically found in budget tablets. It's a different experience from last year's G Pad 8.3 , but similar in the extent of its customizability, pretty icons and streamlined menus.

Most budget tablets don't allow you to change more than the home and lock screen backgrounds, but you can heavily tweak the interface of the LG G Pad 7.0 to your liking. You can choose from a variety of lock screen security options, change how the navigation bar on the bottom looks or select a fun screen-swiping effect. These are just some of the options and, though they seem trivial, if you're looking for a device for everyday use you'll probably appreciate the freedom to adjust how you experience the tablet.

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The recent apps function is tile-based and takes up the entire screen. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

QPair ships preloaded on the LG G Pad 7.0. An app that syncs most smartphones with the tablet for easy access to text messages, incoming phone calls and social-network notifications, QPair is useful when you're at home spending time on your tablet and don't want to additionally juggle your phone. Pairing works seamlessly and the G Pad 7.0 rarely had trouble staying synced.

The recent app function sports a slightly different look, with a tile-based approach that slightly resembles the Windows 8 interface. I didn't find it any more or less useful than the standard filmstrip look of most recent apps menu functions, but it is another distinct touch to the interface of the LG G Pads -- nothing extraordinary, just done differently.

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Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

With an IR blaster on its top edge, the LG G Pad 7.0 can double as a universal remote control. The QRemote app comes preloaded on the tablet and makes setup nice and easy. I had the tablet controlling my TV, Blu-ray player and DVD player after about a 10-15 minute pairing process.

Multitasking with dual windows

Basic multiwindow functionality is trickling down to budget tablets, and the LG G Pad 7.0 offers its own useful yet simple dual-window capability. There's a dual-window button located on the navigation bar on the bottom of the screen -- it's located to the right of the recent apps button -- and its quick access makes using the function a regular habit.

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The apps that can be used in the dual-window mode are limited. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

When you touch the dual-window button, a menu pops up with a limited selection of apps you can run at the same time. If you like to stream YouTube videos while browsing the Web or responding to emails, this will suit your needs, but don't expect full-fledged multiwindow capabilities like you'd find on a laptop. This function is basic at best and useful for the most casual of multitaskers.

Hardware

The LG G Pad 7.0 houses a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU and Adreno 305 GPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB or 16GB of internal storage. It also offers a microSD card expansion slot (expandable up to 64GB), IR blaster and microphone pinhole.

Other features on the G Pad 7.0 include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.0 and S-GPS.

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Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Performance

The 1,280x800-pixel resolution is the standard for budget tablets, so it's no surprise that the 7-inch G Pad maintains the status quo. The IPS screen is decently sharp with excellent wide viewing angles and no visible separation between the screen and display. Color range and saturation are decent, but the picture can occasionally look dull -- especially when compared with what you get on other budget models like the Asus Memo Pad 8 .

Screen specs compared

Tested spec LG G Pad 7.0 (LTE) Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 Toshiba Excite Go Google Nexus 7
Maximum brightness 317 cd/m2 (294 cd/m2) 314 cd/m2 380 cd/m2 570 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.29 cd/m2 (.22 cd/m2) 0.47 cd/m2 0.25 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,093:1 (1,336:1) 668:1 1,520:1 1,295:1
Screen resolution 1,280x800 1,280x800 1,024x600 1,920x1,200
Pixels per inch (ppi) 215ppi 215ppi 169ppi 323ppi
Display type WXGA IPS WXGA TFT WSVGA LCD WUXGA IPS

Performance slows down noticeably if downloading or updating apps; open apps are sluggish, screens stutter while navigating and touchscreen response is delayed. I found it best to set the tablet down if heavy-duty downloading was going on in order to avoid any frustrating lag. Switching from landscape to portrait orientation also takes a few seconds for the tablet to register.

For $150, you can purchase the 8GB model of the LG G Pad 7.0, but an added memory card is essential. On the 8GB model, only a little less than 4GB is free space. During my time with the tablet, internal memory quickly ran out after I'd downloaded a few apps, taken photos and added music to the tablet. Unless everything you want to access is online, adding more memory will go a long way.

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The Micro-USB port is located on the bottom edge. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Gaming performance is typical for a budget tablet, meaning simple mobile games run smoothly and swiftly, while large games take longer to load and occasionally have choppy graphics. Though large apps and games take a while to load, the wait times weren't as long as on other budget tablets; most apps opened in a minute or less.

The dual rear speakers on the lower back of the G Pad 7.0 produce clear audio at midrange volume levels with some distortion at maximum volume, though they don't go very loud. The volume rocker function also doesn't change when you switch orientation.

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Like most tablet speakers, the speakers on the G Pad 7.0 are underwhelming. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Anecdotally, the G Pad 7.0's battery life lasted a long time with heavy to casual use. On a full charge the 7-incher's 4,000mAh battery lasted me about a day and a half. Here's the final result after testing the tablet by looping a local video in airplane mode:

Battery test result
LG G Pad 7.0 (Wi-Fi only) 8.7

Camera quality

The LG G Pad 7.0 houses a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing one. Photos on the Wi-Fi-only model were underwhelming, with visible grain, washed-out colors and a low-res soft focus. Though the 4G LTE version packs the same cameras, the native camera app on the AT&T tablet features a manual focus option that also adjusts exposure, resulting in sharper, better-exposed photos.

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The photo on the left was taken with the Wi-Fi-only model and the one on the right is from the LTE version. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Both versions of the tablet offer LG's fun voice-activated function that takes a photo when you say whiskey, kimchee, cheese or one of a few other words. It's a fun party trick, but I wouldn't recommend taking indoor photos with it.

Also with 4G LTE

AT&T offers a 4G version of the LG G Pad 7.0 that starts at $250 with no contract. The LTE-capable model shares the same simple design, but differs slightly in other ways -- for better or worse. It features a better native camera app, as outlined in the section above, a simpler drop-down menu and the addition of a "browser bar," which is a more selective type of bookmark menu. It also comes with 16GB of internal storage, so the storage woes that plague the 8GB model don't apply.

LG G Pad 7.0 LTE performance times

Average 4G LTE download speed 19.03Mbps
Average 4G LTE upload speed 8.68Mbps
Temple Run 2 app download (45.80MB) 35 seconds
CNET mobile site load 6 seconds
CNET desktop site load 6 seconds

On AT&T's 4G LTE network, I was able to stream video, browse the Web and check e-mail on the go quickly and consistently. According to Ookla's speed test app, the average download and upload rates were 19.03Mbps down and 8.68Mbps up, which isn't incredibly fast. However, when using the tablet out and about, I found the slower-than-average speeds weren't detrimental to anything I was doing; sites typically loaded quickly -- the CNET site averaged about a 6-second load time -- and, though they usually started off with choppy lower-resolution playback, streaming video buffered swiftly.

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Manual focus matched with auto-exposure makes the world of a difference. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Conclusion

The LG G Pad 7.0 quietly stands out in the overwhelming sea of budget tablets by keeping things cheap and simple. It doesn't excel at anything in particular; it's supremely mediocre. High-end tablets benefit from zippy processors, pixel-packed screens and an overflow of software features -- things the LG G Pad 7.0 doesn't offer -- but if you only need a tablet for activities like checking e-mail, browsing the Web and playing the occasional mobile game, you don't need those fancy bells and whistles.

The 7-incher, like its larger counterpart, the LG G Pad 10.1, is a midrange tablet with a low-end price tag. Though the 10-inch model sports the same specs, the G Pad 7.0 wears the 1,280x800-pixel resolution better on its smaller screen and it's a more enticing option in its size category.

Typically, you pay extra for the LTE version of a tablet -- an understandable premium for the ability to access high-speed Web service on the go. You can currently cop the LG G Pad 7.0 LTE, which boasts the benefit of an extra 8GB of internal storage, for the same $150 with a two-year contract or $250 without a contract, or pay installments of $12.50 a month for 20 months.

Budget tablets are a dime a dozen and you can argue that the LG G Pad 7.0 is equally pedestrian. However, for anyone looking into an inexpensive tablet for casual use, $150 for a capable slate is an attractive deal. Just keep in mind, if you're opting for the 8GB Wi-Fi-only version, you'll want to make sure to add a microSD card to your cart.

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