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LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition review: Dependable tablet gets pure Android facelift

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MSRP: $349.99
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The Good The LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition features pure Android with a deeper Google Now integration, and receives the latest updates. It also has a sharp display, expandable memory, and runs a tad faster than its original LG counterpart.

The Bad The G Pad doesn't have the same elegant build-quality as Google's Nexus tablets, and this stock model lacks a few useful apps compared to the LG-skinned original.

The Bottom Line Android purists will find Google's mid-sized LG G Pad 8.3 more compelling, but it's pricier than the model that's overlaid with LG's skin.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9

If you're an Android purist, you're going to love this Google Play edition of the LG G Pad 8.3. Nearly identical to the original in hardware, the major difference you'll find between the two versions comes down to the operating system and skin that you interact with.

While LG's first version runs the company's Optimus 3.0 user interface, this G Pad runs the unadorned stock version of Android 4.4 KitKat. You do lose a lot of LG's built-in software features in the transition, which is a shame for the more useful features among them. However, the pure Android G Pad has other benefits. The device itself is already as reliable, and at times faster, than LG's original, but it will also receive OS updates as they roll in.

Available online at Google's Play Store for $349, Google's model costs just as much as the original when it first launched (though now, the latter costs $50 less at Best Buy). Though it's price isn't exactly inexpensive, it's reasonable -- especially for those dead set on a mid-sized tablet with vanilla Android.

Editors' note: Due to the similarities of the tablets, portions of this review have been lifted from the original LG G Pad 8.3 review.

The device measures 8.54 inches tall, 4.98 inches wide, and 0.33 inches thick. Positioned vertically, it's easy to hold with one hand, which surprised me given how small my grip is. It also weighs 0.74 pound (or 11.8 ounces), so its relatively lightweight. You can easily throw it in a small shoulder bag and it wouldn't feel like a huge drag on your shoulders. In addition, with its 8.3-inch touch screen, it's the ideal solution for those who think the Nexus 7 is too small and the 10 is too large.

Though it makes the G Pad a bit more slippery, I like the device's smooth, faux-metal back panel. In fact, I prefer it over the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3's glossy backside, which traps fingerprints easily. I also like how the tablet feels dense, without being too heavy. Both characteristics give the G Pad a polished look.

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Nexus 7 (2013) Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch) Apple iPad Mini
Weight in pounds 0.74 0.66 0.7 0.68
Width in inches (landscape) 8.5 7.8 8.2 7.9
Height in inches 5 4.5 4.8 5.3
Depth in inches 0.33 0.34 0.27 0.28
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.63 1 0.75 0.81

But while its build quality is solid, the device's plastic trimmings dampen its overall aesthetic, and compared to other small tablets, the G Pad just doesn't look as chic.

For example, although CNET's Eric Franklin prefers the stylings of the 2012 Nexus 7 over the 2013 edition, the most recent Nexus is still much sleeker than the G Pad, with its starkly sharp corners and black all-matte construction. And even though I don't like the Tab 3's backside, its steep, metallic-trim edges look elegant. Lastly, the Apple iPad Mini's alluminum body and trimming definitely give the Mini a more high-end, refined aspect.

LG G Pad 8.3 GPE (back)
On the top edge of the G Pad is a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 64GB. Josh Miller/CNET

On the device's top edge you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 64GB. The right houses a sleep/power button and volume rocker. At the bottom is a Micro-USB port for charging and transferring files.

Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. On the back is 5-megapixel camera, which sits to the left of two narrow slits for the audio speaker.

Software features
Because it is branded by Google this time around, the G Pad won't feature any of LG's built-in software features seen in the first model. That eliminates some superfluous functions I never saw myself using regularly (like QuickMemo and Slide Aside), but it also means getting rid of others that I found to be pretty useful, such as QPair and QuickRemot, with the latter app working in conjunction with the tablet's IR blaster to turn your device into a TV. (For more info on these features, check out the original review.)

But being a Play Edition model does have its benefits. For one thing, instead of running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box like LG's version, this one has 4.4 KitKat. In addition, after I started up the G Pad, it immediately prompted me to download and install 4.4.2, which just launched a few weeks ago.

LG G Pad GPE (homescreen and app drawer)
Yup, just pure Android 4.4 KitKat on this tablet. Lynn La/CNET

I also find the user interface more refreshingly simple and elegant, you'll get a smidgen more available internal space, and you won't have to worry about getting inundated by third-party software apps.

In fact, along with all the basic task-managing apps (like the calculator and alarm clock), all the other Google apps take up just one page of the drawer. This includes Chrome, Currents, Drive, Gmail, Plus, Hangouts and Keep. There's also Maps, Photos, apps for all the Play Store portals, Quick Office, Wallet, and YouTube.

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