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LG G Pad 8.3 review: Zippy and reliable, but pricey

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MSRP: $349.99

The Good The LG G Pad 8.3 has a crisp full-HD display, a fast quad-core processor, and expandable memory.

The Bad At $350, the Wi-Fi variant is steeply priced, and its design lacks a premium feel.

The Bottom Line With its speedy and reliable performance, the LG G Pad 8.3 is a solid small-sized tablet, but for non-Verizon customers, the smoother and less expensive Google Nexus 7 is the better choice.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Editors' Note, March 12, 2014: This review has been updated with analysis of the G Pad 8.3's 4G LTE data performance on Verizon Wireless.

When the G Pad 8.3 initially launched in November 2013, it was a Wi-Fi only tablet available online and in Best Buy retail stores with a steep $349.99 price tag. After its initial roll out, two other versions have been released, including a Google Play Edition and a 4G LTE model for Verizon.

Though LG has been out of the tablet game for a while (in fact, back in 2012, it announced it was putting tablet development on the back burner to focus on smartphones instead) the G Pad's specs are, for the most part, comparable to today's competition. Namely, it's equipped with a Snapdragon 600 processor and a sharp high-resolution screen.

But even though the G Pad can keep up with its rivals, it doesn't necessarily surpass them. When it comes to the Wi-Fi models at least, the Google Nexus 7 is better than LG's tablet in terms of both performance and value. However, if you're a Verizon customer, the G Pad's pricing structure makes it notably cheaper, especially when you consider that the Nexus 7 is $50 more expensive on the carrier.

Design
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. My CNET UK colleague, Andrew Hoyle, was even able to slide it into his inner blazer pocket, but you can forget about it fitting inside any jean pockets (which the smaller Nexus is known to be able to do). In addition, it weighs 0.74 pounds (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.

Though it makes the G Pad a bit more slippery, I like the device's aluminum 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 it 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 (backside)
The G Pad features a stylish aluminum backside, but stale plastic trimmings. Josh Miller/CNET

On the device's top edge you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 64GB, and an infrared blaster (more on this later). 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.

LG G Pad 8.3 (Verizon)
Verizon's 4G LTE model comes in black. Josh Miller/CNET

Software features
The device runs LG's Optimus 3.0 user interface, and it introduces a new function called QPair. This enables you to connect your G Pad to your smartphone via Bluetooth. You can see when you're getting an incoming call, hang up on a call, or respond to a call with a text--all directly through the tablet.

QPair also allows you to view the last webpage you were looking at on your handset, or the last app you had open (as long as the app is also loaded in the G Pad) with a little popup sticker that appears on your screen. The tablet can receive SNS notifications from your smartphone on its own status bar, and any notes written in the G Pad's QuickMemo app (more on that later) can be automatically saved in your handset's gallery.

Though QPair is already preloaded as an app on the tablet, you'll need to go to the Google Play Store and download it on your smartphone in order to initiate pairing. The good news is that your handset can be any Android phone, as long as it runs 4.1 Jelly Bean or later.

LG G Pad (QPair screenshots 1)
QPair enables users to view an incoming phone call on the G Pad (left), and reply to it with a text message as well (right). Lynn La/CNET

Using LG's current flagship, the G2, I tied the two devices together with QPair. Setup was similar to joining any two gadgets through Bluetooth, and the whole process was easy enough. However, I did have to update my G Pad's QPair app off the bat, and I could only update it through another LG app called Update Center (which is also preloaded).

In addition, QPair allows users to activate Wi-Fi hotspotting, so your tablet can access the Internet through your phone's data connection. However, this function only works with certain handsets and carrier plans, and my G2 on AT&T's network was not compatible for whatever reason. Setting up a mobile hotspot through Settings worked fine though.

Aside from QPair, the G Pad doesn't have any new standalone UI features that I didn't already see on the G2. However, some functions have certainly benefited from the tablet's bigger screen. One is QuickMemo, LG's signature note-taking app, which lets you jot down notes and doodles directly onto whatever your screen is displaying at the moment, or on a virtual memo pad. (LG also added two new overlays: one is a papyrus-esque background and the other mimics that of steam creeping up against the glass.)

LG G Pad (Qpair screenshots 2)
The QPair popup sticker on the right side of my tablet's screen indicates that Flipboard was the last app I accessed on my handset (left). On the right are smartphone notifications appearing on the G Pad's status bar. Lynn La/CNET

You can launch QuickMemo by sliding your finger up from the bottom edge of the screen, tapping its icon on the notifications shade, or opening the app. Though its been around since last year's Optimus Vu 5-inch phablet, the app shines on the 8.3-inch display. Drawing and writing come much easier with all that space, but keep in mind that the G Pad, QuickMemo, and a common stylus all pale in comparison to Samsung's pricier Galaxy Note 8, S Note app, and S Pen in terms of productivity features and functionality. Still, with the G Pad, QuickMemo has become more useful and even fun to use.

Other features that take advantage of the tablet's form factor are the writing recognition software integrated in the LG keyboard, and QSlide. This multitasking function overlays apps like the video player, the calculator, and the browser while you browse through your device and access other apps. You can resize QSlide windows, too, and adjust its transparency.

There's also Slide Aside, which lets you pull up and access three apps of your choosing. Back on the G2, I found that swiping three fingers across the display to engage this function was a little awkward and unintuitive. And while the latter still stands, the gesture doesn't feel as awkward on the G Pad. Due to the larger screen, the motion feels more coordinated, less clunky--like I'm not clumsily cramming and dragging the majority of my hand across a small screen.

Additional UI add-ons include QuickRemote, which turns the tablet into a universal remote for things like TVs, DVD players, and projectors using the IR blaster up top. KnockOn lets you wake up and put to sleep the device by double-tapping the touch screen. And multi-user allows you to add up to eight different accounts to your G Pad so that other users can use the tablet without disturbing your apps, settings, or preferences.

LG G Pad (QuickMemo and keyboard)
QuickMemo's new steam overlay (left) and the handwriting recognition feature on the LG keyboard. Lynn La/CNET

Lastly, there's Voice Mate, aka: LG's version of Samsung's S Voice or Apple's Siri. Powered by Maluuba, you can ask the app to check the weather, or search the Web by either opening the Voice Mate app, or swiping from the bottom edge of the screen.

The tablet runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. While this is a common OS version for a mobile device to launch with, it's still a tad disappointing not to see the latest Android software on here. Especially since KitKat is due out any day now, and the G Pad's most obvious competition, the Nexus 7, ships with Android 4.3.

You'll find your standard handful of Google apps included such as Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Maps with Navigation, and portals to the Play Store: Books, Games, Magazines, Movies and TV, and Music, Hangouts, G+ Photos, and YouTube.

Basic task-managing apps include a clock with alarm functions, a calculator, a calendar, native browser and e-mail clients, a notebook, a memo pad, a to-do list, a voice recorder, a news and weather app, and a dictionary. You'll also get the mobile office suite, Polaris Office 5, MiraCast, a video editor, a language translator, and the rather mysterious/invasive Life Square app, which keeps track of your photos, videos, voice recordings, and social networking posts.

Hardware features
The Wi-Fi only tablet has a quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor, while Verizon's variant has a 1.5GHz Snapdragon 600 processor. The G Pad also has a Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. It also supports 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5GHz) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE. You'll also get a gyroscope and an accelerometer.

LG G Pad (Riptide GP 2)
With a quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU and an Adreno 320 GPU, it's all smooth sailing (err, jet skiing) with Riptide GP 2. Josh Miller/CNET

Performance
The Corning glass HD IPS touchscreen has a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution and 273ppi. The display is not only responsive and sensitive to the touch, but also crisp and sharp. I also think it's a great size for watching movies and playing games. After using it for a while, the "smallness" of the Nexus' 7-inch screen is strikingly apparent.

However, when viewing a swatch of white on a webpage, I was surprised by how dim the G Pad was. In comparison, the Nexus 7 lead the way in terms of brightness and the purity of the white hue, with the iPad Mini coming in at a close second, and then the Galaxy Tab 3. The G Pad, though, trailed behind. Its white swatch looked almost greyed-out, and when I viewed an HD video side-by-side with all four tablets, the G Pad was notably dimmer than the others.

On a better note, when I looked at an all-black swatch, the G Pad displayed it relatively well. Again, the Nexus 7 outdid the competition by showing the starkest and deepest shade, but the G Pad and Mini followed narrowly behind. Unfortunately, the same black patch on the Tab 3 appeared a bit glazed with grey.

Aside from its dimness though, the G Pad's display is, in general, great. I wasn't kidding about it being sharp; it has a wide viewing angle, it's easy to view outdoors in sunlight, and text and menu icons look smooth.

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Nexus 7 (2013) Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch) Apple iPad Mini
Maximum brightness 289 cd/m2 570 cd/m2 395 cd/m2 399 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.24 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2 0.39 cd/m2 0.49 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,204:1 1,295:1 1,021:1 814:1
Pixels per inch 273ppi 323ppi 189ppi 163ppi

When it comes to small but necessary tasks, the tablet did have a couple of rare hiccups. For instance, it sometimes took a few moments too long to switch from landscape to portrait mode and vice versa, and there were times when I'd return to the home page and the app icons didn't immediately appear. These moments were few and far between, however, and for the most part the G Pad executes actions swiftly and smoothly.

Unlocking the screen, swiping through the home pages and app drawer, and calling up the keyboard were a breeze. More complicated tasks, like playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP 2, went off without a hitch as well. During gameplay, I saw impressively high frame rates and smooth graphics that were sharp and fine. Performance was also reliable; the app didn't stutter or freeze at any time.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
LG G Pad 8.3 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor Adreno 320 (single-core) 2GB Android 4.2.2
Google Nexus 7 (2013) 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Adreno 320 (single-core) 2GB Android 4.3
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch) 1.5GHz quad-core Exynos 4 Dual (4212) Mali T400MP4 (quad-core) 1.5GB Android 4.2.2
Apple iPad Mini 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 PowerVR SGX543MP2 (dual-core) 512MB iOS 6.1.3

We ran benchmarks on the 1.7GHz quad-core model, and as you can deduce from the charts below, the G Pad's internal processing performance is great. Other than our N.O.V.A. 3 test (wherein the device took an unimpressive 34 seconds to load the game's first level), it scored better than both the Tab 3 and Mini by a notable amount with our 3D Mark test. Yet again, however, the Nexus outperformed the G Pad, despite the former housing a "less powerful" S4 Pro processor. Save for the Physics test, the Google-branded tablet managed to score the highest. (For more on the 3DMark test, click here.)

N.O.V.A. 3 Level 1 load time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
3DMark (Normal, 720p)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Graphics Test 1, 720p (GPU, in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Graphics Test 2, 720p (GPU, in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Physics Test, 720p (CPU in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Like with most tablets, the G Pad's cameras aren't anything to write home about, but work well enough. Photos, especially those set in dimmer lighting, showed noticeable amount of digital noise and graininess, and objects lacked well-defined edges and a sharp focus. Some features of both the 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3-megapixel camera include a voice-activated shutter, color effects, geotagging, and a number of different scene modes. Video capabilities include pausing and taking still photos while recording, live effects that comically distort your face, and 1080p full-HD shooting (for the rear camera).

Anecdotally, the device's 4,600mAh battery lasted adequately long. With medium usage and maximum brightness turned on, the G Pad lasted throughout the workday with about 20 percent of juice left. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found .

Video Battery life (in hours)
LG G Pad 8.3 6.4

4G LTE Data Performance
We tested the 4G LTE model in our San Francisco offices on Verizon's network. Though data speeds were consistent and adequate, they were surprisingly a bit slower than expected for the Big Red. On average, it took 12 and 40 seconds for the CNET mobile and desktop sites to load, respectively. The New York Times mobile site clocked in at 8 seconds, while its full page finished in 39 seconds. ESPN, meanwhile, took 25 seconds to load the mobile version, and 24 seconds for the desktop. The 44.22MB game Temple Run 2 downloaded and installed in 7 minutes and 37 seconds on average. Ookla's speed test app showed 2.08Mbps down and 1.12Mbps up.

LG G Pad 8.3 (Verizon Wireless) Performance
Average 4G LTE download speed 2.08Mpbs
Average 4G LTE upload speed 1.12Mbps
CNET mobile site load 12 seconds
CNET desktop site load 40 seconds
Temple Run 2 app download 44.22MB in 7 minutes and 37 seconds

Conclusion
If LG continues participating in the tablet industry, the G Pad 8.3 is a solid restart. Its zippy performance, expandable memory, and crystal-clear screen fulfill most of what users are looking for.

Verizon customers who want a 4G LTE device will benefit most from this tablet. Priced at $199.99 on-contract, it's one of the cheapest tablets on the carrier (beaten only by the $99.99 Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and the $149.99 Verizon Ellipsis 7). Furthermore, the Nexus 7 is $50 more expensive than the G Pad on Verizon whether users agree to a two-year contract or not.

However, as a Wi-Fi only device, $350 is a lot to shell out for this small tablet. Consider another expensive tablet: the Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display is only $50 more, but features supreme build quality, a brighter, more vivid screen, and access to the largest app ecosystem.

LG G Pad 8.3 (Verizon rear)
Unless you're on Verizon, the G Pad is rather expensive compared to other small tablets on the market. Josh Miller/CNET

But again, you don't have to pay that much for a tablet that's comparable to the G Pad. The original iPad Mini is currently priced at $299, and even though the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 didn't score as well as the G Pad in our benchmark tests, it's still a smooth performer. It also meets the 8-inch screen standard (if you're into a that), and has expandable memory -- all for $299.99 or less.

And while this isn't true for Verizon users, the best alternative to the Wi-Fi G Pad is the Google Nexus 7. True, it has a smaller screen and lacks microSD support, but it boasts a superior internal performance. The Nexus is also aesthetically appealing, and as a Google-branded device, it'll receive OS updates the moment they roll out.

And most importantly: it's cheaper when you only stick with Wi-Fi. The 32GB Nexus model is still $80 less than the G Pad. With all these factors, it's no wonder why, in terms of Android tablets, the Nexus 7 remains the standard to beat.

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