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

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MSRP: $349.99
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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.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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.

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.

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