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LG G Pad X8.3 review: A tablet worth the commitment

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The Good The LG G Pad x8.3 features a 4G LTE cellular connection. It has a full-size USB port, infrared blaster and it comes with a stylus. The MicroSD card slot expands up to 128GB.

The Bad The stylus isn't deeply integrated into the user interface. Gaming performance is slow.

The Bottom Line If purchased at the discounted price with a 2-year contract, the LG G Pad X8.3 is a solid tablet for everyday use on the go. For $299, the G Pad X8.3 isn't worth it, given that better options are only a few dollars more.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Like smartphones, tablets are compact and easy to take with you wherever you go. Unlike smartphones, without a Wi-Fi connection, most tablets can't access the Internet. The LG G Pad X8.3 is one of the exceptions, featuring a 4G LTE connection through Verizon Wireless.

Though it looks like your average tablet from the outside, a closer look reveals what makes it unique; the 8.3-inch LG Pad packs a full USB port, IR blaster, and stylus. If you're not looking at high-end productivity-geared tablets, like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 , it's rare to find a model that offers one of these features, let alone all three.

What the LG G Pad X8.3 lacks in exciting design and cutting-edge features, it makes up for with practical extras; the IR blaster turns the tablet into a remote control, the USB port allows you to connect a flash drive full of your favorite content (instead of hogging space on your internal storage or microSD card), and the stylus makes writing quick notes and navigating the tablet easy, though it's not as integrated into the operating system like the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy tablet.

The 4G LTE cellular capability is a great addition, not just because you can Netflix wherever you get a cell signal, but also because you can pick up the tablet for a mere $129 with a 2-year contract through Verizon. Just note, if you cancel, you'll be charged $350 at most, with the fee reduced by $10 each month you have the tablet. When compared with other tablets in that price range, the LG G Pad X8.3 boasts better specs and performance. If you don't mind a long-term commitment to Verizon, the LG G Pad X8.3 is a steal at $129. However, at its retail price of $299, you can find something better.

Since it's a Verizon tablet, it is not available for UK and Australian markets. However, at its retail cost, prices convert to AU$406 or £192.

Design

The LG G Pad X8.3's standard design doesn't break the mold by any means. It's reminiscent of the simple LG G Pad , but with sharper corners and flat edges. That said, it's very comfortable to use; the thick bezels and flat edges provide your fingers with enough space to rest and it's lightweight, at 13.02 oz (369 g).

Tablets compared

Tested spec LG G Pad X8.3 Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Nvidia Shield Tablet Dell Venue 8 7000
Weight 0.82-pound (369 g) 0.65-pound (294g) 0.86-pound (390g) 0.67-pound (306g)
Width (landscape) 8.5-inches (216mm) 8.4-inches (213mm) 8.7-inches (221mm) 8.5-inches (216mm)
Height 5-inches (126mm) 4.9-inches (124mm) 5-inches (126mm) 4.9-inches (124mm)
Depth .34-inch (8.6mm) 0.26-inch (6.6mm) 0.36-inch (9.2mm) .24-inch (6 mm)

The back features an aluminum panel with a metallic finish that's framed by a black plastic border that has a soft suede-esque feel. The aluminum panel gives the design a bit of personality, but functionally it has a pleasant feel that adds to the comfort level of the tablet.

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The back panel adds some pizazz to an otherwise homely design. Josh Mller/CNET

The included stylus is slyly tucked into a hole located on the bottom left corner of the LG G Pad X8.3. If you're not looking for it, you might miss it. The stylus itself is traditionally thin, super light, and about five inches long. It snugly and securely fits into its hiding place, ensuring that it won't randomly fall out while carrying the tablet around. It easily slides out easily once unlatched, however, individuals with very short nails might have some trouble taking it out of its sheath.

The top edge houses the IR blaster, full USB port, microphone pinhole and headphone jack. Around the corner on the right edge you'll find the power button and volume rocker, with the microSD card slot on the left edge and the bottom edge is home to the micro-USB port and stylus.

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The stylus slyly blends into the background. Josh Mller/CNET

Features

The G Pad X8.3 runs on a mostly pure version of Android 5.0 Lollipop with small tweaks to the UI. For basic multi-tasking, you can utilize the dual-window function. Not all apps are compatible, but the ones available, like YouTube, Chrome, and Verizon's messaging app, allow you to stream video while responding to e-mail or send text messages while browsing the Web.

Since it's a Verizon tablet, it comes pre-loaded with Verizon specific software, including the My Verizon Mobile, VZ Navigator, Cloud, Mobile Hotspot, and Message+ apps. The My Verizon Mobile app lets you keep tabs on your account, including data usage and billing, and the VZ Navigator is a Bing-powered GPS navigator with the option of voice-guided directions that provide real time traffic information. Though the app comes preloaded, to use the VZ Navigator you must pay $0.99 per day or $4.99 a month to use the feature.

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Multi-tasking is nice, unlike my writing on the right. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The Cloud and Mobile Hotspot apps are rather self-explanatory; Cloud allows Verizon customers to remotely store photos, music, videos, and other documents and access them from other devices and Mobile Hotspot turns the tablet into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The Message+ app lets you send and reply to text messages from your tablet by linking it to your smartphone's phone number. The G Pad X8.3 also comes pre-loaded with LG's QPair app, which can pair any phone to your tablet and allow you to similarly screen calls and respond to text messages.

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The full-size USB port is a rare treat. Josh Miller/CNET

Though the full USB port doesn't sound like a cool feature, it's very useful. If you store your documents, videos, or music on a flash drive, you can easily pop it into the tablet and access all of those files. Without it, like most tablets, you have to connect the tablet to a computer to transfer the files, or load them onto a microSD card. You can also charge a device using the USB port, or connect a mouse or keyboard for extra functionality.

The other small -- but significant -- hardware feature is the stylus. It provides a PDA-like functionality that's useful for work or play. It help navigating the tablet or with typing, since the keyboard on the 8.3-inch screen might be small for those with larger hands.

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Stylish stylus Josh Mller/CNET

LG preloads the tablet with the QuickMemo+ app and it's easily accessible from the main homepage by simply swiping from left to right. The app offers many color, thickness, and opacity options, making it possible to write down notes or draw a doodle. If your note-taking is more complex than what this faux piece of paper can handle, you can also easily write on whatever is on the screen itself by simply selecting the QuickMemo+ option from the pull-down notifications menu. The stylus works with other note-taking or drawing apps, but QuickMemo+ provided me with all the basic features I needed.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 , the stylus isn't utilized in a way that makes using it essential. It works more like a useful afterthought than an integral part of the experience. Despite this, I enjoyed the option to use it -- especially while eating, so I didn't have to dirty the screen with my greasy fingers.

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You can write notes on the screen and save the images. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

LG traditionally packs its tablets with IR blasters and the G Pad X8.3 is no exception. It's a small, almost unnoticeable circle located on the top edge of the tablet. It turns your tablet into a remote and works in conjunction with the pre-loaded QuickRemote app. The app itself is rather sparse, allowing you to only control a TV or cable box, however there are third-party apps that offer more devices, like Blu-Ray players or receivers.

Hardware

The LG G Pad X8.3 houses a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor, Adreno 405 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal memory, and a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 128GB.

Other features include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and LTE Bands 25, 26 and 41 frequencies.

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The MicroSD/SIM card slot is covered by a flap. Josh Mller/CNET

Performance

The LG G Pad X8.3 isn't a performance monster, but it works smooth and steady for most casual tasks. I had no issues browsing the Web, checking email and streaming video, even with many apps open in the background. Things slowed down if apps or app updates were downloading, but that's common on all tablets.

3DMark Ice Storm (Unlimited)

Nvidia Shield Tablet 28104
Dell Venue 8 7000 21167
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4) 13623
LG G Pad X8.3 7285

If you're into gaming, the G Pad X 8.3 works well for wasting hours with Candy Crush or playing Angry Birds, however anything more intense requires some patience. Large games take awhile to load, as do their levels -- though once loaded, gameplay tends to be smooth. I noticed some occasional lag while playing N.O.V.A. 3, which resulted in stuttered graphics, but it was only for about half a second and it didn't interrupt gameplay. As evident in 3DMARK benchmark testing, this is not a gaming machine though.

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The screen is small, but sharp. Josh Miller/CNET

The 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution screen is sharp and its color range is wide enough for HD video to look vibrant, but not oversaturated. The 8.3-inch screen features wide viewing angles and the maximum luminosity setting is bright enough to see the screen in sunny settings.

The LG G Pad X 8.3 houses a traditional pair of cameras. The 2-megapixel front-facing camera functions fine for video conferencing, but the low quality makes for unflattering selfies that are often overexposed and blown out in bright spots. The 8-megapixel rear camera is one of the better ones found on a tablet. It has a sharp focus, though things get fuzzy in low-light situations, and colors are on the dull side.

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The stylus in action! Josh Mller/CNET

The good news about the LG G Pad X8.3's speakers is that there's two of them. The bad news is they're located on the back, directing the sound away from your ears. They're loud enough for watching a movie, but they're unsatisfyingly low for music and lack bass.

The LG G Pad X8.3 houses a 4,800mAh battery. Looping a local 720p movie on airplane mode, the tablet scored 7.5 hours in its first battery test. Check back for the final results from the CNET Lab soon.

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The rear-facing speakers sit close to the camera. Josh Mller/CNET

Conclusion

Most tablets work well for casual use, but thanks to its productivity-friendly features, you can say that the LG G Pad X8.3 works well for business-casual use. The extra functionality is helpful to students or those looking to do work on the road, and, at its discounted price, you won't find anything with both a stylus and full USB port.

The most comparable 4G LTE tablet is the Nvidia Shield. It's similar in size, comes with a stylus, and also retails for $299 before carrier discounts, though it's only available through AT&T and T-Mobile. The Nvidia tablet is targets gamers, but it's a solid and speedy Android tablet nonetheless. I have to note, several units have been recently recalled due to possible fire hazard, so I don't feel completely comfortable recommending it over the LG tablet.

If you're a Verizon customer interested in a small tablet, the LG G Pad X8.3 is an excellent option. The low price offered with the 2-year contract is a great deal, especially when considering other tablets in the same price range. At $129, it's a better performer than the best sub-$150 models and it offers practical, useful features that are never found on budget tablets. With the additional benefit of high-speed 4G LTE access, the LG G Pad X8.3 is one of the best mid-range tablets Verizon has to offer.

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