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LG G Pro 2 review: Stunning screen and speed without much style

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MSRP: $899.00

The Good The LG G Pro 2 packs a beautiful and large HD screen, loads of camera features, and fast performance.

The Bad The Pro 2's big size can be unwieldy and its sharp edges are uncomfortable to hold. The phone's tap-to-unlock feature (Knock Code) is useful but isn't responsive enough.

The Bottom Line The LG G Pro 2 delivers plenty of power, a huge and lovely screen, and a feature-packed camera, but the Galaxy Note 3's stylus and superior styling give it the edge.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

Editors' note, March 13, 2014: This review has been updated with additional data and call performance analysis.

With the new G Pro 2, LG hopes to make would-be Note 3 buyers think twice. Like Samsung's popular phablet, the Pro 2 boasts a huge, bright, and colorful HD screen as well as an excellent 13-megapixel camera. LG also packs in plenty of software tricks and UI enhancements to throw veteran Android users a curve or two.

Of course the G Pro 2 will have a tough time deflecting potential Note 3 shoppers off target. While LG's latest creation matches the current phone/tablet hybrid in terms of power and components, its design isn't quite as classy as that of Samsung's killer, overgrown smartphone. Additionally the G Pro 2 lacks a stylus, so it can't tackle the same inventive S Pen features that the Note line brings to the table. That said, while the unlocked, Korean model of the G Pro 2 we reviewed isn't sold in US or Europe, if you can grab it for significantly less than the Note 3, it's one heck of a bargain no matter where you live.

Key hardware components and what's improved
The new G Pro 2 represents a huge leap forward, especially when compared with the older Optimus G Pro. While the previous Optimus G Pro relied on a quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor, the G Pro 2 uses a much more robust quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 CPU, similar to LG's highly popular Google Nexus 5.

The device also features an Adreno 330 GPU, and the removable battery's capacity jumped from 3,140mAh to 3,200mAh.The Pro 2's screen's bigger, too: 5.9 now as opposed to 5.5 inches. As for its camera prowess, it has a rear-facing 13-megapixel camera (more on that later) and a 2-megapixel front-facing shooter.

Measuring 6.2 inches tall, 3.2 inches wide, and just 0.3 inch thick, the G Pro 2 is available in three colors: white, silver, and titan, aka black. Just like the previous G Pro, the device is massive. People with small hands will definitely have to use both of them to navigate the handset properly. When held side by side with the gargantuan G Flex, the G Pro 2 is just as large. There is a setting, however, that you can turn on to shrink the display image (more on that later).

LG G Pro 2 (unlocked)
The G Pro 2 is equipped with a vibrant 5.9-inch full-HD IPS, 1080p display. Josh Miller/CNET

Like LG's current marquee handset, the G2, the Pro 2 houses its physical control keys (including the power and volume buttons) on its back. LG has also added a lustrous but subtle overlay on the battery door, which we personally like since it gives a premium feel to the phone.

That said, the faux-leather backing of the Galaxy Note 3 is more comfortable to hold and adds an extra touch of sophistication. By comparison the G Pro 2's thin edges possess an almost bladelike sharpness, not a trait handheld objects should have.

Along with its superslim 3.33mm bezel (which has a subtle glitter pattern that's only noticeable in the light), the phone is equipped with a 5.9-inch full-HD IPS display that has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. Though that's a size bump compared with its predecessor, pixel density has slightly decreased from 400ppi to 373ppi. We did not, however, notice any downgrade in quality. When viewing a sample HD video, images looked crisp, bright, and clear. True to LG devices, whites looked especially pure, and viewing angles were pleasingly wide.

LG G Pro 2 (unlocked)
On the back of the G Pro 2 is the same volume and power key arrangement you'll find on the G2. Josh Miller/CNET

New software goodies from LG
Although we had previously seen what is known as the KnockOn function (wherein users can wake up the phone by tapping twice on its screen) included in devices like the G2 and the G Flex, the Pro 2 takes it one step further with Knock Code.

Knock Code combines turning on your phone and unlocking the lock screen into one action. By dividing the display into four quadrants, users can tap a certain combination within these zones to wake up and unlock their device. With passwords ranging from two to eight taps, LG says there are more than 80,000 different combinations possible.

Now playing: Watch this: Use Knock Code on the LG G Pro 2

The function works rather smoothly, but we had to make sure that our taps were distinct and timed with equal cadence. It works mostly anywhere on the screen, too, but you'll need to wait a few moments before your code is registered and the screen unlocks. Personally, we find a swipe code to be easier. Though it does save you an extra motion when you have your handset laying on a flat surface, it'll be difficult to successfully unlock your phone through Knock Code with one hand, such as when you're in a car. We did manage to do it a few times that way, using our thumb, but it was uncomfortable and we constantly felt as if we were on the verge of dropping the Pro 2 onto unforgiving pavement.

LG adds a few more software tools into to the mix. There's Content Lock, which lets users password-protect certain files, photos, and videos. Mini View gives users the option to scale down the display from 4.7 inches to 3.4 inches to facilitate one-handed navigation. Lastly, LG's Dual Browser lets you split the phone's browser into two, thus allowing you to view more than one Web page while surfing the Internet.

LG G Pro 2 (Knock Code and Mini View)
Setting the Knock Code password (left), and the home screen as it displays in Mini View. Lynn La/CNET

Additional software features
Like most marquee devices these days, the handset runs Android 4.4. KitKat (v2). It has all the usual Google fixings you'd come to expect, like Chrome, Gmail, portals to the Play store, Maps, YouTube, and more. You can also access Google's virtual assistant, Google Now, by swiping upward from the bottom bezel. In addition, because our review model is from Korea, the phone also had a bevy of Korean apps. Should this device ever hit our shores, you can bet that these apps won't be included, and would probably be replaced with US carrier-specific apps.

Camera and video
Recognizing the craze sweeping the globe, the G Pro 2's 2.1-megapixel front camera comes with a clever selfie mode. Essentially, the phone shrinks the preview screen and surrounds it with a white border that illuminates your face in dark environments. And like its predecessor the G2, a Voice Shutter fires the shutter when you say words like, "smile," "cheese," and "whiskey."

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