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LG Optimus G Pro bound for AT&T (hands-on)

LG's new 5.5-inch Optimus G "phablet" for AT&T feels powerful, nimble, and responsive.

Now playing: Watch this: The LG Optimus G Pro comes to the U.S. on AT&T
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Now playing: Watch this: LG Optimus G Pro for AT&T (hands-on)
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Today at an event in New York we got a chance to spend some hands-on time with the new LG Optimus G Pro for AT&T. We can say that the 5.5-inch, quad-core superphone feels just as quick, nimble, and powerful as the international model. Our experience makes us even more eager for the device's launch date of May 10. The phone will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract, but AT&T will begin taking preorders starting May 3.

The device marks the company's second attempt at a "phablet"-size handset in the U.S., with Verizon's LG Intuition being the first.

Due to its name, however, this phone should be more closely associated with LG's flagship from last year, the Optimus G.

The Pro is one of the first phones to feature the 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, and it runs on Android Jelly Bean.

Editors' note: Because they are nearly identical devices, portions of this First Take are taken from our review of the unlocked LG Optimus G Pro.

Design
The handset flaunts a glossy construction with fishnetlike design on the battery door. On the left, you have a volume rocker that's situated flush and quite low on the edge -- almost right in the middle of the body -- and the QuickMemo shortcut key that sits right above it. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack, while on the right is a sleep/power button. At the very bottom is a Micro-USB port for charging.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
Though the handset is big, it's pretty thin and doesn't feel unwieldy. Sarah Tew/CNET

We also like the faux-metallic stripe that rings the Optimus G Pro. And though the handset is large, its extreme thinness really helps the device avoid feeling unwieldy.

Of course, what's most noticeable about the G Pro is that 5.5-inch, full-HD IPS screen. It has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and 400ppi. It sports a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the display edges contour down toward the bezel. Indeed, when we viewed the screen in person we definitely found it to be bright, colorful, and very big. It's an eye-catching number for sure.

Above the display is a 2-megapixel camera and below it are two hot keys that light up when in use (back and menu), and a physical home button. This home key is a flush, narrow oval that can also light up.

The back of the device houses a 13-megapixel camera with flash. A small strip of chrome encircles the lens, which bubbles up ever so slightly out of the back plate. To the left is a small audio speaker. Inside the device, you'll find a 3,140mAh battery and both the micro-SIM and microSD card slots, the latter of which takes cards of up to 64GB. Lastly, the handset is capable of wireless charging using the Qi wireless standard right out of the box.

Software features and UI
The phone includes 2GB of RAM and runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. You'll find a bunch of standard Google apps like Messenger, Maps with Navigation, Local, Voice Search, Talk, Chrome, Gmail, Search, Plus, YouTube, and access to Play Movies and TV, Books, and Store. Because it's running Jelly Bean, you'll also get Google Now, which is a search-based "digital assistant" tied into Google Search and Voice Search. To access Google Now, hold down the home key and press the Google logo that pops up at the bottom of the screen.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
The phone runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, and you'll find a bunch of standard Google apps like Messenger and Maps preloaded. Sarah Tew/CNET

Other task management apps include a native browser and e-mail client, music and video players, a calculator, a weather app, two video editors, a notebook, a memo pad, a to-do list, an alarm clock, a voice recorder, a dictionary, and a calendar. It also has the mobile office suite Polaris Office 4, LG's app and game portal called SmartWorld, and SmartShare, which lets you share multimedia between DLNA-certified devices.

You'll also get the note-taking feature QuickMemo, which lets you jot down notes and doodles either directly onto whatever your screen is displaying at the moment, or a memo pad. This is one productivity app for which a stylus would be especially handy. There's also QSlide, LG's multitasking window that was introduced with the last Optimus G. Back then, QSlide only let you overlay a video while you browsed through your phone and accessed other apps. Now however, you can view other apps, like the browser, simultaneously, and you can resize your QSlide window, too.

Additional features include Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and 32GB of onboard memory.

Camera and video
The 13-megapixel camera is capable of shooting 1080p HD video. In addition to taking photos while recording, it also has dual recording enabled. This lets you record with both cameras simultaneously. On the front is a 2.1-megapixel camera that can also record in full HD.

It comes with loads of options, such as four photo sizes (from 1,280x960 to 4,160x3,120 pixels); a 15x digital zoom; a flash; geotagging; a timer; four color effects; five white balances; five ISO options (from 100 to 800); six scene modes; three focuses; a brightness meter; a voice-activated shutter; and a "time machine" option that enables the camera to take shots even before you press the shutter.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
The back of the device houses a 13-megapixel camera with flash while the front has a 2.1-megapixel camera. Sarah Tew/CNET

There are also six shooting modes, including HDR, beauty shot, panorama, and VR panorama. That last one is similar to the Nexus 4's Photo Sphere feature, which patches together several pictures from one viewing angle. However, instead of rendering it into a 360-degree spherical image like the Nexus does, a VR panorama photo ends up resembling what a 360-degree photo would look like if someone laid it out flat. Meaning, it looks like several long panoramic photos stitched together to make one wavy, wonky superpanoramic photo.

The front-facing 2.1-megapixel camera manages three photo sizes (from 1,280x960 to 1,920x1,088 pixels); two scene modes; and the same white balances and color effects. You'll also get geotagging, a timer, the option to save a picture's mirror image, voice shutter, and beauty shot.

Video-recording options with the rear camera include five video sizes (from 176x144 to 1,920x1,080 pixels); antishaking; a brightness meter; the same white balances and color effects; and geotagging. There are four shooting modes, one of which is dual recording. This lets you record with both cameras simultaneously. The front-facing camera has all of the same video options except for the ability to record video at different exposure levels called WDR recording (think of it like HDR photos, but for video).

Outlook
In addition to the fact that the supersize smartphone market is already niche enough, the Optimus G Pro faces stiff competition against the reigning phablet king, the Galaxy Note 2.

Based on our review of the global unit, the G Pro is, in and of itself, an excellent device. For now, however, it may be best to wait until fall to see what the Note III has in store. (From what we can assume, it'll include a lot of the features seen in the Galaxy S4, but with additional S Pen-specific options.) Check back soon, as we plan to update this hands-on once we get our...hands on the Optimus G Pro for AT&T to review.

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