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LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T) review: Big, blazing, and beautiful

Boasting a powerful quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, a vibrant 5.5-inch screen, and a 13-megapixel camera, LG’s bringing out all its muscle with the Optimus G Pro.

Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
Lynn La
9 min read

After months of speculation, LG confirmed on Wednesday that its Optimus G Pro will be available exclusively on AT&T on May 10 for $199.99 after contract, with preorders beginning May 3.


LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)

The Good

The 4G LTE <b>LG Optimus G Pro</b> is reasonably priced and has an impressively fast Snapdragon 600 processor, and its expansive screen is sharp and bright.

The Bad

The Optimus G Pro's size will prove too big for some, and battery reserves drain quickly.

The Bottom Line

Though it lacks a stylus, the Optimus G Pro is not only armed with high-end specs, but it's also still cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 -- making it the best AT&T phablet available now.

Equipped with a 5.5-inch screen, the phone marks LG's second attempt at a "phablet"-size handset in the U.S., with Verizon's LG Intuition being the first. While the Intuition didn't quite take off, the G Pro is a much better device. It performs well, and the G Pro is one of the first U.S. handsets to feature the swift Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor (the others being the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4).

Unfortunately, the phone not only has to compete with the popular Samsung Galaxy Note 2, but it will face a looming future rival in the Note 3, which is slated for a fall unveiling. In addition, Galaxy Notes are armed with a stylus, which the G Pro lacks. Fortunately, along with having great specs, the Optimus is priced competitively enough to face its Samsung rivals.

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

One of the first things I noticed about the device was how thin it was. Though this keeps it lightweight for its size (I weighed it at 6.08 ounces) and sleek, the slim 0.25-inch profile made it feel too fragile at times.

As for its size, the bigger your hand is (obviously), the easier time you'll have using it with one hand. I have relatively small paws, so there were times when I'd used my thumb to tap something on one side of the screen only to have the bottom part of my thumb accidentally select and open something on the opposite side. To help with one-handed operation, LG includes some additional settings, like letting you adjust the keyboard or number pad to the left or right side.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
No Nexus 4-esque tiles here. Instead, the G Pro sports a fishnetlike pattern on its glossy back plate. Josh Miller/CNET

Overall, however, I had absolutely no problem using it with two hands, and the handset is indeed attractive. I like the faux-metallic stripe that rings the edges, and unlike its global counterpart, which has the same glittery tile design seen on the Nexus 4 and the Vu II, the U.S. version has a subtle fishnetlike design on the battery door.

The phone measures 5.875 inches tall and 3 inches wide. 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. I found myself often pressing the empty space between the rocker and the QuickMemo shortcut key (which sits right above it), when trying to turn up the sound. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and on the right is a sleep/power button. At the very bottom is a Micro-USB port for charging.

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, which is more standard on mobile phones than the Intuition's 4:3 ratio.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
The device's expansive screen is bright and responsive, and its 16:9 ratio makes it ideal for watching video. Josh Miller/CNET

As with most high-end LG devices, its screen is bright and extremely responsive. I like how the display edges are similar to the Nexus 4's, in that it contours down toward the bezel. It has a wide viewing angle, and you can see images clearly in both indoor and outdoor lighting. Colors are vibrant, icons are sharp, and text looks crisp.

I also have to say that watching videos on this was really enjoyable. Having that much more screen space is a relief to the eyes, and it gave me a more encompassing and engrossing experience than smaller handsets do.

I did see, however, that the whites on the screen had a slightly cold, blue-grayish tint to them. It's too subtle to notice at first, but when I compared it side by side with an iPhone, the tint was more apparent.

In addition, though the screen size is great for entertainment, other things took some getting used to. For example, texting became a bit more difficult in landscape. Again, my hands are quite small, and they had a hard time reaching letters that were in the middle of the keyboard.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
The handset's folio case features a small opening for the home button. Josh Miller/CNET

Above the display is a 2.1-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 with several different LED colors that I found to be a nice deliberate touch.

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. Using a small indentation on the left edge, you can pop off the backing and access the 3,140mAh battery and both the Micro-SIM and microSD card slots. Underneath the plate is an NFC chip. Lastly, if you preorder the phone, you can get a Quick Cover folio case while supplies last.

A deeper dive into AT&T's LG Optimus G Pro (pictures)

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Software features and UI
The G Pro 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, Magazines, Music, and Store.

Because the G Pro is 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.

Other task management apps include a native browser and e-mail client, music and video players, a calculator, a video editor, a notebook, a memo pad, a to-do list, an alarm clock, and a calendar. There's also the mobile office suite Polaris Office 4, and SmartShare, which lets you share multimedia between DLNA-certified devices.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
With infrared technology, the phone can be used as a universal remote (because we don't have enough already). Josh Miller/CNET

In addition, there's QuickRemote, which turns your device into a universal remote for things like TVs, DVD players, and projectors. I used it in conjunction with a Samsung TV, and setup only took only a few seconds after I configured the handset to power on, mute, and menu-input the TV.

Some of AT&T's apps include DriveMode, which will send out a customizable message to incoming calls or texts when it senses the phone traveling at more than 25 mph; FamilyMap, which helps you physically locate family members on your AT&T account; MyAT&T, which lets you check your data and account info; and the carrier's own brand of messaging and navigation.

The LG touch
You'll also get a note-taking feature, QuickMemo, which lets you jot down notes and doodles either directly onto whatever your screen is displaying at the moment, or on a virtual memo pad. The unit doesn't ship with a stylus, however, and QuickMemo 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 could only 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.

LG Optimus G Pro (QSlide and VuTalk)
QSlide (left) enables you to view videos while browsing your apps, while VuTalk lets you collaborate with devices on a shared screen. Annotations made by others are differentiated by different ink colors. Lynn La/CNET

The G Pro comes with VuTalk, which works very similarly to a capability in Samsung's S Memo (already included in the first Galaxy Note). With VuTalk you can create annotations on documents and photos on your device while sharing it with another VuTalk-enabled device through either a network or Wi-Fi connection. The handsets display each other's annotations in real time and are differentiated by separate ink colors.

Lastly, there's the LG Tag+ app. Though the handset didn't come with any Tag+ stickers, it's still capable of wireless communication via NFC. Together with the Tag+ app, the stickers let you activate certain settings on your phone that you customize. For example, you could set it up so that whenever you get in your car and tap the phone with a Car Mode Tag+ sticker, it launches Navigation and turns on Bluetooth.

Camera and video
The 13-megapixel camera 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 Catch option that enables the camera to take shots even before you press the shutter.

There are also six shooting modes, including HDR, beauty shot, panorama, and VR panorama. The 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 includes three photo sizes (from 1,280x960 to 1,920x1,088); two scene modes; and the same white-balance and color effects. You'll also get geotagging, a timer, the option to save a picture's mirror image, voice shutter, and beauty shot.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)
The G Pro comes packed with tons of features for its 13-megapixel camera. Josh Miller/CNET

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-balance 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).

Photo quality was excellent, but it didn't blow me away. Shutter speed was fast, there was little to no lag between my moving of the camera and the feedback I saw, and taking panoramic shots was quick and smooth. With ample lighting, photos came out crisp and sharp, and objects were in focus.

Understandably, however, photos taken in dimmer lighting showed a lot more digital noise and blurriness. Colors also appeared more muted or colder than in real life. For the most part, however, photos were impressively detailed. For more on the phone's camera quality, check out the slideshow below.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T, outdoor)
In this outdoor photo, the leaves are crisp and the chairs appear sharp and in focus. Lynn La/CNET

Colors are a bit muted in this indoor shot, and you can see some digital noise in the wood paneling. Lynn La/CNET

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T, SSI)
Here at our still-life setup, you can see that objects are clear with well-defined edges. Josh Miller/CNET

Video recording was also perfectly adequate. I did notice a slight lag between moving objects and the live feed from the viewfinder, but in general, recordings came out very clear and smooth. Audio picked up well and you can even adjust the focus of the audio (either left-, right-, or center-focused), when you play the video back. Colors were true to life and images were sharp.

Taking AT&T's LG Optimus G Pro camera for a spin (pictures)

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I tested the LG Optimus G Pro on AT&T's network in our San Francisco office, and call quality was great. Voices sounded clear and sharp, and volume range was at a reasonable level. Though I could hear a bit of static sometimes when my friend spoke, it wasn't overly distracting. Audio didn't cut in and out, my calls didn't drop, and I didn't hear any extraneous buzzing sounds when we weren't talking. Likewise, I was told my voice sounded clear as well. When I spoke to my friend outside near car traffic, my friend said she couldn't even hear any of the noises going on in the background.

Speaker quality was also respectable, but not as sharp as in-ear audio. Though music sounded full, voices sounded harsh or sharp on max volume. At the same time, I was told that when I spoke through speakerphone, I sounded very far away.

Because the handset comes with Dolby Mobile technology, you can improve your music-listening experience when you plug in headphones. In addition to a full EQ module you can customize, you have the ability to enhance the bass, treble, and vocals.

LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T) call quality sample

Listen now:

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Data speeds were very fast and remained consistently steady. On average, the handset loaded CNET's mobile site in 5.17 seconds and our desktop site in 12.83 seconds. The New York Times' mobile site took about 3.7 seconds. ESPN's mobile site took 3.62 seconds, and its full site loaded in 9.63 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an impressive average of 40.45Mbps down and 13.24Mbps up. Finally, clocking in at just 18.5 seconds on average, the phone is one of the fastest, in recent memory, at downloading and installing the 32.41MB game Temple Run 2.

LG Optimus G Pro Performance testing
Average 4G LTE download speed 40.45Mpbs
Average 4G LTE upload speed 13.24Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 32.41MB in 18.5 seconds
CNET mobile site load 5.17 seconds
CNET desktop site load 12.83 seconds
Restart time 34.5 seconds
Camera boot time 1.84 seconds

The device is powered by a 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor. I can attest that it's incredibly fast -- small tasks like quitting to the home screen, browsing through the app drawer, pinch zooming, and scrolling through text were all executed without hesitation. And more-complicated tasks were done just as smoothly. On average, it took just 1.94 seconds to launch the camera and 34.5 seconds to restart the phone altogether. During my time playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP, there was no stuttering or unexpected shutdowns with the app. Graphics ran swiftly, with a high frame rate, and the phone was responsive to my slight movements.

LG Optimus G Pro (Ookla and Quadrant)
Here, test results for 4G LTE data speeds from Ookla (left), and benchmark results for CPU performance from Quadrant are shown. Lynn La/CNET

During our battery drain test, the 3,140mAh battery lasted 8 hours for continuous video playback and 20.63 hours of talk time. In both tests, data was turned off. During my day to day use, I noticed that, anecdotally, the battery would drain quite quickly. It would be full up to 40 percent, but after spending about 15 or 20 minutes using the camera, surfing the Web, or playing a few games, I'd already be in the red. According to the FCC, the handset has a digital SAR rating of 0.64W/kg.

When I first reviewed the unlocked G Pro back in March, I questioned its potential to compete against the Note because of its lack of a stylus. While I still think that a stylus would be a useful addition to a phone this big, I'm not going to make as big of a deal about it as I did then. Why? Simply because the G Pro is $199.99.

That makes it the same price as the first Note, and $100 less than the $299.99 Note 2. For $100, I'll gladly forsake the use of an S Pen. Especially since it's still a great performer, has the same size screen, and comparable specs.

If you're curious about what Samsung has in store, there's no harm in waiting. But fall is a long ways off, and if you want a supersize, ultrafast phone now and to save some extra cash while you're at it, the Optimus G Pro won't let you down.


LG Optimus G Pro (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9