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

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MSRP: $549.99

The Good The 4G LTE LG Optimus G Pro 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.

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8.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

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.

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.

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.