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

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.

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:

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.

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