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LG Optimus 4X HD review: LG Optimus 4X HD

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The Good High-resolution screen; Ships with the latest version of Android.

The Bad Poor battery life; Camera has trouble staying focused.

The Bottom Line The LG Optimus 4X HD is a phone for hardcore gadget junkies who demand top-drawer specs and don't mind paying a serious wack of cash to get them. They will also have to be happy carrying spare batteries to keep the 4X juiced up, as its quad-core chip takes a toll on battery life.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall

Gone are the days when people's judgements over which phone to choose were based on whether it played Snake and had interchangeable fascias. The new breed of elite handsets that are getting people excited are all about big screens and burly processors.

The LG Optimus 4X HD is no exception and comes packing a 720p resolution screen and a quad-core processor.

The 4X went on sale in the UK last week but hasn't yet made it onto any operators' shelves. If you want to bag this blower you'll (currently at least) have to shell out for SIM free. And as you'd expect for a high-end slab, the 4X ain't cheap.

Clove has it up for grabs for £456, while Expansys wants to relieve you of £480. That's around same price as HTC's quad-core beast, the One X. Samsung's own four-to-the-floor behemoth, the Galaxy S3, is even more pricey -- typically costing over £500 SIM free.

Should I buy the LG Optimus 4X HD?

The 4X's Tegra chip will be music to the ears of lovers of 3D gaming. If you're after a portable games console-cum-phone in one large -- but still just about pocketable -- gadget, then the 4X could get your pulse racing. Just don't expect great feats from it's battery when you're hammering it hard.

LG Optimus 4X HD
If you like to ogle big and beefy phones then the LG Optimus 4X HD wants to grab your eyeballs and shake them in their sockets.

If you want an Android powerhouse that can go the distance, Samsung's Galaxy S3 also packs a quad-core chip but its battery proved more capable than the Tegra 3 chipset in our battery tests. The S3 is a tad more expensive though. If you want quad-core power at a slightly less bank-breaking price, the 4X is worth considering.

It may also appeal if you're a fan of vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich -- because it's only got a relatively lightweight Android interface topper. LG's software additions aren't super-slick or stylish but they don't clog Android's arteries too much by larding it with loads of unnecessary flourishes.

Another benefit of having less on top of Android -- at least in theory -- is that the 4X should be well placed to get future Android updates in a timely fashion.

Alternative powerhouse Androids in the quad-core club are the aforementioned S3 and the HTC One X. Huawei has also lined up a quad-core blower -- the Ascend D Quad -- though it's yet to land in the UK.

Quad-core processor

Under the 4X's plastic bonnet is Nvidia's latest Tegra 3 processor, offering four main 1.5GHz processing cores, plus a fifth for battery-saving purposes. This same chip can be found lurking inside the Asus Transformer Prime tablet -- so it's a serious amount of welly for a pocket rocket.

The chip's fifth core is used for less demanding tasks, such as when the phone is idling in standby but still running live widgets in the background. The idea behind it is that the phone can switch to this lower-powered core to make more economical use of battery life, turning to the main cores when you fire up more demanding apps.

LG Optimus 4X HD
Full-fat desktop websites look a treat on the 4X's big pane of glass.

Overall operation on the 4X wasn't as blisteringly quick as I'd been expecting. Apps open and download nice and fast and web browsing is smooth and quick, but I was surprised to see a brief loading screen sporadically popping up between menu swipes and switches (even when there was little going on in the background). It's likely LG's Android software skin is the laggard here, rather than the 4X's engine).

There is a bigger question mark over whether quad-core phones are overkill. Certainly at present, most apps have not been optimised to take advantage of the four-way chip split. Multi-core chips don't add much to basic apps or operation, they're a help with more demanding activities like multi-tasking. This means most people's mobile needs are amply served by a fast dual-core device such as the lightning-quick HTC One S for Android fans, or Apple's iPhone 4S for iOS lovers.

Samsung's latest top-of-the-range Galaxy S3 includes a feature called Pop Up Play, which makes good use of its super-powered engine by letting you multi-task by playing video in a smaller window on the screen, while doing something else on the device. As more apps are built to take advantage of quad-core power, quad-core mobiles will become more useful. In the 4X's case, LG hasn't included any dedicated software features to take advantage of its power. It's up to you to find ways to use it.

The processor is designed to handle 3D gaming better than regular mobile processors. If you're a fan of titles such as Blood & Glory, or any of the high-definition racing titles on Google's Play Store, the 4X should deliver a smoother gaming experience than single-core blowers. One thing to note is it can get quite warm when you're taxing its engines.

In GL Benchmark's Standard Egypt test, which probes 3D graphics capabilities, the 4X ran the demo at 45 frames per second. This is certainly better than the mobile average -- but it does lag behind the S3 (which ran this test at a whopping 59fps). The HTC One X also managed a faster frame rate of 52fps.

LG Optimus 4X HD benchmark
There's no doubting the 4X has serious clout -- but it's not the beefiest quad-core of all.

In other benchmark tests, the 4X delivered an undeniably strong -- but never quite chart-topping -- performance. In the SunSpider JavaScript test, which evaluates browser speed, the 4X scored 1,623.7ms (lower is better in this test as it's a measure of time) -- beating Apple's iPhone 4S (2,181.6ms), and the HTC One X (2293.2ms), but not the S3 (1,498.9ms).

In Vellamo's browser test, the 4X scored a very good 1,644 -- just beating the HTC One X. Once again, it was pipped to the post by the S3's 2,077.

On Antutu's test of memory, CPU speed and graphics, the 4X scored an impressive 10,956, just besting the HTC One X (10,827), but again left to eat the S3's dust (12,112). While on Quadrant's benchmark, the 4X totalled a pretty stellar 3,022, it was beaten by both the One X (4,904) and the S3 (5,289).

If you're not a fan of 3D gaming, there's less to recommend getting a quad-core device such as the 4X over and above one of the many highly capable dual-core smart phones out there. The 4X is certainly a powerful device for web browsing and can tackle graphically intensive, full HTML5 websites without stuttering or slowing to a crawl. But this power is not paired with a slick enough software interface to make the phone an out-and-out joy to use. Having this quad-core phone also means compromising on battery performance.

LG Optimus 4X HD
Under this plastic bonnet, the 4X has a large battery -- but not large enough to sustain a full day's play of Blood & Glory.


With a quad-core chip and a giant 4.7-inch screen, it's no surprise the 4X's battery life is not something to shout about. If you're using the phone carefully and modestly, you should just be able to eke out a day before having to juice it up. But what's the point of having a big engine if you're too afraid to use it?

According to LG, the 4X has a 2,150mAh battery. This is actually a smidge larger than the S3's cell -- which performed well in our battery tests. The 4X's battery size is also roomier than the HTC One X's 1,800mAh tank.

LG's official battery stats for the 4X promise up to 14.9 hours of talk time, 9 hours of browsing or 4 hours of video recording on a single charge. You can listen to music on it for as long as 52 hours and standby time -- when you're not using the phone at all -- is up to 527 hours.

In an attempt to see how long the 4X can last when it's being used a lot, I set it playing an HD nyan cat video over Wi-Fi, with the screen at max brightness. In this psychedelic state, the phone took just under 3 hours to exhaust a fully charged battery. In a similar test, the S3's battery had dropped from 100 per cent to around 70 per cent after 3 hours of video streaming -- suggesting the S3 has superior power management skills and/or a more power-efficient chipset.

Of course, you can extend the 4X's battery life by dialling down the screen brightness and using other preservation techniques such as closing open apps you're no longer using and avoiding running power-draining live wallpapers. But if you forget to charge the phone overnight, don't expect to get much joy out of it the next day.

I also did a battery test with the 4X running a graphically taxing 3D game. In this test I set the screen brightness to half. Even so, it took only 1 hour of continuous play for the battery to drop from 100 per cent to 50 per cent. You can probably only expect 2 hours of high-end gaming on a single charge.

LG Optimus 4X HD
Battery life is not the 4X's strong point so if you want a phone that lasts and lasts, this is the last phone you should choose.

Ice Cream Sandwich and software

The 4X is blessed with the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). A lot of new phones -- including LG's own Optimus 3D Max -- have launched with the older 2.3 Gingerbread software on board, pledging only that they will update to the newer software soon.

It's therefore nice to see LG has had the good sense to launch its top-of-the-range blower with ICS on board. It's pretty galling to spend a small fortune on the latest kit, only to find its software is out of date.

As standard, ICS offers Android's multiple home screens that you can fill up with all kinds of apps and live widgets. They can be resized to be as prominent as you want -- a feature that has been pulled over from the tablet-specific version of Android called Honeycomb.

You also get full access to the Google Play app store to take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of apps, games, widgets and wallpapers on offer.

Pretty much every company applies its own skin over the stock Android experience and LG is no exception, skinning ICS with its Optimus 3.0 interface. LG's software skin is nothing to write home about. You get the basic multiple home screens of Android to swoop between and add apps and widgets to, but don't expect super-attractive widgets or supremely intuitive interfaces. LG has taken a leaf out of HTC's book with its widget preview menu though, which is nicer to navigate than more rudimentary Android skins that just give you a text list to pick from.

LG Optimus 4X HD
There's a handy widget preview panel that makes it super-easy to load up your home screens with nifty shortcuts.

The best you can say of LG's skin is that it doesn't add too much clutter on top of ICS. Android purists may even prefer it to HTC's slicker Sense interface. For example, LG gives you the stock ICS stack of thumbnails to scroll back through your recently used apps. The stock browser also has a straightforward stack of scrollable thumbnails for switching between your various browser windows. And there's a handy toolbar at the top of the notification tray so you can easily toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a few other functions on and off.

All of this is solid, if not especially slick Android fare. The keyboard layout and word predictive engine on the 4X did annoy me though -- resulting in strings of irritating typos. There's also no Swype or Swype-style keyboard option to switch to for a slicker typing experience. You can, of course, download alternative keyboards from Google Play such as SwiftKey.

Doing basic stuff like cutting and pasting a block of text was far more fiddly than it should have been. And I also experienced glitches -- with some sites causing the phone's screen to go dark for no reason. At one point, as I tried to edit a draft Gmail email, the phone refused to let me type anything. These niggles were more irritating than major deal-breakers but they would annoy me if I'd shelled out for the phone.

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