LG Optimus 4X HD P880 Hands-on Review
In the recent market, LG was totally out of the league with the almost-failed Optimus 3D which got faded becuase of the likes of Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One X, Motorola Droid Razr, but now as the new LG Optimus 4X HD enters the market, has it tried to keep the other brands worried? Not totally, because although they call it HD with the additional features and although the screen produces an excellent display, the 1080p factor still seems to be missing. But at the same time, LG has brought in one of the neatly designed flat and delicate-look phones that has got the internal features good enough to stand tall in front of the current leaders in the market. Talking about the Android phones, the HD screen, Ice Cream Sandwich OS, a strong processor and extra connectivity options are all mandatory to be called a good smartphone, and the Optimus 4X HD has got all of it, even the Near Field Communication and a Quad-Core processor.
Let’s see how the Optimus 4X HD fares in all the aspects,
Design, Display and Form Factor
We have seen the similar sized screen on all the recent phones, with the 4.7-inch display standing in the center of the body that is 5.21-inches tall and 2.68-inch wide. The phone being comfortable in the hands is one of the basic necessities, and we would have been rather disappointed if the 4X had been larger than this, just like we complained about the Galaxy Note back when it was launched with the tag of a phone.
The phone is quite thin, with no bulge and there is a uniform thickness of 8.9mm from top to bottom, and there are two silver stripes that form the front and back edges of the phone. The phone is quite attractive, looks well built but doesn’t totally beat the HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy S III in terms of design, and is made just similar to them, having nothing really fascinating in it. Though, unlike the bold and plastic feel in those two phones, the 4X HD has got a royal look with the stripes and the overlapping design in the side panels.
There are no physical keys on the front, and the three touch sensitive keys on the bottom are for Back, Home and Menu. The top front side has the LG logo below the silver stripe and the earpiece, and the right corner on the top has the front camera. To the left of the LG logo is the light sensor, mainly for the brightness setting.
An issue that we always talk about, is the Lock key, which is located on the top panel, and that makes it hard for the finger to reach on the 5-inch tall body. This is where the Samsung Galaxy phones beat the others, by having the lock key in the right side panel so that the finger easily reachese there. LG has no compromise with the beauty at the sides, with the punching out of center continued even on the volume rocker keys.
The bottom side has got the Micro USB slot, and the 3.5-mm headset jack is located on the top left side. The back panel is of matte finish, roughened and looks bold and tough, with the ridges running diagonally making the feel better than the flat and smooth back panels which get the scratches quite easily.
An 8-megapixel camera and a tiny LED flash lie on the top left side on the back panel, above the silver LG logo, and the speaker is near the bottom. The placement is similar to what we see in the Samsung Galaxy devices.
Overall, the LG Optimus 4X HD has got a neat and sleek design, but not the best out there because it just resembles any other large phones except the designed sides.
The display is a standard 720p one, but LG has got additions into it. It’s the Nitro HD and Spectrum that gets the IPS display with 1280 x 720 pixels better with an excellent graphic quality, but the recent 1080p factor in major smartphones has been well hyped, which would be missed in the 4X. What hits the Optimus 4X hard is the embedding of the display below the top glass which is clearly visible and makes the display inferior to the screens of the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III, and especially the Nokia Lumia 900 which all have got the display along the level of the glass. Gorilla Glass is appreciable, but the black stripe around the display and the embedding of the display is what we don’t appreciate.
The glass is a magnet for fingerprints and unless it’s rubbed off using a soft cloth, the fingerprint doesn’t go away easily. Keep aside the comparisons, the display and graphics quality of the 4X HD screen is excellent. The screen is well readable even in bright conditions, like under the sunlight.
Interface, Operating System and Apps
The LG Optimus 4X HD is advanced, well advanced in terms of Interface and the Operating system, having the Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 OS, with the latest version of their User Interface which looks brilliant, and this area is one of those which LG seriously made huge changes in. Having such an intuitive and impressive interface along with the strong 1.5 GHz processor is a big plus factor. The processor is a 1.5GHz one, quad-core Tegra 3 one which doesn’t slow down the phone at all although some heavy usage with multiple applications running at once.
The welcome screen / lock screen has a central lock which has to be dragged and that is neatly made to expose the internal page or notification while the circle is expanded by the dragging of the lock. The time, date are located on the top center and the notification panel cannot be opened unless the phone screen is unlocked. There are 7 home screens, most of them filled with the pre-loaded widgets and shortcuts, and the home screens shift beautifully with the widgets getting folded like the wings of the butterfly.
The notification panel serves a lot of purposes which include -
- Quickmemo – This would open a quickmemo directly on the home screen.
- Sound – Toggling the sound on / off
- Wi-Fi – Toggling the Wi-Fi on / off
- Rotation – Toggling the rotation of the screen on / off when the phone is rotated
- Brightness – Brightness changing at 3 levels
- GPS – Toggling GPS locator on / off
- Edit – To rearrange the quick settings
The app list pages have the separate tabs to display the normal Apps, the downloaded Applications, the Widgets and a button to directly go to the Settings area. LG has integrated some excellent and useful apps which someone would be taking advantage of quite often. A utility section includes the important and commonly used apps list which includes SmartShare, Memo, Voice Recorder and Calculator apps.
The 4X has got a RemoteCall service which makes the company representative remotely control your device and support the device to make any changes whenever you need any help. This is a handy option where you don’t need to visit the LG service centers when the phone gives up or doesn’t respond well to a command at any time.
The other basic applications in the LG Optimus 4X HD are the App Manager, Backup, FM Radio, Finance app, Email, LG Tag+, Polaris Office, Task Manager, LG SmartWorld. As always seen in the Android phones, the Google apps like Search, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Maps, Youtube and Google+ are available pre-installed. Picasa is a neat addition to the list, making it one of the options to backup the photos to the Google server.
There is no swype for typing, so you would have to rely on any 3rd party typing apps if you don’t want to prefer using the standard keyword pressing each alphabet separately, or the phone does have the Voice-to-text conversion if you are too lazy to type.
The Email app of the 4X takes the support of Microsoft Exchange for sending and receiving mails, but it is for those who are looking for something different from the Gmail app which too comes preinstalled. Entertainment is through the Media Home app, which showcases the Photos, Videos and Music at one place. We would discuss about the beauty of the Video and Music players below. The Gallery lists all of the photos and videos categorized based on how they were captured. Both the pictures and videos captured using the phone camera are located under a single folder, while the screenshots or pictures taken from an external source are located in different folders.
There are multiple sharing options for the media files, including Bluetooth, Email, Gmail, Google+, Memo, Messaging, Picasa, SmartShare and the number would rise based on the external applications you download and use.
The Interface is neat, looks vibrant and the load of wallpapers and widgets can make things far interesting, but LG doesn’t have those special features that the users can boast about, which the Galaxy S III users would show off. Considering how less LG had cared about the OS (keeping all its recent phones on Gingerbread OS) and the interface in the recent past, the 4X’s interface makes one feel happier to see a lot of makeover. The Android Play Store gives people several options to customize the interface but the 4X already comes with such launcher-like options, keeping the need for the 3rd party apps aside.
LG Tag+ is an application which helps in easy saving and loading of the settings to the NFC tag, and the same app would make the customizations to suit the certain environments. One would need to select the tag setting and write it to the tag. The environments in which the users can select the mode for NFC include the Car Mode, Office Mode, Sleep Mode and the User Mode.
Connectivity, Call Quality and Multimedia
On-the-go is on demand, and LG has followed the trend to provide a lot of connectivity options, including the 3G, Wi-Fi of all variants, Bluetooth, and the NFC through the LG Tag+ for the extra commanding and shortcut options. The 3G connectivity was neat, with the download speed ranging between 1.2 to 1.5 Mbps at a network zone with full network reception, and the upload speed was somewhere around 350 Kbps.
The NFC connectivity is through Android Beam, and for those who don’t have an idea about it, its an option that would help exchange data between devices and that happens when the devices touch each other. This is similar to bluetooth, but the speed of transfer is faster. Another cool option included is the Wi-Fi Direct, which would help setting up a peer-to-peer connectivity between two devices through Wi-Fi.
The option of selecting only the 2G network whenever you don’t want to waste more battery and just would be happy with the slower speeds, comes handy while traveling. The network mode can be selected or it would auto-select the network based on the availability. The 4X can be used as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, helping other wireless devices connect to the Internet using this phone’s network, and even here, LG has given a chance to save battery – Timeout, where the Portable hotspot automatically turns off when not in use for more than 5 minutes.
USB Connectivity – Lot of options when the phone is connected to the computer using the USB connection, where one could set the phone to just charging, or connect via. Media Sync, LG Software, Camera (to transfer photos), or USB tethering so that the phone’s internet is shared with the computer.
Connecting to the LG software is possible very well through the Wi-Fi too, where you get a separate option for the same. One of the options that we really liked is the On-Screen Phone settings, where the screen of the phone is displayed and controlled from the PC, just like one would do the remote access to the phones from the computer.
Call quality – The quality of the voice through the ear piece is sharp and neat, but the speakers on the back are placed at a wrong place, making it hard to hold in the hands when you want to have the access to the buttons on the sides, and keep the speaker exposed at the same time. At silent environment, the speaker quality is good and clear but when you try to use it in an open place, the Optimus 4X is nothing in front of the Sony Ericsson and Samsung phones, keep the comparison with Nokia phones aside.
Multimedia – The Media Home would grab the attention, with all the media content at one place. Opening this app would make you feel like having a media player in your hands rather than a smartphone. The hub has 3 large thumbnails for Videos, Photos and Music. Settings show that the Media Home gets activated when the phone is connected to the MHL cable, or is mounted and connected to a desk cradle. Photos in the Media Home can be viewed through a slide show with a few settings.
Video player is excellent, totally refreshed and has options that no recent Android smartphone has got. Multiple options, including the video preview and speeding up the video playing, locking the screen etc.
Performance and Battery Life
Performance wise, the LG Optimus 4X HD has to get a lot of appreciation. Try to test it in many ways, the phone just won’t easily break down in performance. May be that’s because we didn’t have a lot of new additions of applications, or change in lot of settings, but still the problems that we see in the initial stages of other devices is not seen in the Optimus 4X. The quad-core Tegra 3 processor clocking at 1.5 GHz speed and having the support of 1GB RAM, the LG Optimus 4X HD has got enough to handle the Ice Cream Sandwich OS.
Talk about the Benchmark tests, it is no where beating the Samsung’s masterpiece, the Galaxy S III, but we’ll talk about the actual performance here with both the devices beside each other and doing the same functions – we didn’t notice any much difference and no lagging of performance of the 4X. But along with the good performance and speed, we had expected a good battery life, which didn’t happen to the expectations. It gave a decent time of usage, and is not totally a fast draining battery that LG has got, but when they considered huge changes in the interface, internal specs, the battery should have been kept better for a longer life. A full charge with all the normal usage, a few videos and some time of camera usage saw the battery last for a full day.
Having checked, talked and reviewed so much about the Optimus 4X, the final question arises – Is the Optimus 4X HD good enough in the league to be called one of the best smartphones in the current market? YES would be the answer from us. The current leader for us is the Samsung Galaxy S III, but the 4X is no where behind given the processor, the screen size, camera compared to the S III.
LG has finally come up with something good, after the previous devices which could never stand in comparison to the other leaders in the market. The 4Xs speed is good, the design is very much improved but although not the best, is classy. One disadvantage for the 4X launch is being late, where most of the Android fans would have had their hands on the Galaxy S III or the HTC One X, and they won’t see anything new or different in the Optimus 4X. Nevertheless, the Optimus 4X is totally worthy for the price and the hype.