In the world of high-end Android handsets, manufacturers have already gone above and beyond in cramming in the absolute best of technology into a package small enough to fit in one’s pocket. Massive 4-inch screens – check, dual-core processors – check, Full HD recording and playback – check, we’ve seen it all. So, how do you one-up the competition when everything’s already been done? Simple, you add the missing third dimension to your device and voilà, you now have a USP to market your product. This strategy has worked well for films (well, some of them at least!) and for consumer electronic product categories like TVs, projectors and monitors. So it was just a matter of time before the trend hit mobiles.
Video Reviewed: LG Optimus 3D
Currently, HTC and LG are the only two companies to offer Stereoscopic 3D Android handsets, which represent the absolute best of what smartphones have to offer. But, simply adding a feature for the sake of adding it does not make it a good product, it has to be implemented the right way for it to be successful. Has LG managed to crack that? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
In terms of design, there’s no other way to put it, the Optimus 3D looks like a giant slab of glass with bits of plastic and metal thrown in. At 168g, it’s not what you call light-weight, you’ll definitely feel the heft in your pocket. There’s quite a bit of extra bezel on the top and the bottom of the phone, which makes it little longer. Even with my large hands, I found myself struggling at times to reach the power button to lock the screen. Hidden beneath the bezel is the front-facing camera and the ambient light sensor.
Don't be fooled by its understated looks
The touch sensitive buttons are found at the bottom and are the same as the Optimus 2x. In between, we have a gorgeous 4.3-inch 3D LCD display. You can straight away tell that the display is a lot better than the one on the Optimus 2x, as the contrast levels are much better and the colours are not over-saturated. Instead, I’d say it’s nearly as good as a Super AMOLED display from Samsung.
Share your 3D videos easily using the HDMI port
In terms of connectivity, LG has provided a micro-USB and mini-HDMI connector on the side, while the 3D menu and volume rocker is placed on the right, making it easier to use with your thumb. The 3.5mm headphone and power/sleep button is placed on the top. Round the back, we have the dual 5MP cameras placed in landscape mode with the LED flash placed in between. The SD card is hot-swappable and supports up to 32GB. The plastic cover easily snaps on and off without any issue.
The Optimus 3D is powered by an ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor running at 1GHz, the same one used in BlackBerry’s PlayBook and Motorola’s upcoming DRIOD HD. The graphics chip used is a PowerVR SGX540 along with 512 MB of RAM for the phone and 8GB internal storage. While this is all fine, the disappointing fact is that LG have decided to launch the phone with Froyo, rather than Gingerbread, which is simply unacceptable. Seeing how they announced the Optimus 3D at the beginning of 2011, LG had ample amount of time to prepare for Gingerbread, but they didn’t, for reasons best known to them.
Quick access to Wi-Fi, GPS, etc
I must say though, even with Android 2.2.2, the interface is very smooth and slick. The touchscreen is very sensitive and responds well to gestures. However, there are times when the phone tends to get bogged down after using different apps and some jerkiness in the animations is noticeable. I encountered this problem when taking screenshots, after capturing a couple of them, the ‘Home’ soft key simply stopped responding and the only fix was to reboot the phone. This could be a problem with the current version of the skin or Froyo. Either ways I hope LG fixes these glitches when they release Gingerbread in October.
LG's skin is easy to use and customize
You get a total of 7 home screens with the ability to delete unwanted ones. The icon dock remains fixed at the bottom just like iOS, but you can’t change the apps from the dock. Another nice feature is the inclusion of toggle switches in the notification bar for mobile data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and even a widget for the music player. The main menu has a very nice grouping system for 3D apps, all apps and downloaded apps, which can be closed or expanded depending on your preference. LG has incorporated one of the best implementations of adding a widget or wallpaper on an Android phone. Instead of a pop-up menu in the middle of the screen, you get a little bar at the bottom with options for widgets, shortcuts, folders and wallpaper and you can browse through the different options without leaving that screen. The settings menu is similar to stock Android, with the exception of an HDMI option that lets you select various output resolutions.
The 3D Experience
In a nutshell, LG’s implementation of Stereoscopic 3D is quite impressive and to have something like this on a mobile device is commendable. But, there is a small caveat. The effect is only good when held at a certain angle and distance, otherwise referred to as the ‘sweet-spot’. When it works, the 3D effect can be mindblowing to just about ok, depending on the content you’re viewing. LG has designed a special 3D menu, which can be accessed with the side physical button. The categories include games and apps, YouTube, Camera, Gallery and a guide.
The 3D effect is very good
LG bundles a bunch of 3D games with the P920 like Nova, Lets Golf 2, Asphalt 6 and pop-up book of Gulliver’s Travels. The 3D effect is very good in all the games and you can adjust the depth at any time in-game with the added slider. The games run smoothly with good frame rates just like they would on a regular phone, which speaks a lot about the GPU. YouTube takes you to LG’s 3D videos page. The 3D gallery lets you browse through all your photos and video in a 3D carousel. The effect is quite good and you can see images ‘pop-out’ of the screen as you browse. You can view regular 2D videos and photos in 3D as well, by simply hitting the 3D button, but the effect is not great and more often than not, ends up making the picture worse with the clarity and detail going for a toss. The phone can handle all forms of Stereoscopic 3D, which means side-by-side, up-down, etc.
Nova in all its 3D glory
Overall, the experience is quite convincing and you can have some good fun, especially shooting in 3D. I wouldn’t recommend watching a movie in this mode as you will get a headache after a while, which is one of the major drawbacks of 3D and cannot be avoided. The clarity of the picture in 3D mode is not as sharp and vivid compared to 2D, primarily since the phone drops the resolution of whatever’s playing to half, in order to process to identical frames at the same time. Even with a perfectly captured 3D image, you need to find that sweet-spot for viewing it else quite a bit of crosstalk is noticeable.
LG’s bundled video player supports Xvid and DivX HD out of the box, amongst other formats like MP4. It can handle 1080p videos shot in 2D and up to 720p 3D videos. There is a 3D conversion mode for 2D videos, but it’s best left unused as the result is not great. I have to say, the quality of the LCD panel used is very good and like I mentioned earlier, comes very close to the Super AMOLED screens used by Samsung. The colour reproduction is rich and vibrant without going overboard and the sunlight legibility is very good as well. Videos play smoothly all the way up to 1080p, without a hitch.
Music player is well executed but the addition of Dolby enhancement would have sweetened the deal
The music player app makes good use of the large screen with easy to use controls leaving plenty of room for album art. Switching the phone in landscape mode engages a cover flow-styled layout of all the albums. Jack sensing is also present, which automatically pauses the music as soon as you unplug your earphones. There’s even a lock screen widget giving you basic controls without having to unlock the screen. Audio quality is good and the built-in presets help, but I miss the Dolby enhancements LG used to provide on their older phones, like the Arena. Given this is their flagship phone, I expected them to go all out. Another surprising omission is the lack of FM radio. It may not be a huge deal-breaker for me, but it might be for you.
The Optimus 3D is a quad-band phone with full HSDPA and HSUPA 3G support, just like any high-end handset released these days. Along with Wi-Fi ‘n’ we also have Bluetooth v2.1 (surprisingly not v3.0). There’s no NFC support or USB on-the-go functionality, as well. The stock browser is decent and LG bundles some internet ready apps like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Their Social + widget lets you conveniently view your timeline and update your status right from the home screen. The LG World app is a custom app store created by LG and features a special 3D section for videos and games. The standard Android Marketplace is also present. I also got a chance to try out the HDMI-out, which works well.
Large screen makes for good browsing
Coming to call quality, I didn’t have any problems here. The quality of the earpiece and mouthpiece is good and I didn’t face any call drops either. The volume of the speaker is loud enough to be heard in a noisy place and is good for music and video as well.
LG’s implementation of DLNA is called SmartShare which lets you share media among compatible devices. I managed to pair it with a notebook after which I could see all the shared files and folders on the phone, but whenever I tried to open an image or video, It kept asking me to connect to a display (like a TV I’m guessing), which didn’t make any sense. Alternately, you can snyc it with a DLNA TV and view the contents of the phone on the big screen. There’s a RemoteCall app that allows an LG rep to control your phone in order to diagnose any problems. Richnote is present, which is similar to Evernote. The Car home app makes it easier to use the phone as a navigation tool while driving. LG bundles an App manager as well which also includes a task killer.
In 2D mode, you can use the full 5MP resolution, whereas in 3D mode, you’re limited to 3MP. Also, some of the options in 2D mode are not available in 3D mode like Colour Effect, Scene Modes and Timer. There is no touch to focus, as well. Switching from 2D to 3D takes a bit of time and is not very quick.
Plenty of options in 3D capture mode
Outdoor pictures turned out neat with good amount of detail captured. Indoor pictures are not bad, too and the flash does a good job of illuminating a small area, even though it only has a single LED. The real fun is in 3D mode. The effect is really good and the camera automatically sorts out the depth. You still have the option to manually adjust it if you want to.
Good for out-door photography
The similar restriction applies to video recording in 2D mode. You can record in 1080p, but in 3D, you’re limited to 720p. The recorded video is smooth overall, even in 3D mode.
While a 1500mAh battery may seem like a weak spot for an otherwise great phone, it’s not as bad as you may think. In our video drain test, I managed to get 4hrs and 20min of battery life which are really good numbers for such a large screen. Under regular use, with constant EDGE data active, Gtalk and Twitter running and a bit of 3D gaming and video playback, I got a day’s worth of usage. The 3D usage is what drains the battery a lot quicker which means if you're away for the weekend without the charger, you're in trouble. Finally, in our loop test, I managed 2hr of video, 2hr of music, 2hr of audio streaming through Wi-Fi and about 45min worth of talktime. Remember, we are still on Froyo, so the battery life can improve quite a bit once Gingerbread hits it.
With an MRP of Rs. 37,000, we await the street price, which will only be known once the phone hits the shelves. If the launch price of the Optimus 2x is anything to go by, then don't be surprised if LG drops it all the way to 32K. At this price, it would certainly make a killing and give the Sensation and Galaxy S II stiff competition. But, pricing is not the only deciding factor here. It will ultimately depend on what you’re looking for. For instance, if weight is a concern then the S II is still unbeatable and a lot cheaper. I can't say for certain if LG's offering is the absolute best without test driving the Evo 3D, so till then, I'll reserve my judgement.
LG’s flagship offering has quite a lot going for it. The 3D implementation is well done giving you a very satisfying 3D effect. It also packs in everything one would expect from a high-end smartphone like 1080p recording, HDMI-out, very good screen and a dual-core processor.
However, it’s far from perfect and is missing lots of bits and pieces, which could have made it a great phone. The major pinch is the lack of Gingerbread support out of the box, which hurts. I know LG promised an update in October, but that’s still a month away and if history has taught us anything, take that timeline with a pinch of salt as there’re always unforeseen delays. There’s also no FM radio and NFC support. Finally, battery life is just about average. Also, 3D app support is quite limited to a handful of games and a few apps right now.
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