Flash Review – LG Optimus G for AT&T and Sprint

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We’ve already covered the international unit of the LG Optimus G in detail in our recent review, but now it’s time for the US variants to get the spotlight. Every bit as nice as the original, AT&T and Sprint will be carrying LG’s best device to date in the coming weeks, and it’s destined to sit at the same table as the rest of the high-end smartphones on the market today.

Since the US variants are largely similar to the international model, we’ll be leaving a few sections out of this review. We encourage you to check out the original review here for just a bit more on this powerful handset from LG.

The Good
  • Snapdragon S4 Pro makes the handsets the most powerful around
  • In-hand feel is one of the best of all Android phones.
  • Interesting software features that are sure to impress
The Bad
  • Design may be too understated for some
  • LG's custom UI has only marginally improved

Hardware

Inside both handsets are the core pieces of tech that make the Optimus G special. Rocking a 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 4.7 inch True HD IPS+ display, the Optimus G brings a deadly combination of sheer processing power and a beautiful display. However, there are a few differences in the two handsets.

One of the few areas that you'll see some true differences between the  Sprint and AT&T Optimus G handsets is physical hardware and design. While they share a majority of the same innards, AT&T's handset has a few tweaks you won't find in any other version of the Optimus G. The AT&T unit houses a removable micro SIM slot and micro SD card slot via a small tab on the left side of the handset. AT&T also filled the micro SD card slot with a 16GB micro SD card, cutting the internal storage in half.

While the expandable storage and removable micro SIM card are welcomed (Sprint's SIM is embedded), these features make AT&T's Optimus G wider. Not by much, but it doesn't have the quality in-hand feel as the global and Sprint versions. To top it off, we're pretty sure that the AT&T Optimus G lacks real glass on the back, as it feels like plastic.

Design

The overall design aesthetic in the Optimus G handset stays the same in the US variants, but there a few minor differences between the two devices.

The two handsets both have LG's patented Crystal Reflection backing, but the patterns differ. AT&T's handset rocks  the same pattern we saw on the global unit we reviewed last week, while Sprint's has a slightly different pattern that looks similar to the leaked LG Nexus' pattern and is slightly more subdued than the triangle pattern. Either way, the Crystal Reflection method is pretty nice and isn't nearly as flashy as many of the photos make it out to be.

With the exception of the AT&T Optimus G's width, the device also has a slightly textured plastic on the top and the bottom of the device. It actually looks very similar to the battery cover on T-Mobile's Galaxy S II - textured, but smooth. It doesn't necessarily add or take away much from the overall design. It's just there.

Build Quality

No real surprises here. Both the AT&T and Sprint Optimus G units are just as solid as the unit we recently reviewed. While we're uncertain that the AT&T unit has glass on the back side, the quality of the device still remains solid.

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Camera

Probably one of the most dramatic differences between the Sprint and AT&T Optimus G handsets are the cameras. While Sprint's Optimus G retains the global handset's 13 megapixel camera, the camera itself juts out of the back slightly. On the other hand, AT&T's unit has an 8 megapixel camera that is flush to the back.

The cameras on both handsets also prove a point that's constantly overlooked by consumers, and that's that more megapixels don't always make a better camera experience. The 13 megapixel shooter on Sprint's handset is anything but bad, but the larger sensor can have issues with graininess.

Here are a few comparison shots of both devices, side by side. (AT&T on top, Sprint on bottom)

 

 

While it's hard to say that any of the pictures are genuinely bad, some will likely appreciate the AT&T's camera a little more due to the over saturation of photos. In most cases, the 13 megapixel shooter captured the scene more realistically, yet the 8 megapixel camera still looked a bit better.

Call Quality And Battery Life

Call quality on both handsets was pretty great. Both networks hit their own share of snags in different areas here in SF, but for the most part, one shouldn't be too concerned about call quality.

Battery life differed on the two devices, and the main reason for this is that Sprint's LTE network has nowhere near the same footprint as AT&T. Without LTE here in San Francisco, Sprint's Optimus G lasted longer in testing. That still doesn't mean that the LTE-enabled AT&T Optimus G didn't fare well in tests, but it's now common knowledge that LTE will run your battery down much faster. Either way, you'll be able to pull a day out the the Optimus G, no matter what variant you choose.

The Final Take

As we said in the first Optimus G review, LG really has hit a home run with its new flagship handset. The software optimizations are quite nice, but not everyone is going to fall in love with the new and improved user interface.

The internal hardware that runs the show is nothing short of awesome. The Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro just flies on the Optimus G, no matter what you're doing on the phone. The 2GB of RAM ensures a more fluid experience across the board, and the in-hand feel of the device is one of the best we've ever come across. If you're in the market for a new smartphone, be sure to hold the Optimus G before making any assumptions. It's premium feel will make other devices with polycarbonate feel like cheap, mid-range phones.

While it's not without competition, the Optimus G is definitely one of the best Android devices on the market right now. As I said in the first review, I'd take it over the Galaxy S III in a heartbeat. Not many people will agree with me there, but there's too many reasons to grab the Optimus G over Samsung's flagship handset for me.

If you're still on the fence about the Optimus G, you can always just wait for the Nexus 4 to come along.

Overall, LG's efforts in its latest handset have proven that it can run with the big dogs, and the Optimus G does just that.

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