LG Optimus 4XHD Review – Meet LG’s best smartphone to date

OPTIMUS4XHD

It’s been an arduous journey for LG in the smartphone market. While we’ve seen the company ship some interesting smartphones in the past few years, there’s always been another handset from another company that has edged LG’s offerings out. Well, it looks like LG might have genuinely learned from the past, which has led up to the creation of the Optimus 4XHD. Not only is this an incredible powerful phone, the 4XHD is well designed, durable, and downright sexy. Is that enough to take on the top Android phones today? Read on to find out!

The Good
  • One of the best designed phones to come from the company
  • The NVIDIA Tegra 3 is very powerful and fast
  • The True HD IPS display is one of our favorites
The Bad
  • The battery life was questionable, with good and bad days
  • The camera is decent but not great.

Hardware

The LG Optimus 4xHD is packing some great hardware inside and out. The 4.7 inchTrue HD IPS panel is one of our all-time favorites, which is crisp, clear, and bright.

The entire device looks very clean no matter which side you're looking at it. The face of the device is pretty much all screen, with just the essentials on the top and bottom of the HD panel. Above the display, you'll find the standard mix : Proximity and ambient light sensors, earpiece, front-facing camera, and LG's logo. Below the display are three capacitive buttons for back, home, and menu, of which they look almost invisible until the phone is unlocked.

The left side of the device has a small an textured volume rocker that gives just a little less feedback than we'd want it to, but works fine nonetheless. The top houses the 3.5 mm headphone jack and power/lock button, the right side is clean, and the bottom shares the micro USB charging port with a noise cancelling microphone for video-recording.

The back of the 4xHD sports the 8 megapixel camera with LED flash, LG's logo, and a speaker grill.

While it may have disrupted the sleek and modern flow of the 4XHD's design, the handset is sadly lacking a notification LED. While this might not bother too many people, I've come to rely on this feature on my Galaxy Nexus.

Design

LG's previous smartphone designs have never been something to write home about. The LG Nitro and Spectrum weren't necessarily bad designs but had relatively subtle designs that did little to woo the customer. LG's more recent handsets, which include the Vu and the Optimus 4xHD have taken a bolder approach and we'd say it's worked out for the company.

The 4XHD's very boxy appearance might not look like anything special at first glance but the metal around the perimeter of the device along with the textured battery cover make for a much more well-rounded and sleek design. And what makes the 4XHD even more svelte is its 8.9mm thickness.

Taking some obvious ques from the Prada 3, the 4XHD looks and feels like a premium product and it's one of our favorite designs we've seen from the company in a while. Personally, I think this is a beautiful handset.

Build Quality

LG didn't seem to skimp on the build quality of the 4XHD but it would be a sad day to see the phone drop from a high distance. While we're fairly sure the handset can take a fair amount of beating but you'll likely end up with some noticeable blemishes along the metal strips around the device.

The 4XHD has a great in-hand feel, and a lot of this is due to LG's (smart) choice to bevel the edges on the battery cover. This decision allows the device to fit quite nicely into the palm of your hand, even with it's very boxy design aesthetic.

Guts And Glory

Internally, the handset is packing some heat. Rocking a 1.5 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core SoC, the Optimus 4XHD won't slow you down anytime soon, and also allows for the wealth of Tegra 3 optimized games that are showcased through the TegraZone application.

You'll also get 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, micro SD card slot, NFC, the expected assortment of radios (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS), with a 2150 mAh battery to keep things running.

Software

LG's software experience has historically been one of the most non-intrusive custom Android user interfaces we've come across, and while the software on the Optimus 4XHD has been tweaked quite a bit, it's still a nice experience.

One of the most interesting software tweaks begins at the lock screen. LG's approach is essentially something we've never seen before for Android, and it's a very slick implementation. Instead of swiping to the right, dragging a ring up to the center of the screen, or fancy water ripple effects, LG's locks screen allows you to slide your finger across any part of the screen. Just holding your finger on the lock screen looks as if a hole has been punched through, and when you drag your finger, the hole gets wider, allowing you to get a peak into your homescreen. It's pretty damn cool, even if it's just flashy.

One thing we did notice that LG disabled is the ability to drag your notification panel down over the lockscreen, which isn't a deal breaker but we like that feature a lot. The feature was introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich, so we're not sure why LG decided to leave it out.

Once unlocked, you're presented with a user interface that, while slightly skinned, is still essentially a stock Android experience for the most part. You'll be presented with a custom dock, with the All Apps icon at the bottom right. While you can't remove the all apps icon, you can reposition it to the middle of the dock if you want, which is a small and welcomed feature.

The home screen UI offers up a lot of features you'd find in some home replacement applications, such as screen transitions and theme support. Unfortunately, it does look like you're limited to the four pre-installed themes, as there were no more to download from LG SmartWorld that we could find.

Swiping the notification panel down will reveal quick toggles, which offers up an option to customize what's shown without jumping into settings somewhere else in the phone.

There are several new tweaks in LG's new software experience and it's by and far the best we've seen from the company. It remains simple but adds tweaks that will please many users.

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Web Browser

The web browser on the Optimus 4XHD is a slightly skinned version of the stock Android browser. Most settings remain intact, and LG even left the "swipe to dismiss" feature for closing open tabs. (Something we wish some manufacturers wouldn't touch)

While the color scheme has been tweaked, the main change of the 4XHD's web browser is at the bottom of the screen. A small tab can be dragged up that offers options for back, forward, a funky zoom button (that's too close to the home button), add a page, and bookmarks.

Multimedia

There are plenty of ways to consume media on the Optimus 4XHD. Of course, there's the Google Play Store, but LG has also packaged in its own DLNA application, Smart Share, to stream media to and from your device. Smart Share is simple and to the point and you'll have no trouble streaming your computer's content over to your phone if you're home WiFi network has a media server like TVersity.

Camera

The camera on the Optimus 4XHD is a weak point. It's not that the camera is bad, as it can take some pretty decent shots, but it's just not as good as a lot of the competition out there today. The software is a little on the bland side but still miles better than anything Motorola has produced. The two big issues with the camera is the touch to focus feature and the fact that many (not all) pictures come out too dark.

Touch to focus can be painfully slow and even then, the photo will sometimes come out unfocused. Still, we do hope that this will be addressed in a forthcoming update. With the exception of the last photo, the camera continually snapped darker pictures. Video recording wasn't much better and had a few hiccups focusing at times.

 

Call Quality And Battery Life

Battery life was quite interesting with the Optimus 4XHD. The first day the handset died in standby within just a few hours, but any other subsequent charge lengthened the  life of the phone significantly. This is likely due to the battery itself and not the battery management tweaks within the phone's software, as we haven't experienced the massive drainage since.

Of course, the gorgeous display on the handset will be the biggest culprit in killing the battery. Having the screen cranked up to full brightness with GPS, WiFi, and other radios will churn out less than desirable battery life. Then again, you should know this by now. The 2150 mAh battery does its best.

The Final Take

Simply put, this is by far my favorite LG handset I've ever come across. From it's design to the power under the hood, LG has stepped it up on all fronts that it needed to. In a world that's overrun by Samsung in the Android space, LG stands a chance to blindside Sammy with an offering like this and upcoming devices. LG finally nailed a very nice design with Optimus 4xHD. It's slim, modern, and sexy.

The software experience is also definitely the best we've seen from LG, which both provides useful custom tweaks while retaining most of Android 4.0's slick UI elements.

While there's no word of US availability, we do hope that LG brings it over to this side of the pond. Like I said above, this is definitely my favorite LG smartphone I've ever come across, and is also probably the best smartphone the company has produced. If the Optimus 4XHD were ever to land on T-Mobile as the G4X, it would be a hard decision between it and whatever the upcoming Nexus phone turns out to be.

All my praise doesn't mean the Optimus 4XHD is perfect. The camera is kind of a let down in a few places, but hopefully these issues will be able to be fixed. It still doesn't make me like this phone much less. In Android-land, I'd put the Optimus 4XHD firmly within the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III. I prefer both the 4XHD's design over the Galaxy S III and the software over HTC Sense on the One X -- by a wide margin. Of course, design aesthetic and software will be a personal preference, but I'm definitely impressed with what LG has accomplished with the Optimus 4XHD.

More phones like this, LG. Thanks.

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  • Shniggies

    nice review blake, thanks

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