LG Optimus 4X HD Review
Millions of words have already been written about the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy SIII, the poster children of the Android industry. They deserve all of the attention they are getting and are pushing the boundaries of mobile technology. The screens, cameras and sheer power are quite amazing when you consider what they are capable of and it makes it hard to look outside of these two if you are considering a high-end Android phone.
It may be time to reconsider, at least in my opinion, because there is a third runner in town and it has come from the most unlikely of sources.
LG has created a selection of smartphones. The Optimus 3D and Optimus 7 spring to mind, but like all of the previous efforts they don’t stay in my mind for long. Competent, but unexciting and almost completely forgettable are how I have tended to view smartphones from LG.
And then the Optimus 4X HD arrived. I looked at it and the unexcitement continued and then I picked it up. Wow! It’s not easy to explain the ‘wow!’ moment, but it was there and it has continued to be there. The 4X is incredibly square and much more so that the One X, SGS3 and other high-end Android phones. The tiny curved corners are not there to create an illusion of the phone being smaller because there are not needed to do that. The 4.7″ screen sits astride the front with very thin bezels at the side and half-inch bezels above and below the screen. It feels smaller than the phones mentioned above and sits just right in the hand. At only 8.9mm deep it makes my iPhone 4S look positively old-hat.
And the I turned it over and gazed at a retro style cover that looks like it was accustomed from a 1960′s camera. The logo looks perfect for the cover and the design of the camera lens also complements. On the sides are two strips of chrome with a very thin pattern strip of plastic inside and smooth plastic at the top and bottom. The way the smooth and patterned parts come together inside of the chrome is fantastic to look at even if it is a detail that most will fail to notice. The volume and power buttons are almost invisible, but perfectly functional and the only compromise appears to be the micro SD port at the bottom. LG has attempted to minimise its impact and again it is hard to notice, and I am thankful that it is on the bottom of the unit to give it cradle potential in the future.
Pulling off the back cover continues the look of the outside of the phone. It reminds me of an Airfix kit in how it is styled and I have to say that if the battery were white, it would look wonderful. Seriously, this is a beautifully designed phone, inside and out, and shows that LG has made huge efforts to create a phone that is a little different from the norm, but also practical in every area. Words can never explain what a smartphone manufacturer needs to do to make a smartphone special, but ‘special’ is the word I was thinking after a couple of hours with this phone.
The screen is a TFT-LCD model with 1280 x 720 True HD IPS and 16M Colours powered by a high performance 12-core NVIDIA GPU. I have no idea what that is exactly, but play one of the included example videos and the word ‘special’ pops up again. The screen does not have the ‘knock your socks off’ look of the One X when first viewed, but view a video or a game and the experience is incredible. I have never watched a video on a smartphone that looks as good as the ones on the 4X HD.
The NVIDIA Tegra 3 4-PLUS-1 Quad Core powers the phone along at a fair old clip and even with the occasional glitch, this is a pre-production model I am reviewing by the way, it again impressed me no end. Everything moves along super smoothly and it felt similar to iOS and Windows Phone in the way that I interacted with the device. For an Android phone, this is unusual and yet another minor touch that adds to the overall experience.
The camera is the fastest I have ever seen on a mobile device and the picture quality is above average. Tap the capture button and, oh the picture has already been taken. It is bizarre how it happens, but almost feels as if the phone knew you wanted to take the photo before it happened. I noticed some problems with video capture, namely poor sound reproduction and slow auto-focussing, but am hoping that the final release model will have ironed this out because it was the only glitch I found in the entire experience.
The Android interface has been slightly changed and there are a variety of themes included. The cartoon icon style, similar to Samsung’s, is not a personal choice of mine, but of course the options for customisation in Android make this a minor inconvenience. The settings menus and other areas have been tweaked extensively by LG, but in a way that really does work. It feels logically laid out and is more human than a long list of options that take forever to remember. A few extra apps have been included, but not enough to get in the way and they are mostly of genuine use and at least worth looking at. The included games, Glowball, Backbreaker THD Lite and Samurai II: Vengeance, positively pop from the screen and Glowball in particular felt like a mini-console experience. That is new to me on any smartphone.
This is the best Android phone I have ever reviewed. That includes the One X and all of the other recent high-end phones from the likes of Samsung, HTC and others. I can’t judge the battery properly at this time because it is a pre-production model and that is something that often gets changed a lot before the full release, but everything else is on a par with the competition. The screen, form factor and software tweaks are, in my opinion, better than I have seen elsewhere and LG has managed to bring all of the little things together to create a phone that works on every level.
As I said previously, words cannot explain what is needed to make a phone special, but LG has managed to make this phone special in ways that I have never seen before. It isn’t cheap, but with 16GB of memory on board, microSD expansion for another 32GB, a wonderful screen which can display videos like few others and a form factor to die for, why should it be?
Seriously, it is brilliant…