Among the smartphone wars unleashed almost every year by Samsung and Apple, LG almost always seems like an afterthought to most buyers. Though it is not exactly a fringe player, LG seems to be lesser known for its phones than for its other gadgets. The company, however, has done its due diligence in launching a variety of smartphones in the last year, including 3D devices. The latest launch, the company’s new flagship, the LG Optimus 4X HD, was in my pocket for a couple of weeks and here’s how it compares to its mighty peers in the markets right now.

Design and build

The LG Optimus 4X HD is one of the few smartphones that sports a full-IPS display. The colours are amazingly vivid, at par with the Super AMOLED on the Galaxy S III. Videos too turned out pretty enjoyable on the massive 4.7-inch screen that the LG Optimus 4X HD features. The speakers on the handset were loud enough for personal viewing although if you watching a short video with a couple of friends you might prefer plugging small speakers in.

The body has parallel metal strips running the entire length of the bezel. It was unusually nice to find only two hardware buttons on the body – the volume rocker on the left and the power/lock button on top of the handset. Those who are used to a quick camera launch button that doubles up as a shutter, might miss the same on this handset. There are also only two ports a 3.5 mm headphone jack and the charging port.

The LG keyboard was not the most intuitive one we’ve come across on a high-end smartphone. At times, it’d accept colloquial words (not found in the in-built dictionary) that I used while typing and sometimes it randomly wouldn’t. At times, while on Google Talk, it retained the last word of the previous IM that I would have typed and made it the first word of my new message. This happened at least 4-5 times in a conversation that lasted about 10 minutes. We couldn’t figure out the reason behind it.

Performance

There are a couple of times when the LG Optimus showed signs of slowing down. For example, whenever I launched the Apps from the Home screen it would display ‘Loading’ for a couple of seconds before it showed the list of apps. This is not something you’d expect to encounter in a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor.

On benchmarking tests, however, the device scored around 5061 points shooting way ahead of the likes of HTC One X.

One of the pre-installed software is the LG SmartWorld app. I registered to check out the manufacturer’s app market but most of the apps were something that you would already find easily in the Android Play Store.

The News app is powered by ‘Yahoo!’. This app lets you choose the region and topics of interest that you want to be updated about. You can choose up to eight topics from a pre-determined list and then swipe from one topic to another on the main screen. It’s not a bad option to have on the smartphone but it doesn’t come close to the flexibility that an app like Pulse offers.

For service and support, LG offers a dedicated app, the RemoteCall Service. Once activated, the app is supposed to let a LG representative remotely diagnose your smartphone in case you are facing trouble with your unit.

The SmartShare app lets you stream content between various devices and the LG smartphone. You need to have all devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network for this to function. However, when I tried accessing some files from a laptop that was connected to the same network, it couldn’t detect any to stream.

The default productivity client on the phone is Polaris Office, an app you’ll find on most Android phones.

To augment the device’s NFC capabilities, LG has pre-loaded an app called the LG Tag+. It lets you save and load certain customisable settings on to the NFC Tag. For example, you can tweak certain settings that you might want the smartphone to switch to in say ‘Meeting’ mode. When you enter your meeting room, it’ll automatically switch to that mode when near an NFC Tag.

User experience

The handset did get slightly heated up every once in a while after continuous Web usage. The LG Optimus 4X HD comes with a 2,150 mAh battery and ended up keeping me company for a working day just like any other smartphone would. As would be the case with most, this smartphone too drains pretty quickly if you are active on apps such as Google Talk, Facebook etc., for a large part of the day.

I put the 8-megger camera on the LG Optimus 4X HD to use in a variety of situations. The images, even in decently lit surroundings, turned out to be a bit noisy. The camera didn’t seem to do very well under warm lights. Shots taken in bright sunlight turned out fine. It also had a bit of trouble with the focus while taking continuous shots.

Overall, it doesn’t match up to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S III or even the Apple iPhone 4S. The camera can record videos up to 1080p at 30 frames per second. However, it doesn’t adapt well to ambient light. Even in a brightly lit room, the videos recorded were much darker than we’d expected them to be.

We say

The LG Optimus is clearly targeted to take on the likes of Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One X and so on. However, there is one parameter or the other on which its competitors fare better with than the Optimus 4X HD. And on the ones that it’s not outdone, the new LG flagship just manages to be on par with the rest.

A really good screen, a decent processor and fairly good design elements work in its favour. But, an average camera kind of takes away from the smartphone experience. Hence, while it may not be the best high-end smartphone that you can get your hands on, it definitely makes it to top five most powerful handsets you can find in the market right now.

Rs 38,000

Love - Good display, multimedia capabilities

Hate - Average battery life, underperforming camera

mahananda.bohidar@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 25, 2012)
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