With its beefy stats, beautiful display and 4G capabilities, the Optimus G is easily the most capable phone LG has ever produced. Still, as a $200 for two-year contract device on Sprint, it falls in with serious competition from the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC Evo 4G LTE. Then there's the matter of Sprint's small 4G coverage area in the U.S., and the approach of the Google Nexus 4 by LG, which is rumored to have specs very similar to the Optimus G. Is now the right time to go 4G on Sprint with the LG Optimus G? For the most part, we'd say yes.
That hardware. If you're picking the Optimus G's best asset, it's a toss up between the internal specs and its awesome display. A quad-core processor and an impressive 2GB of RAM makes playing games, browsing the web or just flicking across home screens smooth and downright fun. With all that memory, the browser can handle a dozen or so tabs with ease and the latest games are no sweat, either. For such a large phone, it's also lighter than you'd think, weighing just 5.11 oz (145 g).
The screen is big and sharp, making pictures and videos gorgeous. All that visual real estate is great for gaming, maps, and even makes the Optimus G a decent e-reader substitute. The fact that it can do all this with reasonable battery life avoids a real deal-breaker in the functionality department.
We're happy with LG's UI, for the most part. It's a tad obtuse, but once figured out, it can add yet another layer of personalization to the already highly customizable Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich. Letting users design their own app icons and create organized, functional folders is a niche but neat feature. We're excited to see how this phone handles Android 4.1: Jelly Bean. We won't be waiting long, the update arrives in December.
Finally, we'll always appreciate that Sprint still offers unlimited data plans, 4G or otherwise, and the carrier has put far less junk software on its version that AT&T did.
Sprint, not giving your version of the Optimus G a removable SIM card is marginal, but no microSD support while AT&T's version has it? That's disappointing. Also, this 13-megapixel snapper is not the 'world's best camera.' It's pretty average, a bit of an underperformer, really, considering the excessive pixel count. The 8-megapixel version on AT&T actually took more consistent shots.
The 5-inches length and slick build of the Optimus G won't be for everyone. The size of the handset and its nondescript face will prove divisive. It might be made out of Gorilla Glass but it sure feels like plastic, far from the space age luxury of the iPhone 5 or Droid Razr M, phones with a build we prefer on a purely aesthetic level.
The call quality on the handset speaker was merely average, as was the speaker phone. In that way it harkened back to the days when smartphones were pocket computers first, actual phone second.
Last, but certainly not least, having Sprint as a carrier also makes it throwback, since you'll only have 3G service in most areas. That's all we were able to test in the San Francisco Bay area, where Sprint's 4G coverage has yet to arrive.
Thanks to powerful hardware and (some) 4G service, the Optimus G is most capable smartphone LG has ever produced. Media, games, web browsing and even Google Maps all benefit from that large and ever-so sharp display.
Only a few things stand in the way of a more enthusiastic endorsement of Sprint's Optimus G. First, the phone is huge, not so heavy but a whopping 5-inches tall. Big phones aren't for everyone, but for those who like a larger handset, the Optimus G deserves to be on your radar.
Second is Sprint's 4G service, which just isn't available in the majority of the U.S. yet. However, if you don't minding waiting and using 3G, you'll be hopping on one of the last carriers to continue offering unlimited data plans.
Finally, there's the imminent arrival of a possibly even better LG device, the Google Nexus 4 by LG. It could still be a long way off, and way more expensive, but the announcement is rumored to be October 29. Savvy, patient consumers may want to hold off and see how long the wait will be for this possibly game-changing device.
Those hitches aside, we quite liked Sprint's take on the LG Optimus G. It's big, beefy but not cumbersome, and the proprietary software doesn't get in the way of the user or good old Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich. We're excited to see what the Optimus G can do with Android 4.1: Jelly Bean, and look forward to updating this review when the upgrade arrives in December.