LG has long been a player in the world of consumer electronics, making everything from televisions to air conditioners. Up until recently, its strategy in the smartphone world was to undercut the competition on price, with devices like the 4G-ready LG Spectrum, or niche devices like the stylish world phone the LG Prada. However, its LG's flagship line of Optimus phones have earned the attention of consumers and carriers worldwide, especially after the LG Optimus 4X HD, with its capable quad-core processor.

Now LG, aka Lucky Goldstar, has unleashed the LG Optimus G. With a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich OS, 32 GB of storage, a high-resolution display and enough memory to choke a mid-range handset (a whopping 2GB, to be exact), it's built to take advantage of the high data speeds available on AT&T and Sprint's growing 4G networks.

LG Optimus G ATT review

However, the two carrier versions of the LG Optimus G were not created equal. Not only do both phones come packed with carrier-specific apps (some useful, some irksome bloatware), the bodies of the two phones are physically different, and the Sprint handset sports a 13-megapixel camera, while the AT&T model has a more standard 8-megapixel.

The reasons for the discrepancies between the two versions of the LG Optimus G are unclear, but are likely related to the relationships between the carriers and LG. This review will focus on the LG Optimus G for AT&T. Look for our full review of the LG Optimus G (Sprint) early next week.

We don't know why the two versions of the LG Optimus G are so distinct, or if the Optimus name is meant to recall everyone's favorite leader of the Autobots. What we do know is that with this powerful 4G handset, LG is transforming itself into a major competitor in the smartphone arena.

The Optimus G is the best phone LG has ever produced, but is it a true contender among other powerful, big-screened handsets supported by AT&T? Phones like the HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy S3? Let's find out.

Design

LG Optimus G ATT review

The LG Optimus G for AT&T (model number LG-E970) is big and rectangular, to the point where it feels like a tablet that was shrunk down to fit in your pocket. Other than the fact that it doesn't come in white, it bears a heavy resemblance to the LG Optimus 4X HD. It's a slab of black plastic with right-angled edges and a spacious 4.7-inch screen, measuring 5.15 inch x 2.82 inch x 0.33 inch (130.8 x 71.6 x 8.4 mm) in total.

The overall body of the LG Optimus G may be Gorilla Glass but it sure feels like plastic. Smooth, durable, seamless plastic, but plastic nonetheless. Running a finger across the screen to the the edge of the bezel, you can hardly feel any gap between the two. It has a slick feel in the hand that helps to offset the inherent awkwardness of a such a large handset.

It's big, but surprisingly thin. Being only 0.33 inches thick adds to its overall slickness. The relatively thin design of the body is owed to a completely sealed design. Other than a little hatch for a microSD and SIM card, there's no getting into this device without a screwdriver. That means the G's 2100mAh battery is not removable. That's more than can be said for the Sprint version of the handset, which has no removable SIM or microSD expansion slot.

LG Optimus G ATT review

The sides of the Optimus G are rounded, but the backside is completely flat, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One X, which have slightly bubbled rears. This makes the G feel even more like a slab of technology.

It's slick but not slippery. Thankfully, the polycarbonate body is just grippy enough that it won't fly out of your palm. While we generally prefer phones with aluminum bodies, like the Droid Razr M or the iPhone 5, the Optimus G is not unappealing to the touch. It's a nice combination of smooth but easy to hold on to.

The LG Optimus G's power button is located on the upper right side, with the volume rocker set slightly lower on the left side. On the AT&T version of the phone, the power button serves as notification light, glowing red like a coal when you've got an alert. You can choose what triggers this alert, be it new email, missed calls, text message, calendar event and more. Of course, these alerts also show up on the lock screen, and on the Sprint handset that's the only place they show up, since it lacks this power button light.

The two carrier versions of the LG Optimus G are in an unusual position, in that they're different from each other both physically and internally. As we mentioned, the LG Optimus G for AT&T measures 5.15" x 2.82" x 0.33" (130.8 x 71.6 x 8.4 mm). The Sprint version (model number LG-LS970) is 5.19" x 2.71" x 0.33" (131.9 x 68.9 x 8.5 mm). The essential specs like processor and memory are the same, though.