As dual-core processors become ever more popular within the smartphone arena, manufacturers have turned to quad-core chipsets for their flagship devices. HTC and Samsung have seen high levels of success with the One X and Galaxy S III respectively, with LG now joining the fray armed with its Optimus 4X HD.
This latest device from the Korean manufacturer has all the hallmarks of a top-end superphone including a large HD display, numerous connectivity options and of course, that quad-core powerhouse at its heart. But can the Optimus 4X HD make the grade at what is the very cutting edge of the smartphone market? We got hold of a device and spent some time with it to find out exactly that.
- NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.5GHz processor
- 4.7-inch 720p HD display
- 1GB of RAM
- 16GB of internal storage expandable via micro SD
- 8 megapixel autofocus camera
- 1080p HD video recording
- 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera
- 133g weight
- 8.9mm thickness
- Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS
- 2150mAh battery
- NFC connectivity
- DLNA enabled
- FM Radio
- Combined email functionality
Design and Build
The 4X HD is very much an acquired taste. Those attracted to chrome edging and glitzy details will find much to like here but we could not help feeling that the handset looks cheap and slightly tacky. Although build quality appears to be fairly solid, the device does have an undeniably plastic feel to it, particularly the textured battery cover which comes across as decidedly budget.
With a 133g weight and 8.9mm thickness the device does feel substantial enough in the hand to convince the user that it is a serious bit of kit, however, the almost un-grippable dual chrome edging did cause the handset to be dropped on a number of occasions during our testing.
The questionable design is soon forgotten thanks to the Optimus 4X HD’s sumptuous 4.7-inch display. Operating at 720p HD resolution with an impressive 313ppi, the screen offers incredible levels of clarity with outstanding colour saturation.
One small gripe we had was with screen glare in bright conditions, an issue which seems to plague all LG smartphones. However, this is little more than a slight annoyance and overall the 4X HD really does offer a display which can comfortably compete with devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Under the Hood
In addition to its wonderful display, the 4X HD features a formidable hardware package built around an NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.5GHz quad-core chipset and 1GB of RAM. This spec ensures smooth handset operation and zero lag whether browsing, gaming or consuming digital media. A huge 12 core GeForce GPU is also on board in order to make the most of that excellent screen, which it does admirably.
The handset carries a decent 16GB of internal storage, with the option to expand via microSD to a huge 64GB should the user require it.
With a class-leading 2150mAh battery, the Optimus offers excellent handset life with around 40 hours between charges under general usage. Obviously a marked reduction is seen when watching movies or gaming for any considerable amount of time, but battery performance is nonetheless a definite strong point of the device.
Operating System and User Interface
Unsurprisingly the Optimus 4X HD runs the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system and as such all the usual widgets and customisation options are available. Unfortunately, the manufacturer has seen fit to skin the OS with a somewhat garish Optimus UI and as a result the user experience is not as refined as would be hoped for in a device at this price point
That said, the interface does offer some interesting user options, including the ability to choose between different scroll styles within the homescreens. Although touches like this do not improve usability, it does make for a more satisfying user experience.
Despite the rather brash design of the Optimus UI, LG has thankfully steered clear of loading up the 4X HD with a truckload of bloatware. The usual Google apps such as Latitude are in place as are the LG regulars SmartWorld and Yahoo News. Beyond that, though, preloaded apps are pleasingly kept to a minimum.
One innovative piece of functionality is QuickMemo, which allows users to add comments and symbols to images and then send the result to friends and colleagues. Its uses might be quite limited but within certain contexts, such as showing directions on a map for example, QuickMemo could prove quite useful.
Camera and Video
In the image capturing stakes, the Optimus 4X HD packs a brilliant 8 megapixel autofocus unit which offers accurate colour reproduction and impressive levels of detail. The camera has the usual options and settings adjustments as expected at this level of device, with some bespoke features built in too.
One such feature is Time Catch Shot mode which captures several frames almost instantaneously, giving the photographer a number of choices of shot. The mode is well thought out and should prove particularly useful for action shots and when attempting to capture fast moving objects.
A front-facing 1.3 megapixel shooter is also included and results are adequate without being inspiring. Noise levels can be high in certain low light conditions but the camera deals with colour reproduction accurately.
Video recording is available at full 1080p HD resolution and as such, results are of a high standard. However, the unit does have a major weakness in the form of its autofocus capabilities. Due to the fact that autofocus cannot be switched off, the camera is constantly trying to refocus and this is clearly evident when playing back recorded content. In our tests we even suffered focus breathing being recorded on a number of occasions.
Connectivity and Multimedia
Messaging and email functionality on the Optimus 4X HD is as expected from a flagship Android smartphone, with minimalist menus and plenty of options dominating. A handy feature is the inclusion of a combined inbox for email, which effortlessly pulls together mail from several accounts and presents them in one easy to use menu.
Connectivity options on the device are plentiful including NFC, DLNA and MHL available via the micro USB port.
Music playback is covered by the now familiar Music Hub, which includes song placement within the notification bar and an attractive ‘Now Playing’ widget on the homescreen. Beyond this, music management can also be accessed from within the Media Home app, but we found this a rather convoluted way of providing the exact same functionality as the standard music app.
Video playback on the device is a much more involved and ultimately more rewarding user experience. As previously mentioned, the display offers a beautiful platform from which to watch movie content, but playback options are equally impressive. Fingertip Seek provides users with a thumbnail preview of video to allow for scanning of content, making finding a certain moment incredibly easy. Of diminished practical use but no less impressive is live zooming, which really does work unbelievably smoothly, particularly when viewing HD content.
Performance and Verdict
Despite its questionable aesthetics and disappointing user interface, the Optimus 4X HD is still worthy of its mantle as LG’s resident superphone. The display is as good as any we have seen on a mobile device and the plentiful video playback options offer a level of functionality unparalleled in the smartphone arena.
While the handset is not quite impressive enough to take the Samsung Galaxy S III’s mantle, it is nonetheless a capable device that will surely appeal to those seeking a totally individual design with a flagship specification.