LG G Pad 8.3 review

Pros

  • Slim and well-built
  • Solid performance
  • Good multitasking interface

Cons

  • On the pricey side
  • Lousy front camera

The LG G Pad 8.3 is a slim and attractive 8in Android tablet with an appealing interface. But while it's great in a lot of ways, it's not quite the best at anything, so it's outflanked in a very busy small tablet realm. Still, it might be your preferred choice, and it isn't a bad slate by any means.

The G Pad strongly resembles Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0, but it looks slightly classier thanks to its mostly aluminium back. At 125 x 8.3 x 215mm (WxDxH) it’s just a little too wide to use comfortably with one hand, but at 340 grams, it's nice and light. The 1,920 x 1,200-pixel IPS LCD screen is bright and sharp. LG always tries to make its products narrower for a better grip, and the G Pad is in fact narrower than both the Galaxy Note 8.0 and the Apple iPad mini. You just can't make an 8in screen very narrow without delivering a weird aspect ratio.

There are no buttons on the front of the tablet. When you set up the G Pad, LG asks you how you want Android's default touch buttons arranged – all part of the company's obsession with customisation. (You can also mess with the system fonts and icons in a way that competing Android devices typically don't let you do). The metal back is cool and smooth, but not slippery. The 5-megapixel rear camera is up in a corner, along with the microSD card slot. This is a very well-built tablet.

Networking and battery life

The G Pad 8.3 has dual-band 2.4 and 5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, but there's no cellular connectivity here. I saw some strange Wi-Fi behaviour when initially testing the tablet, but this settled down promptly to put LG’s tablet on a performance level similar to the Google Nexus 7. This tablet has Bluetooth LE and GPS, both of which worked fine during testing, but there's no NFC (which I don't mind, anyway).

Battery life was slightly better than the Galaxy Note 8.0's using the same size 4600mAh battery. Playing a video with the screen set to maximum brightness, the G Pad managed 5 hours and 53 minutes, while the Galaxy Note got 5 hours and 35 minutes, and the Nexus 7 hit 7 hours and 37 minutes.

Performance

The G Pad runs Android 4.2.2 on a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor. Performance was good in a range of high-powered applications. Asphalt 8 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, two games which are a good stress test for an Android device, rendered well and were easy to control. Looking at our various benchmarks, the G Pad is competitive with other top choices, generally managing to go slightly faster than the Nexus 7 but slightly slower than the most recent Samsung Galaxy Note line across a range of tests. You shouldn't see a difference between these top tablets.

LG has added plenty of software to the Android baseline, but none of it is as noticeable as Samsung's heavy-handed Android skin. Most of LG's additions are useful. The company's multitasking interface, QSlide, lets you put two resizable windows over your main screen, rather than splitting the screen in half as some Samsung tablets do. You can multitask the web browser, calendar, email, file manager, video player, calculator, or memo pad.

"Wireless Storage" is a cool option; it launches a web server on your G Pad so you can drag and drop files to and from the tablet over a Wi-Fi network. Quick Remote is LG's IR remote app, but it's crippled here compared to some other LG devices – this version only controls TVs and cable boxes, not other gadgets like stereos.

QPair is my favourite of LG's add-on apps. It pairs via Bluetooth with a downloadable app on any Android phone to give you tablet alerts when you receive text messages, phone calls or other notifications. It worked fine with my Android handset, and let me triage texts so I wouldn't have to pull out my phone every time I got an SMS message.

I didn't have any stalling or crashing problems on the G Pad. That's a change from some other Android tablets we've seen recently.

Multimedia

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LG's own video and music playing apps are on board alongside the Google Play apps. LG's apps are clean and simple; they don't muck around with extra stores like Samsung's apps do, for instance. The tablet had no problem playing video up to 1080p in various formats, including H.264, MPEG4, WMV, and even an MKV file with high-quality audio. The tablet also had no problem with a range of audio formats including MP3, AAC, and WMA. The dual back-ported speakers are very loud, but tinny.

There's no video out; if you want to show video on a TV, you'll have to do it wirelessly through Miracast with the aid of something like a Netgear Push2TV adapter. Because there's generally a line of sight between the tablet and TV, I saw perfectly smooth video streaming over Miracast, although for gaming, there was a bit too much lag.

The tablet has a 5-megapixel rear camera, which isn't bad, and a 1-megapixel front camera, which is. First, the good news: The main camera is sharp when you have good lighting. It records smooth 1080p videos at 30 fps outdoors, dropping to 24 fps in low light, and it grabbed the text off a magazine page in macro mode without a problem. The camera app has some useful features, like night mode and HDR.

The front camera, on the other hand, tends to be grainy and blotchy, overexposing bright backgrounds outside and dropping to very blurry, low shutter speeds in low light. There's also something a little odd about the focal length; to get my whole face in the camera, I had to hold the tablet at arm's length. It records 720p video at 30 fps outdoors and 24 fps indoors.

The 16GB tablet has 11.03GB free memory to begin with, so if you're playing a lot of videos, you'll want to slip a microSD card into a slot on the side that's covered by a little door (see the image to the right). The G Pad supports cards of up to 64GB capacity.

Verdict

The LG G Pad 8.3 is a slim and handsome tablet, but it's outflanked by three other competing slates. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 delivers everything you find here plus pressure-sensitive pen support, which actually makes a big difference – and priced at £299 now, it’s only £40 more than LG’s tablet. We recommend it over the very similar G Pad, unless you really don’t think you will ever use the pen.

Our top picks for small Android tablets are much less expensive than these models, as long as you can live without an SD card slot and multi-window multitasking, which are, admittedly, some big "ifs." The £199 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX is the easiest to use tablet on the market, and the Google Nexus 7 – which is also £199 – is powerful, flexible and slimmer. The Nexus 7's amazing balance of price and performance makes it our first choice when it comes to compact tablets.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

LG G Pad 8.3

Screen Resolution

1920 x 1200 pixels

Operating System

Google Android 4.2.2

Dimensions

125 x 8.3 x 215mm (WxDxH)

Weight

338g

Screen Type

IPS LCD

Battery Size

4600mAh

GPS

Yes

RAM

2GB

Camera Resolution

5MP/1MP

Storage Capacity

16GB SSD

Battery Life

5 hours 53 minutes

Screen Pixels Per Inch

273 ppi

Additional Storage

MicroSD

Video Camera Resolution

1080P/720P

Processor Speed

1.7GHz

Bluetooth Version

4.0 LE

Screen Size

8.3in

CPU

Qualcomm Snapdragon 600

Wi-Fi Compatibility

802.11a/b/g/n; 2.4GHz/5GHz bands