LG Optimus 4X HD review

Pros

  • Large, high resolution screen
  • Quad-core processor
  • Neat design

Cons

  • No Jelly Bean yet
  • Disappointing battery life
  • Laggy autofocus

Every handset manufacturer has its top-of-the-range model, and that model tends to have everything but the kitchen sink thrown at it including a pumped up screen size and resolution, and usually some serious thought put into chassis design too. So it is no surprise that, as a flagship handset, the Optimus 4X HD is a phone brimming with great features. Large? Yes. A little unwieldy perhaps? Yes. But undoubtedly powerful, albeit with a few annoyances.

The chassis design is definitely distinctive. The bruisers out there might not like the white with sliver trim approach, which they might see as a little bit Primark. But there’s no doubt that the double rim of silver round all the edges with its inner strip of patterned white plastic on the long edges is a look that’s different.

The faux leather finish to the back is reminiscent of LG’s Prada range of phones, and I don’t much like it, but it is more grippy than a flat finish and that matters with a handset of this size. At 132.4 x 68.1mm, I found it a bit big for my relatively small hands to grasp and it isn’t a lightweight either at 133g. The LG Optimus 4X HD is thin though – just 8.9mm thin. The coveted Samsung Galaxy S III is only slightly thinner at 8.6mm. That thinness means there’s a lip around the top-mounted headset slot, which is a small but neat little design feature.

So, I’ve mentioned the size of the LG Optimus 4X HD. It has a 4.7in IPS LCD screen and while that is bettered by the Samsung Galaxy S3’s 4.8in, it matches the HTC One X’s dimensions and equals them both for resolution with 1,280 x 720 pixels on offer.

The screen has great viewing angles and good colour reproduction, and watching video in particular was a pleasure. On a screen this size it is easy to expect tablet-like service from applications, and so websites that default to mobile versions are a real pain. The screen does really attract fingerprints though, a little more so than the average in my view.

I said earlier that LG has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the Optimus 4X HD. So what does that mean? Well Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) of course, plus Nvidia’s Tegra 3 SoC, with it’s quad-core CPU running at 1.5GHz and a battery power saving fifth core on hand. These are supported by Nvidia’s 12-core graphics GPU and 1GB of RAM. It is stunningly fast and data renders in a jiffy, though I did meet the occasional stumble. The camera was a little slow to focus, for example. And the handset ran slightly warm when the processor was being pushed too. Not enough to worry me, but enough to be noticeable.

There is a generous 16GB of storage, but LG has installed quite a lot of stuff onto the device and out-of-the-box my review handset reported 11.8GB free. That’s still a fair amount, of course, and you can boost it with microSD cards. The slot is easily accessible under the backplate.

NFC has been built in. There’s no HDMI slot but the LG Optimus 4X HD supports MHL – that’s Mobile High Definition Link – through the USB connector. You don’t get a cable, but they’re easy enough to obtain.

LG has included an above par battery. With 2,150mAh on offer it ought to deliver quite well. In fact, though, I had the usual problem of having to charge in the late afternoon or early evening to be sure of enough power to get me through to the next morning. And if I went into manic gaming mode I was seeking mains power after a couple of hours of gameplay.

There is a front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel camera on the back, which produced some good results. There’s no dedicated camera button but the volume rocker doubles as a shutter button and even caters for continuous shooting when held down. I bet other hardware makers will steal this neat trick. I did find that autofocusing took a while to kick in, which is irritating. As for video, it can be captured at 1080p.

LG has of course skinned Android and added some of its own widgets, but the skinning is fairly light touch. I like the ability to fiddle with the unlock system to choose pattern, pin, swipe, password, or using the front camera for face unlock, or even having no lock screen at all. It is nice to be able to select the clock type and unlock app shortcuts for the lock screen too.

The skinning isn’t all software related. The Google Recent Apps touch button has been replaced with the more traditional menu button, while you get access to recent apps with a long press of the Home button. I’m happy with that.

The music player is not much to write home about but I do appreciate that LG has bundled a set of round in-ear buds. They’re not the best quality in the world, but they are reasonably good at blocking out other sounds, and the Dolby Mobile technology is joined by a number of other effects such as bass reducer, treble booster and vocal boost, which do seem to have an effect on sound quality and might prove useful.

LG adds a few apps into the Android mix, with the almost obligatory FM radio among them and a nice memo app for jotting things down. This and Polaris Office really are usable for serious stuff on a big screened handset like this.

Verdict

LG hasn’t quite managed to pull off a complete win here. Battery life disappoints if you push this handset hard, and the hardware design could have been sleeker. With Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) now here, the phone is a tad behind the times, and the camera isn’t without its issues. Still, the large screen is fantastic for email, general writing, video and web, and if you are looking at the top of the tree then this phone sits well next to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X.

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Manufacturer and Model

LG Optimus 4X HD

Network

GSM 850/900/1900/2100 HSDPA 900/1900/2100

Processor

1.5GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core

Memory

16GB

Memory expansion

microSD

Display

4.7in, 1,280 x 720 pixels

Main camera

8-megapixels

Front camera

1.3-megapixels

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

2,150mAh

Size

132.4 x 68.1 x 8.9 mm

Weight

133g

OS

Android 4.0