Optimus G Pro

Better than the Galaxy Note 2? Is that even possible? Yes, it is. And it is. (But for how long?)

The LG Optimus G Pro is, shall we say, inspired by the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Let's just get that part over with. There's absolutely no way not to see it, nor has LG really done anything to make us want to think otherwise. One begat the other. End of story.

And I don't care. 

I've never been a huge fan of the larger Android smartphones. That's not to say there's not a place for them (there is), and that's not to say they haven't sold well (in Samsung's case, they've sold very well). But they've always been just too wide for me. And the display resolution never did it for me, given the size of the screen itself. (We'll save the whole pen input thing for another time.) But after getting an intimate, sit-down look at the Optimus G Pro in a restaurant in Barcelona, Spain, well away from the bustle of the show floor, it started to grow on me. Maybe it was the wine (I don't think so). Maybe it was meat (possible). Maybe it was the flashing neon ringing the home button. (OBEY.)

More: The Optimus G Pro at Mobile World Congress

But, no. There's something about the Optimus G Pro that didn't make me want to put it down like other oversized phones of similar design. 

What follows is a sort of mini review of the Optimus G Pro. We've got a Korean version here. That means we can't really test real-world battery use. Or data speeds and network connectivity. (Suffice to say, if you're in Korea, it'll be fast.) One of those things directly affects the other, of course. The other thing is that we have absolutely no idea if and when the Optimus G Pro will ever come to the United States. The official line is yes, sometime in the second quarter. Until we hear it from a mobile operator's lips, however ...

But I'd love to see it here.

The video walkthrough

Basic Optimus G Pro Specs

  • Chipset: 1.7GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm? Snapdragon™ 600 Processor
  • RAM: 2GB DDR
  • Memory: 32GB / microSD (up to 32GB)
  • Display: 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels / 400ppi)
  • Camera: Rear 13.0MP with LED Flash / Front 2.1MP
  • OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Battery: 3,140mAh (removable / wireless charging capable)
  • Size: 150.2 x 76.1 x 9.4mm 

The Optimus G Pro ha​rdware

LG Optimus G Pro.

As far as the fit and finish of the Optimus G Pro goes, there's nothing overtly surprising here. It's a big, plastic phone that looks a whole lot like another big plastic phone. Power and volume buttons are in the usual places, though LG's added a dedicated button -- called the QButton -- to toggle the QMemo tab. The button's in an interesting spot, toward the top on the left-hand side, and it can be remapped to serve as a camera button if you like.

LG Optimus G ProThe home button at the bottom deserves a mention. It's a long rectangle ... like that other phone's home button. It's longer and thinner though. So it's different. Barely. It does light up around the edges in a sort of retro '80s vibe, which is cool in the daylight but kind of annoying at night. The home button's flanked by a disappearing back button on the left, and a menu button on the right. For those of you keeping score at home, that's exactly like ... that other phone ... only in reverse.

One item of note up top: There's a small infrared port next to the 3.5mm headphone jack for controlling TVs and such. That's the big trend of 2013 so far, with IR ports also on the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.

LG Optimus G Pro.

There's nothing crazy going on out back. The big plastic battery cover is sort of done in the same reflective pattern as you'll find on the Optimus G or, more specifically, the Nexus 4. (Though obviously it's a different production method.) Underneath you have access to the 3,140 mAh battery, micro SIM and SD card. I love how LG showcases the battery capacity here.

One area where the Optimus G Pro definitely bests the Note 2 is in the display. Its 5.5-inch, 1920x1080 IPS display is words better than the Note 2's 1280x720 AMOLED display. It's also got less of a bezel -- the space between the display and the edge of the phone -- if you're worried about that sort of thing. We'd be surprised if the next iteration of the Galaxy Note didn't improve on the resolution, however. 

LG Optimus G Pro.

The other major difference between the two phones is the feel. They're nearly identical in height (the Optimus G Pro, at 150.2mm is just a hair shorter), and spot on in thickness (9.4mm). But the Optimus G Pro is 4mm narrower, and it's a noticeable difference. That's not to say it doesn't feel big -- it does. But for those of us without oversized mitts, it's a more comfortable (or maybe less uncomfortable) grip.

LG Optimus G Pro.

And I don't care that you can't use it outside of Korea -- any phone with a TV antenna is friggin' cool. 

All in all, I like the design of the Optimus G Pro. Yeah, it apes the Galaxy Note 2. A lot. Maybe some iPhone 5 design, too, particularly where it transitions to the flat surface at the top and bottom, with the silver ring flaring out from its hairline thickness on the sides. Maybe it's a mashup of existing styles, but it works here. 

The Optimus G Pro software

As is the case these days, we're working with a customized version of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.

LG Optimus G Pro

I've got a love-hate relationship with LG's software. I'm rather enamored with the lock screen. It's got app shortcuts, which are a must these days. World clock out of the box? Check. And that little zoom-in feature, where you get a peek at what you're unlocking to, is excellent. 

LG Optimus G Pro

LG's menus are clean. Very clean. And its toggle buttons have been refined since original Optimus G, going from two-dimensional toggles to three-dimensional switches. Very nice. Fonts are heavier, too.

LG Optimus G Pro

The notification area is busy as ever, full of things I'll never use. But I'd rather have the options than not, I suppose, and it's still fairly customizable.

LG Optimus G Pro

Holding down the home button gives us a new way to switch apps and get to Google+. LG makes use of all that screen real estate, showing recently used apps and a couple of links to U+ applications. Tucked at the bottom are "clear all" and "task manager" buttons, with an on-screen button for Google+ sandwiched between them. It's an extra step to get to Google+, which is a shame, but at least it's there.

LG Optimus G ProLG Optimus G Pro

As far as apps go, a lot of what's on this Optimus G+ is specific for Korea, so we'll not worry about them for our purposes here.

The Optimus G Pro camera

LG Optimus G Pro

LG put its full 13-megapixel camera into the Optimus G Pro. The stack extends ever so slightly from the back of the phone, but the lens is recessed a tiny bit as well. (There's a 2MP shooter out front, for what that's worth.)

LG's camera app has improved from previous versions, with larger, more recognizable buttons.

As we've mentioned previously, the Optimus G Pro is the first phone other than the Galaxy Nexus or Nexus 4 to do 360-degree panoramas out of the box. Google calls them "Photospheres," LG calls it "VR Panorama."

Sample shots

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LG Optimus Pro panorama

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The bottom line

We don't yet know when or where the Optimus G Pro will be coming to the United States. Regardless, it's already got some stiff competition from the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and probably from whatever version follows that, and definitely from the Galaxy S4, which is due in just a week.

The Optimus G Pro hasn't changed my mind about oversized smartphones. Either you love 'em, or you don't. The 5-inch-plus range isn't for everyone, and that's cool. But LG's done a pretty stand-up job with the Optimus G Pro. The hardware is solid. The Snapdragon 600 performs admirably, and the 32GB of storage is decent. Would the U.S. operators muck it up? Quite possibly.

But given our look at the Korea version of the Optimus G Pro, we're more than willing to give LG's latest a long, hard look when it comes stateside.