LG Optimus Pad £749.99
19th Apr 2011 | 13:36
The world's first tablet to come armed with a 3D camera
LG Optimus Pad: Overview
The LG Optimus Pad has been a long time coming.
After months of persistent rumours, LG finally announced its 3D tablet at MWC in February.
Rebadged as the T-Mobile G-Slate in the US, it was long rumoured that the Optimus Pad would pair 3D video capture with a glasses-free 3D display like the one on the Nintendo 3DS and LG's own forthcoming Optimus 3D handset.
However, that turned out not to be the case. What we have here is a Tegra 2-powered Android 3.0 honeycomb tablet with dual 5MP rear-firing cameras for 3D video capture. The display is not 3D compatible in any way – it's a standard 8.9-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen with a 15:9 aspect ratio and 1280 x 768 WXGA resolution.
On-board memory is provided by 1GB of RAM, while our test unit came with 32GB internal flash storage.
For a long time we didn't know how much this tablet was going to cost, but it's just gone on sale in Carphone Warehouse for a scarcely believable £749.99. Yes you read that right. No, you're not imagining it - sit down before you hurt yourself.
At this price, this tablet will need to deliver the moon and more to be worth recommending. So, does it have the chops? Let's find out.
Look and feel
It's a fairly generic-looking device and feels so in the hand - it definitely lacks the wow factor of some of the other tablets we've seen of late.
CHUNKY: Thickness of the LG Optimus Pad compared to iPad 2
It weighs 630g and is substantially thicker than the likes of the Apple iPad 2 – so in general it doesn't have the same premium feel of Apple's tablet or the Motorola Xoom. It feels plasticky rather than solid.
SIZE:The LG Optimus Pad (top) at 8.9 inches is slightly smaller than the 10.1-inch Motorola Xoom (bottom) and Samsung Galaxy Tab (middle)
However, LG has made a big song and dance in its press materials about how pleasurable the Optimus Pad is to hold in one hand – and in many ways it is.
This is an 8.9-inch tablet which means it sits between the 7-inch tablets like the BlackBerry Playbook and the 9.7-inch iPad 2. The idea is that this size gives the best of both worlds, balancing a nice, portable size with a screen big enough to watch movies on.
The bezel on the left and right sides are wider than at the top and bottom, making holding it in one hand while you use the other to operate the device quite a comfortable experience.
It's fairly heavy, though, at 630g, so holding one-handed is going to get quite tiresome after a while - the much larger iPad 2 only weighs 600g, remember.
As is the norm with Android 3.0 tablets, the LG Optimus Pad has very few physical buttons.
The on/off/standby button is located on the left hand side at the top, on the same side as the small charging port.
The volume dials are located just around the corner from the on/off button on the top of the device.
Then the other physical features of note are the USB and HDMI connections on the bottom and the slender speakers on each side.
The 2MP front-facing camera is located in the top left-hand corner of the device, which makes it good for both landscape and portrait video conferencing, while the twin 5MP snappers on the back of the device sit front and centre next to an LED flash.
There's also a slide-off hatch on the rear of the device that allows you access to the SIM port. The Optimus Pad uses a standard SIM card for 3G access, so a micro-SIM is no good here.
There's no sign of an external storage port under this hatch, though, sadly. It's something that does cause us a bit of irritation – and even though Android 3.0 is currently unable to recognise external storage ports, forthcoming updates will enable this feature so it's disappointing that so many manufacturers have chosen not to include one.
LG Optimus Pad: Screen and interface
As has become the norm with most of the Honeycomb tablets we've seen to date, the LG Optimus Pad comes with an almost untouched build of Android 3.0. It's very much a Google Experience Device.
There's no overlay, no custom menus and no LG widgets. It's exactly the same version of Android you'll find on the Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1V.
We won't go into the specifics of the Android 3.0 OS in this review – if you want to know more about the software you can read our fully-featured Android 3.0 Honeycomb review.
It should be noted that the pre-release unit we're testing was very kindly provided to us by LG despite it not running final software, so there might be a couple of tweaks made here and there by the time this tablet hits the shops. We'll retest when we've seen a final sample and let you know about that when we know more.
In the meantime, there are a couple of very minor changes to the standard Android interface, and that's mainly down to the 3D cameras needing their own image capture and playback apps.
So in the Apps menu, you are presented with two bespoke application icons – one called 3DCamcorder and the other called 3DPlayer.
We'll cover these apps on Page 4 of this review.
The other non-standard app to be found on here is Polaris Office – the same office suite that's included with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. It has the power to open and edit Microsoft Office documents so it's a useful tool for anyone wondering whether to buy an Android tablet over a netbook or laptop.
The screen on the Optimus Pad is very good – it doesn't particularly stand out from any of the other Android tablets but the resolution is easily high enough on the 8.9-inch display for everything to look crisp and sharp.
Motion is handled well, and it's responsive, too. We've been very pleased with all the Android 3.0 tablets we've seen up to now – there's been no lag at all. The manufacturers have harnessed the power of Tegra 2's dual-core CPU very efficiently.
It could be that this is just the way LG has calibrated the screen for battery preservation purposes – that's just speculation, though. What's important is that it's plenty vivid enough to look good indoors, and watching movies on it is a pleasure. The screen does seem to be a little better at repelling greasy fingerprints than some of the other tablets, too - although it's still not as good as the iPad 2 in this regard.
We were expecting a few glitches and niggles with this pre-release unit, and it has to be said we did get some. It's nothing serious – most of the problems were related to the way the Android 3.0 OS was calibrated with the LG hardware.
For example, the volume up button actually turns the volume down, and vice versa. LG assures us that this is the kind of thing that won't affect final retail samples, so again, we will check that out when final samples arrive and let you know.
LG Optimus Pad: Performance
In use, we have no complaints about the LG Optimus Pad.
It starts up fairly quickly, it's fast and responsive, and most of the hardware functions perfectly.
Wireless networks can be connected to very quickly, and 3G performance is as rapid as you'd expect it to be when there's a strong signal to be had.
Indeed, after running several different benchmarking apps, the Optimus Pad returns almost identical results to the other Android 3.0 tablets – which isn't too surprising seeing as it's powered by the same Tegra 2 platform .
Because this is a pre-release model, we can't give you a precise battery life as it's subject to change.
However, we can confirm that it's at least a match for the other Android 3.0 tablets we've tested lately. With the screen on a medium brightness setting we were able to use the device on and off for a working day without draining the battery too much.
The fact that the Optimus Pad is basically packing the same CPU as the other Honeycomb tablets, whilst incorporating a smaller screen than the likes of the Xoom, means you can expect to get a bit more juice out of the battery anyway.
LG Optimus Pad: 3D Camera
The LG Optimus Pad has two different camera modes. The first uses the standard Android 3.0 camera app to capture videos and 5MP stills.
The second uses LG's own 3DCamcorder app to record videos in 3D. It's this 3D recording functionality that LG reckons is going to make the Optimus Pad stand out from the crowd.
We're not quite so sure. 3D is still very much an industry-driven thing, with arguably the majority of consumers fairly nonplussed by the whole concept.
For those who already have active or passive 3D displays, this tablet may be a slightly more attractive option. But what about the majority of folks out there who don't have 3D TVs?
How it works
It's certainly very odd to have a gadget capable of capturing full 3D video, without the ability to play it back in 3D.
From within the 3DCamcorder app the Optimus Pad allows you to set up the tablet's screen as a view finder in four different ways.
First option is 'Mixed' which combines the images from the two cameras into one image to simulate what a 3D picture looks like in 2D. It looks exactly as 3D footage looks on a 3D TV if you're not wearing 3D glasses. The difference is that it's not actually a 3D image – putting 3D glasses on is no good. It's still just a blurry picture.
The second options is Anaglyph, which is now more commonly known as 'old style' 3D. Using red-cyan 3D specs you can actually get a 3D image from the screen. It does work and it's impressive for all of about three seconds until you get tired of it. We like the inclusion of this mode, but we don't anticipate anyone actually using it more than a couple of times because the novelty wears off very quickly.
Wearing red-cyan specs, the image has depth but it also looks like a horrible red and green nightmare world, lacking colour and definition. And because most of these old school 3D specs are made of cardboard, you're hardly going to want to carry them around with you, are you?
The third 3D viewing mode is 'Single' which is exactly what you think it is – it just displays a single image so you can actually see what you're filming. This is our preferred capture mode.
Fourthly, there's also a 'Side by side' mode which puts the two images… side by side.
You can also customise the depth of the picture you're recording. So you can the image fairly neutral, you can push objects further into the picture or you can make them stand out in front of the screen.
Other settings in this camera mode include a variety of white balance adjustments, video quality and an on/off option for recording audio.
The 3D footage is decent when you consider where it's come from. It's no match for fully-fledged 3D camcorders though, and really the lack of resolution in the images makes us wonder why exactly LG decided to go down this 3D route.
You can see some test footage in the YouTube video above. It displays in side-by-side mode because YouTube doesn't currently support embedding of 3D videos, so if you want to check it out in 3D, you can do so over on our YouTube channel. If you've not got a 3D TV or monitor you'll have you view in red-cyan mode.
The standard Android 3.0 camera app is present of course, and it's able to take 720p video footage as well as 5MP digital stills.
It's a pretty decent camera, far and away better than that of the iPad 2, although of course it's still no match for the capture skills of even a low-end compact snapper.
LG Optimus Pad: Benchmarks
LG Optimus Pad
How it rates against the rest - higher is better
How we test
TechRadar aims to produce the most helpful tablet reviews on the web, so that you are able to make a more informed buying decision.
Part of this testing process includes benchmarking. It's a good way of measuring the overall performance of a product's internal hardware components.
We use Antutu System Benchmark to test tablets. It's a comprehensive Android benchmarking app and produces consistent results.
Antutu measures an Android device's CPU performance, 2D and 3D graphics performance, memory speed and internal and external storage read/write speeds. It combines the results for each test and gives the device a final score.
We test each device three times and take an average.
LG Optimus Pad: Verdict
The LG Optimus Pad is a decent Android 3.0 tablet. It's speedy, it's responsive and it captures 3D video which makes it a bit of a one-off, at least for the time being. But the problem is that there's just something… missing.
It's fast and responsive. The screen is nice and sharp and the battery performs as we'd expect it to. All in all, it's a full competent Android tablet with the unique ability (among tablets at least) to record video in 3D.
It's also very nice to hold in one hand which is crucial for a tablet. We particularly liked the setting to turn off the Anaglyph 3D display, because it's just nasty.
Our main problem with the Optimus Pad is that it's just not refined enough. It's not particularly good looking. It's quite fat, certainly compared to iPad 2 and it's rather heavy as well – particularly when you consider this is an 8.9-inch device.
It just doesn't have the same feel of quality that you get with other tablets even at this early stage.
It's comfortable to hold in one hand, but you'll need a firm grip simply because after a couple of minutes that 630g of weight starts to feel rather heavier. And there's also the issue of that missing expansion port...
Then we come to the price. The LG Optimus Pad has gone on sale in Carphone Warehouse for £749.99. This is, frankly, a ludicrous pricetag. You should laugh all the way to the shop nextdoor that's selling the £379 Asus Eee Pad Transformer.
It all hinged on the cost, and at £749.99 this tablet is simply not worth the cash. If it had cost in the region of £450 we might have recommended it to 3D enthusiasts, but that price is just ludicrous.
In general though, ignoring the price, we don't think this tablet has the chops to really capture the imagination of the masses. It's a solid performer – far and away better than most of the tablets that came out last year – but can it really claim to be as appealing as the Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 or Eee Pad Transformer?