It's been a long time since we saw LG in the tablet market and last year's G Pad 8.3 is their ticket back into the crowded world of slates. Instead of taking the affordable 7-inch tablet route a la Samsung and Google, LG have tried their best to create the best compromise possible in such a device. With an 8.3-inch display, the G Pad is both larger than most tablets yet also very portable. With better specs than a lot of tablets out there, the G Pad 8.3 seems pretty impressive on paper. With a Google Play Edition of the tablet now available, LG's vision of the hardware is a stark contrast from Google's approach with the tablet. The question is however, can LG's first tablet in a long time help them stride back into town, or is it just another device to get lost in the sea of slates available? Read on to find out in the Android Headlines review of the LG G Pad 8.3
Before we go any further, let's take a look at how the G Pad 8.3 shapes up on paper, shall we?
- 8.3-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS Display (273 PPI)
- 1.7 Ghz Quad-Core Snapdragon 600
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB of Storage, with MicroSD card slot (up to 64GB)
- 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera
- Android 4.2.2 (with update to Android 4.4 coming)
- 216.8 x 126.5 x 8.3 mm (8.54 x 4.98 x 0.33 in)
- 4,600 mAh Battery
One of the more impressive things about LG's tablet is that it's not only built well, but that it looks quite nice. We're reviewing the white version of the device here and the two-tone steel/white back reminds us a lot of the HTC One's silver design. It's tasteful and LG have clearly thought about what to put where. The stereo speakers are placed in such a way that you won't cover them holding the device in either portrait or landscape or when watching a movie or YouTube, the speakers aren't covered. Unless you have massive hands, of course. When it comes to buttons and ports, LG haven't taken after the G2 and everything is in traditional places. The power and volume buttons are on the right-hand side of the device towards the top, with the headphone jack at the top of the device to the left, opposite the IR blaster. The microSD card slot is tucked away neatly at the top of the device and the microUSB port is placed sensibly at the bottom of the device in a center position. All of this is pretty boring really, but it makes the G Pad instantly usable and familiar to anyone that's used a smartphone or tablet in recent years.
We're impressed with the build of the G Pad as well, it feels solid in your hands and is nice and svelte at 8.3mm thick. The aluminum section that covers up most of the back is good-looking and it gives the device a premium edge, but it can make the device fairly slippery. It's fine as long as you're not a butterfingers and once you get used to it it's great, but this is certainly not the grippy Nexus 7. I can't speak for the black version of the G Pad, but the white version I've been testing seems to stay clean and repel fingerprints - aside from the display, more on that later. Overall, the G Pad is an impressively built device, it looks good, feels good in your hands and LG have definitely stood out from the crowd with the build quality here.
The 8.3-inch 1920 x 1200 display on the G Pad takes up most of the display and looks brilliant doing it. It's an IPS panel and if you've ever taken a look at LG'2 G2, you'll notice a similarity. Colors aren't exactly eye-popping, but they feel warm and realistic. With 273 ppi density, it's a great display for reading text and browsing the web, especially when you consider you've got quite a bit more real estate to play with, too. Browsing desktop versions of sites looks good and watching a full movie doesn't feel terrible thanks to the display's size. As with any larger display, apps built for smartphones do tend to look a little out-of-place, but that's a minor issue and for the most part everything looked good. That includes games, which run at a fair clip thanks to the Snapdragon 600 CPU under the hood.
It's not all good however, as the display isn't overly bright. It's bright enough, and I spent most of my time with the display at 70 - 80% brightness and felt it pretty bright. However, cranking the display up to 100% won't get you much more out of the display. On the white model, there's also a sort of extra bezel at work, a black "gap" you can see around the edges of the display. Again, this is a minor issue and we're assuming an unavoidable one for LG. For those with oily hands or just have OCD about clean gadgets - like me - then the G2 can be a little annoying as its display tends to attract fingerprints more than most.
Displays are what makes tablets, tablets and if all you're looking for is a good display, then the G Pad won't disappoint you at all.
If you've used LG's G2, you can simply skip this part of the review as the software stack is pretty much identical. However, there are some nice touches here, some welcome, some not so much. LG's skin seems to suffer from an identity crisis. On one hand it's brilliantly customizable, yet on the other it's needlessly overwrought and clunky. Things start off pleasantly with the overall look, which you can customize to your liking in the settings.
From changing the font, to changing the lock screen effect, changing the animations on the homescreen, the overall theme of the homescreen - you get the idea. For the most part, the G Pad can become your tablet, it's just unfortunate that these tweaks feel more like you're taming the skin than you are customizing it. No matter though, as there's a lot of options on tap to be able to customize things and change the way things act. All of the same sort of features from the G2 are here as well, such as small floating apps and quick memo, they've all come along for the ride. Not all of them make all that much sense, but they're simple little things that can help. Sadly though, LG have taken the same baffling approach with Android's onscreen buttons as they did on the G2. You can change the order, add in a button to bring the notification shade down and more. However, there's no option to bring in the multitask button. You know, that standard button we've been using for years now.
This bizarre shunning of standard Android practices is pretty baffling and wholly annoying. Especially if you're coming from a Nexus 7 or any other tablet that used the standard button layout. Holding the home button gets you to the multitasking menu, but it feels a little foreign at this point. Hopefully, LG will be righting this wrong when it comes to the Android 4.4 update. Still, there are some pretty nice additions to LG's skin, such as the lockscreen, which I particularly liked. Not just for its cool unlock animations but for the customizable shortcuts and overall look.
As with the G2 Review, we thought that slide aside was one of the better inclusions here with the LG G Pad. You can swipe with a three-finger gesture to store an app to the side to bring out quickly later on. The gesture makes more sense on a tablet and is much easier to do. It's easily the best thing about LG's skin and it's an attractive way of getting to your most used apps at any given time.
We're not huge fans of Benchmarks here at Android Headlines, or at least I'm not anyway. Real world performance is far more important than some figures in a screenshot. Speaking of which, LG's G2 is one speedy tablet in general. Everyday tasks such as browsing the web, using apps and such was as fast as any high-end smartphone out there and there's little to no lag when going about such tasks. Gaming performance is, on the whole, pretty good however, there are times where the tablet stutters and frame rates drop. They soon pickup afterwards, but it's no less annoying and we're hoping the update to Android 4.4 will fix that. The Snapdragon 600 and 2GB of RAM really help put this guy above the rest and for switching from app-to-app, the G Pad is a great tablet.
Overall, the G Pad 8.3 is one speedy tablet and it's definitely one of the smoothest tablet experiences we've had with a slate to date. The lag that creeps in while gaming is somewhat annoying, but it's not terribly noticeable and the vast majority of games I tried were largely unaffected by said issue. Even with LG's fairly modified build of Android, the Snapdragon 600 here kept things running along smoothly and HD video was a pleasure to watch especially coupled with the Full HD display.
A subjective topic, battery life is what you make of it. My usage case is perhaps completely different to yours, dear reader. As such, you should take whatever I say here about battery life with a pinch of salt. After all, how I use my tablet, is not how you use your tablet. With moderate to heavy use, all on WiFi, with the brightness around 80% I only had to charge the G Pad every other night. Obviously, the less I used it, the longer it lasted. In contrast, I don't think the battery life is as good as the Nexus 7's, which is probably down to the larger display sucking up power. I wasn't displeased with the battery life here on the G Pad, but I was hardly blown away either. Looking for something that's easily manageable? The G Pad will do that for you, those looking for a real road warrior tablet though should invest in battery packs or a different tablet, sadly.
Tablets and cameras have never been a good match and the G Pad is no exception. With no flash, there's not all that much you can do with the camera, even if you wanted to. However, it's good enough for the most part. If it's the only camera you have, and you're patient enough, it'd do in a pinch. The front-facing camera is perfectly usable for 720p video calls and is better suited to real-world use than the one at the rear.
These devices are primarily content consumption devices and the G Pad 8.3 is well-suited to such a task. Watching movies, cat videos, perverted device unboxings - whatever it is, it all sounds good with the G Pad. The speakers are really quite loud for a device of this size and as long as you don't push them to their limit, music retains a little depth to it. There's not much in the way of bass here, but you won't feel the wrath of tinny speakers here, either. It's not going to fill a sizable room, but for use with small groups or whatever, you can get some decent tunage using LG's 8.3-incher. When it's time to plug in however, things get a lot better. I tested a variety of headphones, earbuds etc with the G Pad and they all had depth, clarity and a decent amount of bass. Movie-watching is a great experience here with headphones and it'll definitely make long flights and commutes a lot easier.
The Good and The Bad
- Outstanding build quality and good looks.
- Great display, with a high-resolution and brilliant viewing angles.
- Speedy experience throughout Android.
- Good quality speakers that are louder than most.
- Still running Android 4.2.2 - c'mon LG, you can do better!
- Occasional lag while playing games.
- No multitasking button included.
- Overwrought UI that needs holding back.
The Final Word
The time I've been spending with G Pad has been a lot of fun, and an overall pleasant experience. With a great build quality and a speedy Android experience, there's very little to dislike about the G Pad. Even if skins aren't your deal, I'm of the opinion that they don't much matter when it comes to tablets, and there's always the Google Play Edition if you like the sound of the hardware. LG have managed to tick the right boxes without compromising and while that will cost you a little extra, it's well worth it in my opinion. The 8.3-inch Full HD display is great for watching YouTube, Netflix and general surfing. It's portable enough to take with you and yet large enough to make the most of the web and HD content. This is hopefully just the start of things for LG and the tablet market and if that's the case, this G Pad is a great start. We'd recommend the G Pad to anyone looking for a better tablet that isn't too large and doesn't cost the earth.