The stage has been set for quad-core flagships and with the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3 having fared well in our reviews, the LG Optimus 4X HD needs to do considerably better than any LG phone has done before to even compete. Spec-wise, it's on-point with four cores, a 4.7-inch 720-p display, 2150 mAh battery and expandable storage on top of the 16GB on board. Naturally though, specs are only half the story.
LG Optimus 4X HD: Design
Out of all the flagships, the LG Optimus 4X HD is certainly the most traditional. Black, glossy fascia. Hard sides meet rounded corners, from the front it really does scream smartphone by numbers. Looking at the sides and things get a little more characteristic. Two shiny parallel strips of metal encase the entire phone, with buttons wedged in between. These strips are extremely slippery, so greasy fingers be warned.
There are just two physical buttons: the volume rocker and the power button. There are three capacitive buttons below the 4.7-inch display, micro USB port at the bottom and 3.5mm headphone jack at the top.
Around the back is an LG staple we saw on the LG Prada 3.0, molded hard plastic. Visually, the organic striated texture isn’t entirely cohesive with the rest of the Optimus 4X’s high gloss sheen and metal trimmings, though in the hand, it sits well and feels rich enough in isolation.
Removing the back cover reveals a removable 2150 mAh battery, a full-sized SIM card slot and a micro SD card slot.
While we might be underwhelmed by the combination of safe design and par-failed flourishes, the LG Optimus 4X is a good-looking phone, it feels solid and comes in at a pretty svelte 8.9mm. LG has outdone itself in terms of design, though Samsung and HTC still sit a notch above.
LG Optimus 4X HD: Screen
LG should make impressive screens - the company has been churning out displays for the likes of Apple for some time - this forte shines through on the LG Optimus 4X HD.
The 4.7-inch 720p IPS display looks crisp and shows off extremely accurate whites. While it doesn’t have the gapless superficiality of the HTC One X, it is incredibly bright and delivers good-viewing angles. The IPS panel also may lack the saturation or depth of AMOLEDs like the Samsung Galaxy S3 but delivers purer whites and sharper detail.
LG Optimus 4X HD: User Interface
We’ve always liked elements of LG’s customisations to Android and it looks like on the LG Optimus 4X HD these customisations have hit a high. From the unlock screen delivering a peek into your UI, through to the interface themes it packs personality in spades, this may be the epitome of fragmented Android but it’s done with love, attention and charm.
At the crux of it all are home screens, a pull down notifications bar and an apps menu. Change the quantity, theme them depending on your mood or change the transition animation between home screens.
LG has also thrown in a Samsung S-Note clone called Quick Memo, activated via the notifications bar or by simultaneously pressing the volume buttons. You get a selection of markers, pens and brushes to graffiti either a snapshot of your screen or a clean slate.
Another area of innovation LG comes in the form of the shortcut and widget management. When on a home screen, long pressing a compatible shortcut and enlarging it will turn it into a widget. This is so intuitive and pulled off elegently we’re surprised it’s taken this long to make it into an Android Launcher and on the 4X HD. You can also change shortcut icons to either a pre-installed or self-generated image.
In common with other skins like HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz the launcher rebooting is a bit frustrating, however for the most part, we’re simply impressed with LG’s interface. It definitely feels the least branded and most malleable and customisable to the nines. The ability to tweak won’t be for everyone, though the fiddling is entirely optional and it showcases Android’s openness beautifully.
LG Optimus 4X HD: Camera & Multimedia
The LG Optimus 4X HD’s name isn’t just there to highlight the 720p screen. Its 8-megapixel camera with back / side illuminated sensor and f/2.4 lens also manages to capture full HD video.
Kicking off with pictures and it’s a pretty capable camera from the go, with well lit conditions delivering decent levels of detail in controlled light. Unfortunately, take the 4X HD outside and mediocre dynamic range means that a bright sky or spotlight will totally blow out the shot.
Focus is relatively snappy and as you can see from the bottle top macro shot, macro detail is on point. We didn’t have to force the camera into macro mode either with a simple tap to focus working a treat. Dim the lights and the LED flash around the back does a decent job of brightening things up, though whether the flash is on or off, anything short of a perfectly steady hand will deliver a slightly motion blurred shot in low light. If you intend on shooting with no flash, you can expect a fair amount of noise in any environment darker than or including standard indoor light.
Additional modes include HDR and Panorama and these are nice to have, though the HDR is significantly worse than that of the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the HTC One X and the panorama mode doesn’t capture at a high enough resolution to be exportable beyond the phone itself.
As mentioned, the LG Optimus 4X HD is capable of full HD video capture, with Ice Cream Sandwich’s stock effects such as face distortion and background manipulation. As far as the sheer video quality goes however it's very mediocre. Despite a smooth framerate, noise is a big issue, detail isn’t in line with the competition and night time video is unusable being totally under exposed as can be seen in the right hand sample below. You can correct for this in the settings, however the likely hood of most smartphone users doing so are minimal.
So while the 4X HD doesn’t reign supreme as a media creation device, things take a turn for the better when it comes to media consumption. With 16GB on board and expandability up to an additional 64GB via microSD card, The huge screen is perfect for video given its aspect ratio and 720p resolution and the quad-core Tegra 3 processor chomp through most file formats.
Content can also be v LG’s Media Home. This is a landscape locked menu system that auto-launches when you connect the Optimus 4X HD to a TV. Both options are polished, work to great effect and when coupled with the passable playback from the onboard speaker make for a positive close to this section.
LG Optimus 4X HD: Connectivity & Browser
You’re getting everything but LTE in the LG Optimus 4X HD. Listing the connections out and you’re talking 3G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC and MHL.
Web browsing on the huge screen is an absolute pleasure with the on board browser doing a good job. The screen’s ability to produce gorgeous whites and deliver pin sharp text helps things along and a quick download of Google’s Chrome browser from the Play Store will give you what is amongst the best mobile browsing experiences you’re likely to get on the go. Until LTE and DC-HSPA becomes the norm therefore, the LG Optimus 4X HD sits at the top of the pile along with the HTC One X and Sony Xperia T.
LG Optimus 4X HD: Performance & Battery
Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 clocked at 1.5GHz and there’s little doubt you’re going to be getting great performance out of the LG Optimus 4X HD. We’ve seen the processor in similar hardware before doing a sterling job and it’s delivering considerably more oomph than we needed for most tasks. An exception must be made for 3D games however. Not only do the games look incredible on the large bright display but they play back smoothly too. The phone benchmarks like a champ and is amply powered to handle whatever you're likely to throw at it. Touching on call quality and this is also good with audible clarity and decent volume levels.
Turbo-charged quad-core power comes at a cost however and unsurprisingly that cost is power itself. LG has touted the 4X HD as being the first to ship with their SIO+ Battery which means more mAh in less space, and indeed the 2150 mAh cell is very compact. LG also claim whites are more power efficient than the competition and their power management on their latest flagship is revolutionary.
We won’t contest LG’s claims, but the reality is the power consumption on the latest line of quad-core phones isn’t far off revolutionary either. If you use the LG Optimus 4X HD half as much as we wanted to, you’ll make it as far as around 6PM before you hit empty. Its major power drainer is the screen so leaving it in standby will push it possibly even through to a second day, but when you get such a solid smarphone, setting it down is the last thing you want to do. In its favour and unlike both the HTC One X and Sony Xperia T, the battery is removable so you can carry a spare if you’re so inclined.
LG Optimus 4X HD: Conclusion
This is LG’s best phone to date. The LG Optimus 4X HD doesn’t have the most cohesive design or a particularly fantastic camera, but the screen is stunning, the UI charming and games look great, playing back smoothly. As with the HTC One X, battery life is a pain point, on occasion dying before the day’s out but if you’re prepared to carry a spare, then this flagship is definitely worth your deliberation. Costing in the region of the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S3, we would say that the LG Optimus 4X HD was the weakest of the bunch, however with prices online ranging from £299 upwards online, anything under £320 would be a bargain.