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LG G Pad 8.3 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Well priced

The Bad

  • Heavy software "features"
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LG hasn’t had much luck in the tablet market. The company tried its hand briefly back when Google thought Honeycomb was a good idea, but never made a second attempt. It’s interesting, then, to see LG make a tablet comeback when the competition is at its fiercest. Is the G Pad 8.3 worthy of consideration, though?

The Apple of my eye

It’s fair to say that the G Pad looks a lot like the iPad mini. The size, shape, and general design all look to have been aped from Cupertino’s smaller tablet. Potential legal issues aside, the G Pad is one of the nicer Android tablets out there right now.

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The aluminium adorning the back is smooth to the touch, the polycarbonate surrounds don’t attract grease or fingerprints (think Nokia’s handsets), and the power and volume buttons are close to perfect in terms of clickiness.

LG has put a great display on the G Pad too. Text and images on the 8.3-inch 1920×1200 display are nice and crisp, colours are bold and vibrant – maybe even a tad oversaturated – and the panel is extremely bright. This is essentially a larger version of the excellent display used on LG’s G2.

La la la la la~

Things take a turn for the worst when you actually power the tablet on. LG’s latest software customisations aren’t as bad as TouchWiz, but they’re just as heavy. You’re going to be hearing lots of “bleeps” and “blorps” in general, not to mention those infamous choir boys when you receive new notifications.

That heavy skin means you’ll be relearning where everything is too. Take the following: LG has actually made it harder to get to Android’s settings from the notification shade. A settings icon is usually pretty easy to find no matter which manufacturer you’re dealing with, but LG has relegated it to a small icon next to the current date. It’s essentially buried underneath LG’s questionable software tweaks such as Quick Memo, QSlide, and QPair. I didn’t use any of those features – I doubt you will either.

Still, KnockOn makes a return, so you can simply double-tap the display to wake or rest the tablet instead of constantly reaching for the power button. It’s a great feature that should be included on every smartphone and tablet regardless of manufacturer.

LIfe’s… good?

The G Pad, just like every other tablet, has flaws. For one, there are clear memory management issues. Swiping around gleefully won’t yield any problems, but if you want to exit out of an app to the homescreen – or even just see your list of apps – then you’ll often be greeted with a momentary pause as those heavy graphics load in. It’s not annoying so much as it is bizarre to still see this happening on a device in 2013.

LG decided to go with a Snapdragon 600 over the 800 too. It makes sense given the price that LG is trying to hit and the potential use case for a tablet, but it does mean that the G Pad isn’t as quick as it could be. It’s great for regular web browsing and light gameplay, but slow rendering is an issue with content heavy pages. There were even one or two instances of blatant lag.

The display has issues too. At full brightness, everything looks wonderfully uniform, but if you let Auto take control or manually dip down, you’ll see an uneven backlight. It’s not a huge problem during normal use, but given that the navigation bar sits right where those LEDs are, you’ll constantly be staring at an odd spotlight effect if the brightness of the screen happens to be low.

And the stereo speakers? They’re decent, but not great. Sound output from the G Pad is clearly better than a smartphone, but it can’t match the speakers on the HTC One or One Max. If you’re going to be listening to a lot of music or watching videos, they’ll suffice, but a dedicated Bluetooth speaker may be a wiser choice.

Notable notes

The battery lasts forever, as you would expect from a WiFi tablet. Sporadic browsing, YouTube, and background updates from Twitter and Gmail have done very little to impact the battery. Five days later on my couch, and the G Pad is still at 46%. If you crank the screen up and watch a lot of video, then the G Pad will drain a lot quicker, but should still get you through a working day with ease.

The camera is pretty solid too. Yes, we live in a world where people use their tablets to take photos. We have to accept it, move on, and hope that vendors include half-way decent sensors on their devices. Luckily, LG did. Noise reduction creeps in to try and curb noise in low-light situations – even daylight photos have a little bit too noise – but photos look more than good enough to share out to social networks.

Should I buy it?

It depends on the kind of tablet user you are. Do you just want a device to mingle around the house, waiting for you read some websites or watch some YouTube/Vine videos? This year’s version of the Nexus 7 makes more sense. It can do everything that the G Pad does as a layabout tablet, yet it’s cheaper and has a cleaner software interface. The Retina iPad mini is the next best option, but it’s £90 more than the G Pad.

The G Pad, then, isn’t a good buy if want a casual tablet. If watch videos all day long, though, then the G Pad is better suited to the task than the Nexus 7 or the iPad mini. The 16:10 screen looks great and results in minimum letterboxing, and the battery will be able to squeeze out a couple of movies before dying. There’s also a microSD card slot that’s good for up to 64GB extra, which is great for serious content addicts. Learn to tolerate LG’s heavy handed skin, and you’ll find this to be a capable yet portable television.

Specification

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