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LG Optimus 3D Review: In Depth

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The LG Optimus 3D, the world’s first 3D smartphone, has finally arrived and launches in the wake of the Nintendo 3DS and the announcement of the Evo 3D from rivals HTC.

3D is very much a niche thing right now and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But doubtless there’ll be some early adopters out there; 3D soothsayers, predicting that we’ll all have huge wall-to-wall 3D screens in our houses by 2015, Fahrenheit 451-style.

LG’s Optimus 3D then could be the phone for those people. It’s 3D niceties certainly are impressive, but what else does it have to offer besides this selling point? Read on to find out – blue and red glasses optional.


What we like

On the side of the LG Optimus 3D is a little button marked ‘3D’ in the place where you’d normally expect to find a camera shutter key.

Press and hold this and the phone will fire up a 3D launcher – a rotating see-through carousel of icons that act as shortcuts to all of the phone’s 3D goodness, the camera, the 3D YouTube channel and the games. You can also access all of this through a separate folder in the app launcher marked ‘3D Applications’.

Our LG Optimus 3D came stocked with a handful of 3D-optimised titles (see what we did there?) from Gameloft; Let’s Golf 2, Asphalt 6 and Nova. All of these work really well in 3D, particularly Let’s Golf 2 which is easily the most fun of the three.

We liked that there’s a separate ‘3D Applications’ section in the app launcher where all of these titles are stored, along with a link to Gameloft’s 3G Games store.

This serves as a one-stop place for other 3D games including Assassin’s Creed, Avatar and Spiderman: Total Mayhem – all of which are currently going for a very attractive 99p. There are only four other 3D titles available to buy at the moment but hope fully this will grown in time. Anyone for BackStab in 3D?

As well as gaming, there’s the 3D camera and camcorder to play around with. When the camera app is active, the little 3D button we mentioned earlier allows you to switch between 2D and 3D modes; alternatively there’s an on-screen slider you can use to do this. 

3D snaps taken on the camera are pretty amazing; we took of flowers, HP bottles, buildings and the like and marvelled at how they leapt out at us on the 4.3-inch screen.

LG says that there’s a optimal 30-40 cm ‘sweet spot’ from which to view pictures. It took our eyes a little while to adjust and be ‘tricked’ into seeing the effect. The experience is akin to staring at a magic eye picture; once you’ve cracked it, it becomes easier to see in the future.

There’s also a lot to like about the Optimus 3D from a non-3D perspective as well. The main 5-megapixel camera is great; there’s face-tracking and macro options for taking pictures of crowds and up-close detail shots. It didn’t perform quite as well in dark locations as the camera on the Optimus 2X or Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc, but otherwise it’s pretty good.

Likewise, you get 1080p HD video recording when shooting in 2D mode (compared to 720p for when you’re shooting in 3D) which looks fantastic on the screen and when you hook the Optimus 3D up to a bigger screen on via the HDMI connection.

For browsing the web, the Optimus 3D is lightning fast. The default browser features a nifty CoverFlow-style view of all the web pages you’ve got open as well as a shortcut to the phone’s web settings. The nine most recently visited pages are also displayed on a grid, giving you quick access to your favourites.

The weight/lightness of a phone is purely subjective thing, but we understand that some like their phones to big and chunky feeling – the LG Optimus 3D is exactly that. It feels like a dense, blocky piece of kit, solid and hardy; a feeling reinforced by the rubberised coating of the back.


What we don’t like

While the 3D games are good (very good in fact) we found it harder to get our eyes to adjust to clips on the 3D YouTube channel.

The 3D video clips, including an amazing one of footage from Martian landings, generally look great. Still, we found that it’s harder to find that ‘sweet spot’ with video clips than it was games and still 3D images.

It seems that simple cartoony graphics of games lend themselves better to 3D than videos do. With this in mind it’s great that there’s already a selection of 3D games to enjoy. We hope that more 3D titles get added to the Gameloft library; there’s not yet anything to compete with the likes of Ocarina of Time, recently re-released on the 3DS to great fanfare.

We also had problems directly uploading 3D videos straight to YouTube. Obviously, you can load the videos directly on to your computer and upload them that way. Not the end of the world.

As for watching 3D video you’ve recorded on a bigger screen TV, well you’re limited to just a small number of sets at the moment.

It only really works on glasses-less 3D TV sets; we tried watching out own 3D clips on a couple of 3D TVs which required you to don the black specs – both the active and passive kinds – and found that this didn’t really work. Unsurprisingly really when you consider the camera is designed to record video for playback on a glasses-less display.

Short answer; if you were an early adopter of the first lot of 3D TVs then the HDMI out option here won’t work.

The battery life of the LG Optimus 3D is not great by any stretch. Even by the standards of most smartphones of today – where daily charges are the norm – we felt that we kept having to keep one eye on the battery meter every time we did anything, switching on GPS to check Google Maps, turning on Wi-Fi, playing one of the games, checking Facebook…

Like the Optimus 2X before it, we’d recommend to take the charger with you wherever you go. Another thing that the Optimus 3D has in common with it’s 2X cousin is that the overall call quality, while not terrible, isn’t what you’d describe as ‘clear as a bell’ either.

In another parallel with the 2X, the Optimus 3D is stuck running Android 2.2 Froyo – last year’s smartphone OS. Though an update to 2.3 Gingerbread has been promised, we all know how long it can take for an update to roll out. Ice Cream Sandwich could well be with us by the time a 2.3 update hits for all we know.

If you’re not convinced by 3D movies, the Nintendo 3DS and 3D home cinema, then the LG Optimus 3D will do little to change your perception – no pun intended.

While impressive and full of show off potential, we just don’t feel that 3D is an essential must-have, at least not yet. There’s no real need for it and, pending the release of the Evo 3D, you won’t be able to picture message that many other people 3D pics.

The LG Optimus 3D is a decent smartphone in it’s own right – you could easily use it and not ever bother with the 3D effects and you’d be impressed by the (2D) camera, the speed of the browser and how it generally functions as a phone. But by the same token, ignoring the 3D capabilities of a phone called the Optimus 3D, you’d just as well have a look at the LG Optimus 2X, Samsung Galaxy S2 or the HTC Sensation.


Conclusion

The LG Optimus 3D is an impressive smartphone make no mistake, but not one that really makes us want to rush out and buy a glasses-less 3D TV set.

With the current 3D bloom in its infancy we think that this phone will appeal to early adopters and those who do have compatible 3D TVs at home. That said, with HTC’s Evo 3D around the corner those bitten by the 3D bug will have to weigh up what they want more from their smartphone – 3D gaming or 3D movie-watching.

Regardless of all the 3D it’s a powerful phone in it’s own right offering a lightning fast browsing experience and coming with a camera that takes great 2D pictures and video as well. As with the LG Optimus 2X, battery life is an area for concern and call quality isn’t what we think it should be on a smartphone of this calibre and cost.

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