The last time LG launched a tablet-phone hybrid, it had a squarish 5-inch screen and an unusual 4:3 aspect ratio. But this time at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013, LG is trying its hand at the "phablet" market again with the Optimus G Pro. It's a 5.5-inch device sporting the more common 16:9 aspect ratio, and is LG's obvious answer to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It will be available in Korea from March, and in North America in the second quarter.
One of the first things we noticed about the Optimus G Pro was how thin it is. Though this keeps it lightweight and sleek, it also made it slightly cumbersome to hold with one hand and navigate with fingers. It's still an attractive handset, however, and we think it's a step up from both the LG Intuition and the original Optimus G.
You can really see that LG is trying to give its top-tier phones a more cohesive look, and it flaunts the same glittery tile design seen on the Nexus 4 and the Vu II (the sequel to the Intuition that's now available in Korea).
Of course, what's most noticeable about the G Pro is that 5.5-inch full HD IPS screen. It has a 1920x1080-pixel resolution and 440ppi. It sports a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is more standard on mobile phones than the Intuition's 4:3 ratio.
Like most high-end LG handsets, the Pro's screen was bright and extremely responsive. We also like how the display edges are similar to the Nexus 4, in that it contours down toward the bezel. It will be available only in white when it launches, and unfortunately, the unit won't ship with a stylus, which would enable a user to take full advantage of all that screen real estate.
The Optimus G Pro runs on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, and includes 2GB of RAM with up to 32GB of expandable memory via a microSD card that you can access from the back.
Powering the handset is a 1.7GHz quad-core processor from Qualcomm. During our brief time with it, the phone was zippy and it executed simple tasks, like launching the camera, scrolling through the app drawer and returning to the home page, swiftly. Unlike the original Optimus Gs, where you couldn't take out their batteries, the Pro has a removable 3140mAh battery.
On the back is a 13-megapixel camera that's capable of recording 1080p full HD video. It also has photo-editing options, like the ability to stitch several panoramic photos together in a sphere to generate a comprehensive 360-degree view. On the front is a 2.1-megapixel camera, which has dual recording — that means you can record a scene and your reaction or facial expressions at the same time.
It also includes near-field communication (NFC) and wireless charging capabilities, but you'll need to purchase an additional back plate from LG to enable wireless charging. Other features include a few new upgrades to the user experience. QSlide, for instance, which lets you multi-task by viewing two opened apps, can now be resizable on the display. Interface features, such as QSlide, QuickMemo and Live Zooming, have all been improved.
As we previously mentioned, the Pro will launch in Korea in March and North America in the second quarter, with no word on Australia at this stage. Though the market has largely passed on phablets, the growing popularity of the Note 2 may bode well for the Pro.
That will mostly depend on the price and carrier availability, however. Right now, Samsung reigns in the mega-phone market, mostly because it pioneered the hybrid and has taken advantage of that head start — and it was a solid and reliable device to begin with.
The Optimus G line was a success in terms of quality, but expanding the screen size for the Pro was an inherent risk. Yes, the device itself is attractive and stylish, but given that the phablet is a niche market, it doesn't come with a stylus and there's already stiff competition looming, this hefty phone has got its work cut out for it.