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Sunday, November 13, 2011

LG Optimus Pad

The LG Optimus Pad is an Android tablet capable of shooting 3D video and stills. Does this feature justify its high price? Find out in our full hands-on review.

While its 3D capability may be the feature that has caused the LG Optimus Pad to steal headlines, there are other things about it that grab the attention. The first is its price. At just shy of £700 inc VAT this is not a tablet for the faint hearted. And, with it 8.9 inch screen, it sits a little outside the norm in size terms.

Today’s tablets either have relatively small 7-inch screens or head out towards ten inches. Does 8.9 inches represent a good compromise?

Actually, we don’t think so. The larger screens are ideal for browsing the web and watching video, while smaller screened tablets are easier to carry and feel in many ways like giant smartphones rather than small tablets. The LG Optimus Pad is neither of these, and it feels like a compromise in everyday use.

The screen size does not go along with a relatively lightweight design, either. At 621g we noticed the weight in our hands after just a short time and would not want to hold the LG Optimus Pad for long periods one-handed. That noted, the build quality is very good with a tough plastic backplate that should take a fair few knocks.

The screen delivers 1280 x 768 pixels and it is of course capacitive. It has a wide aspect which makes some activities, such as browsing the web, rather unrewarding. In widescreen format there just isn’t enough depth to see a lot of web page content at once, and in tall mode you often have to scroll horizontally to read text.

We found the screen very slightly laggy in response to our fingers, and this despite the presence of an nVidia Tegra2 dual core 1GHz processor.

LG equips the Optimus Pad with Android 3.0 and there is 1GB of RAM supporting that dual core processor. We found things zipped along quickly enough for our needs. There is 32GB of internal storage, and that is going to have to cater for all your requirements as there is no microSD card slot to let you augment it.

A small portion of the backplate slides away to reveal a SIM card slot and a thing rather rarely seen – a reset button. If you don’t want to use a SIM card you can get onto the internet via Wi-Fi. GPS is built in, and of course Google Maps is among the provided applications.

The 3D capability is the main draw of the LG Optimus Pad, and here there is a rather strange compromise. The screen has no 3D ability of its own. Instead you have to wear a pair of 3D glasses (the red and blue eyed variety), or hook the Optimus Pad up to a 3D TV. LG kindly provides an HDMI cable for those who have the TV option and a pair of glasses for those who don’t. We are hardly likely to carry the latter around regularly, and like vast numbers of people we don’t have the former, making the 3D capability a somewhat hit and miss affair.

Still, twin 5 megapixel cameras shoot stereoscopic images and so that 3D capability is there if you want it. You need to use a special app to record stills and video in 3D, with 2D stills and video shot via the standard Android camera app. We’re very inclined to think that the 3D-ability of the LG Optimus Pad is something you are likely to use once or twice and then forget about. It’s just too fiddly.

In the end we don’t think the LG Optimus Pad earns its high price. Yes it is well made, and it does have some top notch specifications. But the inclusion of some fairly half-hearted 3D capabilities does not make it worthy of a price about double that of an iPad.

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