The LG Optimus 4X HD is LG's first foray into the quad-core smartphone world. The 4X HD is an Android phone powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, but that's not its only highlight. It also has a 4.7-inch display with a 1280-pixel-by-720-pixel resolution. As well as the UK the Optimus 4X HD is currently available in mainland Europe and will arrive in Asia, South and Central America, and Russia in coming months. See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?

LG Optimus 4X HD: Design and Display

The LG Optimus 4X HD is superthin at 8.9mm; however, it isn't going to win any awards in the beauty department with its sterile look, rigid rectangular shape, and textured plastic battery cover. We received a white version for review; it's much more attractive than the black version I saw at the Mobile World Congress.

The LG Optimus 4X HD has what LG is calling a "True HD IPS" display. Blacks look very deep, colors vivid, and whites bright. The screen does suffer from oversaturation, though, as our colour-bar and grayscale tests showed. In our colour-bar test, colors bled into each other; in the grayscale test, we had trouble differentiating the light-to-dark shades from one another. We've found oversaturation to be a fairly common problem across multiple phones. See also: Smartphones buying advice.

But saturation isn't always a bad thing. We've already mentioned the good colours. Details usually were also quite sharp in photos, but text rendering wasn't perfect. Sometimes text looked a bit pixelated and fuzzy when viewing certain websites. But for gaming, video-watching, and casual Web browsing, the Optimus's display is excellent.

LG Optimus 4X HD: Performance

LG Optimus 4X HDAs mentioned earlier, the LG Optimus 4X HD is LG's first quad-core phone running Nvidia's Tegra 3 processor. This processor actually has a smaller fifth core to help phones conserve battery life. The fifth core handles less-demanding tasks such as active standby and music playback. We ran a series of benchmarks on the Optimus 4X HD including the Geekbench, Andebench and Sunspider benchmarks. The 4X HD outperformed its rivals, the Galaxy S III and the HTC EVO 4G LTE, in both Geekbench and Andebench by a significant amount. It placed last - but just barely - with the Sunspider benchmark, which measures Javascript performance in seconds.

Debate rages over wheter quad-core processors are needed on mobile phones. Some argue that too few apps are optimized for a processor that powerful. Others argue that quad-core isn't necessary on such a small device. But one area where the power of quad-core is abundantly clear is in gaming. I ran a few graphics-heavy games on the 4X HD, like ShadowGun, World of Goo, and Osmos HD. The games played smoothly and looked terrific on the LG Optimus 4X HD's display. When it comes to mobile gaming - especially games with 3D graphics - Tegra 3 phones have an advantage.

We measured the 4X HD's battery performance by playing a video at full brightness with the audio set at maximum volume. The video file is a high-definition video that plays at 720p continuously in a loop until the battery gives out, at which point the total battery life is logged by either our automated timer application (on Android tablets) or one of our trusty testers standing by with stopwatch in hand. After two passes, the Optimus 4X had an average battery life of 6 hours, 28 minutes. The Galaxy S III had longer battery life by just over an hour (7 hours, 30 minutes), while the HTC EVO 4G LTE ran about a half hour longer than the 4X HD (7 hours, 4 minutes).

LG Optimus 4X HD: Software

The LG Optimus 4X HD runs the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system with an LG-branded user interface running over it, an interface aptly called Optimus UI 3.0. One of its features is QuickMemo, which lets you take notes with your finger. Sadly, this feature was nowhere to be found on our review unit, but LG says that all Optimus 4X HD phones will ship with the app.

I'll admit that I'm not a fan of these manufacturer-built Android user interfaces. I think Android 4.0 is clean, attractive and polished - and doesn't need anything extra added to it. But as much as tech reviewers and consumers complain, manufacturers are going to continue to slap their overlays over Android in order to differentiate their phones from the competition.

The 4X HD also comes with built-in NFC (near-field communications) for making mobile payments. You can use Android Beam, which is built into Android 4.0, to transfer photos, contacts, Web pages, and more to another NFC-equipped Android 4.0 phone.

LG Optimus 4X HD: Camera

Like every other high-end Android phone, the Optimus 4X HD has an 8-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor. In my own hands-on tests, the Optimus 4X took okay photos indoors and good photos outdoors. I took a few snapshots on a sunny day and was impressed with their clarity and colour. Indoor photos had a strange, yellowish cast to them. I also noticed a little graininess in some of my shots (click on our still-life test photo, at left, to enlarge) and a lack of sharpness. The cameras on the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III are much better than that of the LG Optimus 4X HD.

LG Optimus 4X HD: Specs

  • GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100
  • 132.4x68.1x8.9mm
  • 133g
  • True HD-IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 720x1280 pixels, 4.7 inches (~312 ppi pixel density), multitouch, Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Loudspeaker
  • 3.5mm jack
  • microSD, up to 32GB
  • 16 GB storage (12 GB user available), 1 GB RAM
  • GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, 21 Mbps
  • HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, LE
  • NFC
  • microUSB (MHL) v2.0
  • 8Mp, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
  • video: 1080p@30fps
  • secondary 1.3Mp camera
  • Android OS, v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A9, ULP GeForce
  • Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
  • SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
  • HTML5, Adobe Flash
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • GPS
  • Java
  • Standard battery, Li-Ion 2150 mAh
  • GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100
  • 132.4x68.1x8.9mm
  • 133g
  • True HD-IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 720x1280 pixels, 4.7 inches (~312 ppi pixel density), multitouch, Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Loudspeaker
  • 3.5mm jack
  • microSD, up to 32GB
  • 16 GB storage (12 GB user available), 1 GB RAM
  • GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, 21 Mbps
  • HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, LE
  • NFC
  • microUSB (MHL) v2.0
  • 8Mp, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
  • video: 1080p@30fps
  • secondary 1.3Mp camera
  • Android OS, v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A9, ULP GeForce
  • Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
  • SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
  • HTML5, Adobe Flash
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • GPS
  • Java
  • Standard battery, Li-Ion 2150 mAh

OUR VERDICT

The LG Optimus 4X HD demonstrates the power of a quad-core processor, particularly in gaming. It also has a gorgeous display and the latest available version of Android to boot. The camera isn't as good as the HTC One phones or the Samsung Galaxy S III, however, and I wish LG had left Android 4.0 alone. But overall, the LG Optimus 4X HD has what it takes to compete with other top-of-the-line Android phones.

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