LG G Pro 2 Review: The new interim king of phablets?

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Last year, LG hit a home run with the G2. The handset packed the absolute latest hardware present at the time with a beefy battery that could easily last a day under heavy usage. This year at MWC, LG announced the successor of the Optimus G Pro and a bigger brother to the G2 — the LG G Pro 2. The G Pro 2 is more of a stop-gap solution from LG until it announces the LG G3 later this month. After all, the company could not sit quiet while Samsung, Sony and HTC went all out with their early 2014 flagships. So, has LG managed to improve the already excellent G2 with the G Pro 2? Is the G Pro 2 finally the phablet that can rival Samsung’s Galaxy Note series? Read our review to find out.

Display

The LG G Pro 2 comes with a gigantic 5.9-inch Full HD IPS display protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. This puts the device right into the phablet category and against the likes of the Galaxy Note 3 and HTC One Max.

LG G Pro 2 Display

The first thing that you will notice about the display is the lack of bezel, something that is becoming a highlight of nearly every recently released device from LG. The minimal bezels help in keeping the dimensions of the phablet in check whilst also making the device standout from a bunch of rectangular shaped smart black devices.

LG also seems to have tuned its color reproduction on the G Pro 2 as the colors look a bit more natural than on the G2. The display also has an excellent contrast ratio and viewing angles with the content being visible even from extreme angles. Make no mistake — the 5.9-inch Full HD display on the G Pro 2 can stand its own against the likes of the Galaxy S5′s Super AMOLED and the One M8′s S-LCD3 display.

Build Quality

The G Pro 2 shares the same design language as the LG G2 and the G Flex, which means that the sides of the device are devoid of any physical keys. Instead, the volume and power buttons are located at the back of the handset, just below the camera. The volume keys are a big step up from the G Flex and come with a brushed metal finish. They provide much better tactile feedback now and can be easily felt, making them quicker to find and easier to use. The plastic power key is transparent and hides a notification LED inside it.

G Pro 2 front bottom

Remember the diamond glazed back of the Nexus 4? The front of the G Pro 2 has a similar finish and looks pretty impressive in the right lighting. Surprisingly, the G Pro 2 also comes with a removable back and a replaceable 3200mAh lithium-ion battery. While the back does not feature the “self-healing” technology as seen on the G Flex, it is not made of glossy plastic as seen on the G2 either. Instead, the removable back has a textured finish to it, which looks and feels infinitely better.

The G Pro 2 is made of plastic but it feels like a huge step up in build quality from the G2 and the G Flex. Samsung, it’s time to learn a thing or two from LG on how to make plastic phones with decent build quality.

Performance

Even though the G Pro 2 was announced at MWC this year, the phablet is powered by the Snapdragon 800 chipset, which is also found inside the G2. Since the Snapdragon 801 does not offer much of a speed improvement over its predecessor, this should not really be much of an issue. However, if you are a spec junkie, you might not like the presence of a 6-month old chipset inside the device.

Apart from the chipset, LG has gone all out and filled the G Pro 2 to the brim with quality hardware. This includes 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage space, a microSD card slot, a 13MP OIS+ camera and more. With so much power under its hood, the G Pro 2 should fly through all the tasks thrown at it, and it somewhat does. I did not notice any kind of performance issues while browsing heavy websites in Chrome or playing games like Riptide GP2. However, the G Pro 2 shows hints of lags at several places in its UI, probably due to the poorly coded Optimus UI.

I am not a benchmark junkie, so you are not going to find some benchmark numbers in this review. The bottom line is that even with a Snapdragon 800 chipset and Android 4.4 KitKat, the G Pro 2 lags at several places, which is simply unacceptable in this day and age.

On the positive side, the inclusion of 3GB RAM is a boon for multi-tasking as I can leave apps open in the background without worrying about running out of free RAM. If you are a heavy multi-tasker, the combination of a 5.9-inch display and the Snapdragon 800 chipset + 3GB of RAM is going to be heavenly for you.

LG has also included a 1-watt rear speaker on the G Pro that can get seriously loud. The loudness definitely makes up for the lack of bottom or front-facing speakers, which many users might otherwise complain about.

Camera

The G Pro 2 comes with a 13MP OIS+ camera with an F/2.4 aperture. While the module is the same as seen on the G2, LG has enhanced its OIS capabilities further by using the gyroscope and others sensors (Electronic Image Stabilisation) jointly with the hardware stabilisation (OIS). This should allow the G Pro 2 to click better pictures in low-light by keeping the shutter open for a longer time.

G_Pro_2_camera

In daylight, the camera does a good job of capturing the details and keeping the noise down. The camera app is plenty fast as well and offers just the right amount of settings. I am not a big fan of LG’s post-processing though, as the use of generous over-sharpening gives a very blurred and fake look to trees and other such objects.

In low-lighting, the G Pro 2 does pretty well, thanks to OIS+. A point to note here is that the final image is significantly different (read: brighter) than what the preview shows. Surprisingly, the G Pro 2 lacks a Night mode that is a common feature in most smartphone cameras nowadays.

LG’s Intelligent Auto mode is also present on the G Pro 2 but the phone takes worse images, especially in low-light, with it enabled.

LG G Pro 2 camera sample

Pictures are clicked in 10MP (16:9 aspect ratio) by default

A low-light show in Normal mode

A low-light shot in Normal mode

Intelligent Auto mode on the LG G Pro 2

Pictures taken in low-light with Intelligent Auto mode have a bluish tint to them

The G Pro 2 can also record videos in Full HD at 60FPS or at UHD resolution. Thanks to OIS+, the usual jerkiness in videos is noticeably reduced.

Keeping with the selfie trend in mind, the G Pro 2 comes with a 2.1MP camera. Interestingly, the G Pro 2 reduces the preview area and uses the screen as a flash to take brighter selfies in poor lighting. The feature works somewhat well in real-life but is more of a marketing gimmick.

Software & Battery Life

Unlike the G2 and G Flex, the G Pro 2 runs on Android 4.4 KitKat right out of the box with LG’s Optiumus UI on top of it. It comes with all the usual software goodies that we have seen on the G2 and G Flex like Quick Remote, QSlide, a one-handed operation mode, Knock On and more. We have already covered these features in depth before, about which you can read here, here and here.

Knock Code

The G Pro 2 comes with Knock Code as well — a feature that LG recently rolled out to G2 users via a software update. Knock Code allows the user to tap the screen on the phablet in a specific pattern to wake it up. I am a big fan of this feature and prefer it over the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S5 since it offers a level of security without actually increasing the steps required to access the device.

Even though the G Pro 2 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat, it has a menu button instead of the multi-tasking button, which has been mandated by Google in its updated Play Services guidelines. While LG does allow users to customise the navigation bar to add a multi-tasking button, it does not allow them to remove the menu button from it. Due to this, the G Pro 2 shows the on-screen overflow menu button as well as the menu button in the navigation bar, which is a very poor oversight from LG.

Two menu buttons: A very poor oversight from LG

Two menu buttons: A very poor oversight from LG

LG’s UI was never really known for being a looker and the G Pro 2 does not make any effort to buck the trend here. Compared to HTC’s Sense and Sony’s skin, the Optimus UI on the G Pro 2 looks awfully dated and boring.

The G Pro 2 comes with a 3200mAh removable battery, the same size as the battery on the Note 3. Thanks to the Snapdragon 800 chipset and LG’s secret sauce, the phablet offers excellent battery life. It easily lasted me more than 2 days of moderate usage or a day of heavy usage. I did notice abnormally high Android OS usage from time to time though, and had to restart the device to fix it. One of the biggest advantages of owning a phablet is their battery life and the G Pro 2 delivers on that promise.

Conclusion

The G Pro 2 is the only real challenger to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3. It might not be the best, especially with its dated UI and lack of an S-Pen alternative, but it can definitely hold its own against the latter. However, the G Pro 2 comes six months after the Note 3 was released, which is a long time in the smartphone industry. So, should you buy the G Pro 2 over the Note 3? Yes, if you don’t mind LG’s slow update schedule and the lack of any S-Pen alternative on the handset.

Compared to the G2, the G Pro 2 offers a microSD card slot and a removable battery — something many hardcore users lust for. However, they don’t necessarily make the jump from the G2 to the G Pro 2 worth it since, apart from these changes, they are nearly the same devices. Unless you really want them, it makes sense to wait for the LG G3 that is coming later this month.

In the end, the G Pro 2 is a terrific phablet (or phone, depending on how you see it) with an excellent build quality, display, camera and battery life but one, that should have launched a few months earlier.

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Categories: Featured, LG G Pro 2, Reviews

  • Abhijeet Mishra

    Once again, bad software kills it. Exactly the reason why the LG G3 fails to excite me even a little bit, don’t see a point in buying a device other than HTC, Sony or Nexus till others can improve their software and make it modern (Motorola software is good, but they need to make their hardware just a tad more modern than it was on the Moto X.)

    • http://www.symbian-guru.com khouryrt

      Disagree. I find lots of useful things in LG’s software that make stock Android feel boring by comparison. And that’s coming from someone who used to root and install CM within minutes of getting a new phone.

      • Abhijeet Mishra

        Yes, when it comes to features, both Samsung and LG’s skins are nice, they have little things that make the experience better, and not to mentioned bigger things like Multi-Window which can be useful at times. My issue with how their software looks and performs – I could live with either’s software if I have to and not complain, but compared to other skins, they are extremely old-fashioned (and not in a good way) and just don’t feel as responsive (though I hear KitKat on the G2 made it better.)

  • aatifsumar

    With the G3 being 5.5″, it amuses me how its still not called a phablet. Comparatiely, the Note 1 was 5.3″ and a phablet.

    • http://www.symbian-guru.com khouryrt

      Tiny bezels ;)