LG Optimus 3D review

We have an unfashionably late review of the LG Optimus 3D for you today, courtesy of a phone provided by UK mobile network Three. The Optimus 3D features LG’s glasses-free 3D display plus dual 5megapixel cameras for generating your own 3D photos and 720p 3D videos, while the Texas Instruments OMAP4 dual-core processor means you’re able to record 2D video at full 1080p resolution. If your friends have nice enough skin.

It’s powered by Android 2.2.2, has a 1500mAh battery, HDMI output and a little physical button to switch the camera between 2D and 3D capture modes – plus yet another front-facing camera for video chats. Three cameras inside one phone. It must be good, right?

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The Optimus 3D is a very big, bulky, heavy phone, significantly chunkier than even the enormous HTC Sensation. The front face features a super-generic black slab layout, comprising of its 4.3″ touchscreen, with four capacitive touch buttons beneath.

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The buttons are backlit, but the backlight only lights up for a few seconds when you press Power or actually touch a button – meaning the backlight often turns itself off if you’re say, reading a web page. So then you can’t see the buttons in the dark, which makes no sense. Maybe we use phones wrong?

Also, having the Back button sandwiched between Home and Search second from right makes it hard to find and easy to press the wrong thing without actually hunting for it. Physically speaking, we find the Optimus 3D rather hard to like…

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…although the rubbery back with its metallic strip, twin-cams and LED flash makes it look pretty nice from behind. The Optimus 3D is a face-downer on the desk…

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…but the screen is bright, feels solid and is responsive to even the lightest of touches. So if you can live with its weight and occasional slow response, it’s pretty decent to use most of the time.

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The OS is Android 2.2.2 with a surprisingly nice and clean skin layered over the top by LG. Its flip clock widget still looks a bit basic, but at least there’s a decent, coherent style to the rest of LG’s custom widgets.

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LG’s Social+ aggregator – which pulls in your Twitter, Facebook and, er, MySpace feeds – is very nice indeed. There’s a toggle to switch streams or you can have everything mixed together. Clicking on a status message pops up the app’s own replying tool, too. We’d actually use this.

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You also get a range of stylish LG Home screen widgets, with most featuring several size options and nice semi-transparent backgrounds (left), plus even the Google Calendar full-page widget looks pretty cool – and can be resized while in place.

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The POP3/Exchange email client has also been skinned, again in a very inoffensive and simple style. In fact, it’s one of the most bland of all LG’s customisations, but at least it works and automatically checks for new mail when you open the app. Which is helpful.

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So yes, the 3D stuff then. There’s actually not that much. The 3D element is farmed out to a separate 3D app, which includes a spinning 3D carousel of all your games, 3D photos, videos and guides.

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The 3D effect is impressive. It really does work, although viewing angles and the strict distance requirement of your eyes from the screen means you’re constantly adjusting position, squinting, and rotating the phone to get the best out of it.

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Content generated by the phone’s camera is also pretty impressive. Your 3D stills do indeed have a good feeling of depth when viewed on the phone’s screen, with videos also convincingly 3D – plus there’s a “depth” slider to help adjust the severity of the effect to best suit how your eyes & brain work.

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The 3D photos are saved in JPS format, which is basically a fancy JPEG. It includes two versions of the same file, for left and right eyes, which a 3D display can recreate in 3D. Same with videos, although 3D clips are saved as regular MP4 files – which treat you to this…

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…when viewed on a non-3D display. 3D videos are recorded at a maximum resolution of 720p, with a smooth frame rate. But the 3D effect itself can be a little flickery and tends to strobe when the camera moves. And as impressive as it is, we can’t imagine wanting to document our lives in a file format that’s only going to cause difficulty viewing and sharing in the future.

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This is a still from a non-3D 1080p video. The frame rate is rock solid. The only moans we can find here is a rather slow auto-focus and quite rough transitions when you move from light to dark areas, plus the colours aren’t what you’d call “vibrant”. But there’s still plenty of detail and there’s no jerking around.

We’ve put a 2D 1080p video sample recorded with the Optimus 3D online here [34MB].

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In non-3D mode, photos are also quite nice. The 5megapixel sensor is pretty much middle-of-the-road these days, producing decent shots in good light – although colours are also rather wishy-washy.

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Macro mode’s great, though. Why can’t everything in life always look as good as it does in macro mode?

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Indoor shots are acceptable, managing to be bright without any comical over-emphasising of colour or brightness. In 2D mode, the Optimus 3D is basically on a par with the average mobile phone stills and video camera in 2011.

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The web browser is a good place to spend time. LG’s again made some nice customisations, with a useful toolbar permanently sitting along the bottom of the screen. The tabs/window system is accessed through this bar, making it easy to manage multi-windowed web sessions. It’s also a fast, solid browser, with a nice scrolling action and good page drawing speed.

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The LG keyboard is a very boring old default option, with no long-pressing fun or alternate characters on the main screen – you have to flip to a new page to access numbers and commas and all the fancy grammar stuff. LG has also put on a “Phone keypad” option on the Optimus 3D, if you’d rather multi-tap your way around like it’s 1999 and Nokia still makes exciting phones.

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The music app is… a music app. Playlists, lists by artist/album/song name, a “party shuffle” lucky dip mode if you’re very confident about the strength and depth of your musical collection, plus a sleep timer and a graphic equaliser if you’re listening through headphones.

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You also get full controls in the pull-down Notifications tab, which is helpful, and a lock-screen play/pause and skip feature. Which is also helpful. It makes a good music player, and…

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…DivX certification means there’s wide video codec support onboard, so it’s a very workable choice if you need a beefy mobile AV player with support for common AVI files and more.

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There’s a Yahoo! news widget, which looks a bit rubbish compared with the nice LG widgets, DLNA support is provided by LG’s own app which it calls SmartShare and worked for us via home wi-fi without a hitch…

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…the gallery is the very standard – but very nice – Android gallery, with all the usual sharing options plus some very simple crop/rotate tools but no other editing options onboard…

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…oh yes, and Google Maps is here, complete with all the modern scaling/zooming/rotation/tilt effects it includes these days, with a relatively quick GPS connection when playing about with the integrated Navigate satnav tool…

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…I am losing the will to live. Someone please stage an intervention and take this phone off me so I can go to bed…

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…plus you get LG’s own LG World app discovery app, which serves literally no purpose apart from poorly and slowly duplicating Android Market app listings in a cumbersome fashion and providing the odd exclusive app, with Polaris Office on here for reading and creating Microsoft format office files.

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Battery life is a mixed bag. As with most modern phones it’s efficient when left alone, but start recording 3D video and browsing the web and you’ll really chomp through the battery. It’s hard to make a meaningful comparison given the wildly differing use patterns we all have, but we found it to provide significantly less “uptime” than the HTC Sensation.

Onboard app storage space is immense, though – we’re showing a whopping great 866MB of free space.

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And that’s a benchmark for you benchmark people. It’s a fast phone, once it gets up to speed.

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In fact, it all works quite well. The main negative points are a power button that’s slow to respond, which soon becomes a right pain, the odd glitch navigating the Home screens and a camera that is also pretty slow to respond. Nothing about the Optimus 3D is broken beyond use, though – you just have to learn to live with its eccentricities.

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However, the only serious reason to consider the Optimus 3D above the likes of the Galaxy S II or HTC Sensation is if you’re convinced glasses-free 3D is the future and you NEED 3D recording powers in your pocket TODAY and NOW. In which case, it’s a worthwhile buy as the 3D images it creates are indeed rather good.

But there are plenty more stylish, lightweight and responsive options out there if you just want a big-screened Android phone and aren’t bothered by the 3D novelty.

BUY ONE IF YOU WANT
Thanks to Three for the loan of the phone. If we haven’t put you off, Three will sell you one here. And it looks like prices have been trimmed recently, as the Optimus 3D can be had on contract deals starting from £30 per month.

4 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Bry

     /  September 20, 2011

    Thanks for the review Gary – I’ve been waiting for this one!

    This phone was near the top of my want list, but your review has made me think twice…
    Do you have an opportunity to review/compare the LG Optimus 2X??

    Cheers

  2. MetalMickey

     /  September 20, 2011

    I had a play with this one in the shop and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed, sure the 3D thing is good once you’ve figured out the best angle & distance to view to small amount of content there is, by which time I got quite bored.
    The 3D thing really is a gimmick, take that away & you have a really plain & bulky phone. I also think the build was very plasticky & the back was rather ugly.
    (Compared to say the Samsung Galaxy SII which I just couldn’t put down & I think has amazing quality.)
    If you get the chance, compare the Optimus 3D side by side with other recent handsets like the SGSII or a HTC & you’ll instantly see the difference.

  3. Looks nice but wont fit in my pocket. Also the shape is more like tablet. The choice of color for the body is awesome !

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