LG hasn’t spent much time in the tablet area, but that looks set to change, as the company takes what it learned from the G2 smartphone and applies it to an 8.3 inch tablet that you can take anywhere you go.
LG’s first tablet in ages, the G Pad 8.3 — also called the V500 in some places — brings with it a host of features aimed at taking on the competition, some of which feel at least on paper like a page out of LG’s smartphone book.
Staring with the screen, LG is using an 8.3 inch Full HD IPS panel in the G Pad 8.3, providing a resolution of 1920×1200 (just slightly higher than Full HD), and offering a pixel clarity of 273 pixels per inch, 10 pixels higher than the Retina-grade panel used in the iPad Air, though obviously with a different sized screen.
Underneath this screen is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, lower than the 800 used in the LG G2 smartphone, and the same processor as what HTC used in the One and One Max, and Samsung used in the Galaxy S4 from earlier in the year. This processor is a quad-core chip clocked at 1.7GHz, and is paired with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, the latter of which can be expanded to support more storage through a microSD slot found on the top under a flap.
Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” is the operating system used on this tablet, and it comes with LG’s own overlay supporting multiple homescreens, customisable shortcut dock, editable soft buttons, and more.
Connectivity is all relatively standard for a tablet (and indeed, some smartphones) with 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi included, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, Miracast wireless display technology, GPS, and the microUSB port at the bottom for charging the G Pad and transferring data to and from the tablet. Infrared is also included, meaning this tablet — like some smartphones out there — can be used to control TVs.
LG has included two cameras in the tablet, with a 5 megapixel module on the back without a flash, and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera.
There are few buttons on the G Pad 8.3, with merely a power button and volume rocker on the right edge, while the buttons for using Android are all on-screen soft buttons, and can be modified to match your preferences of colour, order, and if LG’s extra apps are included in the layout.
The G Pad 8.3 battery is rated at 4600mAh.
LG’s smartphones are improving, and now its time for the company to take a swing at what it’s like to make a tablet.
So what does LG have in store for the public with the G Pad 8.3?
Encased in a shell of plastic and metal is a screen measuring 8.3 inches diagonally and capable of displaying a Full HD resolution of 1920×1200, slightly higher than Full HD, in fact.
The screen is probably one of the more stand-out features, as it pushes higher than the regular 1280×800 we see on tablets, which is little more than high definition, and has been used on pretty much every tablet for a number of years.
It’s nice to see something higher in this tablet, and with 273 pixels per inch, it’s a good looking tablet that won’t strain the eyes much at all.
The viewing angles add to this, as they appear to be good from most angles, and provide a clear and colourful image from either portrait or landscape, whichever you prefer.
For the operating system, it’s Android all the way, hardly a surprise since nearly every manufacturer goes this way for its tablets, but for the overlay, it’s exactly what LG showed us in the G2 smartphone.
Just like in that device, the strength of LG’s incarnation of Android lies in its ability to be tweaked, modified, and customised to the person’s liking. It’s not like Samsung’s Australian version of TouchWiz where you can’t modify the shortcut dock, and it’s even more customisable than what Google offers on the stock Nexus devices.
Basically, LG is offering the “do whatever you want” solution, allowing as many as eight icons in the shortcut dock, the chance to modify the soft button bar that Google uses, the knock-to-wake feature we saw on the G2, and a customisable drop-down menu.
The downside to this highly playful Android overlay, however, is that it might be a tad daunting to the first time user. That said, we’re particularly keen on the shortcut dock which at least lets you throw whatever you want inside, and teaches other manufacturers a thing or two about what should be possible.
But just like all Android devices, you can change this if you so choose, and with other homescreen replacement tools out there, such as Aviate, Espier’s iPhone mimicry, and Chameleon’s customisable grid layout, among others, it’s not like there’s a shortage of ways to make the tablet look more like it fits in your life.
We didn’t test the benchmarks, but performance-wise, there weren’t many slowdowns to report of, which doesn’t surprise us terribly since the chip used is spot on with what HTC used in the One and what Samsung featured in the Galaxy S4 smartphones.
Battery life was measured through use over a few days, and we found roughly two days of life when used for several hours each, while standby time stayed working over the course of several days.
We’re also quite happy to see that LG isn’t using proprietary ports here, and will let you charge the G Pad 8.3 with a standard microUSB cable, so anyone with an Android phone (or Windows Phone, for that matter) will be able to charge the tablet easily.
Overall, LG’s G Pad is a good return for a brand that’s never really played much in tablets.
Oh sure, there was a 3D tablet in the past, but Australians didn’t see much of that, so really, this feels like LG’s first solid entry in the tablet market.
That said, it doesn’t get everything right, missing out on some of the features even its G2 smartphone nailed.
One of those is the remote control, a feature we’re fans of since it means you can throw away the universal remote and just have a tablet do all the leg-work for you.
Unfortunately, the G Pad has less remote control functionality than its cousin, the LG G2 smartphone. In that handset, there was an abundance of TV manufacturers, and even the capability to control air conditioning units.
The G Pad is a direct contrast to this, which can’t control AC units, and has very few TV brands to speak of. Unlike other smartphone handsets, it doesn’t even appear to have the ability to learn from the remotes of brands it doesn’t recognise, which is disappointing if you don’t have a name brand the G Pad thinks you should.
It’s likely LG will fix this with a patch or update later on, but it just seems strange to us that the G Pad has similar but not as impressive functionality as the smartphone with a near identical operating system and overlay.
Another downer comes from the G Pad’s QPair application, which creates a direct connection with another Android smartphone and allows you to see messages as they come in from the phone, or pick up calls if you’re connected to the web.
Ultimately, the idea is a good one, but the implementation leaves a little to be desired.
For starters, you need to have the app installed, and it’s not available for iPhone users. Tough luck if you like the feel of the G Pad tablet and want to link the two devices up, because there’s no connection system here. If you have an Android smartphone, you can download the app and link it easily, though, so yay for Android users.
But regardless of what you link up, you can’t browse through prior messages on the tablet, just the ones that have come in at the time. Likewise, you need to be connected to the internet on the tablet to pick up phone calls.
It’s an interesting idea, but since the phone and the tablet have to be kept in close proximity, we’re not sure why you’d use the tablet to read or write an SMS when you could just use the phone in the first place, keeping that with you.
In many ways, the LG G Pad is exactly what Samsung’s 8 inch Galaxy Tab should have been, with a big beautiful screen and feeling like it was engineered to survive the rigours of life with more than just plastic on the back. It’s not totally the iPad killer that it could be, but then it also doesn’t need to be, and is a comfortable portable tablet for more than just movies, but also work too.
It would be nice to see a software update take care of some of the incompatibilities, such as the lack of TV remote support, and the air conditioner control that this phone just doesn’t have even if its G2 smartphone brother does, but all up, it’s not a bad device.
The G Pad’s real competition is Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle, and at least from a technical point, it stands up fairly well to these players. The only real downside will likely come from its overlay, which like the in the G2, is made for the person who loves to customise and tweak.
Ultimately, we suggest putting the G Pad in your hands before you make your mind up on anything, as its combination of plastic and cool metal on the back certainly makes the G Pad have a more premium experience than other Android tablets out there.