Tuesday, March 4, 2014

LG G Pad 8.3: Review


LG is doing a pretty good job of coming up with new technology that will help make up for the rusty name they created for themselves just a few short years ago. Circa 2009 or 2010, LG smartphones were only considered low to mid-range devices. They were no comparison to Motorola, Samsung, or even Apple. But things are starting to change. In a few short weeks, I have had an opportunity to use one of their latest tablet products, The LG G Pad 8.3.

Granted, the name is a bit of a mouth full, but I don't think this tablet will leave you hungry for more. With a very fine build quality and some home grown LG "Q" app software, the G Pad 8.3 is a nice tablet. Not to mention, it is still pretty easy on the wallet.

LG did not hold anything back with their new LG G Pad 8.3. There are a few basic features I want to run through quickly which will immediately help you understand why I can easily recommend this tablet to my family and friends.

  • The 8.3 stands for its screen size, yet it is still easy to hold in one hand.
  • It has a Quad Core processor, one of the latest in the industry.
    • 1.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm® SnapDragon™ 600 Processor
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of storage
  • It support an SD card slot up to 64GB for movies and music, or whatever file you prefer.
  • The tablet only weighs 1/7th of a pound. 338 grams to be exact.
  • Customers have scored it with 94% satisfaction rating as of the time of this article.

Let's get into a few of the heavy hitting details of what makes this tablet just right.

The Hardware

The G Pad 8.3 is made up of a combination of metal aluminum with plastic trim. Plastic has almost become an expectation somewhere along the line these days. Of course, it helps to keep the cost down. However, I did notice that on my demo unit, the plastic trim does seem to be separating from the screen near the power buttons on one side, and the exact same height on the other side. I have no way of knowing if this was just this device or a common problem. Although, I have not read any mention of it in the customer feedback reviews. The aluminum back gives the tablet a high quality feeling. The bezels around the edge of the screen are slim which proves to be good use of the front of the tablet and also allowing you to hold it in one hand. On the back you have 2 speakers, one up top and another near the bottom. Even though these speakers are facing the rear of the tablet, I have had no problem hearing the music or gaming sound effects. The rear camera is a 5MP (that's mega pixel). Decent smartphones these days are at least 8MP. Great smartphones are closer to 13MP.

On the right hand side you will find the power button and the volume rocker. Both in a nice spot that are easy to use but not in the way. Across the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, a micro SD card slot which will support up to a 64GB of extended memory, and an infrared IR blaster for acting as a remote control. Yeah, that's right! I'll speak more on that in the software section for Quick Remote. On the left hand side, there is nothing at all. And across the bottom is the micro USB charging port which is also used for connecting the tablet to the computer for software updates or moving files.


The quad core process or is one of the latest and greatest for the time of its original release which was in September 2013. It also sports 2GB of RAM, again high end for its time, and 16GB of storage space. I'm going to point out that 16GB is considered small for storage space. Especially since LG's custom designs and proprietary software take up about 5 GB of that 16GB of space. Which leaves you with only 11 GB of space out of the box. You would think the micros SD card would help pickup where the internal storage left off, but that's only the case for files like pictures, music, or movies. There is no way to actually install an app from the Google Play Store directly to the micro SD card or even move it there later. So be aware of how large the games are when you download them.

AnTuTu Benchmark ranking
Typically, numbers like this don't mean a hill of beans to the everyday consumer of technology. But I'm here to help you know where this tablet stands up against its competitors. Benchmark apps such as AnTuTu are meant to test several factors of the device: processor, central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU) for both 2D and 3D graphics, RAM speed (how fast it can multi-task), and how fast it can accept and process information. In it's first test, the LG G Pad 8.3 scored 19,437 on a scale of 40,000. But in an average of three tests, it scored slightly higher overall with a score of 22,754. The remaining bars above are competitor tablets and phones and their average scores. These scores are gathered and saved by everyone who owns these products and uses this exact app. It could be millions, it could be tens, that we don't know. My take from this score is that the LG G Pad 8.3 doesn't handle the processing nearly as well as the specs make you think it would.
Tech Geek Tip: MP equals "megapixel", and one megapixel equals one million pixels.
There are two cameras on the G Pad 8.3, one in the rear and one in the front: 5MP and 1.3MP respectively. LG has worked in some cool features into the camera software. They've added a "cheese shutter". This setting makes the tablet listen for the word "cheese" (or a few other options) and then takes the picture when it "hears" it. There are also several modes built in to the camera to assist with different types of lighting or actions such as daylight, low light, face shots or sports. There are also a few color effects that can be scene on screen such as Mono, Sepia, and Negative.

front camera
rear camera HDR mode









Tech Geek Tip: IPS stands for In-Plane Switching and is a great choice for touch sensitive screens such as tablets. It is a form of LCD display with several pros and few cons.
The screen on the G Pad is a 1080p Full HD ISP display. Simply put, it is quite beautiful. LG included a few great video clips in the gallery to show off its great display. They were in even smart enough to disable the screen capture function on the tablet, so I'm not able to show it off for you here.

Despite the clarity and beauty of the screen, the tablet does respond slowly when rotating the screen from portrait to landscape or vice versa. This becomes very annoying when as you continue to use it. Whether it's reading a book or playing a game, you want the tablet to move when you tell it to.

The Software

Out of the box, the LG G Pad 8.3 is running a version of Android that is now 2 generations behind, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. When it was originally released in September 2013, however, it was only 1 generation behind. Fortunately, this was a version the Google introduced Project Butter which brought Android forward by leaps and bounds as far as responsiveness and fluidity is concerned. This tablets quad core processor with Android's Project Butter means this tablet reacts to your touches quickly. Let's don't get too far ahead of ourselves though. Because although it reacts to your touch nicely, the LG manipulations and animations have this tablet a bit bogged down. Animations such as auto-rotation, switching between apps, and opening the app drawer are examples where I'd like to see LG improve on their software.

LG has developed a very nice suite of applications that come along with their newest devices. I've decided to focus on those that work well with this tablet. (I'll do a full review of just the LG software in a later post.) Let me introduce you to Knock On, QSlide, Slide Aside, Quick Remote, and QPair. (And that is just a few of them.)

Knock On
Knock On provides easy access to turning the screen on and off. You must first active this feature in the settings. Once Knock On is activated, you can turn on a sleeping screen by simply knocking twice anywhere on the screen. Also, any time you are on a homescreen, you can knock twice to put the tablet to sleep. If you are in an app, you can knock twice on the notification bar. It's the same function as pressing the power button to turn the screen on or off, but much faster, easier, and convenient.

QSlide
QSlide works excellent for a tablet of this size. It is a feature to multi-task between apps, without closing them. QSlide apps can be opened in a smaller window on the screen. You can open up to three different windows at a time. Each one of them have a button to maximize the app into fullscreen mode minimize it back down. Each window has a slider that will make the app more or less transparent, for whatever reason you would want to do that, I haven't figured one out yet though. Only a few of the LG apps are supported by QSlide though. It would be excellent if LG could figure out a way to make any app work in this fashion. This leads us into the next software....

QSlide Browser and Memo apps

Slide Aside
Slide Aside will only work with the QSlide apps. When a QSlide app is in fullscreen mode, you can swipe three fingers across the screen to the left and that app will be hidden off to the side. Open another QSlide app, now slide three fingers again. You can do this for up to three QSlide apps at one time. Now swipe three fingers across the screen to the right. Those three QSlide apps are now peeking out from the left side and you can choose which one you want to use. Honestly, I don't see this nearly as useful as just using the built in Android previous apps list. Slide Aside is limited to three apps, Android's previous apps list is every app you've opened since the list time you booted it up. Unless of course you purposefully closed it, manually.

Quick Remote
The LG G Pad 8.3 (along with a few other LG devices) comes with an infrared blaster on the top edge of the device. That's the same technology all the remote controls in your living room work on. So what we are looking at with this app is a universal remote built into your tablet. I've been able to successfully and set the Quick Remote app to work with my TV and my DirecTv satellite box. And it was easy. All I had to do was choose the brand of TV/cable provider and then test the buttons to turn the power off/on and volume up/down. I haven't had a remote control as large as 8.3 diagonal inches but it has proven to be handy when I was browsing YouTube and the remote got lost in the couch cushions.

QPair
This is the one app made by LG that I get pretty excited about. Setting up QPair on both your tablet and your phone will allow you to get text messages and phone call notifications on your tablet. This comes in super duper handy when your phone needs to charge but you want to sit on the couch but still not miss those things. With text messages, you can receive and reply from the tablet. But with phone calls, you can only be notified. Of course, since the tablet doesn't have a built in cellular radio, it cannot make or receive calls. However, the notifications allow you to decline the call or reply back to the caller with a text message. And you could always get off the couch and run to the phone for those important calls.

The Pros

The LG GPad 8.3 has a beautiful screen. YouTube and high quality video playback looks amazing. LG built in first timers pop-ups, that's my name for the messages you get when you use something for the first time. They are "how to" messages and you can easily dismiss them if you are not interested. Knock On and QPair apps are very convenient. It's light, thin, easy to carry, and even fits in a back pocket. Careful not to sit on it though. It's not the LG G Flex.

The Cons

The fact that the animations are hesitant is a bit disappointing. The processor in this puppy means speed. But LG has somehow slowed it down. The notifications panel is half full of LGs preset notifications. And you can't get rid of them. You can edit the rows and what quick settings appear in them, but you cannot remove the notification itself. So ultimately, it you could remove the quick setting toggles, but the room will still be there, unused.

The camera is only 5MP. The screen is 1080p. The pictures that the camera takes almost seem more distorted on that high quality screen even though when printed in small 4x6 they will still look just fine. The aluminum back is both a pro and a con. Pro because it is very nice and sleek. Con because it makes the tablet slide across flat surfaces. I've come very close to sliding it off the desk several times.

Final Thoughts

The LG G Pad 8.3 is a tablet with speed and clarity that is amazing for the price of only $350. The software is a bit on the "gimmicky" side, but the few that they got right are done well. There are also two other versions of this tablet. One was introduced by Google as a Google Play edition, which means it comes with the same hardware but none of the software. And there is also a Verizon version, which just adds an LTE radio for cellular connectivity. I like this tablet. I think that if I had a need to replace my current tablet, this one would be the right fit for me. It fits well in one hand. LG has done well with this entry into the tablet market. I'd expect that it will be a solid competitor this year.

Gallery Pics
 

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