LG, recently, has been in a pretty uncertain place in the smartphone world. It’s been a long while since it had a relevant high end Android device, especially in the US market. The low end Optimus T and it’s stateside variants have succeeded in delivering a solid entry level Android experience, but in terms of headlining devices, they’ve been a little short. The Optimus 2X and G2x made a decent splash, and the G2x was probably LG’s last true hit in the US market. Since then, the Optimus 3D hit the US market as the Thrill to a relatively lukewarm reception, and LTE devices like the Revolution, Spectrum, and Nitro have been similarly neglected by the market. Mostly, the problem has been twofold: mediocre hardware design, and rather poor software builds, both in terms of UI as well as stability. LG’s Froyo and Gingerbread skins were ugly, clunky, and generally among the worst I saw from a major handset manufacturer at the time, and many devices (including the Revolution and, surprisingly, the G2x, even though it ran a nearly stock Android UI) were plagued by unstable software builds and infrequent update intervals. 

So with all that in mind, this release cycle is very important for LG to re-establish itself as a maker of high-end Android phones, competing on the razor-edge of market share and mindshare with the HTCs and Samsungs of the world. Thus arrives the Optimus 4X HD, the flagship of LG’s new lineup, a device expected to go head to head with the international versions of the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III.  It comes with high expectations and a spec list to match - 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad-core, 4.7” 720p display with an IPS LCD panel, 1GB of LPDDR2 RAM, 16GB of NAND storage (expandable via microSD), an 8MP camera with 1080p video recording, and a massive 2150mAh, 3.8V battery (8.2 Wh, or 8.17 if you do the math yourself.) 

Physical Comparison
  LG Optimus 4X HD Samsung Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ Samsung Galaxy S3 HTC One X
Height 132.4 mm (5.21") 135.5 mm (5.33") 136.6 mm (5.38") 134.8 mm (5.31")
Width 68.1 mm (2.68") 67.94 mm (2.67") 70.6 mm (2.78") 69.9 mm (2.75")
Depth 8.9 mm (0.35") 8.94 mm (0.35") 8.6 mm (0.34") 8.9 mm (0.35")
Weight 133 g (4.7 oz) 135 g (4.8 oz) 133 g (4.7 oz) 129 g (4.6 oz)
CPU 1.5 GHz Tegra 3 Quad-Core Cortex A9 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4460 Dual-Core Cortex A9 1.5 GHz Exynos 4412 Quad-Core Cortex A9 1.5 GHz Tegra 3 Quad-Core Cortex A9
GPU Nvidia GeForce ULP PowerVR SGX 540 ARM Mali400MP4 Nvidia GeForce ULP
RAM 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2
NAND 16 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD 16 GB NAND 16/32/64 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD 32 GB NAND
Camera 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP front facing 5 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.9 MP front facing 8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1.3 MP front facing
Screen 4.7" 1280 x 720 IPS LCD-TFT 4.65" 1280x720 SAMOLED HD 4.8" 1280x720 SAMOLED HD 4.7" 1280 x 720 LCD-TFT
Battery Removable 8.17 Whr Removable 6.48 Whr Removable 7.77 Whr Internal 6.66 Whr

The Optimus 4X HD, One X, and Galaxy S III all have quad-core A9 SoCs, large 720p displays, and sit at the very top of each manufacturer's respective Android 4.0 lineup. It’s also interesting to note that at present, none of these three are available in the US in their quad-core international forms. Both HTC and Samsung have gone with 28nm Qualcomm dual-core CPUs and LTE/DC-HSPA+ modems with the American versions of the One X and SGS3, and it’s not currently clear when or in what form the Optimus 4X HD will reach the US. So let’s focus on the international version that we have here. LG dropped off the O4X HD at my house four days before I flew to India for a month-long vacation. I left my trusty Galaxy Nexus at home (a decision I regretted later because it deprived me of the chance to play with Jelly Bean) and brought along the Optimus to see how it fared as a standalone travel companion. My biggest question going in was whether or not LG had finally turned around their history of software woes, and if the included software build could keep up with the admittedly stellar hardware on tap. I ended up being pleasantly surprised, but we'll get there in time. First up - the design.

Hardware
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  • Belard - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    "The hardware button layout is dead set perfect; the power button and headphone jack are at the top and the micro-USB port is centered at the bottom, just as God intended them."

    That is an opinion, not a statement of fact. Its a preference that works for you - but doesn't mean it'll work for others. By all means - the button arrangement should be mentioned for reviews. Also, I didn't know that God had a cellphone preference... :)

    When I was deciding on my next phone. It was a toss up between the HTC One X / SGS3 (Nokia 800 briefly) and even the Sony Xperia Ion (Which looks good, has a good texture - but feels odd). I simply can't stand touching the glossy back of the SGS3, its finger print-hell, it looks cheap because it is cheap. The HTC One feels good overall, the sticking-out camera lens is somewhat stupid, but its a great feeling and looking phone otherwise. 1st phone I noticed with a message light (before I found out most ICS phones have this feature). The physical HOME button on the SGS3 is also a selling point.

    Then at the store I notice something with the HTC One. Besides the USB connector is in the way when charging and using the phone (never perfect anyway) the Power button is at the TOP. I tried out the phone with using that power button - since it'll always be used to wake up the thing.

    HATE IT! That alone changed my mind with the HTC One.

    Then on this site, they previewed the Motorola Atrix HD. I liked how it looked. Then I had a chance to try it out in the store and use it. The power button is on the side. And I'm good for the headphone jack and USB ports on top (as on my Galaxy S1 phone), The phone feels great in the hand (texture) - NO FINGER prints. The various types of materials on the side feels good, looks good. Having the top of the phone bigger means you'll know quickly which side is up. It doesn't have an "buttons" as it uses ICS on-screen menu buttons for navigation. Cool thing about hat, if the phone is upside down, the UI flips correctly - it doesn't matter. (okay, when talking to someone - yes).

    The HTC One has been reduced to $100, same as the Atrix HD - but it includes a car-dock which charges and holds the phone and put it into a GPS mode. It'll also tag your car location when you remove your phone in case you forget where you parked. The screen on the Atrix HD looks better than the SGS3... the camera is sub-standard compared to any other ICS phone on the market. (sigh) - but my main camera is real, no a big deal. A cool feature included is that I have the VOL button set as a shutter button. (handy!) Its battery isn't as good, but better than phones form 2 years ago.

    (I gather Atrix HD won't get a full review, oh well... I value phone reviews here than most other places since this site compares against other devices on your various standards)

    Its like when you responded above with "But honestly, I enjoy using the LG more, simply due to the software. It's essentially the same rationale behind me sticking to a Galaxy Nexus" (Even thou the HTC One is better). For me, the HTC One wouldn't work for me... even thou its better in almost every way over the Atrix HD. A business partner needed a new phone, I had him try out the 3 phones (HTC / SGS3 / Atrix HD) - The power button location nixed the HTC, he liked how the SGS3 looked.

    Thanks for the review... and using it for real. Hope LG does well with this phone, more competition = better phones. (And apple's lawsuits is why I won't buy Apple)
    Reply
  • Myrandex - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    USB port on the bottom is the proper spot? Not in my book. I enjoy sitting my phone in my cup holder in my truck, and with it sitting upright, having the USB port on top makes much more sense then being on bottom. Otherwise it would be upside side down. And when I've used headphones in a situation like that, having both the headphone port and USB port on top is perfect.

    Power button on the side took a little used to using, but I don't mind it there.
    Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Yep... that is how it is in both of my cars. I drop the phone in a side pocket or cup holder and all is good. Reply
  • powerarmour - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Have to say the Galaxy Nexus scores need updating to JB level, I'm getting 1480ms in Sun spider and 1665 in Vellamo :)

    It might be getting on a bit in some areas (GPU...), but I still think its the best overall Android phone out there.
    Reply
  • Skiddywinks - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    "Thus arrives the Optimus 4X HD, the flagship of LG’s new lineup, a device goinghead to head with the international versions of the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III"

    Wow, I thought AT didn't recognise an international SIII even existed, given the lack of anything to do with in on this site.

    /butthurt waiting for IS3 review
    Reply
  • fixxxer0 - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    Any numbers for that phone, specifically the LTE??

    It was said when the first round of reviews were being done that no VZW phone was had yet... but its been a few months now.
    Reply
  • Bob-o - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    > Having buttons appear only after they’re touched sounds counterintuitive,
    > but you learn quickly to just stab in the general area of the button you’re
    > going for. If you’ve ever used an Android device before, it comes pretty naturally.

    You can get used to anything, but it is still a bad design choice. Every "normal" user I know who has encountered this hates it. Including my neighbor who just bought her first smartphone, an LG Lucid. She was going to return it because of this, as she didn't think anyone could design something so stupid. She thought the phone was malfunctioning.

    Personally I think if you are going to have dedicated "buttons" then they should be, you know, friggin' buttons. But then I'm old and not onboard with a lot of the junk they're slinging these days. . .
    Reply
  • Origin64 - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    This is 2012. Why is anyone still using hardware buttons on phones? Seriously. Android has already changed the guidelines for button layouts, what, 2 or 3 times in the past 2 years? Having the software buttons that are now the rule for ICS and up would give any device more flexibility and would also add to the look of it. If LG has tried so hard to minimize the bezels, why include a strip at the bottom that they could've left out just as easily.
    Also, I actually like the power button on the side of a device, that way I can actually turn my phone off with one hand without getting carpal tunnel.
    Reply
  • Origin64 - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    And secondly, while I'm on the point, why hasn't any manufacturer released a phone with Jelly Bean yet? I'm running a custom based on it on my S1, and the UI is smoother on my 2 year old phone than it is on a brand new S3. I think being the first guys to have a phone that is released with JB in stores would be a significant competitive advantage. Android with an actually smooth UI, why, that's unheard of! Reply
  • powerarmour - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - link

    This is exactly why I'm still using a Galaxy Nexus, once you use Jellybean, you can't really go back!

    JB even runs superb on a Nexus S, very smooth indeed 95% of the time (with the odd dodgy transition), but how old is that phone now?, I'd still rather have that than any ICS based phone, no matter the hardware inside.
    Reply

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