LG Optimus Pad review: Glasses on
Rich retail package
The retail package of the LG Optimus Pad is fairly rich. You get the basics such as a charger (the size of a laptop charger), a microUSB cable and some manuals. You also get niceties like a USB On-The-Go cable and a miniHDMI cable.
It's the richest tablet box we've seen so far. Now, anaglyph glasses are said to be part of the standard package, but our box came without them even though we have a retail product fresh off the street. It's a good idea to check that before buying your Pad.
Pixel-rich screen suffers outdoors
The LG Optimus Pad has an 8.9" screen at 1280 x 768, which means a pixel density of 167ppi. That’s higher than the iPad, the Motorola XOOM and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 - enough for comfortable reading.
It’s a plain TFT unit though (not IPS, that is), and viewing angles are a little limited. Contrast deteriorates the further you move away from the dead-on angle, but overall the screen holds up very well. It's much better than what we experienced in the preview.
Sunlight legibility is the display's weak spot. On a sunny day, it's very hard to see anything on the screen, which isn't helped by how reflective the screen is. Outdoors, you'll struggle to hit a good viewing angle.
Our display test table follows, to pit the LG Optimus Pad against some of the competing screens we’ve tested. The brightness results are pretty uniform across the sample of tablets, but the Optimus Pad comes out ahead by a whisker. The black pixels leak quite a bit of light, so contrast readings are not very impressive (still, a little better than the iPad 2 though).
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|LG Optimus Pad||0.19||170||889||0.57||458||811|
|Apple iPad 2||0.18||167||925||0.55||429||775|
|Apple iPad 2||0.18||178||834||0.53||410||776|
Design and construction
The LG Optimus Pad looks for a design identity in the more recent batch of Optimus line smartphones. It may not be quite the classy stone-cold looker that the Motorola XOOM is, but it's not ugly by any means. In fact the LG tablet looks a bit better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, which is the only other 8.9" droid slate at this point.
The front of the device has only a few things besides the screen itself: the 2MP front facing camera, an ambient light sensor and a small status LED. The typical Android keys have been moved to the screen as is the case with other Honeycomb tablets.
Let's talk about the equipment on the sides of the Optimus Pad. Assuming "top" is where the LG logo is, on the top of the device you'll find the charger plug, the 3.5mm audio jack and one of the loudspeaker grills.
Also here is the Power/Lock key, which is small and almost flush against the top of the Optimus Pad. It's comfortable to use and accidental presses are unlikely. Also, when you hold the tablet horizontally, the Power/Lock key goes on the left side and it's still alright to use.
The left side of the tablet (or bottom when held horizontally) houses the microUSB port (you can't charge the Optimus Pad with it, even with a microUSB charger) and the miniHDMI port, both of which are left uncovered.
The right side houses the volume rocker and the microphone which comes up on the top side of the tablet when you hold it horizontally.
The bottom of the tablet is home to two loudspeakers, which pushes the total to three. There's a good reason for that - if you hold the Optimus Pad upright (with the logo on top), it’s the two loudspeakers that play. But if you hold the Pad horizontally, only one of the two at the bottom remains active and it couples with the third loudspeaker on the far side of the tablet for better stereo sound.
The back of the tablet is the more intriguing place. There we find the dual 5 MP camera lenses, fitted with a single LED flash. The lenses are symmetrically placed either side of a brushed metal strip - an accent found on recent Optimus smartphones.
However, the two cameras protrude quite a bit so the tablet ends up resting on them when you place it on a table. You need to take care, as that exposes them to scratches. Also, there's nothing to stop fingerprint smudges on the camera lenses.
You can slide to open a tiny bit at the top to access the SIM compartment. There is no microSD card slot on the Optimus Pad, 32GB of inbuilt storage is all you get. The battery, as you might expect, is not user accessible.
The 6400mAh battery is quoted at up to 9 hours and 20 minutes of calls or 273h of standby time. We also ran the browser battery test and compared the results to other tablets we've tested. The LG Optimus Pad came close to the other Android tablet we've tested, the Motorola XOOM, but both are two hours behind the Apple iPad 2.
Still, just over 7 hours of constant (and we do mean constant, the test script moves through pages faster than most people would) is enough to last you the whole day.
The LG Optimus Pad is a well-built device and we found an 8.9" screen to be very welcoming. The matte, rubbery finish on the back is quite pleasant to touch and great at hiding fingerprints. The brushed metal strip in the center is a nod at Optimus smartphones.
That said, the problem of the Optimus Pad is weight. At more or less the same size as its Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, the LG tablet is a whole 150g heavier, which is a smartphone's worth of weight, even a bit more.