By Anton D. Nagy | August 18, 2011 12:16 PM
The LG Optimus 3D was introduced at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as the manufacturer’s first glasses-free 3D phone. It will arrive on AT&T’s network as the Thrill 4G and will directly compete with the HTC EVO 3D on Sprint, while the worldwide Optimus 3D will try to lure in customers looking for the HTC EVO the EVO 3D’s international variant.
The phone is being marketed as one featuring a tri-dual architecture, which means that it packs three components that are dual: a dual-core processor; second, dual-channel data transport and memory; and dual-memory chips. With this configuration, LG manages to build a phone with solid performance to drive all those 3D and day-to-day tasks but how does it compare to the competition? Is it worth buying or waiting for it to hit AT&T? Read our full review to find out!
The LG Optimus 3D comes with a nice box that contains the phone, a battery, a wall charger, sync/charging cable, noise-cancelling earbuds, and some guides. Because of the 8GB internal storage, LG didn’t bundle a microSD card even though the phone can accept one underneath the battery cover.
The LG Optimus 3D features a dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP4 processor aided by a PowerVR SGX 540 GPU, 512 MB of RAM and 8GB of ROM storage. The screen is glasses-free auto-stereoscopic 3D of WVGA 800×480 resolution and is sized at 4.3″. The display plays 3D content also captured by its own dual five megapixel cameras that can record 1080p 2D (30 fps) and 720p 3D (30 fps) video.
There’s also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls and conferencing in addition to the usual suspects: accelerometer, proximity sensor, light sensor, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n with DLNA and hotspot capability, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP and EDR, microUSB and HDMI-out ports, GPS with A-GPS support, and a 1500mAh battery. The radio supports GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz 2G and HSDPA 900/1900/2100MHz, HSDPA 1700/2100/850MHz frequencies.
The build quality is excellent; LG used some pretty high quality materials and the phone has a premium feel to it, whether you look at the front, back or sides. There are no squeaking sounds, tolerances are tight, everything pops nicely into place and there are no holes that can easily collect dust.
The phone is rather big. If you take the HTC HD2 for instance, which is considered to have a large form factor, the LG Optimus 3D is larger. On the top part of the front you will see the speaker grill right above the LG logo and to the right of the branding there’s the proximity and ambient light sensor plus the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.
The 4.3-inch glasses-free auto-stereoscopic 3D display has nice colors with average contrast but decent outdoor visibility. You will not notice any over-saturated colors or un-natural skin tone, the color temperature seems normal and the overall display quality is good. When viewing 3D content, due to the current limitations in technology, you will only experience depth when turning your phone into landscape (either left or right handed one). It’s where the two separate pictures taken can be overlaid to show different images to your eyes and get the 3D effect.
Below the screen are your Android buttons: Menu, Home, Back and Search. Because the Menu button is the first on the left it will take some time getting used to it if your current phone has the Home button on the far left for instance.
At the top you’ll find your 3.5mm headphone jack, the Power/Standby button as well as a secondary microphone for noise cancelling. The bottom holds the main microphone that captures your voice while in a call as well as a small hole that will allow you to pop off the battery cover.
There is a volume rocker on the right with which you can easily turn volume up or down for handset, ringer and multimedia. Still on the right side, more to the bottom, there’s a 3D button which allows you to switch from 2D to 3D while in camera mode. It can also switch dimensions when viewing pictures and it can launch the camera app if held pressed anywhere in the system. It unfortunately does not act as a shutter release button but will switch 2D/3D modes on the go.
The left side houses the microUSB port for syncing and charging as well as the mini HDMI port for easy mirroring content captured to an external display, either 2D or 3D one. They are both covered with plastic latches for an improved aspect and premium look as well as to prevent dust from entering the ports.
On the back there are the dual-five-megapixel cameras and the LED flash between them. When capturing 2D content, the phone will record video or capture images using the bottom camera but when you are in 3D mode they will be both working to produce the stereoscopic effect. Further down there’s the speaker grill which produced medium volume audio but with no distortion.
The LG Optimus 3D is shipping with Android 2.2 Froyo out of the box, which can be a deal-breaker for some. Luckily, the manufacturer promised an Android 2.3 Gingerbread update to bring the phone up to date this fall. On top of Android you’ll find LG’s custom user interface, pretty much like on the LG Optimus Black and LG Optimus 2X.
Why didn’t the manufacturer include a permanent 3D user interface? This is a question many of you will asks, since this is a glasses-free 3D phone. Due to the current limitations of technology, the 3D effect is only achievable in landscape mode. Regardless if the mode is left or right handed, you will be able to experience the depth of three dimensions but the effect is completely lost while in Portrait. In order for LG to have shipped the phone with a permanent 3D UI, the phone would have needed to be in landscape permanently, which is a no-go. On the other hand, 3D is a battery killer! Having the 3D interface turned on at all times on the phone, the battery would have only lasted for a couple of hours.
Instead, LG chose to go with down another path: they included a 3D-launcher which is activated by either tapping an icon in the program list of by long-pressing the dedicated 2D/3D button. This launcher brings up a carousel-like screen with options to launch games, YouTube, camera and so on, all represented in 3D. There’s a 3D-enabled gallery for all your pictures and videos but that aside, the only 3D content on the phone is what you create yourself (except for the games preinstalled, which vary from market to market).
The 3D YouTube app is non-existent. What YouTube 3D stands for is a shortcut to the 3D channel on YouTube and you get there with the help of the regular YouTube application preinstalled. Wikitude 3D the three-dimensional augmented reality browser wasn’t preinstalled on our unit but is easily downloadable via the LG World application, where you will find a couple of more titles that come in 3D (like the game Archercraft).
The Optimus 3D has dual-five-megapixel cameras at the back. You can easily shoot 2D and 3D pictures and, while using 2D, the dimensions are five-megapixels but they max-out to three-megapixels in 3D more. In terms of picture quality, there’s nothing out of the ordinary; you can snap great-looking pictures in excellent outdoors sunny conditions and washed out ones while inside. The camera on the phone is mediocre.
What’s good though is that the Optimus 3D shoots videos, both 2D and 3D, with 30 frames per second. In 2D mode, you’ll be able to shoot native 1080p videos but again, like with the case of pictures, when shooting 3D videos, they max out at 720p.
The LED flash on the back isn’t powerful enough to allow you to snap pictures of dark objects more than five feet away. Everything closer will be nicely illuminated and we could have pictured the Optimus 3D with dual-LED flash.
The front-facing camera takes good pictures in optimum conditions but you’ll use it more for video calling and Skype (once the phone gets Gingerbread so the app can take advantage of the webcam).
This is where the Optimus 3D really shines! The TI OMAP processor with its GPU delivers excellent performance. You’ll barely run into situations where you’ll have to wait for the phone to finish whatever you throw at it. The built-in storage has a great role in making everything smooth but it’s the tri-dual architecture that delivers speedy operation.
Thanks to this tri-dual construction (consisting of a dual-core processor; dual-channel data transport and memory; as well as dual-memory chips) the Optimus 3D copes well with benchmarks and is clearly above its competitor, the HTC EVO 3D. Here’s how it performed:
Quadrant: 2681 (compared to HTC EVO 3D: 1924)
Smartbench Productivity: 2971 (compared to HTC EVO 3D: 2541)
Smartbench Games: 2884 (compared to HTC EVO 3D: 1658)
Linpack: 46.26 (single thread)
We’re guessing Android 2.3 Gingerbread, once finalized and pushed-out to the phone by the manufacturer, will slightly further improve the already buttery smooth operation of the Optimus 3D.
Call quality is good and the sounds from the handset as well as the speaker are crisp and clear. We experienced no dropped calls and the Optimus 3D is good at finding and keeping signal. It managed to keep one bar above other phones in the same conditions and this is good for both calls as well as data connection. Needless to say we didn’t experience any dropped calls
This is something LG could have taken a bit more seriously. If the battery life on the Optimus 3D were any better (and the phone would have shipped with Gingerbread out of the box) we would have granted it a max five-out-of-five. But unfortunately we were able to deplete the battery completely in a couple of hours of heavy operation including gaming and 3D.
On a normal, day-to-day usage, you’ll get around 8-10 hours of operation depending on how many e-mail accounts you have, your polling interval and so on. With our usage pattern it lasted around eight hours (two email accounts set to push, weather update every hour, Twitter and Facebook update every 30 minutes, a dozen text messages, around the same amount of emails, 30 minutes of web browsing, around 15 pictures taken and 15 minutes of gameplay).
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The LG Optimus 3D is available from retailers like Clove for around $600. This, of course, in case you don’t want to wait for its AT&T variant, the LG Thrill 4G (or Thrill 3D) which should be the cheapest 3D smartphone out there.
+ Excellent build quality
+ Awesome performance
+ 8GB internal storage
+ Glasses-free 3D screen
+ 1080p 2D video recording
+ 30fps video recording
- No microSD card in the box
- Poor battery life
- Ships with Android 2.2 Froyo
The LG Optimus 3D is a solid performer. Everything on the phone is buttery smooth and instant, you’ll barely wait for it to do things. If only if would ship with Gingerbread and a larger battery to make it through the day. Gingerbread might arrive soon but the battery won’t grow in capacity overnight even though the new version of Android could improve its life a little.
There’s the 3D bit; some might regard it as a gimmick while others will look at it as an early indication of future standards. Of course, it’s nice to show off that glasses-free screen to your friends (in case you pass the phone along) and slideshow 3D pictures (either to the phone or an external 3D screen via HDMI) but it’s really up to you if that’s something you want or need at the moment.
We rate the LG Optimus 3D a 4.5/5.