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Caption by: Sandra Vogel
A 3D-capable smartphone might seem a bizarre concept, but that's what we have with the LG Optimus 3D. And LG is not alone: HTC also has a 3D offering, the Evo 3D, which we're expecting for review very soon.
It remains to be seen whether the (glasses-free) 3D concept will push smartphones in a new direction, but in the meantime at least two key companies have taken the plunge. The LG Optimus 3D offers some 3D features while remaining for the most part a standard 2D smartphone.
Our review sample came from Clove Technology, where it sells for £389 (ex. VAT) SIM-free.
The LG Optimus 3D is a very large smartphone. It might actually be too large for many people. We could just about stretch a thumb across the screen, but could not reach to do a full top-to-bottom sweep with one hand. We have fairly small hands, but a lot of people will have difficulty covering the full screen one-handed.
This is because the screen measures 4.3 inches across the diagonal and while the left and right bezels are quite shallow, there's considerable space at the top and bottom of the handset. The Optimus 3D measures 68mm wide by 128mm deep by 11.9mm thick and weighs a hefty 168g.
The screen isn't quite as stunning as we'd hoped. With a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels, it's sharp and vibrant, but the viewing angles could be better.
Beneath the screen are the four familiar Android touch-sensitive buttons for Home, Back Search and Menu functions. Above the screen is a VGA camera for video calls, while the back houses two 5-megapixel cameras that allow you to shoot stereoscopic video and stills.
LG has not pushed the boat out on the build of the Optimus 3D, which is solid but not spectacular. The plastic chassis is fairly tough, but it lacks the premium feel we might have expected from a groundbreaking smartphone.
Higher-end specifications include an HDMI port on the left edge — it's a pity that LG doesn't ship a cable, though. The HDMI port sits next to the microUSB connector, and both are protected by hinged covers. The right edge has a volume rocker and, where you'd usually expect to find the camera shortcut button, a button marked '3D'. Like the '3D Space' screen icon, this launches you into the handset's 3D functionality. The top of the device houses the power switch and a 3.5mm headset jack.
Apart from the twin cameras, then, the Optimus 3D looks like a large but fairly ordinary smartphone.
The Optimus 3D ships with an AC adapter, a PC connector cable, headphones with round in-ear buds and small printed user guide.
LG has equipped the Optimus 3D with a dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 processor. This is a shift away from the Nvidia Tegra 2 that powers most high-end smartphones we've seen to date. There is 512MB of RAM inside the device, and LG has done something with it that we've not seen before.
The memory has been divided into two equal chunks. With the processor cores able to access either memory area, LG says this helps further speed up the handset. That may be, but we found the LG Optimus 3D a little laggy in response to screen presses.
Storage for apps and data runs to 8GB internally, with a microSD card slot under the backplate for expansion. As far as connectivity is concerned, the Optimus 3D is a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone with HSDPA at up to 14.4Mbps and HSUPA at up to 5.76Mbps, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth (2.1+EDR). The Optimus 3D can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot and also supports DLNA.
There is A-GPS integrated and of course Google Maps is preinstalled. The operating system is Android 2.2 (Froyo) — to really be up to the minute we'd expect an update to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) to come along fairly swiftly.
The skinning that LG applies to Android is unchanged from that we've seen in other recent handsets from the company, such as the Optimus 2X. It places four shortcuts onto the bottom of each of the seven home screens, giving you permanent access to the phone dialler, contacts, messages and the main applications area.
Many of the widgets can be resized so that, for example, if you want the LG weather app to fill a whole screen, or just a small corner of it, you tap and hold and then drag it accordingly. What you see in the widget often varies depending on its size. The calendar shows a full month layout at full screen, restricting itself to upcoming appointments if it's smaller.
The applications listing can be organised into alphabetically sorted horizontally scrolling pages, an alphabetical vertically scrolling list or (the default setting) as category groups. There are three groups to start with, Downloads, Applications and 3D Applications, but it's easy to add your own, move applications between categories and alter their location within categories. So there are plenty of ways to personalise things.
LG's Optimus 3D runs a skinned version of Android 2.2: the 3D features are accessed via a side button or the '3D Space' home page icon
3D, of course, is the main draw of this smartphone. It doesn't permeate the entire handset, but is available for particular elements. When you tap the 3D side button or the '3D Space' icon on the home page, the user interface switches to a carousel of available options: 3D Gallery, 3D Camera, 3D Games & Apps, YouTube 3D, and a simple user guide.
You have to be looking at the Optimus 3D head-on to get the full 3D effect, so this is something that's difficult to share effectively. But getting the right angle and distance is intuitive and the pre-installed video clips and YouTube videos are very impressive indeed, while the games are fun to play.
The camera shoots 3D stills at 3 megapixels, 2D stills at 5 megapixels and 3D video at 720p, 2D video at 1080p. You toggle between 2D and 3D using an on-screen button and adjust the degree of 3D-ness using a slider. Photos shot in 3D are usable as 2D ones too, but their resolution is scaled back so it makes sense to do some double shooting of images you want to keep.
There's 2D-to-3D conversion function for stills and video in the standard Gallery app, although this worked less successfully than natively-shot 3D material.
There's one other interesting aspect to the 3D. If you have a 3D TV then output can be sent to this via the HDMI cable in side by side mode, so that your TV can show it.
Performance & battery life
Despite its dual-core processor and smart use of RAM, we found the LG Optimus 3D to be a little slow to respond to key presses at times — most notably when running apps. It has one other, more serious, performance issue too: battery life.
LG doesn't give a rating for the 1,540mAh battery at its web site, and we can guess why. It drained remarkably quickly, delivering about half a day's life if we made a lot of use of over-the-air data, Wi-Fi streaming and, particularly, 3D features. We struggled to get a full day's use from it even when being quite frugal. As far battery life goes, this is a very poor-performing smartphone, which is a great shame given that LG has done a good job elsewhere.
It's difficult not to be impressed with the 3D aspects of this smartphone, which are well executed. Whether business users can find a legitimate use for them is another matter.
Elsewhere there are some serious issues. This is a large handset, and many people will find it unwieldy to use one-handed. We also noticed sluggish performance at times, particularly when launching apps, while the battery life is abysmal.
In the end, given the somewhat gimmicky nature of its 3D capability, we're not sure this handset has much staying power, particularly as a business tool.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel