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LG's £199 (inc. VAT; £165.83 ex. VAT) G Pad 8.3 is pitted directly against popular small form-factor tablets such as Google's 7-inch Nexus 7, the 8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 and Apple's 7.9-inch iPad mini with Retina display. The Nexus 7 starts at £199 (inc. VAT) for a 16GB/wi-fi model, while a similarly specified iPad mini costs £319 (inc. VAT). The Galaxy TabPRO 8.4, meanwhile, costs £349.99 (inc. VAT). LG's offering is therefore competitively priced. It's also pretty good on features.
LG has taken a safe approach to the physical design of this tablet, but has still found room for some pleasant surprises. The front is uncluttered save for the LG design motif and a small front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.
There's a small lip all the way round the edge of the tablet where a more self-conscious design would have the front blending into the plastic edging, but this is not a particular problem. The backplate is largely metal. On the white version of the LG G Pad 8.3 this stands out as silvery against the bright white plastic top and bottom, while on our black review model it looks more staid. The backplate has two small indents for speakers, which could quite easily become dust traps. Visually they detract from the otherwise smooth lines of the back.
The volume rocker and power switch are on the right edge. We found these controls to be just about within reach when working one-handed in portrait mode — and we've got quite small hands.
The headset jack is on the top of the chassis, while the Micro-USB 2.0 PC connection/charging port is on the bottom. The top is also home to a Micro-SD card slot, and it's nice to see this protected by a hinged cover. Even nicer is the presence on the top edge of an infrared port.
The screen sits inside a relatively narrow long bezel, while the short bezel leaves enough space for you to hold the tablet in landscape mode and not accidentally tap anything. The overall size of the tablet, at 216.8mm by 126.5mm by 8.3mm, makes it easy to drop into a bag or even a big pocket, while its 338g weight is very manageable.
The screen, which measures 8.3 inches across the diagonal corners, has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels, giving a pixel density of 273ppi. There are higher-resolution small-tablet screens around, notably Samsung's Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 (359ppi), the iPad mini with Retina display (324ppi) and the 2013 Google Nexus 7 (323ppi). Even so, we had no complaints with LG's 273ppi IPS display.
LG's on-screen keyboard has some nice features for working with documents. For example, we appreciate the fact that LG has included a separate number row. Also, QWERTY key has a second character, accessed via a long press, and these are also accessed from a shortcut bar above the main keyboard. These facilities makes text entry relatively speedy and efficient.
Powered by a 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC with 2GB of RAM, the LG G Pad 8.3 is a mid-range tablet — the high-end Galaxy TabPRO 8.4, by contrast, has a faster 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800. Wireless connectivity is via Bluetooth 4.0 HS and dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n wi-fi. GPS is present, but there's no mobile broadband option.
There is 16GB of internal storage, of which 11GB is accessible out of the box. The 5-megapixel rear camera may disappoint some as it's average in capability and lacks a flash, but the most significant downside of the G Pad 8.3 is that it runs Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) rather than the up-to-date version 4.4 (KitKat). This is mitigated in part by the array of extras that LG adds to the device. Indeed, there are so many features and usability tweaks that some might accuse LG of perpetrating 'software bloat'. For us, though, the extras are mostly useful and well thought out.
LG is keen on supporting multitasking and quick access to apps, and caters for this in several ways. When you plug something into the device, a series of options open up in an on-screen tray. For example, plugging in a headset brings up an app panel right beneath the connector in the top left of the screen. By default, this offers the music player, YouTube and video player, with the facility to edit this selection by adding other apps into the panel.
Meanwhile, Slide Aside lets you save any running apps 'off-screen' by doing a three-finger sweep from the middle of the screen off to the left. When you want one of these apps back, you just do a three-finger sweep from the centre of the screen to the right and the apps are layered on top of each other, ready to be closed or opened full-screen. Yes, this duplicates Android's multitasking feature, but if you like it you'll probably end up using it a lot.
There's also an app tray that opens up when you slide down the notifications area. This one offers a range of QSlide apps — mini-apps that open up on top of whatever else you're doing, and even have a transparency slider so you can see through them if required. QSlide apps include a calculator, file manager, memo pad and calendar, and you can edit the set that appear in the tray.
But there's more: a notepad and a separate memo app; an app called QPair, which will pair phone and tablet so that notifications appear on the tablet; QRemote for using the LG G Pad 8.3 as a universal remote via the aforementioned infrared port; a file manager; Polaris Office and more.
Performance & battery life
Faster small form-factor tablets are available, but we had no complaints about the responsiveness of the quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600-powered LG G Pad 8.3 — especially given its attractive price.
Battery life is reasonably good, with the tablet's 4,600mAh cell performing pretty well in everyday usage. On days when we did a lot of music playing or video watching, the inevitable mid-afternoon power boost was needed, but on lighter days we got through a day's work and play on a full charge. LG doesn't provide a battery life estimate on its website.
The two rear-mounted stereo speakers deliver loud enough volume for our taste, and would suffice for a multimedia presentation in a small room. Unfortunately the sound quality isn't as good as it might be, becoming ragged and over-trebly at the highest volumes. It's a shame, as a little more attention to detail here would have been a big plus.
The G Pad 8.3 is a well-thought-out tablet. Some may find the software extras a bit much (we've only touched the surface in this review), but there's a lot of utility in there. The hardware spec, like the device as a whole, is good value for money too.