February 28, 2013

LG Optimus G Pro preview: First look


Introduction
LG secured a spot in the proverbial flagship hall of fame with the newly announced Optimus G Pro. A quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset, a 5.5-inch 1080p display and a 13MP camera is exactly the combo needed to make a proper flagship. The flagship bar has been on the rise in the past few months and only this sort of specs can get you an entry to the exclusive club of uberphones.
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LG Optimus G Pro official pictures
The quad-core race is on for some time now, but display technology has been coming in leaps and bounds as well. Displays of 5+ inches in diagonal and 1080p resolution are all the rage now and we are seeing new models touting those cropping up every month.
Yesterday's flagships are denoted to runner-ups by this new breed of big-screen behemoths. The LG Optimus G is one of the first victims in this arms race, outsmarted by the company's own Optimus G Pro.
But it's a killer race and specs alone cannot guarantee strong sales. It takes a bit more than that. The stakes are high indeed, but the Optimus G Pro seems to have what it takes to make it through. I took one for a spin and we are ready to let you in on all we managed to find out about it. But let's start with the specs sheet.
LG Optimus G Pro at a glance:
·         General: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz; UMTS 1900/2100 MHz, HSDPA, HSUPA; LTE, 100Mbps down, 50Mbps up
·         Form factor: Touchscreen bar
·         Dimensions: 150.2 x 76.1 x 9.4 mm, 160 g
·         Display: 5.5" 16M-color FullHD (1080 x 1920 pixels) True HD-IPS+ LCD capacitive touchscreen
·         Chipset: Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600
·         CPU: Quad-core 1.7GHz Krait 300 processor
·         GPU: Adreno 320
·         RAM: 2GB
·         OS: Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean)
·         Memory: 32 GB storage, microSD card slot
·         Still camera: 13 megapixel auto-focus camera with backlit sensor, face detection and Best faces feature, touch focus and image stabilization, HDR
·         Video camera: Full HD (1080p) video recording at 30fps, LED flash, HDR; 2.1MP front facing camera, video-calls, 1080p@30fps; dual video recording
·         Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, standard microUSB port with MHL features (TV Out, USB host), GPS receiver with A-GPS and GLONASS, 3.5mm audio jack, FM radio, NFC
·         Battery: 3140 mAh
·         Misc: Optimus UI, Extremely rich video/audio codec support, built-in accelerometer, multi-touch input, proximity sensor, gyroscope sensor, active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
The Optimus G Pro has one of the most powerful chipsets around and has an intriguing screen. It's both bigger and better than the one on the the Xperia Z and that's saying something already. There is the sleek design too, the tiny screen bezel and the Android Jelly Bean edition enhanced by numerous useful LG own improvements, features and eye-candy looks.
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LG Optimus G Pro live pictures
Join as we look into detail what makes the LG Optimus G Pro tick.

Display

The eye-catching 5.5" IPS display of Full HD resolution is definitely one of the LG Optimus G Pro's key selling points. LG is keen on making lots of noise about how the colors are rendered, pitting it against Samsung's AMOLED displays. Long story short, LG claims the Optimus G Pro's display shows 100% accurate colors, unlike AMOLED screens.
Of course, we took it for a test drive ourselves and we can safely confirm that the images indeed look great and colors pop, especially the reds. The display is impressively sharp too, thanks to the amazing pixel density of 400 ppi.
So, the screen junkies that we are, we decided to take out the Galaxy S III and put its Super AMOLED 720p screen next to the True HD-IPS+ 1080p LCD of the G Pro.
On paper these two screens are quite different. The LG smartphone has an LCD with a full RGB matrix, while the Galaxy S III uses Pentile AMOLED.
Pentile is old tech (we saw it on devices like the first Galaxy S) and doesn't feature the full set of subpixels - there's a full set of green pixels, but there are less red and blue pixels than a RGB matrix would have. Still, at 1280 x 720 resolution, the 4.8″ Super AMOLED has a pixel density of around 306, which just makes it to "Retina" territory.
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A head on image of the two screens
Looking at both screens head on you'll immediately notice the Super AMOLED's advantage. The class-leading contrast shows in the images. Colors are over-saturated compared to the LCD of the LG smartphone, which depending on your preferences might be an advantage or a disadvantage.
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Check out the reflective surfaces and viewing angles
Then we come to viewing angles and reflectivity. Samsung's device has the upper hand here with the typically superb Super AMOLED viewing angles.
The LG Optimus G Pro screen is more reflective and there is a contrast loss when you're looking at the screen at an angle. It's a minor thing though, and you really need to have a great example like we have here alongside it to notice the difference.
Overall, the LG Optimus G Pro display quality is about the same as on the Optimus G, but the sheer size difference makes it far more impressive. The extra sharpness and total resolution also contribute to what is certainly the best LG screen to date.

Design and build quality
The Optimus G Pro design language is pretty different from that of the Optimus G. The pattern on the back might be similar, but the overall look of the smartphone sits closer to the Galaxy S II than to its sibling.
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LG Optimus G Pro
LG went for a full-plastic build for the Optimus G Pro, but still managed to deliver a premium, quality feel. The phone is agreeably heavy too - for a device of this size. The Optimus G Pro measures 150.2 x 76.1 x 9.4 mm and weighs 160 grams.
The build quality is solid and it doesn't give in to any bending or twisting even though it's quite big. The great build quality aside, we are also very pleased with how nice hardware key LG hasused on the Optimus G Pro.
The good news continue with the availability of a customizable shortcut button near the top of the left side. You can use it to quickly launch apps when the device is unlocked.
Above the display we find the usual gang - a centrally located earpiece, a proximity sensor and the secondary 2.1MP video-call camera right next to it. The LG Optimus G Pro supports dual-video recording, which means you are able to capture video with both cameras simultaneously.
The result is a single 1080p recording, which looks quite like a video call screen. The feed from the primary camera takes up the whole screen, while the feed from the secondary one appears in a small box in the bottom left corner. And the good thing is that you can actually swap which camera is primary, and which secondary.
LG Optimus G Pro Preview 
The earpiece, the proximity sensor and the video-call camera
Below the display is the hardware Home key surrounded by Back and Menu capacitive touch keys. There is a nice LED status light below the Home key. It is highly customizable and lights up in different colors depending on the notification - incoming or missed calls, alarms, calendar reminders, apps, etc.
LG Optimus G Pro Preview 
The hardware Home key with the hidden status LED beneath
The left side of the Optimus G Pro houses the aforementioned customizable Q-Slide key and the single-piece volume rocker below it. On the right side is the lonely Power/Lock key.
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The left side of the Optimus G Pro • The Power/Lock key on the right
The G Pro has a 3.5mm audio jack on the top side, while the (MHL) microUSB port is at the bottom.
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The audio jack and the secondary microphone on top • the connectivity port at the bottom
The battery cover is made entirely of glossy plastics, but it is nicely textured and reminds us a bit of the Nexus 4 back. The 13MP camera sensor, the LED flash and the loudspeaker grille are here.
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The Optimus G Pro stylish back with the camera lens and the loudspeaker grille
A peek under the battery cover shows us the hot-swappable microSD card slot, the 3140mAh battery unit and the micro-SIM slot under.
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A peek under the battery cover
The Optimus G Pro managed to impress us with its looks and build quality. The slim profile, minimalistic screen bezel and the beautifully textured back are its key assets, while the hidden status LED below the Home key is another clever addition we liked.
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Handling the LG Optimus G Pro

Android Jelly Bean meets Optimus UI
The LG Optimus G Pro is powered by Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with LG's Optimus UI garnish on top.
The custom launcher runs deep into Android and adds tones of customizations like themes, changeable icons and a slew of LG home-brew apps.
The Optimus G Pro is LG's first handset we meet running on Jelly Bean, but there are only few novelties compared to the ICS. Google Now is on board, the Project Butter gave a boost on the UI smoothness and frame rate, but that's mostly it. The rest is identical to the Optimus G Pro user experience.
LG's cool lockscreen is on board - by default swiping a finger at any spot of the lockscreen creates a magnifying glass effect, showing you what's underneath as if you're looking through a rain drop. You can also place up to four shortcuts that will unlock the phone straight into an app.
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The lockscreen
You can change the lockscreen clock style or replace it all together with a different style. The four app shortcuts are customizable, too.
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Lockscreen options
The bottom of the homescreen fits up to 7 shortcuts (including the shortcut to the App Drawer) and that's two more than what TouchWiz offers on the Samsung Galaxy S III. You don't have to use all available slots though - you can discard all but the App Drawer shortcut if you want.
As usual, the shortcuts are visible on any of the homescreen panes. With the exception of the app drawer shortcut, you can rearrange, delete or replace any of these with shortcuts of your choosing, even folders. In fact most aspects of the phone's behavior can be customized, you can go to as small detail as the capacitive key backlight and the transition effect between homescreen panes.
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The homescreen
The LG home-backed tweaks and enhancements are by no means limited to the visuals. The Q Slide option makes it possible for you to watch a video while using other apps, while the system-wide QuickMemo integration allows you to take a screenshot anywhere in the phone and take notes over it.
You can resize widgets or you can even shrink a widget down to the corresponding app's icon. Also if you move a widget over an occupied slot on the homescreen, the icons underneath immediately move out of the way, which is really neat and comes as part of Jelly Bean.
LG Optimus G Pro Preview 
Reordering and resizing widgets
Adding stuff to the homescreen is done by tapping and holding on a blank area of a homescreen. A context menu appears, allowing you to add various customizations to your phone. The tabs along the bottom let you select the appropriate app, widget or wallpaper, which you can add to the homescreen of your choice. Gridlines will appear when you hold and drag an app or widget, allowing you to easily place it on the homescreen.
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Placing widgets and changing the wallpaper
If a certain icon isn't to your liking you can always change it to whatever you prefer. There's a wide choice of different icons and you can even choose to make one of your own.
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Customizing icons
The contextual menu is accessed the straightforward way - just hit the menu button. It gives you a quick access to a bunch of different settings menus as well as choosing a different theme.
LG has also enabled a ton of other customization to the the homescreen looks and behavior. There's a dedicated setting for looped homescreen scrolling and the so-called screen effect changes the transition effect between homescreen panes.
The notification area was also been tweaked by LG to allow you to rearrange the toggle buttons shown there. You are also free to add and remove toggles from the edit menu. You can add an insane amount of shortcuts here, but don't worry that they won't fit on the screen - the row becomes side-scrollable so you can still access them all.
As usual, if you've got a music track playing in the background, quick controls will show up here. You can also drag notifications to the left or right to dismiss them.
By default you get seven homescreens to fill up with widgets and shortcuts, but you are free to delete any that you don't need to speed up navigation. You can also set the default homescreen to any of the panes.
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Homescreen preview • The notification area with reorderable settings
The task manager on hasn't changed a whole lot since ICS. It shows you all of the currently running apps, and lets you stop them by swiping them to the left or right. It is accessed by holding down on the hardware home button. There, you'll also find a shortcut to Google Now, a Jelly Bean exclusive.
Additionally, there are number of icons at the bottom, which allow you to quickly open up a particular app or even stop all apps simultaneously.
Finally, there's a shortcut to the task manager.
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LG's task manager lists the currently running apps, but also lets you uninstall apps and gives you info on your storage. It comes with its own dedicated widget, which shows a graph of the available RAM and conveniently offers a button to clear up memory.
The app drawer lists all your available apps and widgets, with a dedicated tab for user downloads. There is a button in the top right corner, which triggers edit mode and lets you to easily reorder and uninstall applications.
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The app drawer menu
You can opt to make the icons in the app drawer smaller too. If you select an app whilst in edit mode, a pop up will let you see information like RAM usage, etc.
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App drawer options
LG borrowed a trick from Samsung's TouchWiz and implemented its own version of Samsung's Smart Stay - called Wise screen. It uses the front-facing camera to detect if you're looking at the screen. This means you can browse the phone for hours on end without it auto-locking itself. We can confirm that the feature works very well.
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Wise Screen

Synthetic benchmarks
The LG Optimus G Pro boasts a Snapdragon 600 chipset with four Krait 300 cores clocked at 1.7GHz, 2GB of RAM and the Adreno 320 GPU. With specs like that you would expect the phablet to be a real benchmark champion and luckily it delivers.
The Optimus G Pro managed to top the Benchmark Pi and Linpack tests, which are meant to judge single and multi-core performance respectively.
Benchmark Pi
Lower is better
·         Sort by Label
·         Sort by Value
·         LG Optimus G Pro147
·         Asus Padfone 2262
·         Sony Xperia Z264
·         Oppo Find 5267
·         Sony Xperia T269
·         HTC One X+280
·         LG Optimus G285
·         Samsung Galaxy Note II305
·         HTC One X (Tegra 3)330
·         LG Optimus 4X HD350
·         Samsung Galaxy S III359
·         Meizu MX 4-core362
·         Nexus 4431
Linpack
Higher is better
·         Sort by Label
·         Sort by Value
·         LG Optimus G Pro743
·         Asus Padfone 2623
·         Sony Xperia Z630
·         LG Optimus G608
·         Oppo Find 5593
·         Samsung Galaxy Note II214.3
·         Nexus 4213.5
·         Meizu MX 4-core189.1
·         HTC One X+177.7
·         Samsung Galaxy S III175.5
·         HTC One X160.9
·         LG Optimus 4X HD141.5
The 5.5" LG flagship had excellent performance in the two compound benchmarks we run, too. At Antutu it didn't quite manage to come on top, but it still posted a great score of over 20,000 points, while Quadrant saw the LG Optimus G Pro score another victory.
AnTuTu
Higher is better
·         Sort by Label
·         Sort by Value
·         HTC One22678
·         Sony Xperia Z20794
·         LG Optimus G Pro20056
·         Samsung Galaxy S III15547
·         Oppo Find 515167
·         Huawei Ascend P213358
·         HTC Butterfly12631
Quadrant
Higher is better
·         Sort by Label
·         Sort by Value
·         LG Optimus G Pro12105
·         HTC One11746
·         Sony Xperia Z8075
·         HTC One X+7632
·         LG Optimus G7439
·         Oppo Find 57111
·         HTC One X5952
·         Samsung Galaxy Note II5916
·         Samsung Galaxy S III5450
·         Meizu MX 4-core5170
·         Huawei Ascend P24838
·         LG Optimus 4X HD4814
·         Nexus 44567
SunSpider is all about pure JavaScript performance. Here, the Optimus G Pro only got a mid-table finish, but the truth is the difference is hard to perceive in real-life scenarios.
SunSpider
Lower is better
·         Sort by Label
·         Sort by Value
·         Samsung Ativ S891
·         Apple iPhone 5915
·         Nokia Lumia 920910
·         Lenovo K900962
·         Samsung Galaxy Note II972
·         HTC One X+1001
·         LG Optimus G Pro1011
·         Motorola RAZR i XT8901059
·         HTC One1124
·         Samsung Galaxy S III1192
·         Meizu MX 4-core1312
·         LG Optimus G1353
·         HTC Butterfly1433
·         Sony Xperia Z1906
·         Nexus 41971
Overall, the LG Optimus G Pro is an excellent performer with smooth UI navigation, extremely quick app launches and no lags whatsoever.

Gallery

The LG Optimus G Pro uses the same gallery app as the Optimus G. It's a custom gallery which is like the stock Adroid one but with some added tweaks here and there. It automatically locates images and videos no matter where they are stored on the phone. By default, images are sorted by albums, but you can sort by location or time as well.
The different sets are tiled neatly across the screen. You can expand or shrink individual albums using a pinch to zoom gesture, making the elements of the grid of photos either really huge or very tiny.
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The Gallery can be sorted by albums, location or time
Once selected, you can view an image close up by pinch zooming or double tapping on the desired area. There is a sliding gallery along the bottom which allows you to quickly browse other images in the album. On the top there are three shortcuts for quickly sharing, editing or deleting the selected photo.
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Viewing an image
The Share feature offers quick sharing via Email, Google+, Picasa, Memo, MMS, SmartShare, Social+ or Bluetooth.
The Gallery app displays images in full resolution. Zooming and panning involves no lag whatsoever on the Optimus G Pro.

Music player

The music player on the LG Optimus G Pro also looks much like the one inside the Optimus G. The interface is simple, easy to use, but still offers a lot functionality.
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The music player
The Now playing interface places a big album art image in the center with controls above and below it. Swiping the album art left or right is the easiest way to skip songs back and forth. The interface now has a metallic look to it instead of the dark grey theme of old.
A press and hold on the album art will bring up a search menu, if you need to look up the title, artist or the album. After that you can pick where to search - your music collection, YouTube or a general Internet search. Flipping the device to landscape mode while on the Now playing screen squeezes in a list of other songs by the same artist.
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The Now Playing screen • The Search feature • Audio settings
There are equalizer presets, which become available when you plug in a pair of headphones.
When you're playing a song it also gets displayed in the notification area, where you can pause and change tracks.

Powerful video player

The video player on the Optimus G Pro has a fairly simple interface, giving you just a grid of all the videos on the device. There's an alphabet scroll to help users locate videos faster but that's about it. You can, of course, play videos from the Gallery if you prefer its folder-centric organization. For each video you've started, the thumbnail gets a tiny clock icon, which shows how far into the video you've gone in.
The interface during playback is nothing overcomplicated either, yet it's quite powerful. The live preview feature return back from the dead to the Optimus G Pro - it's a YouTube-esque pop up preview of the video above the scrubber.
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The video player
To get the basics out of the way, the available controls during playback include a scrubber for jumping to various parts of the video along with the standard play/pause and skip buttons. There's a pop-out button at the bottom right corner too, designating that the app is part of the QSlide functionality of the Optimus UI. LG have implemented MX Player-like controls too - a swipe left or right will move the video forward or backwards, while a swipe up or down will influence brightness.
One of the new additions is a Video Speed control (you can set values from 0.5x up to 2x). There's a lock button too, which hides all controls for pure full-screen viewing. Another new feature in the video player is Live Zooming. You can zoom in (with a pinch) during actual playback and we mean some serious zoom length, not just a quick resize or fit to screen.
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The video player options
The LG Optimus G Pro handled everything we threw at it - DivX, XviD, MKV and MP4/MOV up to, and including, 1080p resolution. The AC3 audio codec (among lots of others) is supported, so you don't have to worry about the sound either. There are no limitations for the bitrate, file size, etc.
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Swiping up and down
LG took Samsung's pop-up play feature a whole lot further with QSlide. In the latest Optimus UI iteration, LG has added a new batch of apps that take advantage of the QSlide functionality. Those include the web browser, Memo, QVoice, Calendar and Calculator. Furthermore, you can launch any of them from the notification drawer.
Depending on the QSlide App that you launch, there are different shortcuts on the bottom bar, joined by an icon to resize the QSlide window. The unique feature here is the slider, which directly controls the opacity of the QSlide layer. This way the underlying user interface can be more or less visible.
Unlike the previous version of QSlide, now you can move the QSlide window around the UI to a place you find best. You can also chose whether the foreground QSlide app or background UI to be active.
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Q Slide lets you watch a video, while using the smartphone

13 megapixel camera with HDR stills and video
The camera on the LG Optimus G Pro is a 13MP unit and can snap photos with a maximum resolution of 4208 x 3120. It can record FullHD videos too.
The interface is refreshed from the previous interface of the Optimus G, but still retains the same button layout. You get a column on the right with the still/video toggle, a virtual shutter key and gallery shortcut on the right and a column with five shortcuts on the left.
You can edit the top four of these shortcuts so you can have one-tap access to the features you use most. By default, the top shortcut toggles between the front and back cameras, the second activates the "cheese shutter" (which lets you snap a photo by saying "Cheese!", "LG" or a few other words), the Time catch shot (we'll get to it in a moment), shooting mode and the settings shortcut.
You can pick between one of four shooting modes - Normal, HDR, Panorama and Continuous shot.
The Time catch shot feature (also called Time machine camera) does something pretty unique - it snaps a photo, but also records several photos of what happened before you hit the shutter key. You can save any of the photos on that list that you like. This way, even if you missed the moment, the LG Optimus G will have captured it.
Anyway, here are several camera samples we shot with the 13MP camera on the LG Optimus G.Pro.
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LG Optimus G Pro camera samples
If the lighting conditions are not perfect, you can try the HDR mode, here's how it performs:
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HDR off • HDR on
The video camera can record 1080p videos at 30fps. Live effects let you do real-time effects (that is, ones that are visible in the viewfinder as you shoot the video, not ones applied during post-processing).
You can either use funny face effects (with automatic face detection) or do a sort-of green-screen effect by replacing the static background of the video with something more exciting (this works best with a tripod as shaking the camera causes the whole image to change).
Check out this FullHD video sample from the Optimus G Pro.
Additionally, the Optimus G Pro features HDR video recording as well. It's well capable of recording them at full HD resolution, and we shot an HDR sample as well. Check it out below.
Interestingly, the phone supports dual-video recording, which means you are able to capture video with both cameras simultaneously. The result is a single 1080p recording, which looks quite like a video call screen. The feed from the primary camera takes up the whole screen, while the feed from the secondary one appears in a small box in the bottom left corner. And the good thing is that you can actually swap which camera is primary, and which secondary.
 

First impressions

Our first encounter with the Optimus G Pro is coming to an end. The latest LG super smartphone features top-notch technology into a thin and beautiful shell and will surely do great when unleashed on the market.
We are glad to see LG learned the hardware is not everything nowadays and put a tremendous work on the latest version of the Optimus UI. There are plenty of useful features and UI modification that you will barely recognize the Google's OS beneath. The only evidence that you are running on Jelly Bean is the presence of the Google Now assistant and the buttery smooth UI performance.
The Snapdragon 600 chipset boosts the overall experience even further and the Optimus G Pro is certainly a benchmark champion. And the beautiful and lively 5.5-inch 1080p screen is great for both productivity and media consumption.
It seems the 13MP cameras are steadily replacing last-year’s 8MP snappers in the flagship segment. The Optimus G Pro also throws in dual-video recording in the mix adding a whole new dimension to capturing your experiences.
With the LG Optimus G Pro getting ready, the Galaxy Note II seems to have a lot to worry about. The Optimus G Pro gets lots of things right and might finally put the Samsung phablet series under pressure.


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