One of the Optimus 3D's most commendable qualities is its speed. Lurking within its bowels is an OMAP 4430 from Texas Instruments – you know, the 1GHz dual-core ARM A9 SOC that (briefly) ruled
the benchmarking roost. Graphics come courtesy of a PowerVR SGX540 GPU, and there's 8GB of onboard memory, along with 512MB of dual-channel RAM.
The device also performed impressively on benchmark tests, racking up over 2200 on Quadrant, 57.1 fps on Nenamark, 58 fps on Neocore and hovering between 35 and 40 MFLOPS on Linpack. Transitions between screens were about as seamless as we could've hoped, and the native browser performed admirably, smoothly and swiftly handling Flash and other online demands. We did notice some glitches and slow-downs when closing 3D applications and quickly executing a function on the homescreen, and there was some occasional freezing during app transitions. But they certainly weren't deal-breakers.
Much of LG's marketing has centered around the Optimus 3D's "Tri-Dual" architecture – a configuration combining dual-core, dual memory and dual-channel. This design effectively doubles the number of conduits through which data can travel, theoretically allowing for faster performance and more efficient power usage. We noticed speedy processing on web pages and apps, though the configuration certainly didn't do much for battery life.
Endurance, in fact, may be the Optimus 3D's most glaring weakness. Though our everyday use consisted of nothing more than checking e-mail, updating Twitter and occasional 3D gameplay, we still found ourselves recharging the device every ten to 12 hours. As you'd expect, depletion rapidly accelerated when we used the 3D features more heavily. After conducting formal tests, we found that it takes about seven hours to completely drain the phone's battery, when put under slightly more strain. Keep in mind, however, that we conducted these battery tests without even touching any of the phone's power-sucking 3D content – which isn't a good sign, considering that 3D is the device's signature feature.
Reception over an HSPA network in France was refreshingly stellar, even in our Bermuda Triangle of an apartment. On average, the device received about one to two bars more than what an iPhone 4 picked up on the same network. At 75 percent volume, the earpiece carefully toed the line between loud and tinny and no one reported connection issues on the other end.
The Optimus 3D already entered the software game at a serious disadvantage, by virtue of the fact that it ships with Froyo. Who knows if that'll change by the time it hits the US, but for the moment, the lack of Gingerbread is pretty unfortunate. The layout is depressingly sterile, and its limited functionality made the overall experience seem unremarkable.
That said, it's an entirely functional OS – everything does what you'd expect, without too many bells and whistles. To unlock the phone, you just have to slide the screen upward. It's a simple enough gesture, but we noticed persistent chops in the animation, making the icon unfold more like a creaky garage door than a crisp can of sardines. Arriving at the home screen, you'll find the second generation of LG's Optimus UI on full display, with weather and clock widgets bannered across the top of the screen, and a smattering of standard apps growing along the bottom. Scrolling one panel to the right, you'll find the browser, music app, photo gallery and dedicated 3D games app, while the easternmost panel houses a clean, large calendar, which you can sync with your Google account. On the far left lives a social media widget, which aggregates feeds from your various accounts, right next to a panel of your "favorite contacts" – the illuminati from your phonebook with whom you want umbilically instant contact.
It's all very simple. Very... plain
. But LG has gone the extra mile to emphasize the ostensible crown jewel of its new headset: 3D. As we mentioned above, there's a dedicated hot-key that will whisk you away to LG's "3D Space" – a pleasant little carousel full of games, videos and epilepsy. The pre-loaded content provides a relatively smooth introduction to glasses-less 3D, and there's a widget devoted exclusively to 3D clips on YouTube. The 3D Store, meanwhile, connects you to LG's browser-based marketplace, where you can purchase more games or multimedia.
It's clear that software isn't the Optimus 3D's best side, though we'd be eager to see how a Gingerbread update would influence its complexion. It's also clear that LG put almost all of its Froyo muscle behind its 3D features – which says a lot about the Optimus 3D.
All told, the Optimus 3D is a perfectly serviceable, largely inoffensive smartphone that just so happens to possess 3D capabilities. Like the idiot savant
math whiz, or the high school phenom with a poisonous crossover, LG's latest creation occasionally shows flashes of brilliance, but still lacks some fundamental qualities -- in this case, sophisticated software and a grittier battery.
To LG's credit, the Optimus 3D isn't trying to be something it's not. It's certainly not reaching for the Samsung Galaxy SII
's heights, nor is it looking to out-duel its Gingerbread-less brethren, like the Droid X2
. Instead, the device seems to realize that it's a one-trick pony, and devotes all of its energies to harvesting that comparative advantage. For most people, that one trick probably won't be enough to justify buying an otherwise vanilla (and large) handset. 3D pioneers, on the other hand, may be more willing to shell out the £500
(about $820), as long as they're not expecting much more than extra-dimensional eye candy. At this point, it's hard for us to call LG's 3D technology anything other than a gimmick, but it's still a fun
gimmick -- even if it leaves a somewhat soapy aftertaste.