Even though it bears the name of the Optimus G, LG actually considers the Optimus G Pro to be part of a different design lineup. Whereas the former is focused on premium design (with buzzwords like precision, delicacy and sophistication), the latter puts a greater emphasis on high-performance design; you'll be hard-pressed to find fancier componentry in a smartphone. Ergonomics -- not style -- is the name of the design game this time around, as the handset features a comfortable and friendly shape, with round corners and soft edges.
We're going to play the role of mind reader for a minute and predict that, on first blush, you're not actually looking at the ergonomics of the phone. It's much more likely that you're instead thinking that you've seen this device before. It's inevitable that any 5.5-inch device that LG puts out would automatically draw comparisons between it and the Samsung Galaxy Note II. If you quickly glance at both side by side, the two smartphones look pretty similar to each other on the front and back, but they're actually quite different in plenty of other areas. At 150.2 x 76.1 x 9.4mm (5.91 x 3 x 0.37 inches), the G Pro is shorter and narrower than its Samsungian rival, which measures 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm (5.95 x 3.16 x 0.37 inches). This is mainly because the bezel is much smaller all the way around the device. LG's model is also lighter at 6.06 ounces (172g) versus the Note II's 6.35 ounces (180g).
Even though both phones are 9.4mm thick, they achieve that mark with different designs. The Note II offers a sloped edge and slightly curved back to match its pebble-like, "inspired by nature" design, which means there isn't much room to rest your fingers; the G Pro's back, on the other hand, is flat almost all the way to the sides with rounded corners that meet up with the phone's edges more abruptly. This makes the sides of the phone straighter than the Note II, and it's much more comfortable to hold because our stretched-out fingers have a solid place to grip onto the phone. We doubt it will be much of a difference if you have small hands and a general aversion to holding large phones, but one-handed use is at least easier on the G Pro than it is on the Note II.
Though it boasts a better fit and feel than the Note II, the G Pro isn't perfect: its back is too slippery for our liking, which means we had to rely solely on those edges to ensure that we had a tight grip on the phone. Aside from that, however, we have no qualms with the device's build quality or durability; sure, the G Pro doesn't have the same premium feel as the Optimus G, but the frame and back cover are comprised of solid plastics that don't give an aura of cheapness. There's no flexing or creaks on any part of the chassis, and we don't get quite as nervous about dropping it as we would with the Optimus G or Nexus 4.
The back is just as beautiful to behold as the Optimus G and Nexus 4, and that's mostly because the G Pro utilizes the same checkerboard-like design cues from the two previous phones. One major improvement over those two, however, is the fact that the back is not made of glass. It may not offer the same kind of premium feel for this reason, but it's much more likely to withstand a drop or two. An external speaker grille, LED flash and 13MP camera surrounded with brushed metal line the top end of the back, with U+ LTE and LG logos sitting beneath. Remove the back cover and you'll come face to face with a 3,140mAh removable battery, micro-SIM slot and a place to rest your microSD card. Additionally, this is also where you'll find contacts for NFC.
Turning the phone around to the front, you'll see the earpiece nestled along the top edge next to the sensors and a 2.1MP front-facing camera. However, the most interesting part is on the opposite end of the display: the LED notification light cleverly sits under the home button, its soft glow surrounding the button itself. (For a little bit of enjoyment, pay close attention to the light when booting up the phone -- nearly every color of the rainbow will show up as you wait for the G Pro to start.) Unfortunately, this was the only part of the home button we loved, since it was a too skinny and flush with the frame, which made it a little more difficult to press. The back and menu soft keys flank the home button on the left and right, respectively.
We like what LG has done on the sides of the G Pro. It's designed the phone to offer all of the buttons, ports and customizable bits that we use on a regular basis, and it did so without making the outside of the G Pro look like a scattered mess. A chrome stripe races down the left and right edges until it widens at the top and bottom to cover the entire depth of the phone. The top of the phone features a 3.5mm headphone jack, an IR blaster, mic and retractable T-DMB antenna (which is used for Korea's live TV services). The left side is home to the volume rocker and the QButton, which is a handy shortcut key that we'll discuss later in the review. Over to the right side is the power button. On the bottom, you'll find the micro-USB charging port that's also used for SlimPort.
In the space of just three months, 1080p displays have evolved from a non-existent smartphone feature to the primary indicator of a phone's flagship status. Luckily, the Optimus G Pro offers such a screen, which LG bills as True HD-IPS + LCD. Frankly, we've never seen a 1080p smartphone panel we didn't like, and the G Pro's non-PenTile, 5.46-inch rendition is no exception -- especially when viewed next to the Note II's 5.55-inch, 720p display. (As an aside, both phones use the same panel size, but LG packs more unused pixels around the border to make the viewable screen space slightly smaller.) Crunching the numbers, the phone's pixel density (401 ppi) is lower than that of the HTC One (468 ppi) and the Droid DNA (440 ppi), but the difference between the two is not quite so cut-and-dry as the number would indicate.
Viewing angles? The G Pro's got them... a lot of them. IPS panels are known for excelling in this arena, and the Pro is now the official poster child for that screen tech. If watching movies or reading books from extreme angles is your thing (or you just like it when friends or strangers start peeking at what you're watching), it definitely won't disappoint. The only display with superior angles is the S-LCD3 on the Droid DNA, and it only beats out the Pro by an extremely slight margin. The screen takes a hit in direct sunlight, however, as we had to bump the brightness up to at least 80 percent in order to see anything clearly.
Moving on to color saturation. We viewed the Pro side by side with the Note II and Droid DNA, and the Pro easily featured the most natural colors of the trio; the DNA was typically undersaturated, while the AMOLED panel on the Note II unsurprisingly was on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Now that 1080p is becoming commonplace in the high-end smartphone market, is there really any wow factor involved with the G Pro's display? Absolutely. Seeing such rich, crisp text and smooth lines on this large of a screen is pretty close to awe-striking. It may not be packing as many pixels per inch as the DNA, but it sure comes close enough to make very little difference for our eyes -- you're not going to see a single pixel on either screen, after all. They're both gorgeous, and this one just happens to take advantage of a larger display.
As HTC noted recently, megapixel count isn't everything -- it is, however, a very welcome feature as long as you have solid enough firmware and components to back it up. We believe that LG has accomplished this very thing with the 13-megapixel rear camera found on the G Pro, which has an f/2.4 aperture, a 1/3.06-inch BSI sensor, EIS, 3.92mm focal length, AF and LED flash. As for the front, you can expect a 2.1MP module with 4.6mm focal length.
Before we dive into performance, it's worth mentioning that the G Pro has most of the tweakable settings and features we love to play with when grabbing good shots. From the customizable left sidebar you can fiddle with intelligent auto (which detects 27 modes), HDR, panorama, white balance, voice shutter mode, ISO, scenes and focus modes. A dedicated macro mode was nowhere to be found, but most close-ups turn out totally fine on normal mode, so we won't dwell too much on the absence of this feature.
Even though the G Pro doesn't come with a built-in shutter key, there are three alternative options happy to take its place: the QButton and each end of the volume rocker. The only bummer about this is that you can't partially press any of the keys to lock in focus, a feature that LG has added into the Pro's virtual shutter button. (Locking in exposure still appears to be absent.)