When I first removed the G Pad from its packaging, I smiled. I smiled because the device is cosmetically impressive: It looks like high-end tech kit should. Its construction is solid; the bits of plastic framing mesh perfectly with the glass front and metal strip occupying the middle of its back. More so, the white model is pleasing to look at and has a relaxing effect on the senses. What I mean to say is: It's inviting. Uncomplicated.
It's not just my personal opinion that the white LG G Pad strongly resembles a white Moto X -- a realization that dawned on me as I glimpsed the two lying side by side on my couch. In fact, another Engadget editor made the same remark, unprompted. This shared face is just that, though, and doesn't actually extend to the back of the device. LG made an intelligent design move here: The G Pad's speakers are placed within the metallic back strip, but in such a way that your hands are unlikely to muffle them. Hold the G Pad in landscape position and your fingers, for the most part, won't block the speakers. In portrait, the speakers occupy the left edge. So chances are, if you're right-handed, sound will play free and clear of palm obstruction. Audio output from the dual speakers stopped just short of being too loud at max volume, so you should be able to enjoy a decent round of Netflix streaming in a moderately noisy environment without straining too much to hear.
So (speaking literally now), how does the G Pad measure up against the likes of Apple's new iPad mini with Retina display? By dint of its 8.3-inch screen, it's 17mm taller and 30 grams heavier, thanks in part to its massive 4,600mAh battery. But the G Pad does best the new iPad mini's dimensions in one area: width. Its constrained 126.5mm expanse (versus 134.7mm on the iPad) is a design decision that you'll either love or hate, since it means the G Pad has considerably less bezel to rest your thumbs on in portrait mode. I found it only mildly troublesome when using the tab in portrait, but not enough to dissuade me from continued use.
LG's placed all the necessary ports and hardware keys around the G Pad in the exact places they belong. A slot for microSD expansion, the 3.5mm headphone jack and an IR blaster all occupy the top edge in portrait mode. Power and volume keys are off on the right, while a micro-USB port is predictably down at the base. The G Pad comes outfitted with a 1.2-megapixel camera module up front and one of the 5-megapixel variety on back -- no flash included.
A category first -- that's what LG is after with the 1,920 x 1,200 display on the G Pad. But it's only a first so far as the form factor is concerned. Other relatively smaller tablets, like the new Nexus 7, also incorporate similarly high-res displays, and with much higher pixel density. But does any of that matter? Unless you're possessed of Superman's eyesight, anything above 720p is just extra icing on the cake. Certainly, you'll be pleased with the clarity of the G Pad's screen and the crispness of text and images. The IPS panel also translates to some great viewing angles, which is essential for a product that lends itself to reading and video-watching. There's no oversaturation either, so the end result is a display that's soft and balanced in its replication of color. Outdoors, however, you'll need to bump up the brightness all the way up to make out the screen.
Setup on the G Pad is typical for Android (version 4.2.2, in this case). However, LG also adds in its own walkthrough for the G Pad's specific features. Most notably, users are given the option to choose from pre-selected Android soft-key arrangements (there are eight, in all). Q Pair, LG's device-bridge software, is also presented as an initial setup option, but requires the install of a separate app on your smartphone. Again, the process to enable that feature is simple and well-explained, so users won't stumble into it or avoid it out of ignorance or confusion.
LG's take on Android over the years has typically remained close to Samsung's own skin and is, in parts, just as messy. The lockscreen is a primary example of this clumsy approach to Android. Like the G2, the G Pad offers a Knock On-to-wake option, which has users tapping (hard) on the screen to wake it or put it to sleep. I dare anyone to embrace this feature as a default input option and not find themselves furiously banging on random parts of the dead screen. Oh it works, on occasion, but you need to possess a sniper's deft precision to hit the exact screen spot each time. Despite that immense frustration, I continue to use it simply because it's a great method of accessing your device. What would have made the G Pad even better is if LG found a way to ape Motorola's Active Display notifications. In fact, moving forward, it's just plain silly for any OEMs to ignore the use of notification previews on sleeping devices. Imitation in this particular area would be quite welcome.
Samsung has "S"; LG has "Q." And so it goes that both Korean manufacturers' suites of Android software add-ons ape each other in more than naming convention alone. QPair, QRemote, QSlide, Slide Aside, Smart Screen, Smart Video, Knock On, QMemo and Notebook -- that's the full LG load on the G Pad and it doesn't all need to be there. Of the bunch, Knock On (which I've already detailed), QSlide and QRemote have, arguably, the most utility, though none of these -- with the exception of QRemote -- works effortlessly. If you're not up on your LG Android functions, QSlide is the company's app multitasking function, which allows for a maximum of three apps running on your home screen. The mini-apps can then be resized and even toggled for transparency and it'd be a key feature save for the limited number of apps (eight in total) whitelisted to use it.
Other features are just redundant, like Slide Aside, which many users will probably never even know exists. The function makes use of three-fingered swipes to store up to three running apps for quick access -- just swipe to the left to store and back to relaunch. But there's no real need for it. You can easily just long-press on the home soft key to bring up a list of background apps and multitask from there. It's no more than a frivolous add-on and will consequently go ignored by users.
QPair is a different curiosity that promises to impart some of your smartphone's functionality to the G Pad. As I said earlier, the setup process is fairly painless and shouldn't take you more than a minute or so to complete. After that, it's a matter of accepting the TOS (which clearly state all your typed communications will be recorded) before you can view/respond to texts from the G Pad, view dismiss calls or even see "stickers" of your last accessed app on the paired device's screen. That last part is rather silly and it affords no boost in efficiency to the end user. The same goes for viewing and dismissing calls. The only real advantage afforded by QPair is the ability to text without touching your phone.
QMemo is an annotation/screenshot tool and its offshoot, Notebook, is for... note-taking and sharing those notes. That's it. Nothing more to say or see.
The G Pad runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and with the advent of Android KitKat, the immediate question is: How long before LG issues an update? If past history is any indication, that could very well be never. Mass adoption of LG's tablet could change that, but consider this a warning: If you buy in, be content with what version of the Android OS you get. You could be living with it for a while.
All that said, LG's Android skin is light and the user experience is reasonably smooth. I say this because I do think LG would've done well to ship the G Pad with a Snapdragon 800, like Amazon did with its Kindle Fire HDX -- the performance pitfalls of the comparatively less powerful 600 are all too evident. It's not that the G Pad is slow; it's that the G Pad isn't fast. All too often, apps launch with a pregnant pause and screen rotation is delayed. Then there are times when the CPU ramps up and the experience suddenly feels responsive and immediate. It's something most users won't notice or find much fault with. Still, if you've used a Snapdragon 800 device, you'll wish it had been in use here.
Benchmarks: You might love them, hate them or allegedly game them (hello, Samsung!). Above, you'll find scores for various tests we ran on the G Pad, the Galaxy Note 8.0 and the refreshed Nexus 7 -- all Android competitors that more or less have the same mid-sized form factor. Unsurprisingly, the G Pad blew past its competition due to its Snapdragon 600 chip and 2GB RAM, in all areas but SunSpider performance. There, the G Pad was considerably slower than the new Nexus 7, which relies on a Snapdragon S4 Pro to render web pages with speed. Does any of this matter in the long run? Not one lick, but it's here so you can rage on in the comments below (if that's your thing).
The G Pad's battery life ranks toward the bottom of our list in standardized testing. Engadget's rundown test, which entails looping a video at half-brightness with the normal amount of background actions running (i.e., push email, Twitter syncing, WiFi/GPS enabled), places the G Pad at seven hours and 19 minutes. Still, that's pretty much on par with the run time we got from Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 and the new Nexus 7. In actual usage, too, the G Pad lasted through a weekend with moderate use. So, unless you plan to sit and stream movie after movie, you should be satisfied with its longevity.
No shocker here: the G Pad's 1.3MP (front)/5MP (rear) camera setup is decent. Not great, not bad. LG's imaging software offers more advanced users plenty of toggles to adjust brightness, focus, ISO, white balance and effects. But I tested it mainly using Auto, as that's how most people are likely to use it. LG doesn't allow tap-to-capture, so managing the 8.3-inch tablet while attempting to hit the onscreen soft capture key can be tricky. You'll almost definitely have difficulty maintaining your framing, though there is an option to use the volume keys as a shutter key. (You can also use them to zoom.)