LG was responsible for the Nexus 4 and more recently the Nexus 5, and their association with Google continues with the LG G Pad 8.3. The G Pad was originally launched as a premium 8 inch tablet from LG, fully packed with special features added through software but the one we have here is the first tablet to be blessed by Google with a Play Edition, meaning the device will run stock Android without any modifications. Google and OEMs have been pushing out Play Edition devices since last year, for people who want Android, pure. With no bloatware and the latest version of Android, the GPE of the GPad is, in many ways, the Nexus 8 that was never announced. Priced at $349, should one prefer this over the Nexus 7 2013? Or is it the mini tablet to get? Lets find out in our review.
Design, Build and Ergonomics
LG’s designs have been looking better recently, thanks to some really neat innovations like buttons on the back and mainly, edge-to-edge display with super thin bezels. The G Pad benefits from the same, and sports really thin bezels, not only at the sides but even at the top and bottom parts. It makes the device look really appealing and more than that, it lets it accommodate a larger screen in a smaller form factor. Design wise, the G Pad looks like a big G2, and that is not bad at all. It has the curved corners neatly rounded off to provide better support and generally provide a more pleasing look and feel.
Talking of look and feel, the tablet’s build is predominantly steel and glass, upping the premium quotient. LG has been known to use plastics almost exclusively on their devices, so this is a bit of a refreshing change here. The front is fully covered in glass, and the back is adorned by a brushed stainless steel plate. This stainless plate has the brushed look and is black in colour, nicely blending in with the other parts. Sandwiched between these two layers is the rigid plastic frame that supports them, providing the support for the front as well, in terms of protection.
Measuring at 8.3mm of thickness and 338g of weight, the G Pad 8.3 is easily one of the most comfortable 8 inch tablets to use out there. While the weight, the slightly curved back side and the thickness help in better handling of the device overall, it still requires you to use both your hands for better support, as single handed usage is near impossible, with Android’s UI lending no help either. But thankfully the curved corners are suitable for making the single handed reading comfortable. We found it to be fine for a 8 inch tablet that will still require you to use in portrait more than in landscape.
Let us walk through the hardware now. The front is dominated by the single sheet of glass, underneath which lies the 8.3 inch display.
Above the display we have the mediocre 1.3 MP camera on the front and the LG logo right besides it. There are also the couple of sensors hidden there.
Over at the bottom we have the microphone and the micro USB port.
While there is a micro SD card slot and a 3.5mm headphones jack at the top along with what looks like a IR LED, but we didn’t find any app pre-installed to control the TVs.
The left side is devoid of any controls or inputs but we can see the clear demarcation between the stainless steel and the plastic layers here.
Over at the right side we have the volume rocker and the power lock switch, located near the top right corner, which is quite hard to reach in single handed usage.
Moving over to the back we have the 5 MP rear camera at the top and the dual stereo speakers on the sides. We have the LG logo again in the middle but that’s about it, leaving much of the back to the brushed stainless steel design.
The display is a 8.3 inch full HD IPS display with a resolution of 1920×1200 and a pixel density of 273 ppi. Yes, it has the same resolution as the Google Nexus 7 2013, and is really high, aimed at matching the retina display quality. Undoubtedly, the display is crisp, has above average viewing angles and really great for watching videos generally. However we did find the display to exhibit warmer whites than usual, a minor deterrent to an otherwise really good display.The colour reproduction is overall really good, apart from the odd whites mentioned earlier and the brightness and contrast are good too. It will be hard to find a pixel at usable distances and the 16:10 aspect ratio is well suited for media consumption.
This is all very similar to what we saw on the Nexus 7 2013, but obviously larger, less reflective and better at managing fingerprints than most tablets. Overall, this isn’t an entirely special display to speak of, but LG has done really well to provide a thin bezeled design for it and really good performance too. Unfortunately it lacks the nice little touches like double tap to unlock or lock, which is indeed present in the original G Pad 8.3.
Tablets usually are known to have bad cameras and the G Pad 8.3 is no exception. There is a 5 MP camera on the back and a 1.3 MP camera on the front, both suited just for video calling and nothing more. The rear camera has auto focus and tends to take usable pictures in bright light but we’d argue even the basic Lumia 520 can take better pictures than this. So, the camera department is decidedly average and nothing surprising about it as this is a tablet. Here are some camera samples in case you are really interested about taking photos on this tablet.
Internals and Performance
The internals are powered by the Snapdragon 600 chipset with a quad core 1.7 GHz processor and the Adreno 320 GPU for graphics. Driving a 1920×1200 display, the performance is very similar to what we found on the Nexus 7 2013 edition. General UI in performance is fast and smooth, but not all the times, as the slow downs tend to happen once in a while, but gaming performance has been generally good. We tested out some high end games on the device and found them to run decently well, but the graphics were low resolution owing to the high resolution screen and hence quality took a hit. Here is a gaming review of the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition –
We also ran synthetic benchmarks to see it perform similarly to the Nexus 7 2013 in GPU tests and lesser than the same in CPU intensive tests. Here are a couple of them –
You can check out the complete set of benchmarks here. Overall the performance is decent for the price it comes at, but with it closely resembling the Nexus 7, the obvious advantage is missing here and might not be future proof either. For example, if more powerful games come out for the new chips, this processor will already be outdated and considering that this is a considerably pricey tablet, that needs to be taken into account.
The tablet comes with 2 GB of RAM, so multi tasking is not much of an issue here, as it has more than 1 GB of RAM free out of the usable 1.7 GB of RAM on regular use. Storage wise we have the 16 GB variant with around 12.57 GB of user available storage, which along with the micro SD expansion slot can serve you pretty well.
Connectivity wise, the tablet is WiFi-only and comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and Miracast but lacks NFC. Apart from these usual suspects, the tablet also supports the USB OTG capability with which we had connected a PS 3 controller for gaming use. Media play back is great on the G Pad 8.3 thanks to the large 16:10 screen and the vibrant colours, but the loudspeakers were too muffled and not lout enough to be worthy of a mention. They should have been better. On the apps side, Android market is full of apps that can play any format you throw at, so that’s covered, and you always have ample amounts of space thanks to the expansion slot. The G Pad is definitely a capable media device if you are looking for one.
Coming to software, the G Pad 8.3 we have is a Google play Edition device, so there are almost zero enhancements or modifications done to the device. We have got the pure unadulterated variant of Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box, which includes various improvements under the hood as well as minor user interface changes. it notably brings the immersive mode, better printing support and overall a consistent design language to the default apps and the new Google apps. You can check out a complete overview of what’s new in Android 4.4 here, there is literally no difference between that UI and what the tablet has.
Talking of Google apps, the major changes like the Google Search launcher or the intuitive dialer are missing from the tablet, so the effect of using Android 4.4 almost remains marginally better than say 4.2.2, but the idea of getting the latest updates without any intervention is the biggest USP of all play edition devices. As a down side, all the useful features of G Pad 8.3’s original edition, like Knock on, Q Slide and Q Pair are all but missing on the Google Play Edition. They are not even implemented in the basic level, like without all the UI modifications, which is a bummer. We had expected at the knock on feature to show up, let alone Q slide or Q pair, which might have needed the necessary UI changes.
When it comes to the interface or the apps, the Android tablets are meant to be used as a phone in portrait rather than as a tablet, with appropriately scaled UIs. While the scaling and adaptive information on a large screen is prevalent everywhere, the actual optimization of screen space through information density is missing and is still a big gaping hole left by Android and Android developers. There are not enough tablet apps and even the good ones aren’t optimized that well. Even default Google apps don’t utilize the full screen estate, like for example GMail which refuses to have a dual column layout, or YouTube which shows big thumbnails in portrait when it can easily show 2. Even the settings screen is not dual column in landscape and we can never understand why, and we can totally understand why OEMs painstakingly create custom UIs for their tablet. The list goes on, and the work is yet to be done. So, apps wise, the iPad mini is still the undisputed leader and even the Windows 8 inch tablets have a better user interface experience for touch than Android, so Google better get the usable interfaces of Honeycomb and ICS back or at least release a usable launcher for tablets.
Coming to battery life, the G Pad comes with a 4600 mAH Lithium Polymer battery which can last for days on on-off usage of the tablet. We had used it extensively for media consumption and reading and the battery stayed on for around 5 days on intermittent on-off usage. Even with continuous usage, we feel the tablet can go on for at least a day or two, which is typical for most tablets out there. Standby time is massive and we never faced a problem of the charge running out after a long time, so overall pretty good battery life can be expected out of the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition.
In the end, the LG G Pad 8.3 comes off as a really well built 8 inch Android tablet that does not offer much as an advantage over the Nexus 7 2013. With nearly exactly the same specifications, it is hard to recommend a stock Android tablet over the Nexus or the feature rich custom skinned counter part, but if you want a bigger screen and arguably better build quality than the Nexus, go for the G Pad. But if you just want a mini tablet at this price range, better go for the iPad mini Retina, which has more apps and a lot more.. well.. apps.
- Good design and build quality
- Display is great, less reflective and not much of a finger print magnet
- Stock Android
- Good Battery Life
- Performance is sometimes laggy and internals are not future proof
- Android lacks good tablet apps
- No sign of LG’s features, not even implemented in the basic level
- Stock UI not optimized for tablets