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LG Optimus 3D review

The first 3D smartphone gives you video, photos and games in three dimensions - without needing glasses. Is this the next big thing in smartphones? Find out in our full hands-on review!

It’s not often we encounter a smartphone with a genuine unique selling point, but the LG Optimus 3D is one of them. As it’s name suggests it is a device with 3D functionality, the first of its kind to have made its way to the UK. 3D has been embraced by the movie, TV and gaming industries, so is including it in a smartphone a natural next step, or is it a mere gimmick?

The 3D effect has not been implemented throughout the entire UI, thankfully, but is instead limited to specific areas of content creation and consumption. It is accessed by pressing the dedicated 3D button on the side of the handset. This opens the 3D hub where you can choose from Camera, YouTube, Games & Apps and Gallery.

With the camera you can shoot video and stills in 3D thanks to the presense of the dual lenses on the back of the phone that are largely responsible for making this such a chunky device. You can shoot 3D video at 720p resolution (and 2D at 1080p), and stills at three megapixels (2D stills are 5MP).

Still photos shot in 3D can only be viewed on 3D devices; the 3D video can be displayed on  a 3D TV via the HDMI-out port on the Optimus and you can also upload it to the YouTube 3D channel.

The effect is actually pretty good. You don’t need glasses for the 3D to work, but that does mean you need to look at the screen at a precise angle – square on about a foot from your face – in order for it to work. Moving off that line causes the images on screen to become fuzzy. It does take some practice to get used to the right angle, but soon becomes fairly natural.

Of course this does mean you can’t show anyone else anything 3D on the screen without physically handing them the device, and eyestrain is also an issue, as your eyes do become quite tired with extended use. Handily there is a setting you can use to adjust the amount of 3D-ness, and reducing it does make it a little easier on the eyes (arguably also defeats the object).

The other main area where you’re likely to utilise the 3D feature is in gaming. Here the Optimus 3D turns itself into a smartphone version of the Nintendo 3DS and is generally successful. There are a few games pre-installed, including Let’s Golf 2 and the racing game Asphalt 6. Both are well implemented.

The latter is slightly odd because, due to the need to view the screen from that precise angle, the accelerometer is not used for steering and it becomes a defiantly button-based game, which feels like a step backwards. Gaming looks like the best way for 3D to be exploited on a smartphone, once there’s more content developed for it.

Overall we found the 3D functions to be a lot of fun to use, even if it never managed to convince us that it was as yet anything more than a gimmick. And there’s one area where the technology really does struggle: battery life.

Away from the 3D aspect the phone is a pretty standard Android device. The cameras and 4.3” screen combine to make it a bit of a beast, far bigger and weightier than its dual-core rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S II.

LG’s customisations of the Android UI are fairly unintrusive – it’s Android 2.2 at present, with an update promised for the future – but while the 1GHz dual-core processor is undoubtedly powerful we did encounter some occasional stuttering with suggests the software is not as well optimised as it could be, especially as we saw the same thing on LG’s Optimus 2X as well. And there’s one other point of frustration: the screen is a serious fingerprint magnet.

As a result the Optimus 3D is a difficult phone to recommend. If you’re an early adopter of 3D kit then this will obviously be a phone you’ll want to look at. But if you don’t expect to be using the 3D functions heavily then you’ll find better dual-core smartphones available as an alternative.

The LG Optimus 3D is an interesting phone that fulfills pretty much everything it promises. It feels gimmicky, though. We’d be inclined to wait a couple of generations for the glassesless technology and power consumption to improve before we adopt 3D in our smartphones.