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LG Optimus 4X HD review

We review the LG Optimus 4X, the latest quad-core Android phone

When it comes to sales LG is only a bit part player on the Android scene, so the Optimus 4X HD will naturally struggle to reach out from under the huge weight of publicity its fellow quad-core devices the Samsung Galaxy SIII and HTC One X are getting, but it is a handset that has surprised us in almost every way.

The form factor is unusually well thought out for an LG phone and includes a number of design touches that you may not expect to see in high-end Android phones these days.

The back cover and edges are subtly retro in appearance and add just enough personality to make it feel more than simply a large Android phone that is all about the screen. On the subject of the screen, it performs well in all lighting conditions and the way it handles video and complex games has to be seen to be believed. It does not offer the same immediate gratification as the HTC One X, but the processors and screen technology work together to put it at an advantage for certain tasks.

LG has not overdone the changes to Ice Cream Sandwich, but has included a number of well-chosen apps and also tweaked the interface which can be customised immediately using one of the included themes.

Other changes include a re-arranged settings menu, which Google would do well to use for all versions of Android, and other small tweaks to the phone app which show that LG has really thought about how users will want to interact  with a smartphone. They have managed to make many tasks easier to complete with minimal changes.

A couple of the included games also highlight just how powerful the video processing is in this phone and at times the gaming experience feels very close to console quality.

The camera offers exceptional speed for still photography and feels as though it is taking a photo before you have even pressed the capture button. There is some clever technology employed to allow this process to occur so quickly and once you feel a camera react this quickly, it is difficult to imagine any lag at all from a competitor.

Video capture was not as good as we hoped for in comparison to stills and we found that the auto-focus would lag at times and thus reduce the overall quality of clips. Our test model was not running the absolute final firmware so we would expect this to have been fixed by the time the device goes on sale.

Battery performance was more than acceptable, particular in standby and when performing less demanding tasks, but of course power users will likely still be having to find a charger once a day.

For most users, however, two days of use will not be unusual and at a push even three days could be possible with limited use. When the minimal depth of the phone and large screen are considered, this is impressive battery performance overall.

A good smartphone needs to bring all of its features together cohesively and to work perfectly in tandem with the software it is using and the 4X HD manages to achieve this with ease. It surprised us in almost every way and is a huge leap forward from previous LG Android smartphones.

The form factor, materials used and the overall performance make it a trusty workhorse with a different look to many of the other high-end Android phones and it grew on us very quickly. Some phones feel too delicate to handle without careful use and others try to cram too much in to a small space, but the 4X HD gets the balance right in almost every area.

Besides some concerns over video capture performance, this really is a genuine alternative to the HTC One X and Galaxy SIII and proves that the quality of high-end Android phones is getting better all of the time.

Review written by Shaun McGill