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LG Optimus 3D Review

Everything is going 3D these days. We have the latest movies available in 3D and TVs from most brands are having 3D on their flagship models. Now 3D comes to smart phones and they have finally arrived in Malaysia.

How does 3D work on a smart phone? Is it just a mere gimmick? We’ve given the opportunity to review the latest 3D smart phone from LG – the LG Optimus 3D. Read on to learn our findings.

The LG Optimus 3D is a rather huge device. It has a 4.3″ screen and weighs at 170g. In our hands, it feels heavier than it looks. In fact, it is heavier than the Optimus 2X by 31g. Just like the rest of the newer LG Optimus series, the Optimus 3D has a simple no-nonsense look that doesn’t provoke attention. Over at the top, there’s a discreetly placed ear piece above the mirror finished LG logo and a VGA front facing camera at the side. Not wanting to look too bland at the front, there are some brushed metal elements at the top and bottom.

Over at the back, plastic cover looks basic with a long strip of metal that frames up the dual 5MP cameras and LED flash. The words “3D Stereoscopic” is neatly engraved, giving away its 3D display credentials which requires no glasses at all. Despite its bland back plate, the slight hint of rubber soft touch makes it pleasant to hold.

At the sides, things get a little bit different on the Optimus 3D. The volume rocker is located on the right instead of the usual left. There’s also a dedicated 3D toggle button on the right which we mistaken at first for a camera shutter. At the left, there are 2 ports – micro USB and micro HDMI which are covered by plastic flaps.

Internally, the Optimus 3D runs on a dual-core 1GHz processor with dual channel memory. While this sounds similar as LG’s first Optimus 2X, the processors are actually different as the 3D runs on dual-core 1GHz Ti OMAP4430 while the 2X is running on Nvidia Tegra 2. Most flagship dual-core Android released these days comes with 1GB of RAM, however the Optimus 3D is only having 512MB. Despite having half the amount, LG claims that the performance should be close if not better as the Optimus 3D boasts having dual-core, dual channel and dual memory for optimal performance. The benefit of having dual channel is better capacity to handle multiple requests simultaneously as demonstrated by LG in a factory line video. We’ll find out if this holds water in the benchmark figures later. On board there’s 8GB of internal storage which is expandable up to 32GB extra via microSD.

Out of the box, the Optimus 3D runs on Android 2.2 with LG custom UI. Android 2.3 Gingerbread is something we have been waiting for LG to release for a long time and they have mentioned that it will be released in stages to LG Optimus series in Q4 this year. We hope they roll it out soon as promised as running Android 2.2 in 2011 is quite a turn off for those that wants to keep up with the latest version.

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Although it runs on Android 2.2, LG’s custom UI is quite pleasant to use. It isn’t as extensive and overwhelming like HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz but sufficient enough for most needs. Compared to the Optimus 2X, the Optimus 3D seems to be a bit more smoother and we don’t find any noticeable lag. This could be due to less pre-installed apps/bloatwares and the dual-channel architecture. The noticeable software difference is the browser as the Optimus 3D has a custom browser with better tab switching and navigation toolbar at the bottom.

To find out how it compares in performance figures, we ran Quadrant which returned 2566 points. This is rather close and identical to the Optimus 2X which scored 2560 in the same benchmark.

Now onto the main highlight – the 3D experience. Despite being a 3D smart phone, most of the phone usage is in 2D. The home screen, productivity apps and browsers are no different. In 2D, the screen is bright with great details and can be viewed clearly from various angles. The 3D magic comes alive when you enter the 3D Space, a special application hub that brings all the 3D content together – 3D Guide, Youtube 3D, 3D Gallery, 3D Camera, 3D Games & Apps in a rather cool rotating carousel in 3D. This is where most users will get to experience the 3D mode when using the phone. The first time we saw this, we are impressed with how perception of depth is created. Objects doesn’t necessary pop up but perceive as if there’s a box stage behind the screen. You’ve got to experience it yourself to understand this.

When viewing 3D contents, it takes a while to get used to it. LG recommends a viewing distance of 30-40cm which is a typical angle for viewing videos or playing games. From our experience, each user has to find their own sweet spot which isn’t a problem adjusting. There’s also a 3D depth slider where you can adjust how much “3D effect” desired.

When viewing such content, you must look dead on straight as looking sideways even slightly will distort the image and possibly lead to headaches. This makes 3D viewing a personal experience and you can’t really have friends watching it with you at the same time. To push to the big screen, you have a choice to mirror your 3D content via HDMI or DLNA. If you have existing 2D pics, the Optimus 3D is capable of converting them to 3D but the effects isn’t as good as natively shot 3D pics.

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Out of the box, LG has pre-set up 3 game 3D titles – Lets Golf 2, Asphalt 6 and Nova. Each title requires about 300MB to download. The gaming experience is simply incredible and it does give a deeper feel into it. In games such as Let’s Golf, the ball and text appear floating across the screen. Nova is a rather intensive FPS game which gives a more immersed feel while playing.

The only setback when viewing 3D is the compromise of display clarity. In 3D mode, there’s this noticeable vertical interlaced lines which is a result of 3D stereoscopic display at work. This is more apparent when viewing photos where details do matter. However once you get immersed into the 3D experience, the vertical lines is a rather small tradeoff.

On creating 3D content, the camera app has a toggle button between 2D and 3D. When recording or taking 3D shots, the recommended distance is between 50 cm to 2 meters. If you record too close, the main object will appear distorted and out of focus. Being too far, the cameras will not be able to register the depth of far objects.

While the Optimus 3D has dual 5MP cameras, 3D pictures are taken at a lower 3MP and 3D videos at 720p. In 2D, it is capable of taking 5MP pictures and 1080p videos. In terms of shooting orientation, 3D mode only supports landscape which is probably due to the camera orientation. If you tried taking it in portrait, the image will just appear flat when viewing in portrait however you’ll get to see some depth when viewed in landscape. It is also worth noting that the assisted LED flash only works with 2D shots and there’s no way to enable it when taking pics in 3D. In low light conditions, you won’t get much 3D effect as compared to brighter shots.

Photos taken in 3D are saved in JPS format which is actually JPG with 2 photos side by side. To demonstrate the 3D samples, we have put together some animated GIF animation with minor adjustments. Obviously this isn’t as good as the real deal but we try to give our viewers a rough idea how 3D pics will turn out.

For videos, they are saved in MP4 format. If played normally it also shows 2 videos side by side. We’ve uploaded some clips to Youtube and it was smart enough to detect it as 3D. Hit the Youtube link to view it in 3D mode.

The variety of 3D experience really depends on availability of content. Currently LG is working closely with game publishers like Gameloft to make more 3D games available. Several weeks back, LG has announced that they are working on a 3D converter which turns OpenGL based games to 3D on the fly. For 3D videos, LG Partnership with Youtube to offer 3D channel is a great way to discover new 3D content which consists of movie trailers, documentary and sample videos.

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Overall, the Optimus 3D is a pretty good device and its 3D experience truly lives up to expectation if not exceeding it. LG being in the 3D business with its battery-less glasses for TV has demonstrated its 3D capabilities well on the Optimus 3D. So how does it fare as a phone? Surprisingly the battery which is rated 1500mAh lasted about 15-17 hours of mixed use, which is much longer than the Optimus 2X that also has the same battery capacity. This probably is a result of a energy efficient processor and less background apps running on the Optimus 3D.

The Optimus 3D today faces another rival, the HTC Evo 3D which also offers 3D Stereoscopic screen and dual 5MP camera. In our short time having both phones side by side, the LG 3D effects feel more natural and 3D pics taken doesn’t look over exaggerated. The 3D Space on the LG also makes it easy to showcase 3D content in central hub, which is lacking on the HTC. In addition, the Evo 3D only takes 3D pics in 2MP while the Optimus 3D takes at a higher 3MP. So if you’re looking for the best 3D smart phone, the Optimus 3D is the recommended choice. You can check out our brief video comparison.

Whether this is a recommended device really dependent on how much 3D matters to you. As said earlier, most of the phone operations are still in 2D and the 3D effects only come alive in 3D photos, videos and games. While shooting 3D contents are cool, sharing it becomes a problem as not everybody you know has a 3D playback device such as 3D TV or 3D enabled computer monitor.

Without a doubt, having a 3D smart phone puts you at the centre of attention but for most of the time, it is just another heavy dual-core 4.3” Android phone. We have got to admit that 3D smart phone isn’t really for everyone out there. For the asking price of RM2199, that’s RM100 more than most dual-core phones in the market with slimmer and lighter profile.

However if you’re into games, the 3D screen does make the experience more involving. With dual-core and dual-channel architecture, the performance is something hardcore gamers would appreciate especially with fast paced 3D intensive titles from Gameloft. We even find ourselves, non-gamers getting hooked to the games pretty easily on the Optimus 3D. That’s how much the experience got us sold. So before you brush off 3D as a gimmick for phones, we recommend trying it yourself before deciding.

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