Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
6/17/2011 10:04:50 AM
If 3D is your bag you?re well catered for with the ability to shoot and record, watch 3D videos and play three-dimensional games
The battery life is very poor and therefore you won?t want to wander too far from a power source
If movie critic Mark Kermode is to be believed, 3D cinema is already dying a death, with an increasing number of film buffs turning back to the two-dimensional experience. If Dr K’s prophesy turns out to be true, then LG may come to regret its decision to become the first manufacturer to unveil a 3D handsetin the shape of the LG Optimus 3D. The idea of a three-dimensional phone certainly brings out the inner geek in us, so here’s hoping it’s more fab than fad.
The LG Optimus 3D is a real heavyweight in terms of design. Its focal point is the 4.3-inch display, but your attention is immediately drawn to the heavy-ended top half of the device. The reason for this bulk is revealed when you flip the phone over. The back of the handset is adorned with not one but two camera lenses, which sit either side of an LED flash on a thin strip of metal. We’ve been critical of these metallic strips in the past, as they do nothing for the aesthetics of a handset and simply remind us the handset is a ‘Google’ phone or, in this case, that it has a ‘3D Stereoscope’ – incidentally, this is also the reason for the two lenses. This also means there is a slight chin on the back of the phone, but it’s subtle enough to not be an eyesore. What concerned us far more was how much of a fingerprint magnet the screen proved to be. Now a display of this magnitude will always attract a degree of grubbiness, but while the Optimus 3D’s peers (the Samsung Galaxy S II and iPhone 4, for example) have managed to keep them to a minimum (perhaps with the aid of an anti-fingerprint coating?), the LG Optimus 3D is a haven for your paw prints. This is a real shame, as when you wake the phone, the display is impressively vibrant. It oozed colour and the pixel resolution gives the icons crispness with definitive edges. Below the screen, LG continues what it started with the Optimus 2X, shying away from hard keys and instead opting for four touch keys; settings, home, back and search. These keys illuminate when the phone is alive and provide a haptic response each time you press them.The Optimus 3D currently runs on Google’s Android 2.2 platform, which puts it a step behind some of its rivals, though LG assures us that the Gingerbread update is incoming. Despite its Google credentials, LG has very much put its own stamp on proceedings. For instance, fire up the main menu and you’ll find all your programs and apps arranged in one of three categories; 3D applications, Applications and Downloads. These are all pretty self explanatory, with anything 3D related (more of which shortly) in the first category, any apps you download from the Android Market in the latter and all your other programs, such as the music player and camera, grouped in the Applications section. However, this is just the default setting.
Indeed, you can change the name of the groups, add groups and drag and drop icons into different categories. But to do this you will need to pinch and pull the screen, which in turn will minimise the categories. And therein lies the problem. The capacitive touch-screen is just not as responsive as we’d expect of a handset of this calibre, repeatedly requiring more than one attempt to minimise the menu or scroll down the display. Our finger swipes were often slowed down by the greasy surface of the display, perhaps a result (or cause) of the aforementioned grubby paw prints.
But that’s not what you came to this tech party for is it? No, it’s the 3D credentials. Well, first things first, if you were anxious about putting on a pair of glasses each time you wanted to feel the 3D effect, you needn’t have worried. LG has cleverly implemented a 3D technology that means you can watch videos, views photos and play games spectacle-free. With 3D at the heart of the Optimus 3D, it’s no surprise to find LG has kitted the handset out with a designated hard key that takes you to all your three-dimensional goodness. Located on the right hand side of the phone, you’ll need to hold it down for a couple of seconds before you’re whisked to a 3D carousel that includes links to your 3D camera, gallery, YouTube channel, gaming hub and guide to all things three-dimensional.Let’s tackle the camera first. As touched upon, the Optimus 3D is fitted with two back-facing lenses that helps create the 3D effect. This means that to use the 3D camera, be it for video or still footage, you need to hold the phone horizontally. When using the viewfinder, don’t expect a crystal clear shot. By its very nature, the 3D effect looks fuzzy. We found this a bit grating on our eyes, something that proved to be a running theme with the Optimus 3D, but the good news is it definitely works. To enjoy the results, you’ll need to hold the phone about 30cm away from your eyes and as still as you can – which reduces the opportunity to show off the phone’s 3D prowess to a group of mates. If we were LG, we would have implemented some kind of kickstand on the back of the phone. However, if you have a 3D TV you can hook the Optimus 3D up to a bigger screen with the aid of an HDMI cable.When viewing your still images you can press the 3D key (there’s also a virtual one on the display too) which allows you to switch between three-dimensional and two-dimensional. Doing this only highlights how much colour and sharpness you lose when opting for 3D, but we admit that we were pretty awed by the technology, especially as no glasses were needed. Then came the slightly blurred vision followed by the niggling headache. Though our handset was an early review sample, it’s only fair we highlight the fact that the camera crashed on us on two separate occasions. So severe was the crash that we had to turn the phone off and back on again. Like we said, ours was an early review sample, so perhaps these issues will have been ironed out at the time of launch. You can also record video in 3D, which like the still imagery drains colour but certainly achieves its 3D objective. Footage can then be uploaded directly to the new(ish) 3D YouTube channel. With a media juggernaut like YouTube behind the 3D revolution, our doubts about this technology may prove unfounded. As well as uploading your own 3D masterpieces, here you’ll be able to view various content ranging from movie trailers to sports highlights. Some clips were mysteriously without sound, but if 3D is your bag it makes for a great service that is well executed on the Optimus 3D.The third and final mainstay of the device in terms of 3D is gaming. LG has preloaded the Optimus 3D with a gaming hub that features four titles from Gameloft including a racing game, shoot ‘em up and golf simulator.The first time you load up each game you’ll have to wait an age, but after that you’re good to go. We’d have liked LG to have implemented use of the accelerometers, especially with the racing game, rather than relying on the touch-screen, but the graphics were impressive and the gameplay slick. You can also alter the levels of 3Dness a la the Nintendo 3DS by adjusting the virtual bar that sits in the corner of the screen. We found the midway point to be the optimum level.
The fact that we found the Optimus 3D a tad laggy, especially when firing up the camera and games, surprised us, as it’s equipped with a powerful 1GHz OMAP4 dual-core processor that on paper at least means it has few superiors. To be fair, it did handle our web activity a lot more convincingly. Webpages loaded in next to no time even when we had multiple windows open. We also liked the fact that you’re able to save webpages with the native browser and read them later offline.However, other aspects of the browsing experience were not so forthcoming. For instance, you have to navigate your way through various menus before you can copy and paste some text, and even then it proved inaccurate and difficult to highlight the correct words.
With such a powerful engine, not to mention all the 3D razzmatazz, we expected to have to charge the Optimus 3D on a semi-regular basis. Yet we still managed to underestimate how often we’d need to find an electricity output.
There’s no doubt the LG Optimus 3D possesses a degree of wow factor. Yet we remain unconvinced as to whether 3D has any future in terms of mobile. We went from wonder to eye strain to irritation before reverting back to the standard two-dimensional approach, which ultimately defeats the purpose of the phone.The Optimus 3D may well prove us wrong and be popular among early adopters, but in our humble opinion we’d be inclined to argue that a phone that can play and display holographic 3D images might best be saved for the movies and comic books.