First Look: LG Optimus 3D

The LG Optimus 3D is the company's latest offering for the smartphone world, and one that comes with 3D no less, but is the new phone from LG likely to be a hit or is the 3D screen merely a gimmick? Pocket-lint was was given access to the new handset ahead of the world's largest mobile phone tradeshow to find out.

Following hot on the heals of the LG Optimus 2X and the LG Optimus Black, the LG Optimus 3D is the new king in town, sporting a bigger screen, a dual core processor, and plenty other tricks. At the core of the 3D experience is a 4.3-inch WVGA resolution screen that allows you to, when you want, enjoy 3D content without the need to wear glasses.

The technology works by creating an ultimate sweet spot, so once you get in the right place, it basically turns the image three dimensional. Move out of that "sweet spot" and you lose the effect. Instead of a slider like the Nintendo 3DS, the LG Optimus 3D has a dedicated button. One minute it's 2D, and at the press of the button the 3D technology is turned on and you're enjoying a new three dimensional life - it really is as simple as that.

That new 3D life is presented in the guise of a 3D hub that been especially built for LG to show off the new skills of the phone and something that if the phone didn't have a dedicated 3D button to launch the hub would probably go unnoticed.

In fact, there are only two instant tale-tell signs that you've got something a little bit different in your pocket with the Optimus 3D. The first is the fact that the phone sports two cameras on the back ready to snap and record 3D pictures or videos.

Picked out by a silver strip (similar to the 2X) the cameras dominate the back of the phone along with a big logo that reads "3D stereoscopic". The dual-cameras themselves are 5 megapixels a piece and that gives you 1080p recording if you're playing with 2D footage and 720p recording if you're going all out with 3D.

It's worth pointing out that to enjoy the 3D filming and photo capabilities you will have to take the pictures in landscape (you're replicating your eyes remember) but that's nothing of a hardship - it will still take regular 2D pictures as you'd expect.

Unfortunately in our First Look we weren't able to export any images for closer inspection, so we won't go into the quality of the shots here. However it's worth pointing out that its likely to perform in a similar vein to the the Optimus 2X. We reviewed the Optimus 2X at the beginning of February and had this to say about the camera:

"On the photo front the LG Optimus 2X picks up on some of the skills we’ve seen from LG before, with a range of tweaks on the normal Android camera interface offering complete onscreen control. You can either touch to focus and then press the “shutter” button to take the shot, or just press the button which will focus and take the shot when you remove your finger from the screen.

"You get the option through the menu to make some immediate changes, like exposure compensation, flash and zoom, but the most exciting options are then within another Settings menu. Hiding in this menu you’ll find a range of options from focus mode to ISO controls. Hiding towards the bottom of the list is “Shot mode” which is where you’ll find some of the more interesting photo effects, like “Out-focusing shot” and “Art shot”. By the time you’ve delved this far it has all got a little convoluted, but the “Art shot” is well worth playing with as it gives you a nice vintage vignette effect. In reality you should be able to access these options much more readily."

The other tale tell sign that this is a 3D-Ready phone is a small dedicated button on one of the sides that simply reads "3D". Press this button and you're thrown into a dedicated 3D area that will give you access to the 3D content already pre-loaded on the phone; that's games, movie trailers and more, but more of that in a moment.

That dedicated hub looks likely to deliver a treasure trove of 3D content that you'll no doubt be gagging to show off to your mates. A three-dimensional rotating menu system pushes the 3D menu system to the limit while three Gameloft games - Nova, Let's Golf 2, and Ashault 6 will see you shooting, swinging, and driving your way in to another dimension. We had time to play Let's Golf 2 and Nova - both of which are massively enhanced by adding a three dimensional layer to the game.

Now we know what you are thinking. We've drunk the 3D Kool Aid so to speak and now spouting off our love for something that most don't get. For me 3D is all about event TV, movies, and games with casual 3D browsing just not there. Yes I have Sky 3D and I've played with the Nintendo 3DS when it was first announced in LA in June at E3 in 2010.

But Chris Hall, our Reviews Editor is considerably more sceptical and thankfully was able to make our hands-on session with the Optimus 3D as well. He was impressed, and almost turned around by the 3D performance as to why you might want it, but suggested that he wouldn't be rushed into forming a verdict until he had considerably longer to experience the new three-dimensional world laid out before him.

Where the Optimus 3D works is that the screen is so big it just engulfs you into the 3D experience adding to the gaming, or movie watching. But in adding 3D to the phone, LG haven't sacrificed the 2D experience. The screen is stunning in 2D, giving devices like the Sony Ericsson Arc or the Samsung Galaxy S II a run for their money. That's a big factor and should go some way to allaying fears that this is 3D for 3D's sake. In fact you could go about using the Optimus 3D without ever using the 3D aspect at all.

Get past gaming - there are bound to be more and could you imagine Angry Birds in 3D (woah) - you've got movies to watch and make and the promise of other content too. LG has told Pocket-lint they are working with a number of partners to make things happen. YouTube 3D is already on board with the ability to shoot a movie and upload it directly to the video sharing site, while film partners are still in discussion.

Although the company hasn't confirmed this you can be sure they will be tapping up all those that are providing content for the Nintendo 3DS launch as well as trying to lean on their Sky partnership in the UK - Sky 3D on the go would be nice.

Beyond movies, movie trailers, and games there are a handful of apps, but we're not so sure about those. It might be a mobile experience but we believe the same rules apply: it's all about sitting down to play a game and maybe watch a movie, rather than using 3D to enhance how you surf the web, for example. But as we've said, 3D is just one of the elements of the Optimus 3D. The phone offers plenty more like the Texas Instrument's 1GHz OMAP4 dual-core processor and four times more video decoders than competing designs.  

That, claims LG, doubles the graphics performance of its nearest competitor allowing users to enjoy "superb performance" while web surfing, running applications and enjoying multimedia content. We weren't able to benchmark the device in our play, but if it's anything like the Optimus 2X, and we've no reason to believe it won't be, it's going to be fast. (The 2X has been the fastest Android device we've seen at Pocket-lint to date.)

Then there are the multiple connectivity options including HDMI and DLNA. We are still waiting to find out whether or not you'll be able to send 3D content over DLNA to a 3D compatible TV, e.g., the LG LX9900, or whether you'll just have to stick with the HDMI, but either way it's a great way of sharing your content to a bigger screen.

Verdict

With Android 2.3, Wi-Fi connectivity, GPS, sensors galore, and virtually every other bit of kit you can thinkof, bar NFC, there is plenty going for the Optimus 3D regardless of whether the 3D element excites you or not. Obviously 3D's the main reason to get this smartphone (you'll want to go for the Samsung Galaxy S II or the Optimus 2X if 3D isn't your bag), and from that perspective the handset shouldn't let you down based on what we've seen so far. 

There are plenty of questions still to answer like battery life, what it will be like on the train or bus when you're being jolted around, and the age old question of whether there will be enough content to enjoy. Up against the Nintendo 3DS and we would have to say the 3D experience is better here. The screen is just amazing. It's big, it's impressive and the sweet spot isn't as narrow.

If LG can offer plenty of content, and content that's good enough to take on the likes of Mario, then Nintendo will have something to worry about when it comes to mobile 3D.

The Optimus 3D is expected to launch in Q2.



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