(Pocket-lint) - The LG G Pad 7.0 is here to show that you needn't spend a fortune to get a feature-rich 7-inch tablet, acting as LG's charge to try and shake-up the reign of Google Nexus 7 rule. In this regard the G Pad packs in a few features you generally don't get in tablets of this class: great battery life and multi-tasking features being just two.
So in its newer 7-inch form the G Pad may not put on a peacock-like display as the earlier and better-made G Pad 8.3 did just nine short months ago. But we've got cash to save, and with an on-sale price around the £140 mark (often even less online) that's why the 7-inch G Pad will gather plenty of attention. Is it good enough to send Google and its nearest competitors packing or does it arrive too late with too little to truly stand out?
We really liked the G Pad 8.3 last year but, somehow, the G Pad 7.0 just fails to inspire or stand out from the crowd. If anything its design is plain bland. While it comes in a few different colour options if you live outside of the UK, our Asia-sourced model is the straightforward black finish. A white option will also be available on these shores.
It's a small, fairly anonymous-looking plastic tablet more likely to be identified by the LG logos on the back and front than any particular design elements. Perhaps that's no bad thing, though, as LG's designs aren't always quirk-free.
The LG G Pad 7.0's screen surround bezel isn't too chunky, and with the device measuring 10.1mm thick and weighing 293g overall, it's not as chunky as some older small tablets. But this is the here and now, in 2014, a time when other new tablets are also incoming and similar products already litter the market. Given that the LG is almost identical in weight to the Nexus 7 (2013), but slightly fatter than the 8.7mm-thick Google device it can't proclaim to be streets ahead.
At this price we didn't expect the G Pad 7.0 to offer the aluminium flair of the G Pad 8.3, but the plastic finish speaks in far more budget terms. That's harmless, so long as you know what you're getting. On the positive side the 7-inch form factor is small enough to grasp in one hand, which is one of the real bonuses of a tablet this size.
READ: LG G Pad 8.3 review
The Wi-Fi only model also comes with a microSD slot to expand the limited 8GB internal storage (and only around 4GB of that is accessible too because of the operating system install). So you'll need to buy an additional card if you intend on having much content on board at all, while there's little core space available for apps to live.
The LG G Pad 7.0 also can't claim to offer a tremendous screen resolution. With 1,280 x 800 pixels making up the display, providing a pixel density of 216ppi, it's far behind the 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution of the Nexus 7.
Side-by-side and it does look a good deal less sharp than the Nexus 7 too, which isn't a particular surprise given that the LG has less than half the number of pixels. If you're a display nut, you'll be better off spending a bit more cash on the Nexus. It's all relative, of course, as the £200 asking price of the 16GB Nexus 7 is £60+ more than the LG's asking price.
Sharpness of the LG G Pad 7.0 screen isn't terrible by any means though, that's not what we're implying. It's simply comparable to other tablets in the price bracket, such as the Tesco Hudl or Asus MeMo Pad 7.
What LG most definitely gets right is the type of panel used: it's an IPS LCD, the same technology used by most tablets including even top-of-the-line models such as the iPad Air. It means angled viewing not compromised by a contrast drop, so you can view it at a tilted angle or it's easy to show off content to your mates without them staring at a greyed-out series of shapes. Holding a movie night around a 7-inch tablet probably isn't a good idea in the first place, of course, but that's another story.
Colour and contrast are slightly lacking overall, and there's no auto brightness setting either - meaning you'll have to manually control the screen's intensity. Again, this is similar to the Tesco Hudl. But manage your expectations and your eyes will soon bed into the screen's slight limitations.
READ: Tesco Hudl review
The LG G Pad 7.0's software takes a little bit of settling into as well. Rather than a standard Android interface, the tablet uses a custom LG interface that fiddles with the look and feel of the system a bit. It's still build upon Android though, so you can download all those usual app related goodies no problems and tweak the look of the LG G Pad 7.0 a fait bit with launchers and widgets.
But it's not always entirely successful, looking a little half-baked and lacking some of the attention to detail seen in some of the best custom interfaces. All the features are there, but aren't relayed with the sort of visual finesse we're looking for. Like we said with the G Pad 8.3, some of it is just outright confusing in the notifications department.
A less-than-amazing interface and the screen issues are important black marks in a tablet that has some pretty serious rivals - not just the Nexus 7 but also the Asus MeMo Pad HD 7, which offers better display colours. However, the LG G Pad 7.0 has a few pretty great things to shout about too, which is its turnaround point.
READ: Asus MeMo Pad 7 review
First, battery life is great. Despite having a 4000mAh unit, its stamina is top notch. It'll last for 12 hours of video, and days on standby without losing much battery at all. As such, it makes a pretty great occasional-use tablet - one that's going to lie on the coffee table or sofa a fair bit.
It has a few other features that are perfect for this sort of scenario too. There's an Infrared transmitter on the top, which allows the LG G Pad 7.0 function as a universal TV remote control with the help of the QRemote app.
You just need to tell it which remotes you want to replace and you're away. It supports Miracast too, which is a wireless standard that lets you pipe video and sound over to your TV. Usually our first assumption of a 7-inch tablet is that it's going to be good for portable use, but if anything the LG G Pad 7.0 makes plenty of sense at home.
You get these sort of lounge features in the main Samsung rival, the Galaxy Tab 4 7.0, but that tablet costs a little more. And the cheaper Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 has a much less desirable and lower-res screen. More brownie points for the LG G Pad 7.0, then.
The LG tablet also offers multi-tasking features that are generally reserved for bigger devices. In the navigation bar sits an extra button that enables you select two apps to run at once. It's hardly essential and is something we've seen plenty of times before, but it's a neat extra regardless.
We can't really complain about the tablet's CPU either. It uses the Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, with 1GB of RAM. It has enough power to play most games you may care to throw at it, and using such a popular chipset should be good news for future support too.
There is a bit of lag in operation, thanks to the slightly flaky interface, though. As well as not looking all that hot, the version of the LG interface used here doesn't seem to be thoroughly optimised for performance. There's the odd jerky moment when swiping between screens or launching apps, where the Moto G has taught us an Android 4.4 device with a Snapdragon 400 CPU can put on a great show. As with so many other elements the LG G Pad 7.0 is not bad, it just isn't perfect.
The internal speaker could be more powerful too. There are dual speaker outlets on the back, but sound only comes out of one. Contrary to what the design suggests, it's a mono setup.
As much as we don't care much about cameras in tablets, it's here that the built-in 3-megapixel rear one (that can only take 2MP shots it seems) adds another black mark against the LG's name. There's also no flash and no autofocus, while the front-facing camera delivers soft results.
Results aren't up to much either, with photos generally full of image noise. As with any camera, you can have some fun with it, but there are no extra modes to really take advantage of this. So the cameras are best forgotten except when you need them in an emergency.
It's hard not to be critical of the LG G Pad 7.0 because it's a notable step down from the excellent G Pad 8.3 model - and not just in size terms. Strip away that aluminium shell, align the resolution to match the lower spec of the Tesco Hudl, and it's a shadow of its more powerful cousin.
But that's a given at the cut-down price point. Search online and you'll find the LG for around £115 which sees it stands shoulder-to-shoulder against its near competitors, such as the Asus MeMo Pad 7.
Yes, the LG has a sometimes fussy user interface and there's no auto brightness adjustment. However, battery life is great, power is ample and despite a rather bland design we've found single-handed use to be no problems at all. There's also multi-tasking that flies the flag as LG's point of distinction.
The tech connoisseurs among you may well prefer to save up the extra for the much better screen you get with the Nexus 7 of course. It may come down to a preferable feature here or there being the single reason to buy the LG or not.
The G Pad 7.0 is a solid enough tablet product, but simultaneously feels like a disappointment compared to last year's G Pad success. It's not going to steal the Nexus 7 crown by any means, but that's to compare it against the wrong rank. In the world of Asus MeMo Pad 7 and Tesco Hudl the LG G Pad 7.0 holds its own. It's a solid product that would make a decent coffee-table tablet for the whole family.