The LG G Pad 8.3 is an interesting tablet on paper: mid-to-high range specs, a $349 price tag, some added value features in the UI, and a form factor that's inviting to just about anyone seeking an Android competitor to the iPad mini. It's not without its flaws, though, so here's our full review if you've been eyeing LG's opening foray into the mid-sized tablet market and want to know more about what it's capable of.
LG G Pad 8.3 Video Review
The G Pad 8.3 is easily one of the best-designed Android tablets out there. The back is a combination of brushed metal and plastic (we had a black model for review, but I saw the white model at IFA, and it's equally lovely to look at), and the front is simple, with slim and well-proportioned bezels.
The device's ports and buttons all seem to be in the right place: a 3.5mm headphone jack, IR blaster, and microSD card slot – expandable up to 64GB – all sit on top of the G Pad; the volume rocker and power/sleep button are on the right side of the tablet; and your microUSB port and microphone are on the bottom. A rear-facing 5MP camera and front-facing 1.2MP camera round out the device's externals.
LG made a good choice in regards to speaker placement; they lay vertically along the left-rear of the device (as you look at it from the front). This setup generally means you won't be muffling the speakers with your hand, and in landscape mode works even better to project sound from the back. We will admit, though, we'd really like to start seeing front facing speakers en masse at some point.
The G Pad's screen is flat out stunning. This tablet has an IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1920×1200, putting it up there with the Nexus 7 (2013) and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX. It has less pixel density than either of those devices due to its slightly larger screen size, but the screen's still really beautiful to behold, and makes consuming media a real joy. Unlike AMOLED, you won't find oversaturation here, which is a welcome change, especially when viewing video; however, you'll still need to crank up the brightness if you're outside in broad daylight.
The G Pad ships with Android 4.2.2, and LG's custom software on top of it. Where Samsung enjoys a bevy of apps with an "S" prefix, LG goes with a "Q" — so you'll be seeing a lot of apps like QPair, QSlide and QRemote on board when you boot up the G Pad. Here's the full list of apps and a brief explanation of their function:
QPair – Offers the option to link your Android smartphone via Bluetooth and seamlessly sync notifications for calls and messages. The G Pad's international version can also receive calls and tether to your phone, but sadly, that option isn't available here in the U.S., which was disappointing.
Knock On — Pulled from the LG G2, Knock On allows you to wake/sleep your G Pad by tapping on the screen twice. It's generally a good feature, but every now and again it would have issues recognizing taps.
QRemote — Uses the onboard IR blaster to change the G Pad into a remote. As a personal aside, I'm still not sure of this particular feature's usefulness, but it did work relatively easily when I tried it out.
QSlide — LG's signature multitasking function, allowing you to open three apps on one screen at a time and resize/change the opacity of each mini-window. Still works great, but we wish more apps worked with it. Right now, only eight apps are compatible with QSlide.
Slide Aside — An interesting feature that allows you to pick an app and, using a three-finger swipe to the left, set the app aside for quick access later. You can store up to three apps at a time, but if you're a deft Android user, you're probably fast with the app history menu, so you may not find Slide Aside useful. Also, when you bring up an app, it removes it from Slide Aside, meaning you have to re-swipe it to the left every time you move to a new app. We wish LG offered the option to pin our three most-used apps (Gmail, Chrome, and Calendar, for example) to always be in this virtual drawer, but no dice.
Smart Screen/Smart Video — Both use the front-facing camera to check if you're looking at the device, and then will either dim the screen or pause the video if you aren't (depending on what you're doing). Truthfully, I found both of these features annoying, as I wear glasses, and the G Pad seemed to read the glare in my glasses as "not looking at the screen," consequently interrupting what I was doing.
QMemo — LG's annotation/screencapping software, which isn't really better or worse than any of its counterparts on competing devices.
Notebook — A companion app to QMemo that lets you take notes. It's pretty straightforward and simple. No bells and whistles to be found here. Just note taking.
Unfortunately, most of those apps are either redundant or glitchy, but QSlide, Knock On and Slide Aside were probably my favorites of the group. Some finessing might make a few more of these features really pop, but for now, they'll probably end up forgotten and unused by everyday consumers.
Specs-wise, the LG G Pad looks middling on paper, as it's packing a Snapdragon 600 and 2GB RAM inside. Fortunately, the lack of Snapdragon 800 didn't seem to slow down the G Pad much, and using it generally felt nimble and smooth throughout the review period, even when playing games or HD movies.
Generally, the G Pad takes serviceable photos, but it's not going to replace your smartphone or point-and-shoot.
If you do have the need to grab a picture with the G Pad, you'll find the G Pad snaps decent pics, neither good nor bad. In short, it's great in a pinch, but you'll be quickly disappointed if you start taking all your photos with your G Pad.
The G Pad puts its huge 4,600mAh battery to good use; in fact, it netted such good battery life the first test, we had to run it through its paces again. Generally speaking, I'm a moderate tablet user: I've got multiple apps on push (email, social media, etc), and use my tablet for a variety of tasks, but generally tend to surf the web and maybe catch some Netflix or Amazon Prime Video on it. Also, I almost always use my tablets and phones with the brightness under 25 percent of maximum; that being said, I cruised through an entire weekend with the G Pad without searching for a charge, and that's pretty impressive.
The second time around, I tried the same pattern with brightness cranked up to maximum, and it just about halved my usage time. I still got through an entire day's use without breaking a sweat, though, which was a pleasant surprise. As always, you'll experience less battery life if you're watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy nonstop with your brightness cranked up (you're probably not making it to Return of the King, either), you're a power user and can't stop checking your tablet, or you've got a spotty Wi-Fi connection.
The LG G Pad is a really good tablet; unfortunately, in a world of Nexus 7s and iPad minis, a tablet has to be great to compete.
The LG G Pad is a really good tablet; unfortunately, in a world of Nexus 7s, Kindle Fires, and iPad minis, a tablet has to be great to really compete in the mid-sized tablet market. There's a certain something missing from the G Pad, and we can't quite put our finger on it, but it's a factor that cannot be overlooked. The $349 price tag is painful, especially when you consider the 2013 Nexus 7 and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX both start at $229, a full $120 less than the G Pad. It's a beautiful device, and it handles Android really well, but there's an intangible element here that keeps the G Pad from being an incredible, "can't miss" tablet.
Ashley Esqueda had the device for 7 days, and used it as her sole tablet for 4 days. We will be returning the device following the publication of this review.