Don't call it a phablet: Hands on with LG's new super-powerful G2 smartphone

With a 5.2-inch screen, the new LG G2 enters the ranks of big-screen Android smartphones

With its plus-sized screen, LG's just-announced G2 Android smartphone approaches the nebulous phablet territory, but it definitely looks and feels like a phone.

The G2, which is nearly bezel-less, is able to carry a 5.2-inch screen--that's just a bit larger than the 5 inches of the plus-sized Samsung Galaxy S4, but still short of the 5.5 inch display on the Galaxy Note II or a similarly sized screen on LG's own recently introduced Optimus G Pro.

Aside from its slightly smaller display, the G2 shares a lot of specs in common with its slightly older cousin, save one notable exception: The G2 trumps the Optimus G's Snapdragon 600 processor with a bleeding-edge Snapdragon 800 processor.

And the upgrade certainly shows. The G2 is able to bolt between multiple running applications with a mere sliding of three fingers. Using it is one of the best multi-tasking experiences I've had with a mobile device.

According to a spokesman from Qualcomm, the beefier engine gives the G2 a 30% boost for its CPU and a 50% power-up for its GPU.

Combined with the diminished processing demands of the relatively smaller display, the G2 not only blows the G Pro out of the water, but is one of the most powerful handsets currently on the market.

Downside

On a negative note, the phone's outward appearance doesn't seem to fit its impressive specs. Many newer phones have upped their design game with a more sophisticated approach outer casing.

The G2, on the other hand feels light and dressed in cheap plastic. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover--especially one with as powerful an engine inside--but the G2 just feelskind of like it deserves to sit on a bottom shelf.

Buttons to the back

One of the LG's big design innovations for the G2 is the removal of all physical buttons from the side or top. The only physical buttons on the whole device are on the back, just below the camera lens--they sit in a small module that consists of a main power button and two volume buttons.

The thinking behind the back buttons is that this is the area where your index finger will naturally sit when you hold the phone. The placement of my phone's buttons on the side has never been a huge concern of mine, and this new configuration seemed neither a major improvement nor a great detriment. I will admit though that, as advertised by the LG folks, the configuration makes taking selfies much easier. You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

The hottest new phone feature of summer 2013 is getting to the phone's camera in as few steps as possible. If you hold down the sleeping G2's bottom volume button, the camera awakens.

Additionally, holding down the top button on the G2 will directly launch the note-taking app. Unfortunately, though, you will not be able to personalize what apps these buttons launch, which seems like a missed opportunity.

The other cool innovation in the G2 is the ability to double tap your sleeping phone's screen into an awakened state: so-called knock-knock functionality. You can also double tap it back into sleep (you also can use the main power button on the back to do the same).

A smart camera

The G2's camera boasts multi-point auto focus, which can prompt up to nine auto-focus points while trying to capture a still image. Along with the phone's optical image stabilizer (OIS)--which LG claims is the first OIS combined a 13-megapixel camera--the technology promises to capture crisp clear images no matter how much you or your subject move.

The OIS and multi-auto focus seemed to work well enough. However, the camera function that caught my eye was tracking zoom. You can use this video functionality on the G2 to auto track your subject and keep it in focus within the frame at all times--no matter how the phone or subject move.

As a side note, the G2's camera also produces one of the most satisfying "click" sound effects of any phone I've experienced.

There's no word yet on a release date or price for the LG G2.

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