LG G Pad 8.3 Android tablet

Decent battery life, an excellent display, and reasonable performance let down by overwhelming software

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LG G Pad 8.3
  • LG G Pad 8.3
  • LG G Pad 8.3
  • LG G Pad 8.3

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Excellent screen
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • LG's software is overwhelming
  • Poorly positioned speakers
  • Mediocre cameras

Bottom Line

The LG G Pad 8.3 Android tablet offers decent battery life, an excellent display, and reasonable performance for a competitive asking price. However, LG's software can be overwhelming and confusing if you're a first time user.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 23 stores)

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The LG G Pad 8.3 marks the first time the company has released an Android tablet in Australia. It offers decent battery life, an excellent display, and reasonable performance for a competitive asking price, though LG's software can be overwhelming and confusing if you're a first time user.

Comfortable size, excellent screen

It strikes a nice balance between screen size and portability.

The LG G Pad 8.3 is comparable in size and weight to most of its competitors, particularly the iPad mini with Retina display. It weighs a relatively light 338g and measures 8.3mm thick, and the slightly smaller width compared to the iPad mini means it is comfortable to hold and use single-handedly. We feel it really strikes a nice balance between screen size and portability.

The G Pad 8.3 is constructed largely from plastic but LG has incorporated an aluminium panel on the back that gives it a two-tone look. Most of the front of the tablet is taken up by the display, so it's great to see minimal bezel on the sides, and the top and bottom of the screen.

Build quality feels surprisingly sturdy, despite the entry-level pricing. The matte, white plastic on the sides and the back feels durable, and there are no moving parts, rattles or creaks, even when you apply force or pressure to the tablet. One annoyance is the position of the rear, dual speakers. When using the tablet in portrait orientation they are both located over to one side of the device, and when using the device in landscape with the power and volume keys on top, it's too easy to muffle the speakers with your hand.

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The glossy screen is very reflective.

Most other buttons and ports on the G Pad 8.3 are relatively well placed. There's a power/lock key and a volume rocker on the right side, a micro-USB port and microphone on the bottom, and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card slot, and Infrared port on the top. The volume and lock keys do feel a little spongy and could have been raised more, but we like the small indent on the top of the volume rocker. This makes it easy to feel when pressing the buttons blindly.

The G Pad 8.3, as its name suggests, has an 8.3in IPS touchscreen. LG says the aspect ratio of 16:10 means the screen is better suited to movie playback and entertainment than many smaller tablets on the market. It does minimise the black bar effect you often see on the iPad mini, but the difference doesn't have a huge impact on usability.

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The display has a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels, which gives it a pixel density of 273ppi. That puts it on par with Google's latest Nexus 7, and well ahead of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. The G Pad can't quite mate the 2048x1536 resolution of Apple's new iPad mini, but its certainly no slouch. It displays crisp text, bright, accurate colours and performs relatively well in sunlight. The glossy screen is very reflective, however, especially indoors under fluorescent lighting.

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Overwhelming LG software

The overall look and feel of the skin is cartoon-like.

The LG G Pad 8.3 runs the 4.2 Jelly Bean version of Google's Android operating system, but like the G2 smartphone, LG has skinned the interface with a number of its own features. The software adds some unique features but many of them are gimmicks that you won't use too often. Further, the overall look and feel of the skin is rather cartoon-like, though whether you agree really comes down to personal taste.

The most notable and useful feature of the G Pad 8.3 is QPair, which links the tablet to any Android smartphone via Bluetooth and an LG app. It allows users to receive call and message notifications on the G Pad 8.3, including the ability to reply to messages directly from the tablet. You can't answer the call on the tablet (only receive the notification), but the ability to reply to text messages on the device is something we suspect most users will find beneficial.

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Q Pair also enables immediate activation of the wireless tethering feature, and has a feature called "recent app sticker" that displays a small notification of the last used app on the tablet when you switch to the phone, and vice versa. However, it doesn't open it to the exact location you were on the other device, so it's not something that's really useful.

The G Pad 8.3 borrows a feature called "knock on" from the G2. It allows users to unlock the screen when you double-tap it quickly, and locks it again when you double-tap the status bar or an empty area on the home or lock screens. It's a great feature that's let down by LG's poor implementation — it doesn't work every single time, frustratingly leaving you tapping on the screen.

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Speaking of the notifications panel, it's a mess.

QSlide apps are also included, allowing users to watch a video, browse the Web, write a memo, dial a phone number, write a text message, see the calendar, use a calculator and more, while another application is open. They're of more use on a tablet than a smartphone given the larger screen size, but we still found it easier just to use the regular multitasking menu (holding down the home button) to switch between apps. Thankfully, you can completely remove the QSlide menu from the notifications panel if you wish.

Speaking of the notifications panel, it's a mess. Not only do the Q Slide apps take up way too much space, but the settings button for sound is easily confused with the regular settings button. LG's designers really need to put some more thought into the UI, especially if they want to target first time tablet users.

The notification pull down is cluttered and confusing.The notification pull down is cluttered and confusing.

Other LG-exclusive features include QuickMemo, which lets you use your finger to write on screenshots, and a different take on multitasking called 'Slide Aside'. It allows you to "save" running apps by using a three fingered gesture to the left, but awkward gesture often results in accidentally bumping or tapping something you don't want to (try it in Gmail and you'll archive an email), and you can only save three apps at a time.

Thankfully, all that extra software doesn't affect performance. The G Pad 8.3's 1.7GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor and 2GB of RAM make is a snappy performer for most basic tasks, and we didn't experience any significant lag or slowdown during general use. Gaming was less impressive. The G Pad 8.3 handles most games with ease, though some newer, graphically intense titles like Dead Trigger 2 did experience some framerate issues on occasions.

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Decent battery life, poor cameras

The G Pad 8.3 is a Wi-Fi only tablet.

The G Pad 8.3 comes with 16GB of internal memory but a microSD card slot obviously allows users to expand the on-board storage. The G Pad 8.3 is a Wi-Fi only tablet, so there's no 3G or 4G models available in Australia. This will disappoint some potential users, specifically those who might do lots of travelling and would appreciate the ability to always be connected.

The G Pad 8.3 has a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera for video calls. Like most tablet cameras, LG seems to have considered image and video capture an afterthought. Images suffer from a heavy amount of noise, particularly indoors, and lack the sharpness, colour reproduction and detail of even the most average smartphone camera, while videos through the front-facing camera are adequate, but not of a very good quality. There's nine camera photo modes in total, including panorama, continuous shot, time catch and night modes, but we doubt many people will use the camera very often.

A photo we captured with the G Pad 8.3's rear camera. (click to enlarge)A photo we captured with the G Pad 8.3's rear camera. (click to enlarge)

We found the G Pad 8.3's 4600mAh battery about on part with the Nexus 7, and that's a very good result. It should easily last most users for two full days before requiring a recharge, though excessive users may have to reach for the charger every night. If you're using the G Pad 8.3 constantly it does tend to suck up a lot of battery power when the screen is on, though we found it was pretty efficient in sleep mode and shouldn't be an issue for most users.

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The G Pad 8.3 is available now exclusively through JB Hi-Fi and will stay as a retail exclusive until early 2014. It's available in a single, white, 16GB model and sells for $399 outright.

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Read more on these topics: lg, LG G Pad 8.3, Jelly Bean 4.2, tablets, Android tablets

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