Hands-on with LG's G2: A phablet designed for easy one-handed use

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

Love them or hate them, users have voted with their wallets for mini-tablets (better known as "phablets") to stay. Phablets have everything spec heads adore: bigger screens, beastly processors, tons of RAM and storage, and batteries that seem to last forever. These days, every tech company from Samsung to LG to Sony have, or are planning to release a phablet. LG, Korea's second electronics darling behind Samsung announced its new G2 phablet in New York City, but is it any good? We played with the G2 briefly to find out!

Built To Roar

The front of the LG G2 is almost all screen, save for the tiny 2.1-megapixel front camera and earpiece up top. LG went with a 5.2-inch IPS display with 1080p resolution that stretches edge-to-edge. The touchscreen is also made from what an "Anti-fngerprint Sapphire Crystal Glass", which is apparently three times stronger than the tempered glass used in other smartphones. Despite the large display, the G2 doesn't feel oversized thanks to its super-slim bezels. In fact, the G2's dimensions are comparable with the Samsung Galaxy S4. The only size difference is the G2 is one millimeter thicker at 8.9mm versus 7.9mm on the GS4. Speaking of aesthetics, the G2 feels just as plasticky as a GS4 (ugh).

As for tech specs, the G2 has a 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, NFC, 4G LTE and a 3,000 mAh battery. On the back, the G2 has a 13-megapixel camera with LED flash that's capable of 1080p HD video capture at 60 frames per second. Below that lens are volume buttons that sandwich a power button. (More on that below.)

And since the G2 isn't a Nexus smartphone or a "Google Play Edition" device, you'll be getting Android 4.2.2 with LG's own custom skin, which isn't much of a deal breaker with specs like those laid out above.

Innovation On The Back

LG's decision to move the volume buttons and power button to the back of the phone instead of placing them on the sides might seem odd at first, but if you stop and think about it for a second, it kind of makes sense. The G2 (and phablets in general) are rather unwieldy for most people to hold and use in one hand, so why not move the buttons to a place where their index finger can reach comfortably.

And that's exactly what the G2 does. We had no issues holding the the G2 in one hand and pressing the buttons on the back. The buttons aren't just for toggling volume, though — long-pressing the buttons will launch the camera and QuickMemo app.

LG's also added some much-needed improvements to the G2's camera. The company claims the G2 is the first 13-megapixel smartphone camera with a breakthrough optical image stabilization that can take blur-free photos, even in situations such as a moving car.

Another area that LG aims to impress with the G2 is sound. Claiming superior "Hi-Fi sound" that rivals studio-recorded quality, the G2 can pump out tunes at 24 bit/192kHz. We weren't able to adequately test the sound in the rather noisy press environment, but we'll check back on it in a future review.

Tough Competition From All Sides

Beyond moving the buttons, we're skeptic as to the "practical UX" LG is introducing with the G2. Features like "KnockOn" — lets you tap the display twice to turn it on, or "Plug & Pop" — recommends apps to launch when a headphone or USB cable is plugged in, or even "Text Link" — a feature that understands info from texts and turns them into a calendar event or web link didn't exactly blow us away. And features such as Guest Mode and QuickRemote are becoming common on other devices, too.

While other companies *cough*Motorola*cough* have decided the spec-race isn't one worth pursuing anymore, LG's clearly on the other side. With stiff competition from the likes of the iPhone 5, HTC one and Galaxy S4, only time will tell if moving the buttons to the rear will be enough of a hardware differentiator for the G2.

The G2 will launch in black and white on AT&T, Spring, T-Mobile and Verizon in the U.S. in the next few months. Pricing has yet to be announced.

(All photos by Raymond Wong for DVICE.)

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