Now that high definition TVís are the norm manufacturers have been adding 3D in an attempt to get consumers to toss out their 2D HDTVs and upgrade. Soon after 3D TVís became available consumer grade 3D cameras and camcorders followed. Now the mobile industry has followed suit with the LG Optimus 3D and the HTC EVO 3D. Hereís my review of the LG.
3Dís a pretty special feature so the Optimus 3D has high end specifications to match. It has a dual core processor, 512MB RAM, 8GB of built in storage, 4.3Ē 800x480 display and dual rear facing cameras. While the 3Dís sister phone, the Optimus 2x also has dual core processor I should point out that the 2x has a Tegra 2 processor while the 3D has dual OMAP processors. Both run at 1Ghz.
I like how the Optimus is a little thicker than say the iPhone 4 or Galaxy S II. It also has a nice heft to it. The back is covered with rubberized paint with a classy strip of metal running down the middle. Thereís a little bit of metal running along the top and bottom parts of the front. Itís a very solid feeling phone thatís nice to hold in your hands.
I enjoyed typing on the Optimus. The fact that itís a slightly bigger and thicker phone makes it easy to hold while typing. My only complaint is that the Android menu buttons are a little too close to the bottom of the screen. As far as keyboards go you get the stock Android one and LG one. Iím a little puzzled that LG didnít also include a SWYPE keyboard since the Optimus 2x comes with one.
In front is the speaker and 1.3mp front facing camera.
On the right side are volume buttons and a button which brings up the 3D menu.
There are covered micro USB and micro HDMI ports on the left side. I hate having to pull the cover off each time want I want to charge or connect the Optimus to my computer.
The Optimus currently ships with Android 2.2 with LGís customizations on top. While the jump to Android 2.3 isnít as great as the jump from 2.1 to 2.2 was itís still a real shame that the 3D doesnít ship with Gingerbread. The 2 features I miss are the ability to have multiple exchange accounts along with Gingerbreadís enhanced copy and paste. This is an example of why consumers generally consider Samsung and HTC to be on the leaders when it comes Android and why theyíre usually willing to pay a little more over a similar LG phone.
The menus are more customized compared to the Optimus 2xís. Besides a couple of new widgets I noticed LG uses a much thicker looking font and different looking notification area icons compared to the 2x. I like how you can quickly check new notifications and unlock the screen in one finger swipe. The main menu scrolls up and down like stock Android but itís split into sections which you can quickly collapse by pinch zooming them. By default there are 3 sections: 3D and Applications and Downloads. There are 4 programs which always appear at the bottom of the main menu (like on the iPhone and Samsungís Touch Wiz).
Thereís also a 3D menu which surprise surprise, is in 3D. While I didnít find it terribly useful itís still pretty cool. You use it to launch 3D versions of the gallery, YouTube, camera and games. Thereís also links explaining how to capture, view, share and connect 3D content. The 3D effects in this menu are very exaggerated so itís a good if you want to show someone how effective the 3D display is.
I was extremely annoyed that the button the right side of the Optimus is actually used to launch the 3D menu and is not a shutter button. Iím even more annoyed there doesnít appear to be an option to change the function of this button. The 3D menu is really cool but itís not something I would use often.
The screen can display 3D images - the catch is that it loses half itís vertical resolution when itís in 3D mode.
The screen uses a technique called Autostereoscopy to display 3D. In the case of the Optimus is has a parallax barrier - a barrier with slits in it that makes it so one eye sees the even pixels and the other the odd ones. This allows it to display 3D images without the need for glasses.
There are 3 drawbacks: First, if youíre viewing 3D the 3D effect only works in landscape orientation. Secondly you have to hold the display a certain distance away and the horizontal viewing angle where 3D works is extremely narrow. Thirdly the effective horizontal resolution is cut in half because half the pixels are for one eye and the rest for the other.
You should be able to connect a 3D TV via the micro HDMI to view your compatible pictures and videos in 3D. I tried it at a local store with a Samsung 3D TV and it didnít work. The TV just showed my 3D content as 2 images side by side. Maybe it requires some tinkering to work.
Now before I talk about how effective this is I should mention that I donít own a 3D TV, Nintendo 3DS or anything else that can display 3D. My only 3D experience are a couple of product demos, Tron 2 which I watched in theater and watching the TVís at BestBuy (using both passive and active glasses).
In order to capture 3D images and video you need 2 cameras side-by-side. This allows them to capture depth. Having 2 cameras creates an interesting problem. Do this, stare at your finger and then follow your finger as you touch your nose. As your finger gets closer you eyes will become cross-eyed. Thatís how you can focus on something close. The Optimusí cameras canít move closer together - so when youíre shooting in 3D mode it canít take proper 3D pictures if the subject is too close. 3D works best if the subject is 0.5m - 2m away.
I had a lot of fun taking 3D pictures and videos. When viewing them on the 3Dís display, images have depth; itís sort of like looking at a diorama. Depending on how deep something is they sort of have Ďlevelsí. When taking pictures I found the best way to maximize the depth of the photo is to make sure your subject is close and the background is far away. Itís a similar technique to when youíre shooting with a 2D camera and want to exaggerate your subject and blur the the out of focus areas (bokeh).
I noticed that the Optimus captures pictures with an aspect ratio of 4:3 but the display's AR is around 16:9. When viewing pictures in 3D mode you canít zoom in. What this means is that the pictures donít go all the way to the edge of the screen. This really lessens the 3D effect compared to the EVO 3D which takes pictures that are the same AR as the display.
That said the 3D pictures arenít ideal for sharing. I was met with a lot of resistance when I tried to show off the 3D pictures and video. Most people found the display extremely disorienting because they werenít willing to hold the phone at the correct angle and distance (about 30-40cm away). Of course otherís loved it because the pictures and video can really jump out.
Some other caveats to shooting in 3D is that Optimus appears to stop the lens down when in 3D mode. This is to maximize the depth of field. The problem with this is that it makes the Optimus a lot less useful indoors since you need more light indoors. The flash does not appear to work in 3D mode. I also found that 3D mode worked best when the subjects werenít too far away. Otherwise the 3D effect is greatly reduced.
The Optimus saves images as .jps files and video as .mp4ís. In both cases theyíre just regular file formats which display 2 frames side by side.
Since I donít have anyway to view 3D media (besides the phone) I decided to edit them as as 2D.
I just choose 1 side and cropped the other out. Editing the videos was just a tiny bit more complicated. The 3D records video at a resolution of 720p (thatís 1280x720 pixels). It fits 2 frames side by side into that resolution. So to edit it as a 2D video I had to place the video in an editor, stretch it by 200% and then crop out the other side. So youíre left with a 720p video that has a Ďrealí resolution of 640x720.
In 2D mode the Optimus takes 5MP pictures. In 3D mode the resolution drops to 3MP (actually two 3MP pictures side-by-side).
a jps file renamed as a jpg
My big problem with the Optimus camera is that itís absolutely glacial when it comes to autofocus speed. It can take 4+ seconds from when you press the shutter button to when a picture is captured. It absolutely drives me nuts. It also uses really slow shutter speeds so unless your subject is very still theyíll be blurred. Every LG phone I try is like this, does anyone at LG actually use their camera phones? Anyways, if you can keep your subject still the camera can take respectable pictures.
3D video okay. I donít have much to compare with but itís better than the EVO 3Dís video capture.
Image quality in 3D is a little better than the HTC EVO 3Dís. Itís not terrible but Iíd rather have a 2D camera that takes better pictures than a 3D ones that has inferior 2D performance. 3D video on the other hand isnít bad. While not outstanding the Optimusí sound recording in videos is respectable.
LG appears to have fixed up the Stock Android Gallery app so that it also supports 3D. You use it watch 3D pictures and video. The YouTube app also supports 3D. I had no idea YouTube supported 3D! I tried to upload a 3D video I took with the Optimus to YouTube but it didnít work.
There are a few 3D games preloaded: Asphalt 6, Letís Golf 2 and Nova. Asphalt is an arcade style racing games. Nova is a shooter style game. I couldnít play it because it gave me a headache.
Other software you get includes: Application manager (allows you to kill processes), Finance, LG World, RemoteCall, Richnote, SmartShare, Voice Recorder, Nuance Voice Control, Whatís New, LG App Advisor
You can edit MS office files with Polaris Office. Besides files stored on the device and email attachments you can also connect to Box.net (A cloud based storage site). I tried the Box.net connectivity and it wouldnít work with my account.
Whatís New and LG App Advisor are both somewhat redundant programs in that theyíre both used to download new applications.
SmartShare letís you browse for a DLNA server and play files from it on a DLNA player. For some reason there was no setting to play the files locally on the Optimus
RemoteCall is a remote access application which allows LG to connect to your phone remotely to help you troubleshoot it.
Compared to the EVO 3D the Optimus 3D has a slightly better camera. Both have extremely slow autofocus so I wouldnít recommend either if you take a lot of pictures. The big difference is the display. While the EVOís has a higher resolution the Optimusí display looks much better. It has better blacks, viewing angles and superior colour. Compared to the Optimus the EVOís looks washed out. The EVO 3D is running a newer version of Android which shows why more people consider HTC to be a leader when it comes to Android over LG.
Despite running different version of Android I found them to be more or less the same speed wise. I tested by putting them side by side and getting the browsers to load the same page at the same time, using Google maps, that sort of thing.
While both have similar RF performance Iíd give the Optimus the in sound quality. The EVO ships with a 1730mAh while the Optimus has a 1500mAh. Neither has great battery life but the EVOís is better.
Between the 2 of them they both have their own flaws so itís hard to choose between them.
In the end I had a lot of fun with the Optimus 3D. That said, while I donít think 3D is going anywhere, at this point itís not a must have feature. Iíd rather have a phone that takes really good 2D photos than give up some quality for one that can also capture in 3D.
If youíve never used a 3D camera before using and sharing 3D media is a little different than 2D media so make sure youíre aware of the compromises.
New Infinity Blade character
My iPhone 5 ringtone: Bah, Bah, Black Sheep.
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but... could you go into a little more detail on the RF/sound quality? "While both have similar RF performance Iíd give the Optimus the in sound quality"