LG Optimus 3D Max Review
- 3D works, for the most part
- Up-conversion feature is a huge bonus
- Very bright LCD
- Needs more powerful specs in this price bracket
- Still runs on a dated OS
- 3D performance limited by display size
Yet another 3D phone, but then again, this is also aimed at a very specific and limited demographic. Performance wise, it is almost at par with the Motorola Atrix 2, but then again, you will pay a premium for the 3D functionality. Which, quite frankly, is a novelty feature. You may only consider this, if you are a fan of viewing your content three dimensions! Others can consider more powerful smartphones in the meantime.
We have always maintained this – 3D on smartphones is something that isn’t going to appeal to most users. There are a couple of reasons for this – first, people don’t need 3D on phones and second, because for the same amount of money, you will get a non-3D smartphone that will offer better performance overall. All this makes the 3D sequel from LG a little more difficult to judge.
Build & Design
The Optimus 3D Max has a very uninspiring design, and no facet of it betrays the device’s 3D capabilities. The front has the 4.3-inch display flanked by a black bezel. There are four touch sensitive keys below the display, which light up when touched, but there is no marking on the phone itself indicating which key is where, beforehand.
Look closely from the sides, and you will notice that LCD does stick out quite a bit, which becomes a bit more profound with the Gorilla Glass 2 treatment. When swiping across the screen, you will hit a thin border – the plastic border that frames the glass.
The sides have a grey frame running around the phone. It isn’t silver as we have seen on some phones, and generally blends in well with the overall dark colour theme of the phone. On the left spine is the volume rocker and the microUSB port. Speaking of the former, the separated volume rocker design does create a bit of confusion when you are using it, while not looking. Even on a call, the fingers can never really recall the design and the layout the first time.
While the rocker looks different, it isn’t functionally the best. What is better is the microUSB port, which has a very stylish and well thought out slide on/off cover. Forget the visual element, but the protection element for the port is of immense importance. Unlike the flimsy ones we saw on the Sony Xperia S (read our review), for example, this one doesn’t run the risk of breaking or twisting out. True to tradition, there is the 3D key on the right spine that also doubles up as the camera key.
The back is a completely plastic affair, with a self-design on the battery cover. We absolutely do not appreciate the plasticky nature of the phone, and neither the battery cover opening mechanism. We have said it time and again that anything that doesn’t ensure a simple slide out or pop up mechanism is just not acceptable on a high-end phone. The dual 3D cameras take up most of the space around the top left panel. LG has placed the logo right next to the camera strip. A slight bulge towards the bottom, but the importance of that can be appreciated when you are holding the phone and typing with the same hand – it acts as a slight barrier that doesn’t let the hand slip.
Overall, while there really isn’t anything wrong with the overall design, we do have a complaint here – it doesn’t have any eye-catching elements. The mix of straight lines and the curves do not gel at all. The build quality could have done with a dash of metal, considering the plastic used here isn’t of the same grade as the HTC One X (read our review) or the Samsung Galaxy S III (read our review). Having said that, we must also say that the way the phone has been put together is quite neat, and does not have any loose ends on it.
Features & Specifications
From the spec sheet, it is clear that the Optimus 3D Max is essentially on the mid-range specs. Yes, it has a 1.2GHz dual core processor with 1GB of RAM, but that is generally with phones priced around the Rs. 25,000 – Rs. 28,000 mark. We will discuss this in more detail in the performance section. The PowerVR SGX540 chip powers the graphics.
The Optimus 3D Max comes with 8GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 32GB more using the micro SD slot. Thankfully, there is no riff-raff of a microSIM card slot, like most phones do these days – use a standard SIM card with this phone, and you are good to go.
The real highlight of the Optimus 3D Max is the 4.3-inch LCD display. We had praised the Optimus 3D, at its time, for being a natively bright display, and this one carries forward the same trend. Colour reproduction is accurate for the most part, but just doesn’t have the punch of an AMOLED series of displays. Black levels are not very deep either, which takes away some sheen from the entire multimedia viewing experience. However, no gradation visible at all, which is something that would have created a lot of disturbance in 3D mode. We are surprised that this display doesn’t have the crispness similar to what we saw with the HTC One X, the Samsung Galaxy S III or even the significantly less expensive HTC One V.
The dual 5MP cameras are meant to take stereoscopic images and videos. You can change between 2D and 3D modes within the camera interface. With 3D videos, the limitation is up to 720p, but switch to 2D mode and you can shoot in 1080p.
We were extremely disappointed to see that the Optimus 3D Max comes out of the box with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), with the standard promise of a “coming soon” upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. Globally, this is probably sharing the mantle of the flagship phone with the Optimus 4X, and for that to not be carrying the latest Android OS is nothing short of a crushing disappointment.
While there are the critics of it, we quite like the skin LG has wrapped around the OS. This UI, unlike some of the others out there, offers what would be the closest to the ideal blend between performance and visual appeal – without one hurting the other! You get a wide variety of widgets, something the skins from Motorola and Sony lack. The app menu is neatly divided into three categories – 3D, Applications and Downloaded apps. This makes it relatively simple to head to an app, knowing where it would be sitting waiting for you!
The 3D key sitting on the right spine of the phone takes you straight to the 3D Zone when you long press it anywhere in the UI. Alternatively, when you open the camera app, this key changes profiles and becomes the camera key.
This being a 3D phone, we will alter our standard approach slightly and first talk about how that feature performs, before moving on to the overall system performance.
First off, let us get it plainly clear – we think glasses-free 3D works, but not necessarily better. Nor is it a must-have on a phone, with reasons being simple. Just like the previous-gen 3D phones from LG and HTC, the Optimus 3D Max suffers from largely the same issues. With the primary one - the very limited range of what we can simply call the “sweet spot” to enjoy the 3D bit. The 4.3-inch display may be considered among the bigger ones generally, but this size won’t offer the best 3D experience. At perfect vision, 3D depth is okay, but you do get the noise and “double image” scenario for the most part.
The 3D Converter app is a very neat feature, allowing you possibly get the most out of phone, what you really paid for. This app will list all the other compatible apps you may have installed on the phone, and will up-convert them to 3D. The best part being that games will get bumped up to 3D, irrespective of whether or not they were made in 3D. The other up-converting feature we have seen is with the video playback. This is for videos originally in 2D mode. Within the video player app, the toggle lets you switch on the fly. Quality is acceptable, but will suffer if the videos you are playing back are of a relatively low resolution. But then again, the lack of 3D content on Google Play store will not allow you to fully utilize the capabilities of the device. The 3D Zone does have YouTube 3D, but then again, the variety is quite limited.
Performance-wise, this phone has a mid-range processor. In most of our tests, this one is neck and neck with the likes of the Motorola Atrix 2 (read our review). The 1.2GHz dual core processor along with 1GB of RAM does have enough pull to not struggle even when you may have the heaviest HD video playing back in up-converted 3D. The benchmarks tests clearly indicate mid range performance, despite the price tag of the phone indicating a high-end device. Which makes us very suspicious about the premium being charged on the 3D bit. The good thing though is that in real life usage scenarios, the phone will not slow down or stutter, even with a bunch of apps open in the background. In 2D mode, the UI and the overall performance are smooth. You will see a bit of a lag when switched to 3D mode, mostly because the screen does not refresh as quickly as it normally would.
Surprisingly, the LG Optimus 3D Max’s dual 5MP cameras aren’t as good as we hoped it would be. For most indoor shots, the image quality is good if you aren’t zooming in, which is when the edge noise and a bit of colour smearing comes in. For outdoor shots, the clarity is quite good, but some shades do tend to look a bit washed out. From the shot of green leaves in different shades, you can see that the colour does tend to feel a little lighter in places, more than it should. This camera will shoot 3D images at 3MP, using the dual cameras. For videos and photos in 3D, the quality is good. You can set the depth of the content at the time of recording or clicking.
The LG Optimus 3D Max has decent enough battery life, and will last a day and a half under a medium-load usage scenario. However, 3D mode does drain battery considerably. Which again brings us to the point of the OS being behind the curve. With ICS on board, the battery could have been 10% to 20% better than this. No word yet on the update.
Yet another 3D phone, but then again, this is aimed at a very specific and limited demographic. Performance wise, it is almost neck and neck with the Motorola Atrix 2, but then again, you will pay a premium for the 3D functionality. Which, quite frankly, is a novelty feature. You may only consider this, if you are a fan of all dimensions!
Contact: LG India