If you have read my review of the LG G2, you will know that I am a big fan of what they have done with that phone. It is a great phone. So when LG said they were going to be released a tablet, my curiosity was piqued. Strangely enough though, the G Pad is in so many ways very far removed from the G2.
For starters, the G Pad comes with a Snapdragon 600 in place of the Snapdragon 800 you will find in the G2. There is a microSD expansion port so you can add to the 16Gb of internal storage LG provide and of course there is a lesser camera in the tablet. But the biggest difference is in its construction. The G2 is made of cheap feeling, slimy plastics highly reminiscent of something Samsung might have put out. The G Pad on the other hand is made of aluminium. The feel of these devices could hardly be different. Where one feels warm and mushy the other feels cool and utilitarian.
This feeling of industrial cleanliness continues, at least on the black model I have here, with the way the screen sits so perfectly in the frame with relatively small bezels. On the G2, the screen feels like it is bulging out of the body as a body builder might struggle with a non-tailored suit, but on the G Pad it sits back cooly, just waiting for you to press the worryingly conventionally placed power button on the right hand side.
It must be noted that there are plastic inserts above and below the aluminium unibody on the back of the G Pad, no doubt there to ensure some level of WiFi can be received. These in no way detract from the overall feeling of the tablet and it is fair to say that in terms of feel, this is the closest thing to an iPad Mini that can be found in any other ecosystem.
As I already alluded to, the controls on the G Pad are extremely conventional in stark contrast to the G2 which is disappointing when trying to see these devices as a pair. The power button sits high on the right side of the tablet with a one piece volume rocker just below. Clearly the back buttons wouldn't work as well on a tablet, but the G Pad is almost shockingly conventional next to the G2.
The real comparison should be with the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini and that only leads to highlight how slim the margins are between 7, 7.9 and 8.3 inch devices. The Nexus 7 is quite a bit smaller whilst the iPad Mini is quite a bit squarer. Overall, the G Pad probably is the most awkward to hold as it can feel rather top heavy. I don't want you to get the impression that this is a difficult tablet to hold and use in any way, but compared to other fantastic devices, it is very slightly less fantastic.
Now I have opened the door to things being less than fantastic, it seems only right we delve a little deeper. The G Pad may well look fantastic, feel great in the hand and be a premium product, but there are some issues too. Most of the problems here revolve around the software. LG have deployed the full force of their Optimus UI on the G Pad and it definitely bogs the device down. The G2 has enough power that you don't notice this, but the G Pad feels right on the limit of what is acceptable for this software.
The Optimus UI is well documented already, so briefly, it is a full Android skin like TouchWiz or Sense, but unlike Sense it is a very heavy skin that completely redesigns Android. Almost every part of the UI has been made lighter and brighter but not necessarily better. A major benefit for this UI of being on a tablet is that there is finally enough space to show off all the features.
An example of where the Optimus UI skin works well on the tablet but not on the phone is the notification drawer which contains quick settings, brightness and volume sliders as well as all the usual notifications you might see there. On the G Pad, the permanent extras that LG has added only take up about a third of the space rather than two thirds of the space and so it goes from being annoying on the phone to useful on the tablet. The madness is still there though in the form of two settings buttons.
The QSlide apps, such as the calculator, also make a lot more sense on a tablet although I personally have never found such small floating apps that useful. LG's very powerful calendar app also seems to work rather well now it has some space to breath.
Ultimately though, the software has some big issues. There is no app switch button, instead you get a menu button. Seriously LG, what is that about? Knock Knock, the feature that allows you to double tap your screen to switch it on is even less reliable than on the G2 and everything just feels a bit slow and clunky.
So how does this compare as an experience to the big hitter, the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini? Well, it is really tough. If you want a slightly larger Android tablet than the Nexus 7, the G Pad is an obvious choice with its fantastic screen and great build and materials. Frankly though, the overall experience falls short with the Nexus 7 being much faster, having significantly better battery and it is a lot easier to hold for extended periods. Against the iPad Mini, especially the new one with the retina display, there is almost nothing to recommend the G Pad. The iPad has a better screen, is easier to hold and has far superior performance. The iPad manages this while being lighter and having far better battery too.
It sounds like I am being really down on the G Pad but actually I quite like it. I just wish that LG had either put the Snapdragon 800 inside or made the software a little less heavy. The elephant in the room of course is the Google Play edition of the LG G Pad 8.3. I feel fairly sure that would be a great tablet, but in its absence, if you want a small-ish Android tablet, stick to the Nexus 7.