Hands on: LG Optimus 3D

- September 30th, 2011

LG Optimus 3D

Have you found yourself staring at your cellphone and thought that its big problem was that screen image doesn’t jump at you? If so, then maybe the LG Optimus 3D is for you.

As the name suggests, the phone lets you play games, watch and even shoot videos in three dimensions. And much like the Nintendo 3DS, you don’t need glasses to experience the 3-D stereoscopic effect.

The Optimus comes with a 5.0 megapixel dual-lens camera on the back that shoots both 3-D 3-megapixel photographs and 3-D video in 720p. (1080p videos can also be recorded in the standard 2-D.) And the image looks quite good if there is sufficient lighting for the shot. The sound quality is decent but, as with most phones, the mic picks up a lot of background noise.

And although playing around with its 3-D camera is fun, don’t go all crazy and set up weird backgrounds for your Skype calls. Not only would the person on the other end also need a 3-D phone to see the effect, the Optimus’ front-facing camera only records in 2-D and so it doesn’t work for video calls anyway.

But it is an inexpensive way to make decent-looking 3-D videos for the web.
And the Optimus’s 4.3-inch TFT LCD screen with a resolution of 480×800 provides an excellent display for videos – at least of the two-dimensional kind. Both Flash and QuickTime videos play smoothly and offer great sound.

But when it comes to watching 3-D videos, things become a little more difficult. Because the phone doesn’t come with glasses, the 3-D effect only works if you hold the phone at a certain angle from your face at all times. In addition, it must be held in the horizontal position. If you hold it vertically, the video will split into the two separate video images that combine to make up the 3-D image.

And all of this is also assuming you are watching the right kind of 3-D video. There are various different type of 3-D video and the phone’s screen only works with the proper 3-D stereoscopic image. For example, if you try to watch the old-school red-and-blue 3-D video with the Optimus, it just shows the red-and-blue images on top of one another. Presumably, it would work if you were wearing the appropriate glasses, but you’d look pretty dumb.

YouTube provides a feature that lets you convert 3-D videos into the proper type for your screen, but, unfortunately that feature appears to be absent on both the Android app and the mobile site. (In general, though, the app works better for viewing videos in 3-D than the mobile site.)

But if you find the right type of 3-D stereoscopic video on YouTube, Vimeo or wherever, it looks impressive.

As for the gaming, the 3-D effect works fine but that extra dimension doesn’t really add much to the gameplay – at least not in the free titles. For example, in Let’s Golf 2, the third dimension gave me perspective on the length of a given course by making the hole appear far away in the distance, but it didn’t really make me feel any more excited about playing the dinky, little golf game than when it was only in 2-D.

And I kept worrying I’d go cross-eyed from staring at the game for so long. (and I’ve had surgery twice to correct strabismus in my left eye, so I’m not speaking facetiously.) Even the phone warns you about playing too much in 3-D as it may hurt your eyes.

There aren’t many titles to choose from at the moment anyway. You can’t even get Angry Birds in 3-D, so really, what’s the point?

Likely because of the extra camera hardware, the 128mm x 68mm x 11.9 mm Optimus weighs 168 g, making it slightly heavier and bulkier than other phones on the market. And the phone gets noticeably hot after prolonged use.

But the battery doesn’t drain fast. With up to five hours of talk time and a 10-day charge on standby, you can usually get through the day without having to plug it in.

As for the rest of the features, the Optimus is on par with most phones. The Internet connection is stable and even though the phone is only running Froyo (Android 2.2.2), the interface is fast and the touchscreen is responsive. Still, the virtual keyboard could stand to be calibrated a little better than it is because even with the somewhat larger-than-average keys, it makes a fair number of typing errors.

And the sound on phone calls can be a little fuzzy at times.

But, ultimately, it comes down to whether you like the idea of owning a portable 3-D device, whether it be for videos, photography or games. It’s a bit too gimmicky for my taste. But maybe you’re really interested in shooting a 3-D Web confessionals for YouTube. Or perhaps you just want to own a phone named after the leader of the Autobots. To each his own.

The LG Optimus 3D is available at Rogers for $49.99 with a three-year plan or $474.99 for no contract. For more pricing plans see Rogers’ website.

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