The LG Optimus G and the Samsung Galaxy S3 both promise a high-end experience, HD screen, and are available on multiple carriers, but the LG model also offers a quad-core processor and optional 13 megapixel camera. Is Samsung at risk of being dethroned?
Looks Good in Theory…
First, a word on hardware options. While the Galaxy S III is relatively standard across carriers, coming with nearly identical hardware aside from either 16 or 32GB of memory, the two U.S. versions of the Optimus G are a little more complex.
The LG model has two versions: Sprint and AT&T. The Sprint one ships with 32GB of internal storage and a 13 megapixel camera, but does not have a microSD card slot. The AT&T version, on the other hand, has 16GB of storage, a separate (but pre-installed) 16GB microSD card, and an 8 MP camera. This means that while the AT&T version of the Optimus can have its memory upgraded via a 32 or 64GB memory card, the Sprint one can’t.
Moving on to direct comparisons, the spec sheet of the Optimus certainly has a great deal to recommend it. Both versions of the Optimus feature a CPU with quadruple processor cores, something that very few smartphones available in the U.S. currently have. Add to that 32GB of memory out of the box (regardless of the version) and a 13 megapixel camera on the Sprint version, and it definitely has some very impressive specs to work with.
In contrast, the Galaxy S III has only a dual-core processor, an 8 MP camera, and even the version with the most memory available only comes with 32GB (although the S III does allow for expansion). On the surface, either version of the Optimus appears to match or beat the S III in raw specs. Unfortunately, sometimes raw specs don’t tell the tale.
…But Doesn’t Live Up to Expectations
Simply put, the Optimus G turns out to be not quite better than the sum of its parts. We’ll start with the biggest real-world letdown: The 13 megapixel camera featured on the Sprint Optimus G that was sent to me for review. Despite specifically pushing the camera as a selling point, the Optimus doesn’t take pictures any better than just about any other smartphone camera. It’s arguably worse, since you’re just capturing more junk and noise, all of which adds to the file size of your photos without adding more clarity. The megapixel count doesn’t matter; it’s the quality of the optics that determine things like clarity and performance in poor light. In the case of the Optimus G, the optics don’t even come close to measuring up to the advertised resolution.
Of course, the S III’s camera isn’t anything spectacular either, but then, it’s not using it as a big point of pride. Most smartphone cameras share the same basic weaknesses, such as lacking sharp focus and performing poorly in anything other than bright light; neither device is an exception.
Then there’s the processor. To be sure, the quad-core chip inside the Optimus packs more punch than a regular dual core, but not necessarily as much as you might think. Using the Quadrant benchmark app for Android, the dual-core Galaxy S III manages a score of around 5000. The quad-core Optimus, on the other hand, averages around 6150. That’s more, for sure, about 20% more raw power than the Samsung device. But it’s definitely not a radical departure by any means, and not a change that’s hugely noticeable to the user. “Very fast” and “20% faster than very fast” aren’t exactly obvious deal killers to most people.
Once you get past the disappointing camera and not much better processor, the Optimus G starts to lose its luster. It doesn’t help that it features noticeably worse battery life than the S III. I would think that’s probably because it features a more power-hungry processor, and less efficient LCD screen. (The S III has an AMOLED screen, which uses less power when displaying many images.) Combined with the fact that the S III has more expansion and the ability to use a bigger battery if you want, the choice seems fairly clear.
While the Optimus G looks highly competitive with the Galaxy S III on paper, it seriously fails to live up to its potential. A mediocre camera, a not very big performance boost from stepping up to a quad-core processor, and less battery life all combine to make me say that no matter which carrier you’re choosing, you’d be better off getting yourself a Galaxy S III.