Hands on: LG's Optimus G Pro makes a good first impression

LG Optimus G Pro

It really is a shame the Optimus G Pro is an AT&T exclusive, because LG's latest Android offering is a device that deserves to be noticed.

I've been using the Optimus G Pro -- launching on AT&T this Friday -- in place of my own personal phone for the past few days. I'll be putting together a full review soon, but for the moment, here are some initial impressions based on my time with the device thus far:

• The Optimus G Pro is a big phone. Like, really big. It's that way by design, of course: The device is meant to compete with the Galaxy Note II in the supersized smartphone (no, I won't call it "phablet") market. That size category is very much a love-it-or-hate-it sort of thing; you'll definitely want to spend some time in a store holding the phone and seeing how it feels in your hand to figure out if it's right for you.

• Speaking of the Note II, there's no getting around it: The Optimus G Pro looks and feels like a Samsung device. Honestly, if you picked up the phone and didn't see the branding, you'd probably just assume it was a Sammy-made handset -- from the plastic casing and removable back all the way down to the hardware Home button with capacitive Back and Menu keys.

• While I'm not a huge fan of the hybrid button approach, LG did do something cool with the concept: It made the Home button double as an LED indicator. The button itself glows a rainbow of colors when the phone boots up; it then acts as a traditional indicator during use, flashing different colors to alert you of missed calls or other notifications. It's subtle but eye-catching and a clever way of implementing LED functionality.

• Another nice touch is the Optimus G Pro's QuickButton -- a customizable physical button on the upper-left side of the device. By default, the button loads the phone's QuickMemo function, but you can set it to open anything you want -- the camera, Google Now, or any other app. Pretty useful addition.

• The Optimus G Pro's display is superb. It's 5.5 in., like the Note II, only it's a 1080p LCD screen instead of a 720p AMOLED. As a result, text and images pop with awesome clarity and details are visible even in direct sunlight (an area where AMOLED tends to suffer).

• Performance? Top notch. Snappy, speedy, and not an ounce of lag. No complaints whatsoever so far.

• LG's current software, based on Android 4.1.2, is one of the few manufacturer-modified takes on Android that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out. The company did make its share of arbitrary UI changes (and to be sure, they aren't all worth celebrating), but for the most part, using the Optimus G Pro feels a lot like using a custom launcher -- and a pretty decent one at that. LG kept the same basic feel as stock Android and added in some interesting flourishes and opportunities for customization without needlessly complicating things or creating a sense of visual overload. It's a far superior setup to the messy and convoluted UIs we've seen on other recent devices.

There's a lot more to be said about the Optimus G Pro, and fear not: We'll get there soon. I'm still using the phone full-time and getting a feel for how it fares in the real world. I'll delve into the specifics of the software -- along with the pros and cons of the phone's construction, camera, battery, and all that other fun stuff -- later this week.

[LG vs. Samsung: Let the smartphone camera battle begin!]

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Stay tuned for my full review -- and for more Optimus G Pro discussion in the meantime, be sure to come join me over on Google+. It's home to a huge community of Android enthusiasts, and we're always chatting about all things Android.

UPDATE: Optimus G Pro review: A supersized smartphone done right

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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