Samsung’s Galaxy S4 might have (barely) survived and come on top in the head-to-head battle against the HTC One, but we already have a new challenger to the throne. Well, this one has been around for a while too, but it’s only now starting to make a solid bid for the smartphone heavyweight title, as it has finally been made official for the US.
Yes, it’s LG’s super-sized 5.5-inch Optimus G Pro, an even bigger and in some ways more technically impressive beast than the GS4. The G Pro unfortunately starts the duel with two massive disadvantages, on account of LG’s somewhat shady reputation in the States and the limited availability that comes from the big guy’s exclusivity status on AT&T.
Taking that into account, does the Optimus G Pro have what it takes to recover the lost ground and at least prove like a solid S4 alternative? Let’s see…
Design and build quality comparison
Besides disappointing with sub-par software support, LG has always been seen by folks in the US as Samsung’s more modest relative. You know, like the cousin that always looked up to you, but made you feel embarrassed when going out by picking his nose.
Also, people have constantly accused LG of copying Sammy’s designs, which, to be honest, has flagrantly happened more than once in the recent past.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, I want you to understand that LG has really turned the page with this G Pro. True, the thing still looks uncannily similar to the S4, with basically the same glossy plastic exterior, overall industrial look and relatively thin bezels.
But darn, is LG’s 5.5-incher sexy! The textured back is clearly a love or hate design element, but when it comes to the thing’s dimensions you can’t not like it. Though bigger than the S4, the G Pro feels very nice in the hand and is just exquisite from top to bottom.
The same can of course be said about Samsung’s flagship, but I won’t go into detail because I already did that.
Winner: It’s a tie
Though obviously we haven’t had the chance to take the AT&T version of the Optimus G Pro for a spin already, chances are it’s the exact same phone as the Korean model that several big tech websites have tested.
And if that’s the case, LG has a problem – G Pro’s IPS LCD screen is clearly inferior to S4’s AMOLED when it comes to color reproduction, viewing angles, contrast and brightness. Basically the only thing the 5.5-incher has going for it is the size, but that’s not much of an advantage either because the S4 actually has the higher ppi.
Both panels sport Full HD resolutions (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), but it’s the S4 that boasts a stunning 441 ppi pixel density, compared with “only” 401 ppi for the G Pro.
Winner: Galaxy S4
Processing speed and cameras
Again, we are yet to see and test the AT&T G Pro, but if it’s anything like the Korean variant (and it probably is), the Galaxy S4 has the edge from a performance standpoint too. LG’s spearhead packs a 1.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU and 2 GB of RAM, whereas the Samsung big guy features a 1.9 GHz 600 processor or octa-core Exynos 5, plus the same 2 gigs of memory.
In both variations, the S4 scores considerably higher in benchmarks like AnTuTu, GLBenchmark or Geekbench, meaning you’ll likely get a little extra juice from the 5-incher in gaming, multimedia playing or web browsing.
As for cams, they’re essentially identical on paper, sporting 13 and 2.1 MP sensors (the G Pro) and 13 and 2 megapixels (the S4). However, in real life the GS4 is clearly better in regards to the main snapper, which produces sharper, brighter and more detailed pics.
Winner: Galaxy S4
The software battle comes down to the classic Android 4.2 vs 4.1 duel, with the latter unfortunately coming out the box with the G Pro. We also can’t ignore LG’s recent muddy track record with updates, which makes us guess a 4.2 and subsequent 4.3 or 5.0 bump will not happen very soon.
The GS4 wins extra points here with a much more complex exclusive UI added on top of Android, coming with neat and unique features like Smart Stay, Smart Pause, S Health or S-Voice. Then again, if you like your Android experience to be closer to stock, you’ll appreciate LG’s very subtle tweaks and the highly customizable UI.
Winner: Galaxy S4
Given the Optimus G Pro packs a much larger ticker than the GS4 (3,140 mAh vs 2,600), you’d think LG will finally catch a break and win at least a single battle of this comprehensive vs post of ours. Unfortunately (for LG), it’s not that simple.
According to GSM Arena, the G Pro comes clearly on top in terms of talk time autonomy, but loses the web browsing and video playback battles, ultimately falling short of the S4 in “endurance” too. But how do you explain Samsung’s giant wins here despite rocking the smaller battery? Simple, it also sports the smaller screen and likely has better optimized software.
Winner: Galaxy S4
As you can see, “good enough” is not enough to beat the GS4 to the punch and the final section of our comparison can’t change things too much. Both phones come with LTE speeds, both have expandable storage and user-removable batteries, plus things like NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi.
The G Pro does win points for coming with 32 GB of on-board storage in its base config (compared with 16 gigs for the GS4) and for having slightly better audio quality thanks to a Dolby mobile sound enhancement system, but it’s far too little and too late for things to be turned around.
Winner: Optimus G Pro
It’s clear LG has come a long way from, say, two years ago and it deserves all the praising for its recent progress, but it’s still not a worthy adversary for Samsung. The G Pro is no pushover in any way, it looks very nice and packs awesome hardware, but is it the best high-end Android smartphone of the moment? Hardly.
On the flipside, if you do prefer your gadgets bigger and are not so set on owning the phone with the zippiest processor, the most unique software features (read: gimmicks) and the sharpest display, go for LG’s Optimus G Pro and don’t look back.