The whole world has gone tablet mad, and LG has no intention of letting the touchscreen-computer craze pass it by. The company's first tablet, the 8.9-inch LG Optimus Pad, has Android 3.0 Honeycomb on board, two 5-megapixel cameras round the back for taking 3D photos and an Nvidia dual-core processor.
It's a hardware powerhouse, but is it fun to use as well? We've gone hands-on to test the Pad out, in advance of its UK launch in April.
Grabbing hold of the Optimus Pad, we're impressed by how light it is -- it weighs just 630g, which is just over half a bag of sugar. If you struggle to envision your hands filled with sugar, we can tell you it feels light enough that you could sling it into a backpack or handbag and not feel like it was weighing you down.
LG reckons this is a tablet you could hold with one hand, and having held it we think this is probably true. Even though it's a fair bit larger than 7-inch tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, it was comfortable to hold the Pad with one hand. That said, the display is quite large, so realistically you're still going to need two hands for typing.
It's a well-crafted bit of kit too -- rounded edges, quite slim at 13mm thick, and down the back you'll find the same silver stripe that you see on the Optimus 2X. It bears the Google logo, to remind you that when push comes to shove, the Pad is a Google-powered device.
Around the edges you'll find a USB connector port for charging, and an HDMI output for pumping the Pad's video and audio to an HDTV, as well as a lock button, and hardware volume keys. Our only concern regarding the design is that the bezel surrounding the screen is quite thick -- we like displays that go right up to the edge of the device.
The display is promising. The Pad's 8.9-inch, 1,280x768-pixel display seems reasonably bright, and it's very sharp -- photos and ebooks looked good. The shape of the Pad is quite unusual -- whereas the iPad has a squarish look, the Pad is more elongated with a 15:9 aspect ratio. This could prove beneficial when watching videos, as it means you'll get more of a widescreen experience, without having content chopped off the sides of the display.
A real surprise is that around the back of the Pad there are two 5-megapixel cameras, which are used for recording video in 3D. Now, you can't actually watch 3D video on the Pad, but if you have a 3D telly or laptop, you'll be able to export the video you've shot, and watch it in glorious tri-dee there. You can shoot video in 720p.
Inside there's an Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset running the show, and we have to say, the Pad felt very slick and responsive as we swooped through Honeycomb's homescreens. That added grunt could be a major strength of the Pad: LG reckons it's powerful enough to handle 1080p video playback, and we'd like to see it playing some graphically intensive games.
How you thrill me, Honey-honeycomb
Running Android 3.0 Honeycomb carries loads of advantages. Google Maps is improved, and gives you a pseudo-3D effect when you drag down with three fingers, so you're no longer looking at the map-world from the top down, but from an angle.
Google Books will also be raring to go when Honeycomb hits the shelves -- we had a flip through several ebooks on the Tab, and the interface worked really well. Page turning is both attractive and smooth, with text rendered crisply.
The Optimus Pad is certainly looking like one of the more exciting Honeycomb tablets on the horizon, with 3D video capture, a natty processor and a surprisingly light and comfortable design. Here's hoping the Pad looks equally as charming when we give it the full review treatment.
The LG Optimus Pad will be available with Wi-Fi and 3G in the UK in April, with a Wi-Fi only version to follow soon after.