The LG Optimus G has arrived, and comes complete with a whole new level of smartphone technology.
It's another evolution for the Korean brand, with the new handset the second quad core option the firm has released. However, it's the first to use Qualcomm's S4 Pro chip, which will bring an LTE-ready quad core handset to the masses for the first time.
When you pick up the Optimus G, you can tell it's a handset that's worthy of being dubbed a flagship by LG. There's a real weight to it (well, only 145g, but it's much heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S3) but that adds to the premium feel rather than feeling overly heavy.
The design language is impressive, if a little bland. The plastic casing feels a little slippery in the hand, and while the white casing with silver inlets looks impressive, the front of the phone is still the faceless black slab we've come to expect from most handsets these days.
It's not LG's fault, as there's only so much you can do to innovate on the design front, but with the Optimus G its definitely decided that minimalism is best, with a silhouette that mimics the iPhone 4S.
The layout of the buttons is familiar too, as it mirrors the Galaxy S3 almost perfectly in terms of button placement. LG has moved the power button to the top right-hand side, to make it easier to hit with the thumb, and the volume keys, headphone jack and microUSB port are all in the same place.
In fairness, there are only so many places you can put these elements, and placing the phones side by side you'd definitely not think much in the way of copying had gone on.
There is one big difference though: the 13MP camera sensor (which may only arrive on Korean models, according to hints dropped by LG) juts out slightly at the rear, which led us to worry it may get slightly scratched. There's an extra lip to help protect the lens though, so it may survive a fight with the desk every day.
There's no removable battery, no expandable memory through a MicroSD slot – although at least there's 32GB of internal storage to help out on the media front, which should be more than enough for most people.
To summarise: it's a well-designed phone with plenty to be proud of from an aesthetic standpoint. However, while it doesn't come under the same 'cheap-feeling' category as the Galaxy S3, it doesn't have the premium feel of the HTC One S or the iPhone 5 in our opinion.
Add to that it's pretty anonymous when viewed straight on, and you have to wonder how LG plans to make this leap of the shelves when placed next to the competition.
However, if you do pick up the phone from the melee, you'll be in for a nice surprise, as it's one of the fastest we've encountered so far. That's not surprising when you consider it's got one of Qualcomm's most advanced CPUs inside, which has been teamed with 2GB of RAM.
This meant that no matter what we threw at it, the LG Optimus G was able to open and flick between apps with aplomb. This is down to Cross Tasking, as LG calls it, which means each core is able to operate at different speeds to enable more efficient multi-tasking.
We know it's been said before with phones like this that speeds are mind-blowing, but it seems the LG Optimus G was able to beat all the benchmarks out there too, so there's more than a little hope that this is one of the world's quickest handsets.
But beyond the iconography and general feel of the system, with its overly colourful widgets and geometric design, there are so many little tweaks that make it a joy to use.
These same tweaks will probably annoy those that love simplicity, but then again, they're generally happy with a six year-old iOS platform.
Opening the lock screen is the early winner, with a little dew bubble revealing what lies below as you unlock. There are four icons along the bottom of the phone which allow you to activate quick apps too, which makes it handy when loading the camera.
From there, it's pretty standard Android 4.0, which is a good thing for those that are upgrading from another Google-powered phone.
There's no word on when we'll be seeing Android Jelly Bean for the Optimus G, although LG has hinted it may drop by the end of the year (read: some point in 2013).
But there are several other neat touches on top that we really like, and will help differentiate the LG Optimus G if people actually give it a decent play in the shop.
Q-Slide allows you to be watching a video or using the internet (as LG puts it: any app it can control) and place any other on top. This may sound slightly pointless as it's nigh-on impossible to concentrate on more than one task on a smartphone, but it stops the video getting in the way as it does on Samsung's option.
The other, more useful, trick is the ability to resize or personalise icons. This means that if you drag an icon around the home screen, if it has a widget attached it will grow larger to offer things like bookmarks or media. And if it doesn't have a larger option, you can place any picture you like as the app instead, making it a really personal experience.
The rest of the phone is mostly impressive, so we can almost whip through it. The browser is pretty much stock Android Ice Cream Sandwich, but is pretty fast over 4G – although not as quick as some out there, it's important to note this isn't final software and such things often get optimised for launch.
We often try to see how long we can last before installing something like Swiftkey in these scenarios, but it was only a couple of hours with the Optimus G.
The final thing we'll look at is the screen (well, it's the first thing you'll probably look at) as LG is touting both its clarity and power efficiency.
We saw tests that compared it to Samsung's Super AMOLED HD screen, which showed that it was able to use less power at higher brightness, as well as offering more natural colours thanks to a full matrix of RGB colouring.
In truth, it's a screen that looks great and is as sharp as a pin, but doesn't have the same 'wow' factor as the AMOLED, which offers better contrast ratio and brightness. There are many display snobs out there that don't believe Samsung's favourite screen type offers 'true' images, but in our eyes its still the more impressive.
That's not to say LG's is poor by any means – but we do prefer watching movies on the S3, and not just because we can pop them over on a microSD card.
Early verdictIs the LG Optimus G the phone of the year? It's too early to say, for a number of reasons: the first being that we won't see it in the US until later in 2012 and may never see it on European shores at all.
Then there's the issue of price, or lack of one. While LG usually undercuts its competitors, it will need to do so pretty strongly here to make sure it stands out of the throng of top-end smartphones available today.
It's a well-designed handset with plenty of interesting features we can't wait to get our teeth into, as well as more grunt than most other phones out there. We're not sure it will be the phone to propel LG back to the front (there needs to be a phone that takes the user by surprise with a new UI or fantastic design to achieve that) but it's one of the best the Lucky Group have come up with in a long while.