Ever since Google and LG launched the $229 Nexus 7 last year, the outlook on what a cheap Android tablet could be has changed. It was dirt cheap, blazing fast, had an excellent display, and was pretty much everything you everything you could want in an iPad Mini competitor.
The new 7-inch G Pad tablet from LG comes from a similar perspective on cheap Android tablets. Previously, anything at, or around, the $200 mark just wasn’t worth considering, whether it was for hardware or software reasons. But this time, LG has taken it to the next level. Can a $149 Android tablet really be worth your time? Let’s find out.
The G Pad isn’t the sleekest or most interesting hardware LG has ever made, but it gets the job done. The back has a soft rubber coating, which is nice and grippy. Meanwhile, the tablet is relatively light in the hand, weighing in at just 0.65 lbs.—which is lighter than the iPad Mini, but not quite as light as the feathery Nexus 7 or Galaxy Tab 4 7.0. Even so, it feels great to hold in one hand, especially in portrait mode.
Speaking of those two devices—Google’s Nexus 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 7.0—the LG G Pad 7 is meant to be a direct competitor. The good news for LG is that both are more expensive, with Samsung’s coming in at $199 and Google’s at $229. The Nexus 7 has double the storage at 16GB and a better display, but it’s still $80 more. Furthermore, the G Pad does have a microSD card slot, which opens the door for cheap expandable storage.
The G Pad has a 1280 × 800 screen and 8GB of storage, which matches the Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 spec-for-spec. In fact, the only real differentiator in terms of specs is the 512MB of RAM in the Galaxy compared to the 1 GB in the G Pad—and is still $50 cheaper. Next to the iPad Mini or Nexus 7, the G Pad’s display is a little dull, lacking the sharpness and pixel-per-inch (ppi) density of those devices.
As for the camera, the G Pad’s rear-facing 3-megapixel camera is a bit disappointing, but shouldn’t be a deal breaker. It works well in direct sunlight and is able to capture adequate shots. In low light, it just falls apart. There’s no sense in using it if you’re not outside on a sunny day. The cheap camera is likely a cost cutting measure—which will be fine since most people have a decent smartphone camera in the pocket anyways.
It’s hard to pinpoint whether the occasional stutters in performance are from the 1GB of RAM, the 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor, or are software related. The few times I came across the scrolling problems or music delays, neither one lasted long enough to fully investigate—but it should be noted that they do exist. Overall though, performance is fairly smooth and fast.
Admittedly, the hardware is lower end to accommodate for the mind-blowing price point, but not in a way that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Possibly the biggest regret is that LG didn’t manage to (or possibly didn’t try to) replicate the bezel-less design of the G3 smartphone. Tablet design has been pretty stilted, each one looking like just another black slab in a sea of black slabs. LG doesn’t seem interested in shakings things up because the G Pad 7 is as generic as they come. Instead, the company seems more interested in hitting that $149—and for what it is, they seem to have cut corners in the right places.
One of the most important things to consider with Android tablets is the app situation. As many apps as Android has, the vast majority are ones made for phones. That means that using a large 10-inch tablet becomes a less-than-desirable experience.
At 7 inches, however, the smaller tablets mostly escape this fate. Apps scaled up to 7-inches feel useable and only occasionally present reminders that they aren’t really native to this size device.
As far as the first party apps from LG, it’s ported all the improvements it made to the flagship G3. The flat aesthetic is intact, the camera UI is similar, and it’s all built on 4.4.2 Android KitKat. There is still some bloatware to be weary of (some of it coming directly from LG), but it would be unfair to disregard the significant improvements the company has made in limiting features and clutter.
One of of the handy native apps on the G Pad is the universal remote control for TVs and cable boxes. It’s a welcome addition for a tablet that will likely live on the couch or living room coffee table. There’s also the Q Pair 2.0 feature, which lets you pair any Android phone running OS 4.1 or later to the tablet. You can then receive calls and text messages on both devices, which is a handy little feature as well.
If you need a low cost Android tablet, the G Pad is great. It’s not flashy, but it should get the job done. It has decent specs, a nice feel in the hand, and some handy apps to boot. The most compelling reason to buy one, however, is still primarily its $149 starting price.
If you’re looking for a powerful tablet, a high-definition display, or award-winning design, there are other tablets out on the market that put those things together at a reasonable price. The G Pad won’t sway anyone looking at an iPad Air, nor should it. It caters to a different crowd. Those looking for a digital book reader, secondary travel device, or a way to watch movies on the go will be extremely happy with the tablet.
As amazing as its $149 price tag is, the G Pad still has its flaws and shortcomings to consider. But if you’re looking in the under-$200 range, the G Pad is definitely your best option as of now.
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