On paper, LG's G-Slate (or Optimus Pad, in Europe), should convince me to finally buy a tablet. It's running Android Honeycomb - check! Dual-core Tegra 2 chipset - check! 3D camera for video and photo trickery - check! So why did my experience with it just leave me... kinda chilly?
True, the software wasn't final, so some of the bugs (it crashed a couple of times and was painfully slow opening some apps/changing screens) I experienced can be written off due to last-minute tweaks. However, little things like the brightness and clarity of the screen not matching my expectations shouldn't be influenced by what version of software it's running.
While there are over 100 tablets out there now (either in the shops, or beginning to look like vaporware), it's still very early days for tablets. The tablet-specific version of Android, Honeycomb, was only released just a few weeks ago, but hasn't quite got the chump to convince me I need to buy a separate device for using alongside my smartphone and laptop. I adore using Android for phones, and have done since T-Mobile's G1, but for me, Honeycomb feels much too similar to a phone experience.
It's not like LG hasn't tried. I appreciate that only anaglyphic 3D videos can be viewed on the tablet, and not stereoscopic, like the Optimus 3D smartphone's display. But why can I not find those stereoscopic 3D files for love or money, in the gallery app or similar? I shouldn't have to discover what videos I've shot, by plugging in elsewhere.
The anaglyphic 3D is a pretty funky feature, but personally I can't imagine using it. It's not like I have a 3DTV and would only shoot stereoscopic video at 720p - because I don't - but imagine yourself in day-to-day life, viewing your home videos wearing red and cyan glasses. You'd maybe show your friends once or two, for kicks, but that'd be it. You've got to give credit where credit's due, and LG deserves a pat on the back for launching the first 3D tablet, but I just don't see people waving an 8.9-inch tablet about them. Then again, the same could be said for photo-snapping. In fact, it's really only the forward-facing camera which I could see myself using regularly.
The size is great. That's one thing I really like about the G-Slate/Optimus Pad. 10-inches is bordering on laptop territory, but 8.9-inches, give or take an inch, is just right. The build felt pretty decent, too—LG's been improving on its hardware quality recently, and it feels noticeable, with its curved edges and silver strip down the back. It's light, and even waving it about, filming with one hand, felt ok. Weight-wise, anyway.
If LG and T-Mobile can sort out a fair price for this tablet, I'd say it's a fair model to buy, if you really can't wait for a tablet. Software can obviously be tinkered with post-purchase, and I'm sure Google has something even better in store for Honeycomb, but the one thing you can't change about a device is the hardware. Let's just hope that rumoured €999 price ($1350) is one big, fat mistake.
LG Optimus Pad Gallery