The LG G Pad 8.3 ($349.99 for 16GB) is a slim, attractive 8-inch Android tablet with an appealing interface. But while it's great in a lot of ways, it's not quite the best at anything, so it's outflanked in a very busy small tablet realm. Still, it might be your choice, and it isn't a bad one at all.
While it strongly resembling Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0, the G Pad looks slightly classier thanks to its mostly aluminum back. At 8.5 by 5 by .32 inches (HWD) it's just a little too wide to use comfortably with one hand, but at 11.9 ounces, it's nice and light. The 1,920-by-1,200-pixel IPS LCD screen is bright and sharp. LG always tries to make its products narrower for a better grip, and the G Pad is in fact narrower than both the Galaxy Note 8.0 and the Apple iPad mini . You just can't make an 8-inch screen very narrow without delivering a weird aspect ratio.
There are no buttons on the front of the tablet. When you set up the G Pad, LG asks you how you want Android's default touch buttons arranged, part of the company's obsession with customization. (You can also mess with the system fonts and icons in a way that competing Android devices typically don't let you do.) The metal back is cool and smooth, but not slippery. The 5-megapixel rear camera is up in a corner, along with the microSD card slot. This is a very well-built tablet.
Networking and Performance
The G Pad 8.3 has dual-band, 2.4 and 5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. There's no cellular connectivity here. I saw some strange Wi-Fi behavior when initially testing the tablet, but it died down promptly to put it on a performance level similar to the Google Nexus 7. The tablet has Bluetooth LE and GPS, both of which worked fine during testing. But there's no NFC, which I don't mind; NFC just hasn't taken off here in the U.S.
Battery life was slightly better than the Galaxy Note 8.0's on the same-size 4600mAh battery. Playing a video with the screen set to maximum brightness, the G Pad managed 5 hours, 53 minutes, while the Galaxy Note got 5 hours, 35 minutes, and the Nexus 7 got 7 hours, 37 minutes.
The G Pad runs Android 4.2.2 on a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor. Performance was good in a range of high-powered applications. The games Asphalt 8 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which are good ways of showing strain on an Android device, rendered well and were easy to control. Looking at our various benchmarks, the G Pad is competitive with other top choices, generally scoring slightly faster than the Nexus 7 but slightly slower than the most recent Samsung Galaxy Note line on various measurements. You shouldn't see a difference between these top tablets.
LG has added plenty of software to the Android baseline, but none of it is as noticeable as Samsung's heavy-handed Android skin. Most of LG's additions are useful. The company's multitasking interface, QSlide, lets you put two resizable windows over your main screen, rather than splitting the screen in half like on some Samsung tablets. You can multitask the Web browser, calendar, email, file manager, video player, calculator, or memo pad. "Wireless Storage" is a cool option; it launches a Web server on your G Pad so you can drag and drop files to and from the tablet over a Wi-Fi network. Quick Remote is LG's IR remote app, but it's crippled here compared with some other LG devices: This version only controls TVs and cable boxes, not other gadgets like stereos or air conditioners.
QPair is my favorite of LG's add-on apps. It pairs via Bluetooth with a downloadable app on any Android phone to give you tablet alerts when you receive text messages, phone calls or other notifications. It worked fine with my Moto X, and let me triage texts so I wouldn't have to pull out my phone every time I got an SMS message.
I didn't have any stalling or crashing problems on the G Pad. That's a change from some other Android tablets we've seen recently.
LG's own video and music playing apps as well as the Google Play apps are on board. LG's apps are clean and simple; they don't muck around with extra stores like Samsung's apps do, for instance. The tablet had no problem playing video up to 1080p in various formats, including H.264, MPEG4, WMV, and even an MKV file with high-quality audio. The tablet also had no problem with a range of audio formats including MP3, AAC, and WMA. The dual back-ported speakers are very loud, but tinny.
There's no video out; if you want to show video on a TV, you'll have to do it wirelessly through Miracast with the aid of something like a Netgear Push2TV adapter. Because there's generally a line of sight between your tablet and the TV, I saw perfectly smooth video streaming over Miracast, although for gaming, there was a bit too much lag.
The tablet has a 5-megapixel rear camera, which isn't bad, and a 1-megapixel front camera, which is. First, the good news: The main camera is sharp, when you have good lighting. It records smooth 1080p videos at 30 fps outdoors, dropping to 24 fps in low light, and it grabbed the text off a magazine page in macro mode without a problem. The camera app has some useful features, like night mode and HDR. The front camera, on the other hand, tends to be grainy and blotchy, overexposing bright backgrounds outside and dropping to very blurry, low shutter speeds in low light. There's also something a little odd about the focal length; to get my whole face in the camera, I had to hold the tablet at arm's length. It records 720p video at 30 fps outdoors and 24 fps indoors.
The 16GB model has 11.03GB free memory to start, so if you're playing a lot of videos, you'll want to slip a microSD card into a slot on the side that's covered by a little door. The G Pad supports cards up to 64GB.
The LG G Pad 8.3 is a slim, handsome tablet, but it's outflanked by three other competing tablets. The $379 Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 delivers everything you find here plus pressure-sensitive pen support, which actually makes a big difference. We recommend it over the very similar G Pad, unless you really can't think of ever using the pen.
Our top picks for small Android tablets are much less expensive than these models, as long as you can do without an SD card slot and multi-window multitasking, which are, admittedly, big "ifs." The $229 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX is the easiest-to-use tablet on the market. And the $229 Google Nexus 7 is powerful, flexible and slimmer. The Nexus 7's amazing balance of price and performance keeps it our Editors' Choice for small tablets.