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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hands-on with the 3D, LG Thrill 4G Android phone on AT&T

14

September

When I saw the first 3D smartphones at  the CTIA trade show in Orlando earlier this year, I was impressed with the 3D effects on their screens. Considering they didn't require the use of glasses, the 3D looked very snappy and had great depth, although it seemed very dependent on the angle of the screen. One of those phones was the LG Optimus 3D. Now available on the AT&T network, that phone is known as the LG Thrill 4G.

lg_thrill_front.jpgThe LG Thrill 4G is equipped with a 1Ghz Dual-Core, Dual-Channel RAM processor with 512MB of RAM. It has a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution 800 by 480 pixels. With 16GB of included memory and a microSD slot for cards up to 32GB, it has plenty of storage space. And all of this is packaged in a very sleek and well-built package that runs Android Froyo 2.2.2 on AT&T's network. AT&T calls the Thrill a 4G phone but it's really a phone capable of 4G speeds running on HSPA+ with an enhanced back-haul. I don't mean that as a slam on AT&T because the entire industry has used the "4G" moniker very loosely while they have been developing true 4G networks.

So in short, the LG Thrill packs some good power and it's basic functions are solid. The performance is snappy, the interface is clean and the included widgets are well-designed and useful. One weak point is the battery life, which is not the greatest, especially when using the Thrill as a WiFi hotspot or when shooting a lot of video. Another is the little, rubber flaps over the USB and HDMI ports which make for smooth edges and a nice appearance but end up being irritating and are prone to break. Still another is the 3D button on the bottom, right edge of the phone, but we'll talk about that later. Oh, and Froyo 2.2 on a phone this late in the game? What's up with that? (A gingerbread update is reported to be in the works) Yada, yada, yada...you've heard all this stuff before. Let's talk about what you really want to know, 3D.

As I said earlier, the 3D effects on the Thrill's screen are impressive and are achieved without glasses. To get the best effect, however, I found it necessary to hold the phone further away than I normally would. LG recommends 12-15 inches and for me, at 3/4 of an arm's length the 3D became much more pronounced with greater depth. Adjusting the screen so your eyes are perpendicular makes a large impact too. The 3D effect reminds me of those thick, lenticular postcards my grandmother used to send when I was a kid, but the quality is much better. The actual 3D technique used is called a parallax barrier, which is a layer in the display with a series of precision slits that allows each eye to see a different set of pixels to create a sense of depth.

The Thrill comes loaded with some 3D games, sample video clips, photos and access to a special 3D YouTube channel. All of this is easily accessed via a nifty 3D carousel/launcher that actually provides some of the best 3D effects of all. The easiest way to access the 3D carousel is with the 3D button on the upper, right edge as you hold the phone horizontally. From the Home screen you also can access the 3D content using the 3D Space app button in the dock. Once inside the camera app the 3D button functions as a toggle for 2D and 3D but DOES NOT function as a shutter button. So to make a photo or start recording a video, you still have to use the touchscreen. This makes the 3D button nothing more than a glorified launcher and switcher, which seems like a waste of a button to me. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Camera functions are excellent and when shooting in 3D mode it's "WYSIWYG" (what you see is what you get), which is really cool because the 3D effect is very pronounced when the image is coming straight from the Dual 5MP stereoscopic cameras. For video you get 720P HD in 3D and a full 1080p HD in 2D with excellent quality and decent audio too. A front-facing camera is also included for WiFi video conferencing. The shutter button on the touchscreen was pretty responsive for still photos and when starting video recording but there was a 2-second delay when pressing the button to stop a recording. This kept throwing me off but later I realized the recordings were stopping correctly  but the camera feedback was greatly delayed.

thrill4g_black_back.jpg

I decided to make my first 3D video using the Thrill and it was mostly a positive experience. Recording and viewing 3D clips is very simple and they look great on payback. When I was done shooting I wanted to get my clips out of the phone to do some multi-track editing and found many options for this through the "share" menu in the camera app. Choices there included Bluetooth, SMS, email and YouTube. After logging into YouTube I was able to upload each clip there by touching one button. LG calls this "Shoot and Share." The clips were uploaded with the proper tags so they were automatically ready to play in 3D. Larger clips required a WiFi connection and were held in a queue then uploaded later once a WiFi connection was established.

From YouTube I was able to view the clips in 3D and I then downloaded them from YouTube for editing. When shooting in 3D, each video clip is created as a paired, stereoscopic video. YouTube then processes the clips to present them in the red/blue, magenta/green 3D format that requires the use of the appropriate colored glasses. To view my finished video in 3D you'll need a pair of 3D glasses. I found the red/blue ones worked best but you can use other colors by changing the settings in the 3D menu (red 3D on bottom bar) in the bottom bar of the video player.

Although the audio recording was pretty decent by the Thrill, the audio was out of sync by 9 frames in every clip. That's a pretty big flaw and I'm interested to know if it has been reported by others. I only recorded in 3D mode so I don't know if it was unique to 3D recording. I ended up fixing it in Final Cut Pro but most people won't have that luxury and will likely upload straight to YouTube. So let's put that down as one of those things that make you go hmmmm.

Oh, and what about the online speeds? Almost everywhere I took the phone in Tampa Bay the Thrill was fast running on AT&T's HSPA+ network. It wasn't "OMG, let's cancel our FIOS account" fast, but if you're used to normal 3G speeds this phone will be a thrill.

For me the 3D features of the Thrill are a mixed bag. I found it difficult to play the games for more than 10 minutes because of eye strain. The 3D photo and video features are nice but I think once the novelty has passed, 3D ends up being more of a gimmick than a tool. If you really wanted to make a lot of 3D videos it would be better to invest in a 3D camera independent from a daily phone. So if you buy the Thrill, do it because you like the cereal and not because of the prize at the bottom of the box.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 9:25am]

    

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