Until recently there was only one serious option if you wanted a full-size tablet, but with the arrival of the tablet-specific Android Honeycomb OS, now the iPad has some real competition.  The LG Optimus Pad joins the charge led by the Motorola Xoom and Asus Transformer, but what can it offer that those two can’t?

3D video

In a nutshell, 3D video capture. While each Honeycomb tablet needs something to distinguish it from the competition, this is an odd choice. Of all the things you might want to do with a big tablet, recording video is unlikely to be high on the list.

Nevertheless, the Optimus Pad has a pair of stereoscopic lenses on the rear panel, set about 4.5cm apart. That’s not as far apart as the typical pair of human eyes, but does have enough separation to give a reasonable amount of depth in the resulting footage.

You can shoot in side-by-side mode but you’ll need a 3D display to watch this back on, since the Optimus Pad’s screen is a standard 2D affair. However, there’s also an anaglyph 3D shooting mode which processes the lenses with red and blue filters. That means you can watch your movies in 3D on the tablet with the supplied red and blue glasses.

Results aren’t fantastic in either mode, but it’s fun for a while, and given the current price of dedicated 3D camcorders at least it offers another way in to the world of DIY 3D video.

Otherwise the Optimus Pad is fine but unremarkable. It’s comfortable in the hand, more so than the Xoom and undocked Transformer, and is a little smaller than both. It’s not iPad-thin but is well made and not excessively bulky.

Inside it’s running on the same core hardware as the Xoom and Transformer, borne out by very similar performance with apps and the same slight difficulty in maintaining framerates when playing higher quality video files.

Play, but don’t plug

Aside from the 3D cameras the Optimus Pad is short on extras. While you do get an HDMI output and headphone socket, there’s no way of plugging in USB sticks or memory cards of any sort. That’s a shame as it means you’ll have to connect it to a PC or Mac (with Android File Transfer) to move content onto it from other devices or go via the net.

Review continues after the break…

At the moment the Optimus Pad is on Honeycomb 3.0, yet to receive an update to 3.1, but that’s not a huge issue. The OS performs well and there’s enough internal power to push things around smoothly. The screen is responsive, bright and colourful and the speakers are fine for casual iPlayer viewing.

But then there’s the price: £750. Yes, you do get a 3G modem for that money, but even so, that’s a staggeringly optimistic amount of money. If the Optimus Pad were a staggeringly impressive tablet, fair enough, but it’s not. It’s good, but not that good.

Stuff says... 

LG Optimus Pad review

A fine Honeycomb tablet that doesn’t offer enough to justify the price