Avatar has a lot to answer for. Almost single-handedly it reignited interest in 3D, spurning a revolution in cinema, TVs, monitors, gaming and now... smartphones.
It seems like only yesterday we were laying our eyes on Nintendo's 3DS
handheld console for the first time, gently shaking our heads and not quite believing how simple and effective glasses-free 3D parallax barrier technology could be when placed squarely in your mitts. And now the same tech that's behind Nintendo's 3D effort is finding its way into phones: firstly via LG's latest flagship smartphone, the Optimus 3D (exclusive to Optus), and also soon in the form of HTC's upcoming EVO 3D (on Telstra).
So, how does 3D stack up on the Optimus 3D? Very nicely, actually. The phone comes pre-loaded with a number of 3D apps, games and video clips so you can quickly dip in and sample what it's capable of. The 3D effect can seem a little fuzzy at times (and it's more pixellated too, given the screen needs to halve its resolution to display the dual images necessary for the effect), but your jaw will still drop when you take it in for the first time (once you've gotten yourself in the right position, which can take a little getting used to).
Professionally shot 3D movies look amazing on the device, and games like the bundled Gameloft titles NOVA, Asphalt 6 and Let's Golf 2 become ever more visceral when played in 3D. (And a number of additional 3D-optimised Gameloft titles are free to download with the phone.) A direct portal to YouTube 3D is also at your fingertips, so if 3D is your thing you're unlikely to run out of things to watch. A 3D key on the side of the device enables you to switch instantly between 2D and 3D modes, and an onscreen slider lets you control the intensity of the effect from within most apps.
But the real killer feature 3D-wise isn't the content itself: it's the content creation. Not only does the Optimus 3D display 3D images on its 4.3-inch WVGA display but the device also features dual 5MP rear-facing cameras, enabling you to capture both 3D stills and video with the phone. This in our opinion is the most remarkable 3D trait of the unit: while you may tire of consuming 3D games and movies (and eye fatigue is indeed something to bear in mind when using the Optimus 3D or any 3D technology), the ability to photograph or film friends, family and places you've been in 3D (and instantly enjoy the results too) is a lot of fun.
What's impressive too is the 3D effect takes place in real-time on the touchscreen viewfinder; it's not applied post. It's worth noting that 3D stills are captured at a maximum of 3MP due to the cropping involved, while 2D images utilise the whole 5MP. Similarly, 3D video is shot at 720p but 2D video achieves 1080p. Your 3D captures can be shared via the aforementioned YouTube 3D and will display in 3D on any other 3D-capable TV or monitor (including using the Optimus 3D's HDMI out).
Of course, there's more than just the 3D guff. As LG's hero smartphone of the moment (superseding the Optimus 2X), the Optimus 3D is positioning itself as a 1GHz dual-core performance device too. The phone features LG's new "tri-dual" configuration (dual-core, dual-channel, dual memory) which saw it record a healthy 2,561 score in Quadrant (but made us wonder how much better it might fare if it included a gigabyte of RAM instead of just 512MB). The OS is Android 2.2 (presumably one of the last flagship devices we'll see shipping with the older Froyo?) although it's said LG will enable an over-the-air update to Gingerbread in Q4. Onboard storage is 8GB (expandable with microSD, up to 32GB). The Optimus 3D performed nimbly in our usage, but as we said before, we think it could have been a real superphone if they'd upped the onboard memory (as 1GB is becoming the new default for high-end phones).
All up, we don't think users in real life will take advantage of the 3D functionalities of the Optimus 3D all that often, but as far as nifty gimmicks go, this is about as good as it gets. The ability to take 3D snapshots or video while on holiday, or just having fun capturing silly images when you're hanging around with your friends, is a unique feature that makes the Optimus 3D really stand out from the crowd (no pun intended). This feature in concert with a powerful all-rounder Android handset makes for a compelling 2011 smartphone. We wonder if 3D will roll out to become standard on the 2012 fleet? Watch this space.Available on plans from Optus and retailing for $799. APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)