The new LG G3 is quite simply the most feature-rich handset to be launched in the UK. It has a stunning array of features that put it right at the head of the pack in terms of technical capabilities, and for the most part, we are very impressed indeed.
LG has put a lot of thought into the design of this handset and worked hard to keep it as pocket-friendly as possible. The 5.5-inch screen is just a few millimetres away from the long edges and very close to the short edges too, so that the overall size of the phone is relatively small. Yes, it is still difficult to reach across for one-handed use, but as handsets with large screens go the overall size is impressively svelte.
The Android buttons take up screen space rather than being on the chassis, so that there is a loss of screen area for apps, but a gain in terms of keeping the chassis size small.
The power and volume buttons are on the back of the chassis. We first saw this arrangement in the LG G2, and here the buttons seem better designed. There is a sight indent on the volume buttons and a slight raise to the power button that sits between them, and this helps you find all three by touch alone. It does take a bit of getting used to, but it is a neat idea that means the sides of the phone can be largely clear. You can set the volume up and down buttons to launch LG’s QuickMemo and Camera apps respectively when the screen is off. The LG G3 is available in black, gold and white shades.
It has to be said that for a flagship handset we’d have liked a more premium quality feel to the design. The backplate has a brushed metal look but is made from plastic, and when compared to the superbly built HTC One (M8), the LG G3 seems second class. But then so does every other handset.
The ace in the pack for the LG G3 is its screen. The size we have already noted. It is sharp, bright and clear, and immediately shines out at you as something quite special. In fact it is a quad HD screen that packs in 2560 x 1440 pixels. That gives it a massive 534 pixels per inch, putting every other handset currently available in the UK in the shade. We often say that pixel count alone is not enough to make us enthuse about a handset’s screen. And we hold to that here.
The screen is certainly a cut above the average, but we aren’t convinced that all those extra pixels make a huge difference to the clarity and quality of what you can see when compared to, say, the 1920 x 1080 pixels of the 5.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S5 and five-inch HTC One (M8). As this pixel count becomes more widespread we may see apps that really take advantage, though. We’ll hold judgement for a while.
Other plus points for the screen include its very good viewing angles and brightness levels, both of which add to its appeal. Yes, it is very good and whether you are watching a movie or reading an ebook, playing a game or writing email, the screen’s high resolution and general quality is definitely a plus point that’s not to be ignored. This is just about as good as it gets.
Performance and battery
The processor behind the LG G3 is a top-of-the-range 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, which is supported by 2GB of RAM in our 16GB version of the handset. If you can get hold of a 32GB G3 then there’s 3GB of RAM in support. Despite these superb specs, some users have reported a slight lag using the LG G3, but this was not our experience. In fact, our 16GB review handset turned in top performances against our benchmarks, delivering an AnTuTu score of 35226, just a shade below the HTC One (M8), and showing off a blistering 23407 in the Quadrant benchmark.
The other specifications are as high-end as you would expect with NFC and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac all in the mix. The USB On The Go facility means we were able to read data, including music and video, from a USB stick. And, of course, this is a 4G phone.
A handset like this is probably going to have to do a lot more work than your average phone, delivering catch up TV, music, GPS-based navigation and more in an average day’s work. It is driven by a power-hungry processor and a greedy screen. It is an unfortunate trade off that it takes more power to run the LG G3’s superb screen than it would a smaller, lower quality one.
So there is inevitable effect on battery life. And the brighter you have the screen, the more power it will need too. It does go very, very bright indeed, so take care with the manual screen settings. Overall, the 3000mAh battery was an average rather than a stunning performer, and we often needed to give it a power boost in the late afternoon or early evening to survive.
The LG G3 runs on Android 4.4 making it bang up to date. You’d expect that from a flagship phone. LG has always been keen on skinning Android and that remains the case here. The net result of all the software additions is that the 16GB of installed memory is reduced to 10.4GB. While LG adds an awful lot to Android it feels quite light. The skin design is pleasant to look at and nothing feels over the top.
There are plenty of detail tweaks to be found through the settings area. You can, for example, as we’ve seen before from LG, fiddle with the Android hotkeys so that they are in your preferred order. And there are facilities to change the position of the dialpad and keyboard to make them hug the left or right of the screen for easier one-handed use.
Gesture controls are plentiful with recognised staples like answering an incoming call by lifting the phone to your ear and turning the LG G3 face down to silence incoming calls being accompanied by using that same face-down motion to pause video or stop an alarm. There are several multitasking features. You can open a number of apps from a QSlide menu so that they sit in a window on top of what you are doing. The range of apps supported includes a calculator, internet browser, phone dialer and more. You get to the QSlide menu from the notifications area.
You can also split the screen and view two apps at once. Not all apps are compatible, but the range includes plenty that are useful such as maps, YouTube, email and web browser. Looking at two apps at once is a bit of a squeeze on the 5.5-inch screen, but it might be useful at times. And, of course, LG adds a few apps to the Android standards. It is nice to see an FM radio here as a basic addition. QuickMemo+ is the note-taking app of choice and you can either type or draw with a finger to make notes.
There’s a separate task manager called, erm, Tasks, which lets you set due dates and issue reminders. A file manager is useful for keeping track of all your bits and pieces, and an app called Quick Remote lets you use the built-in infrared as a remote control for your TV and other equipment. It is easy to set up multiple ‘rooms’ and multiple devices.
The LG G3’s cameras are both very competent. The back-facing 13-megapixel camera benefits from laser autofocus. A laser is used to measure the distance between lens and object, to allow for much faster focusing. This can help with taking shots in gloomy locations. The dual LED flash also helps in low-light situations. Optical image stabilisation helps improve the clarity. LG has taken a ‘less is more’ approach to working with both cameras, with the screen left pretty much clear to act as an unobstructed viewfinder.
The Dual mode is one of the few camera options available, allowing you to take a photo with front and back cameras simultaneously. You can resize the smaller of the two images – which by default is that from the front camera – and invert the smaller image to be that from the back camera by tapping the screen.
The bottom line
The LG G3 is a lovely phone. Yes, it is expensive, but it does have a very strong mix of features that come together in a tidy package. The screen, obviously, is a highlight, but the well thought out and small set of software additions, good overlay to Android, impressive cameras and hassle-free performance are all endearing too. If only the chassis quality were better.
Review by Sandra Vogel