• X
  • Listen in to our latest podcast!

    July 28, 2014

    LG G3 Review: Bow to the new Android King

    Last year LG released one of the most critically acclaimed smartphones of the year, the LG G2. After rebranding the old Optimus brand, the LG G2 was the successor to the Optimus G, at least in spirit. The LG G2 completely set itself apart from the Optimus G, though, and quickly became LG‘s best-selling smartphone.

    Now LG brings us the LG G3, available in South Africa from 1 August, and it‘s trying to take everything on board from fans and critics alike and apply to the design of its latest flagship to appeal to all. Does it succeed in improving everything we didn‘t like about the G2 while consolidating its successes from that device?

    Before we find out, check out some of the key features of the G3:

    • 5.5″ QHD (1440 x 2560px) IPS LCD, 538ppi, Gorilla Glass 3
    • Android 4.4.2 KitKat
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset with quad-core 2.5GHz Krait 400 processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB/3GB of RAM
    • 13MP camera, phase detection/laser autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, OIS, 2160p video recording
    • 2.1MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
    • 16GB/32GB of built-in storage, expandable via a microSD card slot
    • 3,000mAh user-replaceable battery
    • IR-port and NFC

    intro

    With the best specs we‘ve seen in a global flagship to date, you would expect it to perform among the best of all today‘s super phones. But will it be the blockbuster LG hopes it to be? Without the style of the HTC One M8 and the notoriety of the Galaxy S5, the LG G3 will have to win over hearts the old fashioned way: by simply being better than everything else.

    Design and Build

    d2

    While the LG G2 was certainly interesting in design as it had the back button configuration, it certainly left a lot to be desired in terms of materials. The glossy plastic on the back wasn‘t nearly as slick and nasty to handle as we saw on the Galaxy S4, but it was still a glossy plastic that would pick up dust and fingerprints on a continual basis. It would also scratch extremely easily.

    That is the first change you notice here ““ the metallic skin looks much better than the previous version‘s plastic back. Don‘t be fooled, though, it isn‘t metal. Rather, it is a plastic shell painted to look like a brushed metal case. LG said the mechanics of the device didn‘t allow for a real metal case, which we can believe, but it is still a slight let down.

    d1

    That being said, this is still the best plastic you‘ll find on any device, including Nokia‘s Lumia range. It may not be as robust as the Lumia‘s, but it arguably looks much classier and doesn‘t bend and creak at all.

    The buttons on the back are better built than before as well ““ they are more tactile and easier to use. You won‘t hit them by accident as much as on the G2, either. If you are a newcomer to this configuration it can take while to get used to. But as we said with the LG G2, it is worth getting used to ““ the configuration just works. It‘s natural and intuitive, comfortable and easy to use after a day or two.

    d5

    One aspect that people may find a bit disappointing is that fact that is doesn‘t have an IPX rated dust and water protection chassis ““ it was sacrificed for a sleeker, more compact design. That doesn‘t bother us in the least, because just look at this device! It is certainly the sexiest Android device available in our opinion. Those thin bezels around the edges of the screen steal the show on the front – almost the entire front of the phone is taken up by that gorgeous display (which we‘ll come to). That, in conjunction with the curved, grippy back makes this device extremely easy to handle despite its relatively large size. I say “˜relatively‘ large size, because it is actually quite compact considering it has a 5.5-inch display. In fact, it‘s hardly larger than the HTC One M8 and basically the same size, yet thinner, than the Galaxy S5 (even though the G3 has a much larger display than both). We have to commend LG for this feat, it‘s an example of form not being sacrificed for function.

    d3

    LG is improving everything about the quality of their phones with every new iteration, which is great to see. They have even listened to consumers and made the back cover
    and battery removable and included a microSD card slot.

    Overall, we can‘t fault the build quality of this device, even though we would have loved a metal skin.

    d4

    Screen

    Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest talking points of the new LG flagship. It is the first globally sold flagship that ships with a Quad HD display. The 5.5-inch IPS display delivers a whopping 538 pixels per square inch.

    Colour accuracy, contrast, and viewing angles are all very good on this display. Unlike some of its competitors, the display is also more than capable outdoors and is bright enough to be used on a sunny day.

    s1

    While the level of detail is much better for a 1440 x 2560px display when compared to a 1080p display, you won‘t really notice it, though. The jump from 720p to 1080p displays was immediately evident, but you won‘t see same difference when switching on this display. Let‘s call it what it is, a spec stunt.

    The most impressive thing about this screen is not its otherworldly 538ppi pixel density, but how efficient the designers have been with the space around it. More than 76 percent of the area at the front of the device is occupied by this display. Not only does it pre-empt you to focus more on the display, it makes the device look spectacular.

    The display is extremely detailed, sharp and vivid. It certainly has the best screen out there (the Galaxy S5‘s display can be bundled in the same group, we feel).

    User Interface

    uic

     

    LG have tried to make this software release its most robust yet. It has been almost completely rebuilt from the ground up. It also looks vastly different to anything we‘ve seen from LG in the past. LG have focused on keeping the device closer to what Android was meant to be, while adding their own touches of flair where possible on the Optimus UI skin.

    ui1The lock screen is still what you would expect, but LG have added some weather displaying capabilities to it, as you can see. While it‘s not new, it is beautifully implemented here. You also have many forms of security available, including LG‘s Knock Code. It can be a bit finicky at first, but once you get used to it you won‘t need to enter the same code twice. Since the LG G3 has no buttons on the sides of the device to unlock, this is a great solution to accessing the device, especially when it‘s laying on a surface and you don‘t want to pick it up.

    Like on the G2, the navigation buttons are virtual. Having the buttons on-screen ensures better response time and less chance of mechanical wear but, as we‘ve seen on other devices, it also means you’re effectively giving up part of your screen estate. Most of the time, though, the background behind the buttons is transparent and they obediently move out the way when you’re watching a video or image so you still have use of the entire screen area.

    The leftmost pane on the G3 is reserved for Smart Bulletin, akin to Samsung‘s My Magazine and HTC‘s BlinkFeed. It shows at-a-glance info from LG’s Health app and Smart tips that highlight aspects of the phone’s technology and usage thereof. We have to admit that it‘s slightly limited at the moment, but LG have promised revisions with every software update, so we look forward to testing out the new functionality when it becomes available.

    ui2

    The app drawer, widget selector and homescreen organisation is business as usual, and pretty much what you‘ll find on any Android smartphone.

    One of the biggest changes of LG‘s software experience is the aesthetics, and it shows throughout. Take the notification bar, for example. It still functions as you‘d expect ““a swipe down from the top bar displays a scrollable row of quick toggles, some sliders, and any notifications you may have ““ but as you can see the design is flat and much simpler than it was on the LG G2. You can expand or collapse notifications with a two finger swipe, and dismiss them by swiping left or right as before.

    ui3

    Getting to the recently-opened apps is done with the dedicated on-screen button. The interface shows a list of thumbnails for each app. It is a different layout to what you generally find on Android, but we quite like it as you see many more open apps at once than you did previously. While the functionality has been expanded, swiping an app away is a bit more frustrating than before. It‘s a small price to pay for the expanded list of apps, however.

    ui4

    ui5One brilliant addition is the smart keyboard. It can be scaled vertically to suit user preference, split into two clusters so it‘s more thumb-friendly in landscape mode, or pushed to either side of the screen to make typing easier. It gives the user so much flexibility, and even helps with one handed usability and makes typing easier for people with smaller hands. The predictive text is also better than we‘ve seen on other Android phones and it was the first time in ages that I didn‘t find myself downloading SwiftKey directly after turning on the phone.

    The LG G3 is, most welcomingly, a very solid Android KitKat experience. LG deserves credit for its implementation “” this phone does the mundane tasks like picking up a signal and switching between Wi-Fi networks with aplomb ““ and for showing Samsung that added features don‘t need to be in your face the whole time to be useful. It also manages these alterations without affecting software performance, something its competitors have not managed to do when implementing heavy skinned version of Android.

    Performance and Battery Life

    As you can imagine with the Snapdragon 801 CPU on board, benchmark performance is top notch. Using a smartphone isn‘t about benchmark scores, though, we measure the performance on day to day use.

    Here, the G3 is no slouch either. Admittedly, there were a couple of occasions that we saw a bit of lag and slowdown (mostly with the Recent Apps screen), which we feel is likely down to the larger amount of pixels it needs to push with this display. The only phones that perform slightly better on a day to day basis are the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z2, but the G3 still has it over the rest of the competition.

    The 3,000mAh performs admirably, even though we thought it would suffer a bit to power that vivid display. LG‘s battery optimisations go a long way in helping you stretch battery life, but even without it you won‘t find yourself needing a charger at any time during the day.

    Even with extreme use which included video playback and listening to music via a Bluetooth connected device for hours without end, we were unable to use up all the juice in a single day.

    Camera

    c1

    The interface on the G3‘s camera app has also been completely overhauled. Taking photos is much easier and quicker than before, because of the simpler, more coherent app but also because of a new addition: lasers.

    Okay, it‘s only one laser, but it is used for the G3‘s autofocus feature. It sets the focal point of the photograph and the hardware stabilization provides a steady viewfinder image. LG quotes a time of 276 milliseconds for the G3‘s autofocus and it is indeed very fast. The speed that a user experiences is a combination of how long the camera app takes to launch, the autofocus time, and the image-processing time, and here the G3 is second to none, bar the iPhone. You can see more camera samples here.

    c4

    The same can be said for image quality on the G3. It is better than most, but not an outright winner. Approaching the performance of the standard-setting iPhone 5S and Nokia‘s cameras, the G3 falls slightly short with the performance of its 13 MP camera. Once again, the G3‘s combination of good light and low-light performance is the best you‘ll find on any Android device, but that Nokia PureView and iPhone cameras are brilliant.

    c2

    The general quality of photos taken from day to day photography are up there with the best on the LG G3, and it’s a real recommendation from us.

    Conclusion

    If you haven‘t used an LG in recent years, the LG G3 may get some getting used to. But if you are in the market for a new Android device, you‘ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don‘t go to a store and handle this device when it hits the SA market on the 1st of August.

    It has a fun, easy to use, quick, laser-guided camera, one of the best software experiences around, the assurance of great battery life and excellent build quality. The Quad HD display is fantastic, even if its extra resolution doesn‘t contribute much in the way of meaningful improvement. Some may think the G3 big and awkward because they see it has a 5.5-inch display, but it is really no larger than competitor devices. The size trade-off is also worth it on the whole, with a curved and easily handled body which compensates for any unwieldiness.

    Overall, we think that many have lost sight of what a smartphone is actually meant to be. It is supposed to be smart, and not get in the way of doing simple tasks. Many of LG‘s competitors have that problem, but the G3 will accept your commands without question and not get in the way with other suggestions. The G3 has performed admirably and fulfilled every function you would need it to, and then some. Minor cosmetic issues with a plastic brushed metal finish aside, this is the best phone we‘ve used in 2014.

    Follow Theunis on Twitter: @Theunis_BWB

    Listen in to our latest podcast!

    • Fanie Kuhn

      The writer didn’t comment on voice quality, which hopefully is better than the G2 which was terrible.

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        Hi Fanie. The voice quality is much improved from the G2, on both sides of the connection. It can sound a bit ‘tinny’ sometimes, but it is markedly improved.

    • Adrian Phipps

      My sister has the LG G2 and I was impressed with it’s seamless performance, and a colleague has just got himself this beast, I can see the G3 dominating other similar smartphones out there, yes S5 I’m talking to you. Unfortunately Samsung have such a strong brand many people will not even know that this gem is out there… Would love to test this baby for a bit..

    • Shiv179

      Great review, thanks!

    • Reuben

      This review just made me even more amped for this phone and it would be even better if I won it. I just need to know if we are getting the 3GB model here in South Africa.

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        The review model had 2GB of RAM, but the one launching on 1 August is the 3GB model.

    • Dave Elmore

      I might have missed this, but price postioning for outright purchase?

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        Hi Dave. The recommended retail price is R8,999, but it is available on Orange Mobile’s online store for about R7,000.

    • Ling Ling Addison Sheperd

      I have had some bad experiences with touch phones, the sensitivity of the screen is a huge concern for me?

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        Are you concerned that the bump in resolution may effect responsiveness? All modern screens are very responsive and don’t pose any problems.

    • Anthony Robinson

      That’s a nice review of the phone but I see you have not mentioned the random shutdown issues that plague the device (http://forum.xda-developers.com/lg-g3/help/lg-g3-d855-shutsdown-t2803292). I have had one for a few weeks now and this shutdown issue is a real problem that reviewers seem to be overlooking?

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        Hi Anthony, thanks for the comment. I have also come across some forums talking about that, but I can only report on what my experience is. I have had absolutely no shutdown issues – perhaps it occurs in certain batches?
        How often does it happen to you?

        • I got the G3 as an upgrade last week and I too have experienced these random shutdowns. I don’t know if it’s a hardware issue or a software one.

          The last couple of pages on the MyBroadband thread (http://mybroadband.co.za/vb/showthread.php/619223-Official-LG-G3) – tells of other people with similar issues.

          I plan to return mine today and wait for however long it will take Cellucity and Vodacom to investigate the problem.

          • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

            It mostly seems to be the version with 32GB of storage. The review unit was the 16GB RAM version, so perhaps that is why I didn’t experience those problems.

            Hopefully they will sort it out with a firmware issue very soon. Let us know what feedback you get from Cellucity and Vodacom.

    • Randhir Parbhunath

      That is all great, but how does it function as a phone? Is it easy to dial out? Is it easy to save a number to a profile, or easy to link profiles? Does it latch on to the strongest signal? Does it drop calls? is the hands free speaker and mic clear and crisp? Thanks for the “smart” review… how about the “Phone” review???

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        Hi Randhir, thanks for the comment. These are basic things we expect all modern flagship smartphones to do without issues. If we had any problems with any of the above and felt its something the consumer should know we would mention it. For the latest devices we can see no news as good news in this regard.

    • MJK

      Hi, Do you think the G3 is better than the S5 & Z2? I am due for an upgrade but i dont like to have the same phone as every1 else, so please advise

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        We definitely feel the G3 is a better device than the GS5 and Xperia Z2. As an overall package there isn’t a better Android device out there at the moment. You may also be able to pick it up at a lower cost than the aforementioned.

    • Aidan Host

      Got the G3 on upgrade. Awesome phone, except for the software issues that plague it. Random lock-ups/crashes (screen switches off and only way to get it back is to pull the battery) and the sound issues. The software is trying to be “too smart”, it tries to detect what device you’ve plugged in (headphones, headset w/ mic or aux connection) and in doing that it bombs out most of the time on the aux connections (doesn’t play through the aux device). Headset w/ mic works perfectly, but any other sound device suffers, either from a hiss on headphones to a rather loud and disturbing sound “crack/explosion” when music changes.

      Some European countries have already received a few software updates that try to address the issues, but in good old RSA we haven’t seen hide nor hair of any updates anytime soon, if at all.

      Rather bummed out about it. :/

    • Louis du Toit

      Mg G3’s firmware was updated to V10j-ZAR-XX and no more shutdowns! Joy!

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        Great news, yes!

    • Eddy

      Its size won’t be for everyone, and we do wish LG would take a closer look at the audio side of things, but there’s no denying that its high-res capabilities, mixed in with a stunning video performance, great design and superb user experience make it a very tempting choice.

    • Eric

      I upgraded to this Awesome device about a month ago. And I am in love with it! The HD display, quality photo’s (which I take alot of) doesn’t dissapoint. Sound quality from the one speaker is amazing! Touch response time and processor speed.. I could go on.. However the one problem I have is that the device gets extremely hot and then at first prohibits some functions like recording videos because it generates more heat and shortly thereafter will shut down to cool down. I don’t know if this is normal or a glitch, but it is fast becoming a real problem. Any advice? Should I take it in or is there a reason or solution I can turn go myself?

    • isaac

      this comment is useless.. all smartphones of the same price range will offer +/- the same.. i can just say about this phone I hate it and don’t buy it…. both the screen and back side of the cell get HOT (not warm but HOT!!!) when using it on a normal basis…