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Featured Review: LG G2 – Putting the Volume and Power Buttons on the Back are the Most Genius yet Awkward Thing Ever!

September 25, 2013 - Written By Alexander Maxham

In the past, LG normally gets overlooked when power users are looking for a new phone. Why? Simply because LG usually either makes a crappy phone with little to no support or a mid-range/low-end phone. However in 2012, that all changed. LG introduced us to the Optimus G last fall, which made it’s way to Sprint and AT&T in the US. It was a great phone, but it was only available on two carriers. Which was the downfall of the Optimus G. In the first half of 2013, LG introduced the Optimus G Pro, which was my first time with a high-end device from LG. As I said in my Optimus G Pro review, I loved it and was really excited to see what LG had planned for the rest of 2013 and beyond.

Then came August 7th, in New York City, where LG introduced us to the brand new LG G2. Yes, LG dropped the Optimus brand for their high-end lines the G line and Vu line. It does sound a bit strange to say, but it’s still a great name. The LG G2 is a spectacular device,  I’ve been using it for a little over a week now, and all I can say is ‘wow’. Before we jump into the full review, here’s what the spec sheet looks like:

  • 5.2-inch 1920×1080 resolution IPS display (with very small bezels)

  • Snapdragon 800 SoC quad-core 2.26GHz processor

  • 2GB of RAM

  • 16GB/32GB internal storage (24GB usable on the 32GB version) – no microSD card slot

  • 3000mAh battery

  • Android 4.2.2 with Optimus UI

One of the big things here is that the power button and volume rocker are on the back below the camera. That’s really not a big deal. Another thing here is how busy the notification shade is, although you can hide some of the stuff, it’s still sad that there’s so little room for notifications in the notification shade out-of-the-box. Now let’s jump into the full review.

Hardware

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The hardware here is a pretty big deal. The G2 is a bit different on each carrier. But we’ll do a hardware tour of the AT&T version, since that’s what we have here. On the front is your 5.2-inch 1080p display along with your speaker grill up top, front facing camera and notification LED and LG logo at the bottom. That’s it for the front. On the left and right sides there is nothing. Well that’s not quite true. The right side is the sim card tray. On the bottom is your headphone jack, speaker and microphone holes and microUSB port. Up top is nothing. On the back, there’s the 13MP camera with flash along with the power button and volume rocker below it (I’ll talk about that a bit more in a minute). There’s also the AT&T logo and the G2 logo at the bottom. I’m really liking that G2 logo, it looks nicer than the LG one on the International logo.

As far as the buttons on the back go, yes they take some getting used too. However if you’re like most people, when you hold your phone, your index finger is already there. For example, when I’m using the G2, my index finger is always sitting on the power button. Even though I like double tapping the screen to turn on and off the phone. Changing the volume is pretty easy as well. I actually really like the buttons back there. You can also long press the volume-down button and have the G2 unlock and go straight into the camera app. Which is nice, especially since it’s fast. Additionally the volume down key can act as the shutter as well.

Display

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I am in love with this display.

I guess I should say more about the display, right? As most of you know, the G2 uses on-screen buttons like many of the Nexus devices and Motorola phones. So most likely, you’ll see them burnt into your screen after a while. But I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon as I’ve had the Nexus 4 for about a year now and it hasn’t happened with that one yet. So I wouldn’t worry to much. The G2’s display is probably the best looking display I’ve used all year. And I’ve reviewed quite a few devices this year. Including the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Active, Optimus G Pro, HTC One, HTC One Mini, just to name a few. Now I loved the HTC One’s display, but I think that this one even blows that display away.

As always, the display is a battery hog. I don’t see that changing in mobile anytime soon. When you look at the G2, all you see is display, there is barely any bezel at all on the G2, which I love. As I’ve said on G+ in my mini review, the G2 is about the same size as my 4.7-inch Nexus 4, but it has a 5.2-inch display.

Design

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We talked about this briefly already. But I’ll go more in-depth here. The G2’s design is pretty good. Now it is glossy plastic like Samsung’s devices. So the back is definitely a fingerprint magnet. However, I think I’m over the whole “plastic < metal” debate. As long as you like the device, and how it feels in your hand, that’s what matters. The G2 feels great in the hand, even when it heats up, it doesn’t heat up by much. The back is curved a bit, which also makes it feel great while you’re holding it whether you’re checking Twitter, email, Google+, Facebook or even making a call.

Performance

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Well the G2 does have a Snapdragon 800 which is clocked at 2.26GHz. So performance shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve tried to throw as much at this device as I could and I was unable to get it to lag. That’s a great thing. Some of you might remember when the Galaxy S4 first came out earlier this year, it had a severe lag problem. But after an OTA or two, that lag problem disappeared.

Along with the 2GB of RAM inside, the G2 is an absolute beast. Remember it doesn’t have a microSD card slot, but it does have 32GB of internal storage, with around 24-25GB of that usable out-of-the-box. Remember that the Snapdragon 800 also has Quick Charge 2.0 inside, which we’ll talk more about in the battery section of this review. But, spoiler alert, it’s amazing.

Software

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As most of you know, the G2 is running Android 4.2.2 along with their Optimus UI. Yeah, it’s not the latest and greatest version of Android. However Android 4.2.2 is great. You’ve got your lockscreen widgets as well. But no quicksettings. LG has decided to just use their quick settings at the top of the notification shade instead. Speaking of the notification shade:

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LG’s skin, the Optimus UI, does some things well and over does some other things. As an aspiring Graphic Designer and Web Developer, the way the skin looks really gets to me. Let’s take the status bar as an example:

That shade of blue looks really bad too me, but it’s not to bad until you get into the apps. Then the gray background looks weird. I’d rather have a black background with that shade of blue for the status bar. Honestly, that’s the only thing I don’t like about LG’s skin or theme.

Starting on the home screen. It’s actually really customizable compared to others like stock Android or Touchwiz. For starters you can have 6 icons in the dock along with your app drawer icon. Which the app drawer icon can be moved anywhere. If you pinch the screen on the home screen, you’ll be taken to where you can add more home screens, delete some or choose a new default one. Long-pressing on the home screen will jump you into the widgets and wallpaper settings. Which you can also get into the widgets section in the app drawer.

Transitioning into the app drawer, you’ll see that it’s set up as a 5×5 grid. Which can be changed to a 4×5 grid. You can also change the view by, to Alphabetical, Downloaded Date, or customized by you. There’s also a way to pick a new icon for each app from your gallery. Which is freaking amazing, and I’ve never seen that on another device.

In the settings app, you’ll see that LG followed Samsung’s lead and did tabs at the top. So you’ve got Networks, Sound, Display and General. There are a ton of settings in here too. But don’t worry. If you press the menu button, you can go back to the list view we all know and love/hate. Another interesting thing is that you can change the on-screen buttons. Now they aren’t super customizable. But you can add a couple of buttons. One to pull down the notification shade and one for Quick Memo. You can also change the background to white, white gradient, black or black gradient. It can also be customized to be transparent on some apps, like the camera. Much like Samsung you can change the Font type and size. Unfortunately they don’t have the correct Roboto that is used on Nexus devices, but there is a Roboto font in there that I’m using on my G2 right now.

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Yes you can still swipe up from home to get to Google Now. But you get more than Google Now. On the Right you get an option to jump into Quick Memo, and on the Left there’s an option for VoiceMate. While swiping up gives you Google Now. It’s a bit tough to get used too. Because pressing and holding home acts as the recents button. So sometimes you’ll get your recent apps instead of the Google Now option. But once you get used to it, it’s pretty awesome.

Q Slide

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Q Slide is basically LG’s take on Samsung’s Multi-Window feature. Albeit a bit different, it’s still more or less the same concept. Using Q Slide, you can have a few different apps float over your screen. Those apps include Videos, Phone, Messaging, Calendar, Email, Note Pad, Voice Mate, File Manager, and the Calculator. Once you’ve chosen an app and it’s on your screen, you can drag the lower right-hand corner to make it smaller, or make it more transparent or even make it full screen. It’s not something I use all that much, but it’s still a pretty cool feature. However, I’d like to see more apps work with it. Like Google apps, Google+, Hangouts, etc.

Quick Memo

Quick Memo is one of those features that came from the Optimus G Pro earlier this year. It can even be a button in your navigation bar at the bottom of your screen. In fact, I have it next to my menu button. With Quick Memo you can take notes, or take screenshots and write on them. You can also share them with your favorite social networks using Androids sharing feature, or just save them for yourself for later on.

Slide Aside

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Slide Aside is one of my more favorite features here, besides KnockON. It’s more or less, LG’s take on multi-tasking. Keep in mind that it only handles 3 apps at a time. But it’s still really cool. When you’re in an app, you can use 3-fingers to swipe from right to left to slide the app aside. Hence the name. It’ll save the app, and you’ll get a notification about it too. You can do that for 3 apps.

If you swipe with 3-fingers from left to right, you’ll see a small preview of all the apps which you can jump into or swipe up or down or hit the x to close them out. It’s pretty cool, but it’s definitely going to need some work.

Notebook

Notebook kind of ties into Quick Memo. As the Quick Memo’s you save go into your Notebook. You can create all kinds of new notes in the Notebook, which is pretty cool. Especially if you’re one that likes to take notes often.

Quick Remote

Similar to some of the other flagships to hit the market this year, the G2 also has an IR blaster. Which is where Quick Remote comes in. Using the app, you can set up control for TV’s, Cable Boxes, Sounds systems, DVD players, Blu-ray players, Air conditioners, Projectors and much more. It’s really quite extensive compared to the apps on the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One.

KnockON

This is my number one favorite feature of the G2. In fact, I even did a video about it. Since the power button is on the back of the G2, LG thought they should make it a bit easier to turn on or off your phone. Introducing KnockON. Basically you double tap your screen to turn it on, and double tap (an empty space) to turn it off. KnockON has definitely spoiled me. Now when I use my Nexus 7, I keep trying to double tap the screen to turn it on. This is one of those features I’d love to see in stock Android, similar to Samsung’s Multi-Window and Motorola’s Active Display.

Benchmarks

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 We ran AnTuTu on the G2, and it did pretty well. We actually ran it a few times, and the screenshot above, is the highest score we were able to achieve. Not bad for a device running a quad-core 2.3GHz processor, right?

Battery

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The battery is amazing. It truly is. It’s a 3000mAh battery, so we thought that battery life would be really good. Which it is. In my testing, on WiFi I was able to get around 25-40 hours with about 2-4 hours of that being on-screen time. While on LTE I was about to get more than half of that. Which was definitely surprising. For those that want a removable battery, well this doesn’t have one. But when it lasts all day and then some, it’s definitely not needed to have a removable battery. Although it is wanted.

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Camera

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 The camera on the LG G2 is a pretty good camera. I’d have to say it’s right up there with the Galaxy S4’s camera. The interface in the Camera app is pretty good, compared to some others we’ve seen. The shutter on the camera is crazy fast, which definitely something great to see. You can see many of the test shots (some indoors and some outdoors) that I took with the G2.

The Good

  • Display: As I said in the display section of the review, the display is amazing. If you thought the display on the Optimus G Pro or the HTC one was amazing, you’ll be blown away by this one.

  • Battery Life: I almost think the G2 has better battery life than the DROID Maxx. I can get around 30 hours on WiFi and over 16 on LTE. Not bad considering that’s heavy usage.

  • Build Quality: Yes, it’s plastic. So what. It feels great in your hand. LG really did a great job here.

  • Performance: There’s nothing bad to say about the Snapdragon 800. It’s a pure beast. I definitely can’t wait to see more phones with this SoC.

The Bad

  • Carriers: Yes it’s on all the carriers. But some carriers had to mess it up.For instance the Q Slide apps are missing on the Verizon version, as well as the back buttons are a bit skinnier. Also Verizon has an “exclusive” on wireless charging….what?

  • Fingerprint Magnet: Not much of a bad thing, just something I felt everyone should know. The back of the G2 is glossy, similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and other devices from Samsung. So it is a pretty big fingerprint magnet.

  • MicroSD card slot: I know a lot of people are going to skip the G2 because it doesn’t have one. So what. If 24GB isn’t enough for you in a phone. Then I’d really like to know what you’re doing (unless it’s because you’re on a 500MB data plan). In days that most OEMs are doing 16GB phones, having a 32GB phone is nice. Especially with plenty of space unlike other OEMs.

Final Thoughts

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The LG G2 is definitely a great device. LG has stepped up their game in the past year and has shown that they are taking the mobile market seriously. I would hands-down recommend the G2 to anyone looking for a phone that will not lag, and that is plenty powerful for games. The G2 is also pretty small, even though it has a 5.2-inch display. Next to my Nexus 4, it’s a little taller, but pretty much the same size. Which is pretty awesome since the screen is .5-inch bigger than the Nexus 4. I’m really a fan of these small bezels and hope other OEMs do the same thing so we can have bigger screens in smaller builds.