How Does the Verizon LG G3 Hold up Against the Competition
I have to admit that I was never a big LG fan – years ago I owned and used a couple of the old ‘flip-style’ LG devices in an area that had lousy coverage at best, and while they were nice looking, they did not offer very good reception. I made the switch to Motorola and never looked back. Whenever I hear LG’s name, mediocre is the one word that comes to mind – but all of that is now ancient, two year, history. Since LG started making the Nexus 4, followed by the Nexus 5, they have really stepped up their game. Last year, the G2 had a huge impact on their status as a high-end manufacturer and their follow up, the LG G3 takes them up yet another notch in quality and design. They are now offering some real competition for Samsung’s Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8 and whatever else will be coming out soon. In this review we will look at the Verizon variant of the G3 and see just how it holds up to our close inspection. As usual with Verizon, in the upper right hand corner on the front we have the Verizon logo and on the back, in the middle, the usual logo and 4G LTE markings.
- 5.5-inch QHD 2560—1440 resolution IPS Display with 538 Pixels-Per-Inch (PPI)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Processor clocked at 2.5GHz
- 3GB of RAM
- 32GB of storage with a micro SD card supporting up to an additional 128GB
- 13MP camera with Laser Autofocus, Dual LED Flash and OIS+
- 2.1MP front-facing camera (video chatting & selfies)
- 3,000mAh removable battery
- Android 4.4.2 KitKat with LG’s latest version of their Overlay (formerly named “Optimus UI”)
I am starting with the display because I ‘view’ it as one of the most important features on a smartphone – and especially since the LG G3 is the first real mass produced and available device with the newest Quad HD (QHD) display. That means we are looking at resolution of 2560 x 1440 with an incredible 538 Pixels-Per-Inch (PPI). I only use a Full HD display and was anxious to see if I could tell the difference between the two…but I found out I have a real problem. I have been using a Galaxy Note 2 and Note 3 for the past two years so I am used to Samsung’s Super AMOLED display. I do have my display set on Adaptive Display and Auto Brightness, to give me more ‘natural’ look, but there is no denying there is a difference between the contrast of an AMOLED and a LCD display.
When I first turned on the G3 I was very disappointed in how ‘washed out’ it looked. I quickly did some adjustments with the display and was forced to adjust the brightness to 100-percent and then turn on the Auto Brightness. At that setting it was close to what I like to see on my display and after those adjustments I could really appreciate the QHD display quality. I would be lying if I told you that I cannot wait until I get my next device with QHD – it just is not as big of a differentiating factor that I was hoping for. I could really see the difference going from 720p (HD) to 1080p (Full HD), but not so much to 1440p (QHD). Maybe these old eyes of mine really cannot tell the difference any more, but that does not take away from the fact that 1) I want QHD on my next device and 2) the display of the G3 is awesome.
We were not sure what to expect with the LG G3 – there were so many rumors about it having a metal backing and even the pictures suggested that feature, however, it turns out to be a plastic back that simply looks like metal. It actually works very nicely, although I would be concerned about how easily it will scratch in a pants pocket or purse. While I like the look and idea of actual metal, I think the G3 proves that polycarbonates work just fine and can still give the device a nice feel and build quality. Speaking of ‘feel,’ the design of the G3, with its curved sides makes it very nice to hold in your hand, if not a little slippery. I have always used a case on my smartphone, so the material and look is rather a moot point to me. I would recommend a case on the G3 to help with your grip on the device…Alex has reviewed some nice cases for the G3.
I wanted to comment on the placement of some of the functions. One thing I can say for sure is that I do not like the placement of the headphone jack on the bottom of the G3…or any smartphone. This a treat from Apple’s bag of tricks and I hate it – the top just makes so much more sense for easy pocket or console placement. This is a real annoyance to me that may not bother you in the least. Also on the bottom is the sensible placement of the microUSB port for charging your device or hooking it up to you PC or notebook for data transfer. On the top is a convenient IR Blaster to use for operating your HDTV or just about anything that requires a remote control – although some may find this a ‘gimmick,’ I have found it to be quite useful.
On the lower back is the speaker – it is new and improved over last year’s G2 and is a full 1-watt with its own amplifier. It does put out a nice, clear sound, however, it falls under another pet peeve of mine – I like the speaker on the front, as HTC did on its One series or on the extreme bottom, like the Galaxy Note series. I use my speakerphone a lot and you normally have the device facing with the display up which will only cover the back speaker – same with listening to music.
This is my first introduction to the rear buttons – rocker volume and power – that LG decided to use first on the G2 and now on the G3. I have mixed emotions about them – they look nice and are out of the way and with the ‘knock-knock’ feature, it is easy to wake up the device. My only problem is having to pick it up in order to turn off the display. I have a habit of quickly waking up my display, looking at it, and then turning it off to slide back in my pocket – I find the side button makes it easier to perform that task – but other than that, I like the rear placement. I would also like to see the buttons easier to use for people with bigger (read that as fat if you must) fingers…I just find it a little cramped back there and the power button needs to protrude a little higher.
Also on the back we have the camera, which we will talk later about in more detail, the Dual-LED flash to the right of the camera and the Laser Auto Focus to the left of the camera. The idea of the dual flash – one white and the other tinted yellow – is an idea that I wish more manufacturers would adopt in our the quest for the perfect photo.
The G3 has 13MP main shooter and is improved over last year’s G2 in a couple of ways – LG has improved the Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) and dubbed it OIS+ and according to LG, it should give about a 20-percent improvement in stabilization. The G3 also incorporates a laser beam for faster and more accurate focusing – as little as 0.276 of a second, and taking pictures is a fast and painless process. The main camera also has a Dual-LED flash for better adjustments to the lighting in your flash photos. The UI is very simple and probably as much as anybody would need in a smartphone camera – I find that most of the fancy settings are never used. The G3 also adds 4K and slow-motion video modes, which were not on the G2. We did a good comparison between the LG G3 and OnePlus One’s camera HERE in this review.
The G3’s 3000mAh battery is now removable, and while the same size as the G2’s, it is a new cell design with technology improvements to prolong its longevity. LG has also instituted improvements that reduce the screen’s power drain when the device displays a still image. With the new QHD display, there were justifiable worries about the drain on the battery life, but I found the battery life to be just fine. I am on Wi-Fi most all of the time which certainly helps the battery from having to look for 3G or 4G – and the G3 did sit in the sleep mode a lot. For heavy use, the G3 can make it through a long day, but, like most feature-packed smartphones, it must be recharged every night – a small price to pay for so much smartphone.
LG really listened to their customers and brought us a nice flat UI with some similarities between other newer designs. I am used to TouchWiz, so I find the notifications drop down on the G3 lacking in information. Many like that minimal effect – like stock Android, but not me – I like many bells and whistles as long as I can customize them to see what is important to me. I like having the option for the G3 app drawer of either 4×5 or 5×5 layout – I use the 5×5 layout because it goes with my ideology that more is better.
The Multitasking, or Dual Window, is better than what was on the G2 where you had to “slide” between apps with a three-finger gesture as part of something LG called “Slide Aside.” It is still not as nice as the implementation Samsung has done, however, for someone that has never used multitasking before it is fine.
I appreciate being able to customize the Home buttons – the first thing I did was switch my ‘Back’ button to the right, because that is where I am used to having it and it makes more sense to me there. I also like being able to have a total of four keys there, rather than three, but I really miss the ‘Menu’ key that is on the left of my Home button to quickly access the settings or after I bring up an application for options on my own device…sorry, but there were bound to be some comparisons!
For those of you that care about your health, LG Health – a knock-off of S-Health from Samsung – will track your steps throughout the day and the calories that you burned. You can use it for tracking all types of exercising – running, cycling, hiking, or even inline skating – and even see exactly where you went on a map. Me, I am not interested in how many steps I took or how many calories I may have burned to get to the doughnut shop.
There are a few other noteworthy features that LG included on the G3 that deserve s special mention:
Knock ON/Knock Code
With the buttons on the back, LG cleverly allows you to knock twice on the display to ‘wake’ it up and you can also set up a pattern of knocks to unlock your device.
Much improved over the G2 model – you can have up to two apps ‘floating’ on top of what you already have opened. You are limited to just a few apps such as Phone, Messaging, Calendar, Email, File Manager and Calculator – not sure how often I would use it, but it is available.
It is not as full-featured as Samsung’s WatchOn app is, but it will do your basic remote control functions. It would not pair with my Samsung TVs, so you may want to check if your brand is supported.
With the G3 there is no need to download a separate app for cleaning out those old pesky files, cached data, etc. Smart Cleaning (Settings->General) will show you what is eating up your resources and allow you to fix it.
LG overhauled their keyboard on the G3 and I like it – my personal preference is still SwiftKey – but LG did a nice job allowing you to adjust the size of the keyboard and including a customizable button to the left of the space bar that you can use for any punctuation that you want – pretty cool.
- Display – The QHD display is gorgeous as it proudly displays all 538 pixels-per-inch (PPI). They say that the human eye cannot tell any differences over 300 PPI, hence the infamous Apple retina display of 326 PPI – but even my old eyes can see the difference between 720p and 1080p…now with 1440p I am having a harder time noticing much difference, but even if it’s in my head, the difference is still there.
- Build Quality – The G3 looks and feels very nice – the curved back, the metallic-like finish and the entire face of the G3 is almost all display. It has a good, solid feel to it, even with the back taken off.
- Bezels – The small bezels make for a great experience and allow a large display in a relatively smaller space, besides, who wants to see a faceplate or black around the edges of their screen.
- Camera – I like the improvements in the camera area and the laser autofocus and quick picture taking is a plus.
- Size of the Device – The G3 incorporates a 5.5-inch screen in about a small a space as it possibly could…you get a large display with the feel of a smaller device.
- Battery Life – I am putting under ‘the bad’ only because you cannot really get more than a day of heavy use out of the G3, which is fine with me, but there are those out there that think a ‘mini’ computer with a QHD display should not have to be recharged while you are sleeping.
- Notification Tray – Going along with my ‘more is better’ mind set, I would like to see more options or customization in this area.
- Size of the Device – To me the size is excellent, but many people will think the G3 is too large to carry around for their daily driver…I say, get over it and enjoy the size – bigger, really is better.
- Backing – I said earlier and I meant it – the design and back look awesome, however, I always felt like it was going to slip out of my hands…some texture would be nice.
As you know from reading my review, I am a Samsung Note 3 user, but I really enjoyed my time with the LG G3. It is a pretty amazing piece of equipment and I like that LG is listening to their customers and making changes to their UI – something I wish Samsung would do. LG has given us a large QHD display in a small package and I do not think you could go wrong with this device…there are definitely more pluses than minuses using the G3.