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Featured Review: LG G4

May 8, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

It’s LG’s fourth generation of what started as the Optimus G line, and then was shortened to just “G” with the LG G2 back in 2013. Speaking of the LG G2, that was the phone from LG that really caught a lot of us off-guard. Many of us hadn’t expected LG to make an amazing phone like they did with the G2. And they built on that with the G3. As well as being “first”. And that’s in terms of having a Quad HD display. The LG G3 had some faults, but so does every other phone. LG hopes that the G4 fixed the most of those faults this time around, and it seems like they have.

While the LG G4 was heavily leaked before the announcement on April 28th, we were still in awe when we saw the device in New York. LG seemed to have hit the ball out of the park at that time. So, about 2 weeks after the announcement, do we still feel that way? Let’s find out in the full review.

Hardware

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If you’ve used the LG G Flex 2, or the LG G3 then you’ll feel right at home with the look and feel of the LG G4. While there are some changes, there’s not a ton of them. One of the bigger changes you’ll likely notice is the power button. While it was a circle on the LG G3, and a square with rounded corners on the LG  Flex 2, here it’s more of a rectangle, but not a flat rectangle. It’s definitely more noticeable to your fingers on the back. LG didn’t go with the super thin bezels this time – in fact the bezels are a bit thicker this time around – so many questioned why LG stuck with the back facing buttons. Because they just work. I think I’ve said this in my LG G2, LG G Flex, G3, and G Flex 2 reviews, the back facing buttons are genius. Because your fingers are already there. You don’t have to reach the top of the phone, or a spot on the side to turn your phone on or off.

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LG also went with some new materials this time around. So there’s the regular plastic back which we all know well from just about every other smartphone out there. It has a diamond look, which is different, but not sure it’s a “selling point” for a lot of customers. However, LG also has leather backs, which have been vegetable tanned. They didn’t just go with one or two colors this time around either. There are a number of leather options available. My personal favorite is the red one, still. LG also decided to stick with removable backs. Which is a great idea, especially with these different materials and colors. It means you can buy the plastic one, and then buy a leather back cover later on for your LG G4.

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Looking at the front of the LG G4, you’ll notice it does resemble the OnePlus One a small bit. It’s really only around the edges of the LG G4 – in my opinion. But that’s not a bad thing. And I doubt OnePlus is going to sue LG over the look of the G4. They don’t look that similar. I do like how the device looks, from the front. LG also curved the LG G4 on two axis’ so that it fits more comfortably in your hand, as well as your pocket and against your face. For those that actually, you know, use their phone as a phone.

Performance

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A lot of people were freaking out when we heard that the LG G4 might be featuring the Snapdragon 808 instead of the higher-end Snapdragon 810. But after the Snapdragon 810 issues with the LG G Flex 2 and the HTC One M9, we were quite relieved that they did not go with the Snapdragon 810. The Snapdragon 808 is still plenty speedy, it’s paired with 3GB of RAM here. I haven’t noticed any slowdowns really, and it doesn’t heat up. Well it does, but it only heats up for me when I have it connected to Android Auto and streaming Spotify along with using navigation. A big part of that is likely the fact this is the Korean variant, which doesn’t work to well on US carriers.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the performance of the LG G4. I do wish Qualcomm did a better job with the Snapdragon 810 though, but we’ll have the Snapdragon 820 later this year, which should be a much, much better chip. LG and Qualcomm stated that they were working together with the Snapdragon 808 for over a year. So that its integration into the LG G4 is pretty good, and probably the best you’ll see.

Battery Life

A little disclaimer here. We’re using model F500L here which is indeed a Korean variant. And is not fully optimized for US carrier networks. So our battery life results are likely going to be a bit different once we get our hands on the US variants. You can check out some of our battery life results down below. LG G4 has done quite well for battery life this year. Not sure it outperforms the LG G3, but it did quite well for a 3,000mAh battery that is powering a Quad HD display. Additionally the battery is removable, so you can pop in another one if you really need more juice.

Software

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One of the biggest complaints of LG’s older smartphones have been the software. Mostly surrounding the user experience. It appears that LG has heard those complaints. As the UX on the LG G4 is pretty good. There are hints of material design all over the user experience, especially in LG’s stock apps like Settings, Messages, Phone and other apps. It looks really good, and makes the user experience just that much better. The weird shade of green is still around though, but it’s primarily in the notification drawer with the quick settings. And I can live with it being there.

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There’s no silent mode. LG decided to stick with Google’s plan. So you can choose All Interruptions, Priority or none. So no Silent Mode, but I think it’ll be fine for most people. It is running Android 5.1 so most of the fixes to Lollipop are baked into the LG G4.

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All of your favorite features are still there, and mostly unchanged. Including QRemote, QMemo+, and others. The Experience hasn’t changed, but they are a bit faster. We’ve noticed in older versions of LG devices, that there is a bit of a lag with LG devices, but that’s completely gone on the LG G4. One of the annoyances on the LG G4 – which is minor actually – is in the settings, the “Sounds & Notifications” tab isn’t big enough, so the text flows through, and just looks out of place. I think LG would have done better going with icons for those tabs instead of text, myself. There’s not a whole lot of pre-installed apps here, at least on the Korean version we have here. Outside of the LG apps, the only other one we really see is McAfee Security, which you can disable, pretty easily.

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Overall, LG’s software has gotten much better. In previous versions of the LG G2 and G3 the software was just ugly. To put it bluntly. And with the LG G4, it actually looks good and is smooth to use. LG has started using more material design in their UI which looks great, and performs great. So if you’re biggest issue with the LG G2 and LG G3 were the software, then you’re going to love the LG G4.

Camera

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There’s been a lot of hype around the camera this year,and rightfully so. The camera is a 16MP sensor with f 1.8 to allow in a ton of light. LG touted how well it took photos in low-light as well as their manual mode. LG has three options. Simple, Auto and Manual. Typically I stick with Auto, but sometimes I’ll switch over to Manual, and now you can do that with the LG G4 camera. We took plenty of pictures with the LG G4, and all of those are down below.

The camera app is largely unchanged as well. It’s not terrible, but it could definitely be fixed up a bit and easier to use. I do wish LG had given us features like Sony, and Samsung have, especially background defocus, that’s probably my favorite mode on any camera right now. Nevertheless, the LG G4 takes amazing pictures, see for yourself.

Final Thoughts

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LG thinks the G4 can compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S6. And I think they are right. The LG G4 seems to check a lot of the boxes on checklists for an upgrade. Better performance, better display, better battery life, better camera, just about everything is better. Not to mention the leather. If you think the leather looks ugly in pictures, go ahead and check it out when it hits retailers and carriers. I think you’ll like it in person better than on camera. At least that’s how it was for me.

The LG G4 is probably the closest to a perfect smartphone you’re going to find this year. It’s tough to say whether or not it’s better than the Samsung Galaxy S6, but it’s definitely a close race. Especially in terms of the camera.