LG's follow-up to the underrated G2, how does it stack up?
LG kinda came out of nowhere in 2012, and amazed us with the Optimus G. While it was only available on Sprint and AT&T here in the US (and I never got a chance to use it), it was a great device, and the beginning of the next chapter - so to speak - for LG. They also came out with the Nexus 4, then the G2 last year and the Nexus 5. All of which have been amazing devices and have forced us to change out mindset on LG. Prior to the fall of 2012, the mindset on LG was basically they make low-end and mid-range devices. But that is no longer true. I've been using the LG G2 for about 6-7 months now, and have had a few complaints. Most of which LG has fixed in the LG G3. Just how great is the LG G3 though? How well will it compete with the likes of the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and the upcoming Motorola Moto X+1? Well let's find out in the full review.
Editor's Note: We've been using the Korean LG G3 for about 2 weeks now. And we feel that we can give a full review now. But it's important to remember that there are some issues with the Korean G3 simply because it's not optimized for the US carrier networks and it's also a Korean phone.
- 5.5-inch 2560x1440 resolution IPS Display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Processor clocked at 2.5GHz
- 3GB of RAM
- 32GB of internal storage, along with a microSD card slot
- 3000mAh battery
- Android 4.4.2 with the Optimus UI
- 13MP camera on the back with OIS+ and Laser Auto Focus; 2.1MP front-facing camera
Probably the most important part about the LG G3, that display (or is it "dat display"?). LG was the first to put out a 2560x1440 Quad HD display and have it available worldwide. Sure there was the Oppo Find 7, but that wasn't really available as much as the G3 will be. Many people were worried that the display would eat too much battery and hinder performance. Well for me it did hinder performance a bit, but it wasn't terrible. I found that playing Asphalt 8 for a while, then leaving the game and trying to turn up the display to 100%, the G3 would not allow me to go up past 80-85%. And that was to keep it from overheating. Which I'm not surprised with. And that's actually the only time I've felt the LG G3 getting hot, or it giving me that message.
The display is gorgeous. Think of the display from the Nexus 10, or the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but squeeze it down to just 5.5-inches and there's the G3's display. Now there are some calibration issues here, the white balance seems a bit off, it's not as bright outdoors, etc., but most of this can be fixed with a software update which we may get before it hits the US. I will say however, keeping the display at 0% brightness really doesn't do it justice and it needs to be at around 30% or higher to really see how great the display is on the LG G3.
We've already gone over the specs, but now it's time to talk hardware which includes the build quality. With all the leaks of the LG G3, many of us thought that it was made of aluminum. Well it's not. It's still made of plastic, but made to look like it's got brushed aluminum on the back. And honesty, I like this approach and here's why. With aluminum, or metal, it makes it difficult for the signal to penetrate into the device. Therefore you're getting a weaker signal. Another thing I noticed is that it doesn't get scratched up as easily as the HTC One M8 did. There are some scratches on the back of my LG G3, but those are mostly from going in and out of my pocket, and that's kind of unavoidable without a case.
As far as the button placement goes, we've got the volume and power button on the back again. I was a big fan of this on the LG G2. And the simple reason is that my fingers are always there. So it just makes it easier to turn on/off the device, than reaching around to the side. Also, holding down the volume down key will jump into the camera, and it'll also work as a shutter key. Which I really like. Then you've got the headphone jack and microUSB port on the bottom of the device. We have on-screen keys on the LG G3 again, but we'll talk more about that in the software section.
While we were all looking forward to the Snapdragon 805 being in this beast, and we were let down with the Snapdragon 801, I don't think it's the end of the world. The Snapdragon 801 can handle the display on the LG G3, and in the time I've been using it, it has not stuttered or lagged except for once. And that was when it dipped below 10% battery remaining. The next day I got an OTA and it hasn't happened again. So I will attribute that to the pre-release software. It plays games well, just like any other 1080p device, and multi-tasking is perfect as well. I've never had to open the recents menu and clear all because I ran out of RAM. Then again, I haven't done that since the Galaxy Nexus days.
By now, I'm sure you know how I feel about benchmarks. They don't really translate to real-world usage. But for those that want to see, we have the results of AnTuTu X listed above.
This was one of the biggest worries that consumers had with the LG G3. The battery. For the simple reason that it is the same size battery as the LG G2, but with a slightly larger display and roughly double the pixels. But for me, in my usage with the Korean LG G3 (F400K) on T-Mobile, I've been getting great battery life. Battery life is down a bit from the LG G2, but I still think it's plenty to get your through the day. Granted all my tests were done on WiFi since this isn't optimized for US networks, but getting nearly 7 hours on screen seems like a good number to me. Even though I was roaming most of the day.
This was one of the bigger complaints of the LG G2. LG's Skin. It wasn't really good looking at all. In fact I hated it so much, I bought one. LG told us in their unveiling of the LG G3, that they listened to their customers and improved their skin based on that feedback, and I have to agree. they have really improved it. There's a lot of similarities to other skins. It's almost like a mashup of iOS 7, Touchwiz and HTC's Sense 6. We've got a flat UI now, we also have a more consistent design throughout the entire device. While I'm not a fan of the color green they used in the quick toggles in the notification bar on the G3, it does look nice. The one thing I'd like to see change though, is the ability to edit that color. Maybe we want white, or blue, or orange. It would be great to be able to customize that. What would also be cool is the ability to get rid of the quick toggles altogether and do a quick settings page like we have in Stock Android. Something else that LG changed in the G3 was the ability to remove the brightness and volume slider in the notification tray. On the LG G2, it used up so much space, that I'd need to root and use Xposed to get rid of at least one of them. But now you can easily remove one or both of them. Which makes the notification drawer a lot more cleaner and spacious.
Then there's the homescreen. Man it looks a lot like stock Android. What's nice though is that you can put up to 6 apps in the dock, and move the app drawer icon wherever you want. The customization of the LG launcher is amazing. The app drawer doesn't look a whole lot different from the LG G2's though. Pretty similar in layout and design, but again, it's flatter now. It looks more modern as well. You can also create folders in the app drawer, similar to Nova launcher (and I'm sure many other launchers as well).
I do have to say though, in terms of bloat, that most of the bloat on this device were from the Korean carrier that this device belongs too. Not a whole lot of LG bloat on this device. Out of the box you get around 24-25GB of storage of the 32GB. There's also the microSD card slot which does also support Apps2SD, for the apps that support it.
LG has also enabled immersive mode in a lot of their apps. Now it doesn't go into the navigation bar, but it does go into the status bar and it looks amazing. I wish there was some way to enable it for all apps though, as that's one of my main reasons for rooting and installing Xposed.
Probably one of my favorite features on the LG G3. This is one of those security features we all will love. With Knock Code, it builds on top of the Knock ON feature that we got in the G2 which I raved about so much last year. Basically you can set a pattern on your device to unlock it. Instead of just double tapping the screen. It works extremely well after a few OTAs. You can check out the video above, to see exactly how Knock Code works.
Smart Notice is a pretty cool feature, but it does need some work. Smart Notice is built into the weather/clock widget on your homescreen. It'll give you information like the weather in text form "There will be increasing clouds and rain." it's also supposed to give you information like Birthdays, New Contact suggestions and other goodies. But I have not once seen anything other than Smart Tips and the weather. It's a pretty cool feature, like I said, but it does need some work.
LG's keyboard also got an overhaul with the G3. It's a pretty decent keyboard, even though I still use Swiftkey instead - personal preference - but now you can adjust the size of the keyboard as well as slide across the spacebar to move the cursor around. There's also a customized button on the left of the spacebar that you can use for any punctuation you want. Which I happen to be a big fan of. It's a pretty big overhaul compared to the keyboard on the LG G2, and one that was needed.
I'm sure many of us use apps like Clean Master to go through our phones and clear out junk we don't need like cached data and such. Well now with the LG G3, you don't need too. With Smart Cleaning (Found in Settings > General) you can find out what's using up all your space and deal with it accordingly. It's such a small feature, but a pretty damn useful one.
On screen buttons
LG had on screen buttons on the G2, but everyone seemed to complain about the lack of a recents button. Yes they didn't add that in the LG G2 unfortunately. But in the LG G3 we do have one. The menu button is gone completely actually. So now you have back, home, and recents out of the box. You can also add Quick Memo, Notification Pull down, QSlide, and Dual Window. In addition, you can choose between black, black gradient, white and white gradient. As well as having it transparent in apps that support that. Then there's my favorite part which is hiding the navigation bar in certain apps. That part is amazing, and so very useful.
Yes, it's a rip off of Samsung's Multi-Window feature, and I'm not a big fan of the name. But it does work pretty well. You can long press you back button and open up Dual Window. From there you can open the apps you want, adjust the size and so on. You can also re-open your recent Dual Window apps. It works pretty well, I haven't noticed any lag when using both apps at the same time. Even jumping back and forth between the two.
Yes, it's back. For those unaware, Q Slide allows you to open apps and have them floating on top of what you already have open. It was available in the LG G2, but it was far from perfect. The performance of Q Slide has greatly improved over the LG G2. Although you can only have two apps floating at the same time, which is unfortunate, but I'm sure LG has their reasons. Additionally, it only supports a few apps, including LG's Video app, their Korean TV app, Phone, Messaging, Calendar, Email, File Manager and Calculator. It's a pretty decent feature, I'm still not sure how often it'd get used though.
LG's Remote app isn't as feature packed as Samsung's is - after all they have partnered with PEEL for their WatchON app. It basically does everything you need for it to do. Now unfortunately, I was unable to test that much because both TV's in the house are brands that are not supported by LG. This is surprising to me since Samsung and HTC's devices do support both TV's with their Remote apps. So you'll want to watch out for that.
This is another important part of the LG G3. The camera has been hyped up quite a bit. Now I haven't done a comparison with the LG G2 just yet, but so far I've been pretty impressed with the LG G3 camera. Even in low light, it takes some amazing pictures. It also auto-focuses pretty quickly, thanks to some lasers. The camera on the back of the LG G3 has OIS+ along with laser Auto-Focus - which is something only found on high-end DSLRs. The UI of the camera app has improved a ton. The UI on the G2 was basically a Samsung rip off, but the G3 UI is a whole lot nicer, and a lot more minimal. I'm a huge fan of it actually. Now I could go on and on about the camera, but I'll let the pictures handle that, which are down below in the gallery.
- Display: The Display is amazing, at 538ppi it might be overkill, but that doesn't mean it doesn't look amazing. We've been told that we can't see anything over 300ppi, but that's wrong. I know at least for me, I can definitely tell the difference between a 720p and a 1080p display on a phone. And now a Quad HD as well.
- Battery: I've heard other reviewers say that the battery life was mediocre, but for me I couldn't be happier with the battery life. Especially given that this is a Korean model and not a US model.
- Software: LG has improved their overlay a ton, and it really shows. It may not be the prettiest overlay (I think that still belongs to HTC), but it's much lighter than the LG G2's overlay was, and even faster now.
- Overall Size: This is both a good and bad thing. The LG G3 is just slightly bigger than the LG G2, but has a .3-inch larger display. Which means the bezels are tiny, and does it look sharp, oh man.
- Build Quality: I know I've said I hate plastic in the past, but that's glossy plastic. I loved the polycarbonate on the HTC One X back in the day, and I really love the look and feel of the LG G3. With it's faux brushed aluminum finish on the back. It really looks amazing.
- Overall Size: The LG G3 is small for a 5.5-inch device. But it is still a bit bigger than the LG G2, which was pushing it for a lot of people. So this might be a bad thing for some, even though I like the size.
- Notification Tray: I said this in my review of the LG G2 last year, I really wish LG would adopt the AOSP way of doing quick toggles, having that second page is so much nicer. Also having a cleaner notification drawer.
- Battery: While battery life is good, if they had kept it as a non-removable battery it would have been larger and give us even better battery life. Probably closer to the insane battery life we see on the LG G2.
In case you haven't figured out by now, I really like the LG G3. Unlike many other manufacturers, they are actually listening to their customers and are fixing their overlay accordingly. When you compare it against it's competitors the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, it's hard to say which one is the best. They all serve different needs and all are different sizes. This year we have some really great flagship devices available, and we still have another 6 months to go. Who knows what we'll see this fall.
So the bottom line is, should you buy this smartphone from LG? That's up to you. It's a great smartphone, but still not a perfect smartphone. On a checklist of things you want in a smartphone, it definitely checks a lot of boxes.