LG G3 Beat – And the Beat goes on

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image0031LG’s G3 has left some really big shoes to fill for the less well-specced members of LG’s 2014 lineup as well as the competition from other companies. From LG’s stable, at least, the other phones available don’t even try to match up to the 2K screen, all-day battery and laser autofocus-toting camera that the G3 dropped on us a few months back but there’s at least one phone that’s taking a few pages from the G3’s playbook.

We’re referring, of course, to the LG G3 Beat, a stripped-down version of its speedy ancestor that makes some sacrifices to drop the price while retaining some of the features that make the G3 such an impressive handset. Recently launched in SA, we got our hands on the Beat and we’re here to tell you that it’s a reasonably good facsimile of the G3 – minus those concessions, obviously.

The Same But Different

Putting the G3 and G3 Beat side-by-side, you’d be struck by how similar the phones are on a purely visual level. The front and rear layouts are identical, there’s the same lack of any side buttons at all and the rear rocker and power switch remain unchanged. Actually hold each phone though and you’ll note that the build quality is slightly different.

There’s a solidity in the G3, especially around the rear panel, that is missing in the G3 Beat. The smaller phone has a (very slight) hollow feeling, though it’s still as premium as you are going to get at the Beat’s price point of around R5k. Long story short, it’s not quite as nice in the hand as the G3 but it’s pretty darned close.

LG G3 Beat Front

Display: 5-inch IPS LCD (720 x 1,280), 294ppi
Chipset/CPU: Snapdragon 400/Cortex-A7 1.2GHz quad-core (1GB RAM)
Storage: 8GB, up to 64GB external
Camera: 8MP (3,264 x 2,448), laser autofocus, LED flash/1.3MP (front)
Connectivity: LTE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
Battery: 2,540mAh Li-Ion
Operating System: Android 4.4.2
SIM Card: Micro-SIM
Features: Laser Autofocus
Dimensions: 137.7mm x 69.6 x 10.3

Less In The Specs

The G3 Beat is just another way of saying G3 Mini in our opinion, if you can apply that term to a 5-inch smartphone. The internal hardware has dropped across the board (mostly), with the Snapdragon 801 giving way to the Snapdragon 400, 2 or 3GB of RAM falls to 1GB and there’s less storage out of the box – 8GB with 3.8GB available. The review unit we received also came with a 16GB microSD fitted but we’re uncertain if that’s a standard thing.

The crystal clear Quad HD display from the full-fat G3 has been replaced with a 720p effort that nonetheless remains clear, colourful and pleasing to the eye. Not quite 2K pleasing but we’d take it.

The LG-customised Android 4.4.2 interface just flies along on the Beat’s hardware, which is a great feat considering that LG have retained the look of the UI on the G3 with about half of the hardware. There are a couple of apps missing, like the LG Health app, which we’re laying at the door of missing sensors. Otherwise, expect much the same software as found on the G3.

Laser Fixed On Target

The camera is where some of the G3’s features have stayed, specifically the laser autofocus. It’s a shame that LG couldn’t keep the G3’s full camera setup, the scaled down sensor doesn’t perform as well as we’d have liked. Taking photos outside in natural light, even when the subject (or the phone) is moving at speed, results in better-than-average shots. Clear and precise for the most part, you’ll be able to take snaps of most outdoor activities.

Taking the G3 Beat inside, under artificial light, we found that images were pretty grainy and the autofocus didn’t snap to as quick as we’ve seen it do outside. This translates over to low-light conditions, and we’ve seen better performance from other 8MP cameras to be honest. But the Beat does have laser autofocus going for it, which is nice. Your mileage will vary with the camera, is what we’re trying to say.

Verdict

As a mid-range take on LG’s flagship, the G3 Beat isn’t a bad performer at all. It retains a lot of the look and feel of the larger phone, features good performance considering the hardware and comes with LG’s laser autofocus. We’re disappointed that the rest of the camera doesn’t match up to the included tech though. But it’s just about half the price of the G3 and expecting identical performance to the G3 is asking far too much.

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