LG G4 Beat – Down the well Beat-en path

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As surely as day follows night and traffic in Jozi follows other traffic like an Ouroboros attempting to get to the office instead of eating itself, the announcement of an LG flagship phone is followed by the announcement of a stripped-down, less-good, alternative. That’s how the world got the LG G4 Beat. And the G3 Beat but we’re not talking about that one today.

And now that it’s here, is it worth it? I happen to know the answer to that question and rather than simply share it with you, I’m going to… simply share it with you, actually. The short answer is: Not really, no.

Looks Aren’t Everything

G4 Beat BackplatesThe LG G4 Beat bears a striking resemblance to the LG G4. Well, it would, wouldn’t it? The phones are visually identical, with the size and the specs being the main differentiators here. And the placement of the headphone jack, which moves from the base of the phone (in the G4) to the top (G4 Beat).

There’s the same diamond-textured back, an identical camera/flash setup on the rear of the phone where the power button and volume rocker live and the front looks the same as well. If it wasn’t for the fact that LG have lopped off three inches for the G4 Beat, you’d be unable to tell them apart at a glance. Even now, you might need a couple of extra seconds to notice the size difference.

Inside Job

G4 Beat EdgeCloser inspection though… that tells the real story. The screen compression from 5.5-inches to 5.2-inches brings with it a drop in resolution to just plain HD. The G4’s Snapdragon 808 six-core processor has been swapped out for the Snapdragon 615 octa-core, the RAM has slipped to 1.5GB, storage has been trimmed to a mere 8GB, and there’s a microSD card slot. Which takes cards up to 32GB in size.

That’s unfortunately not the only place where cuts have been made. The 8MP front facer from the G4 gives way to a 5MP camera, the 16MP rear camera has been sliced to just 8MP (unless you live in South America, in which case you get a 13MP camera). Most of these sacrifices have been made to accommodate the camera tech that LG are so fond of. Parts of it, anyway.

Performance Art

G4 Beat Back OpenThe specs list brings the LG G4 Beat into close proximity with the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – but there is a difference here. More RAM, better microSD support, waterproofing and more megapixels to play with in Sony’s phone, for one. I can tell you right now that the M4 Aqua is the better phone, if only because it’s not supposed to be the chopped-down version of a flagship.

The G4 Beat’s performance is decent enough for what you’re getting, being in line (though a tad slower) with similar handsets. In Geekbench 3, the G4 Beat managed to scoop up a 628 for single-core performance, while posting 2423 for multi-core. That puts this phone below the M4 Aqua – probably the lower RAM allocation is to blame for that. In AnTuTu, the G4 Beat secured a score of 30,628. More than decent scores, given the hardware.

Cam Shaft?

G4 Beat HeaderThe camera is where LG are hoping to impress you but they have their work cut out for them considering that they’ve slashed the front and back cameras quite roughly. The front drops from 8MP to 5MP, the rear from 16MP to 8MP – that’s a slash-and-burn. But there’s still the laser autofocus in play and that makes up for a bit.

It’s still not a patch on the LG G4 however so if you’re looking at this mid-ranger in the hope that you’ll get the camera chops at a reduced price, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s still a great camera, fast, responsive and fitted with all the manual controls you can eat. It’s a good attempt at a cheaper G4 camera but we’ve been seriously spoiled in this department. 13MP is more and more the norm, even for mid-range phones. LG’s tech still renders 8 megapixels very usable and the front-facer isn’t bad either. The beautification option makes you look much better than expected but I prefer it the other way. Facial autotune’s never been my thing.

Even with all the trimming, performance of the G4 Beat, and the cameras, are good enough for day-to-day, and the battery will play along nicely. LG’s implementation of Android 5.1.1 is slick too, but not substantially different to the G4 – you’ll notice a little more slowdown if you’re multitasking but that’s about it.

Verdict (The Long Answer)

The LG G4 Beat isn’t a terrible phone by anyone’s measure. My chief complaint is that it’s carrying the G4 brand as though that means something. The G4 Beat was R5,000 at launch and that price has dropped to around R4,300 at some online retailers. Even then, it’s hard to recommend. LG have dropped specs across the board, too far to justify the G4 portion of the name. If you’re keen on a leather-backed phone and can’t afford the G4 proper, this is one way to get one. Otherwise, you will find there are better options out there, even those with near-identical specs.

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