We’ve got a lot of love for LG smartphones in the Stuff offices, purely based on the performance of last year’s high-end masterpiece – the G2. The time has finally come to see whether LG has managed to replicate the feat that they pulled off in 2013 by knocking every other phone down a rung in our estimations. Your mileage may vary but it looks like they have indeed created a worth successor to the G2. It’s definitely beaten out everything else we’ve see so far this year.
So why has it outperformed the G2 and all other comers, including Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8? That screen, for starters. LG’s G3 has got the best-looking smartphone display we’ve seen, bar none. That 2K, 1,440 x 2,560 panel offers up the most gorgeous colour and clarity we’ve seen in a smartphone or, indeed, most TV screens that don’t bear the 4K branding.
But does that display make a difference? Will you be able to distinguish between the G3 and another, similar-sized HD screen? The short answer is yes. And, then again, no. If you’ve got 2K-capable video content, like the videos pre-loaded onto the device by LG, then your eyes are going to thank you. Profusely. Similarly, your standard app icons look better than ever, giving the whole user interface a far more polished look than last year (and making the current crop of opposing flagships look a little dingy). But are you going to be making extensive use of this lovely high-resolution 5.5-inch screen? The answer is, sadly, probably not. But it sure is pretty to look at.
Designs On Awesome
You’re going to love the design changes that LG has made for 2014. The rear volume rocker and power button, which seemed so strange last year, has been redesigned to fit into a recess in the rear of the phone as opposed to bulging but it’s just as hand when holding this slightly larger upgrade. LG have increased overall size along with the display but it’s still a dream to handle in a single hand.
There’s mighty little metal in evidence, more’s the pity, with just a bit of edging being the only bit that isn’t plastic or glass. But the removable rear cover, and some of the non-screen real estate on the front, could fool you into thinking otherwise. It looks like brushed metal all over, even if it isn’t. There’s a premium feel to the G3 that’s just missing in the Galaxy S5.
Removable covers mean removable batteries, something that wasn’t a feature of the G2. It also means that, unlike its direct predecessor, LG have thrown in microSD support this time around so you’re free to augment that 16GB or 32GB (there’s around 10GB available for use on the 16GB model) of internal storage with up to 128GB of additional space. Win.
About the only advantage other handsets might have over the G3 on a design level would be water- and dust-proofing. It’s not present here while Sony and Samsung’s stables have this feature as standard. Slight tip towards those two companies here.
The cover also shields the guts of the G3, which have been, as expected, upgraded. Frankly we would have been offended if there wasn’t much of an update. In the handset reviewed Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 holds price of place, a 2.5GHz version of the chip-that-is-in-everything-mobile. It’s certainly in all of the G3’s main competitors, from the HTC One M8 to the Galaxy S5 as well as, if rumour is to be believed, the as-yet unannounced Xperia Z3. This model features 2GB of RAM but snagging a 32GB G3 will also net you an additional 1GB of system memory. Your call.
As expected, the G3 is fast. Very fast indeed but so are its opponents and so is the G2. You’re not going to notice an appreciable upgrade on speed over other phones without running a benchmark test and even then it’s going to be almost too close to call. Those are the breaks when the hardware is nigh-on identical across manufacturers but LG have squeezed just a little more speed out of their processor – on paper, anyway.
Still, it’s going to chew on multitasking by crunching away at anything you can throw in its direction without slowing down. It takes quite a bit to get the G3 to even consider lagging behind, standard use will just maintain a blistering pace with no problems attached. That’s the sort of performance we can get behind and it helps that LG have opted for a very simple-to-use version of Android 4.4.2 this time around. Even their app selection can’t really be faulted – little extraneous software and a few nice additions like LG Health, which monitors your vitals without needing additional wristwear.
It’s A Snap
And then there’s the camera. No megapixel upgrade on this one but LG’s inclusion of laser autofocus, the dual-LED flash and OIS+ (optical image stabilisation) can’t be faulted. Sure, the Galaxy S5 and HTC One can capture some great images in their own way but the G3 has consistent images to toy with. It’ll do well in daylight and low-light, even capturing a few good images when you’re intentionally bouncing the phone around. What, we wanted to see how intelligent the G3 really was.
4K video is a snap as well, with crisp, clear video recording with none of the heating issues we’ve seen in other recently reviewed smartphones. By extension, HD video is just as spiffy if not as nice-looking on a 4K TV. Not that anyone we know has one of those just yet.
All told, LG’s G3 is a substantial upgrade on last year’s effort. The screen is miles better than we’ve seen on anything to date, hardware is on-par if not slightly better than the best on the market and the camera update and overall design polish pushes the G3 over the top. The only area of any actual concern is the battery, which remains unchanged and has to power a far larger display. Will you notice the battery life decline? Not really but it’s still a little step backwards. The biggest question we have about the G3 is: how long will it hang onto our top spot? Sony and Apple may have an answer to that soon enough – we’ll just have to wait and see.