LG G2 mini hands-on: a watered-down G2
Last year, LG released its G2 flagship, which proved to be a powerful and versatile smartphone, due to both its excellent hardware specs and numerous software features. LG has obviously felt that Samsung's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach seems to be working just fine thus far, and so it looks like this is now going to translate to LG's product line as well. At MWC 2014, the South Koreans have announced a new smartphone model that will cater to the needs of those who are on the lookout for a versatile, yet somewhat more ordinary device - enter the LG G2 mini.
The plastic material from which the G2 mini's body is made isn't particularly fancy, though. It's a very basic, matte type of plastic that feels a bit cheaper than the glossy one on the G2. All in all, the LG G2 mini doesn't feel as solid as the flagship, which probably shouldn't be such a surprise, considering the phone's mid-range nature.
In this day and age, we just can't be wowed by a 4.7" qHD display. That's right, the display is healthy-sized, but the resolution is just... meh. At 540 x 960 pixels, the 234 ppi pixel density is by no means rivaling the level of clarity observed with today's 720p or 1080p displays. Still, we would lie if we say that there are major issues with regards to legibility. Sure, things aren't as fine as we would like, but it's definitely not a heavily-pixelized screen. In terms of color fidelity, we can't really say for sure, due to the unusual lighting we observed the phone in, as well as the fact that it probably wasn't running final software, but it seems as if the colors aren't as vibrant as on the better IPS LCD screens we've checked out.
Still, we have to acknowledge the fact that the G2 mini is quite a compact handset, even though it's sporting this sizable 4.7" screen.
If you've seen the G2, then you already know what to expect from the LG G2 mini's software aspect. The good news is that the G2 mini is coming with Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box. The bad news is that if you weren't into LG's particular UI on the G2, chances are you aren't going to fall in love with it now. It's basically the same UI - overly-cartoony in terms of visuals, and packed to the brim in terms of features. If you want to acquaint yourself with that UI and all of its features, just check out our LG G2 review.
There is one new major feature coming with Android 4.4 and this latest LG skin version. Well, we don't know exactly how major it is, but at least LG seems to be enjoying it a lot. So, you remember Knock On from the LG G2, right? It basically allowed you to wake your screen up by doing a double-tap on the screen. Now, LG is loading its phones with a new version of this function, called Knock Code. What it basically lets you do is to create a hidden knock pattern. Once you have that set up, you just knock on the selected areas, one by one, and it unlocks your phone. It's similar to Android's pattern unlock options, but it's like a hidden pattern, as nothing appears on the screen while you are tapping on the required spots. You can see Knock Code in action in the hands-on video.
When we say that the G2 mini is a watered-down G2, we mean it. Tech junkies will probably frown at the mid-range Snapdragon 400 chipset that's going to be powering most of the G2 minis out there. We say most, because there's also going to be another version of the phone - one that's going to be running on Tegra 4i Grey. So, the G2 mini obviously isn't going to be a speed demon, but thankfully, at least the low, qHD resolution allows the UI to run nicely and fluidly, without any major lag. Although, who knows what's going to happen when you put those accounts there and start syncing all kinds of stuff.
The Snapdragon 400's CPU in the G2 mini should be clocked at 1.2 GHz, and it's going to sport a low-end Adreno 305 GPU, so graphics performance probably isn't going to rock. Meanwhile, the Tegra 4i Grey version will be ticking at 1.7 GHz. This one might be a bit speedier, but all in all, we do not expect any major differences between the two G2 mini versions, meaning that whichever one you opt for, all you're going to get is a lower midranger.
There's 1GB RAM in the G2 mini, along with 8 gigs of storage space. Thankfully, users don't need to worry about storage, as there's also a microSD card slot, allowing you to easily expand the storage.
We certainly hope that the G2 mini is going to retain some of the camera prowess demonstrated by the G2 flagship, but our hopes aren't really high. Seeing that the G2 mini is poorer in each and every respect, compared to its bigger sibling, we're also expecting the images and video it produces to be of inferior quality. Interestingly, the Snapdragon version of the phone is going to have an 8-megapixel main camera, while the Tegra one will be equipped with a 13 MP shooter. We guess there's going to be some difference in the quality between these two, but we'd have to wait and see when the handset is ready to be reviewed. Naturally, there's also an LED flash to aid your camera in those low-light situations. And we all know that those low-light situations are one of the most important ones. Finally, there's a 1.3 MP front-facing camera to enable video chats. Check out some early camera samples with the G2 mini right here!
To tell you the truth, we were a bit disappointed by the LG G2 mini. Not that each and every phone out there has to be a major one, but you know, when you're naming a phone after what could be considered a relatively successful high-end smartphone, it's normal for people to expect a similarly impressive performance. In the case of the G2 mini, that obviously isn't the case. We dig its compact design, which is almost identical to that of the G2 (which is fine), albeit slightly cheaper. This basically means that it's a very compact handset that still has a sizable 4.7" display, which is cool. However, we shouldn't expect wonders from this phone, seeing that it's mostly stuffed with lower-mid-range gear - all the way from the chipset, through the camera, and to the 540 x 960 display. Still, in case LG manages to price this extremely competitively, so that it can stand up against hot budget offerings like the Moto G, then we guess there's some bright future ahead of the LG G2 mini. Somehow, though, we aren't sure if that's indeed going to be the case.