HTC One M9 versus LG G3: first look
The HTC One M9 is very much upon us, and in our efforts to compare it with the best smartphones of last year, we finally got to the LG G3! Let's have a look at how far HTC has come since LG launched its flagship smartphone, stuffed full of 2014's best screen, camera, and processing technology.
The LG G3 is an all-plastic smartphone, and quite understated at that - which doesn't mean it isn't design-conscious. LG wouldn't let the plastic build undermine the LG G3's credibility as a high-end device, thus it applied a finish that gives it an almost metal-like look and feel - though it's far from the real thing. Being plastic, it's definitely easier to chip and scratch, but that's what cases are made for. Also, the back panel, which is elegantly sculpted and has the power and volume keys positioned on it, has a fingerprint-resisting coating that's really good at repelling your natural skin oils. Dimensions-wise, the LG G3 is a bigger smartphone at 5.76 x 2.94 x 0.35 inches (146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm), but it is lighter at 5.26 oz (149 g), and is remarkably easy to handle for a 5.5-incher. Additionally, the LG G3 has really thin side-bezels, but it lacks those front-firing stereo speakers.
Shunning resolution and pixel density extremities, the HTC One M9 flaunts a perfectly good 5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display. The resolution is more than effective, with details across the board remaining sharp as always. We will really have to put it through our display test procedures to get an accurate assessment of its properties, but for the most part, things look really good on it! HTC is pretty good at tuning those displays for natural, if slightly cold colors, in addition to getting them all nice and bright. From what we've seen, the viewing angles are decent as well, and outdoor visibility is acceptable. Overall, we're left with positive impressions from the M9's display!
The display is where the LG G3 literally shines. It was the industry's first 5.5-inch Quad-HD resolution display, which got it a lot of attention back in the day. Needless to say, this is an extremely sharp display, and its other strong points include decent brightness levels, pretty accurate (if slightly oversaturated) colors, and an-point gamma value. The viewing angles leave a little bit to be desired, but as a whole, it's a rather brilliant Quad-HD screen.
Interface and functionality
The HTC One M9 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop topped off with the HTC Sense 7 interface. The visual changes on the surface are subtle – like how the weather-clock widget from HTC now sports a clean, italicized font. For the most part, it's the same modern design language we’ve seen in previous incarnations are present here. In typical Sense fashion, usual staples like HTC BlinkFeed, Zoe, and various Motion Launch gestures are all present once again. The lock screen’s new enhanced functionality is more apparent, seeing that contextual suggestions are delivered. For example, restaurant suggestions are dished up in the homescreen. HTC has added a new widget in the homescreen that they call the Smart Launcher. This widget is comprised out of apps that dynamically change depending on which of them you commonly use. But the best part about Sense 7 is the unprecedented level of personalization that’s available. Sense is already stylish and elegant, definitely one of the more likeable customized Android experiences out there. But HTC has gone deeper to give users extensive control in how it looks. Specifically, we can select various themes to spiffy the standard look of Sense, and we’re able to modify the color scheme of the UI, the way the icons look, or even rearrange the standard set of Android menu buttons.
The LG G3, which is also an Android 5.0 Lollipop device right now, has one of the most straightforward custom interfaces to grace a flagship smartphone. LG gave it mature colors and stripped it bare of any confusing functionality of uncertain purpose. It even got carried away a little bit by making the camera app almost completely automated. But for the most part, it's a wonderful, if slightly sterile UI that never gets in the way. It includes functionality such as LG Health, LG SmartWorld, LG SmartNotice, LG Backup, and other features that make it a very reliable daily runner. It's pretty customizable, too. The lockscreen, for example, presents you with customizable app shortcuts and widgets. The useful KnockOn functionality is here, allowing you to wake the phone up by just doing a double-tap on the screen. And if you'd like to make use of the same type of gesture to unlock your phone, but with a higher degree of security, you can take advantage of LG's Knock Code. The G3 makes use of on-screen navigation buttons, but you can actually add a fourth and fifth button there, which lets execute one of the following features: notification bar, QMemo+, QSlide, or Dual window. The latter allows you to run two apps in splitscreen mode.
Processor and memory
Continuing its partnership with US chipmaker Qualcomm, HTC enlisted its latest creation - the mighty octa-core Snapdragon 810 - for the duty of powering its 2015 flagship. It gave it a roomy 3GB of RAM, and by resisting the urge to stick a power-hungry 1440p display, HTC practically made the M9 a playground for Qualcomm's fiery chip-beast! Just moving around the interface and doing some basic stuff, there’s that constant presence of swiftness and tight response with its operation. In addition, the M9 has 32 gigabytes of expandable internal storage.
The LG G3, being almost a year old at this point, runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, paired with 2GB (for the international version) or 3GB of RAM (for the Korean version). Unfortunately, the Quad-HD display resolution seriously exhausts this configuration's potential. The LG G3 is the slowest in benchmarks out of last year's flagship smartphones, and is prone to heating up and throttling down its cpu cores under strain. It also defaults to a maximum brightness of 90% when it faces processor load, which could make outdoor visibility problematic. Even with these serious criticisms in mind, the LG G3 performs adequately in daily use out of the box, and for those keen to mod and tweak their devices, there are ways to practically double its performance.
The HTC One M9's whopping 20MP dual-tone flash camera succeeds the HTC One (M8)'s underwhelming 4MP UltraPixel cam, which has been relocated on the front to play second fiddle as the selfie cam. The M9's imaging sensor is made by Toshiba, and it differentiates with square-shaped pixels that are bigger than good ol' rectangular ones and thus have better light-soaking abilities. Now where have we heard that before... oh, well! So far, our experience with the One M9's camera has been promising, but not devoid of problems - particularly in the low light department. While outdoor shots are filled with plenty of sharp visuals and details, low lighting shots are riddled with heavy noise, softer tones, and color fringing. Hopefully, HTC will work out the software that's in charge for that part, although if the imaging sensor is not up to standard, solid code won't help all that much. Good thing the UltraPixel cam on the front can still take a decent, if low-resolution night shot!
The LG G3, meanwhile, sports a 13MP camera with dual-LED flash, laser auto-focus, and optical-image stabilization. Even with its minimalistic camera app, the smartphone is quick to launch the cam and take a pretty sweet photo with it! Yeah, the shots do turn out a big warmer-looking than normal, owing to the hyped-up saturation and contrast. But the imagery is rather clean and detailed, even if it won't be able to stand up to the One M9's 20MP daylight photos. Night-time shots, on the other hand, suffer from aggressive filtering that gives them a smeary, watercolor-like look. But that shows up mostly when you zoom them in. If you just want to capture the sight without minute detail, you'll be good to go.
The HTC One M9 ships with a 2840mAh non-replaceable battery unit, and we are rather optimistic towards its eventual battery test result. A combination of large capacity battery, 1080p display, and modern, power-efficient processor can only lead to an impressive score! Alas, the One M9 seems to be skipping on the fast charging goodness for now, and it doesn't have wireless-charging built in.
The LG G3, with its power-hungry display, exhausts its sizeable 3000mAh unit in 6 hours and 19 minutes (possibly less after the initial Lollipop update), which is underwhelming - you can't last a full workday of on-screen usage. Thankfully, the battery unit is replaceable, and carrying a maxed-out spare one is actually a very resonable option for LG G3 owners. Either way, the smartphone is rated at 19 hours of talk-time, 548 hours of stand-by time, and it has optional wireless charging.
The HTC One M9 begins sales in late March, while the LG G3 has been on the market for some 10 months now, and it has seen some nice price cuts. It's up to you to decide which one is more attractive to you, as the two smartphones are completely different. Then again, being flagship models, both will get you through your daily and nightly mobile computing needs. Still, the One M9 has the design and performance edges that make it somewhat more special. The LG G3 is not a luxury item - just a solid all-around workhorse smartphone with a big screen, stuffed to the brim with some of last year's finest technology.