LG G4 hands-on: Take that, Galaxy S6!
Having plenty of time before we come to the mid-point of 2015, there’s no denying that it’s been a whirlwind ride when it comes to the high-end segment of the smartphone market. Even before 2015 arrived, we were treated to outstanding devices like the iPhone 6, Nexus 6, and DROID Turbo, but we’ve seen already several new flagships vying for a piece of the pie. From the HTC One M9, the Samsung Galaxy S6 (and S6 edge), and the Huawei P8, there’s been no shortage of top-notch, quality smartphones that deliver the goods.
Last year, LG impressed us for setting the bar high with its G3 – the first commercially available to offer the pixel crushing resolution of quad-HD; 1440 x 2560 pixels. Everything about the smartphone oozed with drool worthy hardware that helped keep it afloat for throughout the year, even when newer and beefier spec’d things arrived on the scene. With its upcoming successor, the LG G4 intends to continue the momentum for the Korean company, as improvements are necessary to keep it ahead of the curve. Competition is fierce, that’s obvious, but it’s only the phones that execute on all levels that will earn the attention of consumers – it’s just getting more difficult to stand tall and impressive in the space.
After spending just a little time with the LG G4, it’s clear that the design is an iterative one that bears some of the design characteristics of its predecessor, but offers newer materials that give it a subtle premium touch over last year's model. Aesthetically, the G4 sports an edgier look due to its hard lines – whereas with the G3, it appears more rounded in the corners. What’s more apparent, though, is the new pattern design the casing is exhibiting. Meticulously looking at it, there’s a diamond-like pattern with the chassis, which we’re told has a ceramic finish over the underlying plastic material. Add to that, there’s also a curvier look to the phone that makes it feel pretty comfortable to hold.
From what we’ve seen so far this year, many of the flagships have been boosted to exude a premium finish – like the Huawei P8 and Samsung Galaxy S6. In comparison to them, the LG G4 looks and feels a bit subdued, mostly due to the fact that it’s still plastic in nature underneath it all, but LG has an ace up its sleeve that adds a higher degree of sophistication to the phone. Employing leather is not particularly new, as the new Moto X already offers it, but the LG G4 comes in this sweet looking vegetable-tanned leather material too – something we’re told that takes months to process, and only becomes more attractive as it ages.
Unlike the other two aforementioned phones, this leather cladded LG G4 feels like it’s sporting real organic leather, as opposed to the faux-leather of the other phones. It’s not soft and malleable like the leather material used by the Moto X, it’s actually tougher and seems to be more resilient against dirt and debris. On top of that, the genuine stitching running down the phone adds to its sophisticated look.
Okay, we’ll admit that the vegetable-tanned leather casing is slick, however, the G4's design faces stiff competition that enthralled us already to the core. Leather is nice, but when it’s compared to the more substantial feel offered by the glass and metal materials used by other recent flagships, it’s tough for this one to come out as being more attractive. Nonetheless, we’ll give LG credit for having a removable casing that provides us access to a removable battery and microSD card slot – albeit, its constructions isn’t technically water proof.
Following in tradition, though, the LG G4 slaps its same power button and volume control combination on the back of the phone – a staple feature that offers easy access to them.
Did we expect anything less than a quad-HD screen? Not really, especially considering it’s the trend of late amongst the elites in the space. While the LG G4 might not really distance itself on paper from its predecessor, as the G4 packs a 5.5-inch 1440 x 2560 IPS LCD display, the company details that it's boasts this quantum display technology that alleges to offer richer colors and a stronger brightness output of over 500 nits. Comparing the same image on a Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6, we’re able to visualize the color difference of the G4’s new Quantum display – one that accurately reproduces the red color of strawberries on its screen, while the other two exhibit shades that are slightly orange in tone.
Beyond the claims and whatnot, we have no complaints whatsoever with the screen, as it offers a generous amount of real estate with sharp details thanks to its quad-HD resolution. Colors appear to have that vibrant glow to catch our attention when it’s placed at the highest brightness setting, but we’re really curious to put it through our own display benchmark tests to put LG’s claim to the test. Right now, it’s a gorgeous looking display that complements the new aesthetics of the phone.
During our small demo session, LG didn’t go a whole lot into the new customized LG UX 4.0 experience that the G4 is running on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop. From the looks of it, there doesn’t seems to be a whole lot of visual change, seeing that the LG UX 4.0 interface doesn’t seem to be a dramatic change to what we’ve seen already. Visually, it makes heavy use of Google’s Material Design, as bright colors are used throughout the interface.
Even though the visuals aren’t a big departure to what we’ve seen already, the experience will still adhere to the needs of all sorts of individuals – powers users in particular, mainly because there’s still that enhanced multitasking experience where two apps can be running simultaneously. Well, there’s a good reason why LG didn’t expand upon the interface as much as it did previously with the G3 – that’s because the LG UX 4.0 experience is lighter, only offering the meaningful things, doing away with redundancies that can overwhelm the user.
That stark change is apparent as we look through the collection of apps preloaded with the G4. In particular, it favors Google’s set of apps more than its own, which is evident by the realization that we’re only given Google Chrome as the web browser. Interestingly enough, however, LG doesn’t follow the trend of providing themes that we’ve been seeing of late. Again, that could be related to the lighter, simplified operation of the new experience.
From the short time we’ve had checking out the new customized Android experience, it’s really tough for us to say whether or not we like it. Yes, it’s a straightforward experience that’s accompanied with a “flat” looking style, but it’s hard to place amongst the other experiences that have come across our path so far this year.
Processor and Memory
One of the biggest unknowns about the LG G4 was what kind of processor would be found under the hood of this flagship. Needless to say, the attachment of being a flagship would indicate it would be using the latest and greatest hardware, but in a stunning twist, the LG G4 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 chip with 3GB of RAM. Most folks thought it would’ve been the Snapdragon 810 calling the shots here, but LG has chosen instead to go with the Snapdragon 808 – mainly because we’re told that this chip has been optimized for far longer than the 810.
Not surprisingly, the phone responds well to all sorts of basic tasks – like navigating across the homescreen, opening apps, and taking photos. Indeed, we expect this one to run flawlessly with these kinds of simple operations, but we’re curious to see what other optimizations have been made to help the phone out with more complex tasks – such as heavy multitasking and gaming. And finally, LG claims that the optimizations with the Snapdragon 808 enables the phone to be equipped at managing power efficiency.
At the bare minimum, the LG G4 will offer 32GB of internal storage, which can be supplemented thanks to its microSD card slot.
More impressive, though, is the new camera interface that the LG G4 is flaunting this time around – one that adheres to the needs of enthusiast as well. Certainly, its automatic mode will allow folks to quickly and easily snap photos, but its new manual mode offers a diversified portfolio of options that give us the control to capture the perfect shot. Now, manual mode isn’t anything new in our modern day smartphones, as being able to modify ISO and white balance are given, but the LG G4 steps up its game by also offering support for RAW and the adjustment of its shutter speed. To be more exact, the phone is capable of offering a shutter speed of up to 30 seconds, which comes in handy to compose those neat-o light painting shots.
From a specs point of view, the LG G4’s arsenal is predictable, seeing that everything about makes it a formidable rival against what we’ve seen already come to market. At the same time, too, its design doesn’t try to be drastically different from the style that we’re familiar with from the company. Keeping those two things in mind, one might think that the LG G4 is a minor upgrade to the G3 – especially in the wake of the drastically different looking Samsung Galaxy S6.
Sammy’s flagship is no doubt compelling, but at the end of the day, the LG G4 will prove its worth by delivering promising results in all the key categories that make a phone great – like its battery life, the quality from its camera, and much more. Naturally, if it’s able to be phenomenal in those key categories, the shortcomings that some folks might have from the onset might be dashed altogether. LG has yet to offer any sort of concrete information regarding the G4’s availability and pricing, though, we’re told it’s definitely coming to the big four wireless carriers here in the US – with a pricing similar to that of the G3 when it was released last year.