LG G3 Review
For quite some time, LG has been struggling to rejoin the big names in the industry, but 2013 was a great year for the company. What happened was that LG released the G2 high-end smartphone in the second half of the year, overshadowing most of its rivals in terms of specs. However, there was more to the G2 than an imposing specs sheet, as the G2 also proved to be quite innovative in the design department. With a remarkable screen-to-size ratio and an off-beat key positioning on the back, the G2 delivered a breath of fresh air to the market. Needless to say, the handset was well-received, and it paved the way for something even bigger that was to happen this year.
Enter the G3 – LG's all-out attack on the Android universe that will employ all the available resources and technology in order to make a dent in the industry. That's not to say that it's going to have an easy time doing it. Phones like the Galaxy S5, One (M8), and Xperia Z2 certainly are a truly fearsome bunch, but it seems like the LG G3 has all the needed guns in order to deal with the threat. Quad HD screen? Check. Enormous screen without an enormous body size? Check. No-compromise specs sheet? Check. Elegant design? Check. Is this the phone to rule them all in 2014? Let's find out!
Note that for this review, we're using the Korean version of the LG G3, which may exhibit some subtle differences in comparison with the international model.
UPDATE (Jun 25, 2014): This review was originally based on our experience with the Korean version of the LG G3. After testing the International (European) version of the phone, we've found differences in a few areas, including display quality and brightness, indoor camera quality, and call quality. The battery section has also been edited, due to a technical mistake in the original result. We've updated the text of the review accordingly.
Rear keys meet elegance – it's a good-looking, but very big phone
The G3 borrows a lot of the aesthetic principles characteristic of its predecessor. Its form and overall appearance follow in the footsteps of the G2, but it's safe to say that the G3 builds on the heritage of its predecessor in every way. So, the exterior of the G3 is nicely curved on the back, making it sit nicely in the hand. The phone is rather big with its 5.76 x 2.94 x 0.35 inches (146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm). Since it's equipped with a significantly bigger screen, one would expect that the G3 will be larger than its competitors, and it indeed is. For example, the Galaxy S5 (5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches (142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm)) is both shorter and narrower, while the One (M8) is about as tall (5.76 inches), but significantly narrower (2.78 inches) than the G3. The G3 is also significantly bigger than the G2, which had a 5.2” display. However, the thing is that thanks to the extremely thin bezels around the display, the G3 doesn't feel that much bigger than its opponents. What's more, the G3 has managed to retain a decent weight of 5.26 oz (149 g), so it's not really that overwhelming.
The front has that signature short top bezel, like in the G2, while the bottom one is slightly higher, but now features a splash of color that corresponds to the coloring of the rest of the phone. Frankly, it makes the whole shebang look classier and more elegant – a significant upgrade from the styling of its predecessor.
The smooth polycarbonate used for the exterior of the G3 may not be decidedly premium, but it's still a notch above your typical plastic finish. Yes, the G3 is predominantly made of plastic, but LG does note that there's a matte anti-fingerprint finish on top, as well as an extremely thin film of metal in the back cover, so it's supposed to be a bit more than 'just plastic'. As a whole, it does well in replicating the look of the brushed metal finish of the HTC One, while delivering the warmth and relative non-slipperiness of plastic. Its matte coating also does very well in avoiding those nasty smudges that are so typical with glossy plastic. It's really like you're getting the best from both worlds.
LG's signature rear keys are here, of course, positioned neatly on the back of the handset. Sure, this positioning takes some getting used to, since it's so different from what's widely accepted in the industry, but all in all, the rear keys don't come off as especially hard to use, especially after you've used them for a while. In terms of feel, they are by no means excellent. The power key is fine, with a decent amount of clickiness, but the volume rocker buttons are a bit too shallow.
The speaker of the LG G3 is placed on the back side, similarly to the Galaxy S5. It doesn't get muffled if you put the phone on a smooth and hard surface, but otherwise, it does. Right next to the signature rear keys is where the 13 MP camera resides, accompanied by a dual LED flash and a laser beam that's designed to aid it in its auto-focusing efforts. But more on that later.
Slightly dim and oversaturated – the screen of the G3 makes up with area and resolution
The second key aspect of this IPS LCD screen is the resolution. This is the first globally-available phone to make use of the enormous 1440 x 2560-pixel resolution, or in other words – QHD. A resolution this high enables a staggering pixel density of 538 ppi, meaning that whatever comes up on screen is supposed to look extremely sharp, without a hint of pixelization. Yeah, we said the same thing when 1080 x 1920 screens arrived, but this statement is getting more and more accurate now that QHD is here. Now, we obviously have to answer the question of just how much of a benefit there is in having QHD resolution instead of 1080p in cell phone screens of such size. Well, let's just say that some difference in clarity might be there, but it is extremely hard to notice. Yes, things do look super-fine, but we can't honestly say that it looks cleaner than 1080p in some way. At the same time, the higher resolution means a bigger load on the processor and the battery, so we aren't really sure if this jump in resolution is justified.
The maximum brightness that we could achieve with the LG G3 is about 450 nits. That's a pretty decent result, on par with what most other Android flagships offer. This kind of visibility usually translates to a display that's hard to view under direct sunlight, but in most other cases, you won't have an issue reading it. In comparison with the rest of the landscape, the Galaxy S5 appears to be just a bit easier to view outdoors, while the HTC One (M8) seems to exhibit a pretty much identical outdoor viewing experience, compared to the G3. Meanwhile, minimum brightness is about 9 nits, which is a bit high – it won't be unbearable for your eyes too look at in the dark, but it won't be the most comfortable experience either.
The LG G3 is yet another phone to arrive with pumped-up saturation of its screen, or at least that's what we can make of the display measurements we've done with it. Primary colors (red, green, and blue) tend to have that slightly oversaturated look, though, thankfully, they aren't too punchy. Overall color balance is pretty decent, with the screen being a bit colder than it needs to, with color temperature standing at 7100 K. Average gamma is about 2.26, which is very close to the reference value of 2.2. It definitely would have been much appreciated if there was a “natural” screen mode in the G3's setting, but oh well ...