LG G3 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Smartphones come and go. New and improved models get announced all the time, as old ones slowly fade away into obsolescence. That's how things have always been, and that's how they'll stay for the foreseeable future. But while virtually all smartphones are part of this life cycle, only a handful of them get people truly excited. The LG G3 is a phone of the latter kind.
To put it simply, LG's new flagship is a technological marvel. It is the first global smartphone to brag with a QHD display, its top notch internals can make a geek drool, and it even looks good with its metallic design. No wonder that the handset has been selling pretty well in its homeland of South Korea.
A phone that we were just as excited about some 9 months ago (boy, how time flies) was the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – one of the best phones that money can buy even to this date. But it can't outpace a beast like the LG G3, can it? Well, let's stack the two up and get an answer to that question.
UPDATE (Jun 25, 2014): This comparison 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 updated the story with our new findings, affecting the display, camera and battery performance.
The LG G3 stands out visually and is easier to grasp than the Galaxy Note 3, but the buttons on the back might not appeal to anyone. Samsung's phablet is more conservative with its design and lacks the G3's ergonomic properties.
Unlike LG's previous flagship, the LG G3 is a phone that draws attention without even trying. The front of the phone is occupied by a gorgeous screen with ultra-thin bezels, while the back has a finish with a metallic look – both factors contributing to a classy, premium appearance. What's more, the matte back surface is not slippery and is virtually immune to fingerprints. In the hand, however, the G3 feels unmistakeably plasticky, lacking the cold feel that only genuine metal would provide. Still, we're quite pleased with the effort on LG's behalf to deliver a visually attractive handset.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the first among the company's handsets to employ the faux leather design, which was eventually adopted by other Samsung products. This finish also has a sophisticated feel and it is more conservative when compared with the G3's metallic look. As a result, the Note 3 is less flashy of a handset than its rival, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. As the case is with the G3, the Note 3's back resists fingerprints really well and provides plenty of grip.
Given its size, it comes as no surprise that the LG G3 isn't easy to operate with a single thumb. But it isn't frustrating to wield either and we find it more comfortable to handle than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The narrower profile and curved back on LG's flagship have a lot to do with that. Thanks to these two factors, the LG G3 sits more comfortably in the palm. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a flat, rectangular shape lacking the G3's ergonomic properties.
With the G3, LG is continuing its buttons-on-the back trend. The volume and power keys are placed below the camera, right where the user's index finger is supposedly going to rest. We've said it many times that we have mixed feelings towards this solution. Some users may be okay with the unorthodox button placement, others may not like it as much, and then there will be people who won't even bother giving it a try. Samsung is playing it safe with the Galaxy Note 3 – its power key rests on the right side, where it is easy to reach, while the volume buttons are on the left side of the device. Below the display of the Note 3 reside a physical home key, together with capacitive buttons for the "Back" and "Menu" functions. The LG G3, on the other hand, relies on on-screen buttons for Android navigation. These hide automatically with some apps, thus letting it use all the real estate it can get, and a swipe is enough to bring them back.
Going beyond Full HD territory, the LG G3 delivers amazingly sharp visuals, but the Galaxy Note 3 does not lag far behind.
Yup, it finally happened. Smartphones have officially shattered the Full HD display barrier as the LG G3 is the first global smartphone to come with a 1440 by 2560 pixel display (aka QHD). Spread across 5.5 inches of screen real estate, these produce an outstanding pixel density of 538 ppi. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes with a 5.7-inch display, the resolution of which is the common for an Android high-end 1080 by 1920 pixels, resulting in the less impressive 386 ppi. Clearly, Samsung's phablet has the advantage of boasting a larger screen, but at this caliber, 0.2 inches don't make that big of a difference.
Now, you're probably eager to hear whether or not the higher resolution on the G3's display gives it the upper hand against the Galaxy Note 3. Simply put, bragging rights are the biggest benefit of having all these extra pixels. Sure, graphics do look a bit sharper and more detailed on the G3, but only if we take a look from up close. When the two handsets are held at a normal distance from the user's eyes, the difference in screen resolution becomes close to indiscernible.
Of course, pixel count isn't everything. The LG G3 boasts an IPS-LCD display while the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 uses a Super AMOLED panel, and the two differ in the way they reproduce colors. Saturation is boosted on the LG G3, but it is all within tolerable limits. In fact, primary colors are reproduced quite well – lively, yet still accurate enough. The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 may look impressive with its pumped up color saturation, but color accuracy is thrown out of the window. That is especially true for shades of green, which are way off their target values – take a look at our color benchmarks and you'll get the idea. Reds and blues are also somewhat inaccurate. Color representation can be fine-tuned from the display settings menu – the so-called Professional Photo mode brings color levels closer to where they should be, although we'd still rank the G3 ahead of the Note 3 when it comes to color accuracy.
Our display measurements show that the screen on the LG G3 has a color temperature of 7100 kelvins, which is not excellent, but still very close to the ideal target of 6500 kelvins. Whites do look natural as a result, without exhibiting a noticeable blueish tone. We can't say the same about the Galaxy Note 3, however. Whites shown on its screen have a blueish hue due to the higher color temperature of 7972 kelvins, and the flaw is easy to notice with a naked eye.
Outdoor visibility isn't ideal with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as it has a rather average brightness output of up to 360 nits. That's not terrible by any means, and in most cases you'll be fine with their outdoor usability, but most (if not all) other high-end phones perform much better in this respect. The LG G3 can reach a brightness level of 450 nits, which makes its screen easier to view outdoors.
We feel obliged to point out that the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a glove-friendly touchscreen – useful if you live in a place where it gets cold in the wintertime – , while the LG G3 responds to input only from a bare finger. Also, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes with the S Pen, which is an advanced, pressure-sensitive stylus. Resting in its dedicated slot, it is always at your disposal and can be used for taking down notes or for sketching when inspiration strikes. All in all, it is a welcome feature, although essentially just a perk that only some would use it beyond the point of checking out what it does. Because of this, the fact that no stylus comes with the LG G3 is not a deal breaker.