Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs LG G3
It is big, it is powerful, and it is destined to end up in the pockets of millions. There's no more fitting way to describe the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which we just had the chance to take through the in-depth review treatment. Simply put, it is a great phone – one we would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a no-compromise, feature-rich Android device. But it is our job and obligation to consider the alternatives when dealing with a phone of this rank. And one of the smartphones worthy of being stacked up against the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is the LG G3. Right off the bat, the odds are against the latter – it is looking weaker on a hardware level and cannot quite match the feature set of the Note 4. But the LG G3 can be had for considerably less. Is the compromise worth it?
While not perfect, the Note 4 and G3 have a lot to stand out with. The former has a more premium feel and a richer feature set, while the latter is more compact and fits better in the hand.
Looking at the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G3 side by side, we're finding it hard to decide which one we like better. Both exhibit qualities that score them big points as far as design is concerned, yet leave room for improvement in other areas.
The Note 4, in particular, builds on top of the design principles instilled by the Note 3 by adopting the faux leather texture found on the back plate. The finish is still as resistant to fingerprints as before, which is great, but at the same time, it has lost some of its grip and feels more plasticky to the touch.
We must say that the handset's solid metal frame does a good job at spicing up the phone's design. It contributes to the phone's sophisticated appearance, while its beveled edge makes it easier to get a good hold on the handset. The curved edges of that scratch-resistant glass display make it a pleasure to slide your fingers across its surface.
We can't deny that the LG G3 is also a looker. The finish of its surface is smooth to the touch, but not too slippery. It retains no fingerprints, and its resemblance of brushed metal is very pleasing to the eye. As for the material the phone's outer shell is made of, things are a bit complicated. LG has made it clear that one of the back plate's layers is actual metal, but the top-most one is a polycarbonate one, so that's what your fingers will be actually touching. Nevertheless, although the LG G3 feels about as plasticky as the Note 4, it is also a handset worthy of attention.
So as we already said, the solid frame on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 makes the phone easy to grasp, and so do the tapered sides of its back. Still, we find the LG G3 more comfortable to hold. The latter's back side is curvier, and that improves the phone's ergonomics factor quite a bit. Given the sheer sizes of both devices, it goes without saying that single-handed use and carrying either in a tight pocket are challenging, if not impossible tasks. In that respect, the LG G3 has an advantage with its lesser height and smaller screen as there's less to reach for with your thumb. By the way, both phones have UI features that improve single-handed use by a considerable margin, but more on that later.
Speaking of ergonomics and ease of use, we have to highlight the excellent power and volume keys found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Located on the phone's right and left sides respectively, they are exposed really well, and pressing any of them produces a satisfying click. In contrast, the power and volume keys on the LG G3 are placed on its back side, below the camera lens. The goal of this design solution is to place these keys under the user's index finger, where they'll be easy to press, all the while reducing the amount of components on the phone's left and sides. To be honest, the buttons' design isn't bad, but it takes some getting used to.
Below the screen of the Galaxy Note 4 we find Samsung's trademark button layout, with a hardware “Home” key in the middle and capacitive buttons for the “Recent apps” and “Back” functions. It is a tried and tested design feature that gets the job done. The LG G3 uses on-screen buttons instead of physical ones. On one hand, this has allowed the phone to be less tall as there's nothing occupying the area below its screen, but on the other hand, some might find it annoying that these virtual buttons hide automatically in certain apps and have to be brought back with a pull-up gesture if needed.
Before we can proceed further, we have to highlight all of the Galaxy Note 4's stand-out perks – perks that the LG G3 does not have in its feature arsenal. For starters, there's the S Pen stylus, tucked in its dedicated slot. The accessory is there for those times when you need to take down a note, but can also be used for sketching, for navigating through the UI, for selecting multiple items on the screen, and much more. There's also the fingerprint scanner embedded in the home button, which is used to lock the phone, to secure personal data, and to authorize payments. The scanner isn't the most convenient one ever placed on a phone, but it is better to have the feature in some form than not having it at all. On the phone's back, right below the camera lens, reside a heart-rate monitor, the use for which is self explanatory, and a UV sensor designed to measure the sun's intensity. There's no denying that the Note 4's abundance of extras is an advantage over the LG G3, but at the same time, we're pretty sure that some people would never actually need any of these features. At the end of the day, it is up to the user to decide whether they'd go with the G3's simplified solution or Samsung's “everything but the kitchen sink” approach.
With their high-resolution, QHD displays, both phones deliver an amazing amount of details. Still, the Galaxy Note 4 stands a few steps ahead with its more accurate color reproduction in Basic mode.
If there's one thing that both the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G3 have to offer, that's screen space. There's a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED panel on the former, while the latter packs a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display. And having all this real estate is a major advantage – it makes it easier and more convenient to watch photos and videos, browse the web, play games, and use the on-screen keyboard with two thumbs. While the Note 4 offers a slightly more spacious screen, we don't think that a difference of 0.2 inches is significant given the two phones' large caliber.
Furthermore, the Note 4 and G3 are on the same page when it comes to resolution. Their display panels pack a whopping 1440 by 2560 pixels, producing jaw-dropping pixel densities of 515 and 538 PPI respectively. This extreme resolution makes it virtually impossible for the naked eye to spot any pixelation without looking at the screen under a magnifying glass. That's why high-resolution graphics displayed on either screen look nice and detailed. There's one thing that bothers us, however. The LG G3 is set to boost the sharpness of its screen by a notch, which increases the legibility of small text, but produces visible distortion around the edges of words and graphics. That's no deal-breaker by any means, but perfectionists might find it annoying.
As far as color reproduction goes, we are happy to report that the Super AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 produces extremely accurate colors. There's a catch, however. You see, there are several display modes on the Note 4, accessible from the phone's settings menu, and by default, a mode called “Adaptive display” is applied. This particular mode tweaks image reproduction based on what content is being viewed, and the actual result is a an increase in color saturation. There's nothing terribly wrong with that – in fact, many would be impressed by the colors' vibrancy and won't even think about tinkering with the display modes. Still, if you demand having a screen that's as color-accurate as possible, you can totally have it by switching to Basic mode. When it is enabled, the screen produces a color temperature of about 6650 K, as shown by our measurements, which is extremely close to the reference value of 6500 kelvins. In plain words, colors are neither warm, nor cold, and great balance between red and blue has been achieved, producing accurate whites.
The IPS LCD display on the LG G3 produces colors with slightly pumped-up saturation, but thankfully, the boost is within moderate margins. Our measurements returned a color temperature of around 7100K, and that's very close to the ideal 6500K value. Accuracy is lower than that of the Note 4's screen in Basic mode, but the deviation is not bothering at all.
For a smartphone to be usable outdoors, it is important for its screen to have a high brightness output. Thankfully, both phones do a good job in that respect – the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 maxes out at 468 nits, and the LG G3 peaks at 455 nits. Another factor that's not to be overlooked is screen reflectance – how much of the sun's light bounces off of the screen's surface – and to the naked eye, the Note 4 has the less reflective screen. If you're of the folks who enjoy using their smartphone under the bed sheets, you should be glad to know that the Note 4 has a minimum brightness of around 1 nit, so its screen goes very easy on your eyes in dark environments. The LG G3 goes down to about 9 nits, which is sufficiently low.
Glove Mode on the Galaxy Note 4 is a feature that allows its display to be used, you guessed it, even when the user is wearing gloves. This should come in handy in the winter-time as you won't have to take those mittens off in order to make a call. The LG G3, however, does not offer the option for its screen to be used with gloves on.