AT&T LG G3 review: Everything you want in a smartphone with the best display ever

AT&T LG G3 review: Everything you want in a smartphone with the best display ever

Summary: We seem to always ask for more on our high end smartphones, but LG brings it all with the G3 so there is really nothing preventing me from visiting my carrier store this weekend.

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AT&T LG G3 review: Everything you want in a smartphone with the best display ever

Last month LG sent out early Korean LG G3 devices for people to test out. I wrote my first impressions, but without carrier support I couldn't write a review since the experience was too limited. I have now spent a week with the AT&T LG G3 and am very impressed by this latest offering.

The Korean LG G2 convinced me to sell my Xperia Z2 and I just sold my one month old Galaxy S5 on Swappa after testing out a US version of the G3. I may be visiting T-Mobile this weekend.

Hardware

The Quad HD display, that's a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels with a 538 ppi, is the star of the show here and it really is gorgeous, flawless actually. In addition to the high resolution, the colors look quite natural without being overly bright or too vibrant. You will also find that LG was able to maximize the display size with minimal bezels all around. They did a great job with this on the G2 and now ever better on the G3.

You will find an indicator light above the display to the left near the front facing camera. LG actually uses the display to help light up the scene when taking selfies in low light, which I think is a great solution to poor lighting on selfies.

There are no buttons on the sides of the G3 with the microUSB port and headphone jack found on the bottom and the IR port on the top. On the back you will find the power and volume buttons positioned just below the camera lens. These buttons were tough for me to press accurately on the G2, but are now redesigned and work very well. It actually is quite natural for your fingers to rest on them when holding the device and if I bought one I think I really could come to prefer them over the traditional side buttons.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S5, there are no additional gimmicks like a fingerprint scanner or heart rate monitor. There is a laser focus opening on the opposite side of the LED flash that is designed to help quickly focus the camera. In my experiences that seems to work quite well too.

WP_20140717_17_13_31_Pro

The G3 has a 13 megapixel camera with OIS so it competes well with what we see on Nokia Lumia cameras and challenges the Galaxy S5 for the title of best Android camera.

There is one speaker near the bottom of the back and it is rated at 1 watt with a 1.5 watt boost amp so sound is actually pretty good out of the single speaker.

The back has a brushed metal look, but is plastic. It is not a cheap plastic though and has curves to make it very comfortable in the hand.

Software

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The LG G3 runs Android 4.4.2 and is very lightly skinned by LG. I thought LG went a bit overboard with the G2, especially in regards to consuming too much space in the notifications area. That is no longer the case and their UI is minimal while actually giving you benefits.

The Knock Code allows you to secure your device and unlock it through a three to eight point pattern. Double-tap to wake is also supported on the G3.

They have a helpful Smart Notice feature that comes in the form of a widget that provides the weather, time, date, and some personalized recommendations and reminders. It gives you things such as weather forecasts in conversational language. For example, it might say something like "You may want to wear a light jacket as it cools down this evening."

LG also offers an enhanced keyboard that learns your style as you type. I love having a dedicated number row and am finding the prediction on it is scary accurate. I highly recommend you take the time to understand all of the power in the keyboard and think you will find it to be extremely helpful.

There is also a new home screen panel called LG Health. I must have turned it off out of the box because I couldn't find it anywhere in the app drawer. It is actually a dedicated homescreen panel that you can enable in the panel management utility. LG Health is designed to track and manage your daily activity with selected exercise options of walking, running, cycling, hiking, and inline skating.  When I set it up with my age, height, and weight it showed my target weight as 166.8 pounds. I haven't weighed that low since 8th grade so that is never going to happen. This is one utility that I have to spend many weeks testing to see benefits.

Dual windows mode is supported so you can see two apps in split-screen format. Small pop-up windows are also supported and I like the way you can launch them from within the app. For example, you can tap a button on your calendar and then a small calendar is overlaid on the display where you can even change the opaqueness of it.

LG really did a fantastic job with their software on the G3, providing real utility without overwhelming the consumer. Unfortunately, AT&T likes to load up all of their apps and you will find at least 12 of them in an AT&T folder right on the G3. I wish carriers would just let you download them from a special segment on the Play Store rather than preloading them without the ability to uninstall them.

Usage and experiences

The LG G3 was fast, the display is gorgeous, the camera takes good shots. Battery life has been fine, but I also see websites that did extensive testing show it suffers a bit due to the high resolution display.

I adapted much faster to using the back buttons, compared to the trouble I had with the G2. The device fits well in my hand, especially considering it has a 5.5 inch display. It is light for the size and the curved back helps the fit and finish.

Pros and cons

To summarize my experiences with the LG G3, here are my pros and cons.

Pros Cons
Flawless high resolution Quad HD display Too many preloaded AT&T apps and services
Compelling design with maximum screen size and minimal bezels No water resistant rating
Excellent 13 megapixel camera with OIS  
Nearly pure Google experience with helpful LG utilities  
microSD expansion card slot and removable 3000 mAh battery  
Customizable capacitive buttons  

Pricing and availability

The LG G3 is available from AT&T for $199.99 with 2-year contract or $579.99 with no contract. You can also buy it in black or white for $24.17 per month with the AT&T Next program. This is about the same price for the LG G3 on all carriers and is typical for high end smartphones.

The competition

The LG G3 takes on the Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPhone 5s, Nokia Lumia 930 (not available in the US) and the HTC One (M8). When I look at the competition then it is clear to me that LG hit it out of the ballpark this time and is the leader of the current group of high end smartphones.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is excellent and takes fantastic photos while also providing waterproof protection. However, it falls down a bit with gimmicks and a bit too much in the way of software. HTC's camera cannot compete with the GS5 or G3, but is a well made device. The Z2 isn't readily available in the US, but it is quite a large device. The Lumia 930 runs Windows Phone and while the camera is top notch there is still too many missing apps.

Specifications

  • Processor: Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz quad-core processor
  • Display: 5.5 inch Quad HD IPS with 2560x1440 pixels at 538 ppi
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Internal storage: 32 GB
  • External storage: microSD up to 2TB
  • Cameras: 13 megapixel rear with OIS and 2.1 megapixel front facing
  • Battery capacity: 3,000 mAh and removable
  • Dimensions: 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm and 149 grams

Conclusion

LG continues to show they have what it takes to compete with the latest and greatest smartphones and the G3 is easily their best effort yet. They are listening to consumers with an update to the button design, lightening of the software elements, and providing a removable battery and microSD card with an ample amount of RAM and internal storage. There are models with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, but AT&T and T-Mobile both have the higher end models.

I don't think it was necessary to have such a high resolution display, but it does give them something to stand out from the rest and it really does look fantastic. Battery life might take a bit of a hit, but you can charge it up quickly and always carry a spare if you are looking at your display and using the device constantly. I was able to go for most of a day and find the pros far outweigh the cons here.

A perfect rating is tough to ever give because it seems no device is ever flawless. LG does come close here with the G3 though and it offers just about everything I could ever want in a smartphone. I understand I can even add Qi charging if I buy a new back so if I visit T-Mobile this weekend I will be hunting down one of those accessories.

I held off buying the G2 because I didn't like the back buttons and found their UI too overbearing, especially in the notifications area. These have both been fixed in the G3 and there really is nothing major I can complain about.

Contributor's rating: 9.5 out of 10

Topics: Mobility, Android, Reviews, Smartphones

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36 comments
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  • Please touch more upon rumored problems

    From digesting numerous comments regarding flaws, I have been hopeful that a credible answer could be made on the following:

    1) How accurate are the battery specs exactly?
    2) Are there any overheating issues you have noticed?
    3) Have you experienced any unplanned lockups or shutdowns?
    4) Any stuttering or unusual slowdowns in performance?
    skypilota72
    • My experiences

      I can only comment on my experiences, but here is what I have found after a week with the US carrier (AT&T) model:
      (1) I don't conduct bench battery tests and use my typical day comparisons to judge the battery. I am a heavy user with a 2 hour daily train commute and am able to go all day with the G3. It is about as good as I have seen with the One M8 and GS5.
      (2) Even after watching movies and playing games I have only seen mild warming. I have not had any overheating issues yet.
      (3) I have not had any lockups or shutdowns. Those are often linked to rogue apps too, but so far the G3 has been flawless.
      (4) I have also not seen slowdowns. I have seen some slight lag in the UI of the GS5, but nothing so far in the G3.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • Check Amazon

        Has the ATT black or white for $99.
        rhonin
    • Rumored problems

      FWIW, I have the VZW version and have experienced none of those issues.
      rfarrah@...
    • Fantastic phone from an android junkie

      I love this phone. seriously. LG did it again. I have had Samsung S5, HTC One M8, Lg G2, Nexus 5, and on and on. This phone is a truly remarkeable device that is a pleasure to use. I am surprised i don't mind the 5.5 form factor. it feels great in the hand, and it doesn not slip out. the software is quick and zero lag. it is smooth. i love the icon/color choices. it actually seems like a modern phone (talking to you samsung). the screen is just gorgeous, and my eyes notice it. I can't say enough about this phone. Now, I was someone who had the G2 for a long time....and loved it. but was worried about the jump in size. i have no issues. this phone looks like a premium device. and the back panel plastic/metal look...is quite nice. i just came from the M8and s5...so i like this. i do appreciate the fact it is so light in the hand. i had a lady hold it in church, she said she was amazed it was all screen and so light. great job once again LG.

      Battery life seems to be excellent so far. i can use it for almost an hour without it dropping below 100%. i also have a 128gb micro Sd card in it, and it works great with that. so no issues there. I tested it with my samsung smart TV (project videos to screen) and it works great! the button placement on back is great. i wouldn't mind a little bigger bump no the power button, but not an issue. it charges quickly, like my G2 did, and i was worried it wouldn't. so another winner here.so many enjoyable things to say about it. I am a huge samsung fan with tablets, but do not like their phones anymore. i had the S2, S3, S4.

      The speaker is much louder than the G2, but ofcourse not like the M8. but its still nice.
      also, the screen in bright outdoor conditions is great. no issues here with the G3. camera is beautiful and responsive. I am super happy.and kindof surprised i like it as much as I do. I originally wished they had just made it the same size as the G2...but i do like the 5.5 screen now. i will not swap this phone for another...for a long time. any questions hit me up. i will try to help.

      Recommend to check its best deal: http://www.seebestdeals.com/mobile-phones/lg-g3.html
      Major-Manchester
  • LCD screen ?

    I dont care for smartphones using pixels iluminated by a cold lamp. I prefer pixels that emits light, like organic leds in phones and plasmas on tvs. I'm still waiting for a computer screen like old's crt's.
    mhfernandes
    • That's why we have lots of choices

      I understand and certainly do appreciate the Super AMOLED on the Galaxy S5 as well. I do like the colors on the G3 though as I find them to be more "real".
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • The screen interests me

        Particularly it's talking point - all Thor pixels.

        There's the techy part of my that goes wow we did it as a species, that's a marvel.

        Then there's the logical part - more cost, more power, more resources for pixels you just can't see unless you hold your phone so close to your face that you'll damage your eyes enough not to need it.

        I disagree with apple - I can see their retina pixels at normal viewing distance, I thing the sweet spot is about 100ppi less than this - all 430 region phone screens have been seem less. That reduces cost, increases performance and battery life and means that you can sensibly have super amoled screens.
        MarknWill
        • Just did the maths

          5.07 x the number of pixels on an iphone 5 series screen

          1.78 x the number of pixels on a samsung s5.

          This is the context of the resource drain. Whilst I think the iphone pixel density could be higher - apple's users may complain about screen size, but not clarity or quality and they get more than 200 ppi less.

          When I first saw the benchmarks for the samsung iphone and htc, I noted that the iphone has the best graphics performance in class because of its low pixel count - this phone just highlights the problem in my opinion. Wasted resource.
          MarknWill
  • Love my G@, this looks great

    The buttons being a little too close on the G2 is my main problem. My big fingers tend to mispress or hit the camera, but its quite usable and I like the back buttons as they are operable easily with either hand. My gripe about the phone was lack of an SD card slot (which is most phones anymore), so I'm pleased to see they added that back in. Anxious to see if the Verizon version throws in the Qi charging on this phone as they did on the G2..Not essential, but rather nice especially when free. If you don't like the LG home screen, use another...That's a benefit of Android!
    NotMSUser
    • The buttons are my only complaint

      I wish the volume buttons were easier to use. Otherwise the G2 is probably the best Android phone I have used. I was ready to leave android but then switched from Samsung to LG and realized that it is Samsung that is ruining the Android experience.

      If I were looking for a new phone, the G3 would be the one. The G2's display is great as is, so the G3 must really look good!
      otaddy
      • Looks like a great phone!

        If I were to ever consider an Android phone, the LG Gx series would be number one on my list. The tech is excellent and they actually pay attention to the design rather than creating yet another black plastic brick like Samsung.
        BillDem
  • hi res display is wasteful

    This seems to be a nice phone, but the excessive display resolution would actually be a 'con' for me, It effects both battery life and probably has to do with the need for 3GB RAM. The 3GB is probably also so more carrier bloatware can be running without affecting the users apps. This even after 'project svelte' in kit-kat reduces the RAM requirements.
    drwong
    • Works fine with 2GB RAM too

      The Korean model I previously tried had 2GB of RAM and it worked fine with the display. It may be a bit much, but it is something that distinguishes the G3 from the others and I haven't seen too much of a hit with battery life.

      While AT&T has bloatware, T-Mobile is a bit more svelte and those who are really concerned about it can wipe things out with some simple hacking if they really want.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • I can't say anything bad about my G3

    I converted last year from many years of iPhones to a G2. I needed a bigger screen for my eyes and some great battery life and the G2 gave me both and so much more. I didn't mind the G2's UI that much but I can see how some folks would find it too busy and skeuomorphic. I then started researching about the G3 and decided to get it. What a great phone. It really took what was good about the G2 and made it better. I have no complaints about battery life, the camera, the speed of the phone, nothing at all. I see opinions and reviews all over the spectrum on the G3. Great battery in one, bad battery in another, lags, doesn't lag, crappy screen, best screen, same with the camera. To each their own I guess but I see no issues with this phone whatsoever. Some people like retina burning bright screens with alien green looking grass, others like a more realistic looking screen. Some folks want to watch movies at full brightness all day as if they were on their tablets. Others want pristine audio from cell phone speakers, yadda yadda..My advice is to go down and play with all the flagships and see where your preferences lie. The G3 was the phone for me. for me, and my needs the G3 did it better than the other's. I am on the phone quite a bit all day texting, surfing, youtube videos, and a few calls and the battery life is fine for me with plenty to spare. Hasn't gotten hot at all for me. I see an occasional stutter here and there but nothing that stops the phone in it's tracks and no different than the other phones I've played with before deciding on the G3. If anything the G3 seems to be more fluid than the others. For a 5.5 inch screen it really fits well in the hand (I don't have giant hands). It's a great streamlined looking phone for its size. Check one out for yourself.
    slopes0213
    • haven't used the camera yet with the family have you?

      I owned a G3, and agree with everything you say, but you fail to mention the achilles heel. The camera has AUTO only. No scene modes. Try taking a picture of the birthday, or the kids playing, or the pet, of someone walking for that matter. The phone focuses fast as hell, but never, even in bright sunlight chooses a shutter speed that can freeze even the slightest amount of subject motion. Quite frankly I'm not sure it OIS even works. I tried walking an taking a photo and that was blurred also.
      lukester01
  • Sorry Matt, It's NOT Quad-HD

    I read your work regularly with anticipation of learning new things. This time you really do have an error.
    The resolution you stated for that phone is NOT the industry standard for Quad-HD which goes by several monikers. Here's a link to a Tech News Article designed for the purpose of sorting that out:
    https://plus.google.com/114660584480111918841/posts/KX8Gwnj48ba
    4K TV Resolution Revolution: QuadHD, UltraHD, UHD, or 4K? – A RED ALERT
    4K TV Resolution Revolution: QuadHD, UltraHD, UHD, or 4K? – A RED ALERT
    Paul B. Wordman
    • Quad-HD

      I agree with with you about the resolution, but dont forget this is just to mislead the costumer. It all started when they came out with the suposed "hd" for 1280x720 (720p) and "full hd" for 1920x1080 (1080p) terminology.

      So now I guess that they will call "quad-hd" for 2560(1280 x 2) x 1440(720 x 2) and "quad-fullHD" for 3840(1920x2) x 2160(1080x2).
      mhfernandes
  • Dimmer screen

    I went down to T-Mobile and looked at the G3, really liked everything about it except the screen is dimmer than my G2, and it has a slightly more greenish cast. I really like the screen on my G2 better, don't see why they changed it other than to get good PR for the high res. I guess I could get used to it, but I like the brighter screen for outdoor use, and I would probably have the G3 on max brightness all the time which could use a lot of battery. I still might buy one as it has other advantages, I just have a feeling the screen might bug me.
    rowlin
  • Any oversharpening artifacts visible, and daytime brightness issues?

    I saw a video review on Youtube of the Korean version where the author shows black text on a light background that is clearly marred by oversharpening artifacts. Have you see this on the AT&T version, and what do you think about the brightness of the display when viewed outdoors in sunlight?
    josephi