- High-resolution Quad HD display
- Excellent physical design
- Intelligently executed UI skin and software extras
- Good front and rear cameras
- Battery life could be better
LG has enjoyed considerable success with its smartphones and tablets recently. The G2 handset was well received, while the G Pad 8.3 is a good-value small form-factor tablet. LG's bendy G Flex was perhaps a step too far in terms of innovative design, but on the whole the company is getting more right than wrong at the moment. The G3, LG's new flagship smartphone, sees the company back on top form.
Our unlocked UK review sample came from Clove Technology, which charges £410 (ex. VAT; £492 inc. VAT).
The LG 's mantra for the G3 is 'simple is the new smart'. This applies not only to chassis design, but also other aspects of the phone.
Like Samsung with its Galaxy S5, LG has opted for a plastic chassis for the G3, leaving HTC to retain the 'premium materials' crown with the all-metal HTC One (M8). The brushed-metal finish to the G3's relatively flimsy removable backplate won't fool anyone for long.
It's with design rather than chassis materials that the LG G3 makes an impact. There are two key factors here. The 5.5-inch screen has been squeezed into a relatively tiny space, leaving almost no long-edge bezel and minimal bezels at the top and bottom. This means that the G3's overall dimensions compare favourably with other manufacturers' flagship handsets:
If you have smaller hands, the LG G3 is a bit cumbersome to hold, and it's difficult to reach across the 5.5-inch screen for one-handed use. However, LG's ability to accommodate a 5.5-inch screen in a similar chassis volume to the five-inch HTC One (M8) is admirable.
The other noteworthy design feature is that, as with the LG G2, the power and volume buttons are on the back of the chassis rather than on an edge. They sit in a strip beneath the camera lens. The power button is slightly raised, while the volume up/down buttons are indented, making all three easy to find with a fingertip.
You can configure the volume buttons so that a long press of one launches the camera, and a long press of the other launches LG's own QuickMemo+ app.
How well these buttons work is a matter of personal preference, but it didn't take long for us to get used to them. The ergonomic debate about whether the power button is better located on the top or side of a handset is redundant, and both left- and right-handed users should find it equally easy to reach the buttons. Moreover, there's no danger of accidentally pressing them as you handle the phone.
The location of these buttons lends the LG G3 a distinctive appearance, and also means that the edges can be relatively clean. In fact, there's just the headset jack and power connector on the bottom edge, plus a small infrared port and a microphone on the top edge. The backplate curves neatly into the long edges, which are relatively thin, this curvature helping to give the handset a comfortable feel in the hand.
The LG G3's headline feature is its 'Quad HD' screen. At 2,560 by 1,440 pixels it's the highest resolution we've seen in a handset to date, setting the benchmark for other manufacturers to aim for or surpass. This they inevitably will do, but at present the G3's 534ppi pixel density knocks the competition into a cocked hat:
The screen is certainly impressive, but how much this extra pixel density actually affects usability is debatable. Viewing angles are very good, and images are certainly more detailed when scrutinised closely. There's also a noticeable sharpness to video.
That said, the benefits don't seem substantially greater when compared to other high-end handsets, and with everyday text-heavy workloads like email or web browsing we barely noted the additional sharpness and clarity.
Driving this large high-resolution screen might be one of the reasons that the G3's battery life suffers a little. We'd expect, all other things being equal, that the handset's 3,000mAh battery would get us through more than a day's usage easily. In fact, on days that involved heavier than average use, we needed to recharge the battery during the early evening. One way we prolonged battery life without resorting to the G3's power-saving tools was to reduce the screen brightness — it really does go very bright indeed if need be.
As you'd expect from a flagship smartphone, the LG G3's base specifications are impressive. It's powered by a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC with 2GB of RAM in support. There's 16GB of internal storage — which, unlike on the LG G2, can be boosted via external microSD cards (capacities to 128GB are supported). Out of the box, our review unit had 10.5GB of free storage, which is about average.
This is a 4G handset, and its Wi-Fi runs to a/b/g/n/ac. There is NFC and Bluetooth 4 and the already noted infra red transmitter which is bolstered by an app called Quick Remote which you can use to control AV equipment.
The main (rear) camera is a 13-megapixel unit, while the front camera delivers two megapixels. The main camera uses laser autofocus, which boosts focus speed — it's not instant, but both focus speed and image quality are impressive.
There are a few camera tweaks, one neat touch being the ability to take a photo showing both cameras' images at the same time. You can invert the primary (full-screen) and secondary (inset) images, and size and position the inset image to suit your needs.
'Simple is the new smart' might seem to be a bit off the mark given some of these features, and that's before we get onto LG's skinning of Android 4.4 (KitKat). In fact, LG's myriad settings tweaks and add-on features seem unobtrusive: they're easily accessed when needed and easily ignored if not. And software bloat is mercifully kept in check.
LG's Android skin is distinctive, with a bespoke 'flat' design to icons, and a makeover given to many of the Android apps. An integrated pedometer automatically sets goals for you after you've input basic details, and you can edit your goal if it's either too demanding or too easy.
LG lets you reconfigure the Android touch buttons, altering the order of the three standard buttons and adding up to two more from a set of four — Notifications pulldown, QuickMemo+ app launch, QSlide menu launch and Dual Window. Gaining quick access to these usability features could transform how often you take advantage of them.
QuickMemo+ is a very useful app that lets you take handwritten or text-based notes. A keyboard tweak lets you move the text entry point around by holding a finger on the space bar and then sweeping gently left or right. It's more efficient than prodding the screen for this editing task and it runs across all apps that use the keyboard.
QSlide is the collective name for a series of apps you can open on top of what you're currently doing. They open in a tray when you hit the QSlide key. The app apps — which include a calendar, phone dialler, messaging, email, file manager and calculator — can be made more or less transparent. You can access QSlide from the notifications area too. Dual Window lets you run two apps on-screen at once. Again only a subset is available: the range includes email, web browser, maps, messaging, gallery, and YouTube.
The LG G3 has snuck up on the outside to become our favourite handset of the year so far, winning a well-deserved Editors' Choice award. The 5.5-inch Quad HD screen plays its part in that achievement, but we're also impressed with the range of intelligently applied software extras and user interface tweaks, and with the handset's clever design. Overall, the LG G3 is a feature-packed smartphone that delivers the goods with admirable restraint.
Read more on the LG G3
|Form factor||candy bar|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||74.6x8.9x146.3 mm|
|OS & software|
|Software included||Android 4.4 (KitKat)|
|Processor & memory|
|Processor model||Qualcomm Snapdragon 810|
|Display technology||TFT touch-screen (active matrix)|
|Display size||5.5 in|
|Native resolution||1440x2560 pixels|
|Ports||Micro-USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio-out|
|2G||GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900|
|Wi-Fi||802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac|
|Short range||infrared, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC|
|Accuracy enhancement system||A-GPS|
|GPS receiver||yes, with GLONASS support|
|2nd camera resolution||2 megapixels|
|Main camera resolution||13 megapixels|
|Battery capacity||3000 mAh|
|Number of batteries||1|