LG G3 review: A superb flagship smartphone with a great display

ZDNet Editors' Choice

LG G3 review: A superb flagship smartphone with a great display

Summary: The LG G3 is an elegant high-end Android smartphone with a superb 5.5-inch screen, a high-quality 13-megapixel main camera, a fast quad-core SoC, intelligent UI skinning and an admirably restrained set of software extras.

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  • Editors' rating:
    9.0
  • User rating:
    8.0
  • RRP:
    £410.00

Pros

  • High-resolution Quad HD display
  • Excellent physical design
  • Intelligently executed UI skin and software extras
  • Good front and rear cameras

Cons

  • 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).

lg-g3-main
LG's G3 has a 5.5-inch display with a class-leading resolution of 1,440 by 2,560 pixels. The backplate has a brushed-metal look, but is actually made of plastic. The handset weighs 149g. Image: LG

Design

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:

lg-g3-graph-1-3
LG squeezes a 5.5-inch screen into a chassis volume very similar to that of HTC's 5-inch One (M8).

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.

lg-g3-back
The back of the G3 carries the 13-megapixel main camera (with laser autofocus) plus the power and volume up/down buttons. Image: LG

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.

lg-g3-bottom
The sides of the G3 carry no buttons at all, while the bottom edge houses the Micro-USB 2.0 charging/PC connection port and the headset jack. Image: LG

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.

Features

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:

lg-g3-graph-2
The LG G3's 534ppi pixel density is well ahead of its competition.

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.

Conclusion

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

Specifications

General
Form factor candy bar
Dimensions (W x H x D) 74.6x8.9x146.3 mm
Weight 149 g
OS & software
Software included Android 4.4 (KitKat)
Processor & memory
Processor model Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
RAM 2048 MB
Storage
Internal 16000 MB
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 5.5 in
Native resolution 1440x2560 pixels
Connections
Ports Micro-USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio-out
Networks
2.xG GPRS, EDGE
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
3.xG HSPA+
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac
Short range infrared, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
GPS technology
Accuracy enhancement system A-GPS
GPS receiver yes, with GLONASS support
Input devices
Other on-screen keyboard
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 13 megapixels
Power
Removable battery Yes
Battery capacity 3000 mAh
Number of batteries 1
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 410

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Mobility, Reviews

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6 comments
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  • Clinometer

    The buttons in the back ... comes in handy when you want to use your phone as a clinometer. I have a clinometer app on my Galaxy S4 and because of the buttons on the sides, it's always tilted. Sure I have a level which I use for construction around the house, but this is one use case where buttons on the back work better.
    davidr69
  • MY WAITING IS OVER

    7.0

    I have a Motorola photon with keyboard and batty life of about 7 hours or less. I know that the years of phones with keyboard are gone. I just saw this phone today at Sprint store and love it. I was going to wait and see if HTC will come out with an updated MAX or wait for the new iPhone which is due for release sometime this year. I hope that the Sprint model has a removable sim card and battery. I just have to stop waiting and go for the LG G3. I will update after a couple of weeks of using it. Hope that this phone will be better than expected.
    encobaba
    • Not true actually..

      Blackberry have new keyboard phones coming out and have decided to once again focus mainly on keyboard phones.
      fatriff
  • LG G3 is great

    8.0

    My friend got a LG G3, this phone's cover looks fabulous! I also want to buy one to replace my LG Optimus. Now I am looking for a LG G3 case, this e-shop looks very nice, any advise? http://www.casecoco.com/personalized-cases-for-others/lg-g3-casecoco-cases-183
    I think LG G3 is a underrated flagship smartphone in 2014, it's even better than Galaxy S5 in my opinion.
    John Cez
  • Premium materials and "plastici skin" $300,000 Aston Martin

    Oh, no! Premium materials? Do you apply that criteria to the $300,000 "plastic" skinned Aston Martin or the 2015 Corvette 06 as well? They aren't premium because they don't have have "premium materials" like the all metal HTC One? Pulleaze! So many top end sports cars, motorcycles and sailboats are "plastic skinned." Step out of the 20th century and into the 21st century!
    higgsbosun1
  • Came back to Android

    9.0

    I started with an Android a few years back with the HTC Evo, which I loved, and ended up getting an Iphone. The experience was a lot different and took some time to get used to the Iphone. I eventually began to really like my Iphone, but missed the customization and freedom I had with Android phones. A couple weeks ago I saw a commercial for the LG G3 and decided to check it out in person. Walked into my local t-mobile store and walked out with a brand new LG G3. I must say I loved this phone the moments I set my hands on it. It's light weight, but feels great in my hands. The screen is large and very crisp. Although, as many reviewers have noted, you may not notice much of a difference when comparing it to other high end phones. This phones software is not cluttered or watered down with all kinds of extra apps. Its fast, responsive, easy to use, and I love all the options I have for customizing my phone. The camera is awesome and is probably one of my favorite features of the phone. The battery life is ok. Not terrible. I could easily get about 7-8 hours on a single charge, if not more, with very heavy usage (watching movies, media, music, surfing the net, FB, IG, etc.). I would get maybe an hour and half, if I was lucky on a single charge with the iphone. I was going to wait until the Iphone 6 to come out, but I'm glad with the choice I made. I would highly recommend this phone to anyone.
    ocx714