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LG G3 in-depth review

Verdict

LG rustles up a classy, top-rung smartphone – but the pixel-heavy Quad HD screen takes its toll on battery life

Review Date: 11 Sep 2014

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £32.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £406
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

LG’s flagship phone, the LG G3, may not be the most recognisable of names, but its headline specs place it right alongside the big hitters of 2014. With a huge 5.5in "Quad HD" display and a host of upgrades over its predecessor, the G2, the G3 is gunning for top-flight rivals from Samsung, HTC and Apple. See also: the 11 best smartphones of 2014.

LG G3 review

The big news is the display. LG has done away with the 5.2in Full HD panel on the G2, and replaced it with a gleaming, 5.5in, 2,560 x 1,440 IPS panel. It has four times the number of pixels than a 720p screen, which is where the Quad HD bit comes from, and first impressions are of unearthly levels of detail and luminous, saturated colours. The first time we snapped a picture with the rear-facing 13MP camera, we were blown away – it’s possible to see almost every speck of detail on the screen without zooming in.

LG G3 review: design

Notably, the G3 squeezes its 5.5in display into a chassis that measures 74.5mm wide – a mere 3.6mm wider than the G2. It’s a big phone, but by no means unwieldy.

And LG has clearly been busily sprucing up its new handset. The rear looks like it’s crafted from brushed metal, but it’s actually 100% plastic. It doesn’t look or feel cheap, however: the rear arcs from edge to edge in single, gentle curve, and it’s framed by a sliver of flattened metal running around the handset’s edges. Combined with the smooth, semi-gloss rear, the G3 feels great in the hand.

It doesn’t suffer from the same fingerprint-snaffling qualities of glass-backed handsets, such as Sony’s Xperia Z2.

And, better still, after a month or so of use, it isn't exhibiting much in the way of marks or scuffs. The LG G3 isn't equipped with the same self-healing technology that allows its cousin the LG G Flex to magically recover from pretty serious scratches without a blemish, but all of the evidence so far suggests that in a year or two, the G3 will still look pretty good - as long as you don't abuse it too much.

LG G3 review

Indeed, even compared with the prettiest Android flagships out there – for our money, the Sony Xperia Z2 and the HTC One (M8) are the ones to beat – the G3 can hold its head up high. It doesn’t quite exude the same luxurious charm as those models, but, at only 149g, it’s pretty light for a 5.5in phone.

There’s little missing in the way of essentials, either. There’s 16GB of onboard storage, plus a microSD slot hidden behind the removable battery. Meanwhile, a silver grille on the G3’s rear conceals the phone’s 1W speaker; happily, this is crisp and loud enough to be useful for everything from playing a tune to fielding hands-free phone calls.

The one thing we're not too keen on is LG's signature, rear-mounted power and volume keys. These have also been given a little redesign - but alas not a rethink. After spending some time with the G3 we've come to the conclusion that these rear-mounted keys are simply impractical. Since the buttons aren't visible from the front, there's inevitably some degree of fumbling around to locate them, and we often found we had to adjust our hand position in order to operate the volume keys.

You might not think this would be a problem, but when holding the phone one-handed, any awkward grip readjustment brings the risk of a fumble and a potentially catastrophic drop. Not what you want when you've just spent this much on a smartphone.

LG G3 review: display

Technically, the LG’s display certainly has what it takes, though. Tested with our X-Rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter, the G3 reached a maximum brightness of 457cd/m2 and covered 91.4% of the sRGB colour gamut. It’s even moderately colour-accurate, with a Delta E of 2.57 indicating onscreen colours are fairly close to their intended shades. The only disappointment is the relatively low contrast ratio of 788:1; here the LG’s greyish black response is to blame. As a result, the G3 doesn’t dredge up quite the same level of detail in darker images and movie scenes as rivals with higher contrast ratios and better black levels.

LG G3 review

In the main, however, the G3’s display is easily good enough to rival the rest of the Android big hitters. Generally, colours look warm and natural, if a tad undersaturated.

There is one problem, however: once the phone warms up, the display brightness is forcibly reduced to prevent overheating. This drops the screen brightness from the maximum of 457cd/m2 to 310cd/m2, which is far less legible in bright, sunny conditions. This won't be a problem on a grey British summer day, but those using it hotter climes may face frustration.

After a few minutes, the brightness dims further, to 269cd/m2, although the indicated brightness percentage level doesn’t change. In short, it’s clear LG is having to employ aggressive power-saving measures to cope with the demands of the G3’s pixel-packed screen. Take a look at our LG G2 vs LG G3 comparison, too.

LG G3 review: software

LG has given Android 4.4.2 a new look and a variety of new features for the launch of the G3, but it hasn’t been butchered to the point where it’s almost unrecognisable (we’re looking at you, Huawei).

Instead, LG has kept the emphasis on making useful tweaks to the Android interface. The interface has been tweaked to employ simple, pastel-coloured shades, rounded icons and a variety of nifty page-turn transitions, which see the homescreens fold into one another and apps pirouette into the background.

LG G3 review

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is LG’s Smart Notice widget, which is front and centre on the G3’s homescreen. It shows the time and a local weather forecast via AccuWeather, but also attempts to provide useful titbits of info: it prompts you to uninstall unused apps and return calls from contacts and occasionally advises you to dress appropriately for impending weather conditions.

LG has also bundled a variety of apps and widgets with the G3. Swipe left from the homescreen and the Smart Tips app gives a quick runthrough of the phone’s key features, while LG Health tracks your daily exercise levels; input your height, weight and age and the G3 tells you whether or not you’re overweight and suggests a daily target in steps. It’s also possible to track walking, running or cycling workouts via GPS and share the results.

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User comments

Hammer Blow?

This phone is almost identical to the HTC. The screen offers higher battery drain and the camera seems inferior, but otherwise there is little difference.

By tirons1 on 28 May 2014

@tirons1

Screen is LTPS, which is supposed to be significantly (30%?) more efficient than Sharp's IGZO, as seen on the IPad Air. And IGZO is already much more efficient than standard LCD technology. It sounds like LG is banking on its 2k screen having a similar drain to the G2's FHD screen.

The camera being inferior is just a matter of personal preference, I think: ultrapixel vs "normal" camera. And the laser focus jobbie looks impressive.

And apparently the removable back is plastic and not metal, if you're concerned with that sort of thing.

By TheHonestTruth on 28 May 2014

@TheHonestTruth

Fair enough. So the screen isn't a disaster and the camera is merely different to the HTC. As the author concedes at the end it still isn't a hammer blow.

Personally I will still hope for something like the Nokia 635 but with a decent camera. My recent step back to a Nokia 610 has been a revelation both in how nice the OS is to use, and how nice it is to have a pocket sized phone that isn't slippery. My newer oversized phone has been consigned to sat nav duties.

By tirons1 on 28 May 2014

Tempted...

Literally just bought an M8 the other month and already tempted to sell it for this beast. I'd have to see the screen in person but if it's as good as people are saying it could be a game changer...

Pretty sure I have a problem when it comes to new phones :S

By EddyOS_2K9 on 28 May 2014

I want that resolution on my notebook

period

By HopeLESS on 1 Jun 2014

Saw one in the flesh today and...

...I just have to have it. I was going to buy the G2 for half the price, but the removable battery, micro-SD and pleasant and smooth UI changed my mind. I handed over my cash for the G3.

By FreedomFighter on 29 Jun 2014

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