LG has come a long way since its initial clunky Optimus handsets. The first two flagships in the G series did a lot to improve consumer perception about LG smartphones. It didn’t hurt that Google also placed faith in LG and assigned it the responsibility of developing the Nexus devices. The Korean electronics giant is going all out with the new G3. Launched and promoted by Amitabh Bachchan, it certainly has the specs to turn heads. But, how does it perform in real life? Did LG bite off more than it can chew? Keep reading to find out.
Appearance, Display and Battery
The headline grabbing feature of the G3 is undoubtedly the quad-HD display. The 5.5’’ IPS display boasts of a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels, which equates to an insane 534 ppi pixel density. LG obviously doesn’t believe in Apple’s claim that it’s impossible for our eye to discern improvements in pixel density beyond 300 ppi. After, using the G3, I am inclined to agree with LG. Some of the preloaded content looks absolutely breath-taking. Even the YouTube videos at a 2K resolution looks splendid. Unfortunately, most of the content that you are going to come across will not be able to take advantage of the G3’s superior display. We expect apps and videos to catch up at 2K becomes more prevalent, but by then the G3 might already be old. Compared to the G2, both contrast and saturation seems to have suffered. LG has shifted from natural looking displays to dialling up the saturation to make the colours pop. Another area where LG has compromised with the display is outdoor visibility. It’s not as good as before, and is made worse by the fact that in order to prevent overheating, the phone automatically restricts the maximum brightness to 90% after a few minutes of usage.
The size of the display puts it firmly in the phablet category. In fact, the LG G3’s display is a couple of inches bigger than the first Samsung Note. However, the G3 is still appreciably smaller than the Note N700 in almost every way. The G2 has impressively thin bezels, but the G3 cuts down even further. The almost edge-to-edge display lends the G3 a majestic appearance that none of the other flagships manage to pull off. In spite of the heft, the G3 is the easiest to handle among similarly sized devices. This is largely due to the fact that the G3 is not as wide as many of the phablets, and has a curved back that is easy to grip. This is only a relative thing though. Like all current generation flagships, the G3 is simply too big to be comfortably used with one hand. The G3’s rear is plastic, but polished to give a metallic appearance. The plastic feels cheap, but also has the advantage of making the phone lighter.
The back cover is removable and the battery is user replaceable. The 3000 mAh battery offers enough juice to last through the day. I didn’t conduct any benchmarks, but the battery life seemed to be on par with other flagships. LG has done a few under the hood tinkering to make sure that the massive display doesn’t hurt the battery life, and the tweaks seem to have worked.
The G3 is powered by a Snapdragon 801 chipset that includes a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330. As you can expect from such mighty hardware, the performance is great. The G3 maxed out the 3D Mark – Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, and is certainly among the best performers you can buy right now. Heating can be a concern, as I mentioned earlier, but at least the G3 doesn’t completely disable critical functions (Camera) like the Z2 does when its gets heated.
The G3 comes with 16 or 32 gigs of internal storage. The latter has 3GB RAM while the former has only 2 GB. External memory cards up to 128 GB are also supported.
The G3 unit in India is 4G-enabled, and supports all common connectivity options including Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/f/n/ac, and NFC. Wireless charging (Qi) is also supported.
One of my pet peeves with LG has been its silly, childish icons. I’m glad to report that they are finally gone. In fact, LG has embraced the flat design concept, and tastefully reskinned its entire interface. Bright, primary colors have been replaced with more subdued tones. But, LG has ensured that the UI doesn’t become boring with the help of quick animations peppered through the interface. However, all is not rosy. The notifications pane still has way too many things going on. I like the scrollable, quick toggles section, but the audio control is pointless since that can easily be done through hardware keys. Also, in its attempt to simplify the Settings pane, LG has removed a lot of the neat options it had before. Important settings like switching between Network modes (2G/3G/LTE) seem to have disappeared. However, the G3 is still one of the most customizable Android devices out of the box. You can change your phone’s appearance by changing home screen themes, tweaking fonts, and switch animation effects. There are tons of free themes available for download in LG’s app store (SmartWorld).
There are also heaps of software enhancements. My favourite among them is Knock Code. One of the potential issues with having the power button at the rear of the phone is that it becomes impossible to unlock the phone without picking it up from your desk. To get around this problem, the G2 introduced Knock On, which allowed you to wake up the phone by simply tapping on the screen twice. Knock Code is a further enhancement of that. It allows you to define a custom pattern of taps (combination of Up, Down, Left, and Right). You can directly wake up and unlock your device by tapping your Knock Code. This is actually a faster and easier than pattern unlock. It’s also a lot harder for bystanders to figure out.
Another new inclusion is LG Health, which tracks your steps without requiring any additional hardware or using too much battery. However, like most such apps it’s likely to be more gimmicky than useful. The data it reported varied wildly with the data reported by Sony’s Smart Band, which itself doesn’t agree with the Fitbit.
LG also made a lot of fuss about its keyboard. I like that fact that you can adjust the height and there is a dedicated numpad. However, like all other OEM keyboards, it is no where near as good as Swype or Swiftkey.
Perhaps my least favourite new feature is Smart Notice, which is more annoying than useful. The only reasonable advice I received from it is to carry an umbrella based on the weather forecast. When you already have something as good as Google Now, it’s stupid to a similar but vastly inferior app.
LG’s note taking app QuickMemo is still there, but doesnt have a dedicated button like in some of the older models. Other typical LG features are also there including Smartseek (displays YouTube like thumbnail preview in the video player when you seek), QSlide (opens app in a floating mini-window with adjustable transparency), Guest Mode (restricts access to apps and data), and Cliptray (clip board manager providing access to data you have previously copied).
The G3 ships with a 13 mega-pixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization and Laser Autofocus. The latter is another LG innovation. As soon as you hit the capture button, the G3 emits a laser beam, which acts like a SONAR and helps it determine the distance of objects in the frame. LG claims that it allows the G3 to focus faster and more accurately in varied conditions. Although, the benefits weren’t as dramatic as advertised by LG, the G3 did manage to focus quickly and reliably even under poor lighting conditions.
The camera itself is excellent. Although, it looks inferior to the Sony Xperia Z2 on paper, in reality I struggled to find a difference. In fact, in some cases, the G3 returned better results. LG has dramatically simplified the camera interface. Manual mode as well as multiple scenes are now a thing of the past. There are three basic modes – Auto, Magic Focus, Panorama, and Dual. The Magic Focus mode snaps multiple pics at different focal lengths and allows you to change the focus of the picture later. The Dual mode fires both the front and rear cams together to make sure that you aren’t missing from all your photo. Photosphere (or VR Camera as LG used to call it) has been axed, presumably because it’s too complex to be used in most situations. The amount of detail in the images was good with low noise and vibrant colours. LG’ flagship is way ahead of HTC, and on-par with everyone else.
The 2.1 mega pixel front-camera is capable of shooting full HD videos. There’s also a selfie mode, which allows you to trigger a 3-second countdown timer by clasping your palm. This is neat as having to tap the camera button while posing for and taking a selfie can be a bit tricky. There’s also an option to use the light from the display as a secondary light source. The overall quality of pics captured from the front cam, however, is nothing particularly impressive.
The G3 supports 4K video recording, but as in other devices it’s more of a gimmick. It’s usable for short periods of time, but generates way too much heat and takes way too much space to be usable for longer videos. However, the quality of recorded video is great for a smartphone, and the microphone does a good job at removing background noise.
LG has also worked on the loudspeaker, which is often ignored in smartphones. The speaker is rated at 1 Watt (1.5W with Boost Amp), and is quite loud. Of course, if you keep the phone on a flat surface, the sound is going to get muffled. LG still can’t match up to the quality of the sound produced by HTC’s front-facing stereo speakers, but its loud speakers are no pushovers. In all likelihood, LG was forced to put the speaker in the rear as front-facing speakers would have added to the dimensions of the G3.
The G3 is a phenomenal device. It’s not perfect. It’s too big to be comfortable. The faux-metal back cover looks good, but doesn’t feel as great. And, the ultra-high resolution display comes with its own set of compromises. However, these are small grievances. LG gets most of the things right. It packs in a bigger display than others, while keeping the phone size in the same ballpark. The resolution is, of course, a generation ahead of everyone else. The camera is as good as others, if not better. And, some of its innovations like the Rear Key and Knock Code are simply brilliant. There’s little to separate the flagships from Samsung, HTC, Sony, and LG. The G3 is also priced competitively. It’s cheaper than the Z2, in the same range as the One M8, and a bit more expensive than the Galaxy S5. A lot depends on your personal preference. However, LG G3 is my favourite device of the season. This is a phone that’s really hard to not like.