LG G3 Review – More Than Just A Lot Of Pixels

LG announced the G3 in late May of 2014 and we were all excited to see what the company had in store for us after the powerhouse known as the G2 which they brought last year. Of course we expected it to have a faster processor, bigger screen, and better battery, but what we got was even better. At first glance, the LG G3 is nothing more than another run of the mill 2014 flagship smartphone. It brings a powerful Snapdragon 801 processor, good battery life, the latest Android operating system and all the features we’ve come to expect, but with big one differentiator, the first widely available Quad-HD display.

Specs

  • 5.5” inch Quad-HD IPS Display – 2560×1440  -538ppi
  • Quad-Core Snapdragon 801 Processor – 2.5GHz
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat
  • 13MP Rear Camera w/ OIS+ & Laser AutoFocus
  • 2.1MP Front Camera
  • 32GB Internal Storage (microSD up to 128GB)
  • 3,000 mAh Removable Battery

The Hardware

The LG G3 brings an interesting design on the outside. It’s got a faux-metal design that at first glance looks just like the HTC One M8, but it’s still plastic.I decided to get the “silk white” model for my personal G3 and even though I still think the “metallic black” is a better choice, the white is still a very nice option. Unlike some other phones, there’s no difference between how each version of the phone feels like and fingerprints don’t show up regardless. Some users have said that their models scratch very easily, but I haven’t had any issues in that area. One thing I found especially pleasing about every model of this device is the way LG treated the bezels. Not only are they razor thin (which I’ll get to more in a bit) they are black. Unlike most phones in recent times, the bezels remain black no matter which color you get. At least in my opinion, black bezel around the screen just looks better, especially when the screen is off. Depending on your carrier however, the clean front space may be taken up with some particular logos from a carrier we all know.



Moving around the back though, we see that faux brushed metal back plate which as mentioned earlier, looks great to the eye and feels amazing in the hand, even if it is just a bit slick. Also on the back is LG’s unique camera and button layout. I’ll get more to the camera later, but for now I’ll talk about what’s underneath, the buttons. The buttons on every other phone on the market are found on the left and right sides of the device and sometimes along the top, but LG wants to be different. Their rear mounted power and volume keys might be daunting at first, but after a day or two, you get used to them. After a couple more, you wonder why other manufacturers haven’t done the same. Eventually you’ll find yourself picking up a friends phone and feeling around the back for the buttons. The G3’s rear buttons are a huge improvement over last year’s G2. They are much easier to feel and much more tactile.

Display

This is the part everyone is talking about. The 5.5” inch Quad-HD display. The next step in smartphone resolution brings 4 times the pixels of a standard 720p HD display, and nearly twice as many as the generally used and accepted 1080p. But does it really make a difference? In short, yes, yes it does. The added pixel density that the 2560×1440 resolution adds really does make a difference. At 538 pixels per inch, the display really is incredibly beautiful. Text on screen is incredibly sharp and videos looks absolutely amazing. Even though most content currently maxes out at 1080p, you’ll still likely notice the difference that the added sharpness of the screen on its own improves the appearance. It’s when you have actual Quad-HD content though that this screen really shines. A couple Quad-HD clips are pre-loaded on the device and simply look astounding. The display is a bit warm, but on the right brightness setting, it looks just fine.

Camera

Smartphone cameras are getting to the point where it’s almost all we use. Every flagship smartphone released this year has had at least a decent camera, and the G3 is no exception at all. With a 13MP sensor, the G3’s shooter can capture plenty of detail and the addition of optical image stabilization makes things even better. Last year’s G2 brought a great 13MP OIS camera, but LG improved things even further with the G3. OIS+ is included this time and makes the shooting experience even better with both hardware and software image stabilization. It also makes recording video great. The camera app itself is pretty bare bones. The first time you open it, you don’t really see anything but a back button and a settings button. LG is really putting a lot on auto-focus, and rightly so.

The G3 brings a laser (yes a real laser) for auto-focus which makes taking pictures quick and easy. Instead of using software to judge the distance of the object in the frame, the laser auto focus literally shoots a laser (I can’t stop geeking out over this) which bounces back to tell the camera where to focus. It speeds up the time taking a shot dramatically and works 99% of the time. The only places it doesn’t work too well is when you are trying to take a picture of something super close up or through glass. I’ve noticed that glass, especially when it’s wet, messes with the way the auto focus system works. The camera software as I said is simple. Personally, I was a huge fan of the camera app found on the G2 for a few reasons. First of all, it was easy to use, but it also gave me a ton of control over my shot. I had tons of options, and could control just about everything I wanted too. The icing on the cake was the fact that I could use manual focus on the device. This time though, LG has gone as simple as possible taking away most of those awesome options. Is that a bad thing? Not really, but it is just a bit disappointing. You can see a full gallery of pictures taken with the G3 down below.

Software

The G3 brings a new software design and purpose. While LG might still throw in everything but the kitchen sink, it’s at least organized in a good way. To start off, let’s talk about the design of the LG G3’s software skin. Placed on top of Android 4.4.2, this skin takes Google’s core vision of Android, and mixes in LG’s own opinions. The entire skin has a muted color scheme yet still brings a holo blue accent to areas like the notification toggles and more. Each of LG’s stock apps brings a flat and minimal design which is seen from the settings, to the dialer, to the calculator and more. Everything was pleasing to the eye and fairly easy to use. Even though there’s so much to see in this skin, LG did a nice job ensuring that it didn’t feel too cluttered or rushed. One of LG’s major points in this software was flat icons and simplicity. While they definitely had the flat UI down pat, the “simplicity” depends on how you look at it. If you look at previous LG UI’s or even some of their competition, you can easily say that this UI is simple. However if you look at something like HTC’s Sense 6 or Android the way Google intended, you’ll see that this software really isn’t all that simple. Nonetheless, even with all of LG’s add-ons and customizations, you can really tell that they took their time thinking about this software and where to put everything. The layout makes sense, every though not everyone will love it, and you can logically find all the features and settings.

The skin is also one of the most easily customizable out there. For instance, the home screen icons can actually be modified with new icons. You can actually use icon packs, with some serious work, right there on your home screen with the stock launcher. Although if icon packs are your goal, you’re probably better off with a third-party launcher like Nova or Apex. The on-screen buttons are where things get really interesting though. Out of the box you get a back, home, and recents button just like you do in Stock Android. However you get quite a few options with how these look and function. The simplest part is the way they look. You can change the background color to options including white and black along with gradients of those colors. You can also change the order of those buttons to suit your preference. What’s really great though, is that you can change what buttons appear. You have the option to add four different new buttons (only two at a time) that all have different functions. The first is a notification toggle. That allows you to see your notification tray at the click of a button. This is a great addition because of the sheer size of the LG G3’s Quad-HD display. Next is QuickMemo+, a way to take a screenshot and draw on it. I personally think it’s one of the most underestimated features of LG’s skin. I find it quite useful, although I don’t use it as a button. Next is a launch button to pull up a QSlide app, something very few people, including myself, actually use. The last and potentially most useful is the Dual Window button. This opens up the dialog for launching resizeable Dual Windows on screen. I didn’t use this too much for one simple reason, it only supports a handful of apps. While Hangouts, Chrome, YouTube, and Google Maps are all on that list, I really didn’t use it just because I could use for instance Twitter or Google+ alongside YouTube or Chrome. That’s one thing I really want to see LG fix in a later update.

Next I want to talk about LG’s “smart” features. Specifically Smart Tips, Smart Cleaning, and Smart Keyboard. All of these have a practical place in the phone, but some more than others. Smart Tips is in theory, Google Now from LG. It’s designed, and marketed, as glanceable information when you need it without having to go and look for it. That sounds great, but in reality I found that Smart Tips was no more than a way to find quick tutorials on features of the device and whether or not I’d need an umbrella when I go out. Smart Keyboard however was just a bit more useful. The LG keyboard has been the worst keyboard experience ever, until this time however. The G3 has a great built in keyboard that I got used to very quickly. It was easy to type on and autocorrect was good. Features like themes and resizing were what really improved the experience though. You can actually change the color of the keyboard and even change how tall or short you want it to be. The keyboard also learns based on how you type. If you continually make the same typo over and over, eventually the keyboard will recognize the issue and type what you meant. You’ll still be making the typo, but the keyboard fixes it for you. While I still plan to jump the the Google Keyboard the moment this review is published, I wouldn’t mind using LG’s keyboard if I didn’t have a choice. Smart Cleaning is a great added feature as well. Designed to maximize your storage, Smart Cleaner kills unnecessary files (at your own command of course) and temporary files to clear up space and leave more for you.

Performance

As I just mentioned, lag on this device was very minimal. This is no doubt thanks to the Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, but it’s when you think about it that it’s impressive that this device performs as well as it does. This phone has that massive 5.5” inch QHD display. With over 3,600,000 pixels to push around, the processor on this phone has it’s work cut out for itself. Still though this phone outpowers other phones I’ve seen it against. While I didn’t have the privilege of seeing this phone go face to face against other flagships like the Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8, I know it can handle just as much.

Multitasking was a breeze and I could be using many apps at once with no noticeable issues because of it. Gaming was also great with the phone having no issues no matter what I threw at it. The first thing I tried was Riptide GP2. While that’s not the most powerful game and can be played even on older hardware, on the highest graphics settings, this game can give any phone a hard time. The G3 though took it with a complaint. I did notice a couple dropped frames, but overall it was easily playable on those settings. However if there’s one complaint I have about the performance on this phone, it’s the aftermath. Running high quality graphics on the screen this big and pixel dense is going to heat up any device, but I’ve never been scared of damaging a phone due to heat until now. This phone gets extremely hot very quickly. With almost any phone, you’ll feel some heat, but this one is almost painful after a little while. For that reason alone I’d recommend some sort of silicon or TPU case for the device if you plan on gaming or any kind. I’ve also heard reports saying that filming 4K video with the phone for long periods of time produces the same results but I did not try this myself.

Battery Life

The battery on the G3 is a mixed bag. While the 3,000 mAh battery can definitely power any normal phone, I had my doubts about what it could do with the big, power hungry screen on the G3. That said, I was amazed. LG was able to pull quite a bit or power out of this battery. The first two days with the phone were nothing more than pathetic. I could barely get 2 hours of screen time before searching for a charger to top off. It really surprised me, but then, to my shock, it got better. By my third day of use I could easily make to 4 hours of screen time and 15 hours of use without a single problem. While that might not sound like much when compared to some other phones, you need to remember that this phone has almost twice the pixels of most other flagships on the market. This phone definitely isn’t going to get you the best battery life on the market right now, but if you don’t spend all day on your device or play games 24/7, you should be able to comfortably get through a day without charging.

Other Thoughts

  • Speaker – One thing I really didn’t touch on was the speaker. It’s amazing. The G3 packs a 1 Watt speaker which doesn’t mean much to the average person, so in plain english, it’s loud. I was really blown away by this speaker. Even though it’s on the back, sound is still fairly good but it’s really just how loud this thing gets. If you are outside doing some yard work or maybe even playing some basketball, you might be able to use the internal speaker for that. I put the speaker at full volume on a quiet night and walked about 200 feet away. I could still hear it. So I went further, I could still hear it, and clearly at that. The point is, this is a very loud and good speaker.

  • Call Quality/Data Speeds – I have been using the Verizon variant of the LG G3 in the Winston-Salem/Mount Airy region of North Carolina and call quality has been good. I can hear the other person well and they reported the same. This is one of Verizon’s XLTE capable devices so you would expect good 4G LTE speeds. While I don’t live in an area with XLTE, I was able to get solid speeds in my area.

Video Review

Price – Is It Worth It?

It all comes down to money eventually doesn’t it? The LG G3 is available on all four carriers in the US right now and available unlocked and through carriers in most major markets. In the US pricing is $199 with a two year contract on Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T and available for $24.95 a month on T-Mobile. Off-contract pricing ranges from $580 to $600 depending on your carrier. Should you get is the real question though. Well, it depends. The G3 is a great phone with a tremendous screen and is capable of about anything you throw at it. If you are currently in the market for a new Android phone, this is definitely a solid option. With a great camera, solid build, great software, and incredible screen, it’s probably the best option, right now. That said, it all comes down to what suits you.

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