LG G3: Impressive Android flagship [Review]

LG G3 Front

In a matter of months, a rumbling schism has developed in the Android camp. On one side sits HTC, churning out gleaming handsets of jaw-dropping design ingenuity. On the other sits Samsung, which seems content to slather everything in plastic, too busy beefing up its smartphones' specs to turn its attentions to ground-breaking design.

LG occupies the hallowed middle ground between the two, having packed impressive specs into a well-crafted handset. The LG G3 is the flagship weapon gunning for the Android top spot against Samsung and HTC -- and we have to say it's putting up quite the fight.

The first -- and perhaps the biggest -- tick in the LG G3's box is its display. The G2's 5.2-inch Full HD screen has been upgraded to a glamorous 5.5-inch Quad HD with crystal clear 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. To put that in perspective, that's the same resolution as a high-end gaming PC monitor. Throw on top a positively rapacious 534 ppi count and you are left with a screen that delivers ultra-realistic detail when viewing photos, and vivid colours from all angles when watching videos.

Our only minor grumble came when using the display in really bright conditions. Once the phone warms up, the display brightness drastically reduces to prevent overheating and becomes far less legible in bright, sunny conditions. After a few minutes, the brightness often dims even more although the indicated brightness percentage level doesn't change. This could be an unfortunate by-product of packing so many pixels into one screen, prompting militant power-saving measures from the LG G3.

Still, we need to talk about the chassis. Of late, the word "plastic" used in conjunction with "rear" has become slightly distasteful, repugnant even. Something that should be handled only at the end of tongs, like night soil, or typhus. The HTC One (M8) has set a benchmark for high-end smartphones encased in gleaming metal, and LG clearly realizes that.

Consequently the LG G3 does look the part. The handset comes in three flavours (champagne gold, black and white) and on the surface appears to be completely metallic. However, it is in fact plastic that's been treated to a brushed metal-like finish. It won't fool the fingers, but it certainly fools the eyes.

LG G3 Back

Indeed, a non-metal rear actually has its advantages, like wireless charging, microSD support and a removable battery that competes directly with Samsung. It's lighter too; weighing just 149g, the handset has been treated once more to the rear power and volume buttons made famous by the LG G2. In fact, these are largely to thank for the tiny bezels and ergonomic design.

Of course, the power button is just an added extra. On the LG G3 two taps on the screen takes you to the unlock display where you can choose to use "Knock Code" to enter the device. This nifty feature allows you to programme a series of taps across the screen that act as a pass code, though only use this security feature if you have a protective case for your phone. If you keep your phone in a bag or pocket, being knocked around in transit will often set off the Knock Code so when you finally open up your phone you're locked out of it.

Once inside though you'll find Android 4.4.2 with a bit of a facelift. LG has tweaked the interface to match the subtle curves of its chassis. All the LG G3's icons are rounded with a circular graphic motif. Combined with sophisticated pastel shades and page-turn transitions that are so slick you could slip on them, the UI oozes class and sophistication without ramming a champagne glass in your face.

Happily, the issues with apps being laggy to load that we reported in our first hands-on review appear to have been resolved. The 16GB LG G3 packs 2GB of RAM with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor that easily matches other top handsets on shelves now.

The camera, however, is where the LG G3 edges ahead. The 13-megapixel snapper features a white/amber dual-LED flash similar to the iPhone 5s to capture colours and skin tones with greater accuracy. Before launch, the Internet rumour mill churned out theories that the small black sensor to the left of the camera was a fingerprint scanner but it is, in fact, a laser autofocus sensor.

Using the same red laser dot technology as high-end professional cameras, this sensor ensures that the LG G3 will be able to sense depth with greatly enhanced accuracy. Consequently, we found the G3 could focus in on subjects almost instantaneously, even in low lighting conditions. It essentially banishes blur, and shooting video in 4K before watching it back on the G3's high resolution screen is an utter delight.

However, we found the camera sometimes had trouble adjusting in brightly lit conditions. Still, the picture quality stands head and shoulders above what the rest of Android is currently doing. Throw on top a selfie camera that can launch by balling your fist in front of the screen (or simply saying "cheese") and you won't just be smiling for the pictures.

So far, the battery life for the LG G3 has received a fair bit of flack. For our part, however, we were very impressed by the 3,000 mAh unit. With general use we found we had about a day and a half of battery life while playing games, browsing online and making use of the "OK Google" voice recognition feature. In our book, that's rather decent.

Verdict

This handset is proof that the success of the G2 was just the beginning for LG. By no means a one trick pony, the Korean company has released a top of the line Android smartphone that rivals some of the best flagships on the market. An unbeatable spec sheet, razor sharp and screen and beautifully simple interface are only marred by slight issues with the camera and aggressive battery saving. Other than that, we were very impressed. So out of the five sugar lumps in our pocket, this pony can have four and a half.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model LG G3
Network 4G
Processor 2.46GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
RAM 2GB
Memory 16GB
Memory expansion microSD
Display 5.5-inch
Main camera 13 megapixel
Front camera 2.1 megapixel
NFC Yes
Wi-Fi Yes
GPS Yes
FM radio Yes
Battery 3,000 mAh
Size 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm (WxDxH)
Weight 149g
OS Android 4.4.2 KitKat

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