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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

LG G3 review: The best smartphone of 2014


The LG G3 is the follow-up to our favourite smartphone of last year, the LG G2. The new flagship Android smartphone will go on sale soon so here's our full LG G3 review. See also: 27 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014. 

The UK SIM-free price for the LG G3 has been confirmed at £499 which is not as low a price as was the G2 at a similar stage. However, it's around £50 less than the starting price of its rivals and although those devices are now available for less, the G3 enters the market with unique never seen before features including a Quad HD screen.

It's more impressive work from LG so we're pleased with the value on offer from the G3 as a brand new smartphone.


The LG G3 is just 8.9mm which means it's thinner than the G2 going by LG's 9.1mm or our own 9.4mm measurement. Either way it's impressive considering the extra tech that is squeezed in. At 75 x 146mm in size, the G3 is a large phone due to its bigger screen size compared to its predecessor and other flagship devices.

That's unsurprising but what is a surprise is how LG has managed to keep the overall size of the device down – it's really no bigger than its rivals. Due to the screen, the G3 is marginally wider but isn't as tall as the Sony Xperia Z2 or HTC One M8. It's all down to those tiny bezels which were one element which made the G2 so impressive - screen size isn't everything.

Even though the phone is a similar size to rivals, that 5.5in screen is a large area to interact with – it's difficult to reach to the top third of the display. This combined with the width of the device does make it a little unwieldy but we're getting used to it. LG has thought about the size of the screen and implemented software features to help out – see software section.


It's no surprise that the LG G3 has gained some weight considering its overall size but not much at all, 149g up from 143g.

A major design change is the introduction of metal. For starters, there's a brushed metal frame running around the edge which separates the front from the back. The rear cover is removable and made of plastic but has a 'metallic skin' which has a brushed finish and is scratch-resistance (not self-healing like the G Flex). It's what you'd get if you crossed the back of the Galaxy S5 and that of the HTC One M8.

We're not a big fan of the rear cover on the white model but it looks and feels nice on the other colours – black, gold, violet and red. It doesn't feel as premium as the M8 but is a step up from its predecessor and other plastic rivals. You get the best of both worlds, with access to the battery and a decent finish.

As you can see, LG has stuck with its choice of placing the phone's physical buttons on the back next to the camera. We weren't sure about this when it was introduced on the G2 but it's actually very comfortable and makes a lot of sense. The new buttons don't stick out so much and have a textured finish.

While some devices on the market are dust- and waterproof, the G3 is not. LG says it didn't want to make the device bigger and heavier to gain this feature.

As you can see, LG has stuck with its choice of placing the phone's physical buttons on the back next to the camera. We weren't sure about this when it was introduced on the G2 but it's actually very comfortable and makes a lot of sense.

Screen

We're going to lead off with the screen on the G3 because it's the most important piece of hardware on the device. The reason is that the device is the first to offer a Quad HD resolution – so far Full HD has been the standard.

So where the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, HTC One M8 and other top-end smartphones max out at 1080 x 1920, the LG G3 cranks things up to a whopping 1440 x 2560. It's named Quad HD because it's four times the resolution of 720p.

The LG G3 has a 5.5in display (a little larger than the G2's 5.2in) and so the handset has a massively high pixel density of 534ppi (538ppi according to LG). The previous record holder was the original HTC One with 469ppi.


The big question is 'do we need or want Quad HD on a phone?', and having used it our answer is 'yes'. The LG G3's screen looks absolutely stunning – and yes we've compared it to Full HD devices such as the Xperia Z2. LG says the display is comparable to a high-quality photo book. Everything on the screen is super crisp; no matter how hard you try, you just cannot see an individual pixel.

As you would expect from an IPS LCD panel, viewing angles are great. LG has struck a great balance with the colour too; it's not in your face like Samsung's displays tend to be but not overly soft either.

The other question is whether this has a negative impact on battery life. See the battery life section below to see what LG claims and our findings.

Processor and RAM

There were rumours of an Octa-core processor but LG has gone for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor instead which means the G3 matches rivals on this front. However, the chip is clocked at 2.5GHz which is the highest we've seen. It's unsurprising that performance is smooth and nippy the vast majority of the time.

We are seeing occasional lag but we're putting this down to not having the final software and we'll update this along with benchmarks when we get the our UK review sample.

Living up to its name, the G3 has 3GB of RAM but only if you buy the 32GB, the 16GB model has 2GB. The software is designed for 2GB so the extra on the 32GB device simply gives headroom.


Storage

As with the LG G2, the G3 is available with 16- or 32GB of internal storage. It seems more and more smartphone vendors are ditching higher capacity 64GB models (apart from Apple that is).

A drawback of LG's last flagship smartphone was a lack of expandable storage, but the firm has corrected this problem with the G3. To this end, it has a microSDXC card slot which can accept up to 128GB cards. It's easily accessible underneath the rear cover without needing to remove the battery.

Connectivity

The connectivity on the G2 was strong with dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC and an Infrared transmitter. It also supported 4G LTE networks but the G3 supports LTE-Advanced for faster speeds plus is has wireless charging (see battery life below).

LG sticks with USB 2.0 because a 3.0 port is bigger and uglier, plus the firm says consumers don't use it much anyway.

Audio

The LG G2 was the first smartphone to come with 24bit/192kHz audio playback, pleasing audiophiles. Well now the G3 includes a 1Watt speaker with a 'boost amp' to improve sound quality when headphones aren't plugged in. It's impressively loud but the down side is that the speaker is rear facing and mono, not stereo.


There were rumours of the G3 getting a fingerprint scanner to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5s but this is one rumour which turns out not to be true. LG says it will not put this feature in a phone until it is easy to use – a dig at Samsung?

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