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Thursday, June 5, 2014

LG G3 review: hands-on with the new LG smartphone that could be 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 has been unveiled at a London event so here's our LG G3 hands-on review. See also:best smartphones

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.

It's a similar size to the Sony Xperia Z2 which has a smaller screen so while this is more impressive work from LG including tiny bezels, it will be a drawback for a lot of users. We find the Z2 somewhat unwieldy and the G3 is in that same category even though LG says the 'floating ark' shape makes it easy to use the phone one-handed.

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. More impressive design work from LG.

A big design shift is one to a metal finish, although it's not metal like the HTC One M8 is. Instead the rear plastic cover is removable and has a 'metallic skin' with a brushed finish. It looks and feels quite nice but not so much on the white model in our opinion. LG has done a good job but the phone doesn't feel as premium as the HTC.

The LG G3 will be available in a variety of colours including black, white and gold - plus burgendy red and violet.

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.

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.

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 Quad HD on a phone' and 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.

The other question is whether this has a negative impact on battery life. We can't answer that just yet but we will with some proper testing. See the battery life section below to see what's on offer and what LG claims.

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. 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 design for 2GB to the extra on the 32GB device gives headroom.

See also: What's the fastest smartphone of 2014: processor, web and graphics performance comparison.

The chip is clocked at 2.5GHz and includes an Adreno 330 GPU. It's unsurprising that performance is smooth and nippy - more on this when we get our hands on a review unit.


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 models (apart from Apple).

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 microSD card slot which can accept up to 128GB cards.

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) and the latest 11ac Wi-Fi.

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 so pleased audiophiles. Well now the G3 includes a 1Watt speaker with a 'boost amp' to improve sound quality when headphones aren't plugged in. The downside is that the speaker is rear facing.


Fingerprint scanner

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.

The resolution of the G3 remains at 13Mp compared to the G2 but there are a number of improvements which have been added. For starters there's a dual-LED flash which should come in handy in low light situations.

More impressive is the inclusion of recording video in 4K resolution. That's not a new feature for smartphones but the LG G3's laser auto focus certainly is. The G3 includes optical image stabilisation technology to keep shots shake-free and something called 'touch and shoot' removes unnecessary buttons so you can concentrate on getting the right shot.

At the front is a 2Mp camera which can shoot video in Full HD which LG calls a 'selfie camera', not a front facing camera. However, LG has added the ability to take selfies with a hand movement. The pixels are bigger than the rear camera, the angle has been optimised for selfies and the screen can be used as a sort of flash in dark conditions.

We'll test out the camera properly when we get our review sample and report back.


As you would expect from a new smartphone in 2014, the LG G3 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat and the firm's latest user interface and software features.

Already introduced on previous devices, the G3 features KnockCode – a way of waking up and unlocking the device with a user-defines sequence of taps on the screen (80,000 combinations possible). It also included KnockON which wakes the phone with a simple double tap – the same puts it to sleep again.

New features include 'Smart Notice' which is similar in some ways to Google Now and the software on offer with the Moto X. Essentially the LG G3 will make suggestions and offer tips based on the status of the device including location and behaviour.

For example, the G3 will ask if you want to uninstall apps which haven't been used, if you want to call someone back after a missed call and if you want to switch on Wi-Fi when you arrive at the office.

A new 'slim keyboard' offers improved typing with its adjustable height and size and new gestures. It also automatically adjusts the detection area as you type and you can swipe the space key to move the cursor around.


Overall the interface is simpler and cleaner. LG says it has removed all unnecessary visual elements and apps have been given their own colour so you know where you are. It's flat and the colours used are 'mature' according to LG – rather than being in your face.

We can't test battery life properly at the LG G3 launch event but here's what LG has to say on the subject. The G3 has an 11.1Wh (3000mAh) battery which is the same size as the G2. However, this time the cell is removable so you can keep a spare if you want.

A big change is the inclusion of wireless charging which we're all for and want to see more of in smartphones.

Despite that Quad HD screen, LG says the battery life will match that of rival 2014 flagship devices. That means, from our point of view, the G3 will offer a couple of days usage

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