LG G3 Smartphone Review

Does a G beat an S?

by Greg Hook
SRP: £300.00

What is the LG G3?

2014 wasn't a great year for Samsung. Their S5 Smartphone was a bit of a disaster with sales dropping off significantly, compared to previous releases, resulting in a continued loss of market share, and they weren't helped by the success of Apple's iPhone 6 either. One company that took excellent advantage of this was LG, the World's third largest Smartphone manufacturer. 2014 saw them grab a chunk of market share from Samsung and their sales rose significantly too; thanks in part to a well regarded range of smartphones, one of which is the main competitor to Samsung's S5 and the subject of this review.

In advance of the possible late April/early May release of the G4, we have here the current model, the LG G3. This is an impressively specified 5.5" Smartphone with a Quad HD IPS display boasting an impressive 2560 x 1440 resolution with 538ppi, 2.5Ghz Quad-Core Processor, 16GB storage, 2GB RAM, a 13MP camera and the latest 802.11ac WiFi. Along with features familiar to Android users (although sadly soon to disappear from Samsung's new S6 phones) such as removable battery and expandable storage up to 128GB. Available SIM free for just under £300 compared to Samsung's S5 of around £320, the LG G3 makes for an interesting proposition. Read on to see how it fares in our review.

What about the design and connectivity?

LG's tagline with the 5.5" G3 is that 'Simple is the New Smart'. This echoes through much of the phones features, but particularly with the overall design and look of the phone. The first thing you will notice is the frame is devoid of any buttons meaning it is very comfortable to hold. The power button and the volume buttons are on the rear just below the camera and however you hold the phone they are in easy reach without having to adjust your grip. The removable black rear plastic cover, concealing the microSD card slot and the 3000mAH battery, has a metallic effect and slopes to each edge to, again, add to the overall comfort of using the phone.

LG G3

Phones with removable rear covers will never match the solid feel of those without, although the benefits of a removable rear cover usually outweigh the negatives. Here, with the G3, it feels solidly built with only a very minor flexing in a couple of places on the rear panel. The rear cover removes very easily and snaps back into place very securely. We have no complaints with the build quality here. The G3 is also available in White and Gold, or is that black and blue?

There is no physical home button with the G3, instead we have the home, back and current apps touch buttons located to the bottom of the screen. The charger/USB port and the headset jacks are on the bottom of the phone and, as explained earlier, that's it for anything on the edges of the phone, it's a very clean design. Despite the 5.5" screen size, due to the thin bezel it doesn't feel like a huge phone, it still fits comfortably in a front jeans pocket, for example, even when you're sat down. Measuring 146 x 74 x 9.3mm and with a weight of just 153g, it's on par with the S5 although that only has a 5.1" screen.

Is the specification any good?

The specifications are pretty decent for the price (£300 SIM free or under £20 per month on a contract). The G3 uses the Snapdragon 801 processor which is a Quad-Core running at up to 2.5Ghz. We have 2GB of DDR3 RAM and the internal storage is just 16GB (around 9.6GB available to use) although this can be expanded using the microSD card slot up to an additional 128GB. The latest WiFi is present in the shape of 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac along with Bluetooth and NFC. The phone offers 3G and 4G coverage. The cameras come in the form of a 2.1MP front camera, optimised for selfies and a 13MP rear camera; we'll go into more detail on the cameras later in this review.

LG G3

The two benchmark apps we use here are both free to download via the Play Store. Firstly with Passmark's Performance Test Mobile we have an average System score of 5076. Not quite in the same league as the 2015 Samsung Galaxy Note 4 we reviewed recently with 5782 but given this is a 2014 generation device, it still puts it in the top level of results. With 3D Mark using the Ice Storm Unlimited test we received a similar level result of 13711. Again a fair amount lower than the Note 4's 20,484 but then that phone is around double the price of the G3.

Synthetic benchmarks are all well and good, but it's actual real world performance that is key here. For gaming it performed very well with our usual array of test games such as Simpsons Tapped Out, Soulcraft, Dark Meadow, Air Attack HD and Heroes Call all giving the G3 a good work out and looking gorgeous, too, on the Quad HD display. Elsewhere we had similarly good results with the Dual Window feature working perfectly and without any stuttering when playing a YouTube video on one half and using Google Maps on the other for example. All other apps opened quickly and ran smoothly. Certainly no complaints here with the performance of the G3.

What features does it have?

Initially arriving with just the fairly old KitKat 4.4.2, we were able to update it completely (and the process was very simple) to Lollipop 5.0. The interface is one of the cleanest in a phone or tablet we have reviewed so far. It's not quite bog standard Android but it isn't far off as it doesn't have anything like Samsung's TouchWiz UI. Compared to the G2, the G3's look again echoes LG's 'Simple is the New Smart' ethos. Flat style graphics have been used along with a clear and crisp typeface which gives the G3 a very clean look. Also changed are the colours, this time LG have gone with a subtle colour palette, which in their own words, 'creates a more refined and elegant aesthetic'. This continues with the main 5 apps such as music, phone and messaging all having their own distinct colour scheme. We were impressed with the overall look LG have used (although as it's Android you can of course change it), it really is a simple and smart design.

For those familiar with Android, the usual features are present such as being able to configure pretty much anything you like. You can add widgets to the home screen, add pages and play about with the layout to suit your requirements. Holding the home button for example will open Google Now, holding the back button gives quick access to the Dual Window feature and holding the recent apps button opens a quick menu to add apps, change the theme and quick access to the home, lock screen and system settings. You are also not just limited to the three home touch buttons, you can add an additional two which includes Dual Window, Quick Memo, Notifications and the QSlide feature. QSlide shows a small selection of 8 apps such as Video, Internet and Phone which will open in a floating window which can be resized or moved on the screen. Useful if you want to make a call but don't want to leave that crucial level of Candy Crush Saga!

LG G3

Swiping down from the top of the screen opens the menu which includes the screen brightness and volume sliders along with the on/off buttons for Wi-Fi, mute options, rotation and others. Along with any notifications such as app updates, once configured it will also show the Quick Remote to control your TV. Swiping from the bottom of the screen will also quickly launch Google Now, which seems to know everything about you, even things you wouldn't have thought possible!

As is the norm on modern Smartphones, there is a health app present in the shape of LG Health. Whilst the G3 doesn't feature the heart rate monitor as seen on Samsung's S5 and later phones, thanks to the Lollipop 5.0 update it will work with LG's £200 Watch R. The phone still features a decent step sensor and the health app seems fairly comprehensive with integrations with Google Maps to show your routes taken when walking etc. One feature missing from the G3 is the ability to turn the flashlight on and off, present as a widget on the G2, this has gone on the G3, although there are many free apps on the Play store which will do the same job.

Unlike with some of the Samsung phones and tablets we've reviewed, LG does not include any free Premium content or Apps, there is LG SmartWorld which has many free and paid apps, although this just seems to be an inferior version of the Play Store. Compared to the G2, LG have reduced the number of pre-installed apps by 30% along with increasing the number of apps you can delete by 30% should you need more storage space or just want the phone to run the best it can.

How good is the camera?

One of the stand out areas that came up during our review of the G3 are the cameras. Starting with 2.1MP front camera, this has been enhanced over the G2 for the selfie generation by lowering the F-number, increasing image sensor size and number of lenses to maximise the selfie quality and allow you to get more people into the image. It also has gesture controls such as when clenching a fist in front of the camera it will activate a 3 second timer which did actually work very well. Despite being 'just' 2.1MP the quality of the front camera was very good, even in low light conditions it took a more than sufficient enough quality picture for a selfie. Whilst the front camera doesn't have a flash, it does has a nifty feature which when you press the flash button it will shrink the image on screen and use the rest of the screen to light up your face, so even in pitch black you can still get that all important selfie.
LG G3

The 13MP rear camera is where the real quality is. This uses laser autofocus, a first for any smartphone LG claims. Laser autofocus works by measuring the time it takes for the beam to reach the subject and back thereby enabling the sensor to optimally capture every moment in any conditions. Other features are a dual camera mode that, as the name suggests, allows you to take one picture from both the front and rear cameras at the same time. The rear camera took excellent quality photos, even in poor light conditions. If you want to see just how dirty your keyboard is, take a photo of it with this camera. It certainly shows up the poor quality of our iPhone 5's camera! The video quality is top notch too with up to UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution @ 30FPS recording, along with 1080P at 60FPS and a slow motion 120FPS at 720P option.

LG G3

There are several neat tricks LG have thrown in with the camera. Firstly you can quick launch it with the phone in standby simply by holding the volume down button on the rear for two seconds. Rather than having to press a button to switch between front and rear cameras you can now do this by simply swiping the screen in any direction. Another useful feature is the burst mode which you activate by keeping your finger on the capture button, you will then see the image count start to rack up in the corner, as many as you like until you take your finger off the button.

What about the Quad HD Display?

The G3 has a 5.5" Quad HD IPS 2560 x 1440 resolution using Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. With a mouth-watering 538PPI (pixels per inch) this puts it amongst the very best in the 5.5" screen size along with the likes of the OPPO Find 7 and Philips i966. Only the latest smaller 5.1" phones such as the new S6 offer a higher PPI of 577. It definitely puts to shame the 401PPI and 1920 x 1080 resolution of the iPhone 6 Plus for example. Thanks to the thin bezel the LG has an excellent 75% screen to body ratio which puts the phone size more in line with a 5" phone.

LG G3

Our last Smartphone review, the stunning Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with 515PPI looked glorious and the G3's display is very much the same. The colours are bright and bold with excellent blacks, web pages are very clear, text is easy to read and the maximum brightness level is more than sufficient. 1440P YouTube videos and HD Netflix looked superb. The two pre-loaded (optimised for the phone) LG videos really show what the display is capable of and the G3's display is, alongside the Galaxy Note 4, one of the finest displays currently on the market.

Is the audio quality any good?

The single speaker found on the rear of the device is 1W with a few features such as Boost AMP, which apparently stabilises high volumes and keeps it within an optimal range, plus when sounds are detected louder than the allowed output, the automatic volume control will adjust the levels as required to save the speaker being over-burdened. This all looks great on paper, but it's still only a tiny speaker. Whilst it isn't the worst we have heard on a phone, with a decent volume level, is does suffer from a certain amount of 'tinnyness' that you find with small speakers. It's not a deal breaker for us not having world class speakers on a smartphone and we'd imagine for any prolonged video or audio playback you would most likely use headphones anyway.

LG G3

How good is the battery life?

The G3's battery is a Li-ion 3,000mAh, with a claimed standby time with 3G of over 550 hours and around 21 hours of talk time. With the G3, LG have introduced 3 ways in which the battery consumption has been enhanced which they claim make it 20% more efficient than other Quad HD Smartphones. Via Adaptive Clocking which reduces battery consumption through CPU clock optimisation, Adaptive Timing which optimises the display's energy consumption and finally by using Adaptive Frame Rates, unnecessary energy consumption can be minimised.

All this sounds great, but how does it actually perform for general use? Using Qualcomm's highly efficient SnapDragon 801 processor the battery life should be impressive but sadly wasn't. With our standard YouTube video test with the screen on 50% brightness we managed to squeeze out 6 1/4 hours. For gaming we received 4 1/2 hours. On standby the battery lost 9% in 18 hours. From completely flat to 100% charge took just under 2 hours. Not fantastic results when compared to the Galaxy Note Edge which managed an additional 80 minutes on the video test and another 53 minutes for gaming. It does seem here the G3's battery life isn't as good as they claim despite all the efficiency improvements they have made.

LG G3

The G3 also has a battery saver option which isn't at the level we've seen on some of Samsung's phones and tablets where it turns the phone screen grey and basically just allows you to make a call, however with the battery saver activated it will turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not being used, disable NFC, turn off the notification LED and lower the brightness.

What about media integration?

The G3 includes an IR blaster similar to most decent Smartphones these days. It also comes pre-loaded with the Quick Remote app. This is a very easy to use and setup app for controlling multiple devices in multiple rooms. It also is available for quick access when swiping down from the top of the screen. There are plenty more free and paid apps that take advantage of the IR blaster, such as the £4.03 'Smart IR Remote - Anymote' which offers significantly more options and usability but of course isn't free.

LG G3

There are plenty of ways to access the phone's content on your TV, sadly only a few exist 'out of the box'. Viewing photos can easily be done either by connecting the USB cable to your TV or via DLNA or Miracast if you have devices compatible with those methods. Viewing playback of your wonderfully shot 4K videos on the other hand is a little trickier. Videos are not available to view when connected via USB, which leaves just Miracast or DLNA. On our 4K Samsung TV we were disappointed at both the quality and the constant buffering of the videos, which would only play about 5-10 seconds before stopping, despite having a fast Wi-Fi network that can comfortably play back 4K Amazon Prime videos without issue.

There are other options such as via Google Chromecast. For just £30 and in conjunction with the free app you can stream any content from your phone to the TV including the phone's screen if you wish. HDMI adapters are also available to connect the phone directly to the TV for around £12. So not the greatest of connectivity options, Samsung's simple screen mirroring function is sorely missed here.

Verdict

Pros

  • Superb Quad HD Display
  • Excellent value
  • Clean interface
  • Fantastic Camera
  • Lightweight
  • Great screen to body ratio

Cons

  • Poor Battery life
  • Media integration not the best

LG G3 Smartphone Review

Should I buy the LG G3 Smartphone?

The G3 Smartphone from LG packs a lot into its lightweight shell, with a superb 5.5" Quad HD display producing some amazing visuals along with a pretty decent specification, including a Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB ofRAM. The 13MP rear camera is one of the stand-out features producing superb photos and videos, even in poor light conditions. Having been released for some time now, it doesn't have the bang-up-to-date specification of the latest Samsung Galaxy 6 or Note phones but then those are almost double the price SIM free.

What it does offer is one of the least interfered with examples of Android OS that we have seen in any of our reviews giving an almost stock like UI. The lack of anything like Samsung's TouchWiz UI that, whilst offering a lot, seems to want to take over the phone is a definite positive and helps the phone run fast, open apps quickly and stream 1440P videos with no worries whatsoever. It doesn't have the bells and whistles that you might find on the more expensive Samsung phones, such as the heart rate monitor or the large amount of premium apps for free, but what it does have, it does very well.

What else is available?

The relatively small form factor is also a positive. With the screen to body ratio being an excellent 75% you get the benefit of having a larger 5.5" screen in a form factor more akin to a 5" smartphone. The most likely competitor is the soon to be replaced Samsung S5 available for slightly more at £320 SIM free which, whilst having a better camera, loses on the display side with a much lower resolution screen. The iPhone 5S or 6 are always going to be a competitor but are significantly more expensive and in areas such as the camera the LG wins hands down.

It isn't all fantastic though. The Quad HD screen is a bit of a battery hog and compared to the Note 4 it gave us over an hour less battery life in our tests. The lack of a feature such as Samsung's screen mirroring function for easily getting content to your TV is also disappointing. You can easily stream videos to your TV, but even with a fast network the videos seem to buffer too long and often. But those negatives are bashed into submission by the many positives, which do centre around a phone that is great value, well built and containing some excellent features. A worthy winner of our AVForums Recommended award.
Recommended

Scores

Design

.
9

Display

.
9

Operating System

.
9

Email, Browsing, Calandar, Contacts

.
9

Media support

.
.
8

Camera

.
9

App support and functionality

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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