For LG’s G3, simplicity is the focus, and it accomplishes as much with an air of grace that is rare for a smartphone. Choosing to forgo the flashy bells and whistles and focus on the G3’s core smartphone components, LG has created a device that still manages stands well above the rest of the pack. Read on for our full review!
Design & Build
Unlike many of the iterative releases that have graced the smartphone market lately, the LG G3 takes a bold leap forward with its design. Starting with the blueprint laid by last year’s G2, the G3 improves on nearly every aspect of its preceding model. The phone in hand feels like a true upgrade with refined style and material quality to accent familiar features like LG’s signature rear button, which combines power, standby, and volume controls (plus assignable shortcut functions).
The G3 achieves its premium brushed metal finish via the combination of a thin metallic skin fused within plastic composite. The result is a gorgeous appearance that retains durability (and a decent bit of grip). As a bonus, this construction allows for the back plate to remain removable, allowing access to the 3000mAh battery and microSD card reader within.
The front of the device features a 5.5-inch display framed but what might be the perfect amount of bezel. While not edge-to-edge, the screen is accented with only a few millimeters of dead space on either side. The reliance on Android’s software navigation keys further allows the G3 to maintain a small footprint despite the substantial size of its display. By the measurements, the G3 is 5.76-inches tall, 2.94-inches wide, and 0.35-inches thick.
Of course, the rear button means the sides of the device remain free of any hardware controls, which coupled with a comfortable curved shape makes the LG G3 quite comfortable in the hand. It’s sleek, light (149 grams), and a joy to look at.
LG wants the G3’s display to be a focus of the device, and it sure caught our attention. While 2014’s other flagship devices — the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 — held serve with 1080p resolutions, the G3 ups the ante with its QuadHD 5.5-inch display and its 2560 x 1440 resolution.
The interesting thing about this display — a True HD IPS+ display — is that its beauty isn’t immediately apparent. One reason for this might be that there is some truth to the idea that super high resolution are lost on smaller screens. Another might be that LG chose to go with a fairly muted color scheme for their user interface, one which doesn’t dazzle the eyes with vibrant and flashy graphics (but more on that later).
But as you use the display more and more it’s strengths become apparent. It is graceful in its beauty, much like the G3 as a whole, providing brilliant image reproduction and plenty of brightness. HD video looks stunning, and the 5.5-inch size gives the web and apps plenty of room to breathe.
With its stunning design, gorgeous display, and revamped user experience, the LG G3’s impressive hardware is easy to overlook. What a shame. The G3 is the complete package here, offering top-of-the-line specs that hold their own against any Android device currently on the market. For starters, we’re talking a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 system-on-a-chip with four cores clocked at 2.5GHz and 3GB RAM.
The G3 can handle just about whatever you throw at it. Flipping through home screens is as smooth as butter, apps are up and running almost as soon as you launch them, multitasking and dual-window mode never flinch. Interestingly enough, however, repeated benchmark tests reveal that the LG G3 is outperformed by several devices including its predecessor, the G2. Take those numbers for what they are, but don’t believe for one second that the G3 can’t hang with the big boys.
But power isn’t the only thing the G3’s hardware has going for it. It is also quite capable in other areas. The G3 is available with the latest LTE-A spec to provide blazing fast download times. Internal storage is ample with 16GB and 32GB models available, but this can further be expanded with up to 128GB of microSD storage.
Vastly superior hardware prowess means little when coupled with a sub-par software experience. This has been all too common in the past for LG, but with the G3 that changes. LG’s custom Android UI sees a complete makeover for the G3, opting toward the flat, simple design that has become so trendy as of later and pushing features that highlight usability rather than bogging things down with bloat.
If LG has simply given their software a visual makeover that might have been enough — the cool, earthy colors are eye pleasing and simple animations add some life to the experience. It was a pleasant treat, then, to get access to some quite useful features and tweaks.
Owners of previous LG handsets will be happy to know that the notification tray is now fully customizable, allowing for the placement and removal of quick toggles and sliders for brightness and other functions. A dual-window mode accessed via the multitasking menu allows for the simultaneous use of two apps at one. Watch a video on the top half of the screen while you search the web below, check email, or perform any other number of tasks.
LG has also introduced a Google Now-esque widget that provides information cards based around the way you interact with the device, your habits, location and more. LG missed a great opportunity to simply attempt to incorporate the vastly superior Google Now as a whole, instead opting to reinvent the wheel and in the process provide far fewer card options and limiting the experience. Still, being able to quickly glance at the widget for info is nice in its own respects.
Another area where LG fell a little short was the rear button and its relation to the phone’s software. While shortcut actions were a big marketing point for the LG G2, the G3 by default has these shortcuts disabled. You can enable them in settings, allowing users to quickly access Quick Notes and the camera, but we would like to have seen some customization options here, if only a few different commands that could be assigned to the rear keys.
The G3 continues LG’s quest to explore other new and interesting ways to interact with our smartphones. One of our favorites is the inclusion of Knock Code, the logical expansion of Knock On, a feature introduced in last year’s G2. Knock Code allows you to still unlock your device with a knock, but to do so securely by allowing you create a knock-based pattern that can be rapped on the screen while in its off state. This effectively reduces a two-step process (turn on display, unlock phone) to one by both turning on the display and unlocking the phone at the same time upon entering the correct Knock Code.
A 3000mAh removable battery is housed behind the G3’s removable back plate and provides ample power to keep your G3 up and running. Still, a big Quad HD display, quad-core processing, and ultrafast LTE don’t exactly add up to the most battery-friendly compliment of hardware. While you can expect some pretty lengthy standby times, real world use will take its toll on the G3.
If you mainly use your phone for talk and text with some light web browsing and email sprinkled in, it’s not unimaginable to see a full day of battery life. If you take full advantage of the beautiful display by streaming HD video, gaming, and otherwise participating in activities that might fall under the “power user” umbrella, you would be lucky to get 10 hours of up time — 8 hours of use would be reasonable under these conditions. You can expect even more if you enable the G3’s battery saving mode (which will kick in when the handset’s charge drops to 30 percent), but this will disable certain features in order to reduce power drain.
The good news is should your battery die, LG has included wireless charging as a standard option. You won’t need to buy additional accessories to convert the G3 to a wireless charging-ready device, but you will need to invest in a wireless charging cradle. [Note: This feature was standard on the Korean version of the G3 provided to us by LG for review. It may or may not be a standard feature of variants of the phone available in other markets.]
As we have established, the LG G3 is a thing of beauty. The same applies to the photos and video it is capable of capturing. A 13MP camera does all the heavy lifting here and produces crisp, clean, and colorful imagery.
It really flexed its muscle during outdoor shooting with ample natural lighting. Indoors, artificial lighting wasn’t so kind to the G3’s camera sensor, but we’ve come to expect this from most smartphone (and even more traditional, low-end) cameras.
Where the G3 really impressed was its autofocus. LG put a laser in their latest flagship for this very purpose, a feature you would typically expect to find on higher end DSLR cameras. The laser allows the G3’s camera to focus faster than you can blink an eye (literally), letting you grab that perfect shot almost instantaneously.
The one drawback to the laser focus is that it works best within a range of a couple feet. If you are trying to capture distant action shots or a large group portrait you might need to wait a few seconds longer for the G3 to do its magic, and that could ultimately mean the difference between getting the shot you want and not.
As with photos, video was equally impressive. An pairing the record button with the camera shutter button makes it easy to quickly jump between the two, and a simple interface with a few tasteful camera modes sprinkled in cuts down on complications, providing a clear path from inspiration to final image.
The Bottom Line
Move over, Galaxy S5. Take a seat, HTC One M8. We can unequivocally say that the LG G3 is the new Android smartphone to beat. LG did so much right in creating this handset while managing to avoid the pitfalls — bloated user interfaces, gimmicky features, etc. — that usually hamper flagship devices. There is no caveat to the G3. It is a graceful, gorgeous device that belies the true power lurking behind its brushed metal finish.
And that’s not even mentioning the Quad HD display, which would be a killer feature in its own right had LG failed to follow through in every other area with the G3. It will be hard for LG or any other Android manufacturer, for that matter, to top this one any time soon.
- Graceful design
- Gorgeous Quad HD display
- Top-notch hardware and refined user experience
- 13MP camera with laser autofocus
- Still no customizable shortcuts for rear button
- Would be nice to see Google Now integration in LG’s cards widget