LG wants its new G3 to blow the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5 out of the water. Has it succeeded? Read our review to find out…
Let's get this out of the way now - the LG G3 is, like, proper brilliant.
It has extremely impressive specs, some interesting features, a brilliant camera and some unique quirks that give the handset its own identity.
That's not to say it's perfect, mind you. There are things that'll rankle, but if you're looking for one of the best smartphones around … well, you're looking in the right place. Take a look at some of the features we like, and read on for a full review:
The LG G3 is utterly dominated by its 5.5in screen. That's massive - almost half an inch larger than its main rivals, the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5, and considerably bigger than the standard iPhone 6. Despite that, the actual handset size isn't much bigger than those phones, thanks to very thin bezels around the display.
The ample screen size isn't all that makes the G3 stand out, though. Quality's more important than quantity after all, and in that respect, the handset delivers. The LG G3 sports the highest resolution screen you'll find on the market right now, which means that images look sharp - really sharp - as this graph scientifically illustrates:
The display offers 1440 x 2560 pixels, with a resolution of 534 pixels per inch (ppi). As a point of comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S5 display is 1080 x 1920 pixels, with 432 ppi. On a technical level, the LG G3 represents a confident stride forward.
Certainly, whether you're watching a movie, playing a game, or browsing snaps taken with the camera, things on-screen are crisp and clear, and colours are impressively natural. At times, with high-definition video, or very high-resolution photos, the effect can be genuinely jaw-dropping.
Other times, however, you'll barely notice the extra pixel power. For the most part, when browsing the web, sending texts - you know, the things you'll be doing on a daily basis - there's not much difference between a 'QHD' screen like the LG G3's and an HD display. Even though the G3's screen is better, as far as the eye can tell it's a marginal difference at best.
It's only when you put the G3 side by side with the HTC One (M8) or Samsung Galaxy S5 - both of which have excellent screens - that you can really see a difference, with finer details seeming more distinct on the G3. So while having a screen sharp enough to cut a steak is impressive, it's probably not enough of a reason alone for most of you to switch to LG's handset.
Fortunately, LG hasn't hedged all its bets on the quality of the display. The G3 actually has a heck of a lot more to offer.
Design and performance
The G3 proves that big is, indeed, beautiful. The outer design's all sleek lines and tapered edges, which results in a phone that looks great, and that's comfortable to grab hold of - despite its substantial girth.
There's a lot going on around the back too:
A: Rear-mounted buttons - As with its predecessor, LG's put the G3's buttons on the back of the phone, as opposed to along the sides. Initially, we assumed LG was just being different for the sake of being different, but actually our cynicism was misplaced - there's a period of adjustment to go through, true, but when you adapt, it works brilliantly, and there's less chance of accidentally pressing buttons when holding the handset.
- B: Faux-metal body - The G3's casing resembles brushed metal, but you won't be fooled for long. This is a plastic handset, and compared to the current king of nice-to-hold smartphones - the aluminium HTC One - it feels rather cheap. However, the exact same criticism can also be levelled at the majority of other smartphones currently out there, like the Samsung Galaxy S5, which is also clad in polycarbonate. Still, it's a little disappointing and we hope that for the G4, LG finds a way to make the phone that feels as premium as it looks.
As for performance, there's little to complain about. A 2.5GHz quad-core processor and 3GB RAM mean that apps open quickly and run smoothly. Add the usual features like 4G compatibility, and it's everything you'd want out of a flagship smartphone.
"Erm… I'm just trying to unlock my phone here, dude. Leave me alone."
Unique to LG phones, Knock Code lets you unlock your handset by tapping quadrants of the screen in the right pattern. It's not a perfect system - the thin bezels make it all too easy for the sausage-fingered among us to accidentally touch the screen when trying to unlock the handset - but for the most part it works well. We prefer it to the 'draw a shape' system on other Android phones, if only because there's less smearing from our unnaturally oily fingers.
Activating the phone when it's on standby is also done by tapping - a double tap anywhere on the screen will make it burst into life, and a similar action on the notification bar will turn it off again. It's a smart idea that soon becomes second nature, so quickly that it's jarring when you can't do it on other phones.
In fact, doing most things on the LG G3 feels natural. LG handsets have never been known for their slick interfaces, but the G3 represents a major step forward for the South Korean manufacturer. Tiles are clearly defined and sensibly laid out, and switching between screens and apps is fluid.
Like many Android handsets, there's a bit of clutter to deal with. When you first get the phone, you should expect to spend a quarter of an hour at least pruning back unwanted apps, and customising home screens with the apps and widgets you'll actually want to use.
The LG G3 sports a 13 megapixel (MP) camera, and it's capable of some extremely impressive shots. That's because it users a laser to focus.
That's all you need to know, right? I mean, lasers are exciting and science-fiction-y and cool.
When you take a photo, multiple beams of light are sent out to focus the camera. It works well in bright light or dark conditions, and it results in shots that are perfectly framed, and often superior to those you'd get from rival handsets.
It's fast/, too - the time from launching the camera to taking a usable shot is a just a few seconds. And the lack of a physical button on the side for taking snaps proved not to be a problem either - simply touch the screen to take a photo.
That's actually one of the things we like most about it. As phones get bigger, photography becomes more and more unwieldy - especially one-handed. The LG G3 doesn't force you to get your fingers in knots - it's quick, simple and one of the best snappers in its class.
LG's decided to keep things simple with the G3, and that extends to its features. It's not overburdened with unnecessary apps and tools, instead providing a mostly clean Android experience for you to use as you want.
That doesn't mean that there aren't any cool features, though. For example, split screen mode lets you use two apps at the same time. So, for instance, you could have YouTube running while using a web browser. Not every app is supported, but enough are to make it genuinely useful.
QSlide is similar - it's a tool that lets you put some apps in a small window, over the top of any others you're currently using. So, for example, if you wanted a calculator handy for when you're working out your finances - or in my case, cheating when watching Countdown (sorry, Rachel!) - you can make sure it's always to hand.
And here's where we don't have a lot of good stuff to say. The G3's super sharp screen unfortunately leads to a super-average battery life. With moderate use, we were able to get a full day out of it, but when playing games, watching movies or brightening the screen, the battery indicator drained alarmingly quickly.
You're going to want to keep a charger handy, put it that way.
The G3 has catapulted LG to the head of the smartphone field. It's a hugely impressive phone that looks good, is great fun to use and sports a darn impressive screen and camera.
It's not without its faults - we hate the body and the battery's rubbish - but its few bad points are vastly outnumbered by the good. It's arguably the best all-round smartphone on the market right now - heartily recommended.
Interested in the LG G3? We don't blame you - it's awesome. If you're thinking of picking one up, make sure you compare deals to find the best price possible: