THE SHORT REVIEW
THE LONG REVIEW
- Introduction and design
- Key features
- Interface and performance
PROs : The LG G3 has solid call quality and LTE data speeds, a great camera, a brilliantly sharp display, a snappy quad-core processor, and a flat UI that makes Android 4.4 look good. LG’s flagship has also improved on the previous model — the new G3 comes with a removable battery and microSD card slot, both things the G2 lacked.
CONs : The new QHD display with its 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution is quite a power hog, so the phone will barely last you a day without a charge.
With so much going for it, the LG G3 is the best LG phone on the market and should hold its place as one of the top phones of the year. The battery life, though, does take a hit due to the higher-resolution display, which is a trade-off I don’t quite like. Yet that’s really the only downside of this otherwise superb handset.
The software features make the G3 fun and convenient to use, while LG has added features to the G3, such as a microSD slot and a removable battery, that the G2 lacked and that Samsung had in its phones already.
Possessing the right blend of features and design, the G3 finally gives LG the right phone with which to challenge Korean rival Samsung.
LG has always played second fiddle to Samsung in the smartphone market, especially in Korea, but it looks like its latest flagship, the G3, could cause a major upset.
It’s not hard to see why. Unlike the Galaxy S5, which shows a more conservative approach in its design, LG’s G3 goes bold with a new high-resolution “QHD” (2,560×1,440-pixel resolution) display, as well as adding a laser-guided autofocus for the camera.
That’s not to mention the other design changes that address the issues of the previous flagship, such as the addition of a microSD card slot and removable battery. With a cleaner, toned-down redesign of the UI (it’s running a reskinned Android 4.4 KitKat), the LG G3 has what it takes to be a top-ranked flagship smartphone for 2014.
Sporting the same rounded corners and slim bezel as the G2, the LG G3 keeps the same buttons on the rear as well.
LG says the rear cover is mostly plastic (to allow wireless charging to work), but it added a metal film to give it that shiny, polished look. The result is a very premium finish, and Samsung should pay attention here. While the dimpled rear cover of the S5 was a marked improvement over the glossy finish of the S4, the G3’s back cover conveys a more luxurious feel that you normally get from metal phones such as the HTC One M8 or the Apple iPhone.
Unlike the LG G Flex, though, its surface has no healing capabilities, so if you accidentally scratch the rear, you’ll have to live with the battle scars.
Overall, I found the build quality to be pretty solid; the phone is easy to grip. The 8.9mm-thick phone sits comfortably in the palm, but because of the width of its 5.5-inch display, it’s often easier to to type with both hands.
The best part of the G3 has to be that there simply aren’t any buttons. Unlike the S5, which has a physical home button, the G3 uses onscreen keys instead. This means that the 5.5-inch, 2,560×1,440-pixel-resolution screen grabs all of your attention, and the superthin bezel enhances that experience, making the phone appear to be “all screen.”
The G3’s display has an eye-popping 538 pixels per inch (ppi), while the iPhone 5S stops at 326ppi. That’s 65 percent more pixels than Apple’s handset, by the way. But does this really matter? In short, no. You’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a normal full-HD display and the QHD of the G3. The only time you could really see the difference would be if you were to put a drop of water on the screen and take a close-up shot.
Processor and memory
The LG G3 has resolved one of the main complaints buyers had of the LG G2. It now comes with a microSD card slot that accepts cards up to 128GB in size. This means that it makes little difference whether you opt for the 16GB or 32GB model, aside from RAM. You can always add extra storage later.
The full host of wireless connectivity we’ve come to expect from high-end phones is present and correct. There’s a wide range of 4G connectivity bands, as well as Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. It also comes with an Infrared blaster and one of the more usable IR remote apps we’ve experienced.
The G3 comes with a redesigned Android 4.4 user interface (UI) that’s very clean and flat. To enhance the user experience, LG has added a Smart Notice box that gives advice on what’s happening around you as well as reminders to return calls. I like the weather tip — it lets me know when to expect rain, so I can pack an umbrella when I leave the office. This is really useful for me as someone who lives in a tropical country with a very fickle weather. Like Samsung’s S5, the G3 now has a built-in fitness tracker, called LG Health. It tracks your steps, as well as keeping a record of your other activities such as jogging or cycling.
The G3 also has KnockOn and Knock Code, which are features inherited from the G Pro 2. One caveat though: if your pants pocket has a thin lining, you will want to put the phone in your pocket facing outward, as you can accidentally power it on when the screen makes contact with your thigh through the thin cloth.
The new Smart Keyboard is height-adjustable, which makes a lot of sense to me. If you prefer larger keys to type with (or conversely, smaller ones), this lets you tweak it to your liking
Overall, LG’s new UI is very likable and usable, and I’m impressed with just how simple and clean everything is. While underneath it is still the Android experience that you know and love, LG’s tweaks have made using the OS even better.
The one thing that held the phone back, however, has to be its battery life. With a 3,000mAh removable battery, there’s just no escaping the fact that the high-resolution QHD display is a power hog; I wasn’t able to get the phone to last a full day between charges. In our video test, the phone lasted 11 hours 24 minutes, far behind the Samsung Galaxy S5‘s impressive 15 hours, 18 minutes in the same test.
Thankfully, you can swap out the battery for a spare, but that’s something you’ll have to live with if you’re someone who needs to be constantly using your phone.
The 13-megapixel camera is located right above the rear buttons, and on the left is the laser autofocus feature, which uses an infrared laser beam to measure the distance between the camera and the intended subject of your picture. On the right is the dual-LED flash. The G3 takes very good low-light shots and has a better flash, but the Samsung Galaxy S5 takes slightly richer-looking images. Even with the laser, the G3’s focus is only marginally faster than the S5’s, but the speed will help in getting a crisp shot.
Call quality across all carriers was great across the board. Throughout our tests, none of our calls dropped, audio remained continuous throughout, and we didn’t hear any extraneous buzzing. The volume range was adequate, and our partner sounded clear and easy to understand.
On maximum volume, the audio speaker can render conversations a little tinny and harsh. However, the conversation was still very easy to hear and we had no problem understanding audio when holding the G3 far from our faces.
In general, differences in call quality across carriers were barely discernible, as all three performed well.
It will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract. Off-contract, it will be $579.99 on AT&T and $600 on Sprint. T-Mobile users will be able to purchase it for the full prepaid price of $598.80. Verizon customers will be able to pick it up on its cheaper on-contract price is at $99.99, but the retail price off-contract will be $599.99.