[REVIEWED] The LG G3: Tragically flawed brilliance

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Bigger, faster and with a display resolution that truly boggles the mind, the LG G3 was by far one of our most hotly anticipated smartphones of the year. It wasn’t just the fact that it boasted some of the best specs in the game, it was also because of the reputation of its predecessor, the G2, which won our smartphone supertest last year with a combination of smart design and incredible battery life.

But this isn’t 2013 anymore, and the G2 is not the phone being reviewed either, so how does the follow-up handle itself in our tests?

LG-G3-Design
LG’s bringing sexy back(s) to smartphones.

Design

The LG G3 is clearly an evolution of last year’s model with many of the same design elements returning. The bezels around the display are as close to non-existent as you’re likely to find on any smartphone, and the power and volume buttons are still on the rear of the phone below the camera module… something that takes a bit of getting used to but feels completely logical once it becomes habit.

The 3 000mAh battery is now user replaceable and lives beneath a brushed metal-looking plastic cover on the back of the phone. While it’s not as good as having an actual metal frame like that of the HTC One, it doesn’t feel as hollow as some other plastic-backed smartphones do.

Proof that we don’t always get the best versions to try.

Hardware

There are two hardware configurations of the LG G3, but they’re not drastically different to the point that it becomes imperative to choose the one over the other. Both are powered by Qualcomm’s fantastic quad core 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and have the same 5.5 inch, quad HD, 1 440×2 560 resolution display with the same 13 megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation.

The only difference is in the on board storage and memory with the 16GB version coming with 2GB of RAM, and the 32GB version coming with 3GB of RAM. Our review unit was the former and I can tell you that it suffered no penalties on the performance side of things easily matching all of my day-to-day requirements for the phone which I imagine the 32GB would do even more so.

Moreover you can only get the 16GB version from the Orange online store in South Africa as all of the networks have chosen to supply the 32GB storage/3GB RAM model.

The latest version of chocolatey goodness.

Software

LG’s interpretation of Android has been cleaned and freshened up quite nicely with the launch of the G3. Gone are the cartoonish icons in pastel colours replaced instead with bright, flat, modern looking icons and skins for the stock apps like messaging and the phone dialler which get the thumbs up from us.

LG’s new Smart Keyboard is better than the stock Android keyboard and most of those preloaded on the competition. It has good prediction and correction and has the ability to be scaled in size to suit individual preference, something which we’ve become used to from third party keyboards like SwiftKey.

Other than the new look and keyboard there is very little that distracts from the stock Android experience which is a good thing. Android 4.4 and the bevy of Google made apps like the Chrome browser and Gmail app are all polished, fantastically usable and functional.

The KnockON feature which allows you to double tap the display to wake the G3 up from sleep has been used by almost everyone else in the business but LG have improved on it by adding a new feature called KnockCode which lets you tap out a code to unlock your G3, it works as advertised, every time which makes it a great addition in our book.

So many pixels, so few visible to the naked eye.

Display

This is the part of the review I’ve been looking forward to writing – that’s because the LG G3’s quad HD, 1 440×2 560 resolution, HD-IPS+ LCD display is the best panel I have ever seen and I’m not entirely sure I can convey just how good it is in words.

The resolution and its accompanying 534 pixels per inch are truly mind-boggling, matching the resolution of a 27 inch iMac all-in-one. Colour reproduction is spot on in every way and at every viewing angle whether in a dark room or bright sunlight. In fact the only time we had any issue with the G3’s display was when we received a warning that because of the phone’s ambient temperature it could not go to full brightness, something that an African summer might elicit more than its European counterpart.

At 5.5 inches it’s a bit large for my tastes personally but many will appreciate the size of the display. The small bezels on the display make it far less unwieldy that other smartphones with a 5.5 inch display that we have used in the past.

Besides, we know that the reason for its size is that display manufacturing technology isn’t at a point yet where smaller displays can be made with the same resolution yet and this display is all about the resolution at the end of the day.

The only downside to the LG G3’s display is that there simply isn’t enough content yet for it to truly shine. As with owning a full HD TV when they first came out, or a 4k display today, your choices to show it off to its full ability are limited.

Optically stabilised imaging goodness.

Camera

Although it retains the megapixel count of its predecessor, the LG G3 has upgraded its camera from the very good unit that it had on the G2 imbuing it with an even better version of its optical image stabilisation (OIS) technology.

That quickly fades into the background however once you find out that LG has used laser autofocusing to ensure that the G3 can focus on subjects in record time. The frikken lasers work a treat at close distances and make sure that photos are captured quickly and with no fuss. At further distances the laser is not particularly useful, but that doesn’t stop the images the G3 captures from still looking great.

Look mom, no buttons.

The 13 megapixel sensor takes great pictures in both bright and low lighting conditions thanks to its physical and digital OIS. But it’s really the camera software that should be thanked for the G3’s good scores in the camera department.

The interface has almost no distractions with a simple tap on your subject enough for the G3 to focus and shoot the picture. It’s simple, clean and one of the best camera interfaces we’ve seen in a long while, especially on an Android smartphone.

Never thought that 3 000mAh wouldn’t be sufficient.

Battery life

LG have chosen to not increase the physical battery capacity of the G3 from its predecessor’s 3 000mAh and it was a mistake. That quad HD display eats battery life for breakfast and lunch but could never seem to make it all the way to dinner with anything left to nibble on.

Batteries sure ‘aint what they used to be.

The battery still has the same life extending technology that the G2 had and the same rapid charging technology that lets it gain precious hours of battery life faster than many of its contemporaries but it’s not enough to stop the display from draining the battery before the end of the day.

If you’re happy to give the LG G3 a bit of a top up during the course of the day to ensure it makes it all the way through, then battery life will more than likely not be an issue for you. For us, however, it’s an important step backwards from what was the class leader last year.

Just in case you forgot what we were reviewing.

Conclusion

If you’re the kind of person that checks your phone for notifications every few minutes, or spends a decent amount of time each day watching videos or browsing the web on-the-go,  then the LG G3 might not be the best choice in smartphone for you.

Not because it does any of those things badly, in fact far from that – it excels in every area we could think of bar one.

Battery life was the one feature that made the G2 dominate the pack last year in our opinion and the one thing that lets the LG G3 down this year and for that it may be resigned to those who don’t rely on their smartphones as much or are willing to charge the phone twice a day.

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Details

Price: R10 500
Display: 5.5 inch, 1 440×2 560 resolution, HD-IPS+ LCD display (534ppi)
Operating System: Android 4.4.2 with Sense 6
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz quad core processor
Memory: 2GB/3GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB expandable by up to 128GB with a microSD card
Battery: 3 000mAh user removable
Camera: 13 megapixel camera with laser autofocus
Networking: Dual band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and LTE
Dimensions: 146.3mmx74.6mmx8.9mm
Weight: 149g

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David Greenway

David Greenway

David is a technology enthusiast with an insatiable thirst for information. He tends to get excited over new hardware and will often be the one in the room going "Its got 17 cores, 64GB of RAM and a 5" 4K flexible OLED display, oh it makes phone calls too?" Currently uses: Too many phones. Wants: World peace... and more phones.

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