Today may not be the right day to point this out (it being iPhone 6 launch day in South Africa) but here’s the dirty truth mobile manufacturers don’t like to hear. Small, lower cost smartphones are every bit as capable as R10 000+ models and more portable too. For most of us, they’re simply a better fit. That’s why we see a ‘Mini’ version of every smartphone come out a few months afterwards. LG is bucking the trend with its cut down version of its G3 flagship, the LG G3 Beat.
But for “Beat” you can and should read “Mini”.
It carries over a host of features from the flagship but cuts down on the specifications to bring it down a few tiers in pricing, making it more accessible to the masses. We’ve had one to play with for a few days and have run it through the ringer to find out if it’s any good. So if you’re thinking about picking one up, we’ve got all the details you need to know, just keep reading on to find out more.
The ethos of “if it ain’t broke…” has been applied to LG’s smartphone line since the G2 was launched last year. Each successive phone in the G series has had the same rounded back and slim bezelled front and the G3 Beat is no different. That’s a good thing. It feels incredible in hand and given the fact that it has similar dimensions and the same size display as last year’s G2 has we should have known this would be the case.
The power and volume buttons are in their, now familiar, place at the back of the G3 Beat sitting just below the camera module which help make one-handed operation much easier. All of that fits snugly into the removable back cover which hides the 2 540mAh removable battery, the microSIM and microSD card slots.
Even with all of its plastic pieces it’s still a really well put together smartphone that manages to feel solid and is great for those who want to try and maximise the time spend using the phone with one hand.
Hardware-wise, the LG G3 Beat is exactly what we expect from a mid-level smartphone. It packs a quad core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 1GB of RAM which puts it squarely up against the likes of HTC’s One Mini 2 but behind the 1.5GB of RAM offered by Samsung’s Galaxy S5 Mini. For the most part everything runs perfectly well on the G3 Beat but there are occasions where the hardware struggles to keep up with some animations becoming jagged or application load times being a bit excessive.
There’s only 8GB on onboard storage which is taken up mostly by the OS and your apps but LG throw in a 16GB microSD card in the box for all of your pictures and ancillary media to be stored on which is a win.
The G3 Beat runs on Android 4.4.2 with the latest version of the company’s UI sitting on top of Google’s OS. It brings clean, flat icons and not much in the way of guff to Android which we loved in the G3 and still like in the G3 Beat.
The stock LG keyboard and camera apps are fantastic, user friendly and packed full of features which aren’t buried in menus it helps make the LG Android experience better than many of their contemporaries.
The 5 inch display in the LG G3 Beat runs at 720p resolution making the pixel density just 294 pixels per inch (ppi). In a world where its big brother, the G3, has a 534ppi it was never going to be the stuff of legends.
That said the IPS LCD does a fantastic job of rendering everything from text to pictures and video with aplomb and we never felt like it hindered the experience in any way. Viewing angels were great but the lack of an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the brightness seems like a silly omission and cost us some battery life by preferring to keep it on a higher setting for better outdoor visability.
One of the best features of the LG G3 is the laser autofocus for its camera. And thankfully that’s also featured on the G3 Beat. It helps make focusing on nearby subjects with its 8 megapixel camera an absolute pleasure with fast and accurate acquisition. It loses most of its effectiveness at longer distances but still churns out very good looking photos in either case.
As we mentioned before the camera interface is fantastic with almost nothing to distract you from taking photos unless you want to dig into the granular controls which are kept hidden until you need them.
The tiny 1.3 megapixel front facing camera is being dwarfed by the many ‘selfie-cams’ that other manufacturers are launching particularly into the mid-range smartphone market and while it’s alright for the occasional snap, won’t be winning any awards anytime soon.
At 2 540mAh the LG G3 Beat has a battery capacity that’s more akin to a top-tier smartphone than a mid-ranger and as such does really well on a single charge. Mild usage saw us getting through a work day with enough for some extracurricular activities thrown in after 5PM for good measure all without dipping into the battery saving mode we had set up for when we dipped below 15% battery life.
Days with heavy usage especially with display intensive activities like video watching and GPS navigation did take their toll but the battery was good enough to make it to another charge before it died, every time.
All told the LG G3 Beat is a great smartphone for the mid-range shopper. It offers solid features and build quality, decent design and a good camera. The problem is that for a few hundred rand more you can find an LG G2 at certain retailers and even though it’s more than a year old already can blow the G3 Beat out of the water.
If you don’t have the R5 000 to drop and are going through a network for contract pricing then there’s nothing offensive about the G3 Beat, there’s just also nothing magical.
Price: R4 999
Display: 5 inch, 720×1 280 resolution IPS LCD diaplsy (294ppi)
Operating System: Android 4.4.2
Processor: 1.2GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Storage: 8GB with a 16GB microSD card in the box
Battery: 2 540mAh
Camera: 8 megapixel camera with laser autofocus rear, 13 megapixel front
Networking: 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE