Even though Instagram isn’t very old, it’s still quite hard to hark back to a time when the service didn’t exist. Clearly, people love sharing photos, indicated by the 70 million images that are uploaded to the site on a daily basis.
The act of sharing photos has had a lot of help thanks to the millions of camera-equipped smartphones that seemingly everyone and his dog totes with them these days. But not every phone’s camera is capable of taking a great shot, so the images that end up online are not all razor-sharp masterpieces.
South Korean manufacturer LG has attempted to address this of late, by including DSLR-like camera options in its latest line of smartphones. This was first seen in the LG G4, whose camera we really liked, and unsurprisingly, LG didn’t stop there.
The launch of the LG G4 Beat (herein referred to as Beat or the Beat), sees the return of these DSLR-like camera features, and a design that could almost fool you into thinking the Beat is actually the company’s premium flagship phone.
As such, the question on the mind of every LG phone fan is likely how the Beat differs from the G4, and if that lower price tag means unpleasant compromises. Read on, then, we’re about to find out.
LG G4 Beat Review: Design
With the exception of a minute difference in screen size, the G4 Beat’s design is almost identical to that of the flagship G4. All physical buttons are once again at the back of the phone just below the camera, it has the same curve, and the phone sports a removable cover and battery.
The camera itself is set quite high up on the phone, and if you aren’t careful it’s quite easy to capture fingers instead of the full landscape/latte/meal you intended to snap.
The Beat’s curve is minimal, and only becomes apparent through use of the phone. You can’t really appreciate this until you hold it, though, but when you do you’ll discover quite to your delight that the phone is comfortable to hold. It also fits nicely into pockets. We were certainly very pleased with this.
LG has chosen to shy away from the unibody design we see in a lot of new smartphones these days, and has instead opted for a removable battery design. We should point out that getting the rear cover off is quite tough, and we were worried about breaking one of the clips that lock the rear cover in place.
LG G4 Beat Review: Find the strength inside
Using the phone every day for tweeting, texting, calling, taking photos and just browsing the web gave us two days of continuous battery life, which is fantastic for any phone, nevermind a feature-rich one like the Beat’s. It also only took an hour and a half to charge the 2 300mAh Li-ion battery to full capacity.
Powering this all is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 system with an ARM Cortex-A53 octo-core 1.5GHz CPU and 1.5GB RAM. The CPU and RAM do well when handling a few processes but once we were running music, a game and a few other apps in the background we noticed the phone lagging.
Running the AnTuTu Benchmark showed us that although the Beat’s overall performance isn’t terrible, it is beaten by the much older LG G3.
The Beat uses Android OS version 5.1.1 (Lollipop) and with the exception of LG Smartworld and the Google suite of apps, there is very little bloatware, presumably because of the storage capacity.
Annoyingly, LG has fitted the G4 Beat with a rather Scrooge-like 8GB storage capacity, though once you’ve accounted for the OS and pre-installed applications, this drops down further to under 2GB of usable storage. You can of course expand this memory by up to 32GB with the microSD card slot, but it’s galling nonetheless.
After looking at all of this and comparing the G4 to the Beat, you get the sense that LG cut everything by half when developing this phone.
LG G4 Beat Review: Show me what you’ve got
The Beat has a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with a maximum resolution of 1 080×1 920. This HD resolution, coupled with a pixels per inch count of 423ppi gives the interface a smooth look with very little distortion of the image.
The response rate of the display however, is not as smooth. We experienced a delay when executing some tasks and in rare cases we had to re-execute a command because it hadn’t registered with the touchscreen. This becomes especially noticeable in games.
LG G4 Beat Review: Take your best shot
At the rear of the phone is an 8MP camera that features the same DSLR functionality we saw in the flagship G4, but a less-advanced sensor than that of the G4.
Those looking to mimic professional grade photos will no doubt be overjoyed by the Beat’s ability to adjust aperture, manual focus and white balance to really personalise their photos.
This is both the best feature and the biggest problem with this camera. It assumes that everybody understands how to balance colour temperatures or adjust the aperture to get a good looking photo.
There are options in the camera app to automate the process for you, but you aren’t able to tweak those settings without going full manual mode, so you’re stuck with either learning what the best ISO is or taking mediocre photos.
LG has added the ability to take photos when you say a word like “cheese” or “smile”, but we found that there were times it didn’t work.
Moving to the front, you get a 5MP camera with a feature called Gesture Interval Shot. The premise is that you open and close your hand in quick succession to snap a selfie; the problem is it only works some of the time, which will result in you frantically waving at your phone while trying to take a not-so-secret selfie.
LG G4 Beat Review: Conclusion
While features like the DSLR controls are nice to have, we can’t shake the feeling that we are getting half of the LG G4, for slightly more than half that phone’s cost.
There are also many smartphones on the market, or about to enter the market, that don’t make as many sacrifices with the CPU, the RAM, the storage capacity and the size of the camera sensor. The Innjoo One, for instance, costs R2 500 and scores just 2 000 fewer AnTuTu points, has a 13MP rear camera and 16GB of built-in storage.
So while the Beat is a solid phone with some great features, a few questionable design decisions leave it being a bit too expensive for what it offers.
Price: R3 899
Display: 5.2-inch IPS LCD screen @ 1 080×1 920
Operating System: Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop)
System Chip: Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
CPU: ARM Cortex-A53 octo-core 1.5GHz,
Storage: 8GB (expandable with microSD up to 32GB)
Front camera: 5.0 MP
Back camera 8.0 MP with Laser Auto Focus
Battery: 2 300mAh Li-ion Battery