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July 15, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:38am

Reviewed: hands-on with the LG G3

Could this be the best Android phone ever made?

By Vinod

The Android market has become an increasingly crowded place over the last few years, as manufacturers flock to get their devices out into the most popular operating system around today. This means it takes a lot to stand out, particularly with Samsung’s recently released Galaxy S5 looming large over the industry. Enter, then, LG, which released the incredibly popular G2 smartphone last year to widespread critical acclaim. Now, a year later, comes the G3 – but does it have what it takes to dominate the Android market? Here’s our verdict…

G3 Main

First impressions

LG has clearly learnt a lot from its production of the G2, and there’s no denying that its latest device looks particularly impressive. The huge 5.5in display is very nearly edge-to-edge, with minimal bezels on the sides and small sections on the top and bottom housing the camera and speakers.

The G3 boasts probably the best smartphone display currently available – a Quad HD 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, giving 538ppi -which places the LG G3 higher up the definition scale than both the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5.

The back may feel metallic but it’s actually mainly polycarbonate with some metal mixed in, meaning it feels very smooth but also sturdy. The slightly curved back means that it’s easy to hold and should allay any fears that you won’t be able to reach across the entire of that immense screen.

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G3_BACK

At just 9mm thick and weighing only 149g, the G3 doesn’t feel at all cumbersome, although some jacket or trouser pockets may struggle to confine the huge screen. What will immediately stand out to first-time users, especially those who didn’t experience the G2, is the power and volume level buttons, which are located on the back of the device, just under the camera. Although this may seem odd at first, you quickly get used to not having to stretch to the top or side of the device for the power button, which is now easily in reach using your natural method of holding a device.

G3 side

Hardware

As one of the most advanced smartphones currently available, it’s perhaps no surprise that the LG G3 packs some serious hardware under that metal/plastic shell. Powering the G3 is a Snapdragon 801 from Qualcomm, which is clocked at 2.46GHz, meaning it comfortably outpowers many of the existing phones on the market today. This is backed up by a serious amount of RAM, although how much depends on whether you buy the 16GB or 32GB storage version – the former comes with 2GB of RAM, whereas the latter packs in 3GB.

If you still feel the need for extra storage for all your photos and videos, then the G3’s built-in microSD port offer the opportunity to expand this to up to 128GB.

Keeping all of this ticking over is a huge 3000mAh replaceable battery, which is bigger than that found in either the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8. This sort of power is to be expected when dealing with such a powerful processor and pixel-packed screen, but over an average day, you’ll probably see much of the battery run out. However the G3 is extremely fast to power back up – recharging from 3% to 100% in under an hour. LG has included a range of battery management apps and tools to ensure you get the most out of your device – including a clever battery saver mode which can be customised to conserve power when your battery goes below a certain level, although it’s nothing like the Ultra mode seen on the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Usefully, the G3 also supports wireless charging out of the box, so anyone with a QI-compatible charger should be able to use this to power up their device.

 

G3 test 2

Camera

The camera has become a crucial part of any smartphone, as consumers often look to a device’s camera capability as a sign of its overall quality. The G3 does not disappoint.

LG has invested a lot of research into developing a top-quality component, and has come up with something it claims mirrors many of the features you find in a high-end DSLR camera. The rear of the device boasts an OIS+ 13-megapixel camera with a new focus on laser focusing, which LG says promises superfast focusing through the use of 8 sensors.

The company has clocked the time taken for the camera to focus at a mere 0.276 seconds, meaning you should be easily able to capture images on the go. You can also tap several times on the screen to take a burst of photos one after the other – perfect for all those "blink and you’ll miss it" moments.

Alongside this, the G3 comes with a 2.1 megapixel front camera, easily enough to satisfy your need for selfies, as well as providing the function needed for Snapchatting and Skypeing amongst others.

G3 test 2

This investment has clearly paid off – the camera display is sharp and crisp, with the laser focus areas automatically appearing on screen when an image stabilises. The quality of the images is very impressive (see above for examples), capturing large amounts of detail in both low and bright light, with a souped-up flash proving very handy during night shots. Overall, it’s one of the best smartphone cameras we’ve ever seen.

LG main screen

Usability/Software

As one of the latest smartphones on the block, the LG G3 is fully equipped with Android 4.4.2 KitKat, meaning that browsing through your apps is smooth and easy. Upon starting up, the screen is bright and colourful, and has been laid out clearly, with full customisation options available to ensure your phone is set up exactly how you want it.

LG has overhauled the user interface from the G2, which often seemed over-cluttered and even a bit cartoonish, replacing it with a smooth, flat-tile approach. This allows you to set up three separate homepages with all your favourite apps and widgets, with another separate page forming a base for the LG Health and Smart Tips service.

Set up as a competitor to Apple and Samsung’s health-based offerings, LG Health utilises your device to provide real-time information on steps taken, distance carried and speed of travel, all of which are analysed and put into a personalised profile. LG Health could also form a key part of the relationship LG is hoping users will relate to its recently announced wearable device, the G Watch, which is available to buy separately now.

The other really stand-out feature (mainly because it occupies such a prominent role on the home screen) is Smart Notice, a help provider which can display information on a range of user-defined topics. Wondering what the weather will be like this evening? Smart Notice will be able to look over information from the weather app and tell you whether you need to bring an umbrella for the evening trip home. Although it initially seems to take up unnecessary space on the home screen, Smart Notice is a grower, and will provide extra handy as you get to know the G3.

LG G3 group

Conclusion

It’s easy to be taken in by the hugely impressive display and smooth design of the G3, but the simple truth is that this is one of the best Android smartphones ever made. LG has clearly learnt a raft of lessons from the G2 and this latest device is a real statement of intent as the company looks to take on the like of Samsung and HTC.

Some battery worries aside (which is only natural when considering the size of the screen and the sheer power of the device), the LG G3 has a lot to recommend it for over its competitors. Having already won a raft of industry awards, expect to hear a lot more about this smartphone when it finally launches across the world later this month.

 

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