June 15, 2014, 9:46 PM — When it comes to Android smartphone mindshare, Samsung gets all the attention, while HTC plays mop up. But way out in left field sits the oft-forgotten LG, a company that continues to make great phones. Add the new flagship G3 to LG's strong legacy--it has to be seriously considered by anyone looking for a feature-filled smartphone. This is a phone with smart industrial design and stellar battery life, and LG has eliminated much of its software bloat.
Read the full review of the LG G3 at Greenbot.com.
Despite the G3's polymer casing, the phone feels premium, and its material is a better choice than the faux leather that outfits the latest Samsung devices. You can also pop off the back door to access the battery, microSD expansion slot, and SIM card port.
The G3 is bigger than your average-sized smartphone, but still manages to boast one of the biggest screens in its class without overpowering your hand. The phone's 5.5-inch, Quad HD display features a 2560x1440 screen resolution, and a certifiably insane pixel pitch of 534 pixels per inch. The G3 is only slightly wider than the Samsung Galaxy S5 despite the fact that LG's display is 5.5 inches while Samsung's is 5.1 inches. Meanwhile, the HTC One (M8) display is just 5 inches, but HTC's body is a bit taller than LG's by a few millimeters.
There's no visible difference between the G3's Quad HD display and others with more conventional pixel pitches. Sure, you'll be able to brag about watching content on the smartphone version of a 2K display, but your HD video experience won't be palpably different.
With 3GB of RAM, a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, and 32GB of built-in storage, the G3 is clearly built for power junkies. I was quite impressed by the G3's ability to support all that RAM and multitudes of pixels with just a 3,000 mAh battery pack. In fact, during our battery rundown test, the G3 managed a whopping 10 hours and 15 minutes of video playback in Airplane Mode at 100 lumens.
The G3's battery life is aided by LG's proprietary adaptive display technology. It's called 3A, and can dial down the phone's power draw based on the content you're viewing. 3A derives its name from the fact that the phone "adapts" three key smartphone elements: frame rate, processor clocking, and display driver. In terms of real-world impact, that 1440p display can draw the power of a 1080p display, preserving battery life when you need it the most.
The G3's battery life was just as impeccable on standby, as the phone ate up only about 3% of its battery capacity over the course of 10 hours of non-use. Streaming over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth was a slightly different story, however, as the G3 would burn through about 5 to 10% an hour, depending on the task.
The G3's biggest hardware folly is its single speaker. Music strains and struggles to blast through the slit on the back of the phone. And even the gentle whispers of NPR sounded disappointing while streaming over Wi-Fi.
LG has severely paired down its camera interface to only the most basic features; the phone automatically adjusts for every photo-taking situation, so that you can worry about snapping photos without futzing around with buttons, switches and toggles. In terms of camera resolution, the 13-megapixel G3 falls closer to the 16-megapixel Galaxy S5 than the 4-megapixel HTC One (M8). While you don't need 16 megapixels to take good smartphone photos, the HTC One (M8) taught us that we do need more than four megapixels.
The G3 takes impressive low-light photos with particularly strong white balance performance. Photos shot with ample lighting came out crisp and clear, and the G3's focusing abilities are impressive.
I wasn't a fan of the bubbly, skeuomorphic icons LG used in the G2 interface, or the numerous rows of annoying things that crowded up the Notifications panel. The G3's remodeled interface is a welcome refresh, and it kind of resembles some of the popular themes floating around the Google Play store.
LG has dramatically scaled back its bundled extras, though there are still some speckled throughout the interface. For instance, the QSlide apps are still accessible in the Notifications panel (though they're hidden behind their own designated button), and there's also the QRemote application for compatible entertainment systems. LG also included its own Health app, which counts your steps, tracks your running routes, and calculates your daily calorie burn.
Finally, we come to LG's KnockOn feature, which does actually work. This convenient addition (first introduced in the G2) lets you double-tap the screen to wake it up and put it back to sleep. You can also use the Knock Code (introduced later in the G Pro 2) feature to unlock the phone by tapping out a pattern without turning on the screen. Knock Code is great, and I prefer it to unlocking the phone with a swipe-across fingerprint scanner, like on the Galaxy S5. It's simply not as tedious. It also works for securing content, like photos and videos. But like all lockscreen passwords, make sure to adjust the settings to give yourself some time between screen unlocks.
The bottom line
In a direct comparison of the Galaxy S5 and the G3, the LG phone wins, if only by the slimmest of margins. It's a fantastic piece of hardware chock full of features that should be standard for any flagship: a default keyboard you don't immediately feel like swapping out; an extremely capable camera; long-lasting battery life; and an interface that doesn't deviate too far from what Google intended. The G3 is also mostly free of extraneous software and hardware features that no one really asked for in the first place. And the few issues it does suffer aren't critical deal-breakers. The G3 is simply one of the best phones to debut this year.