Device Review: LG G3

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lgg3The LG G3 was announced at the end of May, and has just recently started reaching more general availability. This device builds upon the popularity of the previously released G2 from last year, bringing along with it a few key upgrades. But are those upgrades worth the price? Let’s find out.

Hardware

  • OS: Android 4.4.2
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5Ghz quad core (Krait 400)
  • GPU: Adreno 330
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM / 16 GB Storage or 3 GB RAM / 32 GB Storage
  • External Storage: MicroSD up to 128 GB
  • Screen: 5.5” Quad HD (2560×1440) display
  • Rear-facing Camera: 13 MP with 2160p (4k) video at 30fps
  • Front-facing Camera: 2.1 MP with 1080p video at 30fps
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
  • Battery: 3000 mAh
  • Wireless charging: Qi on certain models, or by the QuickCircle case

Looking at that list of specifications, the G3 doesn’t look all that different from the G2. The obvious differences are the amount of RAM, the microSD storage, the screen size and resolution, and the ability to shoot 4k video–though that ability has been ported over to the G2 already.

Perhaps the most talked-about feature of the G3 is the updated screen with its 2k (2560×1440) display. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this display, but in my experience with it, it’s not that bad. I can’t speak to how accurate the colors are, but it definitely has a bit of a yellow hue when compared to the G2. As far as the 2k resolution, it doesn’t make a huge difference for most things. Text is a bit sharper, and videos look amazing, but they didn’t exactly look bad on the G2.

Another interesting and incredibly useful feature of the G3 is the removable backplate and user-replaceable battery. The unit I received to review came with two batteries and an external battery charger, so I never had any downtime. The microSD and micro-SIM slots can both be found under the backplate as well.

A feature that was a bit out of place for me, and which probably won’t be available on most G3 models, was the TV antenna. It extends out of the top, left-hand side of the device, and is quite thin and flimsy. This seems like an amazing addition for the device, but mobile digital TV is not available on the device where I am, so I wasn’t able to test it.

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Software

The G3 comes running a customized version of Android 4.4.2. As mentioned in a previous article, LG has done a pretty drastic redesign on the UI they present on top of Android, leaving it looking relatively flat and minimal. Unfortunately, this new UI tends to be a bit sluggish with some of its animations, and can seem unresponsive from time to time. It doesn’t really impact the overall performance of the phone, but when quickly moving between screens, or right after unlocking the device, don’t be surprised if everything isn’t 100% snappy, or if the animations stutter a bit.

A relatively new feature for LG devices is Knock Code. Building on top of what was previously known as “Knock On,” this allows you to tap out a pattern on the phone to unlock it immediately, instead of double tapping then swiping or entering a PIN. In my experience, Knock Code worked appropriately, with no hesitation, aside from the previously mentioned animation lags right after unlocking the device.

Another awesome addition to the G3 is Dual Window, but this isn’t exactly a new concept. Quite a few devices now come with this option, and loads of custom ROMs, but it’s nice to see more manufacturers giving it a shot, especially with screen sizes and resolutions increasing.

The South Korean G3 I’ve been working with, of course, came with loads of bloatware preloaded, which is a bit of a bummer, but rooting the device can always work around that.

Camera

The camera on the G3 is a relatively minor step up from the previous generation, the G2. Packing the same image sensor, all of the additional features appear to be software-based, which is probably why, as previously mentioned, they’ve been ported over to the G2.

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That said, the camera performed admirably in good lighting situations for stills as well as 4k and 720p 120fps video modes. Directly uploading the 4k videos to YouTube, however, rendered them blotchy and grainy in shadowy areas, so be aware that some pre-processing might be necessary to ensure the proper codecs are used.

In indoor and lower lighting, the images and video quickly turn grainy, unfortunately.

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The camera on the G3 is supposedly improved significantly with the addition of a small laser to assist autofocus, and OIS+ for stabiliziation. While the focusing was definitely quite fast, the shot-to-shot time was extremely slow, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Battery Life

This is one area that really surprised me, but I suppose it shouldn’t have. When I’ve used my G2 in the past, I’ve never had any problems making it through a day of heavy use. Perhaps it’s due to the increased specs and higher resolution, larger screen of the G3, but battery life just hasn’t been that great for me. On more than a few occasions, I’ve taken the phone off the charger at 7 am and been notified that I was at less than 15% by around 9 pm. On average days, though, I end the day with about 35-40% battery remaining, so I still end up having to charge every night.

One noticeably improved area over the G2, however, is the inclusion of a removable battery, and in the case of the device I received, an external charger and second battery. This means that if the battery isn’t keeping up as well as you’d like, you can always swap out for the secondary battery and keep right on going.

Additionally, some (non-US) variants of the G3 come with wireless charging (Qi) like the G2 did. Unfortunately, the South Korean variant I’ve been using did not come with this, so I was unable to test this feature.

Development

The G3 development forums seem decently active, for it being such a relatively young device. There are several available root methods, a few mods (including one to improve the camera pretty significantly), and even the beginnings of custom ROMs for it.

Conclusion

I have to say, when put side-by-side with the G2, the G3 doesn’t blow me out of the water. That doesn’t make it any less capable. In spite of a bit of a sluggish skin, it’s still an amazing device with impressive performance, but generation to generation, it’s not a huge upgrade. If you’ve got the G2 currently, I wouldn’t be in a huge hurry to move to the G3. If you’re on an older device, though, the G3 is definitely not a bad place to be.

 

[Thanks to GSMNation for providing us with the LG G3 to review. To get this device from GSMNation or check out their other selections of phones, please go to GSMNation.com.]


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