Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday June 30, 2014.
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Second place isn't always for losers. While the ultra-competitive will have you believe that there's only first and everybody else, it's not only the most successful who can claim excellence. LG has been in Samsung's shadow for almost the entirety of the Android era, making phones that were less popular, less praised, and bordering on shameless copycats. The G2 changed that with the introduction of a truly unique form factor that has become a standard of LG's premium smartphones. In its game of oneupmanship with Samsung, LG may have finally managed to get ahead with the LG G3. Maybe.
Hardware and Design
The G3 is an enhanced and optimized version of the G2. It's taller, wider, but not any thicker. Size isn't really the issue because the phone is normal in the context of modern phone measurements: 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm (5.76 x 2.94 x 0.35 in). The phone has an arching backside that connects with a sturdy outer rim, so it's softly in place when being palmed and firmly clenched when gripping the edges. The G3 is definitely something that you'll want to touch because LG has replaced the coated gloss with a new "metallic film" on the back of the device. It's a strange name because though it looks like brushed metal in the light, it feels nothing like aluminum. Still, the texture is drier and fabric-like depending on the color, so the touch is surprisingly pleasant.
While touching the finely-woven texture of the G3's metallic film, fingers will gravitate towards the rear control buttons. LG has gotten into the habit of putting the power and volume buttons on the back of the device, just below the camera, as a way of differentiating itself and allegedly making them more accessible to the way that someone naturally holds a phone. A slightly raised circle turns the screen on or off, but you can also accomplish the same feat by tapping in a secret pattern on the front of the screen. Above and below the power button are indented controls for volume. This is the fifth different style of button layouts I've seen for LG's rear controls, and this, along with the Verizon model G2, are the most sensible because they are the easiest to reach.
LG decided to jump ahead of the curve with a 5.5-inch Quad HD display. The 2560 x 1440 resolution has an eye-popping 538 pixels per inch count. What does that mean? It means you have a lot of pixels that you'll never see or care about. LG would like to convince the world that we need QHD displays, but the truth is, there's zero need or real use for this at the moment. I've used the G3 exclusively for weeks now and have yet to see any real benefit of using the higher resolution. I feared this would happen during my hands-on time with the device late last month, and, as I anticipated, the difference between QHD and 1080p HD at this size is negligible.
You can pick up on the slightest of improvements when looking at the G3 side-by-side with a Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8, but you have to actively look for them and get close to spot them. You will not pick up on these benefits in real world usage unless looking at Ultra HD videos locally stored on the devices, and that's once again a very subtle difference. Rather than brag about having more pixels that the human won't even detect unless it goes on a mission to discover them, LG should focus on the things it does right. The G3 has excellent visibility outdoors and indoors. Though the colors are not as splashy as one might prefer, the IPS screen is independently fantastic, big, text-friendly and doesn't need all those extra pixels to highlight its worth.
Performance and Key Specs
I have been unable to obtain a US variant of the G3, so performance may vary when those models launch this summer. The Korean model I tested ships with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor. It's clocked at 2.5 GHz and has 3GB of RAM, so one would assume it's the highest performer on the market. That's not necessarily the case because it has to do slightly more on account of the QHD resolution. This is another case where the differences in performance are too small to really praise or criticize the G3. Benchmarks will inform you that the G3 is slightly behind current rivals and even below the G2. Your eyes will tell a different story.
Real-world usage will show that the phone is very quick in the browser and responsive in most activities. There's a very brief hang when bringing up the multitasking menu or cold-starting some apps. Switching through apps or menus also doesn't seem to snap as much as some other phones, but I can't tell if that's because of the Korean market software that comes filled to the brim with bloatware or a combination of the display and LG's UI. Whichever is the cause, the slowdown is very brief and not a constant. The G3 deftly handles gaming, scrolls smoothly, and is otherwise quick. I can only hope that the very minor issues mentioned become non-issues when the phone launches in the US.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (2.5GHz Quad-Core)
- Display: 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS (2560 x 1440, 538ppi)
- Memory: 16/32GB, 2/3GB RAM, 128GB microSD
- Camera: 13 MP with OIS+ and Laser Auto Focus / Front 2.1MP
- Battery: 3,000mAh (removable)
- Operating System: Android 4.4.2 KitKat
- Size: 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm
- Weight: 149g
- Network: 4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21 Mbps (3G)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth Smart Ready (Apt-X), NFC, SlimPort, A-GPS/Glonass, USB 2.0
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.