LG has remained an underdog in the Android smartphone race for quite a while. In 2012 when Google formed a liaison with the Korean manufacturer for the Nexus 4, LG was suddenly back on the map. LG simultaneously launched global versions of the Nexus devices known as the “G” phones. The first one aka Optimus G was very well received and appreciated for its performance and looks, and the G2 which was the Nexus 5 version of LG’s flagship lineup won several accolades.

The LG G3 was not something most were looking forward to, in fact no one was really waiting for the G3. With Samsung launching one of the most disappointing flagship Galaxy S phones in many years, the HTC One M8 more or less stole the thunder in the top tier of the Android Market.

OVERVIEW

The LG G3 took the market by storm at launch, the G3 is the first commercially available phone from a big manufacturer to feature a brilliant 2K resolution display. But LG also improved a lot of other things with the phone, a removable back panel, laser autofocus and more, making it possibly the right kind of eye candy and by pricing it well a superior and rounded phone.

LOOK & FEEL

We really have to hand it to LG – this might be the best-looking smartphone available today, period. It’s absolutely gorgeous. This phone is slick, understated, and oozes class. At first glance it appears to be made out of metal, though it becomes clear that the body is all plastic when you pick it up.

The curves and proportions make it feel smaller than it is, though that isn’t saying much for a phone with a 5.5-inch screen. This also makes it the largest of the current generation of flagships, whose screens generally range from 5 to 5.2 inches diagonally.

SOFTWARE

Simple” was easily the dominant buzzword LG chose when marketing the G3. “Simple is the new smart,” and, “To be simple is to be great,” were some of the slogans of choice. That manifests itself in the G3 in a few software tweaks that (hopefully) improve the Android experience. As with any custom take on Google’s software, though, it can be a risk. Unique features can be as much a hindrance to the seasoned user as they are a help to the beginner (if they’re a help at all). Sometimes, though, you can strike gold and create something useful enough that it gets adopted by everyone, even on stock Android (think: Swype-style keyboards). Has LG cracked any such nuts this time?

CAMERA

The G3’s 13-megapixel camera is pretty pedestrian compared to what some of the competition is putting out, but that doesn’t mean it has no tricks of its own. For starters, the laser autofocus system is genuinely snappy and we couldn’t find any fault with it. Then there’s the app, which is clean and simple with only a few useful options. There are four modes: Auto, Magic Focus, Panorama, and Dual.


Auto works perfectly well in most situations, though some users will be annoyed that there doesn’t seem to be any way to set the ISO, white balance, or any other parameter. Magic Focus lets you take photos and then adjust the focus between foreground and background afterwards. It works pretty well, but there’s no going back after you commit the changes you make.

There’s a timer, composition grid, and voice command feature. HDR can be set to automatic, which is fantastically convenient. When you switch to the front camera, a “Beauty” slider is permanently visible, allowing you to magically smooth over skin blemishes.

2K DISPLAY AWESOMENESS

Don’t get us wrong, its not the first 2K display smartphone out there, but is still one of the easiest to get and one which comes with matching specs to boot, from a renowned global manufacturer.
The 2K display ensures that your phone will be future proof in the display department for at least a year, if not more. With companies rolling out 2K displays next year, LG G3 owners will look at buyers smugly, as they whip out their phones.

The 2K display is simply gorgeous to look at, each time you turn it on, you almost go “aah, what joy” and then turn it off to turn it on again. LG has improved on the display features quite a lot, with knock code and knock on tech being taken to the next level.

You can also now use gloves with the G3 thanks to the extra sensitivity feature, and the knock code allows you to unlock with your pattern anywhere on the screen when its off.

PERFORMANCE

It should come as no surprise that the Snapdragon 801 processor sliced through our benchmark tests without a care in the world. Test results in most cases were surprisingly lower than those of the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2 and HTC One (M8) although there wasn’t much subjective difference in the usage experience. Graphics scores were especially impacted by the pixel-dense screen.
Games will look phenomenal if they take advantage of the native resolution, but undoubtedly run slower than they would on a competing phone with the same processor and a 1080p screen. Videos look great no matter the resolution, and we were happy with the G3’s viewing angles.
Sound is surprisingly loud both on the earpiece during calls and on the speaker while playing audio and video files. The speaker is very powerful, but sound tends to crackle and isn’t particularly well defined. You’ll find that games and videos are clear enough, but music of all types gets muddled.
The battery lasted 8 hours, 14 minutes in our video loop test. That should get you through an entire day of reasonable usage without reaching for the charger.

THE COMPETITION

With the paint still wet on both the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8), those two would seem like the likeliest rivals for your affection. Along with the G Pro 2, perhaps. The problem is, LG’s being tight-lipped about the official US price for the G3, which makes comparisons difficult. One UK retailer has pegged it at £500, and the Korean version can be bought right now for about $800 and up if you’re really impatient, but I would’t put much stock in those prices, as things could well change (we’ll update this review if they do). Pricing issues aside, the LG G3 might not have the depth-perceiving camera of the HTC One, or the heart rate monitor of the GS5, but it beats them both on a far more important (and future-proofing) feature — that display. Much of the rest will come down to design and software preference — and of course that price.

THE FINAL VERDICT

We’ll admit, when we first laid hands on the G3, we weren’t sure. We wanted it to be metal (as it appeared to be), but it wasn’t. We wanted it to be a bit smaller and more like the Nexus 5, but it wasn’t. We didn’t think we’d like the rear placement of the buttons, and We don’t. But, like two cops with different ideologies forced to work together on a crime, before long, these perceived negatives turned out to be charming qualities. The smooth, curved lines of the G3 make it feel like a much smaller phone. Those rear buttons mostly just need some muscle memory to get used to. And that metallic skin: It might not be metal, but it sure looks better than the G2 (or any Galaxy phone). That just leaves the positives. The display might not be quite as impressive as we’d hoped, but it’s still shines given the right content.

The camera is a great workhorse and will really turn out some good images, even under low light. All told, there’s little to complain about, save for the fact that our test unit was a Korean-specific model (I’d like to test the LTE and see how the battery holds out). So, when we finally do know the price, we can make a better call, but assuming LG doesn’t do something crazy, this should be one of the best Android phones you can buy right now.
This might be the best flagship of 2014 yet, however, if 2k is not your game, our upcoming HTC One E8 review might be the one to look out for.

The LG G3
Dimensions 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm (curved)
Weight 5.26 oz. (149g)
Screen size 5.5 inches
Screen resolution 2,560 x 1,440 (534 ppi)
Screen type IPS LCD
Battery 3,000mAh Li-Ion (removable)
Internal storage 32GB
External storage Up to SDXC standard/2TB theoretical
Rear camera 13MP with OIS
Front-facing cam 2.1
Video capture 3,840 x 2,160 (4K)/30 fps
NFC Yes
Radios
SK Telecom/ Korean Model:
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900)
UMTS/HSPA+ up to 21 Mbps (850/900/1900/2100)
LTE (800/1800/2600)
Bluetooth v4.0
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
CPU 2.5GHz quad-core
GPU Adreno 330
RAM 3GB
Multimedia SlimPort/DLNA
WiFi Dual-band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Wireless Charging Yes
Operating system Android 4.4.2 (near stock)
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