LG rustles up a classy, top-rung smartphone, but the pixel-heavy screen takes its toll on battery life.
LG’s flagship smartphone, the G3, has finally landed. With a huge, 5.5in Quad HD display and a host of upgrades over its predecessor, the G2, the G3 is gunning for its top-flight Android rivals.
The big news is the display. LG has opted for a 5.5in, 1,440 x 2,560 IPS panel – the highest resolution we’ve seen on a smartphone. It delivers unearthly levels of detail – snap a picture with the rear-facing 13-megapixel camera and it’s possible to see almost every speck of detail without the need to zoom in.
Tested with our X-Rite colorimeter, the G3’s display is technically capable, too. Brightness peaks at 457cd/m2, and colour accuracy is largely on target. Only the modest contrast ratio of 788:1 disappoints; the G3 fails to dredge up as much detail in darker images as its rivals. Disappointingly, once the phone warms up, the display brightness is automatically reduced to prevent overheating. This reduces the screen brightness from 457cd/m2 to 310cd/m2, which is far less legible in sunny conditions. After a few minutes more, it dims further, to 269cd/m2, although the indicated brightness percentage level doesn’t change. Clearly, LG is using aggressive power-saving measures to cope with the demands of the pixel-packed screen.
The G3 gets all the essentials spot on, though. The plastic rear mimics brushed metal, and it doesn’t feel cheap: the smooth, curved body is great to hold. At 149g, it’s reasonably light, too. There’s 16GB of onboard storage, plus a microSD slot hidden behind the removable battery, and the phone’s punchy 1W speaker is loud enough for both music and hands-free phone calls.
Android 4.4.2 has received a tasteful LG makeover and a heap of new features. Knock Code makes a reappearance, allowing you to unlock the phone with a sequence of finger taps, and the G3 can be “knocked” into life by double-tapping the display, rather than reaching for the power button. The familiar interface has been tweaked to employ simple, pastel-coloured shades and rounded icons, and garnished with a sprinkling of apps and widgets.
Like Samsung’s recent handsets, the G3’s Dual Window feature allows a selection of apps to be run simultaneously side by side. The QSlide feature allows certain apps to be run as resizable floating windows, too: it’s possible to have two split-screen apps in the background and a third QSlide app floating on top, for instance.
There’s one area where LG has made a serious misstep. Despite the phone’s pixel-dense screen, an image-sharpening filter is applied to all onscreen content. Everything – including text, icons, web pages and snaps taken by the camera – is fringed with halos. Annoyingly, this feature can’t be disabled. The pixel-dense display causes other problems, too. Despite being powered by the same 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and sporting 3GB of RAM, the G3’s benchmark scores aren’t quite on par with those of its flagship rivals.
Our usual suite of benchmarks saw the G3 finish the SunSpider test in 692ms, ahead of the Sony Xperia Z2 – 920ms – but well off the 391ms pace of the Galaxy S5. Oddly, the G3’s Geekbench 3 results were around 19% behind those of its key rivals, with a single-core score of 829 and a multi-core score of 2,205.
Behind the gorgeous metal-effect rear lies a 3,000mAh battery. In GFXBench’s battery test, this lasted 2hrs 58mins, putting the G3 only 11 minutes behind the Xperia Z2.
The G3’s camera is a high point. The 13-megapixel sensor has a laser autofocus system for taking quick-draw snaps – crisp shots are captured almost instantaneously. It’s not infallible, of course – there were still plenty of photos featuring a blurry subject framed by a pin-sharp background – but the G3 is capable of taking cracking snaps. The 30fps 4K video recording is impressive, too, with near-photographic levels of detail and smooth motion.
On paper, the G3 looks like it’s capable of landing some knockout blows on its premium smartphone rivals. In reality, however, the pixel-packed screen is of no practical benefit, and LG has had to compromise brightness and battery life as a result. The LG G3 remains a good handset, but, with rivals delivering a more balanced performance for similar money, this isn’t the Android giant-killer we’ve been waiting for.