LG G3 full review
There is no point in hiding it: we love the LG G3. When first it launched in 2014 it was comfortably the best phone you could buy - a high-end Android powerhouse with the most amazing HD display. It looks great, handles well, and is built to last. And if ever you want to stand out with a smartphone, put the LG G3's eye-popping display next to any other phone. It really is exception. Here's our LG G3 review. See also: Best smartphones
Update June 2016: It seems hard to believe that the LG G3 has now been out for longer than two years, but it has and we're already starting to think about the LG G6. Although it's been replaced by the G4 and G5, the LG G3 remains a decent option for those looking for a high-end smartphone without spending much money.
Nowadays, you can buy the LG G3 for as little as £189 from Amazon which isn't much more than the new Moto G4 and a lot cheaper than phones such as the OnePlus 3. Despite its age, the G3 offers a very good 5.5in Quad HD screen, a still competent Snapdragon 801 processor and a quality 13Mp camera.
Phones do tend to go out of date very quickly but the LG G3 has managed to largely avoid this and can still hold its own against new handsets.
LG G3 review: UK price and availability
A quick hunt around for an unlocked 16GB LG G3 and we find a plethora of available handsets for a little over £250. eBuyer has the LG G3 for £259 inc VAT, for instance. Expansys will sell you an LG G3 for £269 inc VAT. When you consider the spec of the LG G3, as well as its high-class of build and design, that is an amazing deal. A 2015 phone from the higher echelons would cost you around twice that (more if you want an iPhone). And the difference between 2014 and 2015 is not great, in terms of performance. We are at 'peak smartphone', in many ways.
But even though buying unlocked and outright is always the cheapest way to source your smartphone, not everyone can afford to do so. Here we will also look at the availability and price of the LG G3 on contract.
According to LG's own site, the LG G3 is currently available on contract from Vodafone, O2, Three, Virgin and TalkTalk. Vodafone will sell you an LG G3 for 'free', on 24-month contracts from £26 per month. Three has similar deals, ranging from £33. Dial over to O2 and you can pick up the LG G3 for 'free' on a £28.50 tariff. And TalkTalk customers can pick up a 'free' LG G3 for just £22 a month.
There are caveats for all of these deals, and you will have to pay more to limit your contract to 18- or 12 months, or simply to get more data and calls. But in a like-for-like comparison the LG G3 remains very cheap for a high-class phone. And it remains widely available. If you are looking for a flagship phone, and you can bear not to have the latest deal, the LG G3 is a genuine bargain in summer 2015.
LG G3 review: Design and build
The LG G3 is just 8.9mm which means it's thinner than the G2 going by LG's 9.1mm or our own 9.4mm measurement. Either way it's impressive considering the sheer quality of tech that is squeezed in to that thin body. At 75 x 146mm in size, the G3 is a large phone due to its bigger screen size compared to its predecessor and other flagship devices.
That's unsurprising but what is a surprise is how LG has managed to keep the overall size of the device down – it's really no bigger than its rivals. Due to the screen, the G3 is marginally wider but isn't as tall as the Sony Xperia Z2 or HTC One M8. It's all down to those tiny bezels which were one element which made the G2 so impressive - screen size isn't everything.
Even though the phone is a similar size to rivals, that 5.5in screen is a large area to interact with – it's difficult to reach to the top third of the display. This combined with the width of the device does make it a little unwieldy but we're getting used to it. LG has thought about the size of the screen and implemented software features to help out – see software section.
It's no surprise that the LG G3 has gained some weight considering its overall size but not much at all, 149g up from 143g. Also see: LG G2 vs LG G3: Can the LG G3 live up to the example set by the LG G2?
A major design change is the introduction of metal. For starters, there's a brushed metal frame running around the edge which separates the front from the back. The rear cover is removable and made of plastic but has a 'metallic skin' which has a brushed finish and is scratch-resistance (not self-healing like the G Flex). It's what you'd get if you crossed the back of the Galaxy S5 and that of the HTC One M8.
We're not a big fan of the rear cover on the white model but it looks and feels nice on the other colours – black, gold, violet and red. It doesn't feel as premium as the M8 but is a step up from its predecessor and other plastic rivals. You get the best of both worlds, with access to the battery and a decent finish.
As you can see, LG has stuck with its choice of placing the phone's physical buttons on the back next to the camera. We weren't sure about this when it was introduced on the G2 but it's actually very comfortable and makes a lot of sense. The new buttons don't stick out so much and have a textured finish.
While some devices on the market are dust- and waterproof, the G3 is not. LG says it didn't want to make the device bigger and heavier to gain this feature. Overall though, we would say that the LG G3 remains a well build and classy handset. It is a big slab of screen - robust and stylish. We recommend purchasing a case for the LG G3, but mainly because LG has made the sensible decision to allow you to replace the thin back cover with a more robust case. Again, the best of all worlds.
LG G3 review: Hardware and specs
LG G3 display
We're going to lead off with the screen on the G3 because it's the most important piece of hardware on the device. The reason is that the device was the first to offer a Quad HD resolution – so far Full HD has been the standard.
So where the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, HTC One M8 and other top-end smartphones max out at 1080 x 1920, the LG G3 cranks things up to a whopping 1440 x 2560. It's named Quad HD because it's four times the resolution of 720p.
The LG G3 has a 5.5in display (a little larger than the G2's 5.2in) and so the handset has a massively high pixel density of 534ppi (538ppi according to LG). The previous record holder was the original HTC One with 469ppi.
The big question is 'do we need or want Quad HD on a phone?', and having used it our answer is 'yes'. The LG G3's screen looks absolutely stunning – and yes we've compared it to Full HD devices such as the Xperia Z2. LG says the display is comparable to a high-quality photo book. Everything on the screen is super crisp; no matter how hard you try, you just cannot see an individual pixel.
As you would expect from an IPS LCD panel, viewing angles are great. LG has struck a great balance with the colour too; it's not in your face like Samsung's displays tend to be but not overly soft either.
The other question is whether this has a negative impact on battery life. See the battery life section below to see what LG claims and our findings.
You can argue the toss all day long as to whether a display such as the LG G3's is necessary. But use this phone for a while and you will grow to love the amazing display.
LG G3 processor and RAM
There were rumours of an Octa-core processor but LG instead went for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor instead which means the G3 matches rivals on this front. However, the chip is clocked at 2.5GHz which is the highest we've seen. It's unsurprising that performance is smooth and nippy the vast majority of the time. See also: What's the fastest smartphone?
Living up to its name, the G3 has 3GB of RAM but only if you buy the 32GB, the 16GB model has 2GB. The software is designed for 2GB so the extra on the 32GB device simply gives headroom.
It is both a fast and a powerful phone. Even by 2015 standards.
LG G3 storage
As with the LG G2, the G3 is available with 16- or 32GB of internal storage. It seems more and more smartphone vendors are ditching higher capacity 64GB models (apart from Apple that is).
A drawback of LG's last flagship smartphone was a lack of expandable storage, but the firm has corrected this problem with the G3. To this end, it has a microSDXC card slot which can accept up to 128GB cards. It's easily accessible underneath the rear cover without needing to remove the battery.
LG G3 connectivity
The connectivity on the G2 was strong with dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC and an Infrared transmitter. It also supported 4G LTE networks but the G3 supports LTE-Advanced for faster speeds plus is has wireless charging (see battery life below).
LG sticks with USB 2.0 because a 3.0 port is bigger and uglier, plus the firm says consumers don't use it much anyway.
LG G3 audio
The LG G2 was the first smartphone to come with 24bit/192kHz audio playback, pleasing audiophiles. Well now the G3 includes a 1Watt speaker with a 'boost amp' to improve sound quality when headphones aren't plugged in. It's impressively loud but the down side is that the speaker is rear facing and mono, not stereo.
LG G3 fingerprint scanner
There were rumours of the G3 getting a fingerprint scanner to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5s but this is one rumour which turns out not to be true. LG says it will not put this feature in a phone until it is easy to use – a dig at Samsung?
LG G3 review: Cameras
The resolution of the G3's main camera remains at 13Mp as was the case on the G2 but there are a number of improvements which have been added. For starters there's a dual-LED flash which should come in handy in low light situations.
More impressive is the inclusion of recording video in 4K resolution. That's not a new feature for smartphones but the LG G3's laser auto focus certainly is – it shoots a cone shaped beam to quickly focus (in just 276ms). In our tests, it works really well and actually came from LG's robotic vacuum cleaner.
The G3 includes optical image-stabilisation technology to keep shots shake-free (something we loved on the G2) and something called 'touch and shoot' removes unnecessary buttons so you can concentrate on getting the right shot. You can also quick launch the camera from sleep by holding the volume down button.
You can check out our sample photo and video below which were taken in default settings. That means 10Mp with auto HDR for the still image and Full HD video. Click to enlarge images.
To compete with the refocussing feature of HTC One M8's Duo Camera, and rival software features, the LG G3 offers 'magic focus'. This asks you to get close up to an object then takes a series of photos. You can then tap anywhere or use a slider to select where you want the focus to be before saving the image. It works reasonably well, if you compose the shot nicely, but is a little bit gimmicky.
At the front is a 2Mp camera which can shoot video in Full HD which LG calls a 'selfie camera', not a front-facing camera. However, LG has added the ability to take selfies with a hand movement. The pixels are bigger than the rear camera, the angle has been optimised for selfies and the screen can be used as a sort of flash in dark conditions.
LG G3 review: Software
As you would expect from a smartphone that was new in 2014, the LG G3 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat and the firm's latest user interface and software features. You should be upgraded to Android L, however. See also: 20 best Android smartphones in UK: What's the best Android phone you can buy?
Overall the interface is simpler and cleaner. LG says it has removed all unnecessary visual elements and apps have been given their own colour so you know where you are. It's flat and the colours used are 'mature' according to LG – rather than being in your face. It would be nice to customise these colours though. For example, I'm not a big fan of the mustard tone used for the messaging app.
We like the new interface which looks sleek and has a modern feel. The round icons in the notification bar are very similar to the Galaxy S5, though. LG has used the circle as a motif throughout.
New features include 'Smart Notice' which is similar in some ways to Google Now and the software on offer with the Moto X. In essence the LG G3 will make suggestions and offer tips based on the status of the device including location and behaviour.
For example, the G3 will ask if you want to uninstall apps which haven't been used, if you want to call someone back after a missed call and if you want to switch on Wi-Fi when you arrive at the office. Overall we haven't found it that helpful, providing the same and eventually annoying snippets of information.
Smart Tips is essentially a set of tutorials which show you how to use various features of the G3 such as Dual Window, Voice shutter and Guest mode. This will be helpful for anyone new to Android or a high-end device with unfamiliar features.
Another key new addition is LG Health. Like other flagship smartphones, the G3 can track your activity without the need for a separate device which you connect over Bluetooth. You can select different types of activity including cycling, walking and even inline skating. It's a great feature but for some bizarre reason doesn't have its own app so is only accessible via the special homescreen panel pictured above.
A new 'slim keyboard' offers improved typing with its adjustable height and size and new gestures. For example, you can swipe across the space key to move the cursor – why has no one thought of that already? It also automatically adjusts the detection area as you type and you can swipe the space key to move the cursor around.
Since the screen is so big, the distance between the keyboard and where the text appears is quite large. So, it handily appears as you type just above the keyboard so you can see what you're typing much easier.
Adjusting the keyboard is just one way which LG makes using the large screen a little easier. You can also add a button to the navigation bar which operates the drop down notification bar. Furthermore, you can add arrows to adjust the position of the lock screen PIN and dial keypad.
Another feature which makes an appearance because of the screen size is dual-window. This allows you to run two apps side-by-side which can come in pretty handy at times.
One thing LG has changes is the multi-tasking which now shows open apps in a grid view. You can pinch zoom to adjust how many you see on the screen, and you prefer the traditional vertical list then zooming all the way out will revert back.
Already introduced on previous devices, the G3 features KnockCode – a way of waking up and unlocking the device with a user-defines sequence of taps on the screen (80,000 combinations possible). It also included KnockON which wakes the phone with a simple double tap – the same puts it to sleep again. You can choose to use one or both of these together.
QMemo, QSlide, QVoice and QRemote are all exisiting LG software features which are included on the G3.
LG G3 review: Battery life
The G3 has an 11.1Wh (3000mAh) battery which is the same size as the G2. However, this time the cell is removable, which is great news for users who like to carry a spare. It also means it's easy to replace it should the battery ever loose performance or even die completely.
A big change is the inclusion of wireless charging which we're all for and want to see more of in smartphones. The phone doesn't come with a wireless charger though.
Despite that Quad HD screen, LG says the battery life will match that of rival 2014 flagship devices. That means, from our point of view, the G3 will offer a couple of days usage. The firm says that adaptive technology minimises the drain of the Quad HD screen including adaptive frame rate, CPU clocking and timing control (of the LCD display driver).
LG has warned us that the Korean model we have which doesn't quite have the latest software might not perform up to its best in terms of battery life. However, our tests so far are very good. The LG G3 lasts us a couple of day's usage which does match rivals, even with its Quad HD screen. The same is true of the European model with the final software so we're impressed and pleased on this front.
As expected, the screen consumes most of the juice, so, if you do watch a lot of video and play a lot of games during the day, you might need to charge the device overnight.
We've seen a few devices offering ultra-power saving modes (a black and white interface with basic functions) but the LG G3 just implements the regular power saver which by default kicks in at 30 percent.
LG G3: Specs
- Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS
- 5.52in IPS LCD display (1440x2560), 534 ppi
- 2.5GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
- Adreno 330 GPU
- 2/3GB RAM (storage dependant)
- 16/32GB internal storage
- 13Mp rear camera laser AF with dual-tone LED Flash
- 2Mp front camera
- Video recording at up to 4K
- 24bit/192kHz audio
- Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE
- HSDPA, 42 Mbps
- HSUPA, 21 Mbps
- 4G LTE (Cat 4)
- 11.1Wh (3000mAh) battery