LG G3 2015 smartphone review

lg g3 reviewNope, I have not fallen in to a time-slip, I have actually got my paws on an LG G3 smartphone around a year late. The thing is, lots of people are still digging this handset and, looking at the specs, could it possibly still hold up with the new kids?

There was plenty of chat running up to the LG G3 release with rumours of its QHD display and laser-equipped camera. Now that the dust has well and truly settled how does the LG wunderkind stack up against the 2015 stable?

LG G3 design

The G3 is a big phone. Well, it’s a phone with a big screen but it doesn’t actually feel phablety in your hand. Using the LG G3 it’s easy to forget that you’re holding a device that’s packing a 5.5-inch screen. This trickery, upon closer inspection, is down to LG managing to make the G3 practically bezel-less. This also has the knock-on effect of giving the face of the device a neat, clean look.

lg g3 backThe back of the phone is of a polycarbonate/metal (80/20) material which gives the impression of a metal body whilst retaining whatever the requirements for a plastic back were. There’s a nice and comfortable curve to the rear which also fools your hand in to thinking that the phone is smaller than it actually is and makes one-hand navigation a possibility.

The G3 doesn’t feel cheap but it’s not quite HTC One M9 territory either. When the LG smartphone was released, Samsung was still pushing out plastic-backed Galaxy S phones – I would much rather hold the LG than one of those.

lg g3 curveTalking about Samsung Galaxy phones, and the M9 for that matter, the G3 has a removable rear cover. This allows for swapping the battery (no longer available on the Galaxy S or HTC One phones) and also gives you access to the microSD slot. The latter reason may seem odd as most phones will just have a slot on the side, until you notice something about the edges of the LG G3. There are no buttons, rockers or slots. At all.

The power button and volume rocker are rear-mounted just as they were on the LG G2 but now they’ve been given a style make-over. These controls have a nice textured finish and a more considered design, which makes them both easier to locate and to work out which is which. Personally, I think this all works as a complete package and only took me a few goes to get the hang of it. I also enjoyed watching my friends trying to figure out how to turn it on – no I didn’t tell them about the Knock Code either ūüėČ

LG G3 performance

The G3 has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor running at 2.5GHz under the hood. On the D-855 model I have here, all of that has been buddied with 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage – so that microSD card slot will come in handy for app collectors and eager photo-takers.

Bouncing around on the web via 4G sees pages, even GadgetyNews, load really fast, and going from page to page doesn’t hassle the G3 at all. Streaming HD films and box set episodes is all done without lag or drop-out. I have to say that the screen really adds to the video experience too, but more on that later.

TIDAL downloaded and installed over 4G in well under 10 secs so it was time to test the speaker. Like everything else, the 1 Watt speaker is hidden around the back of the G3 so placing the phone down on a table, or on a sofa can totally change how it sounds. Hold the phone tightly and you can almost block any sound coming out from it. Whilst it’s never going to worry the M9, it’s a perfectly serviceable speaker for those who like to annoy other folks on public transport.

LG G3 display quality

The most prominent feature of the LG is the QHD screen. Where the HTC One M9 packs in two million pixels, the G3 has 3.6 million. It is noticeably sharper but I am not sure if it’s enough to warrant me chucking in my M9 in favour of the LG.

Having a pixel count contest is one thing but it’s also down to how many of those little blighters you can squeeze in to an inch on to that QHD screen.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S5 (which is the LG G3’s contemporary) offers 440 pixels per inch but the G3 has 538ppi ‚Äď equivalent to high-end glossy art books, which LG has used as the benchmark of sharpness. The One M9, by comparison, has 441 ppi and the Galaxy S6 has 577, whilst the iPhone 6 ranks down at 326 ppi for their Retina HD.

lg g3 homescreenThe QHD screen is fantastic but it is down to you, the buyer, how important this. Personally, I do think that this is a definite feather in the G3’s cap.

These figures are all very impressive but when you sit the LG G3 next to, let’s say, the Samsung Galaxy S6 the main difference I see is that the Sammy’s screen seems to win on vibrancy, clarity, and colour accuracy rather than those extra 39 ppi.

At the end of the day, the LG G3’s display is excellent and it is worth remembering that LG got to the QHD goal-line before anyone else.

LG G3 user interface and software

The interface on the LG G3 follows the flat tile look that’s all the rage now.

LG has taken note of what HTC, Samsung and Apple have done and the phone presents a lovely, neat home screen.

Each core app, such as contacts and messaging, has its own colour to help you know where you are in the phone and the notifications bar is used to display a quick view row of settings and the stuff you really need to know about.

The standard view has a brightness bar and the option to control volumes (which is useful when you’re using the phone in landscape) but these can be toggled on or off, depending on your preference, which allows for a very clean notifications zone.

lg g3 sideIt all feels like a set-up worthy of top-tier manufacturer and I’d definitely put it up with Sense and TouchWiz.

I am still digging the double-tap¬†to unlock the phone (if you’ve not got lockscreen security set up) and you can similarly tap the notification bar twice in quick succession, or any empty area on the home screen, to shut it down again.

Other handsets, even tablets such as the ZenPad, use this neat addition but we should all recognise that Nokia invented this in the first place.

LG has gone one extra with its Knock Code. It’s a cool system that allows you to unlock the phone by tapping the right quadrants of the screen instead of having a pass code or PIN.

I really like the Dual Window mode on the G3. This, as you have no doubt already worked out, allows you to run two apps on the screen at the same time – handy if you are texting directions to some one as you can have Google Maps and the Messenger apps open, or how about Twitter and Facebook?

Vai and Google MapsHere I was watching YouTube whilst finding out where I was.

The keyboard is decent and the resizing option is pretty good but SwiftKey still reigns supreme for me.

Video

Naturally, checking out the videos that have been preloaded by LG everything looks awesome. Show the starry night scenes to an iPhone owner and they will have to grudgingly admit that the G3 kicks the Apple blower in to the ditch.

The G3’s video player is actually accessed through the Gallery, which isn’t ideal, especially if you have tonnes of snaps on there.

The screen is what makes videos a special thing. HD movies look flawless and there’s enough grunt for the flicks to play without any hassles.

Music

The music player on the LG G3 can handle really high quality audio (LG had to rewrite some of the core code of Android to facilitate this last year) and the new phone has a built in amplifier to make music sound louder and clearer with less distortion.

I bought the¬†HTC One M9 because of its audio skills but the LG is also very capable. Slip on some¬†50MB FLAC files and a little ‘Hi-Fi’ icon will let you know what you’ve got.

Sling on some low bit-rate stuff and they still manage to sound ok through decent cans.

It’s just a shame that the rear speaker loaded on to the G3 still has that tinny smartphone vibe – something that the HTC One series sorted out back with the M7.

You can control the tunes from the notifications bar, or the dedicated widget on the home screen. The Android 5.0 trick of having full screen album art on the lockscreen is there too, and it looks awesome again thanks to that potently pixelled screen.

LG G3 camera

The camera on the LG G3 is made up from a 13MP sensor, enhanced optical image stabilisation (OIS+) and clever tech to disguise noisy photos by smoothing them out using clever algorithms.

Turn on the camera and you’ll be greeted with just a back button and a small set of dots to signify there’s more features, should you want them. Tap the screen to focus where you want, and the phone takes the shot quickly. All pretty standard fare to be honest.

You can also wake-up the camera by holding the down volume button in standby mode and then use the volume key as a shutter button Рwhich is neat.

lg g3 camera buttonsThe G3 has options for¬†HDR mode (it’s on by default), enter dual capture, panorama or “Magic Focus”.

There’s no way to change the ISO settings, exposure or contrast, so I would say that these is a camera aimed purely at point-and-shoot fans.

Even without those tweakable settings, the picture quality is still pretty good, with well-lit scenes giving really clear, sharp and well-defined snaps.

HutchIn lower light the G3 still holds its own but if you’re thinking of zooming in or cropping your photos, some will look a bit noisy.

The front facing camera as a real wide angle which is great for group selfies. If you can’t reach the phone with your other hand to start the countdown all you have to do is open and close your hand to start it counting down.

TapOIS+ also has another trick up its sleeve as it is able to refocus a snap after it has been taken – or Magic Focus as LG would have it. The G3 takes multiple images at different focal lengths and then allows you to play with a slider until you’re happy with it. That’s what I did with the tap above.

The beauty slider adds¬†a weird soft-focus to your face. I have it on good authority that it doesn’t like beards and will try to smooth them out too!

LG G3 selfieThe front facing flash is another handy touch and, when activated, puts part of the screen white which illuminates faces and takes better pictures. LG has even white balanced this screen to correct skin tone imperfections ‚Äď and it really gives some nice front facing snaps. There’s nothing it can do about the subject matter, unfortunately.

Frikken lasers!

The laser firing G3 shoots out a conical infra-red beam to check out the room and enables the LG smartphone to perform super speedy autofocus. This tech was actually borrowed from LG’s home appliance division – more specifically, their robot vacuum cleaners. In a drag race it will out focus the HTC One M9¬†at going from standing start to snap.

LG G3 smartphone – as a telephone

I occasionally forget to mention this bit which is a bit daft as call quality should be the most important part of a smartphone review.

The call quality on the LG G3 is pretty good and¬†offers really good connection. It also comes with all the bells and whistles you’d hope, such as being able to message straight from the call if you so¬†desire.

The G3 I have been testing was sent from Vodafone and so loaded with one of their SIM cards. Around London the signal appeared to remain strong, I did take the phone with me to IFA in Berlin but thought that it might be a bit cheeky if I started using the roaming data over there. See, I am a good boy really.

Flipping the phone in and out of Wi-Fi and 4G didn’t seem to confuse it and downloads didn’t appear to stutter unnecessarily.

LG G3 smartphone review conclusion

When the LG G3 first hit the shelves it was set to go toe-to-toe with the HTC One M8 ‚Äď now it stands with phones such as the lovely¬†HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6. I am surprised to say that the LG puts up a decent fight, even against the HTC and Sammy youngsters.

The M9 still has the edge thanks to its metallic construction and premium feel but the¬†LG G3 does come with a larger 3,000mAh battery, compared to the 2,840mAh capacity of the M9. Even with the recent improvements to the M9’s battery management the G3 manages to take longer between charges. Just. Don’t forget you can even swap out the battery of the G3 and put in a fresh one if needed – unlike the M9.

I was surprised by how much cooler the G3 stays compared with the M9 during heavy use too.

The QHD screen is large and extremely good, the camera is speedy and the G3 can easily hold its own with the 2015 crop of phones. Add to that a really nice design, fit and finish.

Now, the real elephant in the room is cost and, a year later, is where the LG G3 plays its trump card.

Using Vodafone’s comparison tool the HTC One M9 is available free from a pay monthly price of ¬£44. The LG G3 can be yours for free from ¬£21 per month. That ¬£23 a month saving puts ¬£276 back in your pocket. Not bad G3, not bad at all.