LG G3 review: the best Android smartphone yet

5.00

The massive screen and rear-button placement might not be for everyone - but if you're okay with this then LG's new G3 is the phone to beat

If you wanted an all-singing, all-dancing Android smartphone a couple of months ago then you would have been forgiven for thinking that your choice was solely between Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and HTC’s One M8. However, LG’s new G3 might just have beaten them both - proving that even a manufacturer on the back foot can produced a truly stunning device.

Display

The first thing that you notice about the G3 is the screen. LG has dropped the 5.2-inch HD display of the G3’s predecessor in favour of a 5.5-inch, quad-HD screen (that’s four times the pixels of a 720p display – or 2,560x1440) that's easily superior to the iPhone 5s and edges out both the S5 and One M8 - although only if you’re paying close attention.

The screen looks especially sharp showing LG’s pastel-coloured and restrained take on the Android operating system but where the company has really excelled is in minimizing the bezels - making the handset feel simultaneously larger and more usable than its rivals.

While no one would accuse the screens on the One M8 and S5 of being small (they’re 5-inches and 5.1-inches respectively) the G3 manages to squeeze in that extra real estate while only being a couple of grams heavier than its lightest rival.

The G3's Quqad-HD screen is stunning (though not so much when photographed at an angle with one hand).

For us this made the G3 the best phablet experience on the market. We’ve never been a fan of large screen devices (phones that feel like super-smart remotes are better than over-sized tablet replacements) but the curved back of the G3 sits nicely in the hand and while there’s still the seemingly-eternal problem of having to stretch to reach the top, opposite corner of the screen with your thumb, a handful of software features (including a very adjustable keyboard and a dual-screen functionality) just about made up for this.

Design

However, the size of the phone is where one of the G3’s make-or-break features comes into play. In order to compensate for larger screens many phone manufacturers have taken the decision to place hardware buttons down the sides of the device - see the Huawei Ascend P7 for example. LG, somewhat bizarrely, have instead put them on the back, laying out a trio of buttons directly beneath the camera lens - there's volume up, volume down and a power/unlock button.

Putting the buttons on the back won't be for everyone - but it's not as crazy as you might think.

Looking over other reviewers’ reactions it seems that some people just can’t get used to this layout – and indeed,  we found that when we wanted to hit these buttons (especially the power/unlock one) it was necessary to flip the device to check where it was - hardly ideal. There is solace though in a feature feature called KnockOn that lets users wake the G3 just by tapping twice on the screen (the One M8 has the same function).

It sounds a gimmicky but makes complete sense and easily does away with the need to touch the unlock button at all. In addition to this, the quick-launch functionality of the volume buttons actually felt like a good fit for the back of the device - they jumped to the camera and memo app respectively, though we'd haved liked to be able to customize these options. The button layout may not be for everyone, certainly, but it's far from the inconvenience it sounds like.

While we’re loafing about at this side of the handset it should also be noted that although the G3’s back looks like a sort of brushed aluminium material it’s actually plastic. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it – it never felt greasy or slippery – but it does mean that metal-build devices such as the iPhone 5s, Sony Xperia Z1 and the HTC One M8 feel more ‘premium’. We imagine they all take a bashing equally badly, but for something you hold in your hand dozens of time a day, that cool-to-the-touch metal can make a subtle difference.

There's also a G3 version with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of memory - but it's not available in the US.

Performance

Thankfully, LG hasn’t skimped anywhere else in the hardware. There’s a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM - and although only the 16GB model is available in the UK, a microSD slot lets you add an extra 128GB of memory. All of this puts it in line with other flagshpidevices, and although benchmark tests put the One M8 and S5 just slightly ahead in terms of processing grunt, it’s not enough to make any difference in day to day use. High definition video streamed perfectly and graphic-intensive 3D games were handled without a hiccup.

But, of course, every flagship device has to some sort of parlour trick that sets it apart from the pack, and in the case of the G3 this is the laser autofocus mechanism on its 13-megapixel camera. LG boasts that it shaves a few hundredths of a second off rivals' focusing time, but as you’d expect this is barely noticeable.

However the camera itself is pretty good (lasers or no) and although it might not be a match for the iPhone 5s (still the gold standard for smartphone cameras in our experience) with the HDR option turned on it handled low-light conditions well and the simplified interface (just four buttons with the menu hidden) made the whole experience feel incredibly smooth.

LG's re-working of Android KitKat is slick and unobtrusive.

Interface

What’s more, this minimal approach to the UI extends across the entire Android 4.4.2 experience with LG choosing to (mostly) leave Google’s mobile operating system to do its own thing. There have been some tweaks (most noticeably to the notification window and to the icons) but we actually found these pretty welcome – and miles ahead of the messy changes forced on the G2.

LG still couldn’t resist the temptation to bundle in their own apps and features (including a curated Play Store called LG World and an anaemic version of Google Now dubbed Smart Notice) but most of these can be ignored or shunted to one side, and LG have scored a few hits – most noticeably with the KnockOn feature and an adjustable keyboard that made typing on the larger screen that little bit easier.

So the question is: is the G3 the best Android flagship device out there? Well, as difficult a call as this we think LG might just have beaten Samsung and the rest – although this isn’t without a few caveats. Firstly, although the battery was generally good enough to last the day, it only just made it through a couple of times – and a late night out left us without juice and relying on a friend's Citymapper app to get home. Not cool. Secondly, although the button placement isn't terrible, it’s certainly not for everyone – be sure to handle it in the shop to find out for yourself whether it just feels too weird to bother with.

These two points aside, the G3 just felt eminently capable. Not everyone wants all the bells-and-whistles a device like this can offer (the massive screen will certainly put some people off) but if you need the best that Android can get, we can recommend the G3 wholeheartedly.

LG G3:

  • £499 SIM-free
  • 5.5-inch, Quad-HD display
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • 13-megapixel rear camera
  • 2.1-megapixel front camera
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    C# Software Engineer (ASP.NET, C#, CSS, Java Script, JQuery)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits, Training & Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# S...

    CCNP Network Engineer - Farnborough, £250 pd

    £250 per day: Orgtel: Network Engineer (CCNP), Cisco Gold Partner, Farnborough...

    Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

    £250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

    Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

    £30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape