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
News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
Louis van Gaal at the Hawthorns prior to Manchester United's game against West Brom
football

Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture

News
i100
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
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past