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
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before