LG G3 - The Best Android smartphone in the market
Published on Jun 12, 2014 5:34 AM
In crafting a new smartphone, the trick is not just to do it better than everyone else, but to do it better where it actually counts.
LG seems to have almost perfected it with its new G3 flagship.
There are no redundant features such as biometric sensors (Apple iPhone 5s), heart-rate monitors (Samsung Galaxy S5) or ultra-pixel cameras (HTC One), backed by some 64-bit architecture or octa-core extravagance.
Instead, users get improvements that most will appreciate and understand, including a Quad High Definition (QHD) screen displaying super sharp 2,560 x 1,440 pixels that also marks a first appearance on a globally available smartphone, a Laser Auto Focus that aids photo taking and other minor upgrades that show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The bright QHD screen instantly stands out. This provides more details in the image. The question is whether the human eye can appreciate such a high level of sharpness on a 5.5-inch display?
Probably not. This screen is likely to be even sharper than your PC or TV at home, but on such a small screen, any improvement in image quality is unlikely to be discernible.
Where the difference does matter is in reading text and this is important as your eyes are now staring at the phone screen for longer stretches. Sharper text puts less strain on your eyes. Being able to read without interference from a grainy black background does matter.
The same goes for video. A screen that supports such high-quality video provides a better viewing experience overall.
Users will definitely notice the Auto Laser Focus on the camera.
Autofocus has been a boon to shutterbugs, but the experience, especially on smartphones, is mixed.
Samsung is among the companies that use phase detection focus, which speeds up focusing time.
In LG's case, the laser bounces infrared pulses between the lens and the subject, and it is all done in 0.276 seconds, so LG says. The G3 boasts a one-touch shutter - tap an object on the screen and the phone focuses and snaps the picture.
This tap-and-snap option is also available on other smartphones, but LG's implementation is one of the most dynamic that I have used.
Many phone cams fail in low-light conditions because the autofocus has difficulty in discerning between individuals and the stranger moving behind them, which results in blurry photos.
The laser solves this problem by using infrared signals to determine focus depth, resulting in low-light images that are clearer and sharper.
LG has taken pains to improve this, so in low light, it fares better than the Samsung Galaxy S5. It is also much faster than the overall speed offered by the Sony Xperia Z2.
On well-lit shots, LG puts more importance on details and reduces emphasis on the colours.
Overall, it makes for an impressive 13-megapixel camera and the G3 possibly has the best camera of smartphones in the market today.
Design-wise, LG has managed to fit a 5.5-inch screen into a smaller form factor, with a thin bezel and a curved back that allows you to hold this relatively large phone with ease.
Though its removable rear panel is touted as having a "metallic skin", the rear panel is actually 80 per cent plastic and 20 per cent metal, putting the G3 somewhere between the metal HTC One (M8) and plastic Samsung Galaxy S5.
I did not try to snap the panel in half to test its durability, but I did feel that its use of plastic diminished its overall stature. The good news is that the ridged rear panel is not a magnet for fingerprints and the material did not heat up much despite prolonged use.
In terms of an interface, LG has taken the opposite approach to its competitors by placing Android front and centre, instead of insisting on putting its own resource-draining stamp on the operating system.
Such features as Knock On and Knock Code let users wake up the device with a tap on the screen. This is hardly bloatware. Content Lock stores files on the device behind a password. Careless users will appreciate the Kill Switch, which allows them to disable the device remotely if it has been stolen.
After several experiences with LG phones, the positioning of the power and the volume buttons at the back instead of the side edge now feels "normal" and makes the controls easier to access.
Despite the use of a leading processor, benchmark tests of 22,945 on Quadrant Standard and 31,528 on AnTuTu place the G3 as slightly slower than the leading competitors, even though I tested the 32GB version, which has 3GB of RAM.
To counter the excessive drain on the battery, LG has tweaked the system resources to make the most of it and this is where the battery life test was inconclusive.
Our test loops a 720p video on full brightness, but the G3 automatically dims the screen in video playback, so the almost nine hours of battery life is not reflective of actual use. Using the VLC player, which did not dim the brightness, the battery clocked less than four hours, which is below average battery performance.
This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on June 11, 2014.
Price: $868 (16GB), $928 (32GB)
Processor: 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Display: 5.5 inches Quad HD IPS (2,560 x 1,440 pixels, 538 pixels per inch)
Memory/RAM: 16GB/2GB, 32GB/3GB
Expandable memory: microSD up to 128GB
Camera: 13 megapixels with OIS+ and Laser Auto Focus (rear), 2.1 megapixels (front)
Battery: 3,000mAh (removable)
Operating system: Android 4.4.2 KitKat
Size: 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm
Value for money: 5/5
Battery life: 3/5