LG G3 review: LG’s best phone ever and one of the year’s finest

June 18, 2014
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At a glance

LG's best phone ever and one of the year's finest

PROS
  • Design is attractive and sturdy
  • Screen is simply spectacular
  • Handling is surprisingly easy
  • Top of the line specifications
  • Laser focusing system is indeed fast
  • G UI brings refined interface
CONS
  • Still a large device overall
  • General users may not notice 2K difference
  • Poor low light performance
  • G UI still somewhat cluttered and bloated
  • Smart Notice, in particular, not very useful
9.0
With its best in class display, incredible camera, and refined software, LG has succeeded in creating one of the best smartphones of 2014. For these reasons, the LG G3 receives our Editors’ Choice award. 

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Getting the opportunity to manufacture the Google Nexus 4 smartphone propelled LG into the limelight in the Android world, and the company has been bringing its A-game ever since.

Last year, LG decided to shake things up by doing away with the traditional button layout we were all used to, by relocating the power button and volume rocker on the back. This certainly took a little getting used to, but it made the LG G2 stand out in an overcrowded smartphone market.

You might like: The best LG G3 cases

Now, LG is upping the ante again, as the first mainstream manufacturer to offer a smartphone that breaks the Full HD barrier. But is that all the G3 has to offer? We find out, in this comprehensive review of the LG G3!

Design

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Beauty is more than skin deep on the LG G3. We have to take a moment to either applaud or criticize LG for completely tricking us with regards to the build material of the G3. Every leaked render hinted at a metal body design, but in reality, it ended up being plastic. That said, the G3′s brushed metal look is one of the many attractive aspects of this device, and quite honestly, it’s something that LG has managed to get away with.

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Of course, you can’t talk about the LG G3 without mentioning the screen, but before diving into the quality of the display, the thin bezels around it deserve a special mention. You pretty much get nothing but the screen up front, allowing for a device that is large, but as compact as possible at the same time.

LG’s now signature button layout returns on the G3, meaning there is literally nothing around the sides of the phone. The headphone jack and the microUSB charging port are both on the bottom, while the Korean edition of the smartphone, which we used in this review, also features an antenna that comes out of the top corner.

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I remember having some reservations when I first saw the circular and oval-shaped buttons in the press renders. But when I finally got my hands on the device, not only did the buttons look a lot more refined, they also felt great. The buttons are very meaty, and have a very satisfying click to them that’s better than what you got on the LG G2. Integrated into the button layout is the camera unit, flanked by the flash diode and the new laser focusing system.

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The removable back cover is made from a high quality polycarbonate material, that, as mentioned before, has been given a brushed finish. It’s almost as if LG tried to get the best of two worlds, with the brushed texture removing the issue of fingerprints, without the drawbacks of metal, like increased weight or signal attenuation. It must be said, however, that the material is still quite susceptible to the occasional scratch or ding.

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Eliminating the side buttons in favor of a thinner body, putting a curve to the back, and minimizing the bezels to their absolute thinnest make for a device that is surprisingly easy to handle. Even with its large screen, reaching across to the other side of the display is almost shockingly easy. With an overall size that is smaller than any other device with a 5.5-inch display (it’s actually comparable to other current flagships), the ease of handling is one of the G3′s marquee features.

Display

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Of course, the other marquee feature of this smartphone is its display. Coming in at 5.5 inches, this behemoth of a screen may be surprisingly easy to handle, but its resolution of 2560 x 1440, resulting in a whopping pixel density of 534 ppi, makes for an experience unlike any other.

But the higher resolution doesn’t necessarily mean that this screen is leaps and bounds better than 1080p displays, even if the bump is noticeable at close examination.

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As a master maker of panels, LG came up with a high quality IPS screen with pleasing color reproduction that keeps it from being over-saturated, while staying really easy on the eyes. Some extra processing happens behind the scenes, as LG throttles the screen refresh rate in certain situations to save battery life.

While in theory this feature shouldn’t affect the viewing experience, I did end up noticing it while scrolling through my Google Play Music playlists, Reddit lists, and in other places where the text ended up looking somewhat less than perfect. That said, the great battery life of the LG G3 makes this small issue bearable.

In the end, you have a display that is almost one of a kind, and a great performer as well.

Performance

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As with almost every high-end smartphone currently available, the LG G3 is powered by the reigning king of processing packages, the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, clocked at 2.5GHz, backed by the Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. This is a processing package that we’re very familiar with by now, and there’s no question about its power and capability.

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Long periods of time playing “Injustice” brought few issues, and the only place I noticed a slowdown was in the Recent Apps screen, which has more to do with how the screen is structured, as opposed to the actual loading times. Browsing Google Now and websites was also a breeze, as was using GPS and navigation, which was a big issue I had with the LG G2.

Across several sessions of benchmarking using the latest version of AnTuTu, the LG G3 obtained an average score of  29760, which is behind other current flagships. However, our own experience using the device does not reflect the gap in the benchmark scores, as the G3 was on par with every other phone out there in terms of performance.

Generally maintaining good speeds on a large, high-resolution display is a notable performance in its own, and the LG G3 does not disappoint, in either work or play.

Hardware

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While most of the flagship devices released last year tended to go overboard in terms of extra features packed in, this year’s crop marks a return to the fundamentals, and the LG G3 is no exception.

The biggest change from its predecessor is the removable back cover that gives access to a microSD card slot and a removable battery. While only the Korean version of the phone comes with a telescopic  TV antenna, you do get everything else you’d expect in terms of hardware, including an IR blaster for TV control.

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Luckily, I was able to access LTE networks on AT&T using this international version, but of course, we can expect the LG G3 to be available from all the major network carriers in the US. Call quality was also a bright spot here, as it was very clear at either end of the call; in some instances, I actually found myself having to turn down the volume of the phone speaker, because it got too loud. The same can be said for the rear facing speaker, which does get very loud, despite coming out the small grill speakers on the back, but overall the sound is not rich at all.

lg g3 vs samsung galaxy s5 screenshot 12

And finally, the replaceable battery of the LG G3 features a capacity of 3,000 mAh, which is pretty standard, considering the overall size of the phone. While the higher resolution of the display could have meant trouble, that was actually far from the truth, as the battery life was simply fantastic. I managed to get past the 12 hour mark with plenty of battery life left, after a day that included long spurts of gaming, plenty of music listening, and camera usage.

Camera

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When it comes to the camera, it’s safe to say that LG has brought everything it possibly could to its latest and greatest phone. The 13MP rear shooter features OIS+, which is a software-enhanced version of the optical image stabilization technology on the G2. The LG G3 also comes with a 2.1 MP front-facing camera.

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Getting into the camera app, it’s striking that it starts out with one of the most minimalistic interfaces we’ve ever seen, with the ability to focus and take a shot with just one tap. Hitting the lone menu button gives you access to various settings and options, but there has been a clean up here as well. Where a slew of different modes were once available, you now have just a few key ones, including Panorama, Magic Focus, and Dual. Dual shot works the way you’d expect, giving you a picture in picture photo, while the panorama mode is familiar and pretty simple to use.

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Auto mode is what you’ll probably end up using the most. Even though you won’t be able to make that many changes to the settings, the camera does a good job, especially when you consider you’re trusting the phone to pick the best settings on its own.

The laser-assisted focusing system, the marquee feature of this camera, lets it go from standby, to focused, to capture, really fast, further adding to the camera’s ability to capture shots fast and hassle-free. lg g3 aa (20 of 22)

Compared to competitors released this year, taking pictures with the G3 proved to be one of the most enjoyable experiences. All you need to do is tap the subject and you’re good to go in seconds, and it’s great to see that picture quality holds up. For a more in-depth walkthrough, you can check out the camera shootout video below, which shows that it’s possible to take consistently great photos with the LG G3, with the only issues arising in low-lighting conditions.

Pictures are generally nice and detailed, but the noise reduction algorithm is a bit too aggressive, resulting in exaggerated softness in some scenes. Color reproduction isn’t bad at all, though many photos show a slightly warm tone, which is something I personally like, but others may take issue with.

When it comes to low light performance, the noise really makes itself prevalent, so using the flash will be necessary from time to time.

The optical stabilization helped with video, which was quite good — 4K recording was easy and went along without incidents, though it’s possible to overload the processor with too much movement, an example of which you’ll see in the video.

Saying that a smartphone has the best camera out there is highly subjective and probably controversial, but we can pretty safely say that this is the best camera experience that LG has ever achieved.

Software

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It is not only the outside of the LG G3 that is more refined than ever before. There are some big changes making its way to the software experience as well, which has been streamlined to have a flatter look all around, and to downplay the elements that used to clutter the interface.

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In general, traces of previous Optimus UI iterations are still found, but the redesigned notification dropdown and a much better laid out settings menu look great. Previous LG features like the Q Slide apps return here, but are now hidden behind a shade activated by a quick settings button, and even the brightness and volume sliders can be hidden for an even cleaner notifications menu.

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Customization has always been LG’s forte over other OEM interfaces, and the tradition continues on the G3, with details like the customizable softkey layout.

We always thought LG was trying too hard with its interface, really shoving its abilities in your face, but this time around, they’re mostly easy on the eyes and actually helpful. The call and text popups, for instance, are very useful.

The biggest additions come in the Smart software suite, whose elements range from quite useful, to only somewhat interesting. The Smart Keyboard brings the ability to resize the keyboard for easier typing. The Smart Cleaner scans for temporary files that can be deleted to save space and offers suggestions to remove applications you haven’t used in a while. This could certainly be useful, but it was not something we could test out, as unused apps are only flagged for deletion after a month of disuse.

And finally, there is Smart Notice, which amounted to little more than a nicely worded weather report, right under an already functional weather widget. There is potential here, but this feature has to offer a lot more before it can be considered compelling. You can find out more about the Smart software features in the video below.

The bottom line is that, like with all major aspects of this phone, LG has clearly achieved the best version of its software with the LG G3.

Specifications
Display5.5-inch display with 2560 x 1440 resolution
Processor2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU
RAM2GB or 3GB w/ 32GB model
Storage16GB or 32GB, microSD with expansion
Camera13MP rear cam with OIS and laser auto focus, 2.1MP front cam
Battery3000 mAh removable
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, USB v2.0, Slim Port
Networks4G LTE support
SoftwareAndroid 4.4 KitKat with LG UI
Dimensions146.3 x74.6 x 9.1 mm,
151 grams
Gallery

Other videos
Pricing and final thoughts

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We aren’t exactly sure how much the unlocked version of the LG G3 will cost, but we expect the phone to come all the big carriers in the US for their premium on-contract prices. Essentially, this will put the LG G3 against every major flagship smartphone that launched this year. While we will be doing full comparisons between these smartphones, a large screen on a more or less compact body, the higher resolution display, and a good camera package make the LG G3 very hard to resist.

And so, there you have it, the LG G3! As I’ve said over the course of this review, it’s not hard to see that the G3 is the best that LG has to offer. A high resolution screen might not make for an ultimately different experience compared to 1080p devices, but there is so much more about this smartphone that makes it a compelling choice.Editor's-Choice-4.5-stars

That is why the LG G3 is the first smartphone to receive our newly minted Editors’ Choice distinction, which we reserve for the leading devices in every class.

You get a good camera that is faster than most shooters in its class. The performance is at the top, and, despite the crisp screen, battery life is actually above average.

And there is also a pretty great suite of first-party accessories on the way. If there was ever a time to buy into the LG ecosystem, this great smartphone certainly deserves the title of flagship to light your way. Whether it outshines the other flagships certainly depends on you and your specific needs, but the LG G3 tries to offer more than the rest, and succeeds in doing so in many ways.

Comments

  • MasterMuffin

    Just imagine how different LG would be today if another manufacturer had made the Nexus 4! I must say again that I love the new notification panel! Can’t really find anything that I don’t like in this phone, even the UI isn’t that horrible anymore :)

    “only did the button layout looked” :3

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      Fixed thanks!

    • Chris

      I agree with you. And there are a ton of typos…

  • Gator352

    I want the gold 3GB ram and 32GB storage version. Would look sweet with a clear and black bumper case.

    • MasterMuffin

      Gold D:

      • Gator352

        Yes GOLD!! :) Gold and black look real good together. Forever. And in my heart! :)

        • MasterMuffin

          :d

    • Chris

      Gold looks like crap

  • Qbancelli

    How many more reviews declaring this phone “The best LG phone yet”?

    Really? I am shocked!
    Silliest headline ever!

    • Ethan ‘blaze’ Parker

      Sony Xperia Z2, HTC One M8, Oppo Find 7A.

      • Brandon Power

        G3 is better than all except Find 7 not 7a

        • A Skylit [S]unjΔy

          Wrong

      • Guest

        Agreed with the Z2, disagree with the M8 (because of terrible camera, not fitting of a flagship device), agree with Find 7A, would add the Oneplus One to that list as well.

    • Shan

      If you don’t like it being called that way, Skip the article dude. Why complain?. Reviewers spend considerable time before coming out with their in-depth analysis. And Joshua has been a incredibly UN-biased reviewer. Chill down.

      • AnnabelleLockyeruli

        as Thelma
        explained I cannot believe that a stay at home mom can make $7420 in four weeks
        on the internet . more info here R­e­x­1­0­.­C­O­M­

    • Chris

      That phone sucks in direct sunlight. It’s 2014 no phone should suffer in direct sunlight. That’s a deal-breaker for me.

      • Ethan ‘blaze’ Parker

        And also the display is very reflective.

    • David Martin

      I don’t agree with you as you’re not right. Remember, there are lots of things that should be taken into account while analyzing a high-end device. I also went through a post http://www.cheapmonthlymobile.co.uk/lg-mobile-phones/lgg3blackmobilephone.asp#reviews that given me deep knowledge about the black version of this high-end smartphone.

  • Luka Mlinar

    “Is the 3rd time the charm?” dude they nailed it with the G2. Only problem with this phone is that they crossed the line turning it into a diner plate just like everyone else.

  • Preben Nielsen

    Would be nice if they would add a general-purpose button on the back for use as camera or whatever you like.

  • Jonathan TAM

    WOW. Compare this review to Lahn’s reviews. This is 10 times more in depth ;D

  • http://about.me/preetam_nath Preetam Nath

    Phone of the year. How hard is it to say that?

    • Mark Mann

      There’s still six months left this year, not saying I disagree at this time, but unless you can see the future, it’s too early to make that call

      • Lilith_Black

        From the leaks, unless Note 3 have a dramatic Touchwiz makeover to lessen the stress the UI is putting on the processor… (It was using 1.35GB on S5 in the retail version w/o carrier bloat!)

  • Shan

    Good review overall Joshua..Was xpecting the full review. Am desperately waiting to get this one home once it releases in my country. Never been super excited to procure a phone like this ever. The only striking CON is the about the display being washed out in bright light. Cant say about this unless i get one in hand n try out myself. Nevertheless that’s a trivial issue for me..

  • Ben

    Removable backs? Yes, it’s so simple but makes life so much easier! Why can’t all phones have removable backs (and who started the no back trend)???

    • Cole Raney

      I don’t know who started it in the Android world, but the iPhone never had removeable back.

    • Lilith_Black

      People who clamoured for a metal unibody design = premium and the manufacturers who succumbed to these demands.

  • Jing Jie

    aint gonna lie but erica griffin will not be pleased by your reviews (display and battery life)

    • kleinerSK

      Why does everyone come up with Erica… she complains about any phone, probably she had a bad childhood or something .. first she praises a new phone, then smashes it… can’t take her serious

      • Lilith_Black

        =.= It’s because she does point out the flaws which are accurate?
        There’s no perfect phone out there: if you want to pretend that there is one, just go to the official sites for the devices.

  • districtjack

    Thank you for a really good in-depth review. You finally mentioned battery life. If you can get 12hrs with heavy usage, then LG has won the crown with this phone.

    • Cole Raney

      I feel the same way. My only concern is battery life with this phone, everything else is superb. My galaxy s3 sucks with battery life now.

      • districtjack

        From all the reviews of this phone I have come to the conclusion the battery will not disappoint.

        • Sarper

          Some sites actually say the battery life is bad and it is worse than every other flagship devices that released this year.

  • kleinerSK

    Why is the size on the con side? Is a phone with smaller bezels out there? Do you buy a 60″ TV and then complain that your living room is too small?
    Overall a good review as always although I was hoping that you will do a test on a non Korean version.

  • Mark Mann

    Just a question, and don’t take this as a slam against you guys per se but the whole award giving community, how can you give a “best_____of the year…” award when there’s over half of the year left?

    • dogulas

      Maybe it’s the best of the last 12 months.

      • Mark Mann

        except it says 2014, not just year

    • districtjack

      It is doubtful a better phone will come out till Nov/Dec, and what could possibly added to make it better. A 5000mAh battery is probably the only thing that can be added to a smartphone in this stage of its evolution. Now the manufacturers can only start adding software or gimmicky gadgets like barometers, rangefinders, night vision, etc…

      EDIT: and I’m all for big batteries, I don’t care if my phone is thin.

      • Mark Mann

        If a better phone comes out in Nov/Dec that’s still this year, thus making this phone not best of this year(i agree with you otherwise) there’s only room for one “best of” and since they’ve already called it, there can’t be another regardless of what comes out later in the year… Now if they had added added two little words, 5 letters and a space, we wouldn’t be having this conversation… Those two words? “so far”

      • balcobomber25

        There is already a phone with a 5000mAh battery, it is made by THL. They also have a 4000mAh available.

  • http://lupokkio.it Francesco Lia

    hello, my name is Francesco and I write from Italy.
    Congratulations for your work on the blog and on youtube.
    I wanted to ask you a question: Z2 or G3?
    thanks and a big hello from italy.

    • Sarper

      I think Z2 is better but it depends on how you use your phone.

    • Lilith_Black

      Depends on your taste,
      Stock Android or skinned Android?
      Glass or plastic?
      Flat angular design vs curved design?
      1080p vs QHD?
      Higher camera megapixels w/ more features/control vs simplistic camera with lower megapixel and laser auto focus?
      Longer lasting battery vs removable batter?
      Waterproof vs non waterproof? (Consider flaps)

  • Jerry Rich

    Too big and don’t want any controls on the back of a phone it ruins my “user experience.” I’ll pass on this phone thank you very much.

  • ekoprasetyo

    Can anybody tell me what game did the Joshua demoed on the video?
    Kind of fighting action games?
    Thanks.

    • Abdulhakim Mazouz

      It is called Injustice.

  • Sarper

    Some sites say the battery life sucks and some say battery life is great i don’t get it.

  • cwspark

    Hey Josh how did you manage to get LTE on the phone? The most I can get is 3G…

  • Emti

    Hi Josh, great review as always, I had the chance to test LG G3 since it’s just recently launched here in my country.
    I notice a bit of lag when we press the app drawer icon to get into the application list screen. While other device, such as Z2, nexus 5 and moto g, have no such lag.

    Basically you just press the app drawer button then scroll right away, in lg g3 there’s always a bit of pause, while in other device it was a breeze. The sales promoter at the booth said that the demo units are in retail mode and that’s probably why it was like that, however I’m not entirely sure so it’s better to ask someone who has spent some time with the device itself.

  • http://multicorechina.com Multicorechina.com

    Looks like LG payed good money to this site… xDD

  • chuchoferreira

    My lg g3 doesnt come with a stock browser it only comes with chrome and tge hone buttons wont dissapear while watching you tube, help!!

    • Lilith_Black

      Browser is probably carrier decision (you can sideload the apk, someone shld have uploaded on XDA)
      You need to go to your settings to hide the navigation bar in apps