LG unveiled its latest curved smartphone, the LG G Flex 2, at CES 2015 last month. We’ve already unboxed the device, and given you our first impressions. While we are in the midst of testing the device for our full review, we thought we’d take a look at how it compares to LG’s 2014 flagship, the G3. We’ll take a look at design, software, camera and more, and see how these two devices stack up against one another in this comprehensive look at the LG G Flex 2 vs the LG G3.
Read more: LG G Flex 2 unboxing and first impressions
To begin, it’s quite obvious where these devices differ on the design front. The curved screen on the G Flex 2 gives the device a unique look and feel, though what once was the size of the G Pro series now fits squarely in the realm of the G3’s territory. The G Flex 2 has been shrunken down to the benefit of many users who thought the larger 6-inch original was just too big. The curve of the G Flex 2 still goes from top to bottom, and like the original G Flex, LG claims that the curve results in a more resilient device all around. The curved phone has a self-healing back that is supposed to make scratches on the back disappear after some time. Additionally, there’s the benefit of an overall flexible device that can take some pressure when flattened.
It’s no secret that LG is testing the waters on a few unique features with this handset, and they all offer some benefits to the user that aren’t as gimmicky as you’d expect. Both devices offer a removable back panel, but steering away from the glossy plastic finish of the G Flex 2, the G3 offers a sleek brushed design without the benefit of self-healing properties.
LG’s now iconic button layout found on the back of most of the company’s handsets is present on both smartphones. The back of the devices house the power/standby key and volume buttons sit under the camera optics that includes laser autofocus technology. There are no buttons on the sides of either device, which means both handsets can be kept pretty thin. Moving to the front, both devices offer 5.5-inch screens with very limited bezel on both devices.
Thanks to its curved screen, the G Flex 2 almost literally sits perfectly in-hand, while the G3 is just a plain slab-shaped smartphone we’ve come to expect from most OEMs. The Flex’s self-healing back adds quite a bit of extra grip to the device compared to the smooth feel of the G3. While size has a lot to do with the handling, we give the ergonomics badge to the G Flex because the curve does make “hand gymnastics” easier to perform.
One aspect many people have worried about is fitting the G Flex 2 into a pocket. We can assure you that it is quite comfortable, but we should warn that if you wear jeans with extremely tight or small pockets, the G Flex 2 may be a tad uncomfortable. Either way, we’re looking at very attractive devices that show LG has really made strides in their design language, especially with their signature back button layout.
Each of these devices feature a 5.5-inch display, but the G Flex 2 sports a lower-res display due to its curve. The LG G3’s screen was one of the first to sport Quad HD or 1440p resolution, bringing high powered display experiences into the mainstream. However, there have been a few reports of some compromises with the G3’s high-res screen. A bit of over smoothing could be seen in mostly text-heavy areas, especially in the browser. And with so much pixel power to emote, certain elements might have a slight stutter in place of completely smooth movements. Such claims, at least in my experience, proved to be fairly rare. Though the power of a Quad HD display might not be noticeable without a keen eye, I still thoroughly enjoy mostly media consumption on the higher resolution screen.
As was the case with the original G Flex, we learn in the 2nd iteration that the lower resolution is fine and just as enjoyable. The G Flex 2 has a 1080p screen which benefits from the curve, giving the user a more immersive media consumption experience. The screen will often not be as close to your face for the curve to fully make sense when it comes to talking, but the feature is mostly used to benefit durability and handling.
We have noticed that the G Flex 2’s 1080p panel doesn’t stutter quite as often as the G3’s, which makes the case that super high pixel densities could indeed impede general performance.
If anything, both IPS displays work very well where they should. Brightness is good in broad daylight and colors have the vibrancy that makes all media look great. Ultimately, this comparison makes it even clearer that our tried and true resolutions are still viable in today’s cutting edge environment. You just have to pick which enhancement you want: the subtle bump up via higher resolution or the unique and fresh feeling effect of a top to bottom curve.
LG has once again given us an incredible feature set in both of these devices. We give the company credit for keeping each new release fresh by keeping the processing packages updated, even if the G Flex 2 is not necessarily supposed to be considered a flagship device. Indeed, the new iteration of LG’s smartphone lines sports the latest and greatest – the Snapdragon 810 – backed by the Adreno 430 GPU and up to 3GB of RAM.
While performance has been great during in-app tasks and gaming on this device thus far, LG’s G UI runs into a few issues on the G Flex 2. Though our testing has not fully completed yet, we do believe the problems come from not only a lack of optimization in this Lollipop edition of LG’s interface, but also the sheer amount of bloatware that you typically get in devices made for the Asian market. We’ll need to reserve judgment on the Snapdragon 810 until we get our hands on a device meant for the US market.
The LG G3, on the other hand, has what is now almost considered old technology – the Snapdragon 801 – alongside the Adreno 330 and up to 3GB of RAM. Performance on the G3 has remained reliable despite how fast the market has been changing, and with updates to the G UI up until now, getting through the elements feels smoother despite what little stutters I mentioned before due to the Quad HD resolution.
Obviously the cutting edge is a place where many of us power users want to be, but while the Snapdragon 810 is pretty big deal, more variables might be skewing its performance experience in this very first crop that includes a Lollipop build that could use some updates.
The G Flex 2’s main differentiator on the design front is obviously the curved display, but it doesn’t stop there with the unique features. The self-healing back, if it is anything like on the G Flex 1, will remove superficial scratches over some time, but anything more than that will likely leave permanent marks on the device. This is something we’ve already seen in preliminary testing. Removing the back of the G Flex 2 doesn’t allow you access to the battery, but the microSD and SIM card slots are still exposed underneath.
Speaking of the battery, we have yet to conclude longevity tests in just the couple days that we’ve had this phone thus far, but we can give you an example of one day’s power usage. Ten hours was what it took to get the G Flex 2 to go into its critical power saving mode, resulting in a total of around 3.5 hours of screen-on time. The 3000mAh battery unit likely won’t go the long distance, but it should be able to get you through a full day with a little more frugal usage.
The battery of the G3, on the other hand, is replaceable and packs the same capacity. Our original review of the G3 put the battery life on par with its main competition, despite its higher resolution screen. We haven’t seen a huge change in battery performance from our full review, though the option to replace the battery easily gives it a bit of an edge in the long haul. Otherwise, the G3 doesn’t really benefit from any unique hardware features, but it still does sport a microSD card slot and all of the regular fixings for connectivity. Moreover, both devices still have the Knock On capability enhanced with Knock Code, which you can use as a customized way of unlocking the phone.
It’s important to note that our G Flex 2 does not work on US carriers for LTE connectivity, and our testing will be relegated to WiFi and 3G internet. With that said, call quality has been about as standard for the G Flex 2 as it was for the G3.
The laser auto focus was definitely the focus of the LG G3, and brought very fast focusing atop optical image stabilization and a camera app that kept things really simple. The G3’s camera experience was very well-received by us and thus it should come as no surprise that the experience on the G Flex 2 is largely the same.
Right down to the apps themselves, the experiences in shooting with the LG cameras are largely the same. You get simple elements for picking resolution or changing from the decisive number of modes that include HDR, panorama, and dual shooting. However, magic focus seems to have been left out of the Flex.
Both cameras have 13MP resolutions on their rear-facing cameras, and both include video modes including 4K recording and slow motion through 120 frames per second. What made the G3 camera experience so enjoyable was the fast point and shoot capability. While using the minimal camera interface, you just tap a point and the lasers focus on it very quickly, snapping the shot in very little time. And actually, the G Flex 2’s camera seems to be a bit faster at focusing than the G3. Where as the focus might jump a little before settling on the G3, autofocusing on the G Flex 2 was pretty spot on and direct in the first go. This isn’t the biggest improvement, but one that was easy to notice when shooting side by side.
Picture quality takes on a pretty similar affair in the G Flex 2, as these quickly shot photos (shown in the gallery below) show good color reproduction to the scene. There isn’t a high level of saturation in the post processing that you might now be accustomed to in competitor’s cameras, though it is something the photographer will have to decide is a true benefit or detractor, as more vivid photos tend to be preferred by users.
HDR modes do add a little more color to photos, though its main function of lightening darks and clarifying blown out areas may not be particularly strong. The sometimes overly-aggressive noise reduction in the G3 seems to have returned, however, which is a trade-off. Sometimes the pictures are just softened a little too much and fine details can suffer.
What does prove itself well is OIS+, helping shaky hands capture clear photos and helping video keep from getting too jittery. Self portraits have been made easier with a new gesture allowing you to review the picture you just took with a natural downward angle movement – the 2.1 megapixel front facing camera is still just a standard performer, however.
LG G Flex 2 Camera Samples
LG G3 Camera Samples
We’re still testing the G Flex 2’s camera, though it’s clear so far that these two camera experiences are very similar.
When it comes to software, the G Flex 2 is running LG’s G UI on Android 5.0 Lollipop, and the G3 is still running Android 4.4 KitKat, though the G3 Lollipop update has already started rolling out to some users. Snce our G3 hasn’t been updated yet, the main differences you’ll notice in the G3 is the older softkeys, the older recent apps switcher, and the notification dropdown.
But from there, not much more has changed in G UI, as many of the elements take on LG’s typical style. The Settings screen is still a tabbed layout and the quick settings above the notifications are still a little too crowded for comfort. The Smart Notice widget does get a few more capabilities on the G Flex 2, but the most enjoyable Smart App experience is still the keyboard, which is just a blast to type with on the Flex. It has a customizable height and extra button layout with number keys up top, making it one of the most enjoyable OEM keyboards on which to type. The only real addition to the Flex interface is a peeking feature that is triggered by swiping down on the turned-off screen, which is basically a quick way to check the time and the notification bar.
Just like the the version of LG’s UI found on the G3, the G Flex 2’s UI is still a little too cluttered for its own good, as our early performance issues seem to prove. Lollipop was a needed move forward for Android, but LG kept things looking and feeling mostly the same in the G Flex 2, which might not be a good thing for everyone.
The LG G Flex 2 has launched in Korea, and will be available for pre-order on February 27th in Singapore. AT&T, Sprint and US Cellular have announced their plans to eventually carry the device sometime in the spring, though no exact date has been given. It will also launch on Vodafone in the UK, and will make its way to Australia, though there’s no timeframe for its availability. The phone has been rumored to launch at around €599.99 off-contract (~$600 US), but we’ll need to wait and see the exact price when the launch date gets closer.
The LG G3 has been out for quite some time, so you can pick up the device in a number of different places. All four major US carriers have the device, as well as multiple UK carriers, Korean carriers, and many other parts of Europe and Asia. Nowadays, you can grab the phone with a two-year contract anywhere from $0-$149.99. Off-contract prices vary, reaching anywhere from $479.99-$549.99.
These are definitely the two top dogs in the LG camp and it should come as no surprise that they are very similar.
And so, there you have it, our look at the LG G Flex 2 versus the LG G3. These are definitely the two top dogs in the LG camp and it should come as no surprise that they are very similar. The higher resolution display of the LG G3 is its marquee feature, but if you’re looking for something more unique, the G Flex 2 has already impressed us with its looks and very nice in-hand feel. What points we do give to the G Flex 2 for its noticeably faster camera experience are taken away a bit by the new Lollipop edition of LG’s UI that seems to lack the optimization needed to meet Snapdragon 810 expectations. That said, we thoroughly enjoy the G Flex 2 so far, and that basically means we still enjoy all that the G3 offers – it’s just that the Flex is trying to bend the rules – making it a marginally more intriguing choice.
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