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LG G3 hands-on and first impressions

Today the LG G3 was officially announced and we've now had some time to take LG's latest flagship for as spin. Check out our first impressions of the device!
May 27, 2014

After a flurry of leaks, including one directly from LG Netherlands, there wasn’t much left that we didn’t seem to know about the LG G3. Even so, it’s nice to see that the G3 has finally landed!

Even though we knew just about everything that the flagship would bring to the table hardware-wise, there were at least a few welcome surprises. Here’s our first look as we go hands-on with the LG G3!

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Design and build quality

LG’s penchant for ultra-thin bezels shines through once again with the LG G3. The beautiful Quad HD display is the hero of the front of the device, with absolutely no embellishments to detract from what is expected to be a fantastic screen experience.

The ultra-thin bezels and thin top and bottom borders don’t just look good, they also help in terms of size. Even with it packing a 5.5-inch display the handset is actually a bit shorter than the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z2. As to be expected, it is wider, but not as much as you’d expect given the screen size.

On the backside, we find LG’s rear-mounted buttons, a tradition the Korean company first started with the LG G2. This time around the buttons are a bit flatter, however. On the back you’ll also find the camera lense flanked by the LED flash and an auto-focus laser, which we’ll talk more about later. You’ll also find the the speaker at the bottom left corner.

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As for the phone’s sides? With the button layout moved to the back, there’s nothing along the sides or the top of the device, with the headphone jack and microUSB charging port found at the bottom of the phone.

Another major change for the LG G3 is its inclusion of a removable back, which is made of plastic but clad in a beautiful metallic finish. While the design might not be true metal, it’s fairly premium look certainly gives other 2014 flagships a run for the money. Even better, the new design is less prone to finger prints and is said to be “scratch resistant”.

Ultra-thin bezels or not, the LG G3 is still a big phone, and the handling experience reflects that. The curved back lets the phone sit comfortably in the hand, but one-handed use is still a stretch, even if it is easier to handle that most other phones with this screen size.

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While the design on the LG G3 is beautiful, the real defining feature for the LG G3 is its impressive quad HD display. The large 5.5-inch display boasts a resolution of 2560×1440 and packs a massive pixel density of roughly 534ppi.

The LG G3’s QHD display isn’t the first of its kind, with a few others like Oppo Find 7 beating LG to the punch, but it’s definitely a first from the “mainstream” Android OEMs.

As expected, there’s very little fault you can find with this IPS LCD display, providing great brightness, fantastic viewing angles, and of course, crisp and clear text and images. Anything you do on this screen will look amazing, and it should prove to be the perfect media companion.

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Performance and Hardware

Keeping up with current trends, the LG G3 packs the best processing package currently available, with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 330 GPU, and either 2 or 3GB of RAM — depending on whether you’re talking about the 16GB or 32GB model.

As with other Snapdragon 801-powered devices like the HTC One M8 and Galaxy S5, everything is fast and smooth, and it handles every task you can throw at it with ease. This is even more the case if you happen to be rocking the 3GB variant.

Again, the actual amount of storage and RAM you get depends on what model you pick up. Regardless of whether you have the 16GB or 32GB version, you’ll still have access to a microSD slot, which can expand up the memory by an additional 128GB.

The full range of connectivity options are available here as well, including NFC and 4G LTE.

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The LG G3 packs a large removable 3,000 mAh battery, which is of the same size as the G3’s predecessor. With the addition of a more power hungry QHD display you think this would be a recipe for bad battery life, but LG claims differently. Thanks to their 3A Optimization System, the phone automatically optimizes itself for different tasks which reportedly results in 20% more efficient battery consumption.

In theory, that means the LG G3 should still perform similarly to the LG G2 in terms of battery life. We’ll reserve judgment on this claim until we get the opportunity to put the device through its full paces in our full review down the road.

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When it comes to the camera, you get an experience that is largely similar to what you’d get with the G Pro 2, but with a few extras. You get a 13 MP rear shooter, with OIS+, and a camera app that is once again packed with features and controls, to help you get the best shot possible.

Interesting additions on the software side include a “Touch and Shoot” mode, that removes unnecessary clutter from the interface, and basically, lets you touch and shoot.

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On the hardware side is a laser that helps with quick and accurate auto-focus, which should play its part in improving the slow focus speed that plagued the G Pro 2 and the G2 before it. LG is also boasting that it’s 2.1MP front cam provides a superior “selfie” experience due to a mixture of software and hardware improvements.

Overall, you should get some good sharp shots with vibrant colors using this camera, and we can’t wait to put it through its paces in a more comprehensive review.

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The G3 runs Android 4.4.2 with LG’s custom interface on top, which has received an overhaul from previous iterations.

It looks LG is moving towards scaling things back a little bit. The UI looks a lot flatter, with a more minimalistic look, and also moves away from the bright and colorful nature of previous iterations of the Optimus UI in favor of “more mature” colors.

It is also not as cluttered anymore, as you’ll see in the notification dropdown which also houses the quick settings. In earlier editions, the slew of quick settings toggles would barely leave place for any notifications, and that has been cleaned up a lot. That said, the software is still as packed with features as ever, with a lot of new useful additions as well.

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New additions include LG’s Smart Keyboard, Smart Notice and Smart Security. The former of these is essentially a new keyboard that’s designed with improve predictability that improves as the G3 learns your typing habits.

Probably the most exciting of these new “Smart” features would be Smart Notice, which offers somewhat Google-now like personal assistant features. Notice can not only remind you of calls you declined earlier and ask if you want to call them back, it also gives detailed information about the weather, asks if you want to delete old unused apps and so much more.

Finally, there’s Smart Security, which is a suit of features that includes the return of the G Pro 2’s Knock Code as well as several other security improvements. There’s even a kill switch baked in, which could be useful as a last resort for protecting your data after your phone has been lost or stolen.

Final Thoughts

The LG G3 might not be a dramatic departure from the LG G2 in terms of style, but there’s quite a few welcome improvements both inside and out.

The most obvious improvement is the Quad HD display, but as you can see, there’s much more to the G3 experience than that. Overall, we’re impressed by what we’re seeing from LG here, though we’ll be sure to give a much more detailed report on the device once we receive a review unit in the coming days.

In the meantime, what do you think of the LG G3? Impressed, plan on picking one up?