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The LG G4 has just joined the ranks of this year’s flagship smartphones, so let’s delve right on in and see how its hardware stacks up with the very best on offer this year.

Display

Much like Samsung, LG prides itself on its industry-leading mobile display technology. Last year’s LG G3 was one of the first to offer a QHD resolution display, a specification that is now rivaled by Samsung but few others. LG may not have boosted the resolution any further this year, but has set about refining its existing technology.

 LG G4Samsung Galaxy S6HTC One M9
Display5.5-inch, QHD LCD, 534ppi5.1-inch, QHD AMOLED, 557ppi5.0-inch, 1080p LCD, 441 ppi
SoCQualcomm Snapdragon 808Samsung Exynos 7420Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
CPU2xCortex A57 + 4xCortex A534xCortex A57 + 4xCortex A534xCortex A57 + 4xCortex A53
GPUAdreno 418Mali-T760 MP8Adreno 430
RAM3GB LPDDR33GB LPDDR43GB LPDDR4
Storage32GB32/64/128GB32GB
MicroSDup to 128GBnoup to 128GB
Rear Camera16MP, f/1.8, OIS, laser focus16MP, f/1.9, OIS20.7MP
Front Camera8MP5MP4MP
Battery3000 mAh2550 mAh2840 mAh
Dimensions149.8 x 76.2 x 10.16 mm, 155 g143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm, 138g144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6 mm, 157g

LG boasts that its new Quantum display offers 20 percent greater color reproduction, a 25 percent improvement in brightness and 50 percent greater contrast than its last display. Some users complained that colors can look a little washed out with the LG G3, so it’s good to see the company address this issue. LG is targeting the Digital Cinema Initiatives standard for color expression and boasts a 98% accuracy to the standard, which may rival the high bar already set by the Samsung Galaxy S6 this year.

g the Digital Cinema Initiatives standard for color expression and boasts a 98% accuracy to the standard, which may rival the high bar already set by the Samsung Galaxy S6 this year.

LG G4 hands on-13

The other big talking point with LG’s latest smartphones is its curved display. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge or the bendy G Flex 2, the G4 features a subtler curve. Ergonomically, there’s a case to be made that a slight curve helps it sit in the hand and rest against the face a little more naturally, as was the argument made for the old Galaxy Nexus.

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Both the Galaxy S6 and G4 feature QHD displays that pack a punch with vivid colors. These two could spark a new battle between the best of AMOLED vs LCD.

Most of this year’s flagships are still sticking to the tried and tested 1080p resolution, which provides an excellent balance between gaming performance, battery life and image clarity. QHD’s edge in pixel density is certainly a luxury rather than a major benefit, but LG’s new Quantum Dot display and Samsung’s AMOLED are also pushing display quality in terms other than resolution too.

Processing package

This year the talk is all about 64-bit processors, with the arrival of new high-end mobile SoCs from Qualcomm and Samsung. However, unlike LG’s earlier G Flex 2 smartphone, the G4 does not feature Qualcomm’s very high-end Snapdragon 810, but instead drops down one notch to a 64-bit Snapdragon 808 package.

There are several key differences between the two, most noticeably the absence of two high-performance Cortex-A72 cores, making the 808 a hexa-core rather than octa-core chip. While unlikely to make any difference for most day to day tasks and web-based experiences, gamers and very heavy multitaskers may notice some difference. That said, we’ve already found that the LG UX user interface runs better on the G4 than it does on the Snapdragon 810 powered G Flex 2, so LG may have done some serious optimizing.

 Sony Xperia Z4LG G Flex 2Nexus 6
Display5.2-inch, 1080p LCD, 424ppi5.5-inch, 1080p P-OLED, 403ppi6-inch, QHD AMOLED, 493 ppi
SoCQualcomm Snapdragon 810Qualcomm Snapdragon 810Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
CPU4xCortex A57 + 4xCortex A534xCortex A57 + 4xCortex A534xKrait 450
GPUAdreno 430Adreno 430Adreno 420
RAM3GB LPDDR32/3GB LPDDR43GB LPDDR3
Storage32/64GB16/32GB32/64GB
MicroSDup to 128GBup to 128GBno
Rear Camera20.7MP13MP, OIS13MP, OIS
Front Camera5.1MP2.1MP2MP
Battery2930 mAh3000 mAh3200 mAh
Dimensions146 x 72 x 6.9 mm, 144 g149.1 x 75.3 x 7.1-9.4 mm, 152g159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm, 184g

Cast your mind back to earlier discussions about big.LITTLE SoC designs and you’ll often find reference to hexa-core designs for smartphones and octa-core designs for tablets. In the pursuit of ever higher performance, smartphone OEMs have typically opted for as much power as possible, but the Snapdragon 808 is no slouch and may prove to offer a better balance of performance and battery life than its octa-core rivals, a similar argument is often made that 1080p is considered good enough by some. The smaller number of cores should also result in a cooler device as well, which might negate some of the expected performance differences. LG promises a 20 percent increase in battery life compared with the LG G3.

However, the Snapdragon 808 isn’t compatible with LPDDR4, meaning a drop back to LPDDR3 memory for LG. This leaves the handset behind the likes of the G Flex 2, Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9, when it comes to the cutting edge. The Exynos 7420 and Snapdragon 810 allow for 25.6GB/s peak memory bandwidth, while LPDDR3-933 tops out around 15GB/s, although again this will only be felt in more extreme processing situations.

 Snapdragon 810Snapdragon 808Snapdragon 805
Core Count864
CPU4x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex-A53 (ARMv8-A)2x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex A53 (ARMv8-A)4x Krait 450 (ARMv7-A)
Memory2x 1555MHz LPDDR4 (25.6GBps)2x 933MHz LPDDR3 (15GBps)2x 800MHz LPDDR3 (12.8GBps)
GPUAdreno 430Adreno 418Adreno 420
DataCat 9 LTECat 9 LTECat 4 LTE
Process20nm20nm28nm

Finally, the LG G4 features an Adreno 418, which again is slower than the Snapdragon 810s Adreno 430 and sits behind some of last year’s Snapdragon 805 powered handsets, which feature an Adreno 420. Qualcomm doesn’t share enough about its GPU architecture for us to make too much of a comparison, but consumers might not see too much of a performance jump from last year’s LG G3, which was a bit hit and miss given the handset’s QHD resolution. Qualcomm suggests a performance increase of 20 percent between the 330 and 418, but we have no idea under what conditions that can be achieved.

In the SoC department, performance enthusiasts may not be thrilled with LG’s choice to opt for a Snapdragon 808 over the now commonplace Snapdragon 810 found in the One M9 and Xperia Z4, but we don’t have any complaints based on our initial hands-on time.

Camera

Camera technology was the other big focus feature for the G4 and the paper specs boast a sensor resolution that rivals the majority of flagships on the market today. As well as just increasing the sensor resolution, LG is focusing on sharper colors, thanks to an additional “color spectrum sensor”, optical image stabilization has been improved and the laser autofocus feature remains useful.

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Low light performance should be one of the best around, thanks to the design’s  f/1.8 aperture, which bests the Galaxy S6’s f/1.9 setup. With HTC again not quite hitting mark in low light scenarios and very little changing in Sony’s setup, LG and Samsung may forge ahead of the pack in the camera segment.

Like other high-end devices, LG is giving additional power to photographers with the introduction of a new manual mode, which offers enhanced control over ISO, focus, and picture formats, among others. Both HTC and Samsung have included manual modes in their latest smartphones too.

LG-G4-example-vs

LG has uploaded some impressive looking sample shots, but we’ll have to wait to see how the G4 stacks up against the S6’s excellent low light performance and the higher resolution sensors in the M9 and Z4.

On the front of the smartphone LG has included an 8MP sensor, which rivals the resolution of main smartphone cameras from a few years back. This year’s flagships have all upped their game, but LG has taken selfie quality up another notch. Although we should give a mention to the Oppo N3 for the most innovative self-experience.

(Not so) little extras

The absence of a removable battery and microSD card slot from the Samsung Galaxy S6 was a divisive design choice, especially given that most other flagship devices have at least kept the optional microSD card slot. LG keeps both options open, which might be a compelling factor for some. However, Samsung’s latest flagship still offers by far the most internal storage for those who want as much space as possible out of the box.

Design aesthetic and build materials has also become an increasingly important point of contrast in the high-end section. Both Samsung and LG have finally cottoned on to the praise heaped at HTC’s use of materials, and LG has arguably gone one step further to offer consumers almost a Moto Maker range of choice. While some may prefer HTC’s metal finish or Samsung’s glass, leather is no less a premium material that will suit some people’s tastes.

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However, these new materials do come at the expensive of dust and water resistance, which were big features in the last two generation of smartphones. Sony’s Xperia Z4 leads the way with an IP68 rating this year, while the other flagships appear to have dropped mention of a rating altogether. LG’s G Flex 2 has a self-healing back, but that’s not quite as useful.

As for software, LG’s calendar and gallery apps have been tweaked for better integration and overall the focus has been on making LG’s UI more intelligent. There’s a meaningful difference between the software packages offered by each vendor. Samsung still leads the way with S Health but arguably still has the most clutter, while HTC’s BlinkFeed is excellent for eager readers and Sony is slick all around.

However, LG promises a more “Nexus like” experience this time around, which should appease those who have previously complained about lag ridden software. Samsung has also made a conscious effort to improve in this regard, although HTC and Sony have set a high bar as far a smooth and useful interfaces go. At the very least, there’s a dose of Android Lollipop all around with this year’s flagships.

Thoughts

Although the LG G4 may not dominate the paper specs like the G3 did last year, there’s a good case to be made that LG’s slightly different approach may result in a better overall user experience. By focusing on battery life, display and camera performance, and design aesthetics, LG could come out on top in the areas where consumers actually spend most of their time.

We’ll have to see if this balanced approach pays off when the handset makes it way to consumers in June.

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