Last year's LG G3, while imperfect, was among the better flagship smartphones of 2014. Can its follow-up continue with that momentum? Read on, for Gizmag's review of the new LG G4.
Like its predecessor, the LG G4 hits a great balance of screen size and phone size – we might even call it the best in this department. Its 5.5-inch screen is big enough to be considered a phablet, but the phone itself doesn't feel overly huge.
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Its ultra-sharp Quad HD, 538 PPI panel certainly doesn't hurt things either. It has a richness of colors and level of contrast that you'd typically expect from an AMOLED screen (the G4's is IPS).
LG continues to be a leader in displays, with the G4 getting an A in this class.
Everything else, though, is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the G4 has a terrific camera – with wide aperture and some of the best low-lit photography we've seen in a smartphone. But on the other hand, its supposedly quick-launching camera takes about twice as long to jump from locked phone to snapped pic as the Galaxy S6 does (the GS6 can do this in under 2 seconds; the best we got for the G4 was between 3.5 and 4 seconds ... sometimes several seconds longer).
Closely related to that, the G4's camera-launching shortcut (double-tapping the volume down button on the phone's back) also isn't as quick or reliable as the home-button double-tap on the GS6. And if you happen to be playing music or other media, it will simply turn the volume down, rather than launching the camera.
Another example of this theme: LG gives you the option of buying a G4 with a leather back – a premium and unique take on smartphone design (well, almost unique ... Motorola has already been down that road).
But the luxurious back is nearly cancelled out by the fact that its sides are made of plastic. My fingertips are much more sensitive than the rest of my hand is, so, despite cradling a beautiful leather phone in my hands, the first thing I notice is cheap plastic.
Performance is another mixed bag. It runs a 64-bit Snapdragon 808 processor, with 3 GB of RAM – and, in many ways, is a very powerful phone. But for some reason LG's UI ("LG UX 4.0") adds a smidge of lag that we don't see on rivals like the GS6 and Nexus 6. Performance is still fast, but less than seamless.
Like these other pairs of opposites, battery life is good, but not the best. In our benchmark (streaming video over Wi-Fi with brightness at 75 percent), its battery dropped 16 percent per hour. That's nothing to throw a fit over, but with the Galaxy S6 and GS6 edge only dropping 11 and 10 percent per hour (respectively) in the same test, the G4's battery also falls short of being a selling feature.
It also lacks the built-in wireless charging that the Galaxy S6 and Nexus 6 both have (though you can buy a case that adds this).
Yet another example: the G4 is fairly light for its size, but is 3 percent heavier than last year's G3. It's also 10 percent thicker than the company's 2014 flagship.
Don't get us wrong: we like the LG G4. If this were the only phone we used for the next year, we'd still be in pretty good shape (if nothing else, we'd snap some great shots in all kinds of lighting conditions). And it does still have a microSD slot and removable battery – two things Samsung ditched this year.
But we just aren't seeing many "go buy this phone!" selling features here. Samsung upped the ante with its 2015 flagships – especially compared to rival Android phones – and the G4 cancels out too much of its own greatness to be in the same league. Close, but not quite.
Like the HTC One M9, the LG G4 is a very good phone that falls short of our hopes right when its biggest rival is soaring the highest. Apart from its screen size and quality, the G4's biggest advantage is that it runs a little cheaper than most tier-one smartphone flagships – at least when you buy at full retail. If you're grading on a (full retail) pricing curve, then it does look like a somewhat more serious contender.
The LG G4 is available now, typically retailing for US$200 on-contract and between $550-630 full retail, varying by carrier.
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