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LG G3 hands-on review: The best Android smartphone of 2014?

MobileReviews
by Alysia Judge
, 27 May 2014Reviews
LG G3 hands-on review: The best Android smartphone of 2014?

It's hard not to approach the brand new LG G3 smartphone with a sense of déjà vu. The run up to the launch of the Korean company's latest flagship has been leakier than Edward Snowden paddling up the Thames in a colander row boat, so one cannot help but handle the handset with a feeling of familiarity. 

Yet despite the premature spoiler alerts of recent weeks, the LG G3 still managed to induce a susurrus of acclamation from the journalists who had gathered to witness its launch at a packed event in London.

And no wonder. The model we got to leave fingerprints on was as beautiful in the flesh as the flashy pre-launch pictures had made us believe. Weighing in at around 150g, the LG G3 is surprisingly light and a full 10g lighter than one of its biggest rivals (both literally and figuratively), the HTC One M8

With a 5.5in screen, the LG G3 handset could easily have stretched even the largest palm to breaking point. However, the LG design team have put a lot of thought (and possibly witchcraft) into the shrinking the bezels down to a more manageable size. This means you get all the benefits of a large screen without a thick, bulky trim round the edge - indeed, it's slightly shorter than the HTC One M8, which itself has a smaller 5in screen.

Still, we did feel a little cheated when we flipped the G3 over. The marketing posters and even the event invite itself hinted at a fully metal chassis but the rear is in fact plastic.

Then again, LG hasn't completely lied - it has coated the plastic in a brushed metal-like finish that really is rather convincing. While this may fool the eyes though, the fingertips are left wanting for the same premium substance that a metal body boasts. The rear power and volume buttons made famous by the LG G2 have once again returned, and are largely to thank for the tiny bezels.

But don't now think that the plastic body makes the LG G3 feel cheap, or even like mutton dressed as lamb. On the contrary, the handset feels expensive (though we're still waiting on full pricing details to be confirmed.) Plus it pays to remember that a non-metal rear allows for nifty features like wireless charging, MicroSD support and a removable battery. This versatility places the LG G3 in immediate competition with Samsung, who for a long time has been one of the few Android smartphone manufacturers to offer both expandable storage and a removable back in its flagship phones.

But it's when you get into the nitty gritty specs that the LG G3 really starts to break away from its rivals. The LG G3 is the first smartphone to land in the UK with a QHD, 2K display. Its 5.5 inches of screen boast a crystal clear 2560 x 1440 resolution - to put that in perspective, that's the same resolution as a high-end gaming PC monitor. Throw on top a positively insane 534 ppi count and you're looking at a screen so beautiful it's a wonder that LG representatives didn't install a registry office next to the press room for love struck journalists that were staring doe-eyed at the display.

Unfortunately we only had a short time with the G3 meaning there wasn't the chance to try out watching video or playing games on the device, situations where the amped up screen would truly come into its own. The menus at least looked razor sharp, but it will take further testing before we can ascertain the full extent of the LG G3 's visual capabilities.

What's truly impressive, however, is the camera. The 13-meapixel snapper features a white/amber dual-LED flash similar to the iPhone 5S to capture colours and skin tones with greater accuracy. Not only that, the small black sensor to the left of the camera that had so many over-enthusiastic fans expecting a fingerprint scanner from leaked photos is, in fact, a laser autofocus sensor.

Using the same red laser dot technology as high-end professional cameras, this sensor ensures that the LG G3 will be able to sense depth with greatly enhanced accuracy. Consequently, we found the G3 could focus in on subjects almost instantaneously, even in low lighting conditions.

We particularly enjoyed the front-facing "selfie camera", launched by holding a hand up in front of the camera and balling your hand into a fist to take a photo. Nothing makes a technology journalist grin like gesture-control done well.

The 16GB LG G3 will launch in the UK 2GB of RAM, while the 32GB version (which won't be available for a little while) will have 3GB of RAM. There had been whispers of an Octa-core processor but LG has opted for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor instead that matches many of the G3's flagship rivals. The chip is clocked at 2.5GHz and includes an Adreno 330 GPU - which makes it all the more surprising that in our hands on some of the apps were a bit laggy to load. 

For example, the phone book took a full 1.3 seconds to load up. This is perhaps because the LG G3 may have the same powerful processor as its rivals, but it has a lot more pixels to push meaning things don't run quite as smoothly. Again, we didn't get to put the smartphone through its paces with complex apps, but if just scrolling from messages to emails to the camera causes stutters and delays, it doesn't bode well for more difficult processing.

Other than that, browsing through the LG G3 is a very pleasant experience. The redesigned UI reflects the "simple is the new smart" catchphrase dominating the launch. Simpler, flatter and classier, the new rounded icons and gorgeous wallpapers all add to the device's expensive feel, without being ostentatious or flashy. LG also claims to have reduced bloatware by 30 per cent, meaning you have about 12GB of useable internal memory left to play with.

We also found a model wearing the stunning QuickCircle case specially designed for the LG G3. The satin smooth material gave the same glossy finish as the metallic design of the handset, while the circular cut out allowed for a classy throwback to the traditional clock face. Compared to other functional yet unsightly smart covers on the market, the LG G3 case seems to pack both performance and aesthetics to be proud of.

So overall we were deeply impressed by the LG G3 - indeed, we actually ignored the complementary tea stand for a record-breaking 20 minutes to leave fingerprint marks all over its beautifully engineered screen. Our only reservations are the lag and worries over how its 3000mAh battery will keep up with all those pixels - but we'll be answering those questions in the coming weeks in our full review feature.

At first glance though the LG G3 is a smartphone that could easily shape up to be the must-have phone of 2014. On second glance, well, there wasn't one - we never tore our eyes away from it in the first place.

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