The G3 is an Android based smartphone from South Korean electronics company LG. It is the follow-up to one of the best received handsets of last year, the LG G2.
The G3 is just 8.9mm thick (the G2 was 9.1mm), although due to its 146mm x 75mm plan size it is still one of the largest phones around, with the majority of this bulk accounted for by its massive 5.5 inch screen. Where the manufacturer has done an excellent job is in keeping the surround to the screen as small as possible. The smartphone isn’t a great deal bigger than its rivals. It is slightly wider than the Sony Xperia Z2 (5.2 inch screen) and HTC One M8 (5 inch screen) but surprisingly isn’t as tall as either of them, all thanks to those tiny bezels (and the lack of front mounted speakers, which we deal with in a later review).
Although the 5.5in screen provides a fantastically large area to interact with, it is reaching the size limit at which users can comfortably reach the entire screen during one-handed use, with the top third of the display being particularly difficult to reach, even with a reasonably large sized hand. Despite this issue LG has thought about the problem and installed software features to help out. We take a detailed look at the software in a later review.
The handset weights a competitive 149g, gaining just 6g over its predecessor.
A welcome design change is the introduction of a brushed metal frame around the perimeter which separates the front and back of the handset. The rear cover is again removable and is now a metallic skinned plastic with a scratch-resistant brushed finish. It doesn’t feel as premium as the HTC M8 or Xperia Z2 but is a step up from the Galaxy S5 whilst still managing to retain access to the battery. All in the G3 strikes a good middle ground amongst its three smartphone deal rivals.
As first seen on the G2, LG has stuck with placing the physical buttons on the back of the handset, next to the camera lens. While this seems an odd location at first, it’s actually comfortable to use and soon makes a lot of sense as well as giving the benefit of no awkward side or top buttons that can be accidentally pressed.
It should be noted the unlike the Xperia Z2 and Samsung G5, the G3 is not water or dust proof. LG says it didn’t want to add size or weight in order to gain this feature. Whether the absence of an IP (Ingress Protection) rating on this smartphone is a deal breaker, only the end user can decide.
Connectivity on the G3 is strong with 4G LTE-Advanced, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC and Infrared. The phone is bundled with a nice IR app that allows control of home entertainment systems.
Unfortunately the LG sticks with USB 2 because, according to the manufacturer, the standard USB 3 port is bigger and makes the production of a slim smartphone a great deal more difficult. In should be noted that the Galaxy S5 has a USB 3 port.
LG G3 Camera
The camera technology in smartphones has increased a great deal in the last three years or so and this handset is no exception. The resolution of the main camera is 13 mega-pixels (as per the G2) albeit with a number of improvements such as a dual-LED flash, 4K resolution video recording and a new feature for smartphones, laser auto focus. This feature shoots a cone shaped beam to focus in just 276ms. In tests it works really well and certainly feels at least as fast as the Galaxy S5’s claimed 0.3s Autofocus speed.
The G3 also includes optical image-stabilisation to help keep pictures blur-free whilst a feature called ‘touch and shoot’ removes unnecessary buttons so as to free up the screen so show the actual shot being taken. The camera can be quick launched by holding the volume down button, a useful shortcut.
Having the ability to re-focus pictures post shot is something that is becoming a popular feature on a top tier smartphone. Whilst HTC has the most technically advanced solution in its Duo Camera technology, the LG G3 uses something called ‘magic focus’. Here you need to get close up to an object and then take a series of shots. Following this you can then tap anywhere or use a slider to select where you want the focus to be before saving the photo. It works reasonably well but it does require a bit more effort than rival systems. We feel that its something of a novelty due to the number of shots required and is probably one of those features, on the LG at least, that will seldom be used in practice.
The front camera (now called a ‘selfie camera’ by LG) is a 2 mega-pixel unit that can shoot video in Full HD. Some enhancements have been made to the specification of the camera to enable better low-light shots. The size of the image sensor has been increased and the lens’s f-stop has been lowered to f2.0 which allows more light to get into the sensor and therefore achieve better photos in low light conditions. It also comes with gesture control so you can lift your hand in front of the phone and make it into a fist to start a three second countdown prior to the photo being taken. Voice commands can also be used to activate the cameras.