While the enthusiast segment is no stranger to LG smartphones, for the most part LG hasn’t received nearly the amount of attention that Samsung has. At first, it doesn’t make much sense. After all, LG is almost as big as Samsung. Both are chaebols, with enormous resources and power that few other companies have. Starting from the Optimus G, it seems that LG has shipped some of the best hardware in the industry, leveraging all the branches of the company from LG Innotek to LG Display to make a product that was easily equal to or better than the competition at the time.

One of the real issues that LG faced was a credibility gap. After the Optimus 2X and 4X HD, LG simply lacked credibility amongst the enthusiast audience. Without this audience and without the marketing push that other OEMs had, LG phones simply didn’t sell. Fortunately, things have gotten better since those days. The G2 brought significant attention to LG phones, and if anything, LG has been the sleeping giant in the industry. LG’s displays have been some of the best in the industry, and as an Android OEM they’ve consistently executed well on hardware. The immense popularity of the LG-made Nexus 4 and 5, even amongst mainstream consumers is surprising, especially because they were supposed to be developer devices.

Hardware

This leads us to the LG G3, which is now available in Korea and ready to be sold internationally. LG now faces the difficult task of succeeding the G2, one of the best phones of 2013. To find out whether they’ve made a worthy successor, we start with industrial and material design. When you first pick up the G3, it’s obvious that LG wanted to make a phone with the look and feel of brushed aluminum. To this end, LG has definitely done a good job. Although the polycarbonate back feels much warmer in the hand, the texture is good, and in practice even after extended use I never felt like the phone was grimy. It’s good to see that most of these OEMs are moving away from glossy finishes. The back cover is also removable, which allows for a removable battery and microSD slot. The front of the display is almost unchanged from last year, with extremely small bezels all around to reduce wasted space. The one change to the front of the phone is a band of color around the bottom that matches the color of the back.

Around the sides, the port layout remains nearly identical. The top has the IR Tx/Rx ports, the bottom has the 3.5mm jack and a microUSB port in the USB 2.0 shape. LG has also added a beveled edge from the display to the sides, which emphasizes the curved nature of the back. On the back of the phone, one can see the camera with the IR rangefinder and LED flash to the sides. The volume and power buttons are directly below the camera. The volume rocker is relatively flat compared to the protruding power button, which also has a noticeably different texture to distinguish the two from each other. The single, 1W speaker is towards the bottom.

Outside of these basic button and port placements, the hardware itself is high-end. The key differentiation points in this case are the camera system, QHD display, and the high-power speaker. I’ve put the rest of the basic specs in the table below.

  LG G3
SoC MSM8974AC 2.45 GHz Snapdragon 801
RAM/NAND 3 GB LPDDR3, 32GB NAND + microSD
Display 5.5” 1440p IPS LCD
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm, 149 grams
Camera 13MP rear camera, 1.12 µm pixels, 1/3.06" CMOS size, F/2.4. 2.1MP F/2.0 FFC
Battery 3000 mAh (11.4 Whr)
OS Android 4.4.2 with LG UI
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM

While the spec sheet gives an idea of what to expect from the G3’s size, it’s surprisingly small for a 5.5” display size device. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the G3 easy to use with one hand. While using the One (M8) and Galaxy S5 with one hand is uncomfortable, the G3 is almost impossible to use with one hand. Trying to tap something on the left side of the phone when using it with the right hand is difficult, and trying to reach for something on the top left of the display is almost impossible. While the division between phone and phablet is relatively clear in my mind, the G3 is in the line between both. I don’t object to the phablet formfactor, but this is supposed to be a phone, not a phablet. In addition, because the G3 has such thin bezels, it's very easy to accidentally activate the touch panel unintentionally while trying to stretch for one area of the display.

Other than the size, I definitely like what LG has done here. The design of the phone is understated and classy, even if it’s a bit off-putting that LG is trying to make plastic feel like metal. The back buttons are a non-issue, even without KnockOn/Off and KnockCode, and the curved back is great for ergonomics. However, I question the wisdom of moving to a removable battery/back cover in this case, as it means that there’s no stacked battery that we saw in the LG G2 and reduces volumetric efficiency. LG has included a curved battery in the G3, although in practice the curve isn't as aggressive as the one we've seen on the G2.

Display
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  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    Basically, the screen is stupid, costs more, wastes battery, slows down performance, heats it up so it throttles more, and isn't actually noticeably different compared to 1920×1080 at viewing distance.

    Yeah, so predictable. LG is doing the worst kind of spec-sheet oneupmanship.
    Reply
  • Homeles - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    I picked up a G2 last year, and was a bit frustrated that the G3 came out so quickly. Looks like I'm not missing out. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    Yeah, the G2 is a fine device, and I'd choose the better battery life. Reply
  • mahalie - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    The G3 has significantly better battery life than the G2. You can complain that the screen is unnecessary all you want, but the phone performs wells and has great battery life, so what's the issue? Reply
  • fokka - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    the g3 beat the g2 in one test here, what numbers are you referring to?

    the issue, as i see it, is that the 1440p display adds cost, decreases performance, battery life and screen brightness, not to mention overall screen quality, compared to using a good 1080p display, all while adding very little in regards to usability and visual advantages.

    many people, me included, think that LG should have gone with a "good ol'" 1080p display in this generation and improved upon the great battery life that the g2 offered, instead of using a 1440p screen with borderline useful benefits mainly for bragging rights.

    of course not everybody agrees with this stance, but it seems to be the one main complaint about this otherwise mighty fine piece of technology.

    and you are right, the g3 (still) performs well and (still) has great battery life, but with a more reasonable 1080p display those points could have improved even more. that's all i (!) am saying.
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    You may be right about the screen. Looks like some trade-offs were made, but it's still a good phone that stacks up well against it's competitors. It's still a good 5.5 inch phone that is basically the same size as an S5 or One M8. That and I cant remember the last time I had any phone on 100% brightness. I have a G2 now and keep it as 66%. In rare cases I move it up to 70%. 75% is simply too bright to look at. Reply
  • flatrock - Tuesday, July 08, 2014 - link

    I just checked the brightness on my G2. It's at 41% and is plenty bright for indoor viewing at that level. I might put it up to 75% while using it outdoors such as at my son's soccer game. Unless the sun is shining directly on the screen, 100% is overkill. In a dark rooms I set the brightness somewhere in the teens. Reply
  • upatnite2 - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    Same thoughts! I can deal with the battery life, but brightness and contrast are major issues. We're seeing at least a few reviews that mention "dim", which isn't a good sign, and I'm starting to wonder about performance after it heats.
    If they put in the same display as last year, LG would sell tons more, and myself included.
    Now, I have to wait to see if the S805 vsn comes to the states and if it's any better, wait for the N6, or get a used G2..
    Reply
  • HotInEER - Monday, July 07, 2014 - link

    I agree. 3 things are keeping me from trading in my HTC One M8 for this. The brightness, contrast, and lack of built in wireless charging. I don't want a flip case for that feature. Can't stand them, and sure in the heck are not paying $60 for a stupid case for that. I'd consider buying a additional back for wireless charging, however I've read on numerous sites that the US models do not have the pins. Reply
  • akdj - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    "...and sure in the heck are not paying $60 for a stupid case for that."
    That made me laugh. You're unwilling to throw down $60 on a case while 'considering' dropping/dumping or upgrading from one of today's 'Flagship' phones! Thanks though for the Sunday chuckle but WOW. Color me silly, but that's a helluva 'first world' challenge you've got going there! Anand posted an(other) excellent, well written review. Another flagship handset. Innovative display and yep...as so many others before you have mentioned... All at the expense of a bit of brightness (typically a 'non issue' as we use our phones most often indoors, and outdoors the measurements are still just 'fine' for usage & snapshots), wireless charging? Really, you're basing your purchase decision on an unproven, completely niche and rare...without common specification technology? I own a Note 3 & an iPhone 5s. The former, solely for my business. The latter, my personal phone. I love them both and honestly feel like we've hit that 'plateau' in performance. Almost a year in, I'm wondering if I'll even take advantage of the NEXT deal at AT&T. They're both still fast as hell, no way I'd notice any differences between those and today's offerings (iPhone TBD, obviously) from Android. While Sammy has improved its AMOLED technology in the S5 even more than the S4-->Note 3, I've used both and honestly, even as an almost three decade professional audio and video production company business owner and operator, the differences to me were hardly distinguishable. They've come a LONG way with AMOLED in comparison to the long time king of displays, the LCD, to the extent in many (possibly more than) measurements, it's taken over as the 'better' technology. Longevity? We're yet to see, but without Samsung innovating their technology, and listening to the detractors...or paying attention to reviews, numbers and measurements each generation, they'd have 'pulled out'. You've got a damn sweet phone NOW. There's not a single phone available today that's going to 'better' your M8 if you bought it knowing its strengths, and more importantly it's limitations. If you're looking for the all around 'best' camera, you made the wrong choice. If you take few photos or primarily shoot in low light situations ...you made the right choice. Hard to bitch about HTC's UI. It's excellent! While I'm one of the very few that actually 'like' T/W, you're probably best taking my GUI opinion with a grain of salt but other than your issue with contrast (valid complaint, IMHO as a 'visual geek'), I know I took a long time to get to the point, so ....
    Tl/Dr, that's silly. Don't even THINK about replacing your M8 today. Unless you're A) still within the 'return period' and/or
    B) not happy with the phone for some reason (why did you buy it? It's a bad ass hand set! Don't 'chase' specs, the genesis of technologies or 'absolutes' when it comes to a 'smartphone' --- in the end, you'll be underwhelmed, disappointed and you'll lose money EVERY time you do something so 'silly')
    Ultimately today's smartphone market is awesome. With over two million apps between iOS and Android, Windows making their own moves (& certainly, while late to the game with the SP3, ousting of Balmer, and it's iOS MS Office suite 1.0 release...Win 365 subscription family package @ $10/month for five tabs and five computers and five users, EACH with a TB of their own storage accessible via OneNote from anywhere, anytime, GRAND SLAM! Go to Best Buy and save $40 for the year, about every other week they've got the bundle on sale...& it's completely 'cross platform' with an Android full release imminent, I'm an OSx user primarily but also own a pair of Windows machines. As well, being a Note 3 user, I'm very excited to see where MS is going...)
    Yep. LG took a leap at this resolution. But they're one of very few display manufacturers. Most OEMs use Samsung, LG, or Sharp displays. Makes sense to me at least they'd be the ones aiming for the 'ultimate' resolution for human visual acuity. Is THIS the version to buy? If you're an original LG 'g1' owner, maybe switching out of an S3 contract, or not exactly crazy any longer with iOS and considering upgrading a 4s or iPhone 5 that you purchased almost two years ago, ABSOLUTELY! If you're an owner of a 2013 flagship, either iOS or Android, from those measurements (other than PPI/display technology and size preference), it's very obvious 2014 to this point had been 'iterative' with refinements to UIs (Samsung has definitely worked in TouchWiz instead of adding 'more' they've refined existing features, ala S-Pen/features and it's recognition when the pen is out ... Better overall ability to 'control' the OEM's pre-installed software (carrier bloat, different story but ubiquitous regardless of Android choice) -- point being they've succeeded with UI improvements and that's a BIG end user 'upgrade' IMHO. While the UI needs a refresh, a launcher of choice is a simple and cheap addition. The A7 hit Qualcomm like a ton of bricks. While indeed Apple is still a ways away from utilizing its full power due to RAM, the A8 instruction set, new memory management and the 7.1 'update' were HUGE. Obviously still keeping computational pace with significantly 'faster' clock speeds on half the cores with half the memory. As well - the dated IT graphics solution Apple used on the A7 will certainly be updated on the A8. Qualcomm will be ready with 64bit SOCs next year, or late this year. I guess my question would be 'why' HTC, Samsung, and LG aren't using the faster 805/420s today? Sorry to ramble but ultimately, I'm extremely excited to see this type of evolutionary improvement from one of today's largest display manufacturers. I'm glad to see the transition from '3D' to HiDPI from the 2011/12/13 CES shows to the '4K' and HiDPI displays shown off this past January in Vegas, and actually 'affordable' 1.0 releases @ Best Buy half way through '14. IMHO, display resolution rules the roost. With resolution, comes ALL the primary factors that make ANY resolution 'good' vs 'great". Attributes that come FAR before resolution updates, you're correct ...kind of. Brightness while important, especially in a cell phone is pretty important. Though as you can plainly see, it's still 'good' and easily visible outdoors. Contrast = Huge. Color and gamut/calibration as well as grey scale, gamma, display technology used, viewing angles, saturation and 'response time'. If you're gaming, you're looking for fast refresh rates, you'd hate my new Eizo. Soooo many factors that go into a good display and they're each (OEMs) beginning to 'get it'. Pre sale calibration. Options for, albeit limited post purchase calibration (TouchWiz and the display adaption option). Pushing barriers is good. My dream is to have 4k displays and a delivery system for the content in place by 2020. HiDPI displays are ubiquitous on computing displays. (Hard to explain my passion and 're' invigoration for using my computer, my laptop ...daily, since purchasing my first rMBP in 2012. We've now got seven, five for the business, two personal 15" 2013 rockets! PCIe TB storage that is faster than anything I've used in my life, a display that blows my mind EVERY time I turn it 'on' ...its I/O options, TB2 has become a GodSend for us, as have the new docks and the ability to literally turn it into a 'desktop' workstation (- the Xeon procs and enterprise RAM, you'd never know. It's truly THAT fast!)). I could go on and on but I guess I'm blown away by the 'reasons' some folks come up with to not replace their five month old bad ass pocket computer. Nor do I understand the backlash from our 'geek' community against LG for pushing the barriers AND using scientific reasoning to explain human visual acuity, how much density is 'truly' necessary to be indistinguishable from the sharpest photo, the finest print (especially for many traditional Asian writing/text/characters and alphabets)... Or and while I so hate the cliche itself; "Like looking through a window" ...IOW, his explanation was pertaining to the ability to 'see' in a display the 'same' visually your eye would see in a 'real world' scenario.
    Again, all my opinion. Yours is different, I respect that. But I don't respect spec chasing, bullshit reasons to upgrade every three months to chase specs and bragging rights. That's dumb. It's not what you make, it's what you save. From your comment, I'm assuming your young (ya know what they say about assumption though). If I'm wrong, I'm sorry. If I'm correct, the difference in you saving that extra three to six hundred a year you're dropping on cell phones when you're 30, 40, 50...65 and ready to retire, is HUGE! Say you're 25. Without interest, that's $12-$24,000. With that cash each year and another $150/month stashed away starting at 20 instead of thirty in a fund that nets you an 8% average yearly increase (over 40 years) is 3.9 million @20 vs 2.2 million at 30 years old. At 40, you'll be lucky to hit a million. Figure out today what tomorrows 'Apple' stock will be and throw all that out the window. Buy all ya can and sell in a decade. You and the next six generations of your family won't have to work ;)
    Reply

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