LG G4 Review – Ahead of the Curve

Overview

Building on the success of the curvy G Flex 2, LG has a killer device in the G4, delivering in spades what matters whilst retaining the niceties that delight. It is easily one of the best, if not the best, smartphone you can buy right now.

Pros

  • Bright, vivid, and razor sharp display
  • Amazing camera made better by intuitive manual mode.
  • Slim Arc Design and Leather back
  • Relative dearth of bloatware

Cons

  • Battery life needs improvement
  • Bezel is made of plastic

Introduction

The successor of the ever-popular G3 has been out for a month now and we’ve been using it ever since. In the rather long review time, we’ve managed to go to the ends of the earth (quite literally) to put the G4’s camera through its paces, and report on how it feels to actually own one.

First though, let’s have a gander at the internal specifications of LG’s new flagship.

  LG G4
Display 5.5”, 1440p (QHD) IPS LCD
Camera Back – 16 MP, f/1.8, 1/2.6” sensor, OIS, Laser Autofocus, RAW capture
Front – 8 MP, f/2.0, Gesture Shot, Front Facing Soft Light
Video Recording 2160p/4K at 30 FPS, 1080p at 60 FPS
Processor 1.8 GHz Hexa-core (6-core) Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
GPU Adreno 418
RAM 3 GB
Storage 32 GB, micro-SD expandable
Battery 3000 mAh, removable
Other Laser backing (optional), rear-placed power and volume buttons, IR Blaster, NFC, LTE

While some might balk at the usage of the Snapdragon 808, which is on-paper an inferior SoC to the Snapdragon 810, it avoids the ridiculous overheating issues that have been plaguing devices using it, such as the HTC One (M9) and Sony Xperia Z3+.

In terms of raw performance, though it cannot match out to the S810 and its GPU (the Adreno 418) falls behind even what was packaged with the Snapdragon 805 (the Adreno 420). Nevertheless, in real-world usage, performance is arguably better than the S810 which suffers from thermal throttling, and there is only a slight gap between the Adreno 418 and 420.

Design and Build Quality

While the bezels have gotten thicker over the G3 which in turn had thicker bezels than the G2, this flagship is the best designed phone around that has a removable battery. Two things immediately stand out.

First, LG’s trademark button placement at the back. To non-LG users, this often leaves people befuddled over how to operate the phone (a nice security feature I must add). However, I posit that this is the best place the power button can be. It does not get in the way of bezels, and is always accessible. Using any other button configuration after this just feels quixotic and strange. In the G4, the power button is more pronounced than before, a much welcome design addition.

Second, the leather. While the phone is still made entirely of plastic, the addition of leather immediately gives the phone a premium feel. I was sceptical that the extra $50 (depending on the plan) was worth it. However, the “vegetable-tanned full-grain leather” does feel as good to the touch as a Louis Vuitton bag (and I’m only slightly exaggerating) and I was so in love with it that I refused to swap it out for the provided QuickCircle case. I only wish LG would have completed the premium feel with a full metal construction as Samsung’s and HTC’s options certainly feel more sturdy. The faux stainless steel bezel on the G4 soon reveals its lack of lustre.

org_dsc00096

 

However, I have durability concerns over how the leather ages. While seasoned leather is more valuable, people’s hands are not usually regularly sanitized, and the leather back has blackened noticeably though not significantly in my one month with it. Also, when using the phone in areas where moisture is high, mould sometimes forms. This only happened to me once. However, I got a rude shock. Thankfully, this went away after one or two hours but for a premium smartphone, LG must definitely address this as it is no fault of users. Such is the drawback of an organic material.

Display

The G3 was the first smartphone from the ‘big four’ to have a Quad-HD (QHD) resolution. Today, the debate over its necessity has not yielded but it is standard fare on the Korean phones and I think we are better off for it. The difference is definitely noticeable.

Thankfully, the G4 doesn’t ditch the G3’s super high resolution. This time it does not suffer from any oversharpening, text is extremely crisp, colours are extremely vibrant, and saturation is controlled. It is clear that in following the Hollywood DCI standard, reds can be quite overblown, however it is still a far more colour accurate panel than previously, and certainly better in reproduction than an AMOLED panel. That tech will inherently be brighter and have a more dynamic colour range,  so its really to each his own here.

ORG_DSC00100

Personally, I found more to like in the G4’s than even the S6’s. I cannot overemphasize how big this accomplishment is as the S6 had just shattered all records of smartphone screens a few months ago.

Handling

At 5.5 inches, the G4 is at the sweet spot between phone and phablet territory. There were times I found myself wanting a slightly bigger screen, but I opine that it is currently the best compromise between bulk and screen real estate. The G4’s bezels are thin and barely obtrusive but noticeably fatter than the G3’s, and in turn the G2’s, which is a small price to pay but I can’t help but feel the engineers could have thinned them further. The G5 should certainly trend the other direction.

Closer inspection of the G4 will reveal a slim arc design. Taking inspiration from the G Flex 2, the phone is slightly curved even though the panel is flat. It’s a neat trick that compensates for its bulk to create a neat package exceedingly comfortable to hold in the hands. Thanks to leather, the grip on the phone is also exceptional and I feel this is the only phone you could confidently carry around without a case (nonetheless, one is included in the generous early purchase package).

Battery

ORG_DSC00103

At the same capacity as the G3, 3000mAh, I was concerned over the G4’s battery performance since my G3 started dying significantly sooner after the Lollipop update. Surprisingly, LG did some magic to the G4’s panel to cut down its battery use, and trimmed the OS sufficiently to improve the battery life. At moderate use, the G4 lasts an entire day. However, any high usage will require an extra battery, which you can thankfully change to on the fly. This has so far been one of the G4’s best features, made better by the fact that in Singapore, a spare battery is included with a brand new purchase (while stocks last). I no longer have any worries about battery juice running out. And that’s amazing.

Also, despite initial concerns, the LG G4 does indeed support Qualcomm QuickCharging 2.0, which is noticeably faster but requires a special fast charger. One does not come included in the box but I opine it is unnecessary as swapping batteries means 0 to 100% in seconds!

Performance

The performance with the G4 was to be honest rather hit or miss. The Snapdragon 808 processor is a hexa-core processor, which sounds like a lot. And it is. These days, phones have phenomenal processing power and any quibbles with performance is really just nit-picking.

However, this is a 2015 flagship. When compared against the Snapdragon 810 which features in the HTC M9, performance is noticeably lacking. While rendering is mostly smooth and Lollipop looks great at 60 FPS, doing anything more taxing wreaks absolute havoc on the phone. When multitasking 5 apps or more, the phone struggles to do any. Glitches and stutters are not rare, though far more stable than the G3.

I am not sure this is worth any potential savings on overheating for the mere fact that I never felt the M9 to be unbearably quick to toast.

This being said, potential buyers need not be so wary for I suspect the processor package is not to blame. In my earlier days of using the phone, I barely filled my external microSD card with any content and the phone performed as lag-free as any other flagship I’ve held. However, using a full microSD card seems to severely impact performance. This is a drawback of relying on external storage, but is a trade-off I am willing to make.

Camera

The G4’s camera on the other hand is absolutely phenomenal. One would expect that, with a specs list that reads like a photographer’s dream list. A nice, bright, and wide f/1.8 aperture, a large 1/2.6” 16MP sensor, a Colour Spectrum sensor (which magically gets colours right), and rapid fire laser Auto Focus. Basically by using a bunch of technical wizadry and seeing both in the visible and infrared light spectrum, it is supposed to get white balance spot on, focus fast, and take great photos.

The inclusion of double tap “Volume Down” to take a picture in less than a second works almost just as well as Samsung’s double tap “Home” to shoot in the S6. However, it stops working when you are listening to a song and can be irritating because you’re so used to hitting that button combi for a quick shot

The real icing on the cake here is the manual mode. While not strictly the first of its kind, LG handles live preview of settings changes extremely well. Moreover, the optimization is very good such that manual changes make taking photos in any lighting conditions quick, easy, and intuitive.

The photos below speak for themselves.All of these photos were unedited. Where manual mode was used, it was only at night to reduce noise in which it does an absolutely great job.

(RAW images are still being processed. These are all JPEGs)

20150610_105221
f/1.8 in action
20150610_122050
Very good colours
20150610_172104
This Camera is a star
20150610_195617
Tricky Lighting Scenario, and the G4 performs well with little noise.
OIS comes incredibly handy at night - this shot was taken with a 2s exposure and ISO 50
OIS comes incredibly handy at night – this shot was taken with a 2s exposure and ISO 50
20150611_113117
Freshness Retained!

20150611_121231

The Front Camera is no slouch too. With a massive 8.0 Megapixel count and an f/2.2 aperture, selfies have never looked better. I am pleased to say that Gesture Shot (closing your fist to trigger a picture) works even better

20150610_112724
The Reviewer says Hi!

Video quality is stunning as well, no doubt aided by optical image stabilization in 3-axes (vertical, horizontal, and lateral). No other phone in the world has this. And we’d be pleased to show it to you as soon as our Youtube videos upload (Stay Tuned…)

Conclusion

Despite some of its flaws, notably in the high ranges of performance, the G4 is in my opinion the best phone around on the Android market, which is why I personally own it. It matches the S6 blow for blow in the features that matter (Display and Battery) while totally pushing the envelope in camera technology. No other phone is as good in low light. Not the S6, nor the perennial shutterbug favourite, Z3+. Additionally, the presence of expandable storage and removable battery push the G4 completely ahead of its sealed body rivals.

Did those at least reign the ambit of design? Not really, the leather on the G4 is an interesting as well as rewarding choice, giving unparalled grip and visual pizzazz. Just remember to take good care of it. (Read: Use leather conditioner and stick to dry areas).

With this curvy wonder, the G4 is definitely ahead of the curve.

This review was done with the reviewer’s personal LG G4, not a review unit. The LG G4 is available now at all major telcos which are still offering the freebies mentioned in this review (while stocks last).

Leave a Reply