Until recently Korean tech firm LG was at best a minor player in the top-end western smartphone market. This was a shame as many of LG's Korea-only smartphones were full of innovative software and hardware solutions.
Because of this we were delighted last year when LG finally decided to bring some of its best hardware to our side of the pond, releasing its 2013 flagship Android smartphone the G2. Featuring, at the time, top-end internal components and an innovative design that placed the phone's physical home and volume buttons on the handset's back, the G2 was one of 2013's most interesting smartphones.
One year on LG has returned to the smartphone battlefield, releasing a new upgraded G3 flagship it hopes will solidify its place as a key player in the top-end European smartphone market. But with more established firms – including its local rival Samsung – having already released their own wave of top-end handsets, it's clear the G3's got some pretty stiff competition to deal with.
Design and build
Visually the G3 is fairly similar to its predecessor the G2 and features a removable polycarbonate, faux-metal backplate that wraps round its metal sides. The G3 also retains the same rear button placement as the G2, placing the phone's volume and power controls on its back.
While this may sound odd, with most smartphones placing the controls on either the handset's top or right-hand sides, we found the G3's configuration is a serious bonus. LG has been very canny with the G3's design and has placed the buttons directly where our index finger naturally sits when holding the phone with one hand. The intelligent placement means, despite being larger than the average smartphone, measuring in at a sizeable 146x75x8.9mm, the G3 is still comfortable to use one handed.
We were also very impressed with the G3's build quality. Unlike many smartphones with removable backplates, the G3 feels solidly built. Pressing down on the backplate with our thumbs the G3's plate offered no give – unlike other handsets with similar designs, such as the Samsung Galaxy models. Drop-testing the phone we also found the G3's plate is solidly connected to the rest of the device and never once snapped off or unclipped. The G3 is fairly scratch and dirt resistant, and survived its encounter with a wooden floor unscathed.
The one consequence of the G3's robust design is that its backplate is significantly thicker than those seen on competing devices, such as the Galaxy S5. The plate's thickness is likely a big reason the G3 is slightly heavier than average smartphones, weighing 149g. However, while this is heavier than many other devices in the same size bracket, it's still far from back-breaking and we never once found the G3 felt unwieldy in hand.
LG listed the G3's 5.5in, 1440x2560, 534ppi True HD-IPS+ (in-plane switching) LCD capacitive touchscreen as a key selling point, claiming it is the first smartphone in the world to break the 500ppi count. LG claims to have increased the G3's screen's pixel-per-inch count past the 500 mark by reducing the size of displayed pixels by 40 percent, making it the crispest and most vibrant display currently available.
LG's focus on increasing the G3's ppi count is interesting as in the past some people have questioned whether the human eye can actually spot differences in quality past 300ppi – Apple founder Steve Jobs famously claimed it couldn't when unveiling the firm's Retina display tech.
There is some truth to LG's claim. The G3's display is one of the sharpest we've ever used and is one of the only phones we've ever experienced where displayed text is sharp enough to read websites in desktop mode and full-sized Word documents without squinting or having to zoom in. The G3 also features great brightness levels and wonderfully wide viewing angles.
Thanks to the use of True HD-IPS technology colours displayed on the G3 look rich and lively. The IPS technology works to make colours and whites look richer and more vibrant by organising liquid crystals on a fixed plate that's charged at a consistent rate. The one negative consequence of this is that, despite LG's claims to the contrary, the display does put a heavy drain on the G3's battery, but more on this later.
Putting aside battery issues for now, when it comes to quality the combination of advanced LG screen technologies make the G3's display the best we've experienced on any smartphone.
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