The LG G4 — the third Android flagship of 2015 — is here and LG believes it’s their best yet. It combines all that they’ve learned from the G2, G3 and the G Flex series. Welcome to the LG G4 review, right here on PhoneDog.
So what is the LG G4? It’s a mixture of a G3 and the G Flex 2. It holds on to the same design philosophy that was used in the LG G2 and the G3, but also brings some practicality from the G Flex line. And what you get is a phone that is slightly curved and packs the latest and greatest in hardware.
Design-wise, the G4 has grown a few millimeters over its predecessor. It’s roughly the same thickness as the LG G3, but it's slightly taller and has a sharper corner. LG ditched the full metal paint job of the G3 in favor for a diamond quilt pattern on the plastic back. But if you’re a big fashion starter, you can opt for a G4 covered in authentic leather, which can come in several colors, including this brown. Both versions of the G4 feel much more premium than plastic-covered LG G3.
On the front of the G4, you will notice a slightly curved display. LG has adopted the curve for a more durable build that will take more stress over the flat body that its competitors use, and it can feel more comfortable in a pocket. The G4 uses the same 5.5-inch size and also the same resolution of 2560 x 1440 as the G3, but the G4 uses an IPS technology with LG's Quantum pixel technology. So what we’re looking at here is a 5.5-inch Quad HD Quantum IPS display, which promises more true to life colors since it has the ability to attract more color on the color gamma.
LG’s main goal with the G4's display is to match the parameter set by movie studios and TV studios for a perfect color balance, and the result is a display that provides excellent color reproduction, deep blacks, and great viewing angles. But when compared to the Galaxy S6 or the Note 4, it looks less colorful and has blacks that aren’t quite as dark as an AMOLED panel since it can't simply turn off that pixel. Overall, though, the G4's display is one of the best I’ve seen this year.
Now to the internals. The G4 packs new Snapdragon 808 processor that carries six total cores: a quad-core chip that's rated at 1.44GHz and a dual-core chip that is rated at 1.82GHz. It’s an interesting setup since all other flagships that've been announced this year have opted for octa-core configurations. On the GPU side of things, we’ll find another odd inclusion: the Adreno 418 processor. Lastly, the G4 includes 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a microSD slot.
Moving to the back of the G4, we find another interesting feature. In typical LG fashion, the G4 features a rear button setup. The shape is more rectangular than the ellipse found on the back of the G3, and LG has implemented a nice ridge to define the lock button in between the volume rockers. Above that is a new 16MP camera with completely new optics. Sensor-wise, it’s a new 1/2.6-inch sensor that is rated at 16 megapixels, and the optics have been improved in the way of aperture. LG said at their keynote that small sensors need as much light as they can have, so they decided to add an aperture opening of f/1.8, which is wider than the f/2.2 aperture found on the HTC One M9 and the f/1.9 aperture on the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge. We’ll see how the G4 camera performs a little later on in this video.
Now let’s dive into the software. The LG G4 comes out of the box with Android 5.1 Lollipop and LG’s UX 4.0 skin. This is basically an iteration of the skin we saw on the LG G Flex 2. One thing I’m enjoying on the G4 are more Android design elements and less lag. My biggest complaint on last year's G3 was the glorious startup lag that resulted from all the widgets on its home screen. Now the G4 has none of that. The whole OS runs really smoothly throughout and the menus are more organized, but I’m still not too fond of all the icons and all the weird colors that LG's UI has. It works, though, and you can change most of that anyway.
Another feature that I’m not too fond of is Smart Bulletin, which is a spin-off HTC’s BlinkFeed and Samsung’s Flipboard feed. Thankfully, you can also disable that by removing the page. Overall, the G4's software is much more refined from the G3, and it’s completely usable on a day-to-day basis. Little things like Knock Code and Double Tap to Wake features return in LG UX 4.0 and are still great. The G4's software performance is also very impressive. Even with its odd choice of processor, the G4 delivers great performance on virtually everything you can do on your smartphone, including browsing the web and going through multiple applications.
We weren't able to run any benchmarking apps on the G4 due to software restrictions on our review models, but as we tend to say in our reviews, benchmarks are pretty pointless. And as long as your daily routine can go on a hitch, the phone is a great performer.
One test that I like to do on phones with Quad HD panels is to play 1440p YouTube videos in full resolution to try and stress the CPU and GPU. The G4 handled it like a champ, but we can’t say we love the speakers. They are good, but the reigning sound champ is still the HTC One M9.
Moving over to the camera, the LG G4 is equipped with a 16-megapixel shooter with an f/1.8 lens. And man oh man, LG has really hit the nail on the head. This year, the Galaxy S6 and the G4 are the greatest contenders when it comes to smartphone photography and videography.
The G4 captures stunning photos with plenty of dynamic range. Crisp details and minimal artifacts are all strong suits of the G4’s camera, and its ability to record good-looking 4K HD video is very strong. One thing that I’ve noticed is dynamic range in video mode isn’t as effective as photo mode, but that’s because it’s using a much smaller portion of the sensor. Optical image stabilization, also known as OIS, works wonders on the G4's camera. And while it may look a little robotic on video mode, it does stabilize the footage fairly well. However, I do wish there was an option to turn that feature off.
If you want to learn a lot more on the G4 camera, make sure to watch our LG G4 Camera Review, and also look for videos that focus on smartphone cameras —including the G4 — on the channel very shortly.
Lastly, we need to talk about the battery life. The G4 is equipped with a 3000mAh battery, which is the same size as the G3. But one advantage that the G4 has over other flagships is that its battery is removable. As for performance, there's barely any difference on battery life between the G3 and G4, which means you can expect to get around four hours of screen on time in a full day. I have managed to kill the G4's battery in less time, but that was on a day with a lot of Google Maps. I’m actually pretty impressed by the battery life on the LG G4, especially when compared to the Galaxy S6 edge and One M9. Plus, the fact that you can still change the G4's battery is one that will comfort a lot of users.
One thing that I found really interesting is that the Korean model of the G4 model had a 3000mAh battery, while the T-Mobile U.S. model has a 2900mAh battery. However, the U.S. model is a pre-production unit, so hardware may differ when its production ready.
Aall in all, the G4 is a great step in the right direction from LG. The G2 was a huge leap two years ago, the G3 was a fantastic evolution, and this year LG has begun fine-tuning of their product with the G4. That said, they’ve made enough changes and put in enough effort to make this device feel completely fresh and new.
The LG G4 is without a doubt one of the best smartphones that've come out so far in 2015. How does it rank against its competitors? In my opinion, it trumps the HTC One M9 and it’s right up there with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge. But we may have to wait for an official dogfight to formally declare a winner here at PhoneDog.