LG G3 Hands-on: Stepping Out of Samsung’s Shadow

Here’s a good way to stand out against the juggernaut that is the Samsung Galaxy S5.  The new LG G3 packs a larger and sharper QHD display in a design that’s just as narrow as Samsung’s flagship. LG’s follow up to the G2 also includes a slick Laser Auto Focus Camera and a more streamlined interface. Add to that a more premium metallic look and feel and the G3, which is headed to all four major U.S. carriers this summer, should give both the S5 and the HTC One M8 a run for their money.

We spent some hands-on time with LG’s latest flagship device following its unveiling and were impressed with what it has to offer.

MORE: LG G3 vs. Galaxy S5 vs. HTC One M8: How It Compares

QHD Display

First things first: the G3′s display is gorgeous. With a pixel density of 480 pixels per inch, images and videos viewed on the handset’s 5.5-inch screen looked absolutely stunning. Details, such as the buds on a flower, were easily visible, as were the individual strands of a feather. That said, the G3′s screen didn’t look as bright when placed next to Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8. (Stay tuned for full test results.)

Though beautiful, the G3′s QHD display has a rather large handicap: a lack of content. The vast majority of today’s movies and shows top out at 1080p. That means G3 users will have to settle for watching movies at the same resolution as any other leading smartphone. What’s more, Android apps don’t yet run at 2560 x 1440, either. Fortunately, you’ll be able to view photos and videos you record at quad HD, and there is some YouTube content available at higher resolutions.

Design

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The G3 sports a sleeker, more modern design than the G2. The G3 owes its stylish new look to the metallic skin coating its removable rear panel. This coating gives the G3 a more premium feel than the all-plastic Samsung Galaxy S5. That said, the HTC One M8′s all-aluminum body is still the standard bearer for Android smartphone design.

Measuring 5.8 x 2.9 x 0.36 inches and weighing 5.3 ounces, the G3 slots in between the S5 and the One M8 in terms of both size and weight. Samsung’s 5.1-inch, plastic S5 measures 5.3 x 2.9 x 0.25 inches and weighs just 5.1 ounces, while HTC’s 5.1-inch, all-metal One M8 comes in at 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.37 inches and a hefty 5.6 ounces.

MORE: The Biggest Smartphones in the World

Laser Auto Focus Camera

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LG is placing a heavy emphasis on its improved 13-megapixel rear shooter with Laser Auto Focus. The feature, which sounds more like a sci-fi weapon, lets users fire off photos in an instant without having to wait for the camera to focus on an object. LG illustrated this point by placing the G3 next to a disguised Galaxy S5 and repeatedly forcing their cameras to refocus on some fruit. Unlike the S5, which took a few moments to adjust its focus on the fruit, the G3 quickly focused and was ready to fire almost immediately.

In addition to its Laser Auto Focus function, the G3′s camera features Optical Image Stabilizer Plus, which helps reduce image shake when the camera is moving too much. LG has also given its front camera some love, adding gesture recognition to the shooter, which lets users clench their fists to start an automatic three-second countdown camera. LG has improved its 2.1-megapixel camera’s image sensor and aperture, increasing the size of both t0 give users a more detailed selfie.

Interface

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It’s clear that LG has worked to improve its user interface, giving the UX a flatter, more simplified appearance. Enhancements include a new Smart Keyboard that lets you adjust the keyboard’s height in relation to the G3′s display. You can also customize individual keys with your most frequently used symbols to help speed up your typing. Strangely, you can’t adjust the Smart Keyboard’s height while typing. Instead, you have to go into the keyboard settings menu to make any changes.

LG’s new Smart Notice feature provides suggestions and recommendations based on your usage patterns and location.  For example, the app will alert you if you need to bring an umbrella to work, rather than just giving you the day’s forecast. The app can also tell you to call back a contact if you previously dismissed their call or delete unused files to help save storage space on your handset. It’s still too early to tell if Smart Notice will prove more useful than Google Now, but the feature looks promising.

MORE: 10 Smartphones with the Longest Battery Life

Battery Life

Larger, higher resolution screens usually spell trouble for smartphone batteries. After all, the more pixels you’re trying to push, the harder the handset has to work. But LG is hoping to offset any performance impact caused by the G3′s QHD display with its new 3,000 mAh battery. Unlike standard smartphone batteries, which use metal in their cathodes, the G3′s power pack uses graphite.

Toss in LG’s new adaptive frame rate technology for video content, adaptive timing control and adaptive clocking through CPU optimization, and the company claims the G3 will offer a 20 percent improvement in power efficiency versus the G2. The G2 was one of the longest lasting smartphones on the market, as the T-Mobile version clocked in at 13 hours and 44 minutes on our Laptop Mag Battery Test. The G3 may make you forget what your power charger looks like.

QuickCircle Case

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One of the first accessories for the G3 is LG’s new QuickCircle Case. Similar to the Galaxy S5′s S-View Flip Case, the QuickCircle Case gives you a small window through which the G3 displays certain apps. You can view your most recent calls and text messages; take photos using the Camera app; use the pedometer; control your music and more. It’s a nifty accessory that not only protects your device, but adds an extra layer of functionality.

Outlook

The LG G3 has the look and feel of a winner, but it has some steep competition in the S5 and One M8. Its QHD display is absolutely gorgeous, but we’d like to see more content to take advantage of it. We also like the laser autofocus camera feature and more intuitive software. If the G3 lasts as long or longer than the G2, it could be the new endurance champ. We’ll have to hold off until our full review before we pass judgement on this handset, but it’s clear that LG is stepping out from Samsung’s very large shadow.

AUTHOR BIO
Daniel P. Howley
Daniel P. Howley
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining Laptopmag.com. He also served as a news editor with ALM Media’s Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
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