Another week, another flagship phone claiming to be the best.
LG’s effort does pack some genuinely new tech though, including the highest-resolution screen money can buy – on these shores, anyway – and a laser-guided camera.
All of which sounds great on paper. But how does it fare in practice?
First impressions and design
You could be forgiven for thinking the G3’s body is made of metal, but it’s actually plastic. Mostly, anyway.
It’s 80% polycarbonate, with 20% metal. Full marks to LG though, as it even feels like metal to the touch.
Once you prise off the back – which you’ll have to do to take out the battery and slot in your SIM card – it’s more obviously plastic, and actually feels a little flimsy. So best not do so if you’re showing off your new phone to friends.
It’s nowhere near the premium feel of the HTC One M8 or iPhone 5S. But it’s a damn sight more luxurious than the Samsung Galaxy S5.
The LG G2, the G3’s predecessor, featured buttons on the back instead of the side, and the G3 sticks with them.
Under the rear camera, you’ll find a power button, as well as volume up and volume down.
We’ve no doubt these will split opinion, and they do take a bit of getting used to. W
e occasionally mis-hit our desired button, and a couple of times tried to press the camera lens.
But once you’ve been using it a couple of days, it’s pretty intuitive.
You can also tap out a passcode on the screen to wake it up, so you won’t be constantly reaching around the back.
5.5 inches is pretty large for a phone, but it doesn’t feel too cumbersome thanks to the practically bezel-less design. LG hasn’t wasted any space here. Again, hats off to it.
Android 4.4 KitKat is the order of the day, with LG’s skin over the top.
It’s an altogether tidier affair than the G2, which was a bit of a mess. Screens are cleaner, though the icons still look a bit cheap, much as they do on Samsung’s TouchWiz UI.
It’s a shame, as it really spoils the supposedly premium feel.
We’d go for stock Android every time, but manufacturers’ skins are getting less intrusive, so that’s something to be grateful for. And LG has added a couple of cool features.
Smart Clean clears up cached files that take up storage space, while Smart Notice gives you suggestions on how to get more from your phone, such as turning on battery saving when juice is running low.
There’s also LG Health, which measures your activity and counts how many calories you’ve burned.
There’s a new keyboard, too. It learns which words you use most and adapts to your style. Plus, like Swype, you can swipe across the keys instead of typing each one.
The most useful feature we found was the ability to increase the size of keyboard so the keys are less cramped.
You can tap out a series of knocks to wake up the screen using Knock Code, or double tap it to see notifications – handy if your phone laid on the desk.
Knock Code didn’t work every time though, which proved a little frustrating.
The standout feature here is the 2K screen. That’s a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels, giving it a pixel per inch count of 534.
Which is astronomically high, but it’s already been outdone.
Samsung recently launched a new version of the Galaxy S5 with LTE-A – this has the same resolution, but on a slightly smaller 5.1-inch screen, giving it 576ppi.
The new S5 will only launch in South Korea for now. Still, it seems Samsung doesn’t like being outdone…
Anyway. The screen sounds great, but what’s it like to use? The answer is very good. It’s noticeably sharper than a 5-inch 1080p screen.
And our Nexus 4’s display looked like VHS after a couple of days of 2K.
Colours are more natural than on rival models, though it’s not quite as bright as some flagships.
But the bump in resolution is obvious when browsing or even using the menu.
Watch some higher-than-high-definition video and it really comes into its own.
The other headline feature is the new laser focus on the camera. That’s right, laser focus.
This helps the G3 focus quicker than its rivals, but we have to say we didn’t notice much difference between it and Galaxy S5.
Both are mighty fast, and both take excellent shots.
The G3’s are sharp, full of detail, and have accurate colours. They look fantastic on the screen, too.
Daylight performance is noticeably better than the HTC One M8, though HTC’s flagship comes up tops in low light.
The G3’s dual flash also makes for more natural flesh tones, so you’ll look less like you’re having your photo taken in a nuclear explosion.
You can also change the focal point after you’ve snapped, though it’s not quite as impressive as Ufocus on the HTC One M8.
And it records video in 4K, which looks stunning on the screen.
As you’d expect with a 2.46GHz quad-core chip and 2GB of RAM, the G3 absolutely flies through menus, and handled every game and app we threw it without so much as a shrug.
The big screen is fantastic for games. And in the next year or two, there are unlikely to be any titles that prove a challenge for the G3, so you’re nicely future-proofed if you’re embarking on a one- or two-year contract.
The screen and camera work hand in hand to make even the most cack-handed of photographers look like David Bailey.
You might think the screen would be a big drain on the battery, but not so.
With pretty intense video streaming, game playing, emailing, texting, and web browsing (we were busy, ok), it was a full day before it needed juicing up.
That's par for the course for most smartphones. And most of them don’t have a screen that’s anywhere near this stunning.
The G3 improves on the G2 in pretty much every way. It’s faster, bigger, sharper, and takes better pictures.
Looks like the race to be this year’s top smartphone just got even more interesting…
The review unit of the LG G3 was provided by O2. Find out more about the LG G3 here: LG G3