All the LG G3 you love, with plenty of AT&T piled on for flavor
All of us here at the AC office are pretty much in love with the LG G3. We're not even going to try and deny it, nor should we. This is a damn good phone. It was good when Alex first reviewed it (and that is a must-read) and I was happy when Phil shipped me the AT&T version to have a long hard look at. I've been looking long and looking hard for about a week now, and it's time to put some words on some paper. Or a screen. You know what I mean.
There are no surprises here. AT&T's G3, for all intents and purposes, is the same as the Korean model, or the Verizon model, or the Sprint model, or any other models we've seen so far. You have a phone with an incredible 5.5-inch QHD (the upper-case Q is for Quad) screen that has an astonishing 2560x1440 pixels on it. When you do the math, that means there are 538 pixels per inch. Even better, putting the buttons on the rear of the phone — something LG has been doing for about a year — means you can shrink the bezels down and this 5.5-inch screen is packed into a body the size of a 5-inch phone. The design is nice, with a curve that fits your hand well enough and it's thick enough at the edge to get a good grip with a couple fingers and a thumb — while leaving your index finger free to work those back buttons. Yes it's plastic that looks like metal. No it's not soft-touch plastic. Either would have been a great addition, and I'll always notice that it's hard plastic because it feels like hard plastic. At least it's not greasy, slippery hard plastic like the G2 was.
Under it all you have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.5Ghz. Paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage (you'll have about 24.5 free after the OS and assorted "stuff" is loaded) to make due with, and contrary to my early fears that this just wouldn't be enough to power all those pixels, the G3 does a fine job during normal use. I still want to tear things apart and see how hot the GPU can get, or what I can break by playing with that extra Gigabyte of RAM (some models ship with just 2GB, and everyone says there's not any noticeable difference) but just a week of normal use has satisfied most of my curiosity. LG, you done good. Add in a pretty darn good 13MP camera with OIS, a removeable battery and an SD card slot and you've ticked just about every box in the spec list that people want you to tick.
When I had a first good look at the screen, I fell into a moment of Doge-speak. Such pixels. So resolution. Very Sharpness. The hype you have been hearing is warranted. It doesn't seem as bright as the screen on the Galaxy S5, but I don't see any of the washed-out colors some have mentioned. When displaying a vibrant image, the screen is nice and, well, vibrant. That's not to say that 1080p screens are now obsolete. Most of the time you won't notice a big difference between the G3's screen and an excellent 1080p display, like the one on the HTC One M8. But I'm a guy who likes to read, and I like to read on my phone. The G3 has the sharpest and clearest text of any portable electronic device I've ever used. Reading on the G3 is like reading on a Kindle Paperwhite. Not because of the contrast, but because of the very sharp and defined edges of each individual letter on the screen.
Of course, software is where all these different models try to stand out from one another. The AT&T G3 is running Android 4.4.2 KitKat, with the same LG "skin" (they're not really skins, but whatever) as all the other G3 models out there. The Android fan side of me hates it, but the consumer side of me thinks it's fine. It's as good or better than what Samsung has delivered, and you can tell the software has matured. And that's saying a lot — ask anyone who had an Optimus 2X what they think of LG's software. This is miles ahead of even last year's G2, and the software alone makes it a great update. It's my opinion that they still could pare things back just a bit, but I can't fault them for any one thing in and of itself. It's just a little "heavy."
Of course AT&T is no help here, as they have thrown every single piece of Android software they ever developed into the app drawer. OK, so not every one, but it sure feels like it. You have three different apps with location-based services, Broadband TV clients, crappy Wild Tangent games you'll never want to play and more in there. We expect it every time certain carriers sell phones, but it's still shocking to see just how much crap AT&T can stuff into one phone. Add in some of the Google Apps you probably aren't using (Hello, Newsstand!) and apps like Uber or Amazon Kindle and you have over two full pages of apps to sift through the very first time you turn the phone on. Apps that could be put in Google Play for you to download because you want them, not forced to deal with because someone else wants you to have them.
It feels good to vent, but nothing we can say will change it. All we can do is disable what we can, hide the rest, and roll with it. Or root the damn thing just to strip the crap away. You all know how that works by now. Don't let this be you're deciding factor, because for as much as we complain, it's pretty easy to address.
Value-added garbageware aside, I love this phone. it's still a little bigger than I would like it to be, but all that screen and hardly any bezel makes it more palatable. I think most of you would love this phone, too if you gave it a shot. It's my clear winner for 2014 phone of the year (so far) and I think LG hit it out of the park with the G3. I'll be using the hell out of it to test the network(s) (yes, I'm already trying some AT&T MVNO carriers) and things like battery life, and yes I want to screw with it to learn more about the magic GB of RAM. Anything we find that's good, bad or just damn cool, we'll be sure to let you know.