We update our thoughts on LG's 2014 flagship — the G3
The G3 is LG's biggest smartphone launch to date, launched at events around the world just over two months ago, and arriving shortly thereafter on major carriers around the world, including the big four in the U.S. As rivals focused on metal unbodies and waterproof credentials, LG differentiated itself with an enormous 5.5-inch QHD (Quad HD) display, an updated software design language and frickin' lasers on the back.
But it's time to go beyond the initial launch hype and reflect on how the LG G3 has held up in day-to-day use. All five AC editors have had the chance to use the G3 over the past couple of months, and we've brought our thoughts together into a definitive roundtable feature. Read on to find out what we think of the G3, two months on ...
LG G3 Size and display
1. Let's start with the basics. The LG G3, with its 5.5-inch display, is a sizeable phone. How easily have you been able to hold and use it?
Alex Dobie: As I've said before, the LG G3 is the smallest big phone I've used. It can get away with packing an enormous display because there's very little of the front face that isn't taken up by it. There's no shortage of 5 to 5.2-inch phones that aren't as ergonomic as the G3, and on the whole it's surprising how easy it is to hold given its size. The curved back and extremely thin edges also help out here, as the parts of the G3 you're actually holding onto are extremely hand-friendly.
Phil Nickinson: This phone is 5.5 inches? OK, yeah, it is. It's big. I have to wonder if having the buttons on the back of the phone isn't what really makes that possible, though. Your hand knows where to go. It has something to hold onto. And you're not readjusting to find a top button, or hit the volume rocker.
Whatever LG did and whatever sorcery they used, it works.
Jerry Hildenbrand: LG has managed to take a phone that is too big for me and is made of a slippery hard plastic and turn it into something that is easy to hold anyway. Maybe it's the small bezels, or maybe the back buttons, or maybe it's because someone spent some time figuring out how to make just the right shapes in just the right places. Whatever they did and whatever sorcery they used, it works.
Richard Devine: It's big, but it doesn't feel 5.5-inches big. The G3 carries on right where the G2 left off when it comes to form factor, and those skinny bezels round front and the buttons on the back mean it's barely taller or wider than a Galaxy S5. There's no one-handing going on, after all, the screen is huge. But it's so ergonomic, with the gentle curve on the back, and the rear buttons are in just the right place for easy pressing. It isn't particularly heavy and while it might be a little wide, I'm perfectly happy with it.
Andrew Martonik: Looking at the 5.5-inch number to determine how well you'll be able to handle the LG G3 just doesn't do this phone justice. It feels dramatically smaller than any other device with a screen this large, and in my hand I really only notice the width, not the height. It introduces some usability issues when trying to manage the phone and touch all four corners, even with my large hands. LG has done a great job making the phone as easy to use as possible despite the screen size, but I still wish it had kept the screen size closer to 5 inches.
2. Aside from the screen size, the G3's enormous resolution is perhaps its most prominent hardware feature. How have you found the display? Is 1440p on a handheld device worth it?
Alex: It is... sometimes. The G3 has a super-sharp, great-looking display, and yet I'm left wondering whether 1080p might have been a better choice. The Adreno 330 GPU would have an easier time handling the lower resolution, battery life would likely be improved (though that's not to say it's bad as-is), and the occasional frame rate stutters would likely be eliminated. I can see why LG went all-out and pushed for 2K in this device, but if I were designing it I'd have chosen the same display size, only at 1080p.
Phil: I think I'd probably be OK with a 1080p display on something the size of the G3. That'd still leave you with a pixel density of about 400 dpi, which should still be more than good enough for the vast majority of folks out there. If you gain that back in performance or battery life, so much the better. I don't think I'd turn down a QHD device at this point, and they're only going to get better as that screen resolution matures. But neither am I completely convinced that it's necessary in a smartphone-sized device.
Jerry: Reading this document on the G3 makes it worth it. I've finally seen some of the sharpness/shading issues where text against a certain color or background looks weird, but for regular text in a regular view, the G3 screen is extremely sharp and I can read longer while using it. The next time you see someone telling you that anything higher than 1080p has no benefit, be sure to read it on a G3.
For other purposes, I don't see much of a difference. People throw numbers and color charts around, but my eyes can't discern any real difference between the G3 and the display on the HTC One unless I pull it in close and try to find a difference. Performance is acceptable — which was my biggest worry — and the G3 stutters no more and no less than the Galaxy S5 while pushing all those pixels. The benefit of the QHD screen for text — especially non-Latin text — far outweighs any of the drawbacks.
2K video looks amazing, but in day-to-day use 'QHD' isn't as noticeable.
Richard: When you watch some of the pre-loaded 1440p video content on the G3, you think, "wow." But then you go back to doing everyday phone things and honestly it's questionable whether you can tell you're holding such a monstrous screen. It's absolutely stunning to look at, but you do get a couple of issues with frame rates from time to time which maybe, just maybe wouldn't occur with a 1080p display. Battery life doesn't seem to be taking a hit – I'm easily getting through the day, every day – which is good to see, but until we're seeing content that really shows off a display like this, looking great on a spec sheet is possibly the biggest difference.
Andrew: I can say that the screen looks great, but whether or not it's actually "worth" the drawback in performance is debatable. The LG G3's display doesn't look noticeably better than what you'd get on another leading device with a 1080p resolution, and if LG had kept the resolution down we may not see some of the software jitters we see here. I would have preferred LG took the approach that Samsung did between the S4 and S5 — improve brightness, contrast and outdoor visibility while keeping the same resolution.