Meet the G3's little brother
We imagine LG is feeling pretty good about themselves as of late. Their last few Android phones and tablets have received critical acclaim, and even if they aren't topping the sales charts just yet the name is out there and people are starting to equate it with "really good Android phones". We're not going to argue, as pretty much all of us here at AC think the Nexus 5, the LG G2 and the LG G3 were fantastic phones.
Of course, you'll also want to capitalize on the success of your popular models, and the introduction of the LG G3 Vigor — a smaller, more base-model (read: inexpensive) phone carrying much of the same look and feel of the flagship whose name it carries makes perfect sense.
Lets have a look at the G3 Vigor, and see how it measures up.
We're having a look at the "Silk White" version of the G3 Vigor from AT&T. And from the minute we put out hands upon it, we started thinking of the full-sized LG G3.
The Vigor carries the exact same design as it's bigger brother, and that's a great thing. The front side packs a large 5-inch LCD into the small form factor, complete with the small bezels we loved on the larger G3 proper. The silver earpiece and LG logo set things off against the white and black surface, and if you're into having a phone that looks good you'll appreciate it.
if you're into having a phone that looks good you'll appreciate the Vigor
You have the same rounded back and curved sides from the G3, and the layout of all the controls is exactly the same. This means that you also have the unique (and awesome to many) back buttons for power and volume. You've even got the IR transmitter and "laser" assisted focus on the 8MP rear camera.
LG did an excellent job of building a smaller phone that pays homage to the original, and is great to hold and operate at the same time. I'm not going to skirt around the issue — the G3 Vigor feels better in my hands than any recent phone in my memory. If you like a smaller form factor, you'll love the design here.
Here's where things differ between the G3 proper and the G3 Vigor. Besides the obvious difference in size, you also have "lesser" internals and lower specifications all around.
Under the hood you've got a Snapdragon 400 paired with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage — with half used by the operating system. This means that for most regular readers of AC, the phone is likely a non-starter. And that's OK — LG has built the original G3 for you. The Vigor isn't marketed as the end-all be-all of modern smartphones.
The Vigor isn't marketed as the end-all be-all of modern smartphones
The 720p IPS display is quite nice. I found the colors bright (brighter than the original G3's QHD display), the viewing angle more than adequate, and even the text to be crisp enough for extended periods of reading. LG could have placed a 1080p screen here at 5-inches, but that would have affected both the price and the performance. Again, not what LG was aiming for with the Beat/Vigor. I would give the display five stars but for one issue — there is no way to auto adjust the screen brightness.
We're not sure why LG omitted what we think is a must-have feature by stripping an auto-adjust feature out. Maybe it was price again, or maybe there was no room in the smaller body for the sensor, but in any case it was a mistake in our opinion. The screen performs well both outside in bright sunlight and in a dark room, but you have to set the brightness maunally.
Complaints about the lack of screen brightness auto-adjust aside, the rest of the specifications are what you would expect. A smaller 2450mAh battery to fit in the smaller frame, a slot for SD card expansion, and all the radios (GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, LTE) and sensors you would expect in a 2014 smartphone.
As far as I can tell, the G3 Vigor runs the exact same version of LG software as the G3 proper. Built atop and into Android 4.4.2, the experience matches what you would find on the larger and more expensive AT&T version of the G3.
the experience matches what you would find on the G3
You have LG's new flat and "mature" user interface with subdued shades of brown and blues, the same blocky look in the widgets and applications like mail and messaging, and the same AT&T value added bloatware that nobody wants or uses. You even have the same excellent Quick Remote app to use the IR transmitter to control things like your TV or other A/V equipment.
It's easy to tell that LG made a conscious effort to provide the same feel to the software in the entry-level G3 Vigor as they do in their more expensive products. We applaud them for that, even though we see areas where cutting back a bit may have been beneficial.
As you would expect, you can't push the G3 Vigor to the edge without some significant stutters and hiccups. Unlike the Moto G — the entry-level phone against which all entry-level phones should be compared — the Vigor runs a more "robust and feature rich" (bloated?) operating system. This overhead affects the performance — sometimes dramatically.
If you're a power-user, you'll probably want to look elsewhere
That's not to say that during normal, daily use the Vigor runs poorly. But when you load an intensive game, or have several things happening at once, the phone bogs down a bit and everything starts to chug along at a snail's pace. During setup, I allowed Google Play to update all the bundled applications at once, and the phone was unusable while this was happening at the same time my Gmail and Hangouts messages were loading.
If you're a power-user, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.
Battery life was adequate, meaning I could easily get through a full 16 hour work day without power-saving mode enabled. If you live in an area with a spotty signal, or spend a lot of time gaming or watching video, you might need to enable power-saving mode.
Cell service and performance was excellent on AT&T in my area, and LTE speeds match what I see from other 2014 AT&T phones. No complaints here.
GPS locks quickly and location was accurate, Wifi threw no issues both on my own network at home as well as AT&T "public" Wifi hotspots, and Bluetooth paired fine with my car unit, my headphones, and my desktop computer.
I'm sure there is a bug or two that I just didn't encounter, but everything gets a passing grade for functionality.
I had high hopes here. The G3 name, along with the same laser-focusing system as it's larger sibling made me think the Vigor might have an excellent camera. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
The G3 Vigor doesn't have the worst camera out there, but it doesn't come close to the original G3 in terms of image quality. Your pictures will be fine for sharing on Facebook, but things are far from print-quality.
As you can see, sometimes the G3 Vigor's camera does a good job. Other times, things are washed out or grainy — even under the exact same lighting conditions, at the same place at the same time.
Don't buy the G3 Vigor because of the camera.
The LG G3 Vigor is one of the nicest feeling phones I've ever held in my hands. I'm not exaggerating. The clean, curved lines of the G3, combined with a slightly textured back, make the Vigor feel natural in one hand. The addition of the back buttons — one of the best phone features ever in my humble opinion — to this size and form factor make the Vigor perfect for me.
Unfortunately, I am a smartphone power-user in some ways. I need to be able to scroll through thousands of lines of Hangouts, or search through tens-of-thousands of emails, and be able to do it while I'm also working in Google Docs or have the back-end of Android Central open in Chrome. The G3 Vigor just can't do all of that. I don't do that very often, but when I have to, I need a phone that can handle it all.
The Vigor isn't for me. But it wasn't designed for me, and it's not marketed towards me. I think LG is trying to offer an affordable (full retail at AT&T is $349) phone that has a bit of style and can handle everything a casual user would need it to handle. It fits well in the category.
If you want something a little more elegant than the Moto G (we know plenty do) but don't require hardware like we see in the proper G3, the G3 Vigor should fit very nicely. It's a great time to be a smartphone fan!