The LG G3 was probably the Android phone that was closest to getting everything right last year, but it ultimately fell short of being the “best Android phone”. The camera was the most balanced between the Galaxy S5 and One M8, the design wasn’t quite as nice as the One M8 but definitely better than the Galaxy S5, and LG’s UI fit in relatively well with Android 4.4.

The one flaw that held it back was ultimately the display, which was probably responsible for a lot of the problems that I noticed in the G3. Battery life wasn’t as good as the competition, which was probably due to the new 1440p display. The display itself wasn’t all that impressive either, as there was significant saturation compression and some sharpening effects which really hurt the quality of the display. However, in the context of 2014 flagships it was definitely a valid choice among many that year, as it seemed every device had missed the mark in some way that year.

This brings us to the G4, the successor to the G3. The LG G4 is effectively an evolution of the G3, as we’ll see in the specs below.

 

LG G3

LG G4

SoC MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801
4x Krait 400 @ 2.5 GHz
MSM8992 Snapdragon 808
2xA57 @ 1.82GHz
4xA53 @ 1.44GHz
GPU Adreno 330 @ 578MHz Adreno 418 @ 600MHz
RAM 3GB LPDDR3 933MHz 3GB LPDDR3 933MHz
NAND 32GB NAND (eMMC 5.0)
+ microSD
32GB NAND (eMMC 5.0)
+ microSD
Display 5.5-inch 2560x1440 IPS LCD 5.5-inch 2560x1440 IPS LCD
Network 2G / 3G / 4G
Qualcomm MDM9x25 IP
UE Category 4 LTE
2G / 3G / 4G
Qualcomm X10 (Integrated)
UE Category 6/9 LTE
Dimensions 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm
149 grams
148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3 - 9.8 mm
155 grams
Camera 13MP Sony IMX135 rear camera,
1.12 µm pixels, 1/3.06" CMOS size,
F/2.4. 2-axis OIS

2.1MP F/2.0 FFC
16MP Sony IMX234 rear camera,
1.12µm pixels, 1/2.6" CMOS size
F/1.8, 3-axis OIS

8MP Toshiba T4KA3 FFC
Battery 3000 mAh (11.4 Wh) replaceable 3000 mAh (11.4 Wh) replaceable
OS Android 4.4.2 with LG UI (At launch) Android 5.1 with LGUX 4.0 (At launch)
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, Slimport, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0,
GPS/GNSS, Slimport, DLNA, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM MicroSIM
Price 199.99 USD on contract (US, launch)
~600 USD retail (US, launch)
199.99 USD on contract (US, launch)
~649 USD retail (US, launch)

At a high level, the major changes here have been the upgrade from the Snapdragon 801 to 808 SoC, the new “Quantum IPS” display, and a whole host of changes to the camera that seem to be the focus of the LG G4. The camera seems to really be the centerpiece of this phone, as LG has upgraded the sensor (IMX135 to IMX234), updated the optics, improved the OIS even further, and added a color sensor that looks at visible and IR spectrum to help determine white balance.

Design

As previously discussed, the G4 is very much an evolution of the G3, and this is most apparent when looking at the design of the G4. From the front, there’s relatively little that distinguishes the G4 from the G3, other than a change to the bottom bezel. The design of the phone retains its relatively thin bezels, although the removal of the two-tone bottom bezel definitely makes it feel like the bottom bezel has gotten larger. In the hand, the most noticeable change is that the corners are now noticeably more squared-off in nature. This definitely makes it harder to use the phone with one hand, to the point that I don’t really think this phone is supposed to be used with one hand.

This relatively small change ends up pushing LG over the edge for me when it comes to one-handed usability. I managed to just barely use the G3 with one hand all the time, but with the G4 anything on the left side of the display is now a real stretch to get to, and I basically can’t reach the top-left corner of the display if I’m only using the phone with my right hand. The LG G2 was a comfortably one-handed phone, and the G Pro 2 was a comfortably two-handed phone. The G4 ends up right between those two difference usage paradigms, where some situations allow for one-handed use without issue but others definitely require two hands. At any rate, for those that liked the size of the LG G3 and OnePlus One they’ll probably be right at home with the G4.

The whole phone also has a noticeable curve to it, at a radius of 3000 mm. This radius of curvature is incredibly subtle and in everyday use the phone looks flat, unlike the aggressively curved display of the Galaxy S6 edge. In practice, the real benefit of this curve is to keep the display from touching the surface of a table if the phone is set face-down. The front of the display merges with the side plastic frame, which is slightly higher than the glass to also help somewhat with drop protection. The side plastic frame itself is nothing particularly special to discuss, and is arguably a bit of a regression in feel compared to the G3 due to the glossy nature of the finish. The top of this frame has the IR receiver and transmitter to control TVs and similar appliances, and the bottom has the microUSB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a single microphone hole, but there’s otherwise nothing else along the sides of the phone. The rather clean sides are due to the use of rear-mounted power and volume buttons, which is a trademark of LG phones at this point.

The back of the phone is really where most of the changes are on this phone relative to the G3. The dual-tone LED flash is gone, and there’s a color spectrum sensor (RGB + IR) where the amber LED used to be. There’s also a camera hump to accommodate the thicker optics that come with a larger camera sensor, and the back cover has been redesigned on the plastic versions to have a diamond pattern which doesn’t noticeably affect the feel but causes a visual contrast that helps to distinguish this phone from the G3. Unfortunately, we haven’t been sampled the leather back cover so I don’t have anything to really discuss on that front. The single speaker of the phone is also on the back, and appears to be comparable to the G3.

Overall, the design of the LG G4 is decent, but it won’t necessarily impress in the way that the Galaxy S6 might. LG has managed to execute a plastic-bodied phone that doesn’t have any notable issues with look or feel, and given that this build enables a removable battery and microSD slot those that find those features to be a necessity will probably accept this trade-off. I personally would’ve liked to see the speaker either moved to the bottom or front of the phone, but LG has managed to evolve the design of the G3 without any noticeable regressions.

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  • Impulses - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    I get that Anandtech is US centric to an extent, but with a lot of people in the US opting for contract-less plans to save money it might make sense to start factoring price into the equation when it comes to flagships... I wouldn't even have a clue if there are any significant differences, last phone I bought was the N5 and that was the first and only phone I've paid for in full w/o subsidy. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Such a shame Qualcomm didn't make the 808's cores faster (say, 2GHz) and equip it with at least the adreno 420.
    I understand why they didn't, and given the 810's design wins, their strategy clearly worked, but it still leads me to wonder "what if".
    I wonder what's going on with their implementation of cci(assuming that's the culprit)? They've had enough experience by now to know how to properly implement a standard two tier cache system.
    Reply
  • Buk Lau - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    if they boosted the 808 to higher clocks, which I'm sure they could since all they've been doing since 801 is just overclocking the chips, that would give OEMs more incentives to choose the 808 over the 810. let's say this, if the 808 comes higher clocked A57s and adreno 420, how many people do you think would even consider the 810? After all the 810 is much more profitable than 808. It just sucks to see how many OEMs got burnt by 810.
    in a sense, OEMs only have themselves to blame rather than qualcomm for having to release junk phones all over this year. back in the old days qualcomm's SoCs suffered even worse overheating and performance and yet OEMs still persist to use their stuff, simply because they offered an integrated modem
    if they didn't spoil qualcomm so much back then, there wouldn't be so little choices in the SoC market with players like Texas instruments and others competing against qualcomm.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Don't NVidia and Intel have integrated modems at this point? They're still making SoCs, as is Samsung, seems there's still plenty of choices... We lost what, TI and Sony? I must be forgetting others, I remember lamenting the contracting SoC market too... Reply
  • whiteiphoneproblems - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    "It seems that these improvements have been enabled with the use of photoalignment technology, which shares similarities with photolithography but attempts to induce anisotropy in a photoresist analogue on a glass substrate..."

    Well, you won't see a sentence like that in Gizmodo.com...!
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Another excellent review. Thanks. I also love it when you include many other phones such as the Nexus 5 and Moto G in the benchmarks.
    Good thing the dual core has real life advantages over the 810. The 8 core spec is nothing but marketing advantage.
    As a camera enthusiast, I would also love the manual controls. Yet, I don't think I would use it too often as the control you could get doesn't add to much to the image quality. I mean, using HDR mode pretty much fixes the IQ weaknesses of smartphone cameras to dedicated, larger cameras. The worse noise in the corners probably indicates vignetting with the lenses, only it is fixed/lifted in processing.

    Few months after release, the G4 is now slightly cheaper compared to S6 yet I don't think it is enough. The S6 still has a lot better value to G4 because of the display and SoC. The external build quality and video specs makes the S6 even higher. The only fault of the S6 is the small battery they included with it. The Note 5 surely will fix that but it's going to be much more expensive.
    Reply
  • Mugur - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Nice review, although some phrases were a bit too strange for my taste...

    "One of the major points of emphasis for us in the smartphone space continues to be display, as even though you can replace a display on a phone, the only real reason to do so is if you shatter the glass cover of the display."

    And, of course, I fully disagree with the claim that "the GS6 is roughly equal to or slightly worse than the iPhone 6 Plus as a camera overall". In my personal experience, the S6 camera is the best all-around camera, at least with auto settings and I'm not a Samsung fan...
    Reply
  • victorson - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Hey Josh! You're fired. Reply
  • neo_1221 - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    I got a laugh out of that too. :D Reply
  • mpokwsths - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    These ridiculous nand/storage benchmarks... Reply

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