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LG G4 Review

LG G4 ReviewI’ve had the chance to play with the G4 for a few weeks… and my selfies could not have been better!

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a huge Nokia fan for nearly half my life. But with the demise of Nokia, Microsoft shuffling around to stay in the game, and the smartphone industry growing harder better faster stronger, I’ve decided to extend my field of view to other smartphones, particularly of the Android kind. So far with my 1st Gen Moto G, the experience has been a bit… underwhelming. But that’s why I was really excited to take the new LG G4 out for a spin, and boy this phone has really delivered!
LG announced the phone back in April and released it globally in June, including all major carriers in the US. I’ve had the device for 3 weeks, which was enough time to put it through the ropes. Migrate here to checkout my unboxing video and initial impressions of the device.

 

WP_20150723_14_19_38_ProAt First Glance

LG has opted for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the G4’s design, making a device that is strikingly similar to its predecessor. In fact, it looks pretty much identical, besides the ever so slightly larger bezels and the small aesthetic changed to the rear buttons. Many of the internals are also upped, but the G4 presents itself as more of a revision of the G3 (more of an HTC One M9 gone right) as opposed to some of the more drastic design changes competitors have made with their smartphones, à la Samsung and Apple. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many of these changes are welcome, and the design is still among the best out there, offering what many flagships don’t (removable battery, expandable storage).

 

Specs:
  • 5.5inch 1440p Quantum IPS LCD display (534ppi)
  • 1.8 GHz 64-bit hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, Adreno 418
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage, MicroSDXC expandable up to 2TB
  • 3000mAh removable battery
  • 16MP rear camera, OIS 2.0, f/1.8 aperture, hybrid infrared autofocus, dual-tone LED flash
  • 8MP front-facing camera, f/2.0 aperture

 

WP_20150723_14_17_30_ProHardware

The first thing about the LG G4 device I notice is that it’s larger than any phone I’ve ever used, with its 5.5-inch screen. I’ve always set my comfort level at 5/5.2 inches, as I don’t have large hands and frequently use my phone one-handed. This did make using the phone on a day-to-day basis slightly uncomfortable, but nothing that could be solved by using two hands. And the screen was big enough that it wasn’t a complete behemoth either, especially with the fairly minimal footprint of the phones, helped by the small side bezels as well as on the top and bottom (which are actually slightly larger than its predecessor). This is something the iPhone 6 could stand to learn from with its larger than life bezels.
The screen makes media consumption an extravagant experience with the Quad-HD (2560×1440) “Quantum IPS” LCD display, a technology that offers a 25% brighter screen and 20% wider color range. LG even offers a video in the gallery to show off the display’s capabilities. In my experience, it was exceptionally bright when needed, and fairly dark when necessary, though both weren’t too extreme. It began to wash out a bit in direct sunlight, but it was never actually difficult to see the screen and it was never really an issue. Colors were also brilliantly produced, highlighted by LG’s colorful stock homescreen wallpaper.
LG keeps its G-lineup design language the same with its rear-mounted power and volume buttons, opting for a cleaner-looking phone by keeping the front and sides clean and button-free. On the back you’ll also find the 16MP camera (more on this later) with the LED flash unit and Laser Focus unit on either sites. On the front of the G4 you’ll find only the headset, front-facing camera, and various sensors tucked at the top, and only the LG logo at the bottom. The bezels are clean and give off the illusion of a studded detailing, which adds a nice touch.

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The G4 is powered by a 1.8 GHz 64-bit hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor. The decision to forego the Snapdragon 810 chip was not a bad one either, as the phone was quick and responsive with whatever I put it through. I never noticed any hiccups, even as I had multiple apps open, partly thanks to the 3GBs of RAM. Switching between apps was a synch, and I saw performance quite like I never expected to experience on Android.
Beyond this we have 32GB of on-board storage, which is expandable to up to 2TB thanks to the removable back cover that also exposes the removable 3000mAh battery. Quick Charging 2.0 is included, and even though I wasn’t equipped with a Quick Charging compatible charger, I found that I was actually surprised many times at how fast it juiced up.
The mono speaker is unfortunately mounted on the lower back (front-facing speakers need to become the new standard), but the sound was fairly loud and clear, though not the best. The 3.5mm headphone jack was placed on the lower left of the phone, which I prefer to top-mounted jacks. On the top sits the IR blaster, used for controlling one’s television. I didn’t get a chance to use this, but to me it’s one of the features that smartphones were (or should have been) made to include since the beginning, yet one that not many smartphones actually have. The G4 also comes with the option for a leather back, which I also did not have the pleasure of experiencing, but it is definitely a nice touch and brings a bit of user customization with hardware in an era of Moto Maker and the upcoming module phones.

 

WP_20150723_14_15_30_ProSoftware

The LG G4 runs Android 5.1 “Lollipop” out of the box, with the company’s own UX 4.0. LG’s software helps make Android run super smoothly, as well as using Google’s own Material Design language for a flatter, more angular UI. LG’s software is also very flamboyant, showing off the Quantum IPS display with bright colors throughout.
Of course, the homescreen can be filled with apps and widgets, but beyond that we’re given LG’s own Smart Notice widget and Smart Bulletin homescreen, both of which I feel make the smartphone much more useful. The former is a widget that includes the time, weather and other information at a glance on the homescreen. Notices come in the form of cards at the bottom of the widget that can remind you of things like friends’ birthdays, suggestions for new contacts, and even lets you know when you haven’t used certain apps in a long time. I found it useful mainly for at-a-glance weather information, which lets you view two different cities based off user selection and your current location, and the birthday alerts is a nice touch, but beyond that it’s really just… there.

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As for Smart Bulletin, this is LG’s way of making your phone really useful, and sits nicely on the leftmost homescreen. It presents you with a number of cards that give you access to LG’s apps such as LG Health, LG Calendar, and the music app, as well as access to the remote controller app for the IR blaster when you decide to use your device as a TV remote. I found the Smart Bulletin most useful when using Smart Settings, letting the G4 automatically turn the WiFi on and off when I left or arrived home.
I loved the double-tap to wake feature and used it much more than the actual physical power/lock key both to power on and off the device. I also enjoyed LG’s notification panel, which included somewhat of a carousel of quick settings to toggle on WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth and such, and underneath were the brightness and volume sliders. There’s a dual-window mode that I tried out once or twice, but it’s very limited in the apps that supported it, which seemed to mainly be Google apps. The contacts app was surprisingly functional as it automatically synced my contacts with social networks without me having to download a third-party app to do it for me. The Gallery was nice as well, and I used that more than Google’s own Photos app (honestly, not a fan of the new version). It has a cool timeline feature and a Memories feature that uses location to group photos into a slideshow of photos from certain locations and events.

 

wp_20150719_16_14_05_proCamera

My absolute favorite thing about the device was the camera. The G4 has a 16MP rear shooter with an f/1.8 aperture, OIS, and laser focus. I posted a number of photos that I took with the G4 in the time I had with it in a previous post, so you can see for yourself how the pictures came out, but I can honestly say that I have had the best camera experience on this phone than any other I have worked with. Photos come out sharp and very detailed, with colors produced vibrantly. I was seriously impressed with the results, and this is coming from a guy who heralds Nokia as having the best cameras of any smartphone.
The camera has 3 different modes, a very simple, basic, and manual. Using the Simple mode really bothered by so I stuck mainly with Basic, which kept few buttons on the viewfinder, such as the camera switch, settings, modes, and flash. For pro photographers, the Manual mode is probably where you wanna go, as it offers users the most control over there shot à la Lumia Camera. Like I said though, I mainly used Basic mode which seemed to get the job done. Focusing worked well with the G4’s laser focus, and I was able to capture nice macro shots.

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I did notice that it was a little slow at times when it came to focusing when capturing the photo, which was a little surprising/disappointing. On the plus side, the combination of OIS and an f/1.8 aperture made for great photos in just about any lighting situation, as the photo was able to absorb much more light. Also included was the ability to take RAW photos, as well as cool features like dual photos and voice capture, the latter of which really helped when taking selfies.

 

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SPEAKING of selfies, that was my favorite part about the G4! The 8MP front facing camera was AMAZING! Selfies on the G4 were the best I’ve seen, and that says a lot coming from an avid selfie-taker (ever since the Nokia 6102—remember that?). There’s a dedicated slider to beautify selfies from subtle to extreme (I barely needed it of course :P), and taking pictures was as easy as saying preset words like “WHISKEY!”, “KIMCHI” or of course “LG!”. That was very useful when using my selfie stick (I’m not even going to deny it), since it didn’t have a remote. Even the video quality was among the best I’ve seen, and Skype calls were apparently crystal clear. The main camera was able to capture 4K video, which is cool, but it’s not like I really have anywhere to show that off, so I stuck mainly with 1080p. Videos were very good regardless, and it could even capture slow-mo at 120fps, though at a particularly lower resolution. Videos generally also suffered a bit from very slight distortion due to the OIS, but it is very negligible.
Overall the camera is fantastic, and made the G4 very fun to use (and hard to give up).

 

WP_20150723_13_29_16_ProGeneral Use/Last Notes

My overall use of the G4 was very (mostly) positive. I was able to get a good day and a half of usage on a single charge, thanks to the large 3000mAh battery. I also mentioned before that charging was fairly quick, so running low on battery was hardly a hassle. Apps all did what they were supposed to do, and everything was blazing fast. Calling was the only area that I had much of an issue with. I noticed that people tended to have a hard time hearing me, and I had a little trouble hearing them as well. I’m not sure if this was due to AT&T’s network, or if it was the phone’s mic picking up too much (or too little) noise. I did some toggling with the call settings and turned off the background noise canceller, and that seemed to help a bit. Beyond that, the network performed great, and I was able to access AT&T’s blazing fast 4G LTE network everywhere I went, including on campus at the University of California- Santa Cruz, which is mostly shrouded in forestry. And the amount of customization that LG includes in their version of Android made the overall experience that much better.
The G4 is no doubt one of the best Android flagships currently on the market, going head-to-head with other premium devices like the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6. It seems to hold its own though, offering a great screen, great battery life, and an even greater camera. The ability to swap batteries and expand storage gives it a leg up in this battle, as none of the other big contenders offer either of these. The inclusion of the Snapdragon 808 instead of the 810 doesn’t seem to slow it down either, offering an Android experience smoother than the leather backs offered by LG. All-in-all, the G4 could easily be counted as one of the best, if not thee best, of 2015.
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