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LG G2 Review – Finally taking on the heavyweights

Published by on Feb 4th, 2014, 10 Comments

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LG used to be cool. Their appliances have always been well known, but they used to be the number one flat screen TV manufacturer and they also made some great phones that sold very well. The fondest memories I have is of their flip phones, which were great, and later they had some well received QWERTY devices.

To be honest, the public’s attention has been on Apple and Samsung so much that LG started to feel like a second-rate Samsung in many respects – new devices came just too late to garner interest from the consumer. We saw this with the entire lifespan of their Optimus product line, and to the surprise of no one, it has been dropped to turn over a new leaf.

The G2 is quite clearly LG’s answer to Samsung’s Galaxy S4. They did try to push up the launch so that it doesn’t coincide with the announcement of the Galaxy S5, just enough time for it to be in the spotlight long enough. They have also tried something new, with a completely unique hardware design. Will it help LG stand out from the crowd, or fall into the doldrums of gimmicky mediocrity?

Here are some of the key features:

  • 5.2″ 16M-color 1080p True HD IPS Plus FullHD screen
  • Android OS v4.2.2 Jelly Bean; LG Optimus UI
  • Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU, 2 GB RAM, Adreno 330 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset
  • 13 MP autofocus camera with LED flash, optical image stabilization
  • 1080p video recording @ 60fps
  • 2.1 MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
  • 16/32GB of built-in storage, 24GB user-available
  • NFC
  • Multi-tasking with mini-apps and optional transparency (QSlide)
  • Non-replaceable 3000mAh Li-Po battery
  • IR emitter for remote control of home appliances
  • Quick Window cases available at launch

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The LG G2 combines incredible power with a unique design and a wonderful screen to present one of the most appealing Android phones you’ll see anytime soon. Read on to find out all the details and discover why this handset is so impressive.

Design and Build

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LG have tried a different approach to a smartphone design which has become stale on predictable in recent years. Just looking at the device from different angles will bring that to light immediately.

Looking at the front of the device, all you notice is the massive 5.2 inch screen with no buttons. Interestingly, even though the screen size is very large, it is almost the exact size of its biggest competitor, the Galaxy S4. It becomes immediately apparent why – the bezels on the LG G2 are the smallest we’ve ever seen on a smartphone of this size. It mostly comes down to the design of the screen (which we’ll come to later). It might not seem like much in the pictures, but when you turn on the bright screen you quickly feel that you are much more immersed. It truly changes the experience of using a phone of this size, and it is great.

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Turning to the bottom we only find the mini USB charging port, 3.5m audio jack and the stereo speakers. Scanning the top, left and right hand side you find something you might not be familiar with: Nothing! Okay, the SIM tray is on the left, but almost impossible to see.

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The only buttons you will find are on the back of the device. Your power button and volume rockers are situated where you index finger might sit when making a phone call.

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This is the strangest thing about the device at first. Does it take time to get used to the new button placement? Yes, it does. But give it a couple of days at the most and you will immediately see why LG went this route. Not only does it make the device stand out, but it is completely intuitive. Add that to the clever shortcuts using those buttons, it made the use of the device a treat – even for my smaller-than-average hands.

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Around those buttons you will find a glossy plastic – not our favourite kind of material. That being said, it doesn’t feel nearly as slimy as Samsung’s hyper-glazed plastic cover. The one area where the back does fall down is with fingerprints. It gathers them like an old Afrikaans tannie hoarder would keep and store Huisgenoot magazines.

Other than that we absolutely adore the design. It’s not completely inspiring, but the elegant shape and miniscule bezels make the LG G2 a sleek and stylish device – one I won’t mind carrying around my on a daily basis.

Screen

Let’s not beat around the bush – LG nailed it with the G2’s 5.2-inch, 1080p IPS screen. It is pretty much everything you want from a smartphone screen: bright, sharp, extremely accurate with colours, with great balance and saturation. LG have also worked on their viewing angles, and it shows.

It is an amazing experience to watch movies, read on text-rich websites and play games. One reason for this ease of use is that this phones auto brightness setting actually works as it should. When it is dark and I turn on the screen I never found my eyeballs disintegrate under the sudden and amazing glare that you sometimes find from these screen.

We would like to iterate – you would expect a phone with a massive screen like this to be among the size of phablets. But it simply isn’t – as mentioned because of the small borders. This is possible with the dual side connectors LG have employed to take care of the functions of the screen. Less parallel connectors mean a thinner bezel.

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User Interface

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Unfortunately, the device launches with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. When I switch the device on for the first time, though, it immediately received a firmware update. This was important as it addressed some slight software issues that were present before.

It wouldn’t be a Korean Android phone if there weren’t some changes to the UI, would it? Here the customizations run deep and there’s a rich selection of themes, changeable icons and home-brewed apps. The LG G2 comes with some cool options like Guest Mode, which will come in handy if you are handing your phone to a child or you just want to keep your stuff personal from friends, who might like to use your phone for a quick call.

There are a couple of brilliant software tweaks to look at first, like the double-tap anywhere on screen to wake the phone up from a slumber. It makes you wonder why all phones don’t have that feature; it just works. I found myself tapping all other phones I was using out of habit – it really is a small feature that makes the world of a difference. The other neat feature I always used was going to the camera app directly from sleep mode by holding the lower volume button for a second.

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Like Samsung, LG has also thrown the entire kitchen sink at the customisations of Android. While there are a lot of features, there aren’t nearly as many useless ones as you’ll find on the Samsung equivalent. Usually we prefer a very minimalistic design from an OS perspective, but here the visual changes are quite welcome.

The effect that greets you on the home screen when you are unlocking is quirky (as you can see at the top of this section); you’ll find yourself playing around with it for a couple of days. The five homescreens look pretty standard, with the icons not differing too much from the norm. The tile sizes for homescreens differ, though, as you can fit five icons into one column. This is nice, but most widgets are only four tiles wide, so it can’t fit nicely on the panel.

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The buttons at the bottom the screen can be changed, there are a myriad of options to choose from. These all worked remarkably well, we weren’t expecting it to work as smoothly. You can choose different function to be available from the homescreens, and we actually like the inclusion.

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In terms of multitasking, LG did try to include as much functionality as possible. The multi app support works pretty well, but you won’t find yourself using it too often. It’s not as polished as the multi-screen you’ll find on Samsung devices. We do like the fact that you can move the mini apps anywhere, and that you can set their transparency level.

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The multitasking for different apps in the app drawer is flawless, though. The task manager works well and changing between apps is as fast as you’ll see anywhere on the market.

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The one place in the UI where LG slipped up is the notification drop down. It is one of the parts of the UI you will use most often, but LG have made the space for actual notifications so small with all their customisations. Sure, the quick settings slider at the top is very useful and we can forgive the shortcuts to the QSlide apps, but having a screen brightness bar, phone volume and setting bar and the settings shortcut below that is complete overkill in our eyes.

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Performance and Battery Life

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Because the LG G2 is equipped with such a powerful chipset and plenty of RAM, performance is excellent. In normal, everyday use, there is never any lag and it certainly doesn’t ever crash. Apps open quickly, and transitioning between apps is a breeze. Even when using the multi-tasking capabilities it doesn’t even hiccup, more than we can say for its biggest competition.

We sometimes think that something like the 2.26GHz quad-core Krait CPU is a little overkill for the average user’s needs, but with more demanding apps, it’s certainly nice to have it. Most notably it would be used to the extreme with graphically intensive games. Nothing you can find on the Play Store will have any trouble running at full graphics and at full speed. Every movement in the UI is always fluid and fast, you will never notice the slightest amount of lag.

When it came to the battery life, I really had high hopes. Actually, we always have high hopes for battery life, but we are usually left disappointed. I can, for the first time in quite some time, say that my deepest hopes were fulfilled. Granted, a 3,000mAh battery might not sound like a lot (especially with a high-end processor and large 1080p screen ticking along).

It will easily last you more than a full day. In most instances it lasted me a full two days, even with moderate to heavy use. This is a sign that we’re finally crossing into a world of sensible smartphone batteries. We should also mention the stepped design of the battery, which is new. It uses the space inside the case more efficiently.

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Camera

The specs storm doesn’t end with the performance internals. The bravado attitude continues with the camera. It shoots 1080p video at 60 frames per second, which is pretty standard. But this time around it has optical image stabilisation included. It also has 9-point autofocus and rapid capture — it’s one of the fastest smartphone cameras we’ve ever used.

Once again, LG had to lend a couple of things from Samsung’s way of doing it – this time in the camera UI. It has a couple of the same silly features up to the ridiculous dual camera mode. It isn’t a truly bad thing in this case; it still has one of the best and most intuitive camera apps around. We would suggest, however, that you stick to the auto capture mode most of the time, because it shoots some brilliant photos.

For some reason LG said that it’s optical image stabilisation helps with low-light performance as well. This isn’t really the case – it just keeps the lens stable. That doesn’t mean that its low light performance is bad, though. It is the best Android low-light camera on market today (bar the Xperia Z1, perhaps). The G2 takes great pictures outdoors and in good lighting, and it can hold its own indoors. Here are some samples (see the full size images here):

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Conclusion

As far as Android smartphones go, you can do no wrong with the LG G2. Some reviewers have complained about the button placement on the back, but I found it easy and intuitive to use after only a couple of days. I actually really enjoy the buttons where they are. Other than that the G2 has everything you could ask for in a smartphone: very good camera, great performance, best-in-class battery life and a sleek and sexy design (other than the plastic back cover).

The G2 took what is great about phablet devices and crammed it into a regular smartphone. The only thing that is slightly overwrought is the software. Some of the features really work, but the crowded notifications bar really spoilt it for us. What matters is your daily experience with the phone, and while the software has some room for improvement, this thing is slick and you’ll never have a problem with the software performance.

I’m utterly sold on the double-tap to unlock; there was no need to reach around for the power button. The miraculous endurance of the G2 paired with a high-level screen and processor, make it one of the most tempting smartphones I’ve seen in the last year and will continue to be throughout the next. It is the best Android phone on market? That is open to discussion, as the Xperia Z1 is a good phone as well (see review here). It depends on taste, and I would choose the LG G2 because of its smaller form factor and bigger screen. The Galaxy S5 better be a damn good phone to measure up, I’ll say that much.

Comments

  • Chi

    I have had my G2 for about 3 months now and it is one of the best phones I have owned to date. The double tap feature is a Godsend and yes I also try double tap every other phone I get my hands on. The battery life is really really good and I consider myself a heavy user, it generally lasts me the whole day. The back volume buttons are a bit of a stretch for me but still very intuitive. They kinda make sense. On the whole great phone!!!

  • Ralph Long

    I cannot for one second understand why the S4 is so popular compared to a phone like this and the HTC One. The S4 is low quality, they look shabby after a few months use and a lot of my friends are complaining about the bloatware on the phone and also lag after a few months too.

    This phone and the HTC One are in a class of their own and I think it is only the fact that Samsung spend billions on advertising that makes it a better seller. I really hope this phone gives Samesung a run for their money. LG makes good stuff.

  • Willie

    Hi guys, any idea on how to load VoiceMate (or similar app) on my G2? I would like to answer and make calls handsfree. Thanks for a great review!

  • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

    Hi Wiliie, thanks for the comment. I will test it out and see if I can get it working.

  • Willie

    Hi guys, where can I buy a pouch (shell case) with decent protection for this phone? Thanks

  • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

    Hi Willie. It actually comes with a protective case with the window cover out of the box (or at least the ones we’ve received from LG and Vodacom). Have you not received one?

  • Willie

    Hi Theunis, unfortunately not> Got mine from Vodacom but no window case in box.

  • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

    That is very strange, we got one from Sony in black which had one and we bought one from Vodacom at a retail location, which was a white one. Both had the case, though. I’ll try to follow up for you.

  • Eddy

    The G2 is easily a competitor for every other high-end smartphone out there. The “weird” button layout works for us, and it’s paired with some smart touch functions that are well thought out. The phone looks and feels great, and just works as a smartphone should.

  • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

    We agree, the G2 is a great phone. But the G3 is ever better, check out the review here:
    http://www.bandwidthblog.com/2014/07/28/lg-g3-review-bow-to-the-new-android-king/

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