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.

Display
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  • ZeDestructor - Saturday, August 01, 2015 - link

    Geography is the main issue for me, else I'd have done so for my Z2 already: I live in Australia. Reply
  • BMNify - Saturday, August 01, 2015 - link

    Geography is not a problem nowadays, even i don't live in USA, You can easily send phones by using Fedex Australia and DHL Australia, they will deliver within 3 days to USA, now we just have to wait for the upcoming Xperia Z5 and Z5 compact. Reply
  • Jodiuh - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Excellent job!

    One request:
    Confirmation of PWM backlights in future reviews. This is important because some of us get migraines from devices like the 2nd gen Nexus 7.
    Reply
  • hans_ober - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Checkout this site: laptopmedia.com

    They're already out with the Moto G3 review, and have probably reviewed the G4.
    They do display tests + PWM tests on phones & laptops.
    Reply
  • misteroh - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Great review!

    I noticed you said " I'm not sure if LG will support anything higher than 9 volts at 1.3 amps."

    I was hoping you guys would be able to do a test with the quick charger however. Over at XDA Forums, I think we found that even with the quick charger and the battery at 0%, the phone would only charge about 20% faster than with the stock charger. Somebody had some hardward that showed it really was pulling in 9V@1.2A.
    Reply
  • superflex - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    It's summertime and you're wearing fleece?
    I guess having little hands causes one to get cold.
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    He does supposedly have a lack of hair on his arms to keep them warm... Reply
  • Buk Lau - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Josh what happened to your Gundam Dynames gunpla photo shots? the dark greenish color of Dynames does help to show differences in dynamic (no pun intended) range and contrasts, although you could've built it a bit better... Reply
  • onmitt - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Would be great if you start mention headphones output audio quality and presence of DAC chip in smartphone reviews. Reply
  • FlyBri - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    To add to Josh's last sentence in his article, "I suspect that the real difference in the end simply comes down to size"...AND PRICE. I get the better overall build quality of the S6 is better than the G4, but with the price the G4 is selling at over at T-Mobile now, for example, along with getting another $48 off via a promotional code, and in addition to all of that a free leather back cover, extra battery, and battery charger via LG's promotion, and the LG G4 is a WAY better value proposition than the S6. The S6 is a very good phone, don't get me wrong, but it's overpriced in my opinion. Reply

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