- Strong camera experience
- No expandable storage
Finally – an LG phone we want.
That’s not to say LG makes bad phones, we’ve just never fancied ourselves as mid-range phone chasers. Neither the LG Optimus 4X HD nor the Optimus G reached our shores in time to matter in the flagship wars, but the winds have changed.
Introducing the LG G2 – quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 internals coupled with 2GB RAM and an impressive 3000mAh battery is just the beginning.
The LG Optimus G2’s camera packs optical image stabilisation, is categorically better than that of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, and it’s got screen – 5.2-inches of it.
Yes it is, very plastic. Like with Samsung phones, you’ll have to get over this ‘issue’ very quickly if you’re going to give the LG G2 a chance – and we implore you, give it a chance.
As such, the in-hand sensation is surprisingly light. The LG G2 does feel slightly toy-like, though no more so than the Samsung Galaxy S4. As with the black S4 variant, the high-gloss finish is also partial to a fingerprint or twenty.
Ergonomic curves make the phone comfortable to hold and an innovative button array along the back adds an element of edge to the whole package.
If you haven’t been introduced to the LG G2’s only physical buttons, below the camera surround is the power button, with the volume buttons above and below it. The buttons are centralised, so either a left or right index finger can comfortably press all three, but is this radical change to the touchscreen phone design one worth repeating?
Yes. At least in terms of the power button.
Coupled with KnockOn, a smart feature that allows for a double tap on the screen to wake the G2 up from sleep, it was very, very easy to get to grips with. When the phone is on a surface, tap-tap the screen, when in-hand, press the back button – easy as pie.
The rear mounted volume buttons are less intuitive. To press them, a finger has to blindly navigate to the power button, then feel its way up or down. Even a week into use, while we totally grew accustomed to the power button, we were still fondling the LG G2’s sides in search of volume controls.
Would we recommend an LG G2 on design alone? Yes, if you want the biggest screen in the least imposing package out there. We also love the rear mounted power button and despite the plastic feel, warmed to the in-hand experience by the week’s end.
Onto the screen
Now that’s taken care of we can focus on the 5.2-inch Full HD display. Loaded with 423 non-PenTile pixels per inch, the G2’s screen could be better than anything else in its class.
Why? The bezels – or lack of. Thanks to a clever bout of dual-rooting on LG’s part (re-jigging the touch sensitive connectors), the G2’s fascia is as edge to edge as displays come on modern day smartphones. It’s bigger, but doesn’t feel bigger in the hand; it’s more immersive, but isn’t more of an imposition.
As such, even though we’d call the HTC One screen higher quality offering better viewing angles and the Galaxy S4’s AMOLED pops more, the LG G2s IPS display is more of an immersion – arguably better, if immersion is what you’re after.
What about the UI?
There’s a lot of UI to talk about. At the heart is Android 4.2.2, giving you instant access to oodles of Android apps and a relatively familiar interface experience. That said, LG skins the G2 like crazy.
How crazy? Check out the Marshmallow theme:
You’ll want to watch our video review to get an eyeful of all the transitions and menus, but suffice to say – visually, the LG G2 isn’t far off an exploding tub of hundreds and thousands.
Above and beyond being colourful, it’s also busy.
Pull down the notifications bar for example and you’re bombarded with quick settings, QSlide apps, a brightness toggle, a volume toggle, the date, a TV remote control (depending on your checked quick settings) and, naturally, any notifications you many have.
Before we could even start to like LG’s take on Android therefore, we had to trudge through all the layers weighing it down.
Once we did though, we’re glad to say there were a couple of gems in there.
The first is KnockOn, which we mentioned earlier in relation to the LG G2’s design. Two taps on the screen and it’s awake. It complements the rear-mounted buttons beautifully, is intuitive and should be on every smartphone out there – irrespective of button position.
The second is guest mode. This is a restricted access user profile that you can set up to open only apps you allow. Rather than activate it through a shortcut or in the settings, simply turn on gesture code unlock.
Unlock your phone using a guest mode code and the restricted profile will be activated – perfect when handing your phone to children or frapey friends.
If we went into every addition to the G2’s UI we would be here all day, but it’s worth touching on a couple more.
To make the large 5.2-inch display more manageable for example, LG has included an optional on screen button to pull down the notification bar – saving smaller hands reaching for the top of the G2’s display.
LG’s Quick Memo also enables easy screen grabbing, coupled with annotation features rivalling those of the Samsung Galaxy Note series, sans pressure sensitivity.
All in all, the Android on board is current, the experience is solid and there’s enough in there to keep us happy – though if LG doesn’t strip things down in the next iterations of its UI, we’ll likely be singing a different song.
The best camera phone out now?
Almost. We’ve just compared the LG G2’s sharp shooter with the Galaxy S4, HTC One, Lumia 925, iPhone 5 and Sony Xperia Z1 – it ranked second. These are six of the best, each guaranteeing you a fantastic camera experience – second is very, very good.
Where the LG G2 wins out is in terms of noise handling and delivering a great shot, nine times out of ten. The optical image stabilisation compensates for handshake, and coupled with moderate processing, delivers smooth shots irrespective of lighting conditions.
Smooth isn’t always sharp though, and as you can see from the crop below, dappling is on the cards when you take photos in low light. Fortunately, this doesn’t rear its head in good lighting, so macro shots still look crisp and landscapes detailed.
Watch it, then watch it some more
Thanks to the 5.2-inch display, coupled with the light weighting, the LG G2 is the ultimate video, gaming and reading flagship – if screen clout is what you’re after.
The slim bezels and superficial display sucker you in as soon as it lights up. Whether it’s using the YouTube and Netflix apps, or watching your own HD clips, you’ll be instantly impressed.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, clocked at 2.26GHz will make sure Full HD video looks smooth and even the most intensive 3D games like Nova 3 play back without a hitch. Once again, the light weighting really helps the experience along when holding it for a long time, though the speaker is easily muffled, so plug in your cans when gaming.
Speaking of the speaker, audio clarity is better than the Galaxy S4, worse than the HTC One – which translates to good, but not great performance.
There’s no aptX support for you Bluetooth audiophiles, although headphone performance is amongst the best out there if you’re happy to remain plugged in.
And the rest?
Connections include everything and the kitchen sink. That translates to LTE (900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600 / 850), 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and an infrared blaster. Unfortunately, we found the IR blaster to perform very poorly, requiring multiple presses to register an action. Everything else however worked a treat.
Available with either a 16GB or 32GB of on board storage, we’d strongly urge anyone going for the LG G2 to opt for the latter given the lack of expandable memory. Thanks to its forte in the multimedia department, if you’re anything like us you’ll be filling 16GB up in no time flat with your snaps, apps, movies and music.
With 3000mAh of power, alongside the Sony Xperia Z1, the LG G2 is the juiciest phone around. It’s battery life is also nothing short of stellar, lasting a day and a half with moderate use and two days if you ease off and put power saver on.
It’s hard not to be impressed by what LG has done here. Innovating on the design front is just the start – they’ve also produced one of the best screen experiences we’ve seen in a very long time, and delivered the best battery life of any flagship in recent years.
The user interface is a total mixed bag. In some areas it’s genius, with KnockOn and ‘knock off’ becoming more natural than pressing a power button. In others, it’s an incredibly busy mish mash that’s there to be waded through rather than enjoyed. It is bearable though, and thanks to the phone’s highlights, worth persevering with.
Finally, the multimedia experience across the camera, gaming, video and reading is about as good as it gets, meaning, for the first time in a very long time, we can very, very confidently recommend you buy LG’s latest flagship phone.
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