- Smooth, efficient design
- Big, beautiful display
- Intuitive, attractive UI
- Capable camera
- Occasional performance and battery life issues
- Likely too large for smaller hands
- Handful of unnecessary software features
- 1440p display is overkill
The LG G3 is well-rounded behemoth. There are some niggling annoyances about, but the luscious display, sensible software, and intelligent build on show are too strong for those to overcome.
The LG G3 is inevitable. It’s a phone of trends, a culmination of nearly every major design choice that has swept the Android flagship scene over the past few years. It carries a big screen, with a bigger resolution, and overpowered hardware, and a flattened software skin, and wireless charging, and an IR blaster, and expandable storage, and a laser-focused camera, and on, and on, and on. It isn’t set on being the prettiest device, or the most well-built, or the longest-lasting — it merely wants to be good at everything for everyone.
That’s not a totally unique concept, but what’s different about the G3 is that it actually delivers on its promises most of the time. For all its excess, it rarely gets in your way. It doesn’t exactly excel in every area of importance, but it’s extremely well-rounded, and its few flaws are largely overwhelmed by other high-quality components. To use a comic book analogy: When you think of Superman’s greatest power, you don’t immediately think of his super strength, or super hearing, or super ability to shoot lasers from his face — you think of how he can do it all at once. That’s the LG G3, except, you know, it’s a phone. Let’s give it a review.
Build and Design
The G3 is a device that defies its spec sheet, for better or worse. When it comes to build quality, this is for the good. Read the dimensions of the G3 before using it and it’s easy to dread an unwieldy behemoth. It measures 5.76 inches tall and close to 3 inches wide, which is big no matter how you slice it. It’s going to bulge in your pocket, and it’s going to be inconvenient for people with smaller hands. Android phones have grown and grown over the years, so it was only a matter of time before someone hugged the line between phone and “phablet” as closely as LG has here. If you aren’t down with this kind of size, it’ll be a problem.
That said, using the G3 is way more comfortable than it has any right to be. LG has managed to have its cake and eat it too, crafting a huge device to keep up with the Joneses but working around that girth to create something that feels natural in the hand. Much of that comes down to how thin and light the phone is; at 0.35 inches and 5.26 ounces, it’s surprisingly easy to wrap your fingers around and lighter than many phones with screens a half-inch smaller. Pair that with an improved take on the G2’s rear-mounted power and volume keys — whose placement helps keep those sides so slim — and you have a giant phone that’s still navigable with one hand.
But the G3 is more than just practically built — it’s also a pleasure to hold. It’s a plastic phone through and through, but once again LG has taken that apparent weakness and turned it into a strength. The material that makes up the phone’s rear is the polar opposite of the glossy, smudgy plastic that taints many of Samsung’s Galaxy phones. Instead, the material has a sort of weaved, faux metal quality that’s smooth to the touch, difficult to stain with fingerprints, and even a little scratch resistant. Our all-white model was far from ugly too, with a nice sheen to it in the light.
Technically, the G3 is still a phony, as it can’t truly simulate the feel of actual aluminum devices like the HTC One (M8). But if LG had to commit to plastic here — and considering how heavy this thing would have been if it was made of metal, the company probably did — it made the best of it. The fact that this plastic back is removable, allowing you to replace the device’s battery and add a microSD card for extra storage, is very welcome perk. In all, the G3 presents you with a compromise: You won’t get the durable, premium build of other devices, but you get a pretty damn solid substitute, with all the extra utility that plastic phones provide.
The G3’s front is the real star of the show. The reason this phone is so large is so it can accommodate what’s very likely the most excessive display on a modern Android phone: a 5.5-inch, 1440 x 2560 resolution IPS panel that’s made of Gorilla Glass 3 and good for an absurd pixel density of 534 pixels per inch. It is the dictionary definition of overkill, and in many ways a hindrance to the rest of the phone’s performance. It’s also gorgeous.
It’s hard to muster up any significant complaints here, at least when the phone is held in the right place. We’re in a golden age for smartphone displays, especially on Android devices, but working a so-called “Quad HD” panel onto a mainstream device like this is still a technical achievement worth commending. It’s spacious, of course, and its pixel density keeps objects on-screen exceptionally sharp, but most other aspects of the display here are great too. Colors are warm and accurate, blacks are very dark, viewing angles are fine, and the whole thing can get very bright if you bump it up a bit past the standard setting. In everyday use, it’s luscious.
The best part about all this, though, and the thing that really keeps the phone from falling apart, is how well the display fits into the front of the phone. Tech companies and journalists will say often things like “the phone is all screen,” and it’s never true, but the G3’s setup makes such hyperbole at least somewhat warranted. The side bezels here are wonderfully thin, and with the main buttons all located on the back of the device, the real estate under the screen doesn’t take up much room either. LG knows you’re here to look at that big and beautiful panel, so it’s designed the rest of the phone to make that task as convenient as possible. For as excessive as the G3’s display and pixel count are, the body that surrounds it is nothing if not efficient.
That said, it’s not perfect. It gets smudged up by fingerprints a bit too easily, it’s too dim with the auto-brightness setting enabled, and it becomes exponentially more difficult to make out in direct sunlight. Its biggest issue is that its “Quad HD” resolution is just unnecessary. The spec is nice for LG’s marketing, but the difference between this and a good 1080p LCD panel is negligible at best to the naked eye. Even with their smaller screens, the One (M8), Xperia Z2, and Galaxy S5 never had a sharpness problem. The pixel jump isn’t going to make whatever you’re seeing look any worse, but at the same time, it does seem to be at the heart of the G3’s few deficiencies.