LG G4 review; refinement highlighted by a great camera

2
9.0 Excellent

The LG G4 packs some serious power topped off by an excellent camera. The build quality is decent, but what makes this phone great is the removable battery and the ability to expand storage. Top it all off with real leather on the back of the device, and you have yourself a great flagship for 2015.

  • Design 8.5
  • Display 9.2
  • Performance 8.9
  • Camera 10
  • Battery 8.3
  • User Ratings (3 Votes) 6.9

Back in 2014, LG debuted the G3 which was one of the first smartphones to have a QHD display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560. Packing all those pixels leads to a whopping pixel density of 535. Although the device was breaking new ground, its processor and battery life were holding it back from true greatness. I personally really liked my G3, as it was the perfect size and form factor for me. I didn’t think the device was perfect, but I thought it was a very good stepping stone towards how LG would follow it up with the G4.

Now, over a year later we have our hands on the LG G4. A device that makes up for what the G3 lacked. It boasts a bigger camera, stronger processor, and a much better, sharper display. All of this does come within a slightly larger form factor with a familiar design. So is it worth upgrading to the LG G4? Let’s take a look.

Design

If you are familiar with the G2 or G3 of the past, you will be right at home with the LG G4. LG sticks with the same overall design, but does include more options as far as the back cover goes. There are both leather and plastic options.

The leather back covers can be had in Yellow, Pink, Gray, Black, Brown, and Maroon. Some are carrier specific, but most are available for purchase if you decide to change further down the road. The plastic options are much more limited, as there are only Ceramic White and Metallic Silver. For this review, mine is Brown Leather.

LG G4 back

Just like its predecessor, the G4 packs a 5.5 inch display, so it is larger than the HTC One M9 (slightly) and the Galaxy S6/S6 edge. The overall dimensions are 148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm and it weighs in at 155 grams. It definitely isn’t the biggest phone out there and it isn’t the heaviest either. I find it to be right in the middle.

If you are wondering why the G4 is 9.8 mm thick compared to Samsung’s Galaxy S6 being 6.7 mm, it is because the G4 has a microSD card slot for storage expansion and a removable battery. Something the Galaxy S6 has lacked and been criticized for. Speaking of the battery, LG packed the same sized battery in the G4 that was in the G3, 3,000 mAh.

LG G4 battery

Just like other G series phones, the device is very ergonomic as the back of the phone is curved. It makes for a very comfortable feel when holding the device. Not only is the device curved on the back, the display is actually curved slightly. It is in the same fashion as the G Flex and G Flex 2, but not nearly as radical. It supposedly adds on 20% durability. Hey, I’ll take it.

On the front of the device the LG logo is found on the bottom of the device as usual, followed by the speaker grill, front-facing camera, proximity sensor, and LED notification light on the top. Underneath the glass LG included a slight carbon fiber look, which I honestly prefer over the G3’s swirled metal look.

LG G4 curve

Now, I don’t know if it is because the display is slightly curved, but the G4 is slightly wider than the G3. Whereas the G4 comes in at 76.1 mm wide, the G3 comes in at 74.6 mm wide. That equates to around .75 mm more on either side of the display. Something that made the G3 very popular was its very thin side bezels, but that’s not saying the G4’s aren’t comparable. You wouldn’t be able to notice the difference unless you compared the devices side by side.

The top of the device is bare aside from an IR blaster. The bottom of the device is home to the microUSB charging slot and the headphone jack. LG is one of those companies along with Samsung who likes to put their microUSB slots upside down. Why? I don’t know.

On to the back of the device is LG’s leather clad battery cover. It is very nice quality and adds a nice, unique grip to the device. It isn’t overly sticky, which is good. It is the perfect medium that allows for grip-ability, but you are still able to pull it out of the pocket with ease. The stitching down the center may look a little tacky, but I think it adds to the grip, so I’m a fan.

LG G4 back 2

The buttons are on the back of the device as expected, just below the camera. On either side of the camera is the flash with the color sensor ot the right and the laser focus to the left. The G4’s buttons seem very tactile and tight against the back of the phone. There is no wobble or creaking from them at all, which is good to see.

The overall build quality on the G4 leaves me with only a few complaints. I prefer a metal frame on my devices as it is something sturdy to hold on to, but plastic isn’t a dealbreaker. The LG G4 frame feels solid, but the removable battery cover comes with a few extra noises. At first it was very snug up to the device with little to no creaking. However, the more I remove the cover to swap batteries, I feel the creakier it is getting. It’s definitely something to take note of.

I personally am a fan of the removable back, so I won’t let that bug me too much. I think the pros that go along with the ability to remove the battery cover is much more than the cons of the noises it makes.

Display

The LG G4 sports a 5.5 inch IPS LCD display with QHD resolution as I stated earlier. This time around, LG took note of their G3’s adequate display and turned it up a notch. The difference is night and day; LG is looking to compete with Samsung.

The display has a great brightness range so it is able to get very bright, but also very dim. The device does very well in direct sunlight, but doesn’t blind you at night time. This is something I feel that phone manufacturers tend to leave out, so it’s good that LG hit the mark. It can match the S6 edge in brightness, but is a little behind when it comes to dimming the display.

LG G4 front panel

I am more of a fan of AMOLED displays versus LCD, but the G4’s display is the best LCD one that I have ever seen. It comes close to matching Samsung’s with color, but isn’t as saturated. It is very vivid and and replicates colors very well.

One thing that LCD display have a hard time displaying very well is pitch black colors. Where AMOLED display can just keep certain pixels not lit, LCD is forced to light up every one, no matter the color. The G4 can still hold its own, but it can’t touch an AMOLED display.

Performance

LG’s last device was slightly under-powered as the Snapdragon 801 had a hard time managing the QHD display. Pixel packed displays take a lot of performance to manage, so that’s why LG had to think long and hard about which processor to include in their 2015 flagship.

Instead of going with the Snapdragon 810 processor that was found in the G Flex 2, they opted for the Snapdragon 808. Although the 808 doesn’t perform as highly as the 810 does, it doesn’t have nearly the same overheating issues. I personally think it was a very good move for LG.

The Snapdragon 808 is a 64-bit hexa-core processor which has two A57 cores clocked at 1.8 GHz and four A53 cores clocked at 1.5 GHz. On top of it all, it is running the Adreno 418 GPU and is backed by 3 GB of RAM. Many thought the G4 would be under-powered, especially when comparing it to the 810, but I find it quite the contrary.

I have not had a single lag or stutter with the 808 in the G4, as LG stated that the software was ‘optimized’ for the processor and they were made for each other. They weren’t lying and the AnTuTu Benchmark scores can prove it. It came very close to my HTC One M9 score 52,789. The scores can be seen below. If you would like to see the LG G4 compared to other devices, check out our AnTuTu Benchmark database.

LG G4 AnTuTu Benchmark

As far as software goes, LG UX 4.0 looks much the same as it did on the G3. Overall it is more ‘Material’, but still is not very close to stock Android. The experience is just fine and I actually prefer it over HTC Sense, but find it a little behind TouchWiz as far as aesthetics.

The good news is that any LG app that is found on the device, has the ability to be uninstalled. Some of those are QuickMemo, QuickRemote, and the LG Health app. Some that cannot be uninstalled that can just be disabled are Amazon, Lookout Security, and carrier-tailored apps.

Like I stated earlier, the user interface experience isn’t all too bad, but I really wish they would have done something with the app drawer. There is no animation leaving from the app drawer back to the homescreen which makes it look very choppy.

Camera

When LG announced that the G4 would come with a 16 megapixel camera on the rear and a massive 8 megapixel front-facing camera, I was immediately looking forward to testing it out. I am by no means a ‘photographer’, but I do tend to enjoy taking pictures with my smartphone. The G3’s camera was one of my favorites of last year, so it could only go up from here. Top the G4 off with an f/1.8 aperture, which is larger than the S6/S6 edge’s, and you have yourself a good camera.

LG G4 camera shot

Along with the upgraded specs, the device also comes with some upgraded camera software. The G4 features a manual mode where the photographer can control things like ISO, focus, white balance, and shutter speed.  I am a fan of point-and-shoot photos, but sometimes it is more fun to get more out of the image.

As far as point and shooting with the G4, the laser auto focus helps out a lot. You are able to look at an object, and the device will focus very quickly. The image will come out very sharp. At night time, it does take a tad longer to focus, but it is still efficient.

The overall image quality is by far the top of the market right now. I think I prefer it more than my Galaxy S6 edge camera, and I said that was the best camera I’ve ever used when I reviewed that. The camera can do it all: low light, manual mode, quick images. It’s just the best packaged camera I’ve seen on a smartphone so far.

Battery

The fact of the matter is, if you have a QHD display, you will eat through much more battery much quicker. That is the one thing that we have to live with as our displays get more pixel dense. As far as the LG G4 goes, it fits right in the middle as far as battery life.

Thankfully, the G4 packs a swappable 3,000 mAh battery, which phones like the HTC One M9 and Galaxy S6 lack. When they need a charge, they need to find an outlet, whereas the G4 can just hot swap a new battery in. I was never into swapping batteries before I got the G4, but thanks to their battery promo, I’ve been doing it daily and I don’t think I want to turn back.

LG G4 Battery Life

Overall, I could easily squeeze 3 hours of screen on time in a normal day which lasts 15-18 hours in between charges. If I really wanted to I could push it to 4, but for the most part I ended with 3 hours most days. It fits in with most QHD devices as far as battery life goes.

It is a slight improvement over its predecessor, the G3 however. Not by much, but I’ll take all I can get when it comes to battery life. One thing that impresses me the most though, is the standby time. Out of my Nexus 6 and S6e, the G4 has the best standby time and will only lose around 2-3% over night, which is around 8 hours. That is something to brag about.

Conclusion

The LG G4 is a contender for the top flagship of 2015 so far, even with the Snapdragon 808 processor. It picks up directly where the LG G3 left off and is upgraded in nearly every category. It performs as well as it looks.

LG went with the same plastic build construction, but decided to spruce it up with a leather backing which I think makes the device, aesthetically. It is very well-put together; couple that with upgraded internals and the best smartphone camera on the market, and you have yourself a great device.

I just wish LG would make the switch over to AMOLED display and run with a metal chassis. It’s nothing to complain about, but there is always room from improvement. If you are looking for a device in 2015 that is very versatile, the G4 with its expandable storage and removable battery is definitely a good option.

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About Author

I skateboard, listen to metal, write on my website Phone Probe, and love messing with new phones. Currently I'm using a Nexus 6P running Chroma with franco.Kernel as my daily driver running stock Android. Find me on Reddit at /u/kinnesotan

2 Comments

  1. I may be a huge samsung fan, but the s6 to me has been a bit of a disappointment. This new LG though looks… amazing… if the s7 doesn’t make any strides in the right direction (when I get my upgrade) there is a possibility I’m going to become an LG user.

    • I agree. I’m not sold on the whole making the device as thin as possible. That’s why the Note 5 has me so excited. If they don’t have a removable battery, a larger 3,000+ mAh with Samsung’s efficient processors will be a good sight to see. Look at how long the S6 Active lasts.

      As far as the G5, hopefully they’ll have a metal chassis. Then it would truly be a winner.

      Thanks for the comment!

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