During August last year (2013), LG announced a device that put every Smartphone lover on their toes. After the success of the Optimus G, would LG continue on the path to greatness building quality devices that are able to rival with other companies’ flagships? On September, when it was released and the first units were tested, there was confirmation that the G2 was indeed a top quality device.
Joining the great design, great processing power and screen quality, the main characteristics to which users refer to when choosing a device, the LG G2 didn’t have a hard task of gaining a spot on the top 2013 smartphones list. Besides that, the price tag, under 600€, also is a major factor when it comes to great sales numbers.
Even though it has been available since September we only had the opportunity to do an in dept test now. Has it is usual with other devices we receive for testing, we used the LG G2 as the primary smartphone for a while. Will this equipment be able to keep up with the quick paced rhythm of every day? Will it be capable to meet the performance of the Galaxy S IV of the market? Read on to find out.
Design and Ergonomics
With the launch of the Optimus G, LG started a new era regarding smartphones, mainly due to the professional look of the devices, increasing the premium look and feel. Now with the G2 the South Korean brand was faithful to that era keeping the great finishes and including new details in the G2 that are resulting of many inquiries made to the users.
Inside the majorly simple and elegant box, you can find the usual when it comes to these kind of devices. Besides the smartphone you are presented with earphones, extra earphone endings, a tool to open the SIM card slot, one microUSB cable with the charger and the quick starter guide as well as the warranty.
When you hold the LG G2 you can instantly see that it is all built from plastic, but make no mistakes, as this plastic has no similarities with that used in cheaper devices. It looks better and is stronger than what you are used to see, and proof of this is the fact that when other devices we had in for testing got to the end of the first day with scratches on the back cover and sides, the G2 was returned without a single scratch either on the back cover or on the sides.
The back of the device is rounded, and it is a plus when it comes to handling the device, as it adapts easier to the hand of the user making it more comfortable to use. But it slips easily from your hands, as I had proof at the end of the testing marathon, it never really fell but I got some scares along the way. One would suppose that the fact that it has a little rugged texture would help to keep the G2 safely in your hands, but that doesn’t seem to be true at all.
The fact that the G2 didn’t really fell may be due to the new positioning of the buttons, the main design feature of the G2. With the G2 you will soon forget about the regular physical button positioning. All the physical buttons, like the volume rocker and the power button are placed on the back of the device, right next to the camera, instead of on the sides, and make no mistake, this makes it a lot easier to handle the device and reach the buttons. It takes a while before you get used to having the buttons on the back, but there’s no doubt that the position of the buttons in the G2 is the perfect position for those buttons, especially if you like to handle your device with one hand.
On the back of the G2 you also find the camera along with its LED flash. The camera is protected with Sapphire glass that, according to LG, can’t get scratch or marked, but due to the position of the buttons I found my finger on the lens several times, and there was a fingerprint there to prove it.
There’s not much to tell about the sides of the G2, given that the physical buttons are placed on the back. The bottom side of the device now has the 3.5mm phone jack, which is normally found on the top, along with the microUSB port and the speakers, these produce a powerful and clear sound. All the other sides of the device are clear of protuberances apart from the left side that houses the microSIM card slot.
On the front we have the 5.2-inch screen protected with Gorilla Glass 2, keeping it clear of scratches. This protection is much higher than what you find on the Optimus G, and it reached the end of testing without any scratch on it, even without any protection. Keeping company with the screen is the frontal camera and nothing more, since the G2 doesn’t have touch buttons on the front of the device. Another great design feature is the fact that the glass on the front of the device is slightly rounded, giving a good feeling when handling the device in our hands.
The screen of the LG G2 has IPS and FULL HD resolution (1080×1920). The 5.2 inches that offer the user around 424 ppi of pixel density.
The colours are extremely realistic and strong, making you forget the times where LG screen just had brightness. Meanwhile, brightness is one of the most important features of smartphones and tablets screens and that wasn’t forgotten in this equipment. The present of the luminosity sensor allows for a pretty efficient management of brightness making it easier to transition between indoors and outdoors environments keeping a good quality of what is being displayed in the G2 screen.
The usual touch buttons that we have on the bottom of the screen have now been moved to the screen allowing for a shrinkage of the space between the display and the extremities of the device to a point where they are as small as they can be. This way LG guarantees that the user can take bigger enjoyment from the screen while keeping the device with acceptable dimensions so it would easily adjust to being handled.
Performance and Software
The G2 has Android 4.2.2 installed with the overlay of the LG interface. This interface has however suffered some changes, being that the most relevant are the inclusion of the control buttons in the interface (option, back and home buttons), new and more colourful icons and a bigger number of available animations. The first change may lead the user to think he will lose useful area in the screen, but LG thought of that and as such, when you are expecting a larger area of the screen to be available the buttons are hidden to allow you to play a game or watch a movie without them always there. Regarding the second change, LG might have made a mistake, as the new colourful icons and the new animations take their interface a step closer to the known TouchWiz from Samsung. Given the large number of criticism about the TouchWiz amongst the Android community we have to wait and see what the customers of the South Korean brand will say. The interface is well built, sharp and clean, which is always pleasant to the user.
Customisations don’t end here, and as is usual in the Android system, the users can do as they well please. A great example of that is the 7 different screen transitions that are available for you to choose. You can also change the unlock pattern as there are several available.
The notification bar is somewhat confusing with the factory defaults, it is advisable for you to adjust it later, as there are a lot of information displayed. On the quick access bar, for example, you have 19 icons, most of them unnecessary and can be removed by the user when configuring it.
Until now we have only been talking about the first row in the notifications bar. The second row has all the applications that are compatible with QSlide (more on this later) and below this are the brightness adjustment slider and the volume slider. At the end of all of this we find ourselves in the middle of the screen before we have space for any notifications.
The QSlide, mentioned earlier, allows the applications to work on top of one another. This system is not exclusive to the G2 as other brands already have it. All in all there are 9 applications compatible with the QSlide, being that beside running on top on each other it is also possible to change their opacity to touch the icons of the applications that are running in the background.
Another interesting feature of the LG G2 is the guest mode. This mode allows you to create a parallel profile that only gives access to the applications you allow. For example, it is possible for the guest user to only have access to the camera and the music player. This way we can block everything else on our device when we lend our device to someone else.
This new feature is not as perfect as it could be. Notifications of received calls and text messages are still shown in the notification bar alongside the watch, and the guest can still read at least some content of the received text message.
There are other features that deserve to be mentioned and two of them are the keyboard and the text copy functionality.
LG sought to made this device in a way it was thought for the users and they went out to the streets to hear what the users had to say. And one of the things they learnt is that handling a 5-inch device with just one hand is a difficult task. In order to make it easier on the user, LG allows you to configure the appearance of a keyboard that takes a smaller space on the screen and is pulled to one of the sides. The side where the keyboard is pulled to is also customisable by the user, allowing both right and left handed people to have a say in this feature. This feature is not new as well, as we have seen it before in the Xperia Z Tablet, but it is nice to have the option in a smartphone as well.
Another resource that is really useful, and it is a first in LG devices, is how easy it is for you to have access to previously copied text, something that already is well done in Samsung devices. When you copy some content and keep your finger where you want it pasted, an option referring to the last copied materials is shown. This allows you to not have to worry about copying and immediately pasting a content you can copy several text fractions and paste them as you see fit without having to worry about copied content being lost.
When it comes down to pre-installed applications, the G2 doesn’t have much of them, as is usual in some devices nowadays. Bear in mind though that we have a device free of network provider, and some of them do clutter the device with unneeded applications.
There are a few applications that we felt needed to be mentioned further:
- Notes – this application’s purpose, as its name says, is to take notes. It is possible to create notebooks that are pretty useful for those who are always taking small notes. The screen is sensitive enough that you can easily write straight on the screen without the need for a stylus.
- Quick Remote – your tv remote is nowhere to be found? Well no worries just grab the G2 and you have immediate access to all kinds of remote controls, TV, Stereos, DVD players, Blu-rays, Air Conditioning units and so forth.
- Quick Translator – this translator allows you to translate words written in the device, spoken to the device or even captured in photographs, being that the latter works really well, surpassing any expectations. The first dictionary you download is free of charge but all the others are paid and the download is performed through the PlayStore.
- Safety Care – in emergency situations you can have the G2 react in a pre-programmed way, like send a text message to a certain contact with your current location. You can also configure the G2 so that it will send the text message when you leave a pre determined area.
- LG Backup – can make security backups of every data on your device. These backups can be scheduled and can also be recovered in other devices.
- Life Square – this is a timeline with pictures, videos, meetings, voice recordings, etc, and it can be considered a non-essential application for some of us.
Native audio and video applications that come with Android devices are not bad, but they’re also not good. They simply do their job. In this case, the applications are really good for those who seek to just play videos and songs. You also have the FM Radio application, which seems to be disappearing from newer devices nowadays.
The music player has an equalizer and allows you to play music that is located in the internal storage of the device, as well as near devices via WiFi or in the cloud. This player also allows you to search youtube for the video of the music you are currently playing.
The video player is also very simple, however it is limited to reproducing videos. You can play videos in the following formats: .avi, .mkv, and mp4, which we tested and were reproduced without any kinds of glitches.
The radio application is similar to ancient radios, a big central button to seek for stations and six slots to save your favourite stations in memory. The radio only works when you plugin your earphones.
When it comes to hardware, te LG G2 is very well equipped. As far as processor power goes you can count on a Snapdragon 800 QuadCore at 2.26GHz helped by an Adreno 330 graphic processor and 2GB of RAM (Check here for complete list of specifications). This allows for exemplary performance, and no lagging or delay was noticeable during the test week, and we pushed it to the limit of RAM capacity by executing several applications simultaneously solely to see how it would fare. Hungry games like Dead Trigger 2 and Real Racing 3 were played without any kind of issues and the graphics were all displayed correctly.
During the execution of more intensive tests and during the execution of several heavy applications the device heated up a little near de camera and rear buttons. However nothing that comes close to the LG Optimus G that would put the brightness on minimum just with the GPS turned on to avoid overheating.
The benchmark tests had the following results (click on the images to enlarge them):
Connectivity and Battery Life
When it comes down to connectivity the G2 has the usual options that are usually in flagships nowadays: Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and is compatible with LTE, meaning it has 4G capability.
Connections to the internet by wireless networks are pretty quick and the signal is very well captured by the device. The connection via LTE (4G) are also very fast but the battery consumption that comes with this kind of connection is pretty high.
In order to connect the G2 to your computer you have the usual microUSB port.
As far as battery goes the G2 countss on 3000mAh of capacity and the duration is really excelent. During the reviewing week the advantage this device has over other devices of the same quality was very noticeable. With a moderate use the battery can last for two days easily. One of the problems regarding the battery is the fact that it is a non removable one, which won’t allow you to carry a replacement around or even exchange it if it starts two lose charge capacity.
After a week of using both the Galaxy S IV and the LG G2 we have come to the conclusion that these two are definitely competitors. And if this applies to performance and feature levels the camera is another thing that verifies it. Some of the functionalities available in the camera application that brings the G2 camera to life seem like they were copied off of the S IV’s camera (for instance the double camera shot).
Talking hardware first: the rear camera of the G2 has 13MP for great quality pictures and the capacity to record videos at 1080p@60fps and a LED flash, the frontal camera has 1.2MP that also has a capacity to record videos at 1080p but at 30fps.
Photos taken with the LG G2 have really good quality. The fact that the colors keep faithful to what you see with the naked eye is a fact that is worth mentioning, but you will notice some lack of detail when you look at the pictures in their natural size. For example, when you are taking pictures of trees you will notice some loss of detail, but that is to be expected. The faults don’t end here and in some pictures you will notice some graininess when looking at the in their usual size. These faults are not that hindering enough for you to be obliged to erase them.
When taking pictures near the objects you will notice a definite improvement in the quality, almost enough for earning the best mark ever (just don’t forget we are talking about a smartphone’s camera). For those of you who are more demanding, if you look at it close up you will notice some distortion.
Photos in nocturnal mode lack something. Even though LG included a nocturnal mode in the camera the truth is that it is not enough. Normal or nocturnal mode will allow the lights in the pictures to become somewhat distorted and they will appear very grainy. For those who have the opportunity to test it out, as we did, the nocturnal mode helps a little tiny bit with the graininess but it is not enough.
Besides the usual photo modes, HDR, sport, panorama and nocturnal there are other more elaborate modes, like the smart automatic that will adjust the settings automatically in accordance to the environment you are on, and the panorama VR that allows you to take 360 degree pictures.
There are also some other “special” capture modes: Take a look at the major ones:
- Shot and Clear – how many times were you taking a photo and someone crossed in front of the camera? This mode allows you to take a picture and then cut that person out.
- Burst Mode – allows you to take 20 instant photos.
- Beauty Shot – allows you to remove the imperfections of the skin of the person on the photograph and also enhances the brightness. It is possible to adjust the intensity of the effect, however it is very artificial and the picture quality is very low.
- Dual Camera – takes a picture with both the rear and frontal camera at the same time.
Aside all these effects you can also geo tag photographs through Google Maps. Even if the fetched location isn’t exactly perfect you can always change it.
In order to take photos you don’t have to use the button on the screen, you can also use the voice commands recognizable by the G2, which are: “LG”, “Smile”, “Whisky”, “Kimchi” and “Cheese”. These voice commands are pretty useful when you are taking group photos, specially if there is no one around that can take your picture, or when you can get the timer right. The device has a tutorial that explains how you can use the voice commands and how to correctly pronounce them.
Video recording is done in Full HD at 30 or 60fps, as we already told you before. One of the features of the camera application for video recording that may be very useful is the ability to increase the audio that is being recorded. In very noisy environments you just have to redirect the circle that is on the screen towards the audio source you want to records and the device will amplify the sound that comes from that source.
Besides the usual on these devices the G2 provides other important features that enhance the video recording with the device. The first is the possibility of adding effects on the faces of people that are being recorded. It is possible to add big eyes, small mouths, big nose, small face, etc. You have several mixins that you can use to make your videos more fun. However to use these you will need to be very close to the subject of your recording in order for the face to be correctly recognized and the effects correctly placed. There is also a possibility of dual recording, to match the dual camera feature. In order for some parts of the recording to stand out you can zoom in, on a window, to the area you what to stand out and after you have recorded that area will take over the video.
After the review it is clear to us that the G2 has a place amongst the greatest equipments of 2013. Comparing the G2 with the current flagships available on the market there are several features that put it at the same level or above them: the Full HD screen with excelent quality and average size, the Quad Core processor and a good battery life, are a few examples.
However, some of the negatives have been becoming common amongst todays devices, the low internal storage space, the non-removable battery and the lack of a microSD card slot to be able to expand the storage space of the device.
The storage issue can stop being an issue pretty quickly if you use cloud solutions, on the other hand there is really no solution for the non-removable battery. For those users who use their devices very extensively and need them to always be available this is a very serious issue as the battery life of the G2 might not be enough for them, just like every other deice out there, and in this case there is no possibility of carrying a backup battery around.
With a top of the line hardware and an extremely competitive price for its category, it is hard to find reasons to criticize the G2. It is not perfect, for sure, but it is pretty close to ideal in accordance to what is available on the market today. If you invest on it you can be sure it will be an investment that you will maintain for a good long time as it will be able to withstand changes in the market for a long time.
Review by: Android Emotions Team