Review: LG G2, a 5.2-inch phone that's better than the S4?

Specs of the LG G2 (price: P27,490 or around US$670):

Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset
2.26GHz quad-core CPU
Adreno 330 GPU
32GB internal storage
5.2-inch True HD-IPS+ display (1,080 x1,920 resolution; 424ppi)
13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
2.1-megapixel front camera
3,000mAh lithium-polymer battery
Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2


Since venturing into the smartphone fray, LG has been playing catch-up to its South Korea-based rival Samsung. That's unfortunate because LG's smartphone pedigree is loaded with devices that blend beauty, style, and performance across a variety of price points.    

Last year's LG Optimus G was a big step in the right direction. It had all the makings of a hit, and in our review we concluded that despite its late arrival in the Philippines, it held its own against the best in the industry, and that LG deserved "a standing ovation for getting a lot of things right" with it.

It has been nearly a year since LG introduced the Optimus G, and its sequel, the LG G2notice that the Optimus branding has been given the bootmarks the company's second attempt at taking a bigger bite out of a crowded smartphone landscape. It has arrived unexpectedly early in this region, just in time to go head to head with Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4. 

>>READ: Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The LG G2 costs P27,490, an aggressive price for a superphone with Qualcomm's high-end, LTE-capable Snapdragon 800 processor inside. Factor in a generous 3,000mAh battery to power a large and pixel-dense IPS+ display, and you have a seemingly desirable product. But is the LG G2 worth your hard-earned money? How does it compare with its predecessor and other smartphone heavyweights? We'll tackle those questions and more in our review of the G2. 


It's obvious that LG wanted a clean-sheet approach to its flagship phone, hence the conscious effort to make the G2 look evolved even if that means breaking the Optimus G's likable aesthetic. Besides the metallic band that runs around its edges, virtually every part of the new model looks and feels different. It starts with LG's choice of build material. The G2 drops the Optimus G's glass body and settles for a wholly plastic redesign, with a glossy, hyperglazed surface that's smooth to the touch. 

Curiously enough, the pattern on the back looks a lot like the one found on several Samsung devices, the Galaxy S4 included. The departure from glass isn't a major step backward to us, but we certainly would've preferred to see more premium materials on the G2 to complement its unibody build. 

One thing we do find objectionable is the distressing amount of flex on the phone's back, which is prone to making faint creaking noises when you bear down on the panel with your fingers and palms. We're not saying that the LG G2 needs to share the same attention to detail and craftsmanship as newer iPhones; just a thicker rear panel to provide some much-needed rigidity will suffice. Given its high-end status, it won't be too much to ask for a steel-reinforced substructure. 

On a more positive note, the LG G2 rocks a curvier hardware, a welcome change from the Optimus G's more traditional, boxy shape. The front of the device takes a page from the LG-manufactured Nexus 4. It adopts a simpler onscreen navigation bar to replace capacitive keys for back, home, and menu, giving it a button-free face. Sadly, the bar, while modifiable, lacks a multitask button. There's also an LED notification light up front that can be set to a different color depending on the notification type.

>>READ: Asia snaps up Apple's first gold-colored iPhone

In true premium-smartphone fashion, the infrared or IR blaster for controlling TVs and other home-entertainment tech makes a comeback on the G2. It is located along the top edge, adjacent to one of the mics. The IR blaster comes with proprietary software Quick Remote. 

LG has also bumped up the number of speaker grills on the G2 from one to two and placed them on the bottom edge of the device, where they sit beside the headphone jack and flank the micro-USB connector. The audio blasting from the speaker cutouts is clear and loud enough for use in areas with ambient noise. Of course, the unit comes with a headset, complete with a tangle-free, flat cable; built-in remote; and two extra ear tip sets should you feel like keeping the audio to yourself. 

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the LG G2's exterior is the fact that it maintains a compact body, having shaved much off its bezels. The side bezels, in particular, are the thinnest in the businessjust one-tenth of an inch in widthso despite the phone's 5.2-inch display, the G2 still lends well to one-handed use. 

Having used the handset to write lengthy articles, we particularly liked that we could easily reach corner letters and symbols on the default keyboard. Add to that the gentle curve on the G2's back, which, despite being flimsy, allows for a secure grip and makes the unit utterly comfortable to carry. This LG is also relatively light for a 5-incher, tipping the scales at 143 grams. 


If there's any polarizing design feature here, we'd say it's the G2's button placement. Unlike any smartphone on the market, this LG has rear-facing physical keys: a two-button volume rocker and a slightly elevated, LED-lit power button sandwiched in the middle

There's a good reason for that, at least according to the company: Placing the keys on the back allows you to reach them without stretching a finger or two. It gives you a better handle on the hardware, too, which will hopefully reduce accidental drops, we're told. 

In practice, we found the G2's particular button layout to be slightly advantageous. The keys work well, but pressing them does take some getting used to. And while we wouldn't call it a revolutionary approach to operating a smartphone, we wouldn't call it a failure either. 

That said, we're inclined to believe that the hardware repositioning serves an aesthetic purpose more than anything else. From the almost-non-existent bezels to the gentle curve of the back, it's fairly obvious that many of LG's design choices are meant to provide users a superb hand-holding experience. 


So what about the panel on the LG G2? In two words: absolutely gorgeous. Like the LG Optimus G before it, picture quality is one of the G2's strong suits, and with welcome improvements all around and Gorilla-Glass protection, there's even more to love than ever before. 

On paper, the LG G2 doesn't disappoint; the device flaunts a 5.2-inch 1,080 x 1,920 IPS Plus screen, amounting to a killer pixel density of 424 pixels per inch or ppi. Those are impressive numbers indeed. To put them into perspective, consider the iPhone 5s and its smaller, 4-inch 640 x 1,136 Retina display, which has a lower pixel density of 326ppi. 

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The screen is less reflective than majority of smartphone displays; it's bright indoors; and it's so sharp and crisp that it hides individual pixels from the naked eye. Colors are accurate and rich as well. Viewing angles are generous enough that those beside you can read the screen with relative ease, which may or may not be a good thing depending on the person next to you. In a nutshell, the panel rivals the very finest that the industry has to offer. 


The LG G2 has two cameras: a 13-megapixel rear-facer and a 2.1-megapixel shooter up front. Both are capable of capturing 1080p footage, although the main cam can record at a higher frame rate of 60 frames per second, double the industry standard. Of course, as with any self-respecting flagship efforts these days, the phone has an LED flash and an intuitive control scheme to go along with a wide selection of shooting modes (there are 12 of them) and settings. 

The photos we've taken with both modules show a great amount of detail and very little noise. Colors are well-balanced; contrast is first-rate; and white balance is excellent. But what's more impressive is that the G2 features optical image stabilization, great for those with shaky hands. 


The imaging tech does its finest work when filming busy scenarios, as it significantly reduces the amount of blur and jerkiness that can occur when moving while shooting. It also allows for more light to enter the sensor for superior nighttime performance, as evidenced by our samples below. 


We're convinced that the LG G2 has the best camera sensor among Android superphones.


Flagships typically offer the fastest components available at the time of their release, so it's no shock that the LG G2 is fitted with practically the best of everything: an LTE-enabled Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset; a 2.26GHz quad-core processor; Adreno 330 graphics; 2GB of RAM; and 32GB of non-expandable storage, which may be a sticking point for some. 

If the specifications look familiar, that's because, with the exception of a 3GB RAM module, the G2 shares the silicon of Samsung's current Android champ, the Galaxy Note 3. And just as you'd expect, this thing absolutely flies with the kind of buttery smoothness and responsiveness you only get from top-shelf handsets. High-end games work without a hitch; switching between apps is especially top-notch; and windowed multitasking (for select apps, at least) is possible thanks to the QSlide feature.     

As for synthetic benchmark results, the phone posted top marks across the board.    


The G2 also runs LG's heavily modified user interface on top of Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2. It looks nothing like vanilla Android, but it strikes us as an entirely refreshing take on a custom skin nonetheless. There's a lot to like here, including a cool unlock animation, settings toggles that look like mini switches, and the preference for whites and vivid colors to take full advantage of the phone's lovely IPS panel.

One totally newand admittedly usefulLG-specific feature is KnockON, and with it you can wake or put the G2 to sleep by simply tapping on the display twice, thus saving you the hassle of having to press the power button on the back. It works almost flawlessly, and it has us wishing that we can tap on the screens of our other devices to unlock/lock them.  


The LG G2's 3,000mAh lithium-polymer cell is a solid improvement over the Optimus G's smalleryet still decent2,100mAh unit, so we weren't expecting anything less than a huge bump in battery stamina. True enough, in our anecdotal battery-rundown test, which entails playing an HD video on loop with WiFi on and brightness set to 50 percent, the phone held on for 12 hours and 10 minutes, whereas its predecessor only managed 7 hours of continuous playback. That's a five-hour margin on a single charge!

The LG G2 also made it through two full days of reasonably constant use, half a day longer than what we got with the Optimus G. All this despite the new LG heavyweight packing a bigger, sharper panel and better internals.  


With the LG G2, the company proves yet again that it can best most of the competition, including the Galaxy S flagship of its Korean neighbor, the S4. The G2 leaves its Samsung counterpart in the dust and takes the cake for being the better-designed, more capable, and longer-lasting superphone.  

How does it fare against the stylus-toting Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which, by the numbers, is currently the most powerful phone on the market? Well, both devices offer crazy horsepower, but even with less RAM, real-world use and synthetic benchmarks reveal that the G2 can keep up with the full might of the latter.  

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Of the two, we'd say the LG G2 is the better pick simply because it looks better and has a far more pocketable form factor than the Galaxy Note 3. And did we mention the gaping price hole or difference (P10,000 or more than US$200) between the two? 

Which brings us to the next question: Is the LG G2, with its compelling blend of ergonomic hardware, stunning display, and five-star performance and stamina, the best smartphone available today? Frankly, we can't say for sure until we put the iPhone 5s through its paces. But as it stands, we can wholeheartedly say that it has more than a fighting chance.