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LG G3 review – Great display, still no Android 5.0

The LG G3 is one of the best-looking phones we’ve ever seen. With its super-high-res 5.5in 2,560×1,440 IPS display and ultra-thin bezels, it’s not only gorgeous to look at, but its simple, clean design also makes it supremely comfortable to hold.

Like its predecessor the G2, the G3 has its power and volume buttons on the rear of the phone, which takes some getting used to, but does mean you don’t press them accidentally when using the phone one-handed. We particularly like the G3’s smooth, curved back, which fits perfectly in your palm. Its metallic finish isn’t real aluminium as on the HTC One (m8), but it doesn’t attract fingerprints and provides a decent amount of grip compared to the sometimes-slippery G2. We prefer the design to that of both the One (m8) and Samsung Galaxy S5, but it’s the G3’s screen that really makes it stand out from its competitors.

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With a resolution of 2,560×1,440, the G3 has a massive 3.68 million pixels crammed onto its 5.5in display, giving it an astonishing pixel density of 534 pixels-per-inch (PPI). To put that figure into perspective, a 5.5in phone with a 1,920×1,080 resolution would have just 2.07 million pixels and a PPI of 400. That’s almost double the number of pixels in the same amount of space, giving the G3 a much crisper and clearer-looking screen than that of any other top-end smartphone.

Text was noticeably sharper on the G3 than on phones with Full HD displays, and we had no problem at all reading headlines and smaller body copy on web pages such as The Guardian and BBC News running in Desktop mode. Even Full HD phones force us to zoom in occasionally, but we felt no such need with the G3.

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We measured the G3’s black levels as 0.56cd/m2, which isn’t particularly deep, but we found this made little difference to the clarity of text as the screen’s high brightness of 417.32cd/m2 really makes letters stand out against its clean white backgrounds. Colours were also extremely bright and vivid thanks to the phone’s high sRGB colour accuracy score of 91.7 per cent, and our measured contrast ratio of 741:1 led to plenty of detail in light and dark areas of images.

It’s easily one of the best smartphone screens we’ve ever seen, but we did notice that the G3 wasn’t able to sustain its maximum brightness setting during extended periods of use. Instead, the phone would gradually lower its maximum brightness level automatically, and wouldn’t let us increase it again until the phone’s internal temperature had cooled down. This was a little disappointing, but even though the G3 did get quite warm during every day use, it never got so hot that it was uncomfortable to hold and the brightness level rarely dropped below 90 per cent, meaning we could still use it outside in bright conditions without any trouble.

Of course, one of the benefits of having such a large resolution screen is having a lot more workspace to play with, and LG has made the most of the G3’s screen with its Dual Window app.

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Like the Multi Window feature on current Samsung devices, Dual View lets you use two apps simultaneously, and you can adjust the height of each window to fit your needs. This means you can send a text while looking at Google Maps or browse the web while chatting to friends in Google Hangouts. Using apps in Dual Window can be a little cramped compared to using apps in full screen view, but it’s great for multitasking and we much prefer it to continually going back and forth between different apps via the home screen.

Tweaks such as Dual View are probably the reason there’s no Android 5.0 (Lollipop) update for the LG G3 yet. Such tweaks take time to migrate over to a new version of Android, and with Lollipop’s significant reworking under the bonnet it’s not a straightforward job. Despite being launched in other regions we’re yet to see Android 5.0 on our LG G3 in the UK.

Performance and battery life

In terms of performance, the G3 is right up there with the HTC One (m8) and Samsung Galaxy S5. With a quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, it completed our Sunspider JavaScript benchmark in a lightning-fast 649ms using its default browser, and we saw no signs of lag or hesitation whatsoever when browsing the web. Image-heavy pages were quick to load and scrolling and panning round zoomed-in pages was incredibly smooth.

The G3’s graphics performance wasn’t quite as good on paper as the One (m8) and S5’s, but this isn’t surprising given the G3 has to render almost double the number of pixels. Taking this into account, the phone’s Adreno 330 GPU coped brilliantly with our graphics benchmarks, as it scored a respectable 8,552 (roughly 34.9fps) in the Extreme version of 3DMark Ice Storm. It even managed a smooth 28.9fps in the Epic Citadel benchmark on Ultra High quality settings at a resolution of 2,392×1,440, so the G3 should be able to handle any game available in the Google Play Store.

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Of course, powering such a large screen is going to take its toll on the G3’s battery life, but the handset’s huge 3,000mAh battery still lasted an impressive 13 hours and 12 minutes in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to half brightness. This is just 16 minutes shy of the HTC One (m8) under the same conditions, so you should be able to get a full day’s use out of the G3 without having to charge it up during the day.

Camera

According to LG, the G3’s 1/3in camera sensor has laser autofocus technology. This means the camera supposedly takes just 0.276ms to focus on a subject, which is less than a blink of an eye. When taking landscape shots, the camera took no time at all to focus and the resulting images were well exposed and showed plenty of fine detail. This fast focus is great news, as shots often present themselves quickly and if you or your camera aren’t ready to go, then you stand a good chance of missing out on the shot you want.

Part of the challenge with snapping off a shot quickly is getting to the camera app on the phone. Most handsets have shortcut on the homescreen, but the LG G3 goes one step further. All you have to do is long-press the volume down button and the phone will wake itself and jump straight into the camera app. It will remember your last shooting settings, too, so you’re ready to go extremely quickly.

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Above, we focused on objects in the foreground. Below, we switched the focus to the wall in the background

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