If you asked me what my favorite Android phone was last year, my first or second choice would be the LG G2. Itís almost the complete package plus, as far as Android phones go, itís probably the easiest to use.
Now there's the LG G Flex which is sort of a bigger version of the G2. However, thereís a twist; the is G Flex also flexible. Letís check it out.
What about the Samsung Galaxy Note III?
The Galaxy Note IIIís specs are similar to the Flex. Both have the same processor, 13 megapixel cameras, 32GB of storage, 3000mAh+ batteries, infrared transmitters and OLED displays.
Not everything is the same; The Flex has a bigger display and well, itís flexible.
The Note III on the other hand gives you a little more. First off, it has a higher resolution display. Not only is the Note 3 display sharper but it looks better and more importantly, it works better outdoors in bright sunlight. You also get more RAM (3GB vs 2GB on the Flex). Admittedly this doesnít make a huge difference but itís still a nice thing to have.
With the Note 3, you also get Samsungís S-Pen stylus (how useful this is depends on the user). Itís not as responsive as if you were using a real pen and paper but, as far as styluses go, itís about as good as it gets.
2 more key advantages to the Note 3 are that it comes with a MicroSD slot and a removable battery.
Itís also worth pointing out that while the Note 3 came out around 6 months ago, it shipped with Android 4.3 (and recently got upgraded to 4.4) while as of the writing of this review the Flex still has Android 4.2. There are differences between 4.2 and 4.3 but theyíre not major. Still, if past experience is an indicator, the Note III will received updates in a more timely manner.
Given the choice between the 2, Iíd go with the Note 3 because of the fact that its screen works outdoors and generally speaking, is a more well rounded. The MicroSD and removable battery are nice bonuses too.
What about the Sony Xperia Ultra Z?
The Flex has 2 main features; itís flexible but its 6Ē display also makes it a phablet. There arenít any other flexible phones available in Canada yet (at least not intentionally) but there are a handful of phablets with 6Ē+ displays. Off the top of my head we have the Huawei Mate, Samsung Galaxy Mega and the Sony Xperia Ultra Z.
The Mate and Mega are both phablets with midrange specs while the Ultra Z has top-of-the-line specs like the Flex.
The Ultra Z has a bigger screen, 6.44Ē vs 6Ē but to be honest, the Ultra Z is just too big for my taste; based solely on that, Iíd pick the Flex.
If you prefer the extra size of the Ultra Z, it has a few other advantages too. First off, itís water and dust resistant. The screen also has higher resolution (sometimes itís noticeable) and it works better outdoors. You also get a MicroSD slot.
The Flex counters with a built-in infrared blaster (to control your TV) and a better camera.
What about the LG G2?
While the Flexís 6Ē display puts it in a bigger class, you still get a relatively large 5.2Ē screen with the LG G2.
Actually between the 2 phones Iíd go with the G2 because it has a higher resolution screen which has class leading outdoor performance. I also prefer how the G2ís body feels because it lacks the Flexís soft, self healing film. You also get a stabilized lens with the G2 which makes a difference when youíre shooting video.
Another thing to consider is updates. The LG G2 sold in Canada just received a Android 4.4 update. As of right now, the Flex is still running 4.2. I wouldnít be surprised if the Flex got a 4.4 update at some point but my guess is that the G2 will always receive priority.
Otherwise theyíre very similar.
Without a doubt, the Flexís main feature is itís curved body. Itís different from 2011 and 2012ís Galaxy Nexus and the HTC One X which had curved glass in that not only is the Flex curved, but itís also slightly flexible. While itís not so flexible that you can do card tricks with it, you can still do crazy stuff like unbend the Flex so itís straight, though it takes a lot of force to do this.
There are even videos on YouTube where people bend it till it curves the other way. While the Flex is flexible, if you overdo it, it will break after a certain point so donít go crazy.
Practically speaking, I guess a flexible phone might be a little more impact resistant. If you wear really tight, skinny jeans a flexible phone might be able to resist the twisting forces placed on it when you stick it in your pocket - especially since the Flex is a fairly large phone.
Speaking about jeans, the Flex is a very large phone - it doesn't fit very well in pockets. It sticks out too much if you put it in your back pocket and can get in the way when you sit down if you put it in your front side pockets.
The back of the Flex is covered with a self healing coating. That means minor scratches on it will heal themselves. Actually itís more of a film; if you look carefully at the edges on the back you can see where the membrane is glued to the back.
This explains why the Flexís back sort of feels like it has some sort of polyurethane film on it like an Invisible Shield or similar product. Up close, you can see that the film on the sides of the front is already starting to peel around the edges - just like an Invisible Shield!
Funny story, when I first got the Flex I thought I forgot to remove all the plastic films from the body (and in a way I was right).
The protective film is cool, but while itís on the back and sides, itís not located on the corners of the sides. That's unfortunate because that's where phones usually sustain the most damage when theyíre dropped.
It's also worth pointing out that the Flex's PU film attracts dusts. Just look at my pictures.
In a way, you can think of the G Flex as a phone which comes with body protectors pre-installed. So in that sense you save yourself the $3 - 50 that it costs it normally costs to put PU protective material on your phone.
Like the G2, the Flex doesnít have any buttons on the sides. This makes it relatively easy to handle since youíre never pressing any buttons by accident.
The power and volume buttons have been relocated on the back. If you donít like the location of the power button you can turn the Flex on by double tapping the screen.
headphone jack, MicroUSB, microphone
When I think of LG phones, the first thing that comes to my mind are their beautiful LCD displays. So, I was very surprised when I turned the G Flex on. The colour, black levels do not remind me of LGís LCD displays nor does the outdoor performance. At this point I realized the Flex has an OLED display.
Like other OLED displays, it has deep blacks and very high contrast. Itís also relatively bright for an OLED display.
Unfortunately, outdoors in bright sunlight the Flexís display does quite poorly. Its about a generation and a half behind Samsungís AMOLED displays in this regard; itís worse than the Note 3, slightly worse than the GS4 but miles better than the GS3.
At a glance, indoors itís a great looking display but the problem is when you look at it more carefully, it has some serious problems. First off, the left and right sides of the display have a blue cast to them. Itís especially noticeable if youíre looking at an image with a lot of white in it. Is it due to the Gís large 6Ē display?
Secondly, the display is very grainy looking. I looked up close and the screen subpixels arenít arranged in a pentile matrix. Itís not due to the fact that 1280x720 is slightly low for such a large display and I doubt itís a result of dithering.
I also noticed that the display has serious image retention problems. Check out this video I took and focus on the ď6Ē.
The ď6Ē is from the dialer application which I left open for maybe 5 seconds, after I switch screens, you can still see the ď6Ē for several seconds. Itís quite disturbing but practically speaking, I donít think it will effect how you use the device. I tried some games and itís not like the display ghosts or anything like that. What does concern me is what would happen if the Flex was on full brightness, crashed and displayed the same image until the battery drained. Itís worth pointing out that the displayís longest time out setting is 10 minutes.
At 6Ē, the display is one of the biggest you can find on a phone, however, the 1280x720 resolution lags behind many similarly priced Android phones which sport 1920x1080 displays.
In terms of resolution, the Flexís display isnít as sharp as say a LG G2 or HTC One but even so, I thought the display looks sharp enough. I know itís a big display with moderate resolution, but most of the time I found it adequate.
The curved display makes the Flexís relatively large display feel a little more immersive when you watch video on it. Iím not sure if it cuts down on glare because to be honest, the Flexís display doesnít have a very good glare resistant coating on it.
The camera is similar to the one you find in the LG G2 though it lacks image stabilization. In absolute terms, itís not a bad camera but itís not class leading either. When youíre outdoors itís great but it struggles a bit indoors.
The camera has a 4K (3840x2160) video mode. I didnít test 4K video a lot but it doesnít seem to have many downsides. It captures 4K video at 30 frames per second.
I did notice that the Flex takes longer to save the vidoe after you take it but otherwise, it records 4K video at a bitrate of around 29Mbps while 1080P is recorded at around 24Mbps. So from a storage perspective, 4K video doesnít take up much more space than 1080P does.
In terms of detail, 4K video does capture noticeably more than 1080P. I donít have a native 4K display so I canít really say how smooth the video looks or if there are any dropped frames.
Iím not sure if the Flex is able to output video via itís USB connector at 4K but I assume you could send it via DLNA (I didnít test this).
If youíre just shooting 1080P, there is a 60FPS 1080P mode.
The software is similar to what you'll find on the LG G2.
Itís backed by Android 4.2 with LG customizations. Iíll refer you to my LG G2 review which details these customizations in more detail but the Flex shares the G2ís ĎKnock Oní feature which lets you turn it on or off by double tapping the screen. If the Flex is on youíll have to double tap a part of the home screen which doesn't have an icon on it to turn if back off.
The Flex is backed by Qualcommís Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor.
Browser performance is excellent:
I mentioned earlier that the Flex has a 1280x720 display whereas itís competitors all have resolutions of 1920x1080. Super high resolution can be an advantage when it comes to web browsing (occasionally anyways) but when it comes to gaming, itís only important that you have ENOUGH resolution. When you have too much itís actually a bad thing.
Anyways, the Snapdragon 800 has decent gaming performance when itís driving a 1920x1080 display, however when you use it to drive a 1280x720 display it only has to push 45% the amount of pixels.
Unfortunately, itís hard to see what advantage the lower resolution screen brings based on these tests. 3D Mark has a unlimited test but it runs at the same resolution across different devices so it doesnít tell you real world performance since weíre limited to whatever our deviceís native resolution is.
GFX Bench has an on-screen test which is more realistic since it runs at a deviceís native resolution. Iím not sure why the Flexís score isnít higher than it is.
As a Phone:
The Flexís curve makes it more comfortable to talk on when you hold it up to your face but then again, itís a fairly wide phone so that sort of cancels this out.
RF performance seems slightly better than my iPhone 5s. The earpiece is slightly louder though the wideness of Flex makes the earpiece sweet spot kind of hard to find.
The built-in speaker doesnít sound particularly great but it is quite loud.
While the Flex supports LTE Cat 4 (up to 150Mbps) the only Canadian LTE band it supports is band 7 (2600Mhz). That means if you unlock the Flex and take it to TELUS you won't get any LTE support at all while Bell only has Band 7 in a few spots on its network.
As a Media Player:
Iím a little annoyed that LG didnít include a MicroSD with the Flex - after all itís a relatively large phone.
The curved screen makes videos seem a little more enveloping when you hold it in landscape mode. On the other hand, the screen always manages to look grainy, itís very distracting.
If you load a lot of videos on your phone youíll be happy to know that the Flex has excellent USB performance. Itís only a USB 2.0 connector but it writes at 22MB/s and reads at 26MB/s.
No doubt that the Flex is a fairly unique phone. I donít think there are any other flexible phones on the market in Canada. Still, unless you need a phone with a 6Ē display youíre probably better off with the Flexís smaller cousin, the LG G2. The G2 has a better display plus its camera has image stabilization. The Flex does have a bigger battery and 4K video recording but its larger OLED screen seems to use more power than the G2ís LCD.
I'll give it 3 Howies out of 5.
- curved screen makes videos
- Self healing back
- 4K video looks good
- Resolution is a little low for screen size
- Screen has image retention issues
- Screen turns black in bright sunlight
- Self healing back looks like a screen protector
- No self-healing film on the corners!
- No MicroSD