LGís last flagship, the G3 was one of the first phones to ship with a quad-HD 2560x1440 display and to be honest, it was slightly ahead of its time. While it boasted the highest resolution screen around, the screen itself didnít really look any better than the competition but worse yet, the rest of it wasnít quite as cutting edge. The camera while not terrible, wasnít terribly good either. Donít forget that the processor was barely up to the task of driving the high res display.
Since then, Samsung unleashed their GS6, which in many ways is a big step up from the GS5 which was was the G3ís contemporary. Now LG has the G4; is it enough to compete with the GS6?
On paper, theyíre not all the different but the G4 has a lot of tweaks that make it more than the sum of its parts.
For example, both have Quad-HD displays but the G4ís looks much sharper because LG has fixed the weird halos that appear on some text on the G3 that was never fixed even after the 5.0 update.
The G4ís camera is quite a bit step up. The G3ís was a middling camera - it wasnít horrible but it definitely wasnít market leading. The G4ís is right up there with the GS6 at the top of the market.
Performance is also quite a bit step up. While the G4 Snapdragon 808 has 6 cores, only 2 of them are higher performance Cortex A57 cores. Still, most tasks donít require all 4 cores running at once so the difference is more on paper than something youíd notice in everyday usage.
While neither is super thin, the curved back on both helps to make them feel a little smaller than they are. The G3ís curves only run longitudinally whereas the G4ís curves both run along both the latitude and longitude.
vs Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge
This is the G4ís real competition. They match up well in many areas; the cameras are comparable, as are the displays. Both have excellent multimedia chops with powerful headphone, amplifiers and speakers.
The GS6 pulls ahead with a truly usable fingerprint reader which I much prefer over the G4ís custom knock pattern unlock.
Thereís also the GS6ís metal and glass body which is a bit more tactile than the G4ís plastic and leather.
One area where thereís no contest is that the G4 has both a user removable battery which happens to be 20% larger and memory card slot. Let me put it this way, Samsung is really pushing the fact that the GS6 charges really quickly. The reason they have to do this is because many people will have to top it off. Itís actually Samsungís way of apologizing for giving the GS6 a lousy battery.
Another way to think of it, is if the G4 and GS6 were electric cars. The G4 would have a long enough range that most can wait till they get home to charge it. The GS6 on the other hand would charge faster but would require you to take time out of your day to add some juice.
As for the GS6 Edge, itís a very sleek device but the sloped sides of the screen make it awful to use. On the other hand, I had no problems using the G4. It fits well in my and and is predictable.
Both are great phones; you get more sizzle with the GS6 while the G4 is more about the steak. The G4 is the more practical choice while the GS6 with its metal and glass is a more emotional one.
vs HTC One M9:
I havenít posted my M9 review yet because Iím working on mine simultaneously.
I will say that I prefer the G4. The M9 does have a nice metal body but thatís about the only advantage that it has. The leather covered back also helps to close the gap.
While not terrible, the M9 camera isnít particularly good either. Itís not terribly responsive, the camera software isnít terribly intuitive. Iím also not a fan of HTCís Sense software and find that it brings little benefit. Then again, you could say the same thing about LGís interface.
On paper, the M9ís SoC should be more powerful than the G4ís but when I test it, there isnít much of a difference between the 2 devices.
The differentiator is that the G4 comes with a slightly larger, removable battery.
- 5.5Ē IPS LCD display
- 2560 x 1440 resolution
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, 2 x 64bit Cortex A57 + 4 x 64bit Cortex A53
- Adreno 418 GPU
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB storage
- 16MP rear camera with OIS, f/1.8 lens, dual tone LED flash, laser autofocus
- 8MP front facing camera
- 3000mAh battery
- LTE support
- 148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8m
The G4 is now the lone flagship that comes with a user-removable battery. Sony, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Apple all ship with sealed batteries. If you plan on keeping your phone for a while, a removable battery is really handy. You just buy a new battery and youíre done. You donít have to find a repair shop to do it for you.
You get 2 different back covers in the box.
A plastic one one with a hammered metal finish (because brushed metal looking plastic is so 2012) or a slick leather one.
The leather back looks sick (in a good way).
Just look at it, they really grained the hell out of it.
I guess I do have a minor complaint, the leather is really thin so it lacks a bit of the softness/suppleness you normally get with leather.
The frame is made of plastic. Note the chromed paint on it, itís solid enough that it had be second guessing that itís made from plastic. Despite the large footprint, the G4 is a very solid phone with virtually no flexing when you twist it.
Check out the slick diamond pattern behind the glass on the bezel.
Like the G2 and G3, the G4 has no buttons on the sides. The power and volume keys are located on the back, just below the camera. Since most users arenít constantly pressing these buttons, it makes handing the G4 very straight forward. That said, getting used to having the buttons on the back does take some getting used to. I tend to put my finger where the camera is when Iím hunting for the volume buttons.
Still, you can always wake the G4 up by double tapping the screen or using one your own knock pattern to unlock it.
Then again, itís not quite as simple as pressing the home button and then placing your finger on it to unlock it like you can on the GS6 or some iPhones.
If you take a lot of pictures the lack of buttons on the side really allow to hold the G4 very securely. Just watch out if youíre shooting video because itís easy to accidentally cover up one of the microphones.
Otherwise, the G4 is very easy to handle. The top and bottom of the front have plenty of space so thereís little chance of accidentally pressing the screen when you reach across with your thumb.
These days heat is a big issue so youíre probably wondering how hot the G4 gets. While I didn't bother putting a thermometer to it, the G4 does get quite warm but only on the top part around the camera. It doesnít get as toasty as the GS6 does.
Headphone jack, Micro USB, Microphone.
Microphone, IR blaster.
Since there are no buttons on the sides there isn't much to see.
If you look carefully the front of the G4 has a slight curve to it.
LG calls the G4ís display a ďQuantum IPSĒ, I asked LG what this means and was mildly disappointed that it doesnít mean it has a quantum dot display. Instead, itís just a marketing term to refer to the fact that itís ďa quantum leapĒ forward. I guess they had to say something since they couldnít increase the resolution.
Jokes aside, even though the resolution hasnít changed, thereís quite a difference between the G4 and the G3 display. First off the blacks are much deeper. Theyíre not quite AMOLED black but they come pretty damn close. Off the top of my head the G4 has the deepest
Consequently, colours on the G4 pop much more than they do on the G3. LG manages to do this without totally over-saturating colours too. I donít have any equipment to measure saturation but the reds and greens and blues on the Chrome icon look well behaved on the G4.
It goes without saying that a 5.5Ē 2560x1440 display is insanely sharp and indeed thatís the case. Actually, even though they have the same resolution, the G4ís looks much sharper because it doesnít have those strange halos that the G3 does. If I may segue for a moment, I figured that the G3ís halos would go away after a few software updates but that never happened.
Since the blacks are so deep and the colours pop, I initially thought the G4ís display was brighter than the G3ís (which looks kind of washed out next to the G4) but after putting them side-by-side, Iíd say the G3 is actually a tiny bit brighter.
However, the awesome colour seems to come at a cost. The G4 loses a quite a bit of brightness when you donít view it straight on. I tend to take a lot of pictures when Iím not holding the G4 right in front of me and the loss in brightness is very noticeable - especially outdoors because I have trouble framing my shots/videos. Compared to the GS6 outdoors itís noticeably brighter but once you go off-angle there isnít a big difference between them.
Note how much dimmer the G4 (and M9) displays are compared to the 6 Plus and GS6 Edge.
I suspect the G4's poor off-angle performance is caused by the curved front.
Straight on the G4 display is incredible but the loss in brightness off-angle really hurts its usefulness.
Overall, the G4 display is incredible. However it seems to come at the cost of off-angle viewability which in turn reduces outdoor performance.
Thereís been a lot of buzz about how good the G4 camera is so I was very curious to try it myself. While the camera sensor appears to be top notch, I think the real differentiator is the image stabilizer.
Just to clarify, Iím talking about Ďrealí stabilization where parts of the camera can actually move to counteract shake and not digital image stabilization which just reserves a few pixels at the edges of the frame to allow space for the image to shift around.
I donít remember which phone was the first to introduce it, but my Lumia 920 from 3 or 4 years ago had it as does the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, LG G2, LG G3, Note 4, GS6, HTC One M7, etc. Image stabilization hardware in a phone is nothing new.
Whatís different about the G4 stabilizer is that it works really well. I donít have a rig setup to test it but when you shake the G4 it does an incredible job of reducing shake. Itís so good it doesnít have to resort to using Ďtricksí like a super wide angle lens (like on the GS6), using excessive amounts of digital stabilization (like on a Blackberry).
LG tells me that the G4 can correct horizontal and vertical shake along with Z-axis (forward and back) shake. The stabilizer is also able to correct up to 2 degrees of movement vs 1 degree on the G3.
You can quickly take a picture by pressing the volume down button twice - this will launch the camera, give you a second to frame your shot and then take the picture. I wonder where LG got the idea of this feature from? On a GS6, you can double tap the home button to launch the camera. I prefer Samsungís implementation over the LG one because you can do this from any screen with a GS6. The LG double tap only seems to work when the phone is off.
Picture quality is excellent. These days, most cameras - even cheaper ones do well outdoors and thatís the case with the G4. Where it really sets itself apart is indoors. Itís amazing how well it does when there isnít a lot of light and most of the time, it doesnít even need to use super long exposures which it could since it has a very effective stabilizer.
My only complaint about the G4 is that sometimes it takes a little longer to focus than the competition - especially the first shot, which usually takes a second or two. Iím not sure if this is a side effect of the faster than normal f/1.8 lens or if LG just tweaked the focus to make sure it gets focus but I did notice it.
It also focuses more between shots which isnít necessarily a bad thing but it does make shot-to-shot speeds slower.
There are 3 different shooting modes; simple, auto and advanced.
Advanced is a manual mode complete with:
- white balance
- manual focusing.
- ISO shutter speed
- exposure lock
- histogram (Iím not joking)
Note that thereís no aperture control as most phones only have a fixed aperture. It can even shoot in RAW mode if JPG isnít enough for you. RAW files are saved as DNG files. You can use the DNG files to adjust the white balance yourself, sharpening, that sort of thing. One thing I wasnít prepared to see is just how many lit/dead pixels the sensor has in DNG mode during longer exposures. This doesnít really affect anything since removing dead pixels from an image is very simple but itís still quite shocking. I guess it also reminds us that itís a true RAW mode with no processing at all.
What I really liked about the manual mode is that itís actually fairly responsive and easy to use. I wouldnít use it all the time but Iíd definitely play with it occasionally - the manual focus (great for macros) and exposure lock are both very useful.
Speaking of macro, the G4 minimum focusing distance (MFD) is pretty impressive. You can get in really close - itís comparable to the GS6/S6 Edge/Note 4/Note Edge all of which allow you to get in really close.
Each shooting mode produces slightly different looking pictures. I found that Auto mode produced photos that sometimes have excessive sharpening - it gets really bad if there isnít a lot of light. I liked the pictures I got from the advanced mode when I left everything default. Pictures are a little more Ďnormalí looking. The only problem is that you lose burst mode in advanced mode. As good as the G4ís camera is, sometimes youíll need burst to tip the odds in your favor that youíll get a keeper.
Here are some comparison shots of my family room built-in. The shot was taken at night so there's no light coming from the outside. It's only lit by chandelier with 6 LED (25 watt equivalent) bulbs. You can right click any of these images to view them at full resolution. Note that the zoomed out shots are resized to 1600x1200.
The GS6 has the cleanest looking shot here but it missed the white balance. Normally it's pretty good about white balance so this is an anomoly. The G4 is a bit over-sharpened. I would have gotten better results if I had used advanced mode. The iPhone 6 Plus looks like there is very light processing - it uses a fairly slow shutter speed (which isn't ideal). The G3 does its best here but you the noise reduction takes up a lot of detail. The M9 with it's lack of image stabilization really hurts it here. It's forced to use a fairly high ISO and even then it took me a few tries to get that shot.
Remember that awesome stabilizer I was talking about earlier? It allows for really smooth video - I didnít do a side-by-side comparison but it reminds me of the stabilizer in my dedicated Panasonic camcorder which is extremely effective.
Video looks great, the sensor is quite sensitive so indoor video stays relatively clean looking even when there isnít a lot of light.
Unfortunately, the manual mode only works for photos so you canít manually focus while shooting video.
The microphone sounds great but it tends to pick up a lot of handling noise - I suspect itís because the lack of buttons on the sides encourages you to hold the G4 much more securely. Then again, it could indicate poor microphone placement.
The stabilizer is so good that feature alone is making me think of packing a G4 just so I can use it shoot 4K video.
LG has resisted the urge to fit a really wide lens on the front facing camera. I personally donít like super wide front facing cameras but I guess this is a personal decision. I mean, I tend to use the selfie cam for just that, selfies. I donít care if my camera canít get me and 4 other friends in the same frame nor do I care about it capturing as much of the background as possible. You might have different priorities. I guess you could argue that you could always zoom in on a wide angle if you donít want to capture so much.
Iím not 100% sure of the best way to test a front facing camera. Most of them have a fixed focus lens and are optimized to have their subject a few feet away. Further, companies are under pressure to pack more megapixels into their cameras. At the same time, most of them usually have settings to soften things up so that they donít they capture every single pore on your face which in turn eliminates all the extra details you get with more megapixels.
The only thing that really matters to me is how well the front facing camera does in low light. As it turns out, this is very difficult to test because some manufacturers do more post processing than others. Sorry for getting all loquacious about front facing cameras but thereís a lot to think about.
None of these pictures looks good but out of these 4, I prefer the HTC One M9 and the LG G4. The M9 is a bit splotchy (it looks Ďultrapixel-ishí). The G4 has a tiny bit too much sharpening.
The M9 also has the shallowest depth of field. Is this because itís fixed focus is set to focus closer or is it because it has the largest sensor?
The iPhone 6 Plus doesnít do a lot of lightening in post-processing so the picture is the darkest here. Even though by far, it has the lowest megapixel sensor here. If you lighten the picture, it still captures a bit of detail compared to the others because it doesnít try to remove too much of the noise.
The GS6 does the worst here, the wide-angle lens makes for uninteresting look selfies and even though I turned the Ďbeautyí feature all the way down it still softens everything to the point that it looks like a watercolor painting. Oh and BTW, nice try making me look Ďbeautifulí - itís not gonna happen.
The software hasnít changed much from the LG G3. Itís still a bit cartoonish/ugly looking. Check out the pull down, it has 2 gears on it, which gear does what?
Also note how the pull down switches take up half the space, I prefer how stock Lollipop allows you to pull down once for your notifications and then a second time to see your switches.
Like the G3, the G4 likes to try to hand out lots of cards with what it thinks are useful bits of information. Itís basically a clone of Google Now.
While I donít use the split screen apps much, itís nice that this feature is available.
Like the GS6 and M9, the G4 has an infrared blaster located at the top so you can use it to control your home theater equipment. Unlike them, the G4 doesnít use Peelís useless remote software that requires you to subscribe to cable to satellite to be of any use. That means the G4ís remote software is actually useful.
Another useful carry-over program is quick memo, which lets you take a screenshot and then mark it up with your finger.
Under the hood is a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SoC. If youíre keeping track of other recent flagships, the HTC One M9 is packing a Snapdragon 810 while the GS6 pair have a custom Samsung Exynos 7420.
All feature a high performance ARM Cortex A57 cluster paired with an energy sipping Cortex A53 cluster.
The A57 cluster in the Snapdragon 810 and Exynos has 4 cores while the 808 only has 2 cores.
So the 810 and 808 are twice as fast right? Technically, yes but not really. The A57 cores run very hot so in the case of the 810 in the M9, itís not always able to run them at full speed. Another thing to consider is that the each additional core usually brings diminishing returns when it comes to performance.
Something else to consider is that the A57 cores run hot. After a few minutes the GS6 feels like a nuclear rod, the G4 has half the cores and while it doesnít get quite as hot it still gets quite warm. Doing anything taxing also causes battery to drain at an alarm rate (much more so on the GS6).
I got a feeling that the A57 cores arenít really ready right now but due to market pressures they were rushed out the door.
I need to point out that the software on my G4 is Benchmark aware. It wonít allow me to run benchmarks unless the phone doesnít have a network connection. Is this because LG doesnít want scores showing up on benchmark sites before launch? Is LG trying something underhanded like overclocking the SoC or maybe relaxing throttling clock speed limits for benchmarks (I have no idea)? Do they just want to make sure the phone isnít working on anything else while the benchmark is running which could result in lower scores (probably).
This has the side effect of not allowing certain benchmarks at all because theyíre not able to connect to the internet to download files they need to run. You can trick some of them by turning on airplane mode, launching the program and then disabling airplane mode via the notification area pull down switches but it doesnít work for all of them.
As such, the only benchmarks I could run are Peacekeeper, Antutu and 3DMark Unlimited.
The G4 knocks it out of the park with Peacekeeper. Itís about 25% faster than the GS6 and HTC One M9.
In Antutu, I suspect the fact that the G4 has 2 less high performance cores than the HTC One M9 and GS6 results in its lackluster score. Then again, what do you use more? The browser or do you run Antutu constantly?
3D Mark Unlimited runs off screen so the M9 with itís lower resolution display doesnít have an advantage here. Iíd run 3D Mark Extreme which runs on-screen but all the devices here can easily hit V-Sync so theyíd all have similar scores.
Check it out, the SoC appears to report itís maximum speed as 1.2Ghz. I wouldnít pay too much attention to this as the scores indicate that it can run quite a bit faster - 808ís are supposed to run their A57ís at 1.8Ghz.
Finally I included PC Mark which I don't normal use.
Personally, I donít pay much attention to benchmarks. I want a powerful phone so I donít have to wait for it. I want it to launch my camera as fast as possible, ditto for Chrome, and my favorite video games.
The GS6 has the highest benchmark scores out of all the phones I have tried so I figured I put it next to the G4 to see which one launches programs faster. With 2 extra ARM Cortex A57 cores which are clocked faster than the G4 along with DDR4 RAM and speedy UFS 2.0 storage the GS6 has a bit of an advantage.
To see which is faster, I killed all open applications on both phones, put them side-by-side and then launched each app simultaneously.
I was surprised but the cameras on both phones take exactly the same amount of time to launch.
When it comes to Chrome, the G4 is half a step faster and drawing pages. Its high Peacekeeper score is the real deal.
The tables are turned for Plants Vs Zombies 2 which the GS6 consistently edging out the G4 by a small amount.
My point is even though the G4 isnít a hero at Benchmarks, itís competitive with the best out there - no oneís going to find it slow.
The built in speaker is extremely powerful. LG claims the G4 has a 1 watt speaker and a 2 watt amplifier. The GS6 is another phone with a rocking speaker but they sound slightly different.
The GS6 has a more balanced, tuned sound. The G4 doesnít sound cheap but itís lacks some of the GS6ís thumping bass. Theyíre both about the same when it comes to maximum volume.
No surprises here, the headphone jack has plenty of volume and should be able to drive any pair of headphones you throw at it. It also has excellent sound quality.
You get 32GB of storage (22.7GB available). If thatís not enough, you can add MicroSD cards which currently top out at 200GB.
As a Phone:
The earpiece maximum volume is above average (average = iPhone 6 Plus) but lags behind the GS6.
Ditto for the speakerphone, which is louder than average but not as loud as the GS6.
RF performance is average.
The LG G4 is a much more balanced device compared to the GS6/GS6 Edge. It matches the GS6 camera, has nearly as much performance, has similar multi-media capabilities, has a nice leather back and is solid. When it comes to practicality, it one-ups the Samsungs with a removable battery which is 20% larger and a MicroSD slot.
4.5 Howies out of 5.
- Effective Image stabilizer
- Leather Back
- Removable battery
- MicroSD slot
- Large battery
- Screen loses a lot of brightness off angle
- Camera takes a while to focus at times