It takes a while before you can truly appreciate the LG G4 – it has a brilliant screen, an outstanding camera and the leather back is a nice touch as well. And as sorted a phone as it is – the time that it takes you to recognise how good it is... might be it's falling. The G4's competition is the best among the best – and in that rarefied territory, each phone needs something to set it apart.
And while the price may matter – what can make or break a phone in the top category is whether it has that 'WOW' factor. Read on to find out whether LG G4 ticks the box in that all important category.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
I had not read any reviews about the LG G4 – so I really was approaching it with a clear, uncluttered mindset. The phone repeats the button placement that has been seen on LG phones since the launch of the G2. You have the power button in the centre surrounded by the volume rocker buttons above and below it. The sides of the phone feature no buttons and neither does the top end. The bottom has a 3.5mm audio jack and a microUSB charging/data transfer port but otherwise, it is all clean. Perhaps too clean.
Double tapping the screen does wake up the phone. But for first time LG flagship phone users this can pose a problem – not being able to locate the power button – as I observed when I saw a few colleagues struggling to locate it. Even after using the phone for two weeks, the button never quite felt natural.
The leather back, on the other hand, feels wonderful. It has a nice, real touch to it as compared to the metallic or plasticky feel that we usually associate with phones.The longer you hold the phone, the better it feels but don't expect the leather to become softer and even better to hold as it ages – it has been thinned and those are the limits imposed by cellphone design. They have different colours but the tan is a bit of a shocker. Some might just chose the more conventional black to fit in. It still allows you though – unlike the iPhone or the S6 to simply – to rip off the back and replace the battery if need be. So a few brownie points there.
The 5.5-inch screen (same size as the G3) is bright and sharp – and with a resolution of 1440x2556 you get a pixel density of 534 ppi. The IPS Quantum LCD is at par with the S6 (AMOLED) if not better. The G4 houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 system on chip which has a 1.8GHz 64-bit Hexa-Core with the Adreno 418 GPU, along with 3GB of RAM. It also offers 32GB of storage. If you are not content with this storage capacity, then you can even add in a microSD card which lets you increase the storage to 128GB. Space shouldn't be the issue here – nor should the specs be an issue. The phone works seamlessly and didn't hang during it's time with us.
It comes armed with the Android OS, v5.1 and while LG has added a few touches – it remains recognisable and easy to use.
The speakers are loud enough to force you to turn the volume down at times and you don't actually need headphones to watch a movie – just an empty room or one where everyone else wants to watch it as well.
The front facing camera is 8 MP and pretty solid as well. The rear 16 MP camera (Aperture f/1.8, Sensor size 1/2.6-inch) wraps up things splendidly, it has laser autofocus, optical image stabilisation, LED flash. Some have called this the best camera among smart phones but more on that later.
As mentioned earlier – everything works. But does the G4's Optimus UI make it stand out? The answer to that isn't as positive as one may expect. It somehow seems to be trying to resist the advancements of Android 5.1 and hiding it all under a mask. There still are too many widgets and how much does one really end up needing them? It works but is it as flexible as Cyanogen? No. Beyond that you can't complain too much about it. It is Android – if you don't like something, there are always ways to change them.
Pretty good, but is there a reason why they have stuck to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 – when the top Qualcomm chip doing the rounds is the 810? While each uses Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 cores, there are only two ‘power’ A57 cores in the 808 (as compared to four in the 810) and perhaps the thought that it will help with battery life.
There has also been talk of the 810 overheating but the G4's 808 manages to avoid that well. It doesn't get too hot at any point and usability remains good at all times.
As a result, while performance is blazingly fast for menial tasks – sending emails, browsing the web, watching video, regular app work – it can sometimes struggle while playing really demanding, energy-sapping games – the kind given that it is a flagship phone – it should have handled with a fair degree of ease.
The Geekbench scores for the HTC One M9 are upto 4200, but for the LG G4 – it comes down to 3338. Once again, put that down to the 808 vs 810 decision.
Colours seem a little oversaturated. The reds seem a little too red and in general things tend to pop out at you, not as natural as one would like for sure. Then again, the screen is brilliant – if you don't care so much for accuracy that is. The S6 display and even that of the iPhone seem more natural and accurate in comparison. But it clearly is a generation ahead of the iPhone 5S (my current phone) which I almost stopped using for reading or browsing. That is perhaps also because of the screen size but there can be no other complaints in this department.
LG has gone ahead and loaded with all kinds of tech possible. The 16 megapixel back camera has the sensor that is 1/2.6 inch in size - the same as Samsung Galaxy S6. The lens is even better. It’s an f/1.8 lens. It is fast, takes in enough light and beats the HTC One M9 (f/2.2) and the S6 (f/1.9) in this regard. It was widely reckoned that this would be the killer feature – the one that would make everyone want this phone. Pair this with LG G4's laser auto-focus and things get really interesting. In most cases focus acquisition is really quick.
PS: Please click on the images to see the high resolution files
But as good as it is – it leaves one feeling a little underwhelmed. I noticed that some of the pictures are a bit too sharp and that once again serves to add an unreal edge to it. The LG has lots of camera settings including simple, full manual, and automatic, panoramic, dual mode, HDR and more. As close to a DSLR as possible – only you can't change the lenses.
The low light performance is quite dramatic. But once again – the sensor seems to pull in so much light that it seems un-natural. But there isn't too much noise and that is a good thing. But given good light as well as low light conditions, this is a cracking camera.
Battery Life: 6/10
The phone houses a 3000mAh battery and that should be good enough for an 8-hour work day on regular use. But if you are a power user, you will need to carry around your charger with you. Carrying around a charger on you for a top-end phone, if you are afraid that it will keep running out of charge is a bit pointless. It also prevents you from getting the best out of your phone. The PC Mark test gave it a work battery life rating of 4h 55 min which isn't outstanding by any yardstick. Specially when you consider competition such as Sony Xperia Z3+ giving a fabulous battery life. One may argue that it is due to the fact that LG G4 has a QuadHD display as opposed to the full HD display on Sony, but those are brand decisions.
Verdict and Price in India
It started off at Rs 51,500 – no price point advantage – but can now be bought at even Rs 45,500 online. But it still feels a bit too overpriced. LG has tried to make this a well-sorted phone with a really good camera and all the bells and whistles.
But who is it aimed at really? The businessman would care about the leather back but he would love better battery life. The college-going student would love the camera but he wouldn't care so much about the leather back. The battery would be the dampener once again. If you are sitting in a car at the start of the race – would you rather it be a Ferrari that may run out of gas halfway or a Maruti that would get you to your goal. The G4 is good but unfortunately, it isn't the best and at the very top, that is a killer blow.
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