LG G2 review
A beautiful screen and great camera and battery life make the G2 a phone to be reckoned with - we just wish it had expandable storage
Review Date: 9 Jan 2013
Price when reviewed: £462
Reviewed By: Chris Finnamore
Our review sample was kindly provided by Three. The G2 is £49 on a £35-per-month contract from Three's website.
It's been a long time since we last saw a high-end LG phone. Even the top-end models we encountered at this year's MWC show, such as the LG Optimus G Pro, never made it to the UK. LG has pulled out all the stops with its latest top-end handset, though; the LG G2 is a huge 5.2-inch Full HD phone with a powerful quad-core 2.2GHz processor.
LG has done an excellent job of hiding the G2's bulk. A slim screen bezel all round means the handset is both shorter and narrower than 5in phones such as the Sony Xperia Z1. It's also remarkably comfortable to hold; the phone's rounded edges and gently tapered back mean it sits well in your hand, and never feels overly large when you're making a phone call.
There's one part of the G2's design that goes against the grain. There are no buttons around the edge - instead, the volume and screen lock buttons sit on the back. We're not convinced this works. The volume buttons sit within easy reach of your index finger, but we found the lock button hard to locate, and often ended up changing the phone's volume instead of locking or unlocking the display. You can also unlock and lock the phone with a double-tap of your finger on the screen, which we found worked well most of the time. We still missed having a lock button on the side or top of the phone, though.
The basic structure of LG's software follows that of stock Android 4.2, with the app tray split between apps and widgets. However, there are several subtle and not-so-subtle customisations, which are thoughtfully done. As with most Android phones, you can rearrange the icons in the shortcut tray at the bottom of the homescreen, but on the G2 you can also move the icon that opens the main app tray. This is a small change, but a big help if you're coming from another manufacturer's handset; Sony, for example, puts this commonly-pressed icon in the middle, while Samsung puts it on the right of the shortcut tray. There's room for a sixth shortcut icon here too, which could save you frequent trips into the app drawer. You can also choose from a number of options for the soft keys at the very bottom of the display, meaning you can move the back key from the left to the right to suit the position you're used to.
The app drawer itself is completely customisable, letting you change the wallpaper independently from the home screen and arrange apps to your own preference, rather than being forced to keep them in alphabetical order. You have the choice between small and large icons, fitting either 20 or 25 apps per page depending on whether you prefer to keep things compact or struggle to see icons at their default size. Finally, you can hide apps from the drawer altogether, without actually uninstalling them; this is perfect for those annoying stock apps you don't use often like Google Settings, which would otherwise clutter up your screen.
The pull-down notification tray is also heavily modified. As well as the normal Android notifications, you have brightness and volume sliders, and access to Quick Memo, which lets you scribble on the screen and save the note for later. This is also where you can run QSlide apps. These are apps which run hovering on the screen, so you can have a calendar up next to a messaging app, or your email next to a calculator. It's a good system which is slightly more flexible than Samsung's model, which insists that apps are always side by side and you can't move them around. However, the effect is spoiled when the huge keyboard pops up; with the keyboard taking up half the screen, we found it almost impossible to type a message while looking at the calendar.
The default keyboard is pretty overwhelming at first due to the sheer number of icons scattered around. We liked having a dedicated number row, but there's a shortcut key to a bewildering array of emoticons and cute little graphics to put into multimedia messages, and we feel the input language icon could easily have been relegated to a menu option. We liked the multifunction punctuation keys at the bottom-right, which you can hold down to bring up a selection of commonly-used marks such as slashes, colons and parentheses, but we'd prefer these to default back to the commonly-used full stop and comma rather than remain on the last type of punctuation used.
At first glance, the G2's 5in, 1,920x1,080 screen appears pretty much flawless. It's an IPS model, but we could see levels of contrast and colour vibrancy on a par with AMOLED displays. It took a significant amount of staring at the G2, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Sony Xperia Z1 side by side in order to see the strengths and weaknesses of the different screens.
The Xperia Z1, whose screen impressed us when we first saw it, was at the bottom of the pack. We were impressed with its snowy whites, but colours looked insipid next to the competition, especially when we turned up the Z1's brightness to match that of the other phones. The Galaxy S4's AMOLED display has a huge amount of contrast, which really helps show up detail in darker areas of photos, but the display's colour balance tends towards the warm; there's a slight yellow tinge in white areas.
At first, we though the LG G2's screen had the Galaxy S4 beaten, as colours remain incredibly saturated even at high brightness levels, and whites are just as pure as on the Xperia Z1's display, with no colour tinge of any kind. However, the G2 can't quite match the S4 for contrast and shadow detail. It's a close-run thing, and which display is better for you depends on whether you value colour accuracy over absolute contrast.
The G2 is the first phone we've seen that supports 24bit, 192kHz uncompressed audio. Android doesn't natively support anything beyond 16bit/44kHz so LG has made software modifications and used Qualcomm's WCD9320 DAC to provide the best possible sound quality. Admittedly it makes little difference if you keep your music as highly compressed 128kbps MP3s, but anyone with a library of higher quality tracks will finally be able to take them on the move without downsampling or compatibility issues. The default music player even disables any EQ presets you may have enabled when it detects an uncompressed track, preventing audio from distorting.
You'll only be able to tell the difference with a quality pair of headphones though, as although the G2's internal speaker is surprisingly loud and sounds reasonably clear for a smartphone, it isn't sensitive enough to pick out the details in an uncompressed FLAC track.
The phone is slightly slower than the Sony Xperia Z1 in our benchmarks, despite having the same processor. This could be down to software optimisations or the G2's design meaning the chip can’t boost up to its maximum clock speed as often. In general the phone feels extremely fast, but we did notice some hesitation when rendering and scrolling around graphics-heavy web pages; something that didn’t occur on the Xperia Z1.
Despite having such a big screen and a high-performance processor, the G2's 3,000mAh battery gives it astonishing battery life. The G2 managed to play a film on loop for an amazing 16h 47m before running flat, comfortably beating the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 into second place as the longest-lived phone we've seen.
The G2's camera is a corker. It's a 13-megapixel model with optical image stabilisation, and produces excellent photos in daylight. It blows the Sony Xperia Z1 away for detail and exposures are accurate. Photos were on a par with those from the Samsung Galaxy S4, and almost up there with the Nokia Lumia 1020's images. The G2 also produced excellent shots in low-light conditions, with less noise than the S4's photos. Its optical image stabilisation even helped it to produce relatively blur-free handheld photos, but it couldn’t match the Lumia 1020's talent for producing consistently sharp handheld shots in dark conditions. Overall, it's one of the best smartphone cameras we've seen.
Vibrant colours, accurate exposure and plenty of detail - what more could you want? (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Excellent shots in low light are also possible (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
The LG G2 is an extremely impressive handset in many ways. The screen is superb, the phone feels compact despite its large display, and its camera and battery life are astounding. We’re not keen on the rear-mounted buttons, but like LG's software modifications. The only thing keeping it from an award is the lack of a microSD card slot - not a problem if you don’t load your phone with films and games, but not having expandable storage will be a deal-breaker for some.
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