LG G4 Review: An Imperfect Phone that I Fell in Love With

LG G4 Review: An Imperfect Phone that I Fell in Love With

I wasn’t expecting much from the LG G4. I wasn’t a fan of the LG G3. I’m generally not a fan of 1440p displays, as they have many more disadvantages than actual advantages.

I absolutely loved the LG G Flex 2. In fact, when I received the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 to review this week, someone asked me if I would recommend it to anyone as you could with an iPhone, and I said that there are only a few devices that I think anyone would be happy with: the iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and the LG G Flex 2.

The LG G Flex 2 was released earlier this year and was, by all rights, a flagship phone. In fact, it appeared that the LG G4 had lower end specs. The LG G Flex 2 uses a 5.5″ 1080p AMOLED and the LG G4 uses a 5.5″ 1440p IPS LCD. AMOLED produces more vibrant colors and blacker black colors, as pixels can be turned off where an LCD panel is backlit. As I said, there are much more disadvantages to 1440p (battery, GPU drain) than advantages (virtual reality).

Then there’s the processor. The LG G Flex 2 uses Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor, the octa core Snapdragon 810. The Snapdragon 810 gained a reputation for overheating and throttling. The irony of that is that even when the Snapdragon 810 is throttled as much as it throttles, it’s only marginally slower than the hexa core Snapdragon 808 in the LG G4.

To me, it seemed that the LG G Flex 2 was the better phone, especially due to the curved display, which was unexpectedly practical. The main selling point of the LG G4 was the camera, which promised to be a 16 MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, a 1/2.6″ sensor, and a color spectrum analyzer, along with an 8 MP front camera. The LG G Flex 2 used the same camera as the LG G3, which was no slouch.

It’s fair to compare the LG G4 to the LG G Flex 2. They’re both flagships in their own right and they both excel at different things. That’s why I started with that. For a more full comparison, check out the comparison.

LG G4: Specs

CPU Hexa Core Snapdragon 808, 1.44 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A53, 1.82 GHz Dual Core ARM Cortex-A57
GPU Adreno 418
Display 5.5″, 1440p, 538 ppi, IPS LCD
Body 148.9×76.1×6.3-9.8 mm, 155 g
Camera 16 MP, 5312×2988, 8 MP Front
Video 4K – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps
Aperture f/1.8
Sensor Size 1/2.6″
Focal Length 28 mm
Storage 32 GB, Expandable to 128 GB
RAM 3 GB
Battery 3000 mAh
Price ~$700, Depending on Carrier

As we can see here, we have very powerful specs. Let’s move on.

LG G4: Display and Design

LG is among the last to do the removable back and removable battery design, ever since Samsung ditched it with the Galaxy S6. I’m not a fan. I feel like the days of removable batteries are behind us.

I wasn’t a fan of the LG G4’s design when I first saw it, and I’m still not a fan of the leather ones; however, the one that they sent me is quite beautiful, which is the plastic model. I also didn’t care for the design of the LG G Flex 2 or the LG G3, which is the slippery plastic feel.

They also went with a curved display with the LG G4. It’s not nearly as curved as the LG G Flex 2, so it doesn’t have the same kind of practicality. The one benefit that you’ll get from that is that you can place the phone on a surface face down and not have to worry about the screen getting scratched.

The screen is quite beautiful. It passed every test I ran with flying colors (pun intended). It also passed multitouch tests. It was much more than I expected from an IPS LCD.

LG G4: Rear Camera

I’m probably going to take a lot of heat for saying this, but I wasn’t impressed by the rear camera. LG made a big deal of saying that it’s like a DSLR because it has manual controls. I hear this analogy quite a bit, which we heard first from Nokia with the Nokia Lumia 1020. Of course, you can’t adjust aperture or change the lens, so it’s not quite like a DSLR. Maybe you could compare it to a point and shoot.

If you’re into manual controls, the camera is amazing; however, I think the ideal solution is a camera that works great in automatic settings but allows for manual controls should the user choose to use it. I still haven’t seen a device that does both extremely well.

Let’s face it. 99% of people are using their smart phone camera with automatic settings. After all, that’s what the smart phone is for. It’s for taking quick photos of moments you don’t want to miss. For most, if you want those manual controls, you don’t want a phone that’s like a DSLR. You want a DSLR.

The other issue that I have with LG’s manual controls is that once you put it in manual mode, it’s all manual controls. On a Nokia Lumia 1020, you have the option of manually controlling certain aspects of the camera while controlling others. The same goes for an actual DSLR. On the LG G4, you have to manually control everything, including focus.

The LG G4’s rear camera supports RAW photos, but that only works in manual mode as well. Personally, I like to save a RAW photo when I snap a picture, in case the day comes when I want to edit it later. It’s like having a negative for your film photos. It’s just good to have.

Let’s look at some samples. Keep in mind that in order to enlarge the photos, simply click or tap them. Don’t tap them if you don’t have a touchscreen PC. They won’t enlarge if you do that. You’ll just make your screen dirty. To view the full size images, there is a link in the carousel.

As you can see, the LG G4 takes stunning photos; however, it seems to take too long to focus, when compared with the LG G Flex 2 and the LG G3. There were other occasions where I used it to take personal photos and they came out completely out of focus. Here’s an example.

20150813_201558

 

As you can see, the photo is completely out of focus. It’s not that I didn’t give it time to focus. The LG G4 was given ample time to focus. It just kept going in and out of focus and settled on out of focus.

I did, however, use the LG G4 to take a lot of personal photos, which is not something that I always do with review units that I get. Normally, I carry around a Nokia Lumia 930 and an iPhone 6, two phones that balance each other out perfectly.

LG G4: Front Camera

As I said, I ended up using the G4 to take a lot of personal photos. It was quite unprecedented that I started to carry the device wherever I went, and the reason was the camera, despite my criticisms of the rear camera. Interestingly enough, it was the 8 MP front camera that really got my attention.

The LG G4 really takes amazing selfies, something that neither the iPhone 6 nor the Nokia Lumia 930 are particularly strong at. Personally, I don’t take a lot of selfies on my own, but when I’m with my girlfriend or in a group, I might tend to do so. When that’s the case, a 1.2 MP front camera really isn’t enough.

It’s also not the resolution. I’ve seen plenty of 5 MP front cameras that just suck. In fact, I wasn’t even impressed with the 13 MP front camera on the HTC Desire Eye. I’ve always thought the best front camera was the 5 MP sensor on the OnePlus One. This is better.

LG G4: Benchmarks

It wouldn’t be a review without benchmarks. We have battery tests, CPU tests, and GPU tests. I’ve never been a fan of benchmarks; however, they are the best tool we have for testing the performance of a device.

LG G4 Geekbench

Here are the Geekbench 3 scores. Battery time is average. The dim screen setting was on, so it’s not amazing, but that’s what you can expect from a 1440p display and a hexacore processor.

The single core score is to be expected as well. The one disappointing thing is the multi core score. Seriously, they just keep throwing cores in these things. You’d think that it would get a higher score.

Next up is AnTuTu benchmarks. This is what I found interesting, mainly because it’s what I used to test the LG G Flex 2. When you run AnTuTu benchmarks again and again on a Snapdragon 810 device, you get to see how much it throttles. This is the LG G4.

LG G4 AnTuTu

 

Running the AnTuTu benchmark three times in a row, the first getting a score of 47,904, which is good, but it’s not miles ahead of previous generation devices using the quad core Snapdragon 801. Seriously, the Snapdragon 808 has two more cores, which are ARM Cortex-A57, and it’s 64 bit! You would think that the Snapdragon 808 would blow it away.

As we can see, it does throttle on the second run, coming in at 45,942 but it bounces back to 46,255. Now let’s take a look at what the LG G Flex 2 does.

LG G Flex 2

 

OK, so the LG G Flex 2 starts out at 50,147, which is ahead of what the LG G4 does, which is also not surprising. I would think it would do more, as it has two additional ARM Cortex-A57 cores.

But then we see that the LG G Flex 2 starts to throttle as the benchmark test gets ran again and again, where it bottoms out at 44,498. So we can see that the LG G Flex 2 starts out more powerful, after heavy usage, it will be a tiny bit less powerful than the LG G4. I suppose it’s a matter of preference, but it seems to me that the Snapdragon 810 is still the better choice.

Then there’s graphics tests. LG was the first to use a 1440p display in the LG G3, which might not have been the best choice, given the fact that the Adreno 330 in the Snapdragon 801 chipset was underpowered to handle such things. We started to see more 1440p phones when the Snapdragon 805 had heavier usage, which had an Adreno 420 GPU. Note that the first digit in Adreno GPUs are the generation, so theoretically, something like an Adreno 330 would still be more powerful than something like an Adreno 402.

The Snapdragon 810 uses an Adreno 430 GPU, but the Snapdragon 808 in the LG G4 uses an Adreno 418 GPU. I’ve never seen a GPU that can handle 1440p particularly well. After all, 1080p is 2.1 MP. 1440p is 3.7 MP. That is a lot of extra pixels for the GPU to push around the screen.

LG G4 GFXBench

As we can see, the Adreno 418 GPU handles the 1440p display well, but not great. It’s going to be a long time before anyone really handles 1440p really great. Sony just released a phone with a 4K display (8.3 MP). God knows how the Adreno 430 in the Snapdragon 810 will handle that.

LG G4: Review

It’s one of those things that I can’t put my finger on. I have tons of phones. I have tons of awesome phones. I fell in love with this one.

I don’t really know why. I know that the front camera had a little bit to do with it. It was just a really pleasant phone to use, and I’ll be sad to see the LG G4 go.

Ultimately, it’s a great overall phone. I could do with a lower resolution display, a rear camera that does better on automatic settings, and maybe better battery life, but it still felt like a great phone.

Normally, at the end of a review, I’ll say if people reading it should buy the phone or not. I’m not sure. I said earlier that there are four phones I could recommend to anyone: the LG G Flex 2, the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and the iPhone 6. I don’t think that I can add the LG G4 to that list. There are too many people that need a camera with good automatic settings.

That’s not to say that this phone wouldn’t be great for a lot of people. In fact, if you bought a Nokia Lumia 1020 two years ago, this might be the phone for you.

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.