What is the LG G2?

The LG G2 is LG’s Android rival to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. A _phone_ tasked with reinstating LG as a leading player on the smartphone scene, the _phone_ features an array of high-end innards. It has a 13-megapixel camera, a 2.26GHz quad-core CPU and an impressively large 3,000mAh battery.

Continuing the trend of ever-growing screen sizes, the LG G2 pairs a 5.2-inch Full HD display with a dramatically reduced bezel. This combination maximises the amount of on-screen real estate while keeping the phone’s overall footprint small. The phone is available in both black and white, and the LG G2 will set you back around £400 SIM-free.

Has the LG G2 done enough to truly bring the fight to the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4? Read on to find out.

LG G2

LG G2 - Design

Aesthetically the LG G2 is a pretty hit and miss affair. It features an easy on the eye design, although the overall appeal of the phone is let down by plastic build and the baffling decision to place all physical controls on its rear. While it might look like a standard candy bar at first glance, the rear controls really separate it from the Android masses, for better or for worse.

The LG G2’s design has been built around keeping the phone as small as possible, while incorporating an expansive display. The reduced bezel, down to just 2.65mm - half that of its leading rivals - helps accentuate the phone’s already oversized 5.2-inch screen. To gain these edge-to-edge benefits, however, LG has had to move the G2's on-body buttons.

The LG G2 relocates all physical controls to the phone’s rear, with the volume rocker and power/lock buttons now sat directly beneath the camera lens. It's awkward and confusing at first, and the LG G2 button placement failed to click with us after more than a week’s use. Although it does not feel obtrusive or at risk of accidental presses when holding the phone, it remains fiddly and unnatural.

Ultimately, reaching to the rear of the phone to lock the screen feels far more awkward than simply tapping a top or side-mounted control. The unusual button placement is not all doom and gloom, however. When changing in-call volume, the rear mounted volume rocker is a joy. Realistically though, this will be an infrequent silver lining. And button contouring does little to improve ease of use.

Like the Samsung Galaxy S4, the LG G2 is let down by a plastic body that feels flimsy in parts. As well not fitting well with the premium price tag, the plastic body features a very noticeable weak spot. Located on the right-hand side of the LG G2’s rear, there is a small area than bends and creeks when subjected to light pressure. What’s more, the gloss finish on the plastic body is a magnet for fingerprints and grime, further causing the G2 to look considerably cheaper than its lofty price would suggest.

The rear-mounted buttons don’t really add any unwanted bulk to the phone but, at 8.9mm thick, the G2 is far from the most svelte flagship offering. It's a full millimetre thicker than either the iPhone 5S or Galaxy S4, and the LG G2 is also more than 30g weightier than Apple’s latest phone. Despite this, the G2 never feels bulky or uncomfortable in the hand, with a slight curvature to the phone’s rear giving it an ergonomic fit.

LG G2

LG G2 - Screen Quality

Having lost points on design, the LG G2’s screen is something of a show stealer, wowing us from the off. The 5.2-inch Full HD IPS display features stunningly sharp 423 pixels per inch density.

The streamlined bezel of the G2 further enhances the impressive IPS panel, giving the display added pop and helping to set the handset out from the crowd. Although the phone’s footprint is no bigger than that of the S4, the G2 has a screen 0.2 inches bigger, and this makes a noticeable difference.

The reduced bezel and HD screen turn the LG G2 into a one of a kind device, but we expect to see a number of rival manufacturers follow suit in the near future.

The benefits of the LG G2’s screen are not all about the slimline bezel though. The IPS panel might not be as bright as some AMOLED display hosting rivals, but the colours are truer and less over-exaggerated. The LG G2 screen produces colours that are accurate and do not suffer from the familiar oversaturation issues of some rivals. The screen’s touch panel is responsive, with no undue lag or hesitation meeting any of the gesture commands we threw at it.

A complete package, the 423ppi image density means even the finest of details are pin-sharp and text never appears smudged or soft at the edges. The screen is capable of tackling pages of text and vibrant, detailed HD images with equal aplomb and continues to impress long after it has first grabbed your attention.

Unfortunately, the LG G2 screen quality is not without the odd blemish. The display is a little on the reflective side, with outdoor conditions producing an unwanted amount of glare. Only a slight issue, this problem is far from the same performance depleting leagues of the Huawei Ascend G510.

The LG G2's screen quality is so good that we can almost forgive the necessary button placement move fitting in such a large, edge-to-edge display has necessitiated. Almost.

LG G2 - Software

The LG G2 is an Android phone with a custom-made LG interface on top. Building on Google’s Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS, the LG UX interface has all the features and functions you would want and expect from a high-end phone. The G2’s UI is not as elegant as that on the HTC One, or as overloaded as the Samsung Galaxy S4's, but instead is something of a happy medium that impresses but never really excites.

The LG G2 software is not brimming with masses of filler features. The phone instead plays host to a few neat extras that make the overall user experience simpler, and more pleasant. The first of these to get to grips with is KnockON, a feature that lets you forget about the awkward button placement by using a double tap on-screen to unlock and activate the phone.

LG G2


Although a far more intuitive way to access your phone than reaching for an out of sight physical key, KnockOn is not always flawless and smooth, proving slightly temperamental during testing. As it requires you to tap the exact same spot twice in very quick succession, we feel a BlackBerry Z10 esque 'slide up to unlock' motion would be a more useful and fool-proof.

Forgoing the eye-tracking filler features of the rival Samsung Galaxy S4, the LG G2's software has a few more useful extras instead. A Guest Mode lets you keep all of your personal data safe when you hand the phone to a friend, while LG’s Plug and Play is a welcome inclusion. Inserting a pair of headphones causes a pop-up menu of app shortcuts to appear, bringing music, video, YouTube and phone apps to the fore. A simple addition, but a real time saver.

The LG G2 might not feature a single killer software feature, but what it does offer is an user experience that is pleasant, engaging and sure to satisfy both hardcore users and smartphone newbies alike. Most importantly, the UI keeps the phone feeling smooth and prompt.

LG G2

LG G2 Performance

Having wowed us with its screen, the LG G2’s performance continues the trend, with the 2.26GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor marking the phone out as one of the speediest on the market. It's among the first phones to feature the new Snapdragon CPU, alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z1.

Back to the LG G2, though - the phone was more than capable of handling anything and everything we could throw at it. Strong across the board, the G2 pairs the 2.26GHz CPU with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Launching apps is a prompt, fuss-free affair with multitasking handled with ease. Jumping from web browsing, to constructing an email, to a casual gaming session in quick succession and the G2 doesn’t break a sweat.

Multitasking is one of the LG G2’s fortes, too. Tackling the issue from multiple angles, three finger swipe multitasking lets you drag across apps running in the background. This proves to be a quick way to move between programs in very easy fashion.

Further multitasking benefits include Q Slide. Having featured in past LG phones, Q Slide lets to pin certain apps (calendar, memo, calculator) over whatever else you’re doing. A transparency slider lets you make content more or less prominent.

On to gaming. Real Racing 3 is a stumbling point for many entry and mid-market phones, but the LG G2’s processor barely misses a beat. The GPU ensures that graphics are on point and, combined with the Full HD IPS screen, overall gaming visuals are second to none. Video content again benefits from the screen and graphics partnership, with motion blur and image lag now a thing of the past.

LG G2


LG G2 Camera

The LG G2 camera is a 13-megapixel offering with optical image stabilisation (OIS) thrown in for good measure. Although an impressive camera on paper, in reality, the results fall slightly short of expectations with long focus times and an unreliable white balance bringing the performance quality down. As you would expect from a modern flagship phone, 1080p Full HD video recording is also possible.

The first 13-megapixel smartphone camera to benefit from OIS, the LG G2 is a largely well balanced offering that, like the phone’s software, impresses but doesn’t really excite. Despite having OIS, slightly blurred shots are still an all-too-frequent occurrence, with the image stabilisation features proving more of an occasional improvement than a regular shot saver. It's not as effective as the OIS found in the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Despite what LG would have you believe, the G2 camera is not going to stop shots in less than ideal lighting being prone to blurring either. A steady hand is still required to capture strong pictures.

LG G2


Further enhancing the G2 camera, LG has packed the phone with all manner of shooting modes. Everything from the standard night mode and action shots, to dual camera shooting and LG’s own Photo Sphere rival is included.

The result is an array of options capable of tackling most shooting environments. Although it has an LED flash, the LG G2, like most smartphone cameras, is not the best of indoor performers.

LG G2


The flash is one of the better additions, not completely whiting out your snaps. The G2 camera does generally struggle with its brightness management, though. A bit happy on the whites, shots can end up overexposed .

LG G2


Hardly a game changer, but a fun extra, the ‘Cheese Shutter’ takes a snap when subjects say ‘cheese’ - sure to make the kids happy to get in front of the camera. Giving the physical controls a bit more purpose, the down volume key can be held to launch directly into the camera app from the lock screen.

The LG G2’s camera collection is about more than just the 13-megapixel showpiece, with a secondary 2.1-megapixel snapper on the phone’s front. Shameless selfies will not disappoint. The forward-facing camera is capable of relatively detailed and bright shots. As you would expect, though, depth to images is not the secondary camera’s strong point.

LG G2 - Call and Sound Quality

The LG G2 features 3G and 4G connectivity and performs admirably across both network types. Connections proved strong during call and online use, and we suffered no unexpected signal loss or dropped calls during our time with the phone. Call quality was sharp and clear and volume was easily managed using the rear-mounted controls.

Taking smartphone sound to the next level, the LG G2 supports 24bit/192kHz audio playback. There are limitations to this though – the internal speaker and rubbish bundled headphones won't know what to do with it. Used with a premier pair of headphones though, the benefits are there to be heard.

LG G2

LG G2 Battery Life

Away from the dazzling display and questionable button placement, another area where the LG G2 separates itself from the competition is its battery life. Using a unique stepped design battery, the LG G2 manages to squeeze a sizeable 3,000mAh Lithium-Polymer juice pack under the hood. In real-world terms this is said to equate to two days’ worth of moderate to heavy usage. In reality, the LG G2 battery life falls short of this two day promise, but not by much.

Putting a considerable strain on the battery with frequent browsing, video viewing and gaming sessions, the LG G2 still lasted us the better part of a day and a half. With more managed use, a two day battery life would be achievable, just, and this puts the G2 a step up on the competition.

However, the phone’s power supply is not removable, meaning a spare battery cannot be carried for emergencies or heavy business use.

LG G2


Should I buy the LG G2?

If you’re set on a flagship Android handset, the LG G2 has made it a three-way race alongside the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. Which of these three you go for will invariably come down to personal preference, but the G2’s plastic build quality sees it fall behind the HTC One in our eyes.

The LG G2 screen and processor are what separate this phone from the masses, and there is no getting away from just how impressive this combination is. Sadly, this stand-out quality does not cover the negatives of the camera and the G2’s button placement.

Available on contracts between £32 and £37 per month, the LG G2 is a shade cheaper than its rivals which could give it the edge. The G2 is a strong package that has put the manufacturer back on the map.

Check out our round-up of the best mobile phones

Verdict

The LG G2 is an impressive return to smartphone prominence for the South Korean company but one which still falls slightly short. It is a worthy rival to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One but thanks to plastic build, peculiar button placement and less than gripping camera is unlikely to worry its more illustrious competition too much.