Wednesday, 29 April 2015

LG G4 hands-on

The LG G4 is finally and officially here. Now that we got the full scoop, it seems that LG's next flagship smartphone is all about three things - design, display and camera. The LG G4 body is slightly curved and comes with an optional leather back for some extra flair; there's a new IPS Quantum display for improved color accuracy and the camera has a new lens with improved OIS, wider aperture, a new Color Spectrum Sensor for more accurate white balance and a new manual mode.




The new LG G4 is closely related to the LG G Flex2 - to the extent we're not quite sure which one is the flagship. We see again a curved body design, though the curvature is much more subtle. The screen size is the same, but the G4 comes with a much higher resolution.
The camera on the G4 is better too, but then the Snapdragon 808 chipset is a step down. This leaves it a bit unclear as to which device is the flagship, though the LG G4 certainly has the more recognizable brand name thanks to the success of its predecessor.


                                                               

LG G4 at a glance

  • Dimensions: 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3 - 9.8 mm, 155g
  • Screen: 5.5" Quantum dot IPS screen with 1,440 x 2,560 resolution, 538ppi; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 808, dual-core Cortex-A57 plus quad-core Cortex-A53, Adreno 418 GPU, 3GB RAM
  • OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop; Optimus UX 4.0
  • Camera: 16MP with OIS 2.0, f/1.8 aperture, 1/2.6 sensor size, laser autofocus; manual controls and RAW mode; 8MP front-facing camera, f/2.0
  • Video camera: 2160p recording
  • Battery: 3,000mAh
  • Storage: 32GB built-in; expandable via microSD card slot
  • Connectivity: Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps down, 50Mbps up), Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
  • Misc: Optional leather back, Knock code, optional wireless charging
The LG G4 will come with a plastic back cover with a "hammered pattern," but the eye-catching optional leather backs are LG's big design play. They are made of vegetable tanned genuine leather and feature decorative stitching uses G├╝tterman thread, a high-end product from Germany used in leather clothes and shoes.
The second focus was the display - LG kept the size and resolution the same as on the G3 - 5.5" QHD - but switched to a quantum dot LCD matrix, promising accurate colors with 98% coverage of the RGB spectrum.
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The new LG G4
The third pillar of the LG G4 is its camera. It has a new 16MP sensor and improved lens with wider aperture and 3-axis image stabilization instead of 2-axis like on the G3 (they even call it OIS 2.0). The selfie camera got an even bigger resolution bump to 8MP. The camera comes with a new interface with manual controls, a histogram and RAW mode.
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The LG G3 (left) vs. G4 (center) vs. G Pro 2 (right)
The one point where LG got defensive was the chipset. The company claims it worked with Qualcomm to customize the Snapdragon 808 specifically for the G4 and LG claims it's faster than the Exynos 7420. It didn't back that up with benchmarks though and we doubt any amount of customizations can make up for the two missing Cortex-A57 cores.

Hardware overview

The LG G4 is slightly bigger than its predecessor, which already was more a phablet than a phone. It's smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus and not much bigger than a Galaxy S6 though. The new phone is recognizable by its more rectangular design, while the G3 corners were rounder.
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LG G4 next to the iPhone 6 Plus • G4 side by side with the Galaxy S6
The big change, however, is that the body is slightly bent. It's not flexible like the G Flex, and the curve really isn't that pronounced. It's just a subtle design element on the LG G4. The company claims the curve actually makes the new model 20% more durable than the G3 and "much tougher" than the likes of the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6. Part of that is that if the phone falls face down, the curve will keep the screen away from the floor.
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The retail box emphasizes the curvature of the G4
The back features the trademark design with centrally placed volume buttons, right below the camera. The basic back cover is made of plastic and comes in Metallic Gray and Ceramic White among other colors. The white one actually features ceramic paint. These covers have a 3D diamond pattern.
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3D diamond pattern on the plastic back cover
The optional leather cover took three years of research to get it right. LG selected a vegetable tanned leather, a laborious process that takes three months, so only about 10% of all leather products are tanned this way. These covers feature decorative stitching down the center line with G├╝termann thread. On these covers the G4 logo is embossed.
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The leather back gives the LG G4 a much more premium look
The plastic cover feels good in the hand and masks fingerprints well, but the leather option evoke associations with the seats of a sports car or an expensive wallet. LG will offer a number of color options, but there aren't any plans for Moto Maker-style customization. Still, the leather backed LG G4 feels like a premium feature.
LG G4 hands-on
LG G4 leather color options
Plastic or leather, the back cover is removable, giving you access to the battery, SIM and microSD slots. The battery has 3,000mAh capacity, same as the LG G2 and G3. The new chipset allows the LG G4 to last 20% longer on with the same battery, says LG.
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The back cover is removable so that you can access the battery, SIM and microSD slots
While the capacity hasn't budged, we're more worried about the charging. The charger that comes in the retail box puts out only 1.8A, that's 9W of power. Most high-end Androids come with 10W chargers, while Quick Charge 2.0 devices go up to 15W. Wireless charging is available only with dedicated covers that support the feature.

Screen

LG G3's unveiling caused jaws to drop - a massive 5.5" screen with extra-high resolution and on a reasonably priced phone too. This year LG kept those parameters the same, but improved the screen matrix with quantum dot technology.
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5.5" QHD display with Quantum dots
Quantum dots are used in a special kind of LCD, usually found in Sony's Triluminos displays (on TVs and Xperia phones). The promise is much improved color rendering - accurate without oversaturation. LG claims 98% coverage of the color spectrum, whereas the Galaxy S6 screen has 110%. LG tried to pass this off as oversaturation on Samsung's part but we shouldn't forget Samsung offers several Display modes to match the personal preference.
The new display is 25% brighter and has 50% higher contrast according to official specs. The contrast was a weak point of the G3 screen so this is an important improvement.

Software

The LG G4 comes with Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box with the latest iteration of Optimus UX 4.0, which was announced only recently.
The G4 can run two apps simultaneously in Dual window mode. In the app switcher you'll see a button in the upper right corner on compatible apps. Touching that button opens the app on half the screen.
KnockON and Knock Code are available, and they allow you to wake the phone with a simple double tap or a more complex (and more secure) tap pattern. That's great as reaching for the Power button on the back isn't always comfortable.
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Optimus UX 4.0 on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop
LG takes pride in its lean software UI. Very few apps will be pre-installed, for example, in most markets you'll get just one browser, Chrome. One thing we missed though is themes - the square, pastel-colored icons are diverge from stock Android and we would have loved a way to customize the looks.
As a perk, you'll get 100GB of free storage on Google Drive for two years.
The LG G4 is powered by a Snapdragon 808 chipset. It has a hexa-core processor (that's six cores) - four low-power Cortex-A53 cores coupled with two fast Cortex-A57 cores. The Snapdragon 810 (LG G Flex2) and Exynos 7420 (Galaxy S6) have four A57s for a total of eight cores.
LG claim they've worked closely with Qualcomm to customize the chipset and achieve higher performance than the Exynos though we don't see how that's possible.
Another downgrade compared to the Snapdragon 810 is the GPU. It's Adreno 418 compared to Adreno 430 in the higher-up Snapdragon. Anyway, the phone comes with 3GB of RAM.

Performance

The LG G4 is the first smartphone to come out with the Snapdragon 808 chip. Qualcomm announced the 808 revision side by side with the flagship 810 model, but it is only now that we are seeing it in action for the first time.
The Snapdragon 808 offers a hexa-core 64-bit processor with two Cortex-A57 and four Cortex-A53 cores, an Adreno 418 GPU and 3GB of RAM.
According to LG, the chipset is supposed to provide equally good performance as the Samsung's Exynos 7420 found in the Galaxy S6 - at least for the regular daily tasks.
We ran some benchmarks on the LG G4 Korean unit displayed at the event. The smartphone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and we'd reckon the software should be pretty much final since the phone is launching in its home country tomorrow.
We ran GeekBench 3 multi-core benchmark, the AnTuTu 5 test and the JavaScript-centric Kraken on the G4 and here come the results.


Camera
The LG G4 comes with a brand new camera. It has a 16MP sensor (1/2.6" big) and it sits behind an f/1.8 lens that lets in 80% more light compared to the G3 camera. The lens features 3-axis optical stabilization, compared to the 2-axis OIS on the LG G3.
LG has also improved the launch speed of the camera and the company claims the G4 will start its camera faster than the Galaxy S6. Double pressing the Volume down key on the back not only starts the camera but also takes a snapshot immediately.
The camera software features three shooting modes - Simple, Basic and Manual. Simple is just point&shot, basic has more options and manual is the most advanced option.
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Basic mode • manual mode
Manual mode displays a histogram and lets you play with the ISO setting and shutter speed to expose the image just right. There's also manual focus and white balance, plus an Auto Exposure lock toggle. You can also shoot DNG RAW files instead of JPG if you want to process them manually afterwards.
LG updated other parts of the software too. The panorama in particular got a huge boost in resolution and now stitches images up to a whopping 104MP resolution. For comparison, the Galaxy S6 tops out at 60MP and the iPhone 6 - at 42MP.
The camera enjoys special hardware - Color Spectrum Sensor - which LG says is the first of its kind on a smartphone and measures the ambient light to adjust white balance and the flash color.
The following demo setups by LG illustrate the benefits of the Color Spectrum Sensor to achieving more accurate white balance. You can also see how the wider F/1.8 aperture affects exposure compared to some of its competitors - the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Finally, the last shot demos how the new Slow shutter mode on the G4 allows for painting with light.
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The Color Spectrum Sensor in action • Wide F/1.8 aperture • Slow shutter mode
We managed to snap a few samples, but they aren't perfect since we couldn't leave the venue.
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LG G4 camera samples
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LG G4 camera samples
Also here are the official camera samples taken with the LG G4 - we snatched those off an LG G4 demo unit at today's unveiling event.
         
LG G4 official camera samples
The selfie camera is now an 8MP shooter, a big boost over the 2MP camera of the G3. It also has a wide aperture, f/2.0, for better evening selfies. As before, you can use Gesture shot to snap a selfie hands-free - you just raise your hand (palm open) and form a fist to trigger the camera.

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