Probably to avoid the noise at MWC, LG decided to launch the LG G4, its new flagship a little later, and today, we are happy to finally get our hands on this highly anticipated device.
Featuring a 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS display, a 16 MP front shooter and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, the LG G4 is expected to ship in Korea on May 29th.
For the US market, LG plans for end of May or early June. The exact price was not disclosed during the pre-briefing, it was confirmed to be in the LG G3 price range (at launch), which was about $600-$650 at launch time. These details are usually announced by the local wireless carriers who will partner with LG.
Overall, LG’s new flagship is very impressive and the Korean manufacturer pushed the envelope on the display technology, the unique leather design, and the camera, to deliver a state-of-the-art next gen communication device.
We had the opportunity to play with the LG G4, so read the complete article to take a peek at our first impressions.
- Dimensions: 148.9 mm x 76.1 mm x 6.3 to 9.8 mm
- Weight: 155 grams
- Resolution: 2,560×1,440 (538 dpi)
- Display Diagonal: 5″5
- Processor/Soc: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 6-core CPU 1.8 GHz
- RAM: 3 GB
- Internal storage : 32 GB
- MicroSD up to 128 GB provides up to 160 GB memory extension
- OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop
- Front Camera: 8 MP
- Rear camera: 16 MP F 1.8 and advanced manual controls
- Battery Capacity: 3,000 mAh
Compared to its predecessor, the LG G4 features the Snapdragon 808 6-core 1.8 Ghz, which is a nice upgrade from the G3’s chip (read our LG G3 review), but Snapdragon 808 is a little less powerful on the paper (the performance is great though) than the Snapdragon 810 8-core 2Ghz featured in the LG G Flex 2.
Alongside the processor, the RAM has been bumped from 2GB to 3GB, which is always good for multitasking. The 5.5” Quad HD (2560×1440) display comes in the same size and resolution than the G3, however LG totally upgraded the screen technology (see more detail in the display paragraph).
Both cameras will get more resolution with an increase from 13 Megapixel (MP) to 16 MP on the main camera, and from 2.1 MP to 8 MP on the front camera. The main camera sensor is also 40% larger than its predecessor.
The main camera’s aperture is also larger (or “Faster” in photography lingo) and was upgraded from F2.4 to F1.8 (lower f-number means larger aperture). The LG G 4 cameras feature also more resolution than the ones in the LG G Flex 2. The most noticeable new feature are certainly the full manual controls in the rear shooter which also delivers a very intuitive user experience, something you will not find in the equally awesome Galaxy S6’s camera which offers more limited manual settings.
Industrial Design (Very good)
Same screen size, and slightly larger footprint than the LG G3
We always expect the new phone to be thinner and smaller than the previous model with a similar or larger display, so I was a little surprised to discover the G4 dimensions. Measuring 146 mm by 74 mm for a weight of 149 grams the G3 is more compact than the G4 that measures 148.9 mm x 76.1 mm for a weight of 155 grams.
The differences are a matter of a few hairs and honestly, when I held both phones it did not bother me at all. Thanks to its subtle curvature, the G4 feels more comfortable in the hand. The curved back cover is probably the reason why the new smartphone is also a little thicker ( 6.3 mm to 9.8 mm) at the center than the G3.
Form Factor: G Flex 2 meets LG G3The G3 is not as curved as the G Flex 2 since the front is totally flat, and it really looks as an hybrid of the two phones. The “Metallic Craft” model I had to play with features an elegant metal-looking textured plastic back cover that comes also in white and is named Ceramic Craft.
Luxury Leather Back comes in 8 colors
LG made a point to explain in detail how luxurious the leather of the back cover is. Coming in 8 different flavors, it has been tanned with vegetable according to an ancient traditional craft. This particular technique only used by 10% of the leather in the world offers a better patina over the years and has the benefit to be environmentally friendly. The cherry on the cake: the stitches are crafted by famous brand Gutermann (Mara).
LG claims that it took 3 years of research to design this unique and highly fashionable phone, and another 3 months simply to process the leather. In my opinion the gorgeous result was worth the effort, and most importantly, the bold design choice sets the G4 apart all the other communication devices made of glass and metal.
Better durability thanks to the curve and the leather
LG performed 6 drop tests in 2 cycles at one meter to compare its new device’s durability against the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 and as expected the slightly curved body absorb shocks almost twice better than the other devices. The leather covered models get a better resistance to water stains, abrasions and scratches.
The 5.5-inch IPS panel has a resolution of 2560×1440 that produces a 538 dpi pixel density, which are exactly the same specifications as the LG G3. Although the LG G4’s display looks similar on the paper as its predecessor, LG did enhance the image quality, by a lot.
LG recently unveiled its new 5.5-inch Quad HD display featuring a new technology labelled Advanced In-cell Touch (AIT) which makes the screen reacts to touch even when there is water on the surface, however it was not mentioned during the briefing, so we’re not certain that the G4 has it.
LG’s Quantum Technology
has been designed to provide better colors, brighter, high contrast and less power than IPS LCD. This effectively brings a lot of the qualities found in OLED while still using a LCD-based hardware.
This technology sets the new G4 display apart from the G3 IPS display. When we met with LG’s Dr. Ram Cham Woo, he said that LG’s Quantum Technology enhances color reproduction by 20%, the brightness by 25%, the contrast by 50% (from 1000:1 to 1500:1), and lowers the power consumption by 11% (when compared to the G3’s IPS LCD display).
To get this result, Dr Woo explained that LG looked at the cinema industry standard DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) which is currently the highest digital color standard for high end cameras and projectors such as the Canon EOS 1-D C that cost over $9,000. LG says that the LG G4 display gets a 98% quality DCI score.
Display quality, first impression (Excellent)
As usual, LG delivers a stunning image quality with vivid colors and high contrast. I did not really have the time to perform a side by side with the LG G3 I brought there to check how the image quality has improved, however, in any case the display was excellent in absolute term.
From the video locally stored in the device I paused on different high-contrast frames to check the quality of the color rendering, and the contrast level (see in the photo gallery below). If you’re curious, I’m not sure what the video resolution was – it could have been 1080p.
Video Playback Experience (Excellent)
Watching a video on that screen is a great experience, in the video sample below, the sound volume was set at the maximum. The sound was crisp and not distorted, the volume was sufficient to hear the soundtrack in a noisy room.
Performance (Very good)
The 808 has some similarities with the 810 chip: they both use ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture with a mix of ARM-designed A57 and A53 64-bit CPU cores. Both will also be manufactured with a 20nm (nanometer) semiconductor process from TSMC. It also has a similar Qualcomm 9×35 LTE modem.
There are also important differences: the most obvious is that the 808 chip has two A57 cores (vs. 4 for 810), a slower GPU (graphics processor) and a slower memory sub-system (LPDDR3-933 vs. LPDDR4-1600). Finally, the camera image processor can handle 12-bit of color precision instead of 14-bit.
Without a final retail unit and firmware, you should take any performance numbers with caution, as we can remember for the G FLex 2 initial benchmarks, but we will publish numbers as we get them.
Overall, it is logical to expect that peak synthetic performance will be noticeably lower than 810 Snapdragon phones, which will affect high-performance activities such as gaming, heavy multi-tasking or video editing for example. As for the day to day activities, they remain fluid and fast. The bottom-line is that if you don’t play games, there’s not much to worry about.
Snapdragon 808 remains a significant upgrade from last year’s Snapdragon 801 flagship SoC. The modem has gone from Category 4 (150 Mbps) to Category 9 (450 Mbps), the graphics processor (Adreno 418) supports the latest OpenGL ES features, it supports HEVC (latest video compression format) playback for 4K content and has twice the image processing performance.
Camera hardware improvements
The camera has been improved greatly and LG made a point to outdo Samsung on many features. Dr Ram-Chan Woo was proud to announce that at F 1.8, the new 16 MP rear shooter on the G4 is the brightest camera phone in the world, since the Samsung Galaxy S6 unveiled in March at MWC, features a F1.9 aperture size (a lower number means a larger aperture, means more light coming in).
The sensor is 40% larger than its predecessor, the size increased from 1/ 3.06 (13MP) to 1 /2.6 (16MP). The optical image stabilization (OIS) is also better and covers a larger range of motion of 2 degrees vertically and horizontally (from 1 degrees in the G3).
Ultra Fast Response Time
According to LG, the G4 camera takes only 0.6 s from touch to preview, while the Samsung Galaxy S6 needs 0.7s. From the experience I had shooting a few images, the camera was very fast indeed, the response time felt similar to the S6.
Advanced Manual Controls
The most brilliant software feature in the LG G4 is certainly the camera’s manual controls. In comparison, the Galaxy S6 offers a more limited set of controls.
Both smartphones provide manual focus, -2.0 to +2.0 exposure value, ISO manual selection and White Balance. However, Samsung offers only 4 levels of ISO, from 100 to 800 and 4 levels of White Balance. LG provides the ability to choose from 51 levels for the White Balance (2300K-7500K) and 17 levels for the ISO (50-2700)!
"THE PERFECT POWER-USER CAMERA EXPERIENCE"The S6 does not offer more than the four options described in the previous paragraph. With the G4 you can select the shutter speed from 1/6000” to 30”, you can access the histogram to check the exposure, you can check the (horizontal) level with the level gauge, and finally, you can shoot in JPEG and RAW file format.
Most importantly, the user experience of the manual controls is fantastic, when you change any settings, you can see the result in real time on the display – see the example of the White balance in the two pictures below.
We have seen similar user interfaces for camera manual controls in touch displays such as in the Galaxy Camera (not the phone) or more recently in the Lenovo Vibe Shot, however the G4 provide a better experience with a very subtly designed graphic interface that minimally interferes with the image you are trying to capture.
At this point, LG has reached its goal of delivering the perfect camera experience in a smartphone.
Photo Image quality
The LG G-Series has become a reference in terms of photography, and the G4 will perpetuate this. The image quality is excellent, and the camera module does a great job at picking up finer details that will show up on the high-resolution display.
We took some photos with the LG G4, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6+ to have a sense for how each would look. Be assured that all are excellent camera phones, and for uses like Facebook or direct view on the display, they all fare well as you can see above. They all have different default exposure and white balance settings. Note that the lighting conditions changed slightly in-between photos.
Out of the gate, the iPhone 6+ is disadvantaged by two things: the 8 Megapixel sensor and the 1920×1080 display (vs. 2560×1440 for the S6 and G4). We’re not saying that it is horrible, but both the S6 and the G4 will have more detailed photos because of their 16 Megapixel sensors, which means that you can zoom a bit more and things are less “mushy”.
And of course, higher resolution images and higher resolution displays mean that images simply look sharper on LG and Samsung.
If you want to be picky, we have a 1:1 crop of a photo from NYC. You will see that the G4 shows quite a bit of details and leaves the iPhone 6+ behind. The S6 has a wider field of view, so we can’t compare Apples to Apples, but both the G4 and the S6 are leading the pack. We’ll take more pictures in a controlled environment, but we expect things to stay in this order.
Software and User Experience
The LG G4 comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop and the new LG UX 4.0 user interface. LG made four major enhancements to its custom software: Smart Fast Gallery, Smart Calendar, More accurate navigation (2 times), and Better Google Experience. The UI is faster than the G3, and things like app load time have been largely improved.
Smart Fast Gallery
With this newly designed photo gallery, LG aims at delivering a better and faster photo viewing experience. You can see your entire photo library in one view, or “year view”. Then you will be able to zoom in for the “month view” and again for the “day view”. See the year view above.
The software automatically groups and archives them according to the timeline. The goal was to make the experience super fast for galleries that contains thousands of pictures, by sorting them visually by date and time durations.
Smart Calendar is a very cool feature that enables a “cross applications” usage. The Event Pocket menu allows users to capture a screenshot of an event in the browser and drag and drop the image file on the right day directly from the calendar window – see it in action at the end of the video posted above, in that example, a photo from the gallery is saved in an event and viewed in the calendar later.
More Accurate Navigation (2X) – collaboration with Qualcomm
LG collaborated with Qualcomm to improve the accuracy of the GPS navigation and use other sensors when the user is inside a tunnel or anywhere indoors. According to LG this collaborative development work has reduced the error rates by 50%.
“Best” Google Experience
LG claims to deliver the Best Google Experience in a smartphone to date. LG improved the experience with the Google apps and eliminated “duplicates”. By duplicates, LG means a pre-loaded applications that provide the same service as one of the Google apps, for example the browser.
There is now only one browser in LG’s flagship smartphone and it is Chrome. LG integrated the Chromecast music search in the phone and Maps are integrated in the LG Calendar experience. In addition, the LG G4 customers will get 100GB of free storage in google, for 2 years.
Battery Life (to be tested – very good on paper)
With a large 3000 mAh removable battery, the battery life of the LG G4 should be very comparable to the G3 and to the G Flex 2, both of which are excellent. The G4 display consumes less power than the G3, and the 808 processor should burn less power than the 810.
We haven’t had enough time to test the battery yet, but in LG’s own tests, the G4 had longer battery life than the Galaxy S6 in talk time , web browsing and other activities. We’ll double-check, but since the S6 battery is smaller (2550-2600 mAh), it would make sense that LG does have an advantage here.
The G4’s removable battery may attract power-users who want to swap batteries for an instant replenishment, but Wireless charging lovers will have to get an optional Wireless charging back-cover, which adds a bit to the overall bulk of the phone.
Conclusion (Very Good)
LG has demonstrated its dedication to excellence in mobile technology with the launch of the LG G4. The new flagship delivers good performance and a top notch 16 Megapixel camera with a unique set of advanced manual controls and the brightest lens (F1.8) found in a phone.
In terms of design, the eight luxury leather models are the most fashionable electronic devices to date.