I have an LG G4 for trial for a while, and even though the G5 has just been released, I was still interested in reviewing the G4. Mainly because I have little experience with LG smartphones – outside the Nexus 4 and 5 – and I always feel they are undervalued. For instance, right now, the LG G4 seems to me to be the best value-for-money smartphone one can buy. In this review I’ll be looking at it from that angle and in the process will compare it to my recent experiences with the Moto X Style, Nexus 6P and iPhone 6S Plus.
Design and build quality
The G4 is a very interesting phone when it comes to this aspect. The design is not impressive. This is due to the materials used, to a large extend. In a world of glass and aluminium, the plastic finish of the G4 is somewhat disappointing. I realise that the G4 has the option of a leather back plate and I am pretty sure this will improve its looks, but I have not been able to try that.
Where its pure esthetic design is slightly disappointing, the ergonomics of the design are great. It has a curved back that is really pleasant to hold. Generally speaking it is sufficiently grippy and fits really nicely in the hand. The most pleasant phone I have held in the last year, I can confidently say.
The LG G4 is a large screened phone, but they have done a great job of keeping the dimensions of the phone as reduced as possible. This naturally helps with the ergonomics.
Having the LG G4 in one pocket and the Nexus 6P in the other, I can’t stress enough how much nicer using the LG G4 felt for me.
Buttons and hardware controls
One of the things that LG introduced a few years back is placing the power and volume buttons on the back of the phone. Coming from the Nexus 6P, I already look for something on the back (which is where the Nexus 6P has its finger print reader), so the switch was not completely foreign. That being said, I am not enamoured with the set-up. A double tap to wake the phone makes it workable, though, in terms of turning the phone on. Still, I don’t really like the volume buttons on the back. The G5 will have the volume buttons on the side and a fingerprint scanner on the back. This lay-out makes more sense in my opinion (although I still slightly prefer Samsung and Apple’s configuration of a fingerprint scanner on the front of the phone).
The lack of a fingerprint scanner on the G4 is a real shame. However, I forgive the phone for that, given the great price and the otherwise fantastic hardware. Interestingly, I could not forgive the Moto X Style that suffers also from a lack of a fingerprint scanner (as it does not have the great hardware that this G4 has to compensate the lack of the scanner).
The screen on this phone is absolutely gorgeous. The resolution (which is QHD), the brightness, automatic brightness adjustment, contrast and viewing angles are all top notch. In reality, it puts the Nexus 6P screen to shame. Well done, LG. Not much more to say, but given that the screen is the main aspect of the phone that the user interacts with, it is necessary to nail it, and LG did so.
Something LG did not nail is the speaker. It is a tinny, lowish volume speaker. I did not like it, and they have to do better. Personally, I use the phone speaker daily for listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music as well as view videos. The poor performance takes away from those experiences.
As with all modern phones, it had no problems establishing and keeping the necessary connections with the WIFI router, mobile phone network and bluetooth accessories.
The G4 comes with a Snapdragon 808 chip paired with 3GB of RAM. This is the same set-up as the Moto X Style. I find it to offer a sufficiently smooth experience. It is not a multitasking powerhouse, such as the Nexus 6P, but I found that animations and operations were reasonably smooth for an Android phone. Not top of the line, perhaps, but certainly a good experience.
The camera is another stand-out feature on the G4. It has all the right specs: high resolution sensor, optical image stabilisation, and wide aperture. In addition, LG has shown to have created very good image processing algorithms, making the best use possible of the information gathered by the sensor.
The camera is joy to use. The camera is quick to launch, focuses reasonably quickly and allows you to review the picture quickly in the Gallery app. Moreover, the camera app is easy to use, while offering full manual control for those that want it.
I can’t say enough positive things about this. It is up there with the best in the market, such as Samsung and Apple.
As with most manufacturers, LG has its own skin on Android. The only skin I have found acceptable in the past was the HTC UI on the HTC One M8. All the rest of the skins are just not very good. I am afraid that LG’s version of Android is also not great. It is mostly different for the sake of being different, and sometimes even breaks things.
One of the examples of what seems to be broken is the expandable notifications. That only works when the phone wants to. Not cool.
In turn, the addition that I personally did like was all the toggles on the notification tray, for things like airplane mode, bluetooth, wifi, torch, etc. Samsung has something very similar, and I find that works nicely.
In any case, I quickly installed SwiftKey for the keyboard, Google Calendar for the calendar, Google Now Launcher for the home screen, Nine for email, MX Player Pro for videos, and Solid Explorer for the file manager. After that, it mostly worked just like any other Android phone. I just wonder why LG spends any time/resources on developing alternatives that are not any better than the Google-supplied apps. I realise this stems from a period where this seemed like a good idea, but I don’t think it is worth more money from the point of view of the consumer.
The phone I trialled ran Android 5.0.1. Supposedly, LG has already Marshmallow available, but I am afraid this was not available for my testing. Still, LG was pretty quickly out of the door with the 6.0 update and that is laudable.
Price and value-for-money
Right now, the LG G4 costs 370 euros on Amazon in Spain. For that amount of money you get a great smartphone that only really lacks a finger print scanner and a quality speaker. In terms of price only the OnePlus 2 comes close, but I don’t feel that it offers the same quality.
I will certainly be recommending this phone to people that are looking to spend around 350 euros on a smartphone. I think it is the best you can buy with that budget in mind. And my experience with this phone, also makes me very curious about the LG G5.