Performance Benchmarks, Imaging and Conclusion
Like the Android flagship smartphone released in the first half of 2014, the G3 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz processor. The G3 comes in two configurations:
- 16GB internal storage with 2GB RAM
- 32GB internal storage with 3GB RAM
The review unit featured in this article is the 32GB model with 3GB RAM. LG Singapore told us that there are no other differences between the two models aside from the internal storage and RAM.
We will be comparing the G3 against the HTC One (M8), the Oppo Find 7A, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Sony Xperia Z2. The G2 is also included in the comparison to see the performance disparity between the two generations of smartphones.
Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performances.
The G3 did not fare as well as the other Android smartphones in the Quadrant benchmark due to three reasons. First, it is the only phone in the comparison to have a QHD display. With a higher resolution display, it is more taxing on the processor and GPU to render more pixels. Second, it is possible that the benchmarks and other apps are not yet optimized for QHD displays. Lastly, the newer background services and interface of the phone could be consuming more resources, but we can't verify that till we use more LG devices that run on the same Android version of interface to see if there's a possibility.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of three test sections:
3DMark Ice Storm is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 720p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of your device. Ice Storm includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets.
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited is used to make chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets, CPUs and GPUs, without vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result.
Almost all the recent flagship smartphones maxed out the scores for the Ice Storm and Ice Storm Extreme, hence we will only be looking at the scores for Ice Storm Unlimited.
Without display resolution as the limiting factor, the performance of the G3 is somewhat comparable to that of the competition in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark.
Real World Usage Experience
Synthetic benchmarks aside, the G3 felt smooth most of the time except on some occasions when we could discern that animations and navigation were just not as snappy as we've experienced on other recent Android smartphones. Even though these micro-lags did not occur often or had any adverse impact on the user experience, we felt it is worth mentioning.
The camera interface on the G3 has been stripped of the superfluous on-screen elements, and resembles that of HTC Sense 6 and Google's Camera app. The number of settings, controls and modes are reduced to at most five. Below are the screenshots of the camera interfaces on the G3 and G2.
Camera Interface Compared
At first thoughts, the G3 may seem a little disappointing as it comes with the same camera module as the LG G Pro 2 - a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization plus (OIS+). For more information on what OIS+ is and its performance, do check out our review of the G Pro 2.
However, LG had pulled out all stops to make sure the G3 stood out from the rest of the pack by adding a laser autofocus which is the first of its kind in the smartphone industry. According to LG, it is the same technology used in radar guns of traffic police to track a car's speed and in some high-end SLRs. So why use laser technology?
LG believes taking good photos is not all about the megapixel count; it is also dependent on how fast the camera can capture the moment. According to LG, the laser autofocus of the G3 is able to capture a photo in just 0.276 seconds. It is also claimed to help take better photos in low light conditions. In comparison, the One (M8), Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 are stated to focus on a subject in 0.3 seconds. In reality, we doubt anyone would notice the difference, but it's good to know that LG has ensured it has the fasted focusing system. As for the image quality, we let the photos speak for themselves:-
Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:
• Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
• Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
• Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
The G3 could last slightly more than six hours in our battery test, which placed it right at the bottom of the rankings. The 5.5-inch Oppo Find 7A, with its Full-HD display and 2,800mAh battery, managed to last about 36% longer than the G3.
Unsurprisingly, the G3 had the highest power consumption, no thanks to its QHD display. However, if you look at the power consumption of the Sony Xperia Z2 and LG G2, they are actually no better. The new G3 needs to render 77% more pixels on the screen and it powers a larger display without drawing more power than the Z2 or G2. From that perspective, it's more power efficient than those phones. While it can't compete with some of the more power efficient devices like the HTC, Oppo and Samsung, it's not a bad figure at all for the LG G3 given its specs. In fact, the Sony Xperia Z2 is looking a little bad in comparison - both in power consumption and in endurance.
We measure the portability of a device by calculating its battery life to (weight x volume) ratio. Although the G3 is one of the lightest and slimmest devices in this comparison, its battery life dragged down its ranking in the Portability Index. It would probably be fair to compare the G3 with other QHD display equipped devices, but it is unfortunately the only one of its kind now in this region.
Real World Battery Performance
But benchmarking gives only one view to the above assessment. To give you a more realistic understanding on how the G3 fared under real world usage conditions, we included screenshots of the usage and history graphs.
As seen from the graphs above, the G3 could last 18 hours and 30 minutes before the battery level dropped to 5%. Screen-on time is 2 hours and 36 minutes. Some notes:
- The device logged onto the 3G network because the SIM card used does not support 4G LTE.
- The device logged onto Wi-Fi connections from time to time.
- Our typical usage scenarios include making some voice calls, texting via WhatsApp, taking some photos and sharing them on social networking sites, the occasional web browsing via Pulse News Reader and emailing.
- We recharged the battery to 100% overnight and put it through its paces the following day. The end results are similar.
To put these numbers into context, we used the Oppo Find 7A as the closest example. The Find 7A held up for about 22 hours and 37 minutes when the battery level hit 8% with screen-on time of 3 hours and 54 minutes. Do note that battery mileage varies depending on your usage patterns.
The battery level dropped rapidly when engaged in web browsing and instant messaging via WhatsApp. This puts LG's claims of its excellent power management features into question. Dubbed the 3A Optimization, LG claims that it is able to lower the power consumption of the G3 through three methods:
- Adaptive frame rate - lowers the refresh rates of the display when viewing still images.
- Adaptive clocking - CPU clock optimization
- Adaptive timing control - optimizes the display's energy consumption
We also found the phone to heat up after prolonged usage. For example, the display felt very warm after a few minutes of voice calls on Viber. The same could be said about its rear after we ran multiple benchmarks for this review.
If it is a consolation, the battery is removable; you can swap an empty battery with a fully charged one if you are on the move and have no access to a power point. Users of the One (M8) and Xperia Z2 are not so lucky to enjoy this convenience. Having said that, LG has no equivalent to HTC, Samsung or Sony's Extreme, Ultra or Stamina modes. What you have is the standard Battery Saver mode, which turns off auto-sync, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, vibration feedback, brightness level, screen timeout and notification LED to maximize battery mileage.
To be fair to LG, this is the first time we've tested a smartphone with a QHD display. It's not a fair comparison since the other Android smartphones have smaller and lower resolution displays. The purpose of this section is to provide you some insights on its battery performance so that you can manage your expectations. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to see how the G3 fares against future contenders with QHD displays.
LG took its time to refine it's premium smartphone's design, software and features to bring the G3 to the market. Did its strategy pay off? We think so.
From an aesthetics and build point of view, LG has proved that HTC isn't the only phone maker capable of delivering a well designed phone. The G3 offers the best design and handling of any 5.5-inch phone that we've seen in the past year. To make a 5.5-inch phone handle like a 5-inch phone requires a sophisticated level of engineering that LG has shown it is capable of.
While the QHD display offers little utility today, it will futureproof your purchase as the industry is steadily moving in that direction with ever more variety of larger screen devices and higher resolution displays. If not for the availability of optimized apps, the increased resolution will ensure your screen's display stays sharp and clear even though the screen size has increased. The flattened, simple and toned down theme of its new interface is a step in the right direction for LG as it strikes a fine balance between functionality and aesthetics. The laser autofocus may speed up photo taking in certain scenarios, but the improvement to an end-user's overall imaging experience remains questionable as most phones in this class are fairly fast too. Fortunately, the imaging quality of the G3 is good and with optical imaging stabilization, it's one of the better Android smartphone shooters around.
Probably the phone's main concern is its battery performance. Powering a 5.5-inch QHD display is no small feat and the 3,000mAh battery struggled mightily to keep the G3 running till the end of a work day. The display and back also get warm after extended periods of usage. Fortunately, it's not too bad and it's just about managing expectations. Looking back at the past, we've noticed similar battery performance dips when a phone's display gets larger and the resolution gets bumped.
Apart from that, the LG G3 is one of our top recommendations if you are planning to buy an Android flagship smartphone. It addressed all the limitations we've pointed out in our LG G2 review and then went on to improve the phone further on several aspects, some even pushing the boundaries of engineering at this point of time. In essence, you would be hard pressed to dislike the LG G3 other than the limitations of the QHD screen that has dented its battery performance somewhat. For being an excellent all-rounder in the premium smartphones category, we've bestowed the phone with our Editor's Choice Award.
Retailing at just S$868 for the 16GB and S$928 for the 32GB model, the LG G3 is priced lower than the competition. Given the small price differential, we feel most would opt for the 32GB model. Pre-orders will commence at the three telcos this weekend, June 14 to 21. Three colors will be available at launch: Metallic Black, Silk White, and Shine Gold.