Over the years, LG’s been in a funny situation. From Symbian and proprietary to Windows Phone and Android, their place in the market has been switching back and forth. Recently they’ve begun to really pack in focus, reflected in the Nexus 4, the G2, and the Nexus 5. It’s only becoming of them to finally make some sort of game-changer; in this case the G2, which houses what can be said as the best mashup of available hardware inside a device of a 5.2″ screen stature. But how good is the G2 in reality? Does it hold up to the hardware package LG’s boasting in their flagship? Head on down to find out.
Let’s rush right into the hardware here, and along with that into what is essentially one of the most important pieces: the display. The G2 features a True HD IPS + LCD Display with a resolution of 1080 by 1920, and an approximate dpi of 424 pixel. Mark that Gorilla Glass 2 at 5.2 inches and you realize what a behemoth the phone truly is. In plain English, LG’s flagship is flashing a rather large yet extremely beautiful screen that caters to your every need.
The IPS Display coupled with a higher quality LCD allows for deeper colour penetration and more a more vivid and crisp experience. There’s an amazing level of brightness and contrast given off here; whites are incredible and blacks are deep, though not as deep as we’d like them to be. It seems the focus was on getting a grayscale to work rather than pitch blacks, which don’t blend as well as they could on the screen.
LG also didn’t do too well with viewing angles, which you’ll see in the later section. Colours bleed out a bit, and things disappointingly contrast at degrees which are surprising. Perhaps it’s the slightly looser DPI or an effect of the panelling, but viewing angles are critical to a display nowadays when taking into consideration new standards.
Processor wise, there’s nothing to complain about. The G2 holds its own incredible well with Qualcomm’s MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 processor and a quad-core Krait 400 CPU running at 2.26GHz, which we can almost chalk up to the performance of a 2.3GHz core. The Adreno 330 GPU does well in the fray, supporting graphics and keeping up with the 2 GB’s of RAM near flawlessly.
Going back to the processor alone however, the G2 excels. The 800 series is by far one of the best mobile processors in wide use to date for smartphones and some phablet models. Seldom does it overclock or heat up to an extreme, and we rarely saw any lags in task switching and opening apps even during our performance tests. AnTuTu rated the G2 on par with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, this after we had a good slew of apps open and running in the background while at the same time benchmarking.
Even with games with such as Injustice, Sonic Run or Angry Birds Star Wars, the G2’s core performed admirably. Graphics were smooth and the framerate didn’t lapse at any point in our playing, especially with Injustice. Controls responded smoothly and animations loaded without hesitation during story periods.
The model we got from LG was the 32GB model of the 16/32 selection. Due to allocated space, available storage was just over 24GB’s without the option of additional SD storage. Unfortunately that’s a letdown, though the given space should be plenty for regular users. Media consumption and larger game files will be the kicker; meaning that app hoarders could potentially face some trouble along with movie geeks.
Longevity is no issue on the G2; in fact, it surprised us in how it performed. The G2 includes the standard Lithium Ion battery, in this case being non-removable and set at 3000mAh’s. On our battery test, which is made up of running a number of heavy apps in the background, taking some photos, and running music as well as a movie and Youtube video in loop (Consecutively), we managed to get a whopping 12 hours and 20 minutes out of the phone from 100% to 5%. It should be noted that we ran it in Airplane Mode on WiFi only for a best case scenario.
On average, we managed about three quarters of the day with full usage of the G2; We had NFC on, WiFi enabled, LTE on and multiple apps open in the background and syncing. Even with a good amount of video watching and data usage we managed to pull through a day in the city.
Without a doubt, the G2 holds a glossy black beauty right out of the box. Design is simplistic; a plain monoblock slab highlighted only by a single LG logo and silver speaker grill on the front. A silver trim runs around the sides without break, thanks to the placement of power and volume buttons. The bottom of the device shoulders a burden, housing the speakers, main microphone, 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port. The top is minimal, showing only a tiny hole that is the second noise cancelling and audio-boost enabling microphone.
Moving again to the front, all the basics are there. You’ve got the front camera, speakers and the various sensors which are hardly noticeable. The screen takes up most of the space on the sides, with the surrounding display bezel being maybe a millimetre thin. LG’s added a slight chin to the bottom, decorated only with the logo but adds a comfortable palm rest.
The back consists of a polycarbonate backing (non-removable of course!), the camera, and the oddly placed power/volume button combo. Advertisement has it that the button placement makes it easier to use, but honestly that’s not the case. The unfortunate mistake has been made of changing the one easy thing about phones which is having the volume and power buttons in easy reach.
Button layout on the back is awkward to say the least. The power button is a tiny notch nestled between the very small volume buttons which happen to be right under the camera lens. Unfortunately, this leads to pressing the actual camera instead of the wanted button, which is also due to them being near flush with the back of the device. The first few times we aimed for lowering the volume and turned off the screen, or wanted to turn up the sound and smudged the lens. It’s a gimmick that LG wanted to test and it’s one that should never come back.
Size wise, the LG gets to the point of being just too big for one hand. With a 5.2″ screen, a phone height of 138.5mm, a width of 70mm and a thickness of 8.9mm it’s larger than the S4 and slightly heavier at 143 grams. The main issue persay is with the height and the width; the added real estate of the screen makes one handed use slightly uncomfortable. Our thumbs were stretching a bit for taps near the far end or bottom of the screen, but that might be because our hands are, well, smaller. There is the option for two handed use or single handed use in the settings which essentially tailors the device to whichever way you want to use it.
We’ve got a gripe right off the bat about the 5.2″ screen, hardware wise. Even with Gorilla Glass 2 supporting it, the G2 is not an very resilient phone. For us, it was extremely privy to scratches and dings, underperforming in the durability test by a lot.
With regards to the screen’s usability, it’s great for the most part. Colours are amazing; the whites are reproduced the best we’ve seen compared to even Sony’s Xperia Z1 and Z Ultra. At full brightness, it’s vibrant, there’s no bleeding, and colour is almost lifelike. Look at it from another angle other than direct however, and you immediately lose some sense of attraction towards the screen. The viewing angles are a little unsavoury; Colours washed out much too easily from slight angles and the whites were the only hues that remained a constant. Shades darkened and slightly distorted even at around a 60 degree view, and things got annoying at 30 degrees and less (You’ll seldom look at it from that angle). Look at a movie straight on, and it’s nothing less than amazing.
LG says their glass is either made of or reinforced with Sapphire for durability and anti-smudge. The latter is mainly true, but the former? As we mentioned, the screen’s resistance to scratches was abysmal to say the least. In a short period of time, the screen must have gotten at least a good few scratches and marks. But remember, it doesn’t smudge too bad.
The G2 has a pretty sweet feature exclusive to the display, and that’s KnockOn. KnockOn is a gimmick meant to replace the power up for waking up the phone. It requires two taps anywhere on the display to turn it on, and two taps on the notification bar to turn the screen off. We got really used to it, and sometimes started tapping the screen on a Nexus 5 unconsciously to turn it on. It is a necessary feature on the G2, especially considering where the actual power button is placed.
The G2 features two cameras: There’s the front 2.1MP shooter with 1080p quality at 30 frames per second, and the rear OIS 13MP shooter that doubles as a 1080p camera at 60 frames per second.
Let’s take a look first at the rear camera. The 13MP shooter has two great things to it, OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and an intense LED flash. The shooter does extremely well; photos are generally crisp and clear and there’s no overexposure to images. HDR does well to clear up regular shots, in which in should be noted that low light isn’t included.
Unfortunately the G2 fails where it counts at times. It messes up on focus for macro shots, and low light shots along with night shots aren’t always its forte. Washed out colours and overexposure from the LED are both hindrance to the G2’s camera, adding on to the slow focus and capture in these modes.
There’s a feature that we saw but didn’t test: Audio Boost. From what LG says, you’re supposed to take a photo, and then add an “Audio Boosted” voice clip to it; handy for recitals in where you want the audio, plays, evidence, etcetera. The main reason we didn’t use it at all was firstly because we forgot about it, and second because it’s unnecessary. Seldom (if at all) did we think of the feature, and even if we did want audio to a photo, we’d just take a video.
Video is decent, and recorded audio does well. Shots are supposedly 1080p and we’d say that they could be in ideal conditions. Autofocus goes smoothly and the framerate keeps things bright and steady.
With regards to the front camera, there’s nothing to boast about. It’s a simple 2.1MP shooter that you may use for Skype or other video calls, and possibly selfies if you’re into that. Like most front cameras, it’s not the best picture, but it does the job for video calls of your face, hiding the sags and bags and giving a semi-clear impression of what you really look like.
Sound’s no issue on the G2. We’ve got the earpiece grill and the single speaker on the bottom of the phone, and honestly they both do well. Sound carries through the main speaker admirably for the most part, though it can get a little tinny. Outdoor performance wasn’t bad, traffic muffled sound, which is normal.
One thing that deserves warning is with regards to watching how one holds the device. The smallest amount of covering over a speaker grill can almost mute sound out of there, muffling it pretty heavily. Landscape videos are a pain due to that, as we had to be careful not to cover the speakers and lose the audio.
The G2’s microphone, like most these days, isn’t anything exciting. You’ve got the standard dual microphones on the device to cancel outside noise and amplify voice, and it works decently. Folks we called heard us clearly on Skype and through regular calls. We didn’t test out voice notes too much, but from the couple that we did things were crisp.
Funny enough, the G2, much like the Nexus 5, hides the mic under a grill that one could mistake as a speaker. It’s not particularly damning given the sound quality, but nonetheless odd.
Bells and whistles are all the rage, meaning that the regular combination of sensors are present. You’ve got the ambient light sensor, LED indicator, accelerometer, gyrometer, compass and proximity sensors to tide you over. Sensitivity in the accelerometer is really the only thing that may be inconveniencing, since slight tilts may just change the orientation of the screen. Of course, there is the option to disable that, so it shouldn’t be an issue. With regards to the light sensor, it may have just been our unit but it doesn’t seem to really do much of a job. We had the brightness on Auto and never really noticed any change. Brightness seemed to just remain a constant at full, whether inside, outside, in low light or bright light. Not that we’re complaining; we still managed to net some great battery life out of the phone.
Jelly Bean (4.2.2)
Unfortunately, LG has yet to upgrade the software to KitKat, and we’re still stuck with Jelly Bean for a while longer. LG’s done an interesting job on skinning and customizing the platform, however, there still are smaller options to make it seem a little stock. The G2 includes the default Android keyboard in addition to LG’s version, and there’s always the Google+ Photos app if you don’t want to use the included Gallery.
What can we really say on Jelly Bean that someone hasn’t already said? It’s fast, smooth, and works incredibly well on the hardware pack that is the G2. Google Now integration and Google + features are getting great; from Photos to weather and sports scores showing up at the right time, it’s impressive how far everything has come.
Chrome, Gmail, Hangouts, Maps, Google+, and Play are the new frontier. Everything wraps around the Google core of social, sharing, media and connectivity. For some this isn’t ideal or what they’d like, but for us, it was a pretty neat way of streamlining the way the phone works. Photos get backed up to Google+ Photos, making it easier for instant sharing and privacy. Our whole Google life is within reach, from Drive documents to Calendar appointments, and anything we want in terms of media is accessible through one account. Play apps and the cross device syncing is something we really enjoy; being able to see and touch whatever we’ve bought from any up to date device with minimal fuss is still impressive. Android works to be seamless in operation, and while it’s not quite there yet, Google is well on its way.
Android on the G2 doesn’t look like an LG type of thing. At first glance, hell, even at second, it looks like something from Samsung. Essentially, that’s what the UI on the G2 is; A TouchWiz ripoff in almost all aspects. From the lock screen to the pulldown tray to the settings menu, LG has done almost everything they can to imitate Samsung’s latest iteration of TouchWiz. There’s no name to be found about this UI other than it being called “LG’s UI,” or in some cases with us, “Psuedo-TouchWiz.” It’s not possible to give creative license to LG for their interface since it’s as far from being their own as we are from being the writers of Harry Potter.
One thing you could say that is exclusively LG’s is their theme options, which lets you choose between either a kawaii bubble princess theme or a basic TouchWiz-esque theme that doesn’t scream pink unicorns. Also included are imitation 3D live wallpapers, which move to different views of stock images as you swipe across pages.
Part of the interface is the keyboard, which again is customized by LG. There is the option for the stock keyboard, though LG’s seems to work well enough. Text prediction is there, autocorrect works OK, and they’ve even stuck in a swipe feature, now stock with 4.0+ devices. We did most of our typing in portrait mainly due to the screen size which allows for a comfortable experience when one or two handed. Landscape stretched our thumbs a bit (small hands) so we stayed away from that, but even still, the platform meets expectations and is quite fluid.
LG’s Crap Suite
There’s not a lot I want to say about LG’s suite of add-ons, but I need to. It’s a swelling of some of the most useless and repetitive crapware I’ve ever been weighed down with; and an attempt to copy TouchWiz, to boot. To put it midly, it’s ugly. Less mildly, you could say that LG’s packed in some real shit, and not in the good sense.
First off, let’s look at just the bundled apps. Funnily enough, LG saw fit to include two browsers; We’ve got the now standard Chrome, and the previously stock Android Browser both brought in right off the bat. They also decided to stick in a Messaging app along with Hangouts, and couple in Play Music, Photos, and Play Movies with their own versions. Photos we understand, as even the Nexus features a Gallery, however, it feels redundant to have the perfectly functioning Play apps along with proprietary ones. In LG’s defence, the Music app is needed as it brings a good equalizer along with it.
LG also stuck in a slew of apps that hold no use whatsoever; There’s Life Square, an app that maps every social move you make on the phone, LG World, a secondary app store, and an Update Centre, which holds updates for system software and core/downloaded apps. Sadly, there’s a few more apps along with the above, all which have been left alone. Pulldown the taskbar and you’ve got QuickMemo access, just like S-Note, as well as a quicklaunch suite and settings tab. There’s just too much that repeats on the G2, especially when setting up the device. You’ve got apps that lead to other apps, and apps that offer extensions for even more apps; A never ending spiral.
Secondly, carrier apps. Bell’s added on their default Self Serve, TV and Navigation apps to the phone, which are unsurprisingly not removable. The kicker is that they require an account and additional registration to use, even if you’re an existing Bell customer. Fortunately, you have options like Google Maps Navigation, Netflix and Crackle to use instead.
Connectivity is a strong point on the G2, which doesn’t lack anything. Bands are dual 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac along with WiFi Direct, DLNA and Hotspot features. Connectivity is strong; LG didn’t hold back on a good antenna and wireless receiver, meaning that signals catch on nearly immediately and stay latched on until completely out of range. WiFi Direct and DLNA are two features that are extremely handy and we’d have liked to use, albeit for our TV’s, or lack thereof.
Bluetooth on LG’s flagship is v4.0, inclusive of A2DP and LE technologies. Range and transfer rates do the job; We didn’t get any hitches happening when moving files over the air. Unfortunately, our laptop didn’t want to cooperate so we couldn’t test connection to non-Android devices, but from our Beam use the chip was powerful.
Unfortunately, Canada hasn’t been at the forefront of NFC technology, meaning that we’re still limited in how we use it. Google Wallet isn’t yet available and tap to pay is just popping up. When it comes to NFC’s tap to play, Bluetooth pairing and Android Beam features though, we’re in the loop. Beam and tap to play (Bluetooth connection via NFC on wireless speakers) are still in the rudimentary stages, so while the tap methods are crude, the gimmick still holds some appeal. We’re still kinda bummed on the NFC transfer method; we’re expecting something like Bump to work rather than smashing the backs of two phones together and holding it down, and instantaneous transfer initiation that doesn’t require awkwardly placed phones.
Funnily enough, we hardly used the G2 for calling. Skype, sure, but network calls were few and far between. For the two or so calls that we did made, though, it was pretty much what you’d expect. Service on Bell’s network was good, the microphone was loud and clear, and we could hear over the earpiece very well. No tinny sound or dropped calls for us.
Data & LTE
Bell’s network coverage is strong in and of itself, but coupled with the HSDPA, 3G, LTE and 2G bands of the G2, it’s awesome. Considering that we’re on Vancouver Island of all places and were rolling LTE speeds of around 50mbps and up in town, and just slightly less than than in less covered residential areas on HSPA+, network capability was, and is stellar. From YouTube streaming to the odd movie off Crackle, things went off without a hitch. Navigation on network was extremely accurate even in the boonies of Langford and off the Trans Canada Highway. Heck, we even kept latched on at home occasionally and it beat Shaw’s High Speed by a mile.
Saying goodbye to the G2 is going to be fairly easy. There’s nothing wrong with it; in fact, it’s one of the more powerful phones to date that we’ve used. However, it just doesn’t attract us as much at the Nexus 5, or even the Galaxy Note 3. LG’s tried to bring us their equivalent to the S4 in what just happens to be too many ways. The function tries to copy Samsung strongly, and the bloated final product is a dealbreaker.
LG has done something right, and that’s the hardware. The G2 has without a doubt excelled in being one of the fastest, most power efficient devices to date and giving stellar performance through the screen, speakers, and camera. If someone asked about a phone solely for the hardware, the G2 would be near the top of the list of recommendations, maybe just after the Xperia Z Ultra and Galaxy Note 3.
From an overall perspective the G2 was planning gone to waste. LG thought way too much about what the phone needed and what they thought it needed, and ended up with an outwardly stunning yet internally disorganized product. We can only hope that they see the error of their ways in upcoming phones (G Flex, anyone?) and tablets, and decide to fix the big issue that is software bloating. But again, if you’re seriously looking at this device, it’s up to you to judge. The G2 has its moments and has its mistakes, making it a conundrum in and of itself.