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Credit: Android Central

LG G4 Review: A Puzzle With A Few Missing Pieces, Part 1: The Whole Puzzle

The LG G4 is the Korean manufacturer’s 2015 flagship that looks to take on the other top Android flagships and even the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus from Apple. We’ve been told the LG G4 has a great camera, great design, and a few functionality factors that make it stand out from its rivals. The question, as always, however, comes down to whether or not the LG G4 can stand toe to toe with its rivals. We won’t give it away, so on to the task we go.

Display

Credit: TechnoBuffalo
Credit: TechnoBuffalo

The LG G4 has a 5.5-inch, Quad HD Quantum Dot display with a screen resolution of 2,560 x 1,440p (and a pixel density of 534-538ppi). The company’s new use of Quantum Dot technology in its LCD screens is a way for LG to bypass the shortcomings of LCD displays. LCDs often present more accurate colors than Samsung’s AMOLED displays but lack the color vibrancy and richness of its panel competitor. With Quantum Dot technology, however, LG can still produce “popping” colors in the LG G4 while maintaining its use of LCD screens – which are still more affordable than using OLED or AMOLED displays in smartphones. So, with that said, you’re still getting a gorgeous display with rich colors, which may surprise you if you’ve owned the LG G3 or an earlier model in the Korean manufacturer’s G series.

LG says that Quantum Dot technology allows molecules to be manipulated or tuned to “brighter” color output if so desired, or “dimmer” color output. The result of this is that LG’s usual IPS LCD screens that have been a major part of the company’s mobile devices don’t provide the necessary color output to create the AMOLED-like saturation the company aimed for this year. Quantum Dot technology is also becoming a winning formula with Smart TVs, as LG’s Korean rival has been said to invest in Quantum Dot because it can offer TVs for a fraction of the cost of what OLED TVs would cost. LG seems to be pushing forward with its OLED TVs, but it has resorted to Quantum Dot technology with the LG G4 (which is a wise move, in our opinion. Let’s hope LG resorts to this for its TVs as well, reducing the cost and making them more accessible to customers).

At the same time, however, the G4’s display is far from perfect. While LG aims to stick to the Digital Cinematic Institute’s (DCI) color accuracy standard, the one that sets the tone for the industry, the LG G4 actually falls far short of it. In fact, the LG G4 has less accurate color reproduction than Samsung’s own Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, which are only outranked by Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s in terms of color reproduction. The LG G4, according to tech site AnandTech, has reduced color accuracy as compared to its predecessor, the LG G3, and, in its white point balance (measured by proximity to the score of 6,540K), is somewhat distant (the LG G4 gets a score of 7,639). This is likely a result of using such a high-quality panel with deep, saturated colors while not calibrating those colors. It’s only slightly disappointing in terms of the eye, but in terms of DCI standards, the LG G4’s color accuracy is quite a ways behind Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 edge (even if, in appearance, it doesn’t look too underwhelming).

The LG G4 features a slightly curved display, with LG having taken some design language cues from its own G Flex 2 to create the G4. The result is that the curve is a nice ergonomic design in hardware, but the curve doesn’t contribute anything to the company’s software experience or the smartphone’s durability. If you intend to use a case with the LG G4, however, you won’t notice the curve (it’s not as pronounced as the G Flex 2).

As for max brightness, the LG G4 isn’t as bright as Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, or Apple’s iPhone 6, though you won’t notice it.

Processor and Memory

Credit: TechRadar
Credit: TechRadar

The LG G4 utilizes a 1.8Ghz, 64-bit hexa-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB of DDR4 RAM, and 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot for expandable storage. Some have said here that LG’s expandable storage is one of the major “wins” for the LG G4, and this may appeal to some. However, keep in mind that you’ll pay additional money for a microSD card, and not all cards cost the same. MicroSD cards vary in price, performance, as well as protection and security. With that said, buying a microSD card at Amazon, for example, could be both safe and dangerous (depending on which microSD cards you purchase).

The hexa-core processor makes the LG G4 seem underwhelming when compared to its fellow Korean rival, Samsung (with its octa-core, Exynos 7420 processor in all its 2015 devices), but consumers won’t notice it when it comes to basic tasks. Only in intensive games and applications will the hexa-core processor stutter or perform worse than Samsung’s own octa-core processor. With that said, though, LG’s decision to go with the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 in the LG G4 was done based on the overheating Snapdragon 810 processor – which was Qualcomm’s failed processor this year. LG would have implemented the 810 in the G4 but chose not to do so because the initial batch of Snapdragon 810 processors was overheating.

While the processor could be better, and the expandable storage seems to be a convenience for some with its own security risks, the LG G4 will perform just fine for the majority of everyday tasks. In fact, the Snapdragon 808 proves surprising (in a good way) in general web browsing. The LG G4 tops Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 edge and iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in Kraken’s Chrome/Safari/IE web browsing test; the LG G4 tops Samsung’s devices in the Google Octane web browsing test as well as the WebXPRT 2013 web browsing test. When it comes to the WebXPRT test, however, the Apple iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 dominate.

When it comes to basemark OS testing, however, the story is in the reverse. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 edge defeat the LG G4 in the overall OS test (1,955 vs. 1,634 points), System (3,993 vs. 2,745 points), Memory (1,502 vs. 1,490 points), Graphics (2488 vs. 1,953 points), and Web (978 vs. 891 points).

When it comes to PC performance (how well the handset functions as a PC replacement), the story remains the same: the LG G4 falters to the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge in PCMark’s overall work performance test (4,660 points vs. the S6’s 5,180 and the S6 edge’s 4,955 points), PCMark’s web browing test (LG G4’s 4,554 vs. the S6 edge’s 6,140 and the S6’s 6,356 points), in writing (Galaxy S6’s 5,991 vs. the G4’s 5,151 points) and photo editing (Galaxy S6’s 5,878 vs. G4’s 4,910 points). The LG G4 did beat the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge in PCMark’s video playback test, however (G4’s 4,094 vs. the Galaxy S6’s 3,128 points).

In 3D testing with the 3DMark Ice Storm test, the LG G4 lags behind the Galaxy S6 and the HTC One M9, with 18,611 points to the Galaxy S6’s 22,511 points and the HTC One M9’s 23,333 points. In Geekbench 3 benchmark scoring, which provides a good idea of how a device will perform in real life, the LG G4 comes close to tying with the HTC One M9 in single-core tasks (LG G4’s 1,046 points to the One M9’s 1,072 points) but is slaughtered by the One M9 when it comes to multi-core tasks: the LG G4 scored 2,981 points in multi-core scoring, as opposed to the HTC One M9’s 3,953 points.

Qualcomm’s best Snapdragon 808 and 810 processors are no match for the Exynos 7420 found in Samsung’s own Galaxy S6, however. The LG G4’s single-core scoring is as close as LG ever gets to Samsung in Geekbench scoring (the G4 gets 1,046 points to the Galaxy S6’s 1,468 points in single-core tasks). As for multi-core scoring, the LG G4 is at a disadvantage: it gets 2,981 points to the GS6’s 5,063 points.

As can be seen, the Snapdragon 808 can hold its own in the most basic of tasks (web and memory), but it doesn’t hold its own in OS performance overall in a number of areas when stacked up against the octa-core Exynos 7420 of the Galaxy S6. The octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 would have fared better in the majority of tests in which the 808 falters, such as graphics.

Battery

LG G4 3,000mAh battery
Credit: JBTech

The LG G4 comes with a 3,000mAh battery, the same as last year’s G3, and the battery is removable (meaning you can pop in a new one and juice up within seconds). While the battery size hasn’t changed, however, what seems to have changed is battery endurance: the LG G4 now lasts longer on a single charge than last year’s G3. While video playback lasted 9 hours and 22 minutes, the LG G4 lasted 10 hours and 38 minutes on a single charge (1 hr., 16 min. more than the G3). The LG G4 has made some improvement in battery life, but it doesn’t beat Samsung’s Galaxy S6 with its endurance time in video playback of 12 hours and 36 minutes.

Many consumer reviews have given battery life anywhere from 10-12 hours with moderate usage on social media, to 14 hours with increased camera usage, to 16 hours of normal use. Standard tests confirm the LG G4’s sufficient battery life. In Wi-Fi web browsing and LTE web browsing, the LG G4 fares better than the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge: in Wi-Fi browsing, the LG G4 lasted 11.37 hours while the Galaxy S6 lasted 10.44 hours and the Galaxy S6 edge lasted 10.69 hours. In 4G LTE web browsing, the LG G4 lasted 11.38 hours while the S6 lasted 9.69 hours and the S6 edge lasted 10.59 hours.

These results are not surprising, however, considering that the Galaxy S6 came with a 2,550mAh battery and the Galaxy S6 edge has only a 2,600mAh battery. What is surprising, however, is to see the Galaxy S6 outlast the LG G4 in video playback. Keep in mind, too, that these scores are for continuous use. When it comes to daily use for you with either smartphone, optimizations by the manufacturer will be put to the test – and in that regard, most consumers have found that the Galaxy S6 will provide better battery life overall.

You may not be prone to watching lots of videos, however, so you’ll need to make your choice on battery life. LG’s G4 comes with the option to remove the battery and add another, though the G4 has wireless charging and quick charging capabilities but doesn’t provide the Quick Charge charger or wireless charging pad or mat out of the box; you’ll have to buy them from a third-party manufacturer. Samsung doesn’t provide a wireless charging pad with its own 2015 devices, but the company does offer them for sale so that you need not buy them from anyone else or worry about compatibility issues. With so little in the way of quick charging accessories being provided by LG, the Korean manufacturer’s commitment to removable batteries is commendable – though wireless charging and quick charging advocates will find the removable battery to be nothing more than a consolation prize.

Charging times matter, too, as this can have an effect on how quickly you can pick up your phone and run (or how long you’ll have to wait, which indicates how quickly you’ll abandon the device). The LG G4 has an improved charge time from its predecessor (G3), but it’s still behind the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge by some distance: the LG G4 has a charge time of 2.29 hours while the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge have a charging time of 1.48 hours.

Camera

Credit: TechnoBuffalo
Credit: TechnoBuffalo

The LG G4 has stepped up LG’s camera game, with the company planning the G4 as an all-out attack on other high-end rivals in 2015. LG’s G4 has an 8MP front-facing camera and a 16MP rear-facing camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and an f/1.8 camera aperture.

It is the camera that makes the LG G4 a tough contender in the Android and smartphone space, with the company’s manual controls and RAW image capture being chief among the capabilities of high-end smartphone cameras. Some tech reviewers see LG’s 16MP back camera with its f/1.8 camera aperture as superior to Samsung’s own 16MP back camera with its f/1.9 aperture in all its 2015 smartphones, but camera expert DxOMark Mobile ranks the LG G4 camera as behind that of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and 2015 devices.

While the LG G4 camera does have some notable strengths, it also has some notable differences as well. One weakness pertains to the G4’s videography, with the device not having video stabilization at all (or rather, OIS doesn’t work). We don’t know the extent of the LG G4’s video image stabilization (or VIS), but Samsung does have VDIS (video digital image stabilization) in the back cameras of the S6 edge Plus and the Note 5 – which is another area in which LG falters before its Korean rival.

There are some issues with photography, too. For example, LG has improved its camera shot latency (delay before the picture is taken), even beating out Samsung’s Galaxy S6 (G4’s 316ms vs. the Galaxy S6 375ms), but LG’s autofocus needs some work as the focus latency score with the LG G4 is worse than last year’s G3 (575ms for G4 autofocus, vs. 524 ms for G3). There is no phase detection autofocus (or PDAF) here, and autofocus has room for improvement. When it comes to low-light photos, however, the LG G4 wins over the Galaxy S6 in a number of areas, as LG’s low-light photos have always been as strong if not stronger than those of the iPhone. LG’s camera has even been rated to surpass the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus this year, so G4 buyers have photography as a bragging point in the smartphone wars.

Transition

We’ve covered as much of the puzzle as we can cover, looking at everything from the hexa-core processor, to the Quad HD display that has made gains in color accuracy and sunlight legibility (though it still has some catching up to do with Samsung’s panels). In Part 1, we set out to cover as much of the “puzzle” of the LG G4 as we could. There are so many areas (yet so little time) space-wise here to cover them all, but we wanted to cover the major aspects of the G4 that most consumers are asking about. The goal, as always, is to help you decide whether or not any smartphone or mobile gadget is right for you.

In Part 2, we’ll take a look at the “missing puzzle pieces” of the LG G4. With its top-tier camera, sufficient battery life, improvements in brightness and its display (and readability in sunlight, as many a tech reviewer has pointed out), and microSD card and removable battery for power users, what could be missing? Well, there are some major puzzle pieces missing. We’ll turn to those now.

Missing Puzzle Piece #1: Processor

Credit: JBTech
Credit: JBTech

Yes, the LG G4 has a hexa-core, Snapdragon 808 processor that can get the job done (for the most part), but its failure to keep pace with Samsung’s octa-core, Exynos 7420 processor highlights the “missing puzzle piece”: the LG G4 doesn’t have a flagship processor to match industry-standard, high-end flagship expectations. The above scores from Geekbench 3 don’t surpass those of the iPhone — or even the Galaxy S6, S6 Active, S6 edge and S6 edge Plus, or even the Galaxy Note 5 for that matter.

Hexa-core processors are no different than having 6 spare tires: sure, 4 of the tires will serve as excellent substitutes in the event that your tires need changing, but what about the other two? What happens if you need a second set of 4 tires but only have 2 spare tires? If you’re on the road with only 2 spares when you need 4, the 2 tires won’t help much. That’s what it’s like to have a hexa-core processor: 4 cores provide work for most of the tasks, with 2 left in special or unique circumstances. Should you ever need four additional cores for intensive tasks, the hexa-core processor will disappoint. Some say that you don’t need anything more than two cores (a dual-core processor), but additional cores are like spare tires and work tools: sure, you don’t need them all the time, but they prove invaluable in emergency situations.

Within quad-core processors, for example, there are 2 cores set aside for light, basic tasks, and 2 cores set aside for major, heavy, intensive tasks. If four cores (both basic and intense) are at work, and the remaining 2 cores are used for, say, light tasks, what happens if 2 additional cores are needed for heavy tasks (or additional heavy tasks, for that matter)? The hexa-core processor cannot fulfill them. Simply put, hexa-core processors are incomplete, in the same way that 6 spare tires (instead of 8) are incomplete. The remaining 2 cores are a help, but 4 new cores (not just the extra 2) would be an even better help.

It’s also worth noting that hexa-core processors are best compatible for mid-range flagships, not a high-end flagship. Quad-core processors were once high-end processors, but the next logical step up from 4 cores (quad-core) is 8 cores (to add 4 more). Mid-range flagships won’t perform like high-end flagships, so manufacturers tend to put lower-performing processors into them to match the price point – like manufacturers place 8MP back cameras into mid-range flagships now, while using 13MP, 16MP, or higher cameras in high-end flagships. With that said, it’s not surprising to see the LG G4 underperform Samsung’s arsenal of smartphones.

LG made a wise decision not to utilize the overheating, octa-core Snapdragon 810, but every decision made comes with a cost. In the case of LG, it meant crafting the LG G4 with an underperforming processor that doesn’t quite match tech-savvy expectations of what a high-end flagship should do. As I’ve said before, the hexa-core processor will work well for most tasks, but it won’t outperform an octa-core. Imagine what the LG G4 could do if it had been given a healthy, octa-core processor!

Stay tuned as we cover the majority of the missing puzzle pieces of the LG G4 in the second part of our review, titled “LG G4 Review: A Puzzle With A Few Missing Puzzle Pieces, Part 2: The Missing Puzzle Pieces.”

About Deidre Richardson

Deidre is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who discovered her interest for tech a little later in life. Since meeting the Samsung Galaxy S3, however, her life has been changed — and tech’s become such a big part of it. She currently owns four Samsung phones (GS3, GS4 Active, Note 3, GS5), and has owned the Galaxy Gear and Gear S smartwatches. In addition to Yologadget, Deidre writes for SamMobile.com, the largest Samsung fan site on the Web, as well as Smartwatch.me, and general tech site Aptgadget.com.