Dropping the "Optimus" part of the name, the LG G2 aims for a more premium plane somewhere beyond its predecessor and, for the most part, succeeds.
The flagship G2 boasts Qualcomm's lightning-quick Snapdragon 800 processor and is equipped with an expansive 1080p display and 13-megapixel camera. LG's strange placement of the G2's power and volume buttons on its backside takes some getting used to but doesn't ruin the experience. Indeed, with its beastly specs and ultra-fast processor, LG is definitely putting its gloves on for this smartphone battle.
That strange design...
When the phone debuted in New York, many wondered if moving the volume rocker and sleep/power buttons from the edges of the device to the back was really that necessary.
The keys sit below the main camera and LED flash. Long-pressing the volume-down button on the back will launch the camera, and holding the volume-up key opens LG's note-taking app, QuickMemo. To take a screenshot, hold both the power and volume-down key. All these actions worked fine, but the three keys are small and hard to locate blindly. It also felt odd to press the back of the device to activate the camera.
In the grand scheme of things, it isn't that jarring. Give it a few weeks and anyone should naturally get used to it. However, the advantage seemed negligible, and it does take a while for your hands and fingers to unlearn years of muscle memory. In addition, with the power key so close to the camera, there's always a risk of smudging the lens if that worries you.
Glossy, smooth and thin, the device measures 138.5x70.9x8.9mm. Thanks to some clever work with the screen and the battery, that size also accommodates a 5.2-inch screen. (Shaving some width off the bezel is also why the buttons are on the rear.)
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Sadly, the back plate doesn't match the G2's premium styling — it's a plasticky, overly slick, glossy fingerprint magnet that needs nigh-constant wiping.
As an aside, LG sells colourful QuickWindow cases for the G2, similar to the G Pro's case and Samsung's S View cover. Like the latter, the QuickWindow case will have a window so you can see the date and time from your screen. Unlike the G Pro, the G2 doesn't have a removable battery door. This means that its case merely snaps on top of its rear instead of replacing it altogether, thus adding a bit more heftiness.
The massive 5.2-inch in-plane switching (IPS) LCD display has a 1920x1080-pixel resolution and 423 ppi density. Responsive and glove friendly, it runs edge to edge against the bezel, thanks to a dual-routing touchscreen sensor technology.
Images are incredibly crisp, and on maximum brightness level, colours are vibrant. When compared side by side, it's a tad brighter than the HTC One but notably brighter than on the G4 — especially when displaying a blank white swatch. It has a wide viewing angle, and looking at the display in sunlight was easy. However, we were surprised how easily the screen could be obscured by fingerprints.
Software and features
The device currently ships with Android 4.2.2, and you'll get numerous Google apps, including Chrome, Gmail, Search, Plus, Hangouts, the Play store and its related apps and YouTube.
Before we get into all the new software features LG included with the G2, it's important to cover the basic, but unique, functions that were already seen in previous LG handsets, like the Optimus G.
Quick Remote, for instance, uses an IR blaster at the top of the G2 to turn itself into a universal remote for things like TVs, DVD players and projectors.
There's LG's staple note-taking feature, QuickMemo, which lets you jot down notes and doodles either directly on to whatever your screen is displaying at the moment or on a virtual memo pad. With the G2, you can now access QuickMemo by sliding your finger up from the bottom edge of the screen.
QSlide, LG's multitasking function, allows you to overlay apps like the video, calculator and browser while you browse through your device and access other apps. You can resize your QSlide window, too, and change its transparency.
Lastly, the handset includes 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (but no expandable memory) and near-field communication (NFC).
As previously mentioned, LG introduced the G2 as its flagship, and it comes with a slew of new UI and gesture control features.
One such feature is Slide Aside, which lets you pull up and access three apps of your choosing. On the surface, this sounds like a great feature, but we found swiping three fingers across the display to engage the function very awkward and unintuitive. Although it's nice to customize which three apps you can bring up, it feels more natural to hold down the home button and bring up the recent apps menu.
Another tool called Clip Tray can save chunks of text to use at a later time. We were initially sceptical of this trick at the outset but have to admit it grew on us. It makes dumping detailed data, such as address and contact information, into emails and texts very easy.
To wake up the handset from sleep mode, simply double tap its touchscreen (this is called KnockOn). To lock it and put it back to sleep, tap the display again. Though it takes some time to remember that the phone can even do this, it's convenient and operates well — you'll need it given that the power button will be out of reach when the phone is sitting on a tablet. KnockOn also works while a QuickWindow case is attached, so you can tap the small area of the screen to catch the date and time.
The device's Answer Me function automatically lowers the ringer volume of an incoming call if it senses the handset is being picked up, and it'll also answer the call when you hold the phone against your face.
Guest Mode is a privacy protection setting that launches when a guest unlocks your home screen by drawing a different pattern than your own. With it, you'll be able to lock down sensitive apps and other areas of the device so you won't fear software damage when handing the G2 over to energetic toddlers.
Although all these software features sound nifty (especially Guest Mode), some of these controls aren't initially intuitive to access or find and took a few moments to get used to. LG includes little tutorials with these new functions, which is helpful, but can be overwhelming. If you want to become an expert with your G2, you'll have to be willing to put in some time and effort.
Camera and video
The G2 proved itself as an extremely fast, respectable camera. In general, photo quality was good. Hues tended to run a bit colder, but on the whole, colours were accurate. Pictures taken both indoors and outdoors were sharp and crisp and were full of focused detail when zoomed in.
One of our favourite new features is the camera's optical image stabilisation, which worked well. Used in conjunction with the phone's fast processor, we were easily able to capture sharp images while hurriedly walking down the street.
In our studio shot, objects are sharp and in focus.
(Credit: Lynn La/CNET)
Both the rear camera and the 2-megapixel front camera have plenty of photo options. These include auto and touch focus; a voice shutter function that lets you operate the shutter by saying certain words, including "cheese", "smile" or "whiskey"; a brightness meter; five white-balance settings; four colour effects; a timer; geotagging; and the option to select whether you want the volume key to either zoom or take a photo.
Understandably, the 13-megapixel camera has more options, such as four image sizes that range from 1280x960 to 4160x3120 pixels (the 2-megapixel camera can only save up to 1920x1080 pixels). The rear shooter also has flash, face tracking and macro focus, 12 scene modes (the front-facing camera only has three) and ISO options. However, there is an extra function in the 2-megapixel camera where you can save an image as flipped.
The camera recorded 1080p Full HD video very well, with both moving and still objects looking sharp. Audio picked up well, and colours were true to life.
The G2 will be initially exclusive to Optus and will be compatible with the telco's new 4G time-division long-term evolution (TD-LTE) network, which Optus is also calling 4G Plus. Testing around the Sydney CBD and inner west saw no surprises in terms of data speeds: downloads were around the 35-45Mbps mark and uploads around 25-30Mbps.
Call quality was solid — clear and crisp on both sides of the conversation, even via speakerphone.
The LG G2's AnTuTu score.
(Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET Australia)
The phone is powered by a super-fast 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor that's backed up by a dedicated allotment of memory specifically meant for handling graphics chores (called GRAM). Menus flew by with almost blinding swiftness, while apps and home screens opened and closed in the blink of an eye.
In terms of raw benchmarking, the G2 does very nicely. Quadrant results clocked in at an impressive 19,050 (as a comparison, LG's last flagship, the Optimus G Pro, scored 10,548, and the Galaxy S4 and HTC One scored 11,381 and 12,194, respectively).
With AnTuTu, the handset scored an equally solid 36,311 compared to 32,627 for Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 and 26,004 for the Galaxy S4.
Speed tests showed that the device can power off and restart in 20 seconds and launch the camera in under 1.83 seconds. SunSpider ran in 962.3ms — not the fastest we've seen but a long way from slow.
Juicing the handset is a 3,000mAh non-removable battery that has a reported talk time of 18 hours and a standby time of 29 days.
Battery life was definitely impressive; even with heavy use and screen brightness cranked up, we were getting a solid day's use from the G2.
The LG G2 may not change the smartphone game, but it came to play hard. Its top-of-the-line processor makes it an absolute speed demon, and its bigger screen is fantastic for playing games and watching videos. In addition, its minor issues (like the rear buttons and embedded battery) are a matter of preference rather than worrisome design flaws.
This is LG's most ambitious handset to date, and the G2 is a fantastic performer and an impressive display of what LG can do.