LG G4 first impressions: turning up the heat on the rivals

“LG’s latest flagship offers an interesting design, a gorgeous screen along with loaded hardware and a superb pair of snappers”

The global smartphone manufacturers follow a set schedule for their flagship launches. This year is no different, except for the flailing Japanese brand Sony, which despite introducing its latest top-end smartphone, the Xperia Z3+, kept it a low-key affair. Samsung and HTC on the other hand, have already released their high-end offerings in the subcontinent. Challenging them for supremacy is LG, which is raising the heat this summer season with the launch of its latest flagship, the G4.

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Launched at an event in Mumbai by none other Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, LG is leaving no stones unturned for its latest flagship. We were present at the event and got our hands on the smartphone. Here’s a first look at LG’s latest power-packed phablet.

In a gist, the G4 seems like a more refined version of its predecessor, the G3 (review | FAQs). It retains several features from the brand’s last year’s flagship and upgrades many others. But when we go deeper, it’s clear that the Korean brand has given attention to each and every aspect of the smartphone to make it a worthy flagship.

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Instead of faux-leather textures, it has introduced the G4 with a back made out of real leather. The finish not only lends it exquisite looks, it also feels nice in the hands. Along with the leather variant, the LG G4 is also available in ceramic finish. What’s even more interesting is the fact that the device has a removable back panel unlike many other premium smartphones in the market. Prying open the rear cover exposes the nano-SIM card trays and a microSD card slot along with the removable battery, which is another plus for many users.

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The leather variant of the phone can be purchased in brown, red or brown options. The plastic version on the other hand, features a diamond-cut pattern, available in white, grey or gold colours.

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Similar to the LG G3, the G4 is built around an IPS display panel measuring 5.5-inches diagonally. Apart from the screen size, the resolution is also the same – 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. However, the company is using the Quantum Display technology this time, and combining that with higher contrast ratio (1500:1) means that the G4’s display is simply stunning. It’s sharp and reproduces lovely colours along with offering wide viewing angles. The new technology also allows the display to offer impressive brightness levels.

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While the display size remains the same, LG has tried to ensure that the G4 isn’t too unwieldy. For that, it has employed a ‘slim arc’ design, with the back of the device curving on both sides. This allows the device to look thinner along with being ergonomic, even though the thickness varies from 6.3 to 9.8mm. However, due to the use of leather, the device has gained a slight heft in comparison to its predecessor (155g vs 149g).

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The design ethos of the LG G4 is almost same as the G3. The fascia of the phablet is dominated by the display panel, and has extremely narrow bezels. Above the display, you’ll find an earpiece, a front-facing camera and a couple of sensors. The smartphone has implemented the navigation keys in the software and hence below the display, the phone only sports an LG logo.

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The Korean smartphone maker pioneered the concept of power button and volume keys at the back, and the G4 continues that tradition. You’ll find these controls just below the camera module which is accompanied by the flash. At the rear, the phone also sports a speaker grille towards the bottom.

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Both the micro-USB port and 3.5mm audio interface are available at the base of the LG G4, while the top and edges on the either side are devoid of any functional elements.

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With the G Flex 2, LG opted for Qualcomm’s top-end chipset, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. However, possibly due to the heating issues posed by the SoC, the brand has chosen the 810’s slightly less powerful sibling this time. The G4 is world’s first smartphone to come powered by Qualcomm’s hexa-core 808 processor. The 64-bit chip employs a dual-core Cortex-A57 cluster clocked at 1.82GHz, and the other four Cortex-A53 cores run at 1.44GHz. The SoC also features an Adreno 418 GPU and is mated to 3 gigs of RAM. While the processor might not seem the best, the performance delivered by the handset during the time we spent with it was extremely smooth. There was barely any lag while navigating between the screens or switching between apps. That said, the real test of the hardware could only be done when we review it extensively and play some graphics-heavy titles.

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In the storage department, the LG G4 comes with 32GB of flash memory, out of which approximately 20GB is available to use. Since it’s a demo unit though, we believe the retail versions will offer more space. But if that doesn’t fulfill your requirements, the G4 also sports an expansion slot, which supports microSD cards of up to 2TB (it’s a different matter that the maximum storage a microSD card can offer currently is 512GB capacity).

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LG has gone all out to ensure that the G4 is among the best smartphone shooters – both in terms of the tech and features. The device flaunts a 16-megapixel Sony IMX234 sensor at the back, with a wide aperture of f/1.8, which is more than the f/1.9 aperture offered by Samsung’s current flagship duo. The camera also supports optical image stabilisation to compensate for hand movements while clicking an image. Similar to the G3, the device features laser-guided autofocus allowing it to focus quickly on subjects. To assist shooting in dimly-lit situations, the camera gets help from an LED flash. The camera app offers tons of modes and options, including a manual mode, allowing users to adjust ISO, exposure, etc. Not just the primary camera, LG has also taken care of selfieholics with the G4. It sports a 8MP fixed-focus camera at the front.

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For handling the software aspect, the LG G4 ships with brand’s custom skin labelled Optimus UX4.0, which is layered on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop. The UI doesn’t hamper the Material Design language, but brings forth some useful features such as Smart Notice, Smart Bulletin, and Smart Settings among others.

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For connectivity purposes, the smartphone is among the very few (if not the only one) flagships that support dual-SIM cards, with the primary SIM featuring 4G compatibility (both TDD and FDD bands). Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and GPS. The LG G4 also supports wireless charging, though with a powerful 3,000mAh battery, the company is trying to make sure you don’t need to charge the phablet often.

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Just like other flagships, the LG G4 doesn’t come cheap, with its price tag being Rs 51,000. While that sounds pricey, the smartphone does offer an interesting design, a gorgeous screen along with a loaded hardware and a superb pair of snappers. It’ll certainly give a tough competition to the likes of Samsung Galaxy S6 (and  its sibling, the S6 edge) and HTC One M9+ (first impressions). We’d need to run the LG G4 through our review gauntlet before giving our final verdict on the device and how it fares against other flagships, but for now, it sure looks like a compelling option if you can afford it.