LG presented a few new cell phone models in the last year and they were very favorably received. Aside from the cheaper models from the L series that went well on the market we liked the best Nexus 4 and Optimus G, which are both excellent devices. There was a lot of talk about the newest member of the G series, even before IFA exhibition – that it won’t have side buttons, that it will have before unseen hardware, etc. After a brief introduction at the expo, where a lot of unofficial information was confirmed, test model came to our office. How good is that hardware, how long does the battery last, are the buttons well-positioned? Those are just some of the questions that we tried to find an answer to.
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Tightly packed

Inside the package is the standard content – phone, manual, charger with a detachable microUSB cable and headphones. Charger is extremely powerful and gives up to 1,8 A of power, so it’s capable of charging the massive battery in just a few hours. The headphones are in-ear, new version of the model that we first encountered with Optimus G phone, Quadbeat II. They look a lot alike, with aluminium heads and flat cable that don’t get entangled. First version didn’t reproduce the sound at the expected quality, but this version is significantly improved. It’s still far from better/more expensive headphones, but at least it’s in the same league with what competitors offer, and they also eliminate outside noise.

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The rumors all of the buttons will be moved to the back side of the phone have come true, and under the camera there really are buttons for volume control and power. The latter has a frame that glows when the buttons is pressed or there’s a missed call/sms. Because they are located in a non-standard place, it comes as no surprise that LG put in an effort to make it good; they’re comfortable when used and produce a ‘click’ sound when pressed, and the power button is slightly convexed, so they’re easy to distinguish, even blindly.  If you’re accustomed to finding these buttons on the edges of the phone, you’ll need time to grow accustomed to the new position. Even after that, the question remains whether this implementation is better than the regular one or it’s just a marketing trick to draw more attention. However, when the phone is in horizontal position, the buttons are placed perfectly and are easily accessible. Above them, there’s a camera with an accompanying LED flash, and sides and upper edge don’t have any buttons while the only thing on the left side is a micro SIM card slot. On the upper side, there’s an additional microphone for eliminating the ambient noise and IR (infrared) port. On the lower side, there’s the audio jack, micro USB and two speakers grille, so their position is much better than on the back side. Most of the front side takes up the screen and there’s a small amount of unused space above and below. Above the screen are the sensors, front camera and headphones, and below only the LG logo. Whole front surface is protected with Gorilla glass, which is slightly sloped on the edges, so it slides easily in the pocket. Phone itself is made out of plastic, the same as the back lid, but gives a sense of sturdiness. Back side is made out of glossy plastic with a barely-noticeable pattern, but it’s coated with a hyperglaze layer and because of its glossiness it’s a real magnet for fingerprints. If nothing else, there’s also a white version, where the fingerprints are much less noticeable.

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Ferrari under the hood

If there’s a phone that was released this year that managed to stir up the dust with its hardware specifications, that’s certainly LG G2. As we have already mentioned, the screen came really close to the edges of the phone, which is also the answer to the question how did LG manage to pack a 5,2 inch diagonal into dimensions that competitors use for 5-inch models. This is the first model that surpassed the magical border of 5 inches and came very close to the first Note which, with its 5,3-inch screen, is considered the progenitor of the phablets. As usual, LG implemented a truly great screen – Full HD Super LCD 3, which has excellent color reproduction and even better viewing angles. Its illumination is great, and contrast, even though weaker than with SuperAMOLED technology, it’s great. It’s a real pleasure to use it, and even direct sunlight doesn’t bother it as much as it does its competitors. For a screen this size, the accompanying hardware must also be powerful, so LG didn’t stint on CPU/GPU segment. LG G2 is the first smartphone that implements the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor paired with Adreno 330 graphics. Although made in the same manufacturing process as Snapdragon 600 and 400, this combination should result in much better performances for two reasons. First, frequencies have been increased, so CPU works at incredible 2.26 GHz, and the video card has been speed up as well. The other reason is because previous Snapdragons were optimized for low consumption and this one is optimized for high performances. With that in mind, we were a bit worried how will that relate to battery autonomy, but that proved to be unfounded – two days of medium usage weren’t a problem, primarily because the capacity is enormous. As it doesn’t have the capacity to expand its internal memory with microSD cards, we recommend that you skip the 16 GB model and get the 32 GB version. Even then, when you take away the space reserved for ROM and pre-installed application, only about 25 GB remains for users, which is becoming ordinary for Android manufacturers, and we don’t like it at all.

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We were surprised that RAM capacity remained at 2 GB. With such a powerful hardware base, 3 GB of RAM would ensure comfortable work for a long time. In their promotional materials, LG stated that this is the first phone that offers 24-bit, 192 kHz, Hi-Fi sound. We’d rather not get into too much detail about this specifications, but the result isn’t as good as was to be expected. A lot of ASUS models, some HTC and Samsung, but also Meizu MX2 have a noticeably better audio out, so it’s our advice to LG to pay more attention to DAC (digital-to-analog converter), rather than technical specifications. It’s a good thing that by connecting headphones, a mini-panel is launched with several recommended applications, such as music or video player. The same thing happens when you connect something on USB port – shortcuts to logical applications are launched, such as File Manager or Gallery.

LG G2 
Processor Qualcomm quad core Krait 400 2.26 GHz, Snapdragon 800
GPU Adreno 330
Memory 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal memory, 25 GB available
Display 5.2'', 1920x1080 pix, True HD-IPS TFT, Gorilla Glass 3
Interfaces microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi ac, HSDPA, GPS, LTE, USB OTG, USB Host
Camera Back: 13 MP with autofocus and LED flash; Front: 2,1 MP
Battery Li- Ion 3000 mAh
OS Android OS 4.2.2
Dimensions 138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm
Weight 143 g with battery
Price US $ 600
Contact www.lge.com

Cameras are excellent; the back has resolution of 13 MP and makes photos that are on par with its strongest competitors. The front one is quite sufficient for video calls, as usual. We liked the fact that all camera presets are on one screen and are easily accessible and it’s simple to make a fast switch from one to another. Still, most of the time you’ll be spending in one of three modes: Super Intelligent Burst i Dynamic High Tone (HDR). Images are great, with lots of details, and Burst is capable of making up to 20 images with an astonishing speed. In keeping with the most recent trends, it's capable of making photos and recording videos at the same time with both cameras and put the image captured on the front camera on to the image from the main camera as a small thumbnail. Optic stabilization of the picture has also been implemented, which will be noticeable the most with video recording – it won't be as shaky as is the case with videos shot with hand-held cameras.

Hardware such as this indicated the the results of synthetic tests will be at least interesting. LG G2 is so much faster than anything else that we've had the opportunity to test that it's frightening. For example, one of the most demanding tests, 3D Mark, in first two modes intended for testing the devices with screen resolutions of 720p and 1080p didn't even display the result but only a simple „Maxed Out“ notification. In third test, intended for unannounced devices, it produced the result of about 15 thousand, which is exactly 50% faster than the current leader S4. It’s interesting to note that, when compared to results of the previous tests, the most glaring difference is with video card performances. Adreno 330 is obviously a lot faster than its predecessor, regardless of slight increase in frequency. With Antutu Benchmark, the difference was a bit less, but still a considerable 30%, and with 25% speed increase in CPU segment, it confirmed that main improvements were with the video card. A similar situation was with all other benchmark programs that we’ve used whether it was Vellamo, Geekbench or something else. LG G2 dominated in all of them and it was always first place with 20-50% difference when compared to other competitors such as Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony XperiaZ etc. Currently, LG G2 is absolutely the fastest device out there, and it will be our pleasure to compare it soon with Tegra4 and new Intel Atom platform that promise excellent performances.

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As you probably already know, Android is not all about hardware, software optimization, operating system version and user interface have great influence on test results, but even more on user interaction. We’re pleased that LG did well in this area, G2 is an extremely fast phone that is just waiting to spring into action when a command is issued and you’ll often be surprised just how fast and fluid that command is carried out. All animations, and there are many of them, are short and effective, and transitions and software launching is performed very fast. Applications such as Google Maps, that are often slow to launch, don’t have any problems on G2. This high speed also applies towards web browsing, whether you are using Chrome or pre-installed Android browser.

Can we get an agreement, please?

If you’ve read about our test of Optimus G phone, you may have noticed that we really liked the user interface, the capability of modifying it, both the design and functionality. New version of Optimus UI kept that capability, but we were under the impression that development team got a bit ahead of themselves. For example, notifications panel by default takes up half of the available space, so you cannot help but wonder what they were thinking when they were designing it. Many of its shortcuts make a lot of sense, but Qslide apps could use a better location. That’s a collection of small programs that can be placed above an open windows and take up only a small portion of the available space. LG did a useful thing and gave them capability to become transparent as much as you like, because they have a slider for transparence.

Navigation buttons are a part of the screen, and interestingly enough, can be changed within predefined parameters. You can change even their background color, again within a given set of options. Unlike Optimus G, there are only two themes available, and at least for now, there’s no option for installing more. Along with the wallpaper, the theme changes icons, backgrounds, widgets and system applications. This is an interesting option, and we would like to see more themes in the future, because they completely change and refresh the look of the phone.

Widgets, icons and areas for notifications and settings look so different that it appears that they were made by different design teams. That can be really annoying, so we hope that LG will fix that soon, whether with a new theme are with a system update. There’s a few nice-looking phone unlock effects that you can perform in two ways – by pressing the power button or by double-tapping the central area. Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t function always, stopping us from using it all the time and growing accustomed to using this method of unlocking always. But, locking always works – it’s enough to double-tap on any free space or notification bar if you’re in the App Drawer and the phone will lock itself.

Capabilities for changing the look are still plentiful, so you can change the system font, as well as its size. There’s also the synchronization with Cloud services, such as Dropbox, so all of your changes will be saved on a cloud server, and you can revert back to a previous state at any moment.

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LG went a bit too far with the number of pre-installed applications, but most of them are good enough to satisfy your needs, especially if you need exactly what they do. Of course, applications for multimedia reproduction are the most important ones, both have support  for various formats, but music application is the one that will probably be used the most and will probably be the only one of that type. Video application doesn’t fall behind that much, and along various format support, it also supports subtitles, as well as decoding of AC3 positioning on two speakers, which is something that you had to pay for until recently. For reading office documents, there’s the Polaris viewer, and the unavoidable File Manager, but Quick Remote should also be mentioned. This is a powerful software tool paired with an IR transmitter, and it enables the controlling of devices that use remote controls. Now it’s been further improved, so for devices like TV or stereo system that are located in the base of supported models are fully compatible. It can also remember signals for a specific remote, so it can be programmed for most important functions if you have, Shaub Lorenz video player, for example.

Ultra-fast G2

In the segment that we were most interested in as enthusiasts, speed of use, LG G2 didn’t fall short of its announcements that preceded its release. Without any doubt, this is currently by far the fastest Android smartphone that we’ve had the chance to try out and that probably won’t change in the next few months. Big Full HD screen with excellent image that stretches from edge to edge will provide its users with many hours of pleasure. Battery is capable enough to fuel these hungry components for a long time, so two days of autonomy with average use are not a rarity. Innovative design and control button placement will only leave a few people indifferent, and the fact is that after the initial shock it quickly grows on you. Even though LG made a lot of announcements regarding the unsurpassed audio out, G2 didn’t do too well in this segment. The use of a specialized DAC such as Wolfson or Burr Brown would have significantly improved this segment, but that’s left for the next version. Unification of user interface and application would be a welcome addition, because currently, when you want to change the application that you are using, it’s the same as if you were changing the user interface.
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When all is said and done, LG G2 is a powerhouse, pretty elegant and with nice dimensions and works incredibly fast, so it stands to reason that it won’t have a decent competitor on our market in the next few months, which by itself serves as a great recommendation for all enthusiasts. Considering the fact that many mobile service providers will be offering it, it will probably have a more affordable price than in free market, and to serve as proof how much we liked it, it got a InsideHW Approved reward.