LG G4 Review: A Competent, Capable Android Alternative

Design and Build Quality

Unlike Samsung's decision to split its Galaxy S 6 into two devices (the standard GS6 and the GS6 Edge), there's only one LG G4. It either fits the bill, or it doesn't. While it isn't set squarely in phablet territory, it's close. The QHD (2560x1440) 5.5-inch display is large. Sat beside an iPhone 6 Plus, the G4 is just as wide though a bit shorter. If you don't enjoy handling large phones, the LG G4 will probably feel too big. It's tough to use one-handed because of its width, but the display itself is simply stunning. So, if you're after a bigger phone, you'll appreciate staring this many pixels. It's on par with the fantastic panels found on the HTC One M9 and Galaxy S6, though it feels like a stunning display is less of a differentiating factor these days and more of an expected norm. What LG does a nice job of with the G4 is minimizing bezel area.

LG G4 Front Display

The G4 is full of hardware design choices that make it unique, especially compared the the GS6 and One M9. For starters, there's no physical "home" button beneath the display. Instead, all interaction on the front takes place on the display itself using virtual, on-screen buttons. Intelligently, LG's signature "double-tap-the-screen-to-wake" feature is still here, which makes the loss of a home button far less notable. As an aside, that very feature remains one of our favorites, and given how many times we generally look at our phone's display, it comes in handy a whole lot.

Speaking of, the 5.5-inch Quad HD panel is unique in its own right. LG relies on IPS Quantum technology to achieve a 25 percent increase in brightness, a 50 percent increase in contrast, and a 56 percent increase in color accuracy compared to the (already impressive) G3. To make up for the screen's size, LG gently curved the panel as well, but most folks probably won't notice. On the LG G Flex, the bend is immediately noticeable. On the G4, it's far more subtle, but it's slightly curved in order to better match the curvature of your hand when holding it in your palm. 
LG G4 Geek Bench Specs
While it'll feel odd to those new to the LG brand, there aren't any buttons or switches on either edge. Instead, the volume and power buttons are relegated to the phone's rear, where your index finger naturally sits when grasping a handset. (This is the same area where Motorola inserts a dimple for extra handling security on its smartphones.) We're big fans of the button placement, but those coming from any other phone will require at least a few days to re-target handling habits. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom alongside a microUSB charging port that's capable of outputting 4K video content. On top, you'll find an Infrared port for speaking with A/V equipment.

LG G4 Back

The most important nugget on the hardware side will be viewed as either a blessing or a curse, depending on perspective. The upside here is that LG included a removable battery as well as a microSD expansion slot, both of which were seen as mainstays on Android phones for years until flagships like the GS6 began removing them. So, if you're a power user that swaps batteries or cards, the G4 is now one of the only high-end Android phones out today that offers the ability to do both.

LG G4 Back Off
The downside to that is the plastic pop-off casing on the rear. Manufacturers have yet to find an elegant way to design a phone's rear panel while allowing a user to remove it, which leaves the LG G4 with a flimsy, plastic back and plastic edging that feels somewhat dated. Samsung's glass-back GS6 was a quantum leap forward in terms of premium feel compared to the plastic nature of the GS5, further dating the G4. To combat that, LG offers an assortment of very nice leather rear coverings. In fact, it's difficult to even find imagery of the phone without a leather back, hinting that LG knows exactly how inferior its G4 will appear when uncovered. Then again, how many of you use a device like this without some sort of protective cover or bumper? So perhaps the design decision wasn't as much of a compromise after all?

lg g4 handson 7910

If you plan on wrapping your phone in a case, which many do, the plastic back is no issue. It's lightweight, it's highly durable, and it gives you access to the microSD slot and battery. If you're planning to use your next phone without a case, make sure you at least budget for one of LG's leather backs.

lg g4 backs

Overall, the G4's hardware is sufficient, but not special. Plastic elements are everywhere in a world where we expect beautiful glass transitions and unibody construction. The biggest issue with the G4's exterior is that it in no way looks the part of an absolute top-shelf product, display not withstanding. We all know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and the G4's innards are certainly worthy of the price, but the exterior most definitely matters. Put more simply, it has an exterior design that only a true Android loyalist -- one who will take advantage of the removable battery and expandable storage slot -- could love.

lg g4 handson 7897

In closing, we should address heat. Under taxing scenarios where the CPUs are revved up for long periods (HD streaming, gaming, etc.), the phone's rear can become warm to the touch. While most every high-end phone can get warm in certain test conditions, we found the issue particularly noticeable on the G4. Perhaps it's the thin plastic rear that enables a greater amount of heat to reach one's palm, but it's an issue nonetheless. We never had the phone shut down due to overheating, though.

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