Pros / With RAW image support, tons of manual features and great optics, the G4’s camera is spectacular.
Cons / It’s a good thing the phone’s battery is swappable, because it doesn’t last very long.
Verdict / A few flaws may hold the LG G4 back from perfection, but it’s still an excellent smartphone with a powerhouse camera.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
It’s about time LG phones offered features to brag about. Despite the company’s numerous successes, even its best smartphones tend to play second fiddle to Samsung’s Galaxy line. Indeed, the most popular LG phone thus far was probably the original Nexus 5, and it wasn’t even branded with LG’s logo.
In the LG G4, the Korean company has created a star. It’s not the most powerful smartphone on the market today, and its battery leaves too much to be desired, but its camera has set a new benchmark against which we’ll be measuring smartphones in the future.
Aesthetically, not much has changed in the LG G4 from previous models. Its top and bottom edges are still bowed slightly outward in what has become LG’s signature silhouette. Its power and volume buttons are still, for better or worse, center stage on the back cover. The device’s build isn’t quite as premium in feel as Apple’s or Samsung’s offerings, but that’s down to the plastic cover – nobody has yet figured out how to give us a metal or glass backing that’s still removable. Leather is always an option, though you want to be a bit warier of overheating should you go that route.
On the software side, LG’s user interface strongly resembles stock Android but gets a few nitpicky things wrong. The notifications shade, for example, is bloated with both full quick settings and app notifications. This seems convenient at first, but you have to swipe the quick settings away if you want to act on notifications – dismiss alarms, archive emails and so forth. It’s a small change from stock Android, but it has the potential to annoy.
In short, the G4’s design remains as impressive – and easily nitpicked – as ever. If you didn’t like the button arrangement of the G3, it won’t do much to change your mind, but you might find you like it more than buttons along a phone’s edge.
This is where the LG G4 shines. Boasting the best specs and some of the finest photos we’ve seen from any of the world’s top smartphones, the G4’s camera is arguably the best in the business.
The sensor itself is 16 megapixels, on par with one of LG’s closest imaging competitors, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. Optical image stabilization and laser autofocus come standard, as do 4K video and 60 fps 1080p video. The iPhone 6, with its 240 fps mode, still wins the slow-motion battle, but there’s plenty of quality here for amateur cinematographers.
The camera’s real triumph is in its still photos. LG’s ƒ/1.8 aperture gulps in light and makes for some very solid low-light shots, while outdoor photos are simply gorgeous – crisp, detailed and offering near-perfect color reproduction. Yet the true gem here is the camera’s manual mode and RAW shooting functionality. Controls for ISO, exposure, shutter speed, focus and white balance are all easily accessible, and access to the RAW image files means superb editing capability on your PC. True, you need to have some experience to take full advantage of manual shooting, but even in automatic mode, the LG G4 turns out great images.
As a general rule, the more CPU cores you pack into a phone – or any computer, for that matter – the better it performs. The LG G4 has six processors in its chassis: four running at 1.44GHz and another two running at 1.82 GHz. It’s not quite the eight cores that Samsung, HTC or OnePlus pack into their flagships, and you’ll notice a bit of stuttering and slight pauses every once in a while. Most top-tier 3D games are perfectly playable, though, and you won’t have any trouble watching videos or browsing the web.
There’s only a single storage option with the LG G4: 32GB of space, some of which is taken up by the operating system and preinstalled programs. Fortunately, the phone supports microSD cards, so you can easily upgrade it with more storage space or even swap out SD cards for different functions – video, photos, apps and so on.
Perhaps its weakest attribute, the LG G4’s battery is lackluster. Despite packing a 3000mAh cell – the same size as the Galaxy Note 5 – the G4 lasted two hours shorter in our battery test, which loops the browser through a variety of websites at 100 nits screen brightness. Two hours is a huge and noticeable drop in performance. Thankfully, unlike the Note 5, you can switch out the G4’s battery; if you’re willing to go through the trouble of buying and charging spare cells, you can easily power through the day. What’s more, the G4 supports both wireless and turbo charging, so topping off your phone throughout the day isn’t out of the question.
LG didn’t pack the kitchen sink into the G4, but it included just about everything else you might want from a modern flagship. All the major sensors are here, including a barometer for accurate elevation measurement. There’s an FM radio in case you want to listen to local tunes on the go, an infrared blaster should you want to control your TV without picking up the remote and NFC if you’re interested in contactless payments with Google Pay. Even audiophiles will be delighted, since the G4 supports the aptX Bluetooth codec for high-quality wireless audio playback.
The only notable absence here is a fingerprint scanner. There was a time when we didn’t care if a phone lacked fingerprint security, but as the technology has matured, we’ve come to appreciate its convenience – not to mention the security benefits it brings now that Google is officially supporting the scanners with an API built right into Android. Its absence is far from a deal breaker, but there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when you might wish it was there.
We handle a lot of phones in the course of writing our smartphone reviews, and in many ways the LG G4 is just another entry in a long line of similar products. Its processor isn’t the best, its design is still love it or hate it, and its battery doesn’t have the longevity we expect of a phone its size.
Somehow, though, it’s still phenomenal. Much of that’s due to its photo sensor; while it probably won’t hold the crown for long, it’s the best smartphone camera we’ve yet seen. Even without the camera, the LG G4 is a decent phone. It’s fast enough to handle your everyday life, slick enough to feel great in your hand and packed with features you might not use on day one, but you’ll definitely enjoy before buying your next phone in a year or two. LG may not have created a device that knocks Samsung and Apple off their respective pedestals, but the G4 comes closer than anything else.