Impressively fast performance; Superb battery life; Useful QSlide multitasking apps; Robust camera features with optical image stabilization
Rear keys require learning curve; Dimmer display than other flagships; Remote control feature trails Samsung and HTC
The LG G2 boasts blazing performance, long-lasting battery life and clever multitasking features, but its Rear Key design takes some getting used to.
Is it a leap forward or backward thinking? The G2 hopes to stand out from other Android flagship phones by putting the power button and volume controls on the back of the device. The G2 ($199 for Verizon) is also the first U.S. device to sport Qualcomm's superfast Snapdragon 800 processor, which means it can handle nearly every task you throw at it. Complete with a 13-MP optical image stabilization camera, is the G2 capable of snagging the spotlight from the Galaxy S4 or HTC One?
Don't expect to hit the G2's volume keys by sliding your fingers along the device's side. And don't look for the power button at the top of the G2 either. LG has implemented a new Rear Key design that places its volume and power buttons on the back of the handset. Not only is this meant to make the G2 stand out from the competition, but LG claims this design makes the 5.2-inch smartphone easier to use with one hand.
This positioning was awkward at first, considering we couldn't see the buttons we were trying to press. Also, on Verizon's G2, the back-mounted buttons are significantly smaller than on the AT&T version of the phone, and more flush with the body. This makes them slightly harder to locate by feel, but more comfortable over the long run, as we didn't have to move our finger as far when changing volume.
Just like LG's previous smartphones, the G2 sports a sleek, glossy plastic design, and its face is clean and minimalistic with no visible buttons. The standard Android Back, Home and Recent Apps buttons only appear on the display after unlocking the device. The G2's side bezels are extremely thin, nearly giving the illusion that it's sporting an edge-to-edge glass design.
The Verizon LG G2 rocks a slightly different rear design than its AT&T sibling. In addition to featuring smaller buttons, the color is slightly lighter and has more of a chrome-ish shine to it than the AT&T version. Unfortunately, this means it catches fingerprint smudges more easily.
Measuring 5.45 x 2.79 x 0.35 inches, the LG G2 is slightly thinner than the 5.4 x 2.7 x 0.37-inch HTC One but is just a bit longer and thicker than the 5.31 x 2.69 x 0.25-inch Samsung Galaxy S4. It's virtually the same size as the 5.41 x 2.8 x 0.34 Motorola Droid Maxx.
At 5.04 ounces, the G2 weighs the same as the smaller aluminum-body HTC One, but is heavier than the 4.6-ounce Galaxy S4. The 5.86-ounce Droid Maxx is noticeably heavier than all three handsets.
The G2 registered 351 lux on our light meter, which is below the smartphone category average of 394 lux. The HTC One (375 lux), Droid Maxx (488 lux) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (480 lux) all have more luminous displays.
The LG G2's dual Hi-Fi Sound speakers sounded clear during our testing, but we weren't blown away. "Blood on the Leaves" by Kanye West sounded crisp and loud, but we did notice a slight tinnish tone. The song sounded distorted when compared with the Galaxy S4. The Droid Maxx boasted the loudest sound by far and certainly sounded clearer than the G2, but wasn't as pristine as the Galaxy S4's audio.
Still, all three phones were no match for the HTC One with its dual front speakers and Beats Audio equalizer. "Blood on the Leaves" not only sounded cleaner and more pronounced, but the array of background instruments and synthesizers sounded more balanced and full.
During the LAPTOP Audio Test, which measures a smartphone's sound over the distance from the screen to the user's nose (13 inches), the G2 reached 79 decibels, which is just below the 81 decibel category average for smartphones.
The LG G2's KnockON feature lets you wake up the display by simply tapping, or knocking, on the screen. This feature was generally responsive during everyday use, although the display powered on slightly faster when we used the power button. When using both our fingertip and our knuckle to knock on the display on separate occasions, the display lit up almost immediately. However, there were a few times in which we had to knock more than once for the G2 to turn on.
By default, LG gives you five home screens to personalize with app shortcuts and widgets. You can add two more home screens by pressing and holding a blank area on any home screen.
The main home screen looks fairly barebones and basic. LG situated the Google Now search bar and a row of shortcuts for Verizon's voicemail service, Email, Gallery, Notebook and Camera here, but that's it. There's no widget displaying the weather and time like on the AT&T version. Another row of icons included shortcuts for Phone, Contacts, Chrome, Messaging and Apps sits in place as you flip between home screens.
Swiping toward the right brings you to the second home screen, which displays a full-page shortcut to the Amazon app store. A third screen provides a music player across the top and shortcuts to Google Maps, Calendar, Help and the Google Play Store. The other three home screens are left blank, but you can drag-and-drop apps from the app drawer to fill these up.
The Verizon LG G2's notification drawer not only displays your most recent messages and alerts, but also offers a selection of quick settings in a toolbar across the top. From here, you can turn on Wi-Fi, change the display brightness and enable Airplane Mode among other settings. This Quick Settings toolbar looks nearly identical to the one found in TouchWiz, except Samsung offers 19 settings rather than the Verizon LG's 12. If this Quick Settings menu is a little too long for your taste, you can delete some of the 12 options via the Edit button at the end of the list.
Overall, LGs interface offers a ton of customization options, but some may find it too busy and cluttered.
QSlide and Slide Aside
QSlide is similar to Samsung's Multi-Window feature, although LG allows you to resize these windows, drag-and-drop them around the screen, and change their transparency. Dragging these apps to the side of the screen will minimize them to app icons, which stay there no matter where you are in the device. Even if you switch between home screens or launch another app, these shortcuts continue to follow you similar to Facebook's Chat Heads. This is convenient for quickly accessing apps.
On the G2, you'll get eight QSlide compatible apps that include Email, Calendar, File Manager, Videos and Calculator among others. Samsung's TouchWiz interface, by comparison, offers 12 Multi-Window apps. Samsung's selection is also more robust, with apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Chrome available for Multi-Window use.
Another new feature, Slide Aside, makes it easier to multitask by enabling quicker task switching. Using a three-finger swipe to the left, you can park up to three apps along the side of the screen. Swiping to the right with three fingers will fan out these apps, allowing you to choose one to open. While this feature is easy to use, it doesn't offer anything you can't get with the traditional Recent Apps menu on all Android devices.
After selecting the device you'd like to pair with the G2, the setup process is extremely easy. Simply choose the name of the manufacturer and LG will create a virtual remote control for you. If that controller doesn't work, LG will keep creating new versions until it gets it right.
Although LG was able to pair our G2 with a television in our office almost instantly, the QuickRemote app doesn't offer additional features like those found on the Galaxy S4 and HTC One. Both of those phones provide full program guides and video stores, while LG's app is more barebones and basic.
The G2's Answer Me feature cuts out the middle step of having to actually press a button or tap the screen to answer phone calls. Simply raise the phone to your ear while it's ringing and you'll automatically answer the incoming call. After enabling Answer Me in the settings menu, we found that this feature worked well during our testing. LG also lets you decide how long it should take to answer the phone call once you raise the phone to your face.
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The G2 was snappy and swift when we navigated around the interface while multitasking. After opening seven apps in Google Chrome, running eight apps in the background and downloading an app, the G2 launched its camera in a speedy 1.3 seconds.
The G2 dominated its competition on graphics benchmarks. LG's flagship maxed out the 3DMark Ice Storm and 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmarks and achieved a score of 15,574 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. The Droid Maxx also maxed out the 3DMark benchmark, but received a lower score of 10,842 on 3DMark Unlimited.
The G2 scored 16,960 on the Quadrant benchmark, scorching the 6,027 smartphone category average and beating the HTC One (12,150), Droid Maxx (9,026) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (11,962) by a wide margin.
The Verizon LG G2 took 7 minutes and 4 seconds to transcode a 204MB 1080p video file to 480p using the Vidtrim app. The average smartphone completes this task in 7 minutes and 51 seconds. The HTC One took 7:33, and the Galaxy S4 transcoded the same clip in 7:27. The Droid Maxx, however, transcoded the clip in a speedy 6:40.
When zooming in on the rose petals, the LG G2's image preserved the most detail. The Galaxy S4's colors were slightly brighter, but both the S4 and G2 portrayed the white roses more accurately than the HTC One. The HTC made the white flowers look much brighter than their natural color.
The Droid Maxx's 10-MP camera shot an image comparable to the Galaxy S4's on the same street corner, but the S4's was slightly sharper. Still, when we viewed the images on our desktop, the colors in the Maxx's photo were much more vibrant and bold when compared against the G2's.
Optical Image Stabilization and Camera Features
One of the most useful camera features you'll find on the G2 is its Optical Image Stabilization, which automatically reduces the amount of blur from shaky hands when recording video. When shooting a video while walking, the G2's footage simply panned slightly from side to side as our hands moved with the camera. The same video taken with the Galaxy S4, which doesn't have OIS, trembled noticeably.
Additionally, LG lets you adjust certain settings such as ISO, white balance and color effects, resulting in three different color themes to choose from. One of the more gimmicky features, the Cheese Shutter, automatically snaps a photo when the subject utters the word "Cheese." The G2 also comes packed with a slew of useful camera features that cater to various shooting conditions such as Panorama, Burst Mode, Beauty Shot, Night and Time Catch Shot among others.
Time Catch Shot fires off five additional photos before you actually take the picture to ensure that you don't miss anything. The back-mounted volume key also serves as a shortcut to the camera and can also be used to capture images if you don't want to press the on-screen shutter.
LG also comes with a dual recording mode that shoots video with both the front and rear cameras at the same time. The feature debuted on the Optimus G Pro phablet and differs from Samsung's Dual Shot in that you can shoot video with both cameras rather than just stills.
The G2's 1080p camcorder shoots sharp video with little to no blur from shaky hands. A video of a New York street corner looked colorful as we panned along the road and sidewalk.
LG also includes a few camera features that make it easier to zoom as you're recording. Tracking Zoom mode (video below), for instance, lets you drag a magnifying glass around the screen to zoom in on a certain person or object. That zoomed in area appears in a small box on the screen, while the rest of the scene appears as normal. Conversely, the Zoom to Track playback feature lets you drag a magnifying glass around the screen as you watch a video to zoom in.
These features worked well when we shot a video of our co-worker dancing on a New York street corner. We dragged-and-dropped the magnifying glass around the screen to zoom in on his face and his hands in certain instances. It's a bit gimmicky and mostly just for fun, but Tracking Zoom could come in handy when trying to accurately capture your subject's facial expression while still recording the entire scene.
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Verizon's other apps are fairly useless, such as its Voicemail shortcut and ringtone store app.
The G2 isn't flooded with third party apps, but you'll find some welcome additions such as IMDb, Polaris Office 5 and Slacker pre-installed.
4G LTE and Web Browsing
With more than 500 markets, Verizon boasts the biggest LTE footprint across the U.S. Unfortunately, the quality of this network was inconsistent during our testing.
We could barely get service at our office in New York City's Flatiron District. In most instances, the Speedtest.net app couldn't complete its test, but when it did, download and upload speeds averaged less than a megabyte per second. (For those scoring at home, that's pathetic.)
Opening Web pages on the Verizon G2 proved to be unbearably sluggish. It took 25.5 seconds to load the image-heavy Laptopmag.com, 34.2 seconds to load CNN.com. and 15.9 seconds to load the New York Times mobile site.
In Old Bridge, N.J., however, we saw swift download and upload speeds that averaged 16.3 Mbps and 12.25 Mbps, respectively.
The LG G2 was only beaten by the Droid Maxx's monstrous 3,500 mAh battery, which lasted for 9 hours and 52 minutes during the same test. The AT&T LG G2, however, managed to last for 10:42.
If battery life is your chief concern, you should also consider the Motorola Droid Maxx. Although it costs $100 more, the Maxx comes with a cleaner build of Android and Motorola's Touchless Voice Controls. The trade-off is a heavier design and lower-res 720p display.
While they offer far less endurance, the HTC One boasts a sharper display, more premium build and unmatched sound quality, and the Galaxy S4 is loaded with features. Bottom line: If you think you can get used to the button placement, you'll be hard pressed to find a phone that can perform as smoothly and last as long as the G2.
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|Phone Display Size||5.2|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.2.2|
|Networks||CDMA, GSM, LTE|
|CPU||2.26-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800|
|Processor Family||Qualcomm Snapdragon 800|
|Memory Expansion Type||none|
|Display (main)||5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||2.1MP|
|Audio formats supported||AAC+|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Audio formats supported||WMA|
|Audio formats supported||MP4|
|Audio formats supported||MP3|
|Video formats supported||MP4|
|Video formats supported||Divx|
|Video formats supported||3GP|
|Video formats supported||3G2|
|Video formats supported||WMV|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||5.45 x 2.79 x 0.35 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|