The G2 is LG's attempt to muscle in on Samsung's dominance of the Android arena, and stands out as one of the most accomplished devices ever created by the South Korean company. Everything from the whopping 5.2-inch screen to the insanely powerful quad-core 2.26GHz CPU indicate that LG isn't aiming for second place with this device.
The G2's specs also serve as a useful indication of the power behind the forthcoming Nexus 5, which is apparently based on the same core components.
Should I buy the LG G2?
Along with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the G2 represents the cutting edge of Android tech right now. It also demonstrates a desire to create phones with immense proportions, which stretch your fingers. If you've previously used a handset with a 4-inch screen -- like the iPhone 5, for example -- then the G2's 5.2-inch panel is going to seem positively enormous. This alone could prove to be a massive stumbling block for potential buyers.
If you're already rocking a large-screen phone then the G2's dimensions are likely to cause less consternation. It's still small and thin enough to slip into your pocket and the screen is ideal for surfing the web, playing games and watching HD movies. The sheer amount of power contained within the G2's slim frame is jaw-dropping, and if you're sick of stutter or waiting for apps to load then this could well be your dream handset.
With the Nexus 5 on the horizon -- which it seems likely LG will make -- you may want to hang on, as it's likely to be the cheaper Android option. If money is no object, however, the choice would come down to how keen you are to have the vanilla Android experience. LG's custom user-interface is one of the least offensive we've seen, but purists may wish to hold out for the upcoming Nexus.
Despite the G2's massive 5.2-inch screen, the body of the phone isn't as large as you might expect. Don't get me wrong, it still looks positively gargantuan when placed alongside a device like the iPhone 5S or 5C. Because there's very little bezel surrounding the display though -- and thanks to the complete absence of buttons on the front, capacitive or otherwise -- the actual footprint of the G2 is not much larger than the Galaxy S4's.
Sadly, it's not quite as attractive as Samsung's best-selling blower, with the screen dominating the front, and the back being relatively featureless. A silver accent runs around the entire circumference of the phone and adds a little touch of class, but the G2 can't match the likes of the HTC One in terms of pure physical attraction.
The phone itself is a totally sealed unit, which has allowed LG to produce an internal battery, which is shaped to the contours of the casing, thus maximising capacity. The case is fashioned from glossy plastic rather than brushed metal, which feels robust but doesn't have the premium feel of handsets like the HTC One and One Max. The only issue I found with the review unit was a slight creaking sound when I held one side of the phone tightly, but there was never any hint that it might fall apart or pop open.
Possibly the most unusual element of the G2's design is the placement of the power and volume buttons. These are located on the back of the phone and rest just under your fingertips. LG insists that this is a more natural arrangement, but in practice you have to carefully shift your grip in order to press them effectively.
After years of being used to buttons being on the edge of phones, I'll readily admit that it took me a while to get comfortable with this configuration -- but as soon as I did, it was second nature. Having the buttons on the rear of the phone means you're less likely to press them accidentally when you pick up the device by its edges.
LG, however, is clearly aware that there's no accounting for taste and just in case you don't find the rear buttons agreeable, you can turn on the screen by simply tapping it twice. Likewise, to power it down all that's required is another double-tap.
The screen on the G2 may not match the 5.9-inch display showcased by the HTC One Max in terms of pure size, but at a still-respectable 5.2 inches, it's certainly nothing to be sniffed out. The IPS+ panel possesses a Full HD resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels -- that means a pixel density of 424ppi. This is one of the most amazing things about the G2's colossal screen -- no matter how closely you look, it's impossible to discern any individual pixels.
Although it lacks the deep blacks of a Super AMOLED screen -- dark areas look grey rather than black -- colour replication is strikingly accurate, lending the display incredible vibrancy. On full brightness this phone really packs a visual punch -- in fact it's one of the best screens I've ever seen on a mobile. It's worth noting though that at 5.2 inches from corner to corner, it's impossible to reach every part of the display with your thumb -- you'll need to get used to using two hands.
LG is clearly mindful of this problem, and has included a host of options aimed at making it easier for you to come to terms with the phone's roomy screen. You can switch the position of elements such as the keyboard and dialler so that they are easier to use when you're holding the device with one hand.
Not so long ago, it was hard for some mobile users to comprehend that their humble phone was actually more powerful than their laptop or desktop computer, but now this situation is almost commonplace -- certainly in the Android sector.
The G2 takes this frankly absurd situation to the next level -- inside there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip, which contains a quad-core 2.26GHz Krait 400 CPU, making the tech inside my own laptop look like it should be powering a pocket calculator.
You could argue that a phone doesn't need such unbridled power at its fingertips, but the upshot with the G2 is that it boots up faster than any other phone I've used and never, ever stutters or slows down. Regardless of how much I threw at it and no matter how many applications I had running in the background, the phone was totally unflappable. Moving between apps is a breeze and the rare moments when you are left waiting are usually because your mobile network speed is the limiting factor.
Benchmark tests reveal just how terrifyingly powerful the G2 really is. Quadrant Standard gives the phone a score of 19,944, which leaves the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One in the dust. When I ran Ice Storm Extreme -- a gaming benchmark with a focus on glitzy 3D visuals -- I was surprised to see that both the Standard and Extreme tests were deemed too light to test the handset effectively.
Ice Storm Unlimited -- the most demanding test offered by the app -- awarded the G2 a score of 14,263, which is just below the Nvidia Shield but above Samsung's Galaxy Note 3.
Software and connectivity
Android 4.4 -- also known as KitKat thanks to a deal with confectionary manufacturer Nestle -- is due to arrive with the Nexus 5 in tow any day now. Like so many new phones which are running custom user-interface skins, however, the G2 ships with 4.2.2. Given that the promised improvements in 4.4 are relatively minor in scope -- and taking into account that 4.3 wasn't exactly a game-changing update -- the fact that LG's flagship blower is two software iterations behind the curve isn't as big an issue as you might expect.
LG's UI skin is pretty easy on the eye, and doesn't alter the core appearance of Android as much as Samsung's TouchWiz or HTC's Sense. A smattering of custom apps -- such as a file manager and LG's own data backup service -- give you plenty of unique options, and LG has imitated Samsung with its smart screen functions, which basically use the phone's front-facing camera to detect if you're looking at the display.
QSlide is another feature which owes a pretty big debt to the creator of the Galaxy line of devices -- it allows you to run two applications side-by-side, just like the latest version of Samsung's TouchWiz UI.
The raw power under the bonnet of the G2 means that when you run two apps in tandem you see little to no drop-off in performance, but just as was the case with Samsung's phone, you'll find very few reasons to use this feature. It's good for showing off the potency of the handset, but is too fiddly to be practical in everyday use.
With 4G LTE included, the G2 is well covered. You'll also find Bluetooth v4.0, dual-band Wi-Fi and NFC functionality, the latter of which allows for contactless transfer.
Camera and video recording
The G2's 13 megapixel camera has an LED flash and optical image stabilisation as standard, and is capable of snapping some impressive images. While it still falls short of the kind of results you get from dedicated photographic hardware, the G2 performs well in low-light environments, has a suite of different shooting modes and doesn't ruin photos with overzealous compression techniques.
The High Dynamic Range mode works especially well, and the additional power of the phone means post-processing doesn't take as long as it does on other phones when using this feature.
Video recording is offered at 1080p, and the results are just as encouraging. The camera deals with rapid changes in light and tracks moving objects relatively effectively.
Battery life and storage
LG has made a big deal about the 3,000mAh battery which resides in the G2's casing. Its claims appear to hold water, because I was incredibly impressed with the G2's stamina.
When you have a handset which is packing a monstrous 2.26GHz quad-core CPU, you'd expect it to drain its battery like a hungry dog at a water bowl after a four-hour jog in the baking sun. Even after a day of relatively heavy use though -- email, Internet, video recording and gaming -- the G2 still had juice left in the tank and didn't need charging until the following day.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4, the G2 doesn't have a microSD card slot, which means you may wish to pick up the 32GB model if you're keen on downloading lots of music, grabbing a shedload of apps or taking loads of photos and video. Cloud services such as Google Drive, Google Music and Dropbox mitigate this issue somewhat, allowing you to upload data to external servers and access it using your mobile or Wi-Fi connection.
In terms of pure technical specifications, the LG G2 is the leader of the Android pack right now. The processor is blisteringly fast, the IPS+ screen is a joy to behold and the battery life is a cut above what we've seen in other handsets. Android has come a long way since the slow and jerky days of single-core 1GHz processors but even so, the G2's smoothness and speed is striking. Whether you're viewing HD movies, playing intense 3D games or multi-tasking like crazy, the G2 doesn't even break a sweat.
The G2's excellent IPS screen compares very well with new rivals.
That 5.2-inch screen means that it's a rather large beast, but this is by no means a unique situation in the world of Android, and LG has done a good job of keeping the phone a manageable size, despite the massive display. The main sticking point with the G2 is going to be its design and appearance. It's not as alluring as some of its rivals, and while the odd placement of the power and volume buttons does eventually make sense after a few days of use, it's sure to raise eyebrows.
The imminent release of the Nexus 5 -- which is supposed to be a close match to the G2 from a specification perspective -- should give potential buyers another reason to wait, but right here and right now, Android doesn't really get any better than this.