The LG G3 S is the new addition to the LG smartphone series, and to all intents and purposes, it’s a smaller version of the LG G3. The LG G3 S is more affordable than the G3 which also implies a toning down of the flagship specifications that wooed us on the G3, specs that include a QHD display, top tier Snapdragon processor, 3GB of RAM and more. Does all this combine to make the G3 S an inferior product, or will many of us regard it simply as a more viable option? Mobile Geeks get deep down with the LG G3 S.
When we first reviewed the LG G3, we were blown away by its 2560 x 1440, 5.5 inch display, a flagship processor backed by a generous 3GB of RAM, an auto-focus camera that uses lasers, a great build and design that retain the company’s signature button placement on the rear of the device and an excellent Android Kit Kat UI that really proved that LG had figured out smartphone software. Our buddy Roland who reviewed the G3 gave it one of the highest scores we have ever given in a smartphone review. Today we focus our lasers on a smaller, more affordable version of the G3, with the G3 S. As we have seen in the past with pint-sized versions of flagship devices; the HTC One Mini 2, the Sony Xperia Z2 Compact and others, making a device smaller and ably equipped can simply produce a product that flirts with mediocrity, losing almost all of the shine that made the flagship version a winner. Is this the case with the LG G3 S? Should we curb our expectations?
Don’t forget to watch a detailed video review of the LG G3 S that we shot here in Taipei:
LG G3 S: Hardware Overview
The LG G3 S is based on the same general design as the its larger brother, with a curved plastic rear cover joining a front face that is all screen. The screen itself is far from what we saw on the G3 which ha d a QHD panel. The G3 S gets a 1280 x 720 resolution IPS LCD panel. The processor is a Snapdragon 400 which will be some way off the performance we saw on the Snapdragon 801 if our previous testing with the Sony Xperia C3 is anything to go by. Where we had 3GB of memory on the G3, here we are reduced to just 1GB. How that will affect performance remains to be seen, but having far fewer pixels to deal with should even things up a bit. In terms of cameras, we find the 13MP sensor has been replaced by an 8MP on the G3 S. The good news is that you can still enjoy laser auto-focus and LED flash.
Here are the specifications in more detail, side by side with the LG G3.
LG G3 S v LG G3: Specification Comparison
|LG G3 S||LG G3|
|Display||5" 720p HD IPS LCD|
|5.5" 1440p QHD IPS LCD|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 400|
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 801|
|microSD||Up to 64GB||Up to 128GB|
|Cameras||8MP & 1.3MP||13MP & 2MP|
|Weight||134 grams||149 grams|
|OS||Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat||Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat|
Design and Build Quality
The overall design ethos of the LG G3 has been completely retained, with the G3 S being what appears to be a smaller version of the flagship that inspired it. The main body of the device consists of a rounded back with the power and volume rocker buttons placed in the middle, as per LG’s now signature design ethos. In a side by side comparison with its larger brother, the LG G3, the G3 S is only slightly smaller with a difference in length of just under a 1 cm, which is not so much when you consider the screen is considerably larger at 5.5 inches. In terms of weight, the plastic design of the G3 S helps keep things relatively light with a weight of 134 grams.
The LG G3 S is crafted specifically to appeal to users who might feel the G3 is a little on the large side, and although the device is around one centimeter less in terms of length, the difference is immediately palpable in the hand. The ability to stretch your thumb to the top corner in one handed use is significantly improved, something that women in particular may appreciate. There is a single speaker located on the lower left corner of the device and an LG logo in the center. The 13MP camera is flanked by an LED flash on the right and the laser auto-focus sensor on the left. The lower edge of the device contains a USB 2.0 port in the center and the headphone jack on the right.
It’s actually oddly attractive to have no buttons at all on either side of the phone. It feels clean and sleek. The phone is obviously made of plastic, but unlike the finish on the Galaxy S5 for example, LG have done a good job to avoid feeling like plastic, with a faux-brushed aluminum finish that feels pretty classy. Overall, the LG G3 S feels solidly built, despite the fact that it has a removable back cover and replaceable battery.
Display: Is 720p enough?
The display on the LG G3 S uses a 5 inch IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. This is in stark contrast from the G3 which of course featured a Quad HD resolution screen that actually managed to divide opinion here in the Mobile Geeks office. Roland loves having the extra pixels and is a big fan of 2560 x 1440, whereas Nicole is no fan at all. The increase in pixel density comes at a price in terms of power drain and excess heat, two problems that the G3 S negates with the 720p resolution. Die-hard geeks may demand the highest resolution possible, but Nicole would argue that unless you are looking at QHD quality content, the extra pixels are difficult to really quantify and appreciate.
The display is actually reasonably bright, and as you would expect from an IPS panel, the viewing angles are also pretty good. Does 720p offer enough detail? On the evidence of the G3 S, I would have to say that it does. Even with a side by side comparison next to the 1440p G3, the 720p display looks good. The idea of a 720p display may not sound overly attractive, but in truth the G3 S has a great panel that offers a very crisp and fluid viewing experience.
LG G3 S: Photo Gallery
The LG G3 S uses the Snapdragon 400 from Qualcomm, a quad-core system-on-chip that is clocked at 1.2GHz. It is in fact the same processor we saw recently on the Sony Xperia C3, and is best described as a mid-range offering from Qualcomm that performs well enough but will not win any benchmark competitions any time soon. Scoring on our benchmark testing proves that the performance levels on the G3 S are indeed very close to what we saw on the Xperia C3:
Snapdragon 400 Comparison Benchmark
|LG G3 S (Snapdragon 400)||Sony Xperia C3 (Snapdragon 400)||Snapdragon 801 (Xperia Z2)|
|3DMark - Ice Storm||4614||4657||18753|
In terms of raw performance the G3 S has enough power under the hood to handle anything you throw at it, including 3D gaming. We did notice some lagginess during app transitioning, something which I am more likely to attribute the paltry 1GB of memory. I would been happier to see 2GB of memory, allowing for better performance when switching between apps, especially when you have several tabs open in your browser for example. LG has also been a little guilty of not optimizing its animated transitions as well as they could have done, with the odd stutter here and there. Hopefully LG can fix this with subsequent updates.
Overall the performance of the LG G3 is good enough, and Android 4.4. is actually very smooth in most places. It feels like there is still space for LG to tweak thing a little, but in general, the device performs as well you can expect from a mid-range processor like the Snapdragon 400.
Cameras: Laser-focus on the Cheap
The LG G3 S supports laser auto-focus, a feature that won plenty of accolades from us when it debuted on the G3 a few months ago, and it is good to once again see it here on the G3 S. One thing is for certain however, that the G3 S is not as fast as the more expensive G3. The laser focus does help the 8MP sensor on the rear to do a good job, but the reality is that it’s not quite of the same caliber that we see on other high-end or flagship smartphones.
In the comparison shot above you can clearly see that the LG G3 and its 13MP camera is offering some really astounding clarity which can only really be appreciated once you have zoomed in. The LG G3 S is still capable of some great shots, but it is not in the same league as the G3, or indeed other best-in-class shooters we have seen on flagship Samsung, Sony and Nokia devices.
In terms of modes within the LG camera app, the G3 S is giving you only the option for Auto and Panorama, with no automatic or real-time filtering. Hitting the settings button will bring up options for timer, voice commands (which include kimchi and cheese etc…), HDR and general shot size and resolution options. The 8MP sensor will deliver 8MP shots with a 4:3 aspect ratio of 3264 x 2448, or wider shots at 6MP 3264 x 1836 (default setting).
LG G3 S: Example Photo Gallery
Software: Android à la LG
The LG Android experience is something that has evolved and improved to become one of the best out there. It manages to be quite heavily customized without detracting from the original Android Kit Kat experience. Recently we have seen Xiaomi and Huawei show off customized UIs that are clearly influenced by Apple’s iOS, but with LG we are getting something that keeps more to the ethos of Android while still adding plenty of flair.
The icons are well designed, with several attractive wallpapers and themes installed, well thought out menus with the settings screen available in either a long list as with standard Android, or as four individual tabs; Network, Sound, Display and General.
There are also plenty of more nuanced settings that end-users will enjoy, including options to better mange the home touch buttons including options to change the color of the buttons, to re-arrange their positioning and also add a choice of QSlide, QuickMemo or Notification button. The UI lets you have a total of five software buttons; note: the device does not include the option of hardware buttons as we saw on the OnePlus One.
In fact the LG Andorid UI is one of the most customizable around, with plenty of options to modify your home screen with UI with widgets, apps and more. There are options to optimize one-handed operation, alter the height of the keyboard (and a really nice well designed keyboard it is), plus options for a custom lock-code. In truth, the UI is pleasure to use and better in my opinion than anything that Samsung or Sony are currently offering.
We did notice a little lagginess in places, but as I mentioned earlier, that probably has more to do with the 1GB of memory, and could possibly be resolved with a software update. When it comes to installed apps and the pre-installed package you get with the LG G3 S, it’s actually pretty minimal compared to Samsung for example, which has been guilty of bloatware at times. You get standard apps for calls, contacts, messaging etc, plus calculator, clock, music, voice recorder and more, most of which you would expect to find on any Android smartphone today. Virtually all the Google apps are present too, as well as the ThinkFree Viewer which will handle all of your productivity needs. In general the app suite on the LG G3 S is pretty complete, without being bloated.
The LG G3 S has a 2,540mAh battery that will give the vast majority of users a full day of use and probably more. We ran the Laptop Magazine Battery test and saw the device last over eight hours, which is totally decent for a device of this size. The test was done with WiFi turned on around 70% brightness.
The LG G3 S, as with its larger brother the G3, has a battery saver option that you can customize in some detail, selecting not just when it is set to kick in (30% battery level is the default), but also what happens when it does kick in. You have options to turn off app syncing, WiFi, Bluetooth, Vibrate, Screen Brightness, Timeout and Notification LED settings.
The LG G3 has just one speaker, located on the bottom right corner of the rear of the device and it is actually surprisingly loud for its size. It is also reasonably clear although it doesn’t actually provide too much in the area of bass, with a distinct lack of low frequencies. This is as you would expect for a device of this size perhaps. In terms of positioning, the speaker is well placed and doesn’t tend to get obscured to easily by your hand during game-play in the horizontal position, or when held in a vertical position. For a device of this size and pricing, the audio experience is actually impressively loud and clear.
Final Thoughts: Small is Beautiful?
The LG G3 S is a really well made Android smartphone that will tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people. Its size will be perfect for many users who felt that the G3 was just a bit too big. Features such as the HD display and laser auto-focus make it a compelling alternative to the LG G2 Mini. Even though we don’t have final pricing at this time, it will certainly be more affordable than the LG G3 which is now available for around $500 USD. Right now we are expecting the LG G3 S to arrive in stores for somewhere around $400 then dropping to somewhere closer to $350 as we approach the holiday season.
The LG G3 S is an easy Android Smartphone to recommend for many reasons. Most notable highlights for me personally would include its attractive build and design and some really well thought-out software that puts the end-user in control, without sacrificing simplicity.