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The LG G2 was recently named smartphone of the year by the magazine Stuff, supplanting Apple’s iPhone 5s. The new smartphone by LG sports some interesting, but problematic, new design choices and falls under the category of 5” smartphones.

Nuts & Bolts

The Processor

The brains of the LG G2 lie in a 2.26 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor. Touted as LG’s most advanced smartphone to date, the processor can easily handle the latest games from the Google Play marketplace, full HD movies, and user interfaces that LG says “respond as fast as you can tap.”

Testing the processor shows it is a snappy Snapdragon. First-person shooters play quite nicely, with 30fps on average, and crisp response to controls and commands. Switching between apps could be a bit smoother, but that’s a function of the memory more than the CPU itself. All in all, we’re happy with the processor LG has put inside this phone.

The Battery

The device is powered by a 3,000 mAh silicon oxide battery that helps the phone maintain its slim, supposedly ergonomic shape while still providing enough power to keep the phone going all day long.

Well, maybe not all day long, but the battery does last an incredibly long time for such a thin device. We were able to keep it going for 8 hours straight before we had to think about charging the phone again.

The Screen

The LG G2’s screen is a 5.2” Full HD 1080p IPS display with a whopping 423 pixels per inch to give an extraordinary graphical performance and sharp text, along with true-to-life colors and a 16:9 cinematic HD screen. Note that the Apple’s Retina display on its iPhone 5 only boasts 326 pixels per inch.

We have a hard time understanding why some Android phone manufacturers make the screens so large. Until the LG G2, the largest phone we had handled was the Samsung Galaxy S3, with its 4.8” display. The LG G2 is .4” larger, and we thought the S3 was too big. To us, these phones make us think back to our on-call days with IBM when we carried around Motorola flip phones that were the size of a small cat. When we got our hands on the G2, it didn’t change our minds. The phone is incredibly awkward to hold and use one-handed because our fingers wouldn’t wrap far enough around to dial the phone while holding it in our hands.

That said, the G2 does have, arguably, the most beautiful screen display we’ve seen on a smartphone. If you can’t have both a smartphone and a tablet, but still want to be able to watch full HD movies in crisp, vibrant colors, then the LG G2 is the phone for you. The picture and color quality is amazing, and the screen’s field of view is decent enough for sharing the phone between two people to watch a movie.

The Camera

Next, the camera, arguably one of the most important features in today’s smartphones. Let’s face it, we simply don’t carry cameras around all that much anymore, simply because the built-in cameras on our phones have become so advanced. The LG G2’s camera is a whopping 13-megapixel camera with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass to protect the lens and provide clear photos and videos for years. The camera is capable of multi-point autofocus for still pictures and full HD 1080p videos.

We’re digital SLR camera folks ourselves, simply because we enjoy the raw power of being able to shoot in RAW. However, the 13MP camera of the LG G2 does take some fine photographs, and the full HD 1080p video recording capabilities are very nice. LG has built-in two-axis optical stabilization, which works very nicely to reduce hand jitter even on our most caffeinated days. The camera also features multi-point autofocus, a handy feature when you’re shooting complicated shots and want to keep as much as possible in focus.

Rear Buttons?

Finally, LG has moved the keys from the front and side of the phone to the rear. LG claims this design is more ergonomic, suitable for left-handed or right-handed people, and will result in fewer accidental key-presses. We’re dubious about this claim.

It’s a nice idea to move the buttons from the side to the rear, but LG could have done a much better job of it. Since the sleep button is nestled between the volume up and volume down buttons and the phone are so wide, we found it wasn’t very intuitive to find without actually looking at the phone. We simply couldn’t tell by feel where the button was. To make matters worse, if you lay the phone flat on its back while on a phone call or watching a video, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll hit the sleep key by accident, ending your call or stopping your video playback.

Memory

The closest comparison we have to the LG G2 is the former flagship of the Android phone sector, the Samsung Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S4 and the LG G2 both ship with 2GB of RAM, but the G2 has 32GB of storage compared to the S4’s 16GB. However, the S4 has a micro-SD card slot for further storage expansion, but the LG G2 has no such storage upgrade path.

Nice Features

Some of the nicest features of the LG G2 are in the software, not the hardware. For instance, LG has done away with a physical Home button on the G2, instead of putting the Home, Back and Menu buttons on the screen itself. This means the buttons are always backlit and easy to find.

Next, LG has added a “Call” button to each contact entry. Instead of having to tap a contact to get the phone number and then transfer that phone number to the dialer, LG includes a green phone receiver icon for making calls straight from the contacts.

Finally, like the iPhone, the LG G2 camera is accessible from the lock screen via a Camera button. Slide up, and the camera is activated and ready to shoot. You don’t have to unlock the phone and then navigate to the camera to capture that perfect shot.

Summary

LG’s G2 is a nice phone, with some excellent hardware choices and snappy performance. The awkward placement of the rear buttons, however, makes us hesitant to recommend this phone whole-heartedly.

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