Galaxy S4 vs LG G3: Andrew’s quick hits

Not everyone plays with the latest and greatest of the smartphones out in the world, we asked one of our reader and follower +Andrew Penner to share his thoughts on some awesome devices that are still viable solutions for many of us out there.
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I’ve had a few months on each, and here’s my take on both. I will say off the top that I do have a favorite among the 2, but only slightly. Both are pretty awesome, and in my opinion they’re pretty closely ranked overall. Both phones have been on the market long enough that I don’t need to really re-hash the particulars of each - there are plenty of listings of the specs for each phone as individual devices or side by side.

(Here's a good one) BUT I will say what I like (or dislike) about each when compared against each other. And for the most part, I’ve used these devices with a 3rd party launcher, but I did use the stock launcher long enough to get a feel for it. Launchers included Apex Pro, Action Launcher Pro (aka AL2), and Nova Prime, and overall I stuck with Nova the most.


Also, you might be wondering why I’m comparing devices that are soon to be 1 to 2 years old. Quite simple, actually. It’s the first time I’ve had 2 relatively “new” devices to compare to each other, and also I believe both are still really good devices. If you need to replace a broken device, either one will certainly get you by with few problems. Also, both devices are rather evolutionary rather than revolutionary - especially in the case of Samsung. Both manufacturers didn’t make HUGE strides over previous models (with the exception of LG’s UHD screen). Let’s go have a look at my experiences.


Hardware/Design

In-hand feel here is somewhat of a draw. Each one has pros and cons to me. I can go back and forth between the two and honestly have a tough time picking a winner. Yeah - that’s not going to make me any friends, but it’s how I see it.

The LG makes palming a 5.5 display about as easy as it’s going to get. It took me a while to get used to having the volume and power buttons on the back, but I was very happy to get back to on-screen nav buttons. The slim bezels and the curved back is probably what makes it so nice to hold. I also found after taking the back off a few times my phone developed a few cracks. A slight twist on the screws under the back took care of most of it, but my S4 didn’t develop that problem nearly as quickly. And since we’re under the back, LG could take a page from Samsung and add spring-release mechanisms to their microSD and microSIM card slots. Granted, most people won't be swapping these out with any sort of regularity, but it is a nice touch.

Samsung, despite getting negative press for “cheap” feel, actually has some strong points. I just mentioned the LG’s back. Samsung’s back - when it’s removed from the phone - feels remarkably flimsy. I had read about it a lot, but it was STILL a shock the first time I peeled it off the phone. However, that book was easy to remove and slap back on - and it only developed creaks after I’d had the phone a few months. I think I prefer the smaller display for day-to-day use. The extra half-inch is nice to have, believe me, but I think for myself the body of the S4 is better for my hands.

And while we’re talking hardware, yes, both are plastic. Sadly, I often tend to half slightly sweaty palms, so having a non-slippery phone is a big deal to me. Oddly enough - I find the G3 to be harder to hold on to than the S4, and I think that’s mostly due to the type of plastic that each manufacturer used. Most articles I read led me to believe the G3 would be even easier to hold and less slippery than the S4. In my case that wasn’t true.

My preference - the S4 by a hair, mostly due to size. The LG fits my hand better with it’s nicely curved back, I just wish it was slightly smaller.

Display

Honestly, for me this one is a toss-up. I really like the tack-sharp display of the LG, it’s really incredible. Actually, it’s impossible to believe until you lay your own eyeballs on it. However, it seems that with LG’s push to have the first phone with a 4k display, they missed the boat on color accuracy. I (and others) find the colors are somewhat muted and dull (or washed out, if you want to put it another way). There are also issues at times with the CPU throttling the device and reducing brightness to help cope with the heat. You can’t argue with the crispy sharp display, though - especially if you find some 4k videos to view, or zooming into high-res photos.

Samsung also has some high points, and for me I think I prefer an AMOLED to an LCD display. Samsung’s slightly over-saturated colors and deep blacks are what my eyes prefer, and jumping from that to a more muted LCD was a shock. There are also no throttling or dimming issues that the G3 occasionally suffers from. However, I find that the S4 doesn’t go bright enough in daylight - the LG has the advantage in this situation. Also the S4 has quite the yellow cast to the whites. I don't recall this being an issue when it was my daily driver, but compared to the crisp whites of the G3 – yeah the “whites” definitely have a yellow cast to them – and it seems that Samsung has been working hard on getting the colors right. The Note 4 was nominated for brightest and most accurate screen, so that's saying something.

I also find I miss using the “Daydream” feature on my G3. I set mine as a clock for bedtime charging. Since the S4 uses LED technology, the daydream only lights up the pixels that are needed. A dim clock and a black background mean it emitted very little light. The G3 with its LCD needs to light up the entire display and in a dark room, it emits quite a bit of light, enough that both me and my wife found it disruptive to our sleep. I just don’t use it on my G3 because of it - but I do miss having it (although having knock-on helps - more on that further down)

My preference - the LG, only slightly - if the Samsung didn’t use Pentile matrix, it would be a different story.

Camera

I’m no pro photographer - But I do like to go out on occasion and see what kind of landscapes, urban, or nature photos I can grab. I’m not one for selfie’s or “people” shots. I tend to shoot mostly in 16:9 (which is about 9.6Mpix on each camera)

Here’s what I found. The LG has a couple nifty tricks, but the camera UI is pretty simple with very few adjustments available to the user. Aside from the typical resolution, flash, and Gridline toggles, the LG only has one really standout software feature - Magic Focus. I haven’t really dug into the “how”, but it seems to take multiple photos using focus points near to far. Once the picture is taken, the user can pick a focal point and save the photo. Just bear in mind you have to pick your focal point and save it before taking the next photo (you can’t go back and change it later). And if you fire off the next shot before picking the focal point, the camera will just pick one at random, usually ruining the shot altogether - and as I said, you can’t fix it later. Once it's saved, it’s saved! HDR is also along for the ride (On/Off/Auto toggled). I find the best results with leaving it set to Auto. Under certain lighting, turning it off gives better results, but as a whole, this is one you can almost set and forget. LG also brings OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) to the table - a huge advantage over the S4. I almost forgot to mention LG’s dual-tone LED flash. It’s really bright, and seems to provide a decent even light.

The S4 has TONS of tweaks and adjustments within the app, along with filters to layer over top. In broad daylight (bright sun) I think the S4 has the advantage if the camera is steady. It seems to pop the colors slightly more, which is a look I prefer. However, once lighting drops off (or inside, even with decent light) the S4 seems to fall off fairly quickly. The options are good to have – and sometimes I miss having them on the G3, but for the most part the Samsung camera app is like the rest of TouchWiz – a very few usable features and the rest is stuff that will likely be tried once or twice and forgotten about. The LED flash here seems weaker and produces a much harsher light than LG’s flash.

My preference - The LG for consistency overall, the S4 under bright sunlight.

Launcher/Software

I’m sure most of you have used TouchWiz at one point. I won’t say it’s CRAP - but it could use some work. There are some features that are truly usable (some of the gesture stuff is really handy) but most are just gimmicky. Probably the 2 I found most useful were some of the “air gesture” features, specifically the “reach” (where you just reach for the device and the screen powers up with current time and any missed notifications) and “dial” where if you have a specific contact on screen (say in a texting conversation) and you put the phone to your ear, it will dial that person. I didn’t use it a lot, but it’s quite handy to have.

LG’s software is less overwhelming. Features are toned down, the menus are not layers upon layers upon layers deep (well - not as bad as Samsung), and the colors and icons are more mature and easy on the eyes. I am also really liking the “knock-on” feature. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been using my S4 and try to double tap the screen to wake it up (Same thing goes for my step-son’s N7 tablet). It also seems to be coded better – overall there's less stutter and lag then the S4. Part of the difference is thanks to the CPU differences, but I’d feel confident saying most of it is due to the way TouchWiz itself is written.

My preference - the LG by a mile. The only category where it’s a clear no-contest winner - no hesitation here!

Day-to-Day use


So if I had to use one device and one device only, would I choose the S4? Or the G3? Well, I got the G3 for a reason, but it's not perfect - and it didn’t take long for me to find stuff that I preferred on the S4. Mostly it’s the small things that they do better than LG. I also find that while I like having a 5.5 display to LOOK at, handling it and pocketing it is sometimes a bit of a pain. I mentioned that LG should use spring-release mechanisms on the microSD and microSIM card slots. Other things - if Sammy is going to insist on using the capacitive buttons, leave out the clicky home button, for me its inconsistent with the rest of the experience, and is very mildly disruptive. Sammy - seriously, go big or stay home. All capacitive, or all on-screen. Ditch the click button, please - it’s not a huge deal, but it shouldn’t be a stand-out when using the phone. It should be a seamless experience.

Let's put it this way - let me mash the 2 devices together. Take the G3, shrink it down to a 5 inch display (including the curved back). Keep the slim bezels, and back buttons. Keep the OIS, and the consistency in most lighting, but pop the colors more, and give me a few more options in the camera app. Switch to a 1080p AMOLED display (but please - not Pentile!!!) and drive the brightness a bit more. Keep LG’s software as a whole. And for pete’s sake, leave the headphone jack on the bottom!

Lastly, I’ll touch on accessories. Samsung will continue to have the edge here until someone can knock them off the throne as the most popular Android manufacturer. That being said, eBay and Amazon have tons of cases, screen protectors, chargers, and so on for BOTH models. Personally, I generally use a cheap TPU case and a tempered glass screen protector. As of yet they fit my usage and have provided enough protection, so I haven’t really felt the need to go with a thicker case (like an OtterBox Commuter, or CaseMate Tough Case, for example), or a brand-name glass screen protector (with some level or warranty or device protection agreement) over the “cheap/generic” ones I grab off eBay.


For those of you who have had a bit of time with both devices - what are your thoughts? Any wishes for the S6 or the G4 based on your experience Maybe a completely different device? Sound off in the comments!
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