Due to the expanding size of the screens of flagship Android phones, the ‘phablet’ arguably no longer exists. The LG G3, with its 5.5-inch display, would once have been categorised as a fable, but now it is simply the company’s flagship smartphone.
Which puts it in direct competition with the new Galaxy Note 4—the latest in the range that ushered in the era of the big screen Android phone, and which is now a full-on mainstream product.
So which is best: the LG G3, regarded by some as the best phone of the year to date, or the new ultra-high-spec Note 4? We compare their features, specs and more in this head to head battle.
Galaxy Note 4 dimensions
- Size: 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm
- Weight: 176g
LG G3 dimensions
- Size: 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm
- Weight: 149g
LG really tried to squeeze the size of the G3 to fit the largest possible screen into the smallest possible space. The Note 4 packs an even larger display—by 0.2 inches corner to corner—but also has more bezel, resulting in a larger handset. It is a not inconsiderable 7.2mm taller and 4mm wider, although does manage to be thinner while packing a larger battery.
The Note 4 is also a full 27g heavier than than the G3. This is a device you will notice in your pocket.
The key differences in the design are Samsung’s newfound embracing of metal around the frame, when LG is still stuck in fake brushed metal effect plastic mode.
One of the reasons for the smaller footprint from the LG is that the buttons are located around the rear of the phone. Samsung is yet to even move to virtual buttons let alone rethinking their positioning. The home button, straddled by two capacitive buttons are still here.
Galaxy Note 4 key specs
- Processor: Snapdragon 805, 2.5GHz
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 16-64GB
- Battery: 3220mAh
LG G3 key specs
- Processor: Snapdragon 801, 2.5GHz
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 32GB
- Battery: 3000mAh
Raw specs are what the Note range was built on, but they’re not as important as they used to be. The Note 4 is better on paper, with a newer and faster processor and 25% more RAM.
Yet the G3 was hardly a slouch to begin with—any complaints about its performance tended to stem from LG’s software rather than anything in the hardware. We’ll have to wait and see how the battery on the Note 4 fares, and it’ll have a stiff challenge against the market-leading battery life of the LG G3. Samsung is promising big things.
Galaxy Note 4 display
- Size: 5.7-inch
- Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
- Pixel density: 515 ppi
LG G3 display
- Size: 5.5-inch
- Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
- Pixel density: 538 ppi
The two handsets are virtually neck and neck on display. The G3 is marginally smaller, which in turn gives it a marginally greater pixel density, and it is also almost bezel-less (although not quite).
The Super AMOLED display on the Note 4 gives it richer, more vibrant colours and deeper contrast, though which is better is purely a matter of taste. Some find Samsung’s displays to be oversaturated, while others love them.
Both phones run KitKat, with their own heavily customised skins. Both devices will also be upgraded to Android L in due course (this isn’t confirmed as of early September, but it’s a given).
The UI on LG’s device seems to have been influenced by Samsung’s, and in both cases it isn’t as cohesive or attractive as stock Android. Many of the software extras on the G3 have been seen on Note devices too, including a split screen mode for working on two apps simultaneously, and a one-handed mode that shrinks the entire workspace so that it is reachable by a single thumb.
A lot of the software on the Note 3 is either brought over from the S5, including the whole suite of S apps including S Planner and S Fitness, or revolves around the S Pen. Productivity is a big focus of the Note 4.
Focussing speed is one of the new areas where smartphone cameras are competing. Laser assisted focus on the LG G3 means the camera can focus and shoot in less than a third of a second.
The two phones differ in their approaches to photography. The Note 4 favours a feature-rich app where there is a shooting mode for every occasions, including a new selfie mode that can shoot with a 120 degree field of view. This is all done in software, and involves stitching images together not unlock a panorama. The field of view of the front facing camera is actually 90 degrees.
LG’s camera app, conversely, is a simple point and shoot affair. It’s effective and easy to use, though it often doesn’t feel like you’re getting the most from what is undeniably capable hardware.
The Note 4’s cameras are 16MP with OIS on the rear, and 3.7MP with wide f1.9 aperture on the front. On the G3 the cameras are 13MP with OIS on the back and 2.1MP on the front.
It’s in the extras where the Note 4 and LG G3 differ the greatest.
The Note 4 has the S Pen stylus at its heart. It now represents the ‘primary tool’ for users and promises a vastly improved experience both in terms of its writing accuracy and sensitivity and in its ability to be used as a mouse.
There’s no doubt that Samsung sees the S Pen as the main differentiator for the Note 4 over any other larger screened Android device. With a wider range of functions built-in it is integral part of what the Galaxy Note is.
The G3 cannot compete with the S Pen. It offers a few ergonomic benefits, including the Knock Code feature that enables you to unlock and turn on the phone just by tapping on the screen, and without needing to enter a password.
LG’s main hardware controls are also located around the rear of the phone, as they were on the G2 a year earlier. While this has not revolutionised the industry, in the sense that no-one else has copied it, LG’s customers obviously found it useful enough to stick with into a second generation.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and LG G3 have many similarities, and are competing for many of the same users.
The only serious difference between the two devices is the presence of the S Pen on the Note 4. This has no equivalent anywhere else in the industry, and is a bigger part of the new Note than it was on any of the older models.
For productivity users, therefore, the Note is a compelling choice. Those who don’t explicitly need a stylus will find the decision less clear cut.
The Note 4 has slightly better specs, for what that’s worth, and slightly newer technology behind it; the G3 will certainly be noticeably cheaper, both on contract and off.
The choice is yours.