After successfully teaming up with Google for the Nexus 4, LG is back with its own flagship smartphone called the G2. Read our LG G2 review to see if it can take on the iPhone 5S, Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z1.

Despite being a brand new flagship smartphone, you can get the LG G2 for under £400. Three is offering the handset for £399 on Pay As You Go which makes it considerably cheaper than top-end rivals.

LG G2 smartphone

LG G2: Design and build

The front of the LG G2 looks similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4, although it has no physical or touch sensitive buttons below the screen. However, flip it over and the handset looks quite unique. We like the fibreglass-style finish but more notable is the fact that buttons have been slapped below the camera.

Almost every smartphone on the market has a power button on the side or top but LG has thrown the rule book out of the window. The power and volume keys, collectively known as the Rear Key, are all places on the back.

LG G2 Rear Key

It's a strange concept but something we've got accustomed to over time – the volume buttons a placed ergonomically so you can make adjustments while on a call. Thanks to a feature called KnockON, you don’t actually need the power key to switch the phone on and off. A simple double tap of the screen will bring it to life, although it doesn't always work first time. You can also turn it off by double tapping the notification bar or an empty section of the homescreen.

LG has impressed us in the same way Samsung did with the S4, by squeezing a large screen into a small chassis. The G2 is smaller than the Xperia Z1 and only marginally bigger than the S4 but has a larger screen than both at 5.2 in. Super slim bezels give it a great 'edge-to-edge' look.

Protecting the front is Gorilla Glass 2 and although the rear is plastic, the G2 feels solid and well-made. A couple of minor caveats on the design and build front include the statutory information and 'do not bin' spoiling the look of the rear cover a tad and the earpiece is slightly recessed from the glass so collects dirt.

LG G2: Hardware and performance

The G2 is equipped with Qualcomm's latest smartphone chip, the 2.26 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800. This is accompanied by an Adreno 330 GPU and a healthy 2 GB of RAM. The phone comes in either 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage and you might be best off opting for the latter as there's no microSD card slot for expansion.

LG G2 scores 4085 in Geekbench 2, 51 fps in GLBenchmark 2.5 and 901 ms in SunSpider 1.0.

Number crunching is all well and good but the real-world performance of the phone is more important. As we've found with other Snapdragon 800 devices, the Galaxy Note 3 and Xperia Z1, the performance is excellent. Navigation around the OS is super slick, opening apps is snappy and scrolling though pages or lists is smooth.

The only real issue we can find is that web pages can take a small amount of time to re-render when zooming back out. This is an issue which the iPhone doesn't suffer from.

As we mentioned earlier, LG has managed to pack a 5.2 in IPS display into a phone which you wouldn't expect to find such a big screen. Matching other top Android handsets, it's got a Full HD resolution and although the size means the pixel density is a little lower, 424 ppi, the difference isn't noticeable. The fantastic display is a key feature of the G2 for us.

LG G2 Full HD screen

With the smartphone market so hotly contended, extra features are a way of standing out from the crowd. While the LG G2 isn't waterproof like Sony's phones, it still has a few tricks up its sleeve beyond the usual and now standard combination of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and 4G support.

Many of these are software (see below) but there are some hardware delights, too. First of all, the G2 has an infrared transmitter so you can control things like TVs and Blu-ray players from the phone. It works well but can be found on the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

Something which is more unique will be music to the ears of all you audiophiles out there. The G2 supports up to 24bit/192kHz audio playback for FLAC and WAV files – something which is lacking from even the iPhone 5S. This can only be accessed by the headphone port but it's impressive none the less.

LG G2: Cameras

The impressive specs line-up continues with the G2's cameras. The rear camera, which sits above the Rear Key, has a resolution of 13 Mp and features optical image stabilisation (OIS). We like LG's video explaining this.

There's no dedicated camera key on the G2 which is a shame but the camera takes high quality photos and videos nevertheless. It's not the best smartphone camera around, that goes to the Lumia 1020, but it's up there with the best.

LG G2 test photo

Click to enlarge

Focus can take a little while to lock on at times but you can switch to manual if you should be brave enough, not that manual is faster. There are a range of different shooting modes which unfortunately include 'Beauty Shot' and 'Dual Camera'.

OIS means that videos are kept smooth and mostly shake-free and the G2 is able to shoot in up to 1080p quality at 60 fps. For videos, you can use Audio Zooming to hone in on the sound from the left, right or center of the clip and Zoom to Track to focus on a subject during playback. Both are a bit hit and miss and slightly on the gimmicky side of things.

The 2 Mp front facing camera also offers great quality imagery with up to 1080p video at 30 fps.

LG G2: Software

Smartphone manufacturers tend to go one of two ways with their Android interfaces; vanilla as Google intended or all-out customisation with their own skin or overlay.

LG G2 Android interfaceSamsung went overboard with additional features with the Galaxy S4 and LG has gone down that path with the G2, but luckily not as far. LG's Practical UX doesn't look as stylish as HTC's or Sony's. It's more akin to Samsung's TouchWiz with popping colours and cluttered areas, namely the notification bar which LG has crammed everything imaginable into (see right).

Luckily it's not enough of a mess to put us off the phone and the following software features really help the G2 to stand out from the crowd.

We've already mentioned KnockON as a way of switching the phone on and off without using the rear located buttons, and the fact the G2 has an infrared transmitter which is unitised by the QuickRemote app. However, there are plenty more on offer.

There are a number of Samsung-esque gestures which you can perform to answer a phone call or snooze your alarm but we found some other software tricks much more useful.

Guest Mode allows you to set an alternative lock screen pattern which effectively leads to a restricted account. That's great if you don't want your mates to see your camera roll or you want to hand your phone to a child without giving them free reign.

QSlide is a function similar to the small apps found on Sony smartphones, but more advanced. You can select from a number of apps, including web browser, messaging and email, which then appear on the screen in a small window. This can be moved around the screen, resized, and transparency adjusted.

Slide Aside is an alternative to the built-in Android multi-tasking which lets you, er, slide up to three apps off the screen with a three finger gesture. You can then easily switch between these with a reverse gesture, or via the notification bar.

There's more to mention, too. Plug & Pop will make suggestions when headphones or a USB cable is plugged in and you can even reply to text messages without even opening the messaging app.

Furthermore, you can access the phone's storage from a PC or laptop wirelessly if they are connected to the same network.  

LG G2: Battery life

The G2 continues to impress when it comes to battery life. The smartphone has a large 11.1Wh (3000mAh) capacity battery – notable given the physical size of the device. That's almost as big as the phablet-sized Galaxy Note 3.

With a general usage pattern, the G2 lasts a good couple of days with the potential to last three for those who don't sit playing Real Racing 3 all day long. The phone predicts how much time there is until depletion and how much percentage you've burned in the last three hours.

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LG has trumped the competition with the G2. The phone offers a combination of value for money with high-end features which we haven't seen from rival flagship devices. A great specification combined with impressive design and handy software features mean there's very little to dislike about this handset - only really the lack of a microSD card slot.