LG G Flex expert review
The LG G Flex sports a unique curved design with flexible components. Agent Lee takes a look to see if it’s simply a case of style over substance, or if the G Flex really is as unique as it sounds.
LG G Flex - Summary
LG G Flex RRP £689.95
Cutting-edge design that does come at a price, but you get top-end performance too
- Striking curved design
- Powerful processor means great performance
- Flexible construction protects against impacts
- ‘Self-healing’ back protects from scratches.
- Only a 720p screen
- A bit awkward to use one-handed.
Design and first impressions
The LG G Flex is an incredibly striking phone, and it’s hard not to be drawn to that curved profile. LG says it brings the microphone to a more natural position for speaking and it certainly does feel more comfortable next to your face. The G Flex also has the power and volume buttons on the back, something we first saw on the LG G2. Whilst it does take a bit of getting used to, I’ll admit it’s probably a more sensible place to have them.
The G Flex is also quite a sizable phone with its 6” screen. However, the bezel is kept to a minimum, particularly at the sides, with everything on screen controlled via software, so there’s no need for any physical buttons on the front of the phone. Even so, it’s pushing the limits of what can reasonably be called a phone: we’re pretty much in ‘phablet’ territory here. In line with many other premium phones, the G Flex is a sealed unit and I always find that helps a phone really feel like a quality device.
The ‘Flex’ part of the name alludes to the fact that the phone is indeed flexible, and this includes internal components like the battery and motherboard as well as the screen and casing. This should make the G Flex far less prone to cracked and shattered screens, as it will be able to absorb impacts far more effectively than a rigid phone. To add to this, the back casing is made from a ‘self-healing’ material which LG say can repair minor scuffs and scrapes – making the G Flex the mobile phone equivalent of Wolverine. I didn’t feel brave enough to test this, but minor scrapes should disappear over time.
It’s also important to stress that although the phone is flexible, it’s not really bendy. It’s quite possible to press down on the back of the phone until it’s flat against a table; however, this resulted in a couple of noticeable bumps appearing on the screen. After a bit of massaging of the screen they did seem to go away, but I’d perhaps advise against demonstrating this particular feature to friends. That said, you should be reasonably confident in the G Flex’s ability to survive being sat on.
- CPU : 2.2 GHz quad core processor
- RAM: 2 GB
- Internal Storage: 32 GB
- microSD: no
- Battery: 3500 mAh.
Processor and Memory
The LG G Flex has some impressive hardware inside that curved shell. It’s pretty much the same processor and chipset as the impressive LG G2, so there should be no worries about performance. There’s also a sizeable amount of RAM which should keep things running smoothly when there’s several apps open. Storage could potentially be an issue as there’s no option to expand things with a microSD card, but as long as you manage things carefully and make use of streaming and cloud services, the 32 GB you’re provided with should be plenty.
Multitasking is helped by some handy features we first saw on the LG G2, so we again have the option of a second windowed app thanks to the QSlide interface. The clever Slide Aside feature also allows you to quickly drag an app off the desktop ready to be resumed later.
In addition to the expected Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G, we also have the desirable, albeit not essential, NFC and IR blaster. That makes the G Flex perfectly equipped to integrate with your existing devices no matter what technology they use.
Resolution: 720 x 1280 Size:6.0 inches Display type: Curved P-OLED ppi 245.
The unique curved plastic OLED screen is certainly a talking point, especially on a device this size. What is slightly disappointing is that it’s only a 720p screen with a relatively low pixel count of 245 ppi. I understand this is purely down to what was available and that there isn’t currently a 1080p variant of the flexible screen ready for use. A lower resolution screen is fine when you’re scaling down a device, as we’ve seen with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. On the G Flex’s 6” screen it is possible to spot the pixellation on fine text, although this is perhaps nitpicking a bit! But where things really matter, e.g. video playback, the screen still looks great. The majority of ‘HD’ video we watch on our phones is only 720p anyway, so you’re not really missing out in that respect, and the curved screen does work well for watching movies. Image motion is smooth, colours are nice and rich and you also have the option of choosing from preset colour balance settings so you can set things just the way you like them.
It’s difficult not to compare the G Flex to the truly amazing display that we saw on the LG G2, but most phones would suffer by that comparison. It’s also important to keep in mind that there’s some exciting new technology in the G Flex – it’s very much a first in many respects and whilst the screen could be considered a compromise, it’s probably still the best that LG could provide right now.
Rear: 13 MP, LED flash, 1080p 60fps Front: 2.1 MP, 1080p@30fps
We’ve seen some heavy hitters in the camera department recently, with Sony’s 20.7 MP Xperia Z1 and the 40 MP Nokia Lumia 1020 springing to mind. As a result, the 13MP camera on the G Flex may seem a little underwhelming. However, camera wars do seem to have died down of late, and it’s easy to argue that it was more about winning the specs war on paper rather than adding any great benefit for everyday users.
Certainly the camera on the G Flex performs very well and there’s plenty of help in the form of pre-set shooting modes to help match the conditions or take some fancy shots like panoramas or even 360-degree spherical shots. It’s easy to use and quick to respond, which is all the majority of us are really interested in. The resulting pictures are also probably better than you’d realise, and any issues you notice are probably going to be due to the lower resolution screen rather than the quality of the photos themselves.
Video performance is also impressive, recording full HD at 60fps smoothly and quickly. The phone’s impressive hardware will help here as processing high-definition video needs plenty of horsepower. There are also different recording modes such as Live Effects for fun edits on the fly, and Dual Recording for using both cameras simultaneously.
The front camera is a respectable 2.1MP – ideal if you’re a selfie fan – and it’s also capable of recording video at 1080p, just at the lower frame rate of 30fps.
Thankfully, despite a new kind of flexible battery there’s been no compromise on power. In fact, at 3500 mAh it’s one of the biggest batteries you’ll find in a phone – with only the Huawei Ascend Mate beating it. That means excellent battery life, and arguably the lower resolution display works to your advantage here as it’s going to be less of a drain than a 1080p screen!
The LG G Flex runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and whilst it’s not the latest version of Android, it is tried and tested so probably a sensible choice. It uses a similar interface to what we saw on the G2, so whilst it’s functional and has plenty of features, it’s perhaps a bit lacking in panache. It works perfectly well, but given the cutting-edge nature of the G Flex’s design it would have been nice to have a bit more of a wow factor in this department. Thankfully, as with the G2, unwanted bloatware is kept to a minimum so things are relatively clutter-free.
Some features that were introduced with the G2 make a welcome re-appearance, including double taping to wake or lock the screen, which seems a bit more responsive than on the previous model. Also back is Guest Mode, which uses a second passcode to access a limited selection of apps that you select. This is great for preventing your kids from inadvertently messing up your phone, or indeed for stopping your friends accessing things like your Facebook account!
Overall, it’s a fairly tidy implementation of Android, if a little uninspiring. That being the case, the software is a little at odds with the styling, but I suppose it would’ve been easy to go too far the other way. We often criticise manufacturers for over-complicating their phone’s interfaces, so at least the G Flex keeps things fairly simple.
LG G Flex - Verdict
The G Flex is a bit of a mixed bag then: on the one hand, it’s a striking attention-grabber of a phone with some truly unique technology. But on the other, the software is nothing new and I’m not entirely sure it’s the most practical device out there – not to mention its staggering price tag! However, if you take a step back from the hype it’s still a powerful phone with exceptional performance.
If you want something new and innovative then the G Flex certainly isn’t going to disappoint. There are also some very practical benefits to the flexible technology, and we will no doubt see it become much more commonplace in the years to come. Broken screens are an expensive, and not uncommon, headache for smartphone users. As I pointed out earlier, the flexible nature of the G Flex should make it much more resilient and that’s probably something that’s been a little understated in most of LG’s publicity for the phone.
There’s also no denying that it looks great, and it’s always nice to be the first to have something truly new and unique. The software isn’t all that exciting, and the 720p screen is a bit of a disappointment on paper, although in use it’s probably not going to make much of a difference to you. So, whilst it blows a bit hot and cold, there’s a lot to like about the G Flex. More importantly, there’s a lot to admire, and hats off to LG for being brave enough to move forward with this technology.
Alternatives to the LG G Flex
LG G2 - Similar to the G Flex in many ways but a more traditional phone with a smaller, higher definition screen.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra – this waterproof monster handset is brilliant for media fans thanks to the might of the Sony Entertainment Network.
HTC One Max – another quality device from HTC with its trademark build quality.