Display: First to Quad HD

Arguably the biggest new feature to make it into the LG G3 is the 5.5-inch Quad HD, or 2560 x 1440 display. Technology-wise we’re looking at a TFT IPS LCD panel, branded by LG as True HD-IPS+, with an incredible pixel density of 534 pixels per inch. It’s protected by Gorilla Glass 3 on the front, as the majority of smartphones are.

Obviously the big talking point here is the increase in resolution from 1920 x 1080, which has been the standard for over a year, to 2560 x 1440. On a typical 5.0-inch smartphone this equates to a 33% jump from 440 PPI to 587 PPI, corresponding to the 78% jump in pixel count. In comparison, going from 720p (294 PPI at 5-inches) to 1080p was a 50% jump in density with a 125% rise in pixel count.

Just looking at the numbers on paper reveals a smaller gain going from 1080p to 1440p than going from 720p to 1080p, especially as we already passed the 300 and even 400 PPI barriers. Does the increase in resolution create a noticeable difference?

I was one of several people who was able to instantly tell the difference between a 720p and 1080p smartphone display without having to do a side-by-side comparison. Although the upgrade was somewhat subtle, the increased sharpness and paper-like quality of 400+ PPI displays was noticeable and provided real benefits, like the ability to use thinner fonts without dealing with aliasing.

The upgrade to 1440p is noticeable, but not nearly to the same degree. Placing the G3 next to the Galaxy S5 or One M8 and you’ll see the Quad HD display is sharper and crisper around the edges of text and in graphics. But by itself, without a direct comparison to a lower resolution display, you’ll be very hard pressed to identify the differences the 1440p panel brings.

In some photos, such as the rising smoke wallpaper used by default on the G3’s lockscreen, the added resolution means a greater level of detail can be displayed and noticed by the human eye. However in a lot of cases the G3’s screen looks just as good as a 1080p competitor, and if you don’t have perfect eyesight or you aren’t holding the phone ridiculously close to your face, the upgrade provides negligible benefits.

Some apps also aren’t suited for 1440p smartphone displays, so they lack the appropriate assets to display crisp graphics on the G3’s panel. A similar situation was observed when the first 1080p panels started to show up, and naturally it will be resolved with time. Unfortunately for early adopters, though, it means sometimes you’ll have to put up with apps that appear to be upscaled, occasionally looking worse than they would on a 1080p panel natively.

Luckily the increased resolution rarely equates to a visual downgrade, so you’re left with a panel that looks either the same or better than a Full HD counterpart. How it impacts on performance or battery life is another matter entirely though.

Of course there are many other aspects to the G3’s display than just the resolution. Display saturation and accuracy appears to be good, but not as good as the LG G2 or Nexus 5. When viewing color gradients on the panel, there’s noticeable banding, indicating either a gamut that exceeds sRGB, or increased saturation values for some colors.

Either one is a problem with Android devices, as manufacturers tend to boost these levels in an attempt to make the display look prettier for the user, rather than more accurate. Indeed with the G3 this appears to be the case, as photos on the phone’s display look somewhat different to what they look like on my PC monitors, which are calibrated to be close to sRGB.

In some cases images look better on my monitors and in some cases they look better on the G3, although the G3 is less accurate. It’d be great if there was a software setting to switch to accuracy over flare, but generally speaking the G3’s display is far from terrible. It’s not quite as saturated as the Galaxy S5’s Super AMOLED, creating a more balanced look that I’m a fan of.

Black and white points are good, but again not as great as the current crop of mature 1080p panels. This is likely due to the switch to an ultra-high-density 1440p display resolution, which forces transistors to get smaller and backlights to get stronger. Viewing angles are still great from the G3’s IPS display, but not as good as the HTC One M8.

Brightness has suffered from the resolution upgrade, putting it on-par with Samsung’s AMOLED panel used in the Galaxy S5. LCD panels can typically go brighter than AMOLEDs due to their inherent construction and use of a backlight, but smaller pixels in the G3’s display has negated this advantage. The Xperia Z2 and HTC One M8 have brighter displays by quite a margin at 100% brightness, although when full brightness isn’t required there’s little difference between the LCDs used in today’s flagships.

Trying to view the G3’s display outdoors is trickier than with the Z2 and One M8 as it can’t go as bright, but the construction of the display, with few layers, assists in cutting down on reflections. It is possible to read text on the G3’s panel in strong backlighting, although it’s certainly not the best I’ve used.

Navigation buttons are on-screen on the G3, reducing screen real estate while the buttons are visible to 5.15-inches from 5.5-inches. Android 4.4 has improved the way on-screen buttons function so more of the screen is utilized more often. This makes the 5.5-inch display with on-screen buttons a far better option than a 5.1-inch screen with physical navigation buttons, giving you greater screen real estate where it matters (such as when watching videos).