LG G Flex review: Ahead of the curve

GSMArena team, 13 December 2013.

Tags: LG, Android

Display

The LG G Flex has a new brand of OLED screen - Plastic OLED - manufactured by LG. Traditional OLEDS have their light diodes on a sheet of glass, but by using a plastic substrate LG managed to make the display flexible. The display unit itself can flex more than the phablet itself, but LG settled on this curvature as the most comfortable after testing numerous prototypes.

LG G Flex
The LG G Flex has a 6" POLED screen with 720p resolution

Anyway, the screen has a massive 6" diagonal but the resolution is fairly low for the size, 720p. This works out to 245ppi, which is a mid-range number. Still, it's a full RGB matrix rather than a PenTile, which does help.

Unfortunately, there's a problem - at first we thought it was image noise in the wallpaper, but as we looked closer, we saw it in the UI too. The display seems to have issues lighting its pixels evenly, which causes the noisy look. The pixel density isn't high-enough to hide individual pixel errors either. The end result is fairly disappointing for a device in such a high price bracket, because once you see the problem, you start noticing it everywhere.

We used our microscope to snap a close-up photo to illustrate the problem. We took a screenshot of the LG G Flex UI and put it on our trusty old Nokia N8 (which has an AMOLED screen of comparable pixel density). The image below shows what the image looks like on the G Flex, on the N8 and finally, what it's supposed to look like.

LG is promising 330 nits of brightness, which isn't very high even for an OLED (and LCDs can more than double that). Our own measurements put the maximum brightness at 411 nits and we kept the brightness slider at or near the maximum most of the time.

Typically for OLED, the display has stellar contrast and rich, saturated colors. Following the lead of Samsung and Nokia, LG introduced modes for the screen, which let the user control the saturation. You get three options - Standard, Vivid and Natural.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Oppo N1 0.25 285 1118 0.47 553 1164
HTC One Max 0.14 224 1591 0.40 629 1572
LG G Flex 0 131 0 411
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 0 149 0 379
Sony Xperia Z1 - - - 0.38 580 1513
Nokia Lumia 1520 0.22 263 1174 0.43 522 1207
Nokia Lumia 1020 0 172 0 398
Nokia Lumia 920 - - - 0.48 513 1065
Sony Xperia Z Ultra - - - 0.47 467 1001
Sony Xperia Z - - - 0.70 492 705
Huawei Ascend Mate 0.23 222 982 0.67 711 1053
Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 0.12 160 1364 0.32 440 1379
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
HTC Butterfly S 0.15 165 1117 0.43 451 1044

The screen is fairly reflective, which combined with the relatively low brightness results in sub-par sunlight legibility. By the way, LG claims the curvature helps reduce glare but, although we can see a point, we failed to notice a significant difference.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.970
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.950
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.790
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.680
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • HTC Desire C
    1.300
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.270
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.180
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

The screen is protected by curved Gorilla glass. That's scratch-resistant but, unlike the coating on the back, once you scratch it, the damage will stay. We guess the special coating isn't transparent enough for screens yet, but it's something that's sorely needed by smartphones. All scratch-resistant glass eventually gets scratched and while we can live with gouges on the back, damage to the screen is harder to tolerate.

Battery life

The LG G Flex has a huge 3,500mAh battery despite 8.7mm thick body that is curved to boot. A large OLED screen isn't ideal for long battery life, but in the end things seem to balance out. The endurance rating is a stunning 97 hours - you can expect to go between two and three days without charging, depending on how much web browsing you do.

Web browsing is the Achilles heel - the G Flex lasted nine and a half hours, which while good is not much for the class. Talk time and video playback are at or near the top though.

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