LG G Flex

LG G Flex

Posted On: December 28, 2013
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It’s not too often we get to review a product with a completely new form factor, but we relish the opportunity when we do. This time, we’re taking a closer look at the LG G Flex, one of two curved smartphones that have come out of Korea over the last two months.

The idea of a curved device is enough to pique anyone’s interest, but there’s one thing holding it back from mainstream acceptance: the price. Retailing for the US equivalent of $940, this unique handset isn’t for the budget-conscious, and it isn’t going to make your every dream come true either.

To most potential buyers, the return on investment is pretty low; it’s high-end, sure, but is it worth paying a $200 or $300 premium just for the shape? We believe you already know the answer to that, but keep on reading to find out if we agree with you.

Even though there are only two curved smartphones right now, LG predicts the market for curved displays will grow to as much as $2.5 billion by 2018. If that’s the case, we’re witnessing the beginning of something big. Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that LG’s inaugural device is… well, big? At 160.5 x 81.6 x 8.7mm, the G Flex, which features a 6-inch display, could be considered large even compared to the LG G2 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Still, it’s actually a tad smaller than most other 6-inch handsets.

The Lumia 1520 is just as thick as the Flex, but quite a bit taller and wider; even the 5.9-inch HTC One Max is taller and wider (and a great deal thicker). Both devices are also more than an ounce heavier than the 6.24-ounce Flex, making LG’s handset feel comfortable by comparison. The sides are flat near the top, providing a place to rest your fingertips. Of course, they do curve inward toward the bottom.

That said, curves can bring a phone’s ergonomics to another level. The Samsung Galaxy Round, which arcs from left to right, was much more comfortable than the Note 3 because its curves allow the phone to rest naturally in the hand. Since the G Flex arcs from top to bottom, however, it feels a little more awkward than it would if the phone were simply flat; my index finger frequently slips off the edge because the phone curves up and makes the sides harder to reach.

LG tells us that the G Flex has an “optimized curvature” of 700mm, a decision the company came to after testing more than 300 designs, each with varying curves. In particular, LG believes this is the most comfortable fit for most human faces. We agree that it’s one of the most pleasant handsets you can put up to the side of your head, although this unfortunately means it’s incredibly uncomfortable when you put it in your pants pocket — especially if you’re wearing tighter-fitting jeans.

There’s certainly a coolness factor when playing with a curved phone, but what benefit does it really add to your overall user experience? The phone’s flexibility, which we’ll discuss shortly, protects the device from external forces; its banana shape means the mic is closer to your mouth than it would be otherwise.

Also, the curves allow for more sound to reflect off of other surfaces, so speaker volume gets a boost. LG’s also thrown in a flexible 3,500mAh battery — we’re told that the G Flex couldn’t exist without being able to curve the battery — which employs a stack-and-folding technique that’s designed to offer more stability and better performance.

The glossy back cover comes with a brushed-metal look and is a little slippery, but as odd as it sounds, we don’t mind it so much on the G Flex (more on that in a moment). It’s also a huge dust magnet: It was nearly impossible to completely clean the phone, no matter how hard we tried.

The display is 720p, which isn’t the sharpest on the market by any means, but LG says it’s because it was the only way to get the RGB stripe on the curved display without resorting to PenTile for higher resolution.

At any rate, the display looks nice enough, but for a device this large, you can definitely tell that it isn’t as sharp as the Nexus 5 or HTC One. It also has a strange, matte quality to it: it looks like it has some kind of grain or noise like you’d find on a photo shot with film or high ISO digital. Except it looks a lot more like color noise than luminance noise. In some cases, it’s quite pleasing and somewhat cinematic, but other times you wish the images and video were cleaner and sharper.

LG G Flex has a 6 inch 720p (RGB stripe) flexible OLED display with a plastic substrate and up to 400 mm radius of curvature, G Flex is 700 mm radius of curvature natively.