Camera: Laser vs no laser
Here at Stuff we’re huge fans of the LG G3’s laser-focus camera, describing it as nothing less than “a work of genius” in our review. The laser allows the G3’s 13MP main camera to autofocus far more swiftly than rival smartphone snappers, you see – and once you factor in optical image stabilisation, a dual-tone LED flash and the fact you can capture not just full HD but 4K video and you’ve got one of the finest smartphone cameras around.
We haven’t had the opportunity to properly test the Galaxy Note 4’s camera, but it has a 16MP sensor backed up with optical image stabilisation, which should make it a decidedly better performer than its predecessor – particularly in low light conditions. It can capture 4K video too.
We have a sneaking feeling that the G3’s laser trickery and dual-tone flash are going to make it a slightly better performer than the Note 4, but Samsung appears to have narrowed the gap quite dramatically. It’ll be a close-run thing.
Winner: LG G3
OS: Two different flavours of Android
Both of these phones are built on an Android backbone, of course (4.4.2 KitKat for the G3, 4.4.4 KitKat for the Note 4), but their respective manufacturers have installed their own user interfaces over the top of Google’s OS.
The LG G3 sports a tastefully clean UI (a vast improvement over its garish, cluttered predecessor’s) that offers a number of useful exclusive features: Smart Clean to get rid of space-stealing unwanted cache files; Smart Notice, which is basically LG’s take on Google Now; LG Health, which is a pretty decent fitness tracker; and the semi-sentient Smart Keyboard, which picks up on your typing quirks and lets you swipe to type.
We haven’t yet had enough time with the Note 4 to “deep dive” into its UI’s quirks and intricacies, but from what we’ve seen there’s plenty to get excited about. Multi Window returns, naturally, allowing you to multitask by running two apps side-by-side, and much of the Note 4’s UI is designed to maximise the effectiveness of the S-Pen stylus. There’s also a new voice recording app that takes advantage of the Note 4’s three microphones and noise-cancelling technology to improve voice memos and interview quality. Oh, and it’s also compatible with Samsung’s Oculus Rift-style Gear VR gaming headset, which is something you definitely can’t say about the G3.
We’ve moaned a lot about Samsung’s love of bloatware in the past, but like LG the company seems to be moving in the right direction when it comes to loading its devices with unwanted apps. If that trend continues with the Note 4, it could end up pipping the G3 to the post here.
Winner: Draw for now
The LG G3 is still our favourite smartphone, but – on paper at least – the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is the closest that comes to replicating and even outdoing its most show-stopping specs and features: the huge 2K screen, the optical image stabilisation, the potential for massive amounts of on-board storage (you could argue that the Apple iPhone 6 Plus approaches them too, screen resolution aside).
We reckon it won’t be for everyone, and it’ll likely be a bit pricier than the G3, but the Note 4 could prove the world’s most powerful and fully-featured smartphone when it hits the shops in the coming weeks. At this point, we’re not going to say it has the G3 beaten, but it’s going to be very, very close.
READ MORE: Apple iPhone 6 Plus review