LG decided to shake things up this year and release a stunning smartphone with a 5.2-inch display and buttons on the back. The LG G2 has officially landed on most US carriers, and today we’re taking a detailed look at both the Verizon and AT&T variants. Most notably, we’ll be running through the hardware and software, button changes on Verizon, and everything else you’d like to know. How does this flagship quad-core powerhouse stack up? Very well. Read on for our full thoughts.

There really is nothing not to like about the G2. LG checked off nearly every box on the spec sheet, added the latest and greatest hardware available for nearly everything, and designed a super sleek phone. How does that 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and massive 1080p display handle daily tasks, and does it suck your battery dry? We have that and more in our full review.

Hardware

The LG G2 hardware is some of their best yet. With each smartphone of late things have improved, but they’re still stuck on the familiar plastic designs. The 5.2-inch “world’s thinnest” full 1080p HD IPS display is crisp, vibrant, and viewing angles are excellent. The sides are curved and comfortable, and it all wraps into a powerful device.

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Under the hood we have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor running at 2.3 GHz. It packs 2GB of RAM, and promises to offer the best performance, battery-sipping efficiency, and charging super quick. All three of those came true. This thing flies, it has the best battery life of any LG smartphone to date, and charging the 3,000 mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 technology is quite nice.

Then with Verizon we have 32GB of storage and built-in wireless charging, which was awesome, but a little slow. All other carriers don’t have wireless charging. The back was redesigned as a result, and the Verizon model has different buttons than the other G2’s, but more on that below. To wrap up the hardware we have the speaker grills (one on the Verizon model) on bottom, which get extremely loud and sound quite nice, micro-USB and the 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s no buttons anywhere on the sides, obviously, but a lone SIM slot. Then another microphone and the IR blaster grace the top.

To be honest I actually really enjoy the hardware. The bezel is one of the thinnest of any phone, and you get a huge 5.2-inch screen in a relatively small package. It’s slightly bigger than the Galaxy S4. Both carriers have plastic backs that are fingerprint magnets, but that’s my only complaint. Overall the hardware is extremely well built, durable, and feels like a premium device.

Buttons on the back

The jury is still out on this one. To be honest the volume buttons on the back is a nice touch, but we’re not fans of the power button being back there. For real. I found myself constantly flipping it over to make sure I hit the right one, and my finger was always too high which put fingerprints all over the camera lens, instead of hitting the power button.

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The design on the international and all other carriers aside from Verizon is much better. As Verizon had to change it up and be different. They’re smaller, harder to hit, and the LED light on the power button isn’t very bright and hard to see. Personally, the volume buttons are fine on the back and actually make more sense to be right where an index finger is while talking on the phone, and we got used to it rather quick. My favorite part about turning the device on and off wasn’t that darn rear button, rather it was LG’s new KnockON feature. A quick double-tap on the screen fires it up to be unlocked and used. This extremely minor software tweak was probably one of my favorite aspects. It’s just so fast, simple, and extremely easy. Not to mention familiar.

A quick double tap on the top of the phone, or anywhere on screen with no icons or widgets will do the opposite, and put it back to sleep. Instead of searching for a button just tap twice, and throw it in your pocket. It sounds minor, but will change the way you wake/sleep your smartphone. I guarantee it. Or maybe I’m just easily amused.

Software

With the LG G2 we have Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and hopefully 4.3 or 4.4 KitKat is coming soon. However, we don’t need it, not yet at least. LG has so many customizations, tweaks, and software improvements this has almost as many options as a device with a custom 3rd party ROM. It’s like Samsung’s array of add-ons, only they’re actually useful.

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The screen unlock animation was really neat and eye-catching, and all the custom options just drove home the fact that LG has stepped up their game. Anything from custom launchers that changes how the animations act as you swipe between screens, the on-screen navigation buttons (and color), notification LED, vibrate level, multi-tasking and multi-window modes and more. LG thought of it all, and it’s all inside the G2. Instead of talking about it, check out our detailed 12 minute extended hands-on and software tour.

As you can see from the video above, the LG G2 is blazing fast. Between the buttery smooth Android 4.2 and a quad-core 2.3 GHz processor, nothing can slow it down. Tons of animations, neat unlock effects and more. It handles it all without breaking a sweat.

LG put a lot of time into Slide Aside, QSlide, multi-window, their Quick Memo note app, and much more. While Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is obviously heavily skinned and tweaked, there is still key parts that keeps it from looking too custom. I’ve slowly warmed up to their subtle changes, and feel I can say this is the best LG yet. I might actually like their software more than Samsung’s TouchWiz.

There’s even a neat little pop-up for quick reply on a text message that appears on the top left in the notification bar. I actually found this really convenient, and just one more nice little touch. It’s the little things folks. From customizing every aspect, changing homescreens, wallpapers, and even the color of the on-screen buttons down below. LG thought of almost everything. It’s nice to see such effort put into their devices.

Performance and Benchmarks

Echoing a little of what was mentioned above, the LG G2 is one of the fastest phones I’ve used to date. Whether that was streaming with my Chromecast, playing Asphalt 8: Airborne lag free, to browsing the web with 13 tabs open and still streaming video in the background while using Google Now. It manages to handle things quite well. Android’s great at multitasking, and the quad-core and 2GB of RAM only helps things here.

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Benchmarks are a little hit and miss with our readers, but we know you die-hard users want to see them. In AnTuTu I got the highest score I’ve ever achieved on a smartphone, around 36,000, and even their database had me #2 globally. Although I’m not reading into that too much. It scores well above the Snapdragon 600 powered Galaxy S4 and HTC One, and is certainly ahead of any and all competition. See for yourself. However, plenty more Snapdragon 800 devices are coming this year.

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Benchmarks are only a small part of the story, and many throw their results out the window anyways. Daily usage is where it matters, and this smartphone is rock solid. Our longer than usual video above should have gave you an idea of just how smooth everything truly is.

Camera

The camera here is also rather new, as LG’s struggled a bit in this area in the past. The G2 they’ve introduced the first Android phone with a quality camera with optical image stabilization. Snapping photos while in a moving car, walking, or with shaky hands was no issue. As the software did all of the work. That’s along with a 13 megapixel camera. One that also does some great video capture at up to 60 FPS in 1080p.

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Those software features we talked about above, are also included here. Voice actions to say “cheese” and anything you want to snap photos. Custom 5 different shutter sounds, built-in filters, Geo-tagging, and the option to use those volume keys to zoom, or to capture photos. We have a panorama mode, VR panos, burst shot, beauty shot (which smooths all surfaces and makes you look purdy) and even a dual-camera feature. Which lets you take a photo with both front and rear cameras at the same time.

We didn’t go too crazy with the camera samples, but just know no matter how much shaking was going on the photos usually still turned out rather crisp. It isn’t going to replace your DSLR, but it’s one of the better smartphone cameras we’ve used of late. The OIS sure is nice, and that along with a quick shutter speed does quite well. Here’s a few quick shots. The car shift knob was while driving (not me) and an up-close macro, to show how well that image stabilization truly works.

And yes. I blame Google and Nestle for making me a fat kid, as I’m now buying KitKat bars whenever I see them. It’s all their fault!

Battery Life

Yes! Finally an LG smartphone that truly has great battery life. As we said on our social pages, all of you LG fans will be happy to know this gets some of the best battery life we’ve seen. And by far the best of ANY LG smartphone. With a huge 3,000 mAh battery paired with Qualcomm’s battery saving Snapdragon 800. Even the heaviest usage should still net you 8-10 hours at least. Which means heavy usage and still getting through an entire day of work.

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For what we’d call an “average” smartphone user that doesn’t check their device every 10 minutes, and instead every hour or so and does the occasional emails, web browsing, and voice calls, you’ll realistically get well over 24 hours on a single charge. With mild use I saw over 40, and as you see below even 50. This will last two days for most. I love it.

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Competition

The LG G2 faces some stiff competition now, and in the coming weeks and months. It edges out the Galaxy S4 in all categories, although we all know Samsung has a loyal following. Myself included. It’s the Galaxy Note III where things might get messy. As it offers nearly the same specs with a much bigger display, 3GB of RAM, and tons of S-Pen features to take advantage of this big-screen era we have found ourselves in.

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And we can’t forget about the LG Nexus 5, which at this point is more than just a rumor, and likely coming sometime in middle or late October. They won’t look alike, but Google’s poised to offer another Nexus based off of LG’s latest smartphone. The Nexus 5 should be similar in many ways, probably cheaper, and sold direct from the Play Store. Oh, and lets not forget the upcoming HTC One Max and its 5.9-inch display. We still need to get more details on that though, which is coming eventually.

Wrap-Up

Overall we’re actually rather impressed with this latest and greatest device from LG. You can clearly tell that they’ve been making leaps and bounds with both hardware, and software, and this is their best device yet. LG just put their best foot forward, and Samsung and the others have some serious competition. For those worried about the large display, it isn’t too bad, but you might want to try it in stores if you have little hands.

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LG’s software hasn’t been my favorite in the past, and no matter what Qualcomm processor was under the hood standby battery life has always been terrible. Even when the device isn’t in use. LG has finally curbed this issue and the LG G2 gets the best battery life of any LGE device I’ve used to date. It’s fast, efficient, user friendly, and slightly innovative with the new buttons on the back. There’s truly nothing we absolutely didn’t like.

Personally the bright and quality HD display, quad-core processor, and outright impressive battery life makes this device get a thumbs up from us. After all, what’s the point if you’re not using it to the full capabilities because you are always low on battery. That won’t be the case with the G2. It’s impressive all around, and we suggest you check it out on any of the 4 major US retailers, then pick one up. That, or wait for the LG Nexus 5.