This week we decided to focus a little more on a slightly more unlikely competitor for the LG G3: last year's legendary Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The Note 3 is a near-perfect device, but then, so is the G3. Sure, the Note 3 has a stylus and is technically a phablet, but it's also very much still a phone and the G3, with its massive display and multitasking tools is obviously knocking at the Note 3's door. So which one performs better?
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Design and manufacture
The Galaxy Note 3 ditched the shiny plastic battery cover familiar to most Samsung devices and replaced it with the rather odd plastic leather-look cover complete with fake stitching. While I've come to get used to it there's no denying it's a little strange at first glance. On the other hand LG has done the opposite and gone for a plastic fake metal-look cover that resists fingerprints as well as the Note 3 but looks a little more ''natural'' to me, if I can get away with the observation. Both rear covers are removable and conceal a microSD card slot.
The Note 3 is significantly larger than the G3, but has a 0.2-inch larger screen, wider bezels and a physical home key up front. The G3 pushes all physical buttons to a rear-key setup below the main camera. The back of the Note 3 is flat whereas the G3 has a nice curve to it that makes it feel smaller in the hand than it actually is. The shiny silver trim on the Note 3 seems a little outclassed by the aluminum strip on the G3 but as far as looks and build quality goes these are both nicely put together devices that don't feel as flimsy as their plastic construction might imply. While the Note 3 isn't as ugly as the Galaxy S5, the G3 is still the better looking device.
This is where things get tricky. Of course the QHD resolution of the LG G3 far surpasses the Note 3's Full HD offering, but Samsung are rightfully recognized for their super bright and saturated displays. Add to this the fact that you can't always see the quality on the G3's screen (as many apps do not yet support 2K resolution) and the G3 may start to seem like a waste of pixels. Personally I find Samsung's over-the-top saturation and high contrast to be a little excessive, so I appreciate the G3's more natural tones, but this is a matter for your personal preference.
The Note 3 offers more room on its Super AMOLED display and blacks look fantastic because the pixels are not actually ''on''. The G3 has an IPS+ LCD that offers slightly less space but is surrounded by tiny bezels, making the G3's screen-to-body ratio much higher than the Note 3. The pixel density of the G3 comes in at 534 ppi compared to the 386 ppi on the Note 3. The main consideration is how bright and saturated you like your screen versus just many pixels you want squished in there for unparalleled clarity.
Software and UI
The Note 3 ships with last year's TouchWiz and has been updated to Android 4.4.2. The G3 ships with Android 4.4.2 and the revised Optimus UI. Samsung make use of a largely darker interface to take advantage of the AMOLED screen and LG have gone for a more subdued palette with what they call more mature colors. TouchWiz is just as laggy as it is on most Samsung devices, whereas the lighter update of Optimus UI is a lot snappier than it has been. I think the LG interface is better laid out and cleaner, but it's ultimately a matter of personal taste.
Samsung has loaded up the Note 3 with typical smart feaures like Air View, Smart Screen and Air Gesture to allow for touch-free controls. The G3 comes with the excellent Knock On and Knock Code security feature that offers 86,000 different combinations to access the full device (or Guest Mode with limited apps and access). The G3 has some motion-based gesture controls as well, mostly simple things like lifting the phone to your ear to answer a call or flipping it to silence an incoming call. These features are simpler but probably more useful than Samsung's more gimmicky ones.
The biggest feature of the Note 3 is of the course the S Pen stylus. Removing the stylus brings up the Air Command window where you can select from a variety of really well done multitasking features like Action Memo for making notes with linked actions (like saving numbers to your contacts or addresses to maps), the Scrapbooker (screen capture), Screen Write (note taking tool), and Pen Window for multiple floating and resizable mini app windows. These are extremely well done and deservedly bring the Note 3 the reputation it has.
The G3, on the other hand, offers many similar features, like QMemo+ for note taking, QSlide for floating mini apps and Dual Window for screen sharing, The G3 also lets you delete some bloatware apps, which is a big win against the rather heavy presence of Samsung bloatware, but there's no denying that the integration and precision of the S Pen functionality is unsurpassed by any other multitasking device. Still, considering you can do most of the same things with just your fingertip, LG deserves credit for a job well done, as a stylus is not for everyone.
Hardware and battery
The G3 has the jump on the Note 3 with well over a half year between the launch of the two devices. The G3 may have the drop on the Note 3 in some hardware respects like processor but the Note 3 was and is a beast of a device and it holds up remarkably well. I'll let you do the spec-for-spec comparison in the table below. The G3 speaker has more treble and sounds a bit clearer, but the Note 3 sounds bassier and heavy, so it all depends on what you like from your speakers. Both devices have removable batteries: the Note 3 comes with a big 3,200 mAh battery and the G3 with a 3,000 mAh battery. The 2K display on the G3 really doesn't affect the battery as much as you might expect, thanks to LG's excellent ''adaptive'' optimizations. MicroSD expansion is a staple for both but Qi requires a replacement battery cover for the Note 3 and comes standard on the international G3.
Both devices have a 13 MP main camera, the G3 with laser auto-focus for unsurpassed speed and accuracy and OIS+ for impressive image stabilization. The Note 3 has digital image stabilization and regular contrast-based focusing which naturally performs less impressively than the G3. What the G3 makes up for in high-tech core functionality it lacks in camera ''fluff'' though. Limited preset modes and settings and a pared-back app interface may be just what you like in your smartphone camera, but the Note 3 comes with lots more preset modes, options and settings for the avid shutterbugs and filter hounds. Samsung cameras are typically good performers though and the Note 3 holds up well, but the inclusion of newfangled tech in the G3 camera shows.
When we take a look at the results of the cameras though, we see some interesting things. The slightly dated Samsung camera still performs quite nicely in full daylight even if the G3 shoots faster. As usual, the Sammy cam has heavier contrast, although the G3 tended to handle colors better. In auto mode both handle close subjects well and HDR is equally good. In low light conditions the Note 3 performs surprisingly well, with LG's typically heavy post-processing coming into play, producing a kind of ''smudged'' look on flat areas. The Galaxy Note 3 naturally shows more image noise and grain, but some details actually appear sharper than the G3 because of the heavy LG processing. I actually prefer the all-over decent result of the Note 3 in low light compared to the irregularity of the G3's crisp edges with smudgy planes.
In terms of hardware the G3 beats out the Note 3 in a few areas like processor and camera tech even though the Note 3 performs perfectly well and even better in some respects. Other hardware considerations are up to personal preference as is user interface. The multitasking functionality of the Note 3 is unbeatable for obvious reasons, but if you don't like the idea of the S Pen the G3 won't let you down. If you want the newer, smaller and better looking device with higher resolution and faster overall experience, go for the G3. If multitasking on a large-screened device with the utmost of ease and precision is your thing then opt for the Note 3. I think the software features of the Note 3 are done better (not discounting the awesome Knock Code) even though as a smartphone I prefer the G3. I was also a little surprised at how well the Note 3 camera performed, but all things considered, I think the G3 has finally met its match in the big screen multitasking stakes.
Which device do you think is best for large-screened multitasking? Is a stylus an essential for you or unnecessary?