SlimPort 4K wired TV out is a big deal - LG G4 vs. Samsung Galaxy S6: Next door rivals
Sometimes the biggest rivalries are between neighbors. The newest additions to clan LG and clan Samsung are from two different worlds - the organic LG G4 and the industrial Galaxy S6. One is curved with soft leather, the other is a cool glass and metal sliver.
Samsung had a misstep with the S5 so it had to reboot the design for the Galaxy S6. Meanwhile LG G4 is an evolution from its well-received predecessor. Both flagships took steps towards a luxury design though they are on very different paths.
The LG G4 opted for premium leather and a slightly curved design (to stand apart from the Moto X). Samsung took the popular route and designed a slender metal frame sandwiched between two panes of glass.
LG G4 over Galaxy S6
- Larger screen - 5.5" vs. 5.1"
- Higher res selfies - 8MP vs. 5MP
- Expandable storage
- Removable battery
- microUSB SlimPort and FM radio
- Laser autofocus and Color spectrum sensor
- Optional leather back
Samsung Galaxy S6 over LG G4
- More compact, much thinner
- Faster chipset - more CPU cores and better GPU
- Sharper screen with better sunlight legibility
- Better battery life
- Fingerprint sensor
- Metal construction
- Heart rate and blood-oxygen (SpO2) sensor
- Wireless charging - Qi and PMA (may not be available in some regions)
Consumer sentiment is highly important in this business and this time it seems like it's on LG's side. Users stuck with homely Galaxys because they were practical - light durable plastic, user-serviceable storage and battery. The Galaxy S6 design while beautiful introduced more glass that might get scratched and worse, it locked up the back panel.
There were plenty of furrowed faces when battery and storage access was taken away so LG scored brownie points with the G4 that gives you full access to both. It has some longevity worries of its own though, Moto X's leather backs age pretty badly. It will be months before we know if the G4 will suffer the same fate, but at least you can always change the back with a fresh one. Not so with a scuffed Moto X or a scratched Galaxy S6.
An overview of the two phones quickly reveals the points of contention. The LG comes with the bigger screen, but Samsung has perfected Super AMOLED. The G4 has unique camera features and a retooled camera software. The Galaxy S6 focused on getting the fingerprint sensor right and improving the health-tracking hardware.
The Samsung also has the upper hand in processing muscle, thanks to Samsung's semiconductor fabs, while LG had to work around Qualcomm's difficult transition to next-gen processors.
We'll dive into the details of these skirmishes, but we'll start with a mile high view and compare the hardware.
Samsung designers used to put practicality above all and even tried to appease those who didn't like the plastic look with faux leather designs. That didn't work out so the Galaxy S6 brings the favorite combo of the corporate world - metal and glass. Such designs have been around for years so it's not very innovative, but there's a reason the combo has stuck around for so long.
LG isn't treading new ground with the leather back either, but Motorola's former laser focus on the US means the Moto X is still quite rare. LG's design with the back buttons was already recognizable, but the company added a decorative stitching and a slight curve to the phone's body to make it truly unique.
Note that while we keep mentioning the leather back it's only an option - and an expensive one at that. By default the LG G4 comes with a plastic back, which isn't nearly as nice. Actually, we prefer G3's brushed metal-effect plastic. The Samsung is more consistent in this regard, your only worry is availability of the color you picked.
The Galaxy S6 has an optional extra in a way too, the double-curved screen of the Galaxy S6 edge. Unlike the gentle arc of the G4, the sides of the S6 edge screen slope off to offer both a unique look and additional functionality. You pay the early adopter fee for that one though.
Despite the tangible 0.4" difference in screen size, the two phones aren't that different in size. The Galaxy S6 measures 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm and weighs 138g, while the LG G4 is 148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8mm and weighs 155g.
The extra width on the G4 will affect handling, if you have smaller hands you may find it difficult to hold the phone and use it with one hand. The thickness adds to the bulk as well, while the slight curve makes it seem even thicker.
The Galaxy S6 is not the most compact device possible either, but the lower screen bezel holds the fingerprint reader (aka hardware Home key) and the capacitive Back and App switcher keys. The LG uses on-screen keys, which leave the lower bezel empty and eat into the screen real estate.
If you have used a 5" phone before you shouldn't have issues with either of these. The LG G4 curved, rounded back fits well in the hand. The curve also makes it hug your leg more easily if you keep it in your pants' pocket.
The Galaxy S6 sits well in the hand too, the front and back glass panels have beveled edges, as does the aluminum rim. This makes side-swiping gestures smooth and make for a sleek in-hand feel. However, the flat, smooth glass on the back doesn't offer much grip. Neither does the aluminum for that matter.
The curve of the LG G4 is so slight it may be hard to see unless you have something straight to compare it against. So its impact on usability is fairly small, but it's there reaching for the top and bottom edges of the screen is just a bit easier because the screen curves forward to meet your finger.
Both phones have capable selfie cameras above the screen, both with 4:3 sensors (despite the widescreen main cameras). The LG G4 brings 8MP with 1080p video, while the Galaxy S5 is down on still resolution - 5MP - but wins on video resolution - 1440p (aka QHD).
Around the back are the impressive 16MP main cameras of both phones. We'll cover them in detail in a later chapter, for now we'll just point out the hardware differences. The thin Galaxy S6 has a protruding camera, that doesn't really add to the bulk, but you need to be careful with it. Next to the camera is LED flash and the heart rate sensor.
The LG G4 camera also protrudes slightly, despite its thicker body. It also comes with a single-LED flash as the second LED that was on the G3 has been replaced by the Color Spectrum Sensor. The G4 camera carries over the IR emitters for the Laser autofocus.
Also here are the only three hardware buttons on the LG G4. They are placed on the centerline of the phone, just below the camera. Some find this positioning more natural as their index finger lies right on the buttons when they hold the phone. Depending on your grip they may be a bit hard to reach though.
The Galaxy S6 sticks to the classics - the Power button on one side, the volume controls (this time separate buttons) on the other. They are easy to reach and the volume buttons can be used as a hardware shutter key for the camera (this isn't very comfortable with the G4 buttons).
Both phones have IR blasters on top, used to control TVs and other AV equipment, air conditioners even.
Neither company went for stereo speakers, though both companies have plenty to say about how loud they've made their sole speakers. We'll check those claims later, but note the positioning. The Galaxy S6 places its speaker on the bottom (so it doesn't get muffled as easily). The LG G4 speaker is on the back, but the curved design gives it a bit of breathing room.
Samsung caused a big upset when it permanently affixed the back cover, which means you can't access the battery. The company also dropped the microSD card slot, citing the performance hit users may experience with cheap cards.
LG stuck to its guns though and is now one of few companies that give you access to the battery and let you expand your storage at your leisure.
Samsung does offer wireless charging though, supporting both Qi and PMA standards. This makes it more likely that you'll find a venue - restaurant, airport or something else - that offer your brand of wireless charging. The LG G4 can gain Qi charging capabilities too with the right back cover.
Winner: Tie. Samsung went back to the drawing board and produced its best-looking design yet. The Galaxy S6 is a very attractive phone made of quality materials, thin too if that's your thing. The sealed battery and no memory expansion are deal-breakers for some though.
The LG G4 - if you get the optional leather back - can look very upscale too. It may be a bit too large for some, it's certainly thicker than it needed to be. The curve doesn't add much to usability. Even if the leather back gets scuffed, you can easily replace it, battery and memory card too.
QHD screen resolution is a necessary spec these days, but for both our contenders it's more than just marketing. The LG G4 fills a roomy 5.5" screen with 2,560 x 1,440px resolution, at that diagonal 1080p is slightly less than perfect and nothing less than perfect will do for flagships.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a smaller screen, 5.1", but the Super AMOLED display has a PenTile matrix so the extra resolution goes towards keeping the sub-pixel sharpness up to par.
The G3 screen impressed with its size and resolution last year, but the contrast and color rendering were fairly disappointing. The new Quantum Dot display addresses both of those concerns and the phone now displays vivid colors. LG collaborated with DCI (which normally works with Hollywood) and achieved 98% coverage of their standard.
LG also hints that Super AMOLED's ability to go over 100% causes oversaturation, but Samsung left that as a choice to the user - the AMOLED photo mode aims for perfect, while other modes offer richer (if less accurate) colors.
Viewing angles on both screens are perfect, with no noticeable color shift from any vantage point.
Color aside, LG pushed the screen contrast ratio above 1,200:1, which is pretty great for an LCD and a massive improvement over the sub-800:1 of the G3. It shows too, combined with the better color rendering the LG G4 offers a much more vivid picture than its predecessor.
LG couldn't fix the maximum brightness though, it still hovers around 550nits. That's not all that much and the brightness slider isn't very helpful for fine tuning. When it's at the 50% position the screen only does 110nits, which is nearly unusable. This leaves you the other 50% to go the rest of the 400+ nits.
The Super AMOLED on the Samsung Galaxy S6 tops out at under 500nits if you want to set brightness manually, but it's best to leave the Auto toggle on. It conserves battery by reducing the brightness, but it can push it all the way up to 750nits if needed. That's beyond what you get from the manual setting or from the LG G4 for that matter.
Super AMOLED screens used to be darker than most LCDs so well done Samsung. Contrast is infinite, not accounting for ambient light reflections.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
The LG G3 screen was quite reflective so reading off it was difficult in direct sunlight. Even though LG didn't improve the brightness, it cut down some of the reflectivity making the screen noticeably easier to read.
It's still nowhere near the Galaxy S6 display though, which is much easier to use in broad daylight. Note that the S6 score was done with brightness set manually, if you leave it on Auto it will stay legible in even more difficult conditions.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
For protection, the Galaxy S6 uses Gorilla Glass 4 (also used for the back glass panel), while the LG G3 is on Gorilla Glass 3. Corning advertised GG4 as better at surviving drops, but LG has its own trick up its sleeve - the concave curve of the screen means the glass - at least the center, certainly not the edges - is kept away from the surface when the phone falls on its face.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. While smaller, the Super AMOLED offers the better viewing experience - the performance outdoor is much better and images are generally slightly punchier (or not, if you choose so).
The LG G4 could have done more to increase brightness and sunlight legibility, though the contrast and colors are great. If you're looking for screen real estate, the G4 is closer to the Galaxy Note 4 than the S6. It still remains one of the most compact phones with a 5.5-inch screen so if you absolutely want the biggest screen on a phone that you can still fit inside your pocket, the G4 might as well be the better choice.
Qualcomm traditionally had the upper hand when it comes to connectivity, but Samsung's Exynos line has since caught up. This leaves the Galaxy S6 and LG G4 pretty evenly matched on connectivity, but there are some key differences.
Let's start with the basics, if you can call 400Mbps Cat. 6 LTE that. Both phones have it and fall back to 42Mbps HSPA+ if there's no LTE around. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is also supported, as is HD Voice (both features need support from your carrier).
At home you can make use of the latest Wi-Fi routers with 802.11ac support. Other local connections are handled over Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX for better quality if you use Bluetooth speakers. The Galaxy S6 also has ANT+, which is used in some sport sensors.
Wired connectivity is handled by the USB 2.0 port at the bottom of both phones, but the LG G4 has the upper hand thanks to SlimPort 4K. It allows you to control a UHD TV from your G4 via the wired HDMI connection. The Galaxy S6 lacks even basic MHL support, so only wireless video streaming would work for it.
LG has also kept the FM radio receiver on board, while Samsung did not.
For positioning both phones can rely on GPS, GLONASS and Beidou, with a barometer to help in dense urban environments.
Winner: LG G4. The 4K wired TV out is a big deal even if most 4K TVs are smart enough to stream the file over DLNA. The FM radio is nice thing to have too.
The Galaxy S6 is well-stocked aside from those two use cases. It has ANT+ too, which might come in handy if you have some compatible sports sensors lying around.
While we pointed out the thickness of the LG G4 we should be fair and note that it has the bigger battery too - 3,000mAh. That capacity hasn't changed since the LG G2 though, so some movement on this front would have been welcome.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 actually went back compared to its predecessor, 50mAh but still it's a clear sign that the company is looking to its more efficient chipset and the screen to use less power.
And that strategy proved effective. The 14nm manufacturing process of the Exynos 6 chipset is a great advantage, the Super AMOLED screen advancements help too. Note that we run the tests with the brightness slider at 50% where the Galaxy S6 puts out nearly double the brightness compared to the LG G4.
Even without that the Galaxy S6 scores a very definitive victory, enough to last you three days of casual usage rather than the two you'll get from the G4. The S6 wins in all three individual tests, with crushing victories in the Web and Video tests.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 lasts 3 hours more browsing the web, 5 hours more playing video. If that wasn't enough, it lasts 3 hours longer in the call test too.
Basically any use pattern you may have, the S6 will last longer. The LG G4 would have depleted its battery even faster if the test was done at even brightness.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6. With better brightness and longer battery life, this was a strong victory for the Samsung.
LG G4 endurance degraded compared to the G3. Maybe Qualcomm deserves some of the blame, but either way it's not what you want to hear about a new flagship - "almost as good as the old one."