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LG G4 vs. Samsung Galaxy S6: Which Android phone should you buy?

Update on 5-22-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: After spending some time with the G4, we’ve published an in-depth, holistic review. Give it a read for our most recent impressions.

It’s finally official: LG unveiled its next flagship, the LG G4, at events simulcasted throughout the globe. With an exterior engineered around the tenant of “comfortable elegance” and a litany of hardware enhancements over last year’s model, the Korea-based electronics giant has made what is calls a “handmade masterpiece.”

But the G4 isn’t the only fancy new handset on the block. Samsung released its own highly anticipated smartphone, the Galaxy S6, to critical acclaim last month — DT’s own Ted Kritsonis scored them a 4.5/5. And if demand is any indication, it’s a very compelling devices in its own right.

The obvious question, then, is how the G4 measures up to the S6, arguably its biggest rival. While we’ve yet to put LG’s smartphone through its paces, we’ve cursorily compared the two in the meantime to illustrate the biggest differences.

Design

When you walk into a store, a smartphone’s design is what attracts you, and what sticks with you. After all, after you buy that smartphone, you’ll see it a countless number of instances every day for years; it may sound like common sense, but unless you want to end up regretting your purchase every time you pull it out of your pocket, you want a phone with a design that you’ll find pleasing.

LG claims the shock-absorbing bend makes the G4 20 percent more durable than the G3

What about the G4’s? It’s less striking than refined — there aren’t many surprises in store for those already familiar with the LG G3. It adopts the same, inoffensive design language, delegating the speaker, power, and volume buttons to the upper back for a minimalist presentation. It’s just as curvaceous, too: the rear panel arcs as it tapers on either side, a contoured bezel borders the display, and the entire outer shell itself is ever-so-slightly curved. That last characteristic is a major selling point — LG claims the shock-absorbing bend makes the G4 20 percent more durable than the G3. The effect, lucky for those put off by the G Flex 2’s exaggerated angle, is nearly imperceptible.

The Galaxy S6 is flat, by contrast. Samsung opted for Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and rear, which fabricator Corning claims is twice as tough as Gorilla Glass 3, the iteration in use on the G4. But the display glass is just the beginning of the aesthetic differences between the phones. The Galaxy S6 is a refinement of Samsung’s design paradigms, retaining the signature Galaxy home button and sensor placement. There are, however, touches worth noting, like a metal bezel made entirely of aluminum, bottom-level speaker placement (the G4’s is on the back), and a bulging camera module.

LG G4 vs. Galaxy S6
Jeffery Van Camp/Digital Trends

If some of those sound like compromises, they are. Samsung made them in the pursuit of thinness, which it definitely achieved — the Galaxy S6 measures just 6.8mm, a number the 9.4mm thick LG G4, can’t touch.

But the G4 is a standout in other areas, namely some of its removable (unlike the S6) back covers. LG says material engineers spent more than three years researching and developing the leather, which uses Gutermann’s Mara sewing threads for the stitching. It’s very soft to the touch (a characteristic the company attributes to its proprietary, 3-month vegetable tanning process), and in our limited experience it’s also fairly resistant to scratching.

If leather isn’t to your liking, though, LG will offer three “metallic craft” plastic covers in three colors: “titan black,” “shiny gold,” and “ceramic white.” Like the brushed finish on the G3’s rear panel, they definitely won’t be mistaken for metal, but they’re an appealingly neutral alternative to the more conspicuous leather.

In terms of coloration, the S6 and G4 are evenly matched. The S6 comes in white, black, gold, and blue, while the G4 will be available in black, beige, blue, and yellow.

What about size, you ask? While it’s true the G4’s display is a few tenths of an inch larger than the Galaxy S6’s (5.5 inches versus 5.1 inches), it never feels unwieldy — like the G3 before it, LG’s managed to squeeze the panel into a relatively compact frame. One-handed operation is out of the question for most, but it’s never uncomfortably large.

– Winner: LG G4 (so far)

The LG G4 is more comfortable to hold and practical, but the Galaxy S6 does look prettier with its dual-glass sides.

Processing power

The internals are where things get interesting. The Galaxy S6 eschews Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC for the in-house, 64-bit Exynos 7420. It’s an eight-core monster of a chip, packing more than enough oomph to send the Galaxy S6 soaring past competitors in benchmarks.

LG chose the less exotic route. A Snapdragon 808 processor powers the G4, which the company says is very purposeful — it collaborated with Qualcomm to “optimize” the processor. LG may have had its reasons to skip the 810, but optimizations may not be enough to push it over the performance gap.

– Winner: TBA

LG’s processor is slightly weaker, but may produce better battery life.

Display

The Galaxy S6 made the jump to Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) AMOLED to much fanfare, but it was a catch-up move, in a sense — the G3 achieved that a year ago, but with compromises in brightness and contrast. The G4’s panel is an improvement in every way. It’s what LG calls a “Quantum” LCD IPS display: by using negatively charged liquid crystal instead of the typical positive and leveraging a color-transforming backlight, LG says the G4 is able to reproduce more accurate, less saturated colors than all other competing display technologies.

LG G4 vs. Galaxy S6

Our initial comparison between the S6 and G4 screen yielded mixed results. Some colors, like red, looked far better on the G4, but the differences were harder to perceive in photographs with lots of blues and greens. It’ll take more testing to make a definitive call, but LCD does have its drawbacks — blacks on AMOLED are inherently better, for one, and power consumption is, in some cases, lower. We also noticed a yellowish tinge on the S6, a tinge that remained even after switching off the Adaptive setting in the display options. It’s possible we have a bad panel, but a similar, subtler shift towards warmer colors was observable on the our Nexus 6, too. There definitely appears to be something to LG’s claims.

– Winner: LG G4 (so far)

Head to head, LG’s screen looked better. Samsung also doesn’t fully take advantage of its AMOLED screen, rarely showing deep blacks.

Battery and storage

The other divergences are many. The G4 has a 3000mAh battery, while the S6 settles for 2550mAh. We haven’t formally tested the G4, but it certainly wins by numbers alone (numbers sometimes lie, of course.) Another point to consider: the battery’s removable, which definitely lends a bit more flexibility.

When it comes to storage, Samsung has taken the very Apple-like approach of removing its MicroSD slot and instead selling 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB models of the Galaxy S6. That’s fine, but we like LG’s decision to make a 32GB model that includes an MicroSD slot expandable up to 2TB.

– Winner: LG G4 (by a landslide)

Camera

Considering the amount of use smartphone cameras get, it’s no LG and Samsung spend so much time improving them. The S6, for its part, packs 16-megapixel back-facing shooter with a f/1.9 aperture lens and built-in optical stabilization. That falls slightly short of the G4’s specifications: f/1.8 aperture — “the brightest lens in the world on a smartphone,” LG says — and “three-dimensional optical stabilization,” which ups the compensation level and accounts for motion on the z-axis (forward and backward) in addition to the x (vertical) and y axes (horizontal).

LG G4 vs. Galaxy S6
Jeffery Van Camp/Digital Trends

That’s not the only trick the G4 has up its sleeve, though. LG’s “color spectrum sensor” is an inconspicuous little meter beneath the flash that uses light and object recognition to “read color as you understand it with your own eyes.” It’s meant to help automatically adjust white balance and color temperature, but that’s proven hard to test in our short time with the G4. It’ll take shooting in different lighting environments to highlight the differences, if any, the new sensor makes.

We should also note that the G4 does have a full manual mode for adjusting ISO and other elements, and can shoot in RAW format, which is a plus for any serious photographers.

– Winner: LG G4 (so far)

So far, we are impressed with the LG G4’s ability to replicate the natural color of objects and not wash them out, though it did tend to make objects bolder and brighter than in real life.

Overall winner: LG G4 (so far)

So far, who is the winner? Probably the G4. While we haven’t had a chance to thoroughly review the hardware yet, what we’ve observed so far is enough to give it the edge over the S6. Accessories like leather backing aside, the display’s colors are incredibly impressive. The camera, too, seems to take shots at least as bright and colorful as the S6, although we’ll have to take a lot more shots to see if it holds up in dimmer lights. And the G4 just feels great in the hand — it’s light and conforms to the curve of your fingers, very unlike the angular and hefty competition.

If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, then, we recommend waiting for the LG G4. Check back for our full review.

Spec comparison

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

LG G4

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 9.58.36 AM

Size 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 (mm) 148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 (mm)
Weight 138g 155g
Screen 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED 5.5-inch IPS LCD
Resolution 1,440 x 2,560 pixels 1,440 x 2,560 pixels
OS Android 5.0.1 Lollipop with TouchWiz Android 5.1 Lollipop with LG UX 4.0
Storage 32GB, 64GB, 128GB (non-expandable) 32GB (expandable up to 2 terabytes)
SD Card Slot No Yes
Processor Octa-core 4×2.1GHz + 4×1.5GHz 64-bit 14nm Samsung Exynos Hexa-core 2×1.8GHz + 4×1.44GHz 64-bit 20nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
RAM 3GB LPDDR4 3GB LPDDR4
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, NFC Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, NFC
Camera Front 5MP, Rear 16MP Front 8MP, Rear 16MP
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.1 LE Yes, version 4.1 LE
Sensors Accelerometer, barometer, compass, gyroscope, heart rate monitor Accelerometer, barometer, compass, gyroscope
Fingerprint sensor Yes No
Battery 2,550mAh (non-removable) 3,000mAh (removable)
Charger USB 2.0, PowerMat wireless, Qi wireless USB 2.0, Qi wireless with compatible case
Colors White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz Grey, White, Gold, Blue
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Ave. Price $199.99 to $679.92 TBA
Availability April 10 on AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Cricket, and U.S. Cellular Late May/early June on AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular
DT Review Samsung Galaxy S6 Review Hands On: LG G4