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LG G Flex deep-dive review: The curious case of the curved phone

February 4, 2014 06:30 AM ET

As its name suggests, the G Flex is flexible, to a degree. If you set the phone down flat on its face and apply heavy pressure to its back, the device flexes slightly downward. It's impressive from an engineering perspective -- and it could potentially help avoid breakage if, say, you had the phone in your back pocket and sat on it -- but with a device this size, I'm not sure how frequently the real-world benefits will come into play.

Like the G2 before it, the G Flex has no physical buttons on its front or sides; instead, the power and volume buttons are located on the phone's back panel. That configuration bothers me less here than it did on the smaller G2, perhaps because of the ergonomic differences presented by this device's size, but I still find it to be a rather awkward arrangement. LG does offer a way to turn on the screen by tapping twice on the display, which is convenient in theory but works too inconsistently to be reliable.

One nice touch: The phone's rear-facing power button lights up to alert you of new messages and other notifications. There's also a dot-sized LED on the front of the phone that functions the same way.

The G Flex has one small speaker grille on the lower-right corner of its back side that delivers respectably decent audio quality by smartphone standards. The phone has a headphone jack and micro-USB port on its bottom edge; the micro-USB port doubles as an HDMI-out port with the aid of a SlimPort adapter.

Performance

LG's G Flex packs plenty of punch under its hood, with a 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. As you'd expect, the phone is fast as can be; everything's been smooth and snappy during my time with the device, and I haven't run into any stutters or performance-related problems.

The G Flex also excels in the realm of stamina: The phone boasts a 3500mAh non-removable battery that should satisfy even the most demanding of needs. I've consistently made it from morning to night without ever coming close to hitting empty; even on days with relatively heavy usage -- as much as three to four hours of screen-on time with a mix of phone calls, video streaming and general Web browsing activity -- the phone's had close to half its charge remaining by the time I hit the hay.

(The T-Mobile version of the G Flex, by the way, is listed as having a 3400mAh battery instead of a 3500mAh unit. LG tells me the battery is actually identical across all the models and the discrepancy is just the result of T-Mobile measuring battery capacity in a different way than other carriers.)

The G Flex comes with 32GB of internal storage, about 24GB of which is available after you factor in the operating system and various preloaded software. There is no SD card slot for external storage expansion.

I've found voice call quality on the phone to be fine, though I haven't been able to detect any of the "enhanced voice and sound quality" that's said to result from the device's curve. The phone supports near-field communication (NFC) for contact-free payments and data transfers. It does not, however, support wireless charging.

LG G Flex
The G Flex's 13-megapixel rear-facing camera takes reasonably good but unexceptional photos.

The G Flex's 13-megapixel rear-facing camera is okay but unexceptional. As with the G2, I've found the phone's photos to be somewhat dull and washed out, particularly with outdoor shots. The phone lacks optical image stabilization and also struggles to capture moving objects without adding in a detrimental amount of motion blur. I can detect a visible amount of background noise in the G Flex's images, too, but that's a common issue with smartphone photos and is really only noticeable if you're viewing the images zoomed in at full resolution.

The G Flex does do a decent job with low-light conditions, and LG's camera software is easy to use with a variety of shooting options. For most casual photo-taking purposes, the phone's camera should be good enough, but it definitely falls below the level of quality provided by other devices in its class, such as Sony's recent Xperia Z1S.

The G Flex is capable of shooting 1080p-quality HD video through both its main camera and its 2.1-megapixel front-facing lens.



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