Both the HTC One (M8) and LG G3 are powerful, top-tier Android handsets – and are easily two of the best smartphones of 2014. But do any of their key differences tip the scales one way or the other? Read on, as Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the two smartphones.
Size is one of the most obvious differences between the LG G3 and HTC One (M8). While the devices' heights are practically identical (just a 0.1 mm difference), there’s a more notable discrepancy when it comes to width. There the G3 is 6 percent wider than the One M8. It’s not a big difference, but the One feels a bit more comfortable in my hand than its rival. The HTC device is also 6 percent thicker. Both handsets, however, have curved backs and, in practice, neither feels noticeably thinner than the other.
The finish on the two handsets may look similar, but there’s a significant difference in build materials. The HTC handset features an aluminium construction that’s cold to the touch, while the G3 opts for a faux metal (plastic) back cover.
Both approaches have their positives. While the One feels a little more premium in the hand, the G3’s plastic construction helps it to shed some weight, coming in at 7 percent lighter. This sort of thing tends to come down to personal preference, and it’s worth seeing how the devices feel in your hand before making a decision.
What’s far more noticeable is the significant disparity in display size. At 5.5-inches, the G3’s screen gives you 21 percent more display real estate:
Considering the similar dimensions of the handsets, the extra screen space is a big win for LG’s device. While the difference isn’t quite as pronounced as say, the One (M8) vs. the iPhone 5S, the G3’s display feels significantly roomier than its rival’s, whether you’re browsing the web, reading books or thumbing through your image gallery.
Despite its larger size, the G3's screen also packs in 11 percent more pixels per inch. It's hard to get too nitpicky about this pixel discrepancy, as the G3's Quad HD screen is bordering on overkill, but we can still appreciate the difference. Just know that it basically comes down to "incredibly sharp" vs. "very sharp."
While the G3's display is significantly larger and sharper than the One’s, its colors aren’t quite as vibrant. Its contrast could also be a little better. Both devices are solid in this respect, but content on the G3 looks a touch muted in comparison.
Given that the G3 packs the same processor as the One (M8), and at least as much RAM (it ships with either 2 GB or 3 GB depending on which storage tier you buy), there are a couple of performance issues that we have to attribute to the device’s Quad HD display. While performance on the HTC device is consistently buttery-smooth, things aren’t quite as snappy on the G3 ... at least not when you take it out of the box. There are no significant issues, but things like navigating the UI and opening and closing apps are a touch laggy.
Luckily, there is a fairly simple way to all but eliminate this issue. If you head into the G3’s settings menu and switch from Dalvik to Android runtime (ART), things instantly speed up. After making the change, excepting the occasional stutter, performance was roughly equal to the One's. And despite this being an experimental setting, I didn’t notice any stability issues. Enabling ART is a straightforward process, and you’ll find full details on how to do so in our full review.
The G3’s screen also isn’t quite as battery-friendly as the One’s. With the display set to 75 percent brightness, the handset managed 6 hours 20 minutes of continuous video streaming over Wi-Fi. Under the same conditions, the One ran for 9 hours 20 minutes before giving out. That’s 47 percent more running time on the M8 – a big win for HTC.
Under typical use, the G3's battery life wasn't too much of a concern. Despite coming dangerously close to conking out on some of our heavier-use days, we think it will still be an all-day phone for all but the biggest power users. The G3 also has a removable back cover, making battery replacement a breeze.
Another area where the One clearly wins out against the G3 is audio. With its dual front-facing speakers (dubbed BoomSound by HTC's marketing department), the One M8 provides clearer, bassier audio than the G3's single rear speaker does. It’s not that there's anything wrong with the G3’s speaker, it's more that the One’s is unusually good – at least by smartphone standards.
In our review, we found it easy to recommend the One’s camera. Despite packing just 4 megapixels (HTC calls them “Ultrapixels”), it produces some great results. The handset is fitted with dual rear lenses, allowing post-snap effects such as refocusing. Applying the effects is sometimes a little hit-and-miss, but in general they add significant value to the device’s camera. The One's camera is also quite good in low-lit conditions.
All things considered, though, we’d have to give the G3’s 13 MP shooter the prize for best optics. Tapping the device’s display to focus the camera will result in an instant snap. The handset features laser autofocusing, meaning that that process takes place in literally less time than it takes to blink. Both handsets capture shots with bright colors and good contrast, but the laser tech on the G3 makes it easier to take great pictures.
Another area where the One shines is its Extreme Power Saving Mode. This is a battery-saving feature that shuts down everything but the most essential apps and processes. It helps to keep you on the grid in a pinch. When you consider that the One's battery life is already better than the G3's, the power saving mode is the icing on the cake for anyone who’s routinely away from a power point for extended periods of time.
As far as design goes, both devices are plenty attractive. And while we’d say the metallic back of the One is a touch prettier than the G3's faux metal finish, the minimal bezels on the G3's front packs a visual punch of its own. The sides of LG's phone, which are completely devoid of buttons, also give it a slick, clean look. The G3 is also the more colorful of the two smartphones, available in violet, gold and burgundy, as well as the more standard black and white options. The One ships in gray, silver and gold.
So, all things considered, can we crown either of these devices as King of the Android flagships? The answer is, of course, no. Each device wins out against the other in a number of key categories. The LG has that huge screen and superior camera, while the HTC hits back with a higher-end build, zippier out-of-the-box performance, better audio and longer battery life. Both phones are terrific; you just need to figure out which combination of slightly different strengths and weaknesses works better for you.
If you're still stumped, feel free to check out our full reviews of the LG G3 and HTC One (M8). And if you want to throw Samsung's latest flagship into the mix, you can hit up our hands-on comparisons between the Galaxy S5 and LG G3 and between the Galaxy S5 and One M8.