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It’s easy to punt a flagship smartphone to the masses. Give it a fast processor, cram it with an oversized camera sensor and huge screen and lastly, make sure it has heaps of sex appeal. But mid range devices are a little more tricky than that.
Manufacturers can launch smaller phones with completely different names that have nothing to do with the flagships at all, or they can reproduce the flagship but shrink practically everything down. This is what LG has largely done with the Beat range. But is this such a bad thing?
The LG G4 is an immense piece of engineering, so shrinking it down in both specifications and price shouldn’t detract from the phone itself. While you might say that, and I explicitly believe that in some cases, other times, it means that the mid range device doesn’t really have its own personality.
But what can be said about the LG G4 Beat then?
For one, it fills a box modelled on that of its larger brother, which doesn’t exactly bode well.
Nevertheless, we get a fast-charging 2.0A charger and a fairly long USB cable, which is nice. Unfortunately, LG hasn’t bundled the brilliant Quadbeat 3 earphones with the device.
Aesthetics and design
Beyond the box, it’s the content that matters. Slipping the device out, you’ll won’t be ridiculed for thinking that LG has put a G4 in the box instead of the Beat. These two devices are almost identical.
Where they do differ are the smaller details. The Beat is thicker and occupies slightly less surface area with its 5.2-inch screen and overall smaller footprint. There’s a slightly different rear framework around the camera and buttons at the rear and a rim around the device. I don’t quite like this, and does look a bit strange, but for one, the glossy fibreglass-like rear panel actually works well here.
Another difference is the front camera placement, which is slightly different (duh!).
Overall if there’s one sentence that could sum it all up, it’s this: it’s a small LG G4. Enough said.
Specifications and internals
Beyond the facade, LG has wrung the budget-minded changes.
Where LG really falls flat on its face is the storage. You’re only getting 8GB of internal legroom here, which is frankly ridiculous for a R5000 device. Of this, only around 3GB is usable, so we’re really not sure who LG is trying to screw over here. Luckily, for LG, there’s an SD expansion slot.
Dimensions: 142.7mm x 72.6mm x 9.9mm
Display: 5.2-inch, 1920×1080, 423ppi
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core | quad-core Cortex A53 1.5GHz & quad-core Cortex A53 1.0GHz | Adreno 405 GPU | 1.5GB RAM
Storage: 8GB (Around 3GB usable), microSD card expansion
Imaging: Rear: 13MP with laser focus | Front: 5MP
Video: 1080p at 30fps
Battery: 2300mAh removable
Android: 5.1.1 Lollipop
Considering that LG’s marketing the Beat as a mildly capable camera phone, this lack of storage is inexcusable.
Up front, there’s a 5.2-inch 1080p screen, along with a 5MP camera and an 8MP rear snapper. Finally, keeping the lights on is a 2300mAh battery which is a little small considering how fat this thing is.
As half an LG G4, it’s about 50% less sprightly when looking at benchmarks.
Overall, the octa-core Snapdragon 615 is no slouch, so multitasking is quick and hassle free on the device (note, it’s only slightly slower than the LG G3). Gaming performance isn’t bad either, with titles running rather smoothly at 1080p.
My experience with the LG G4 Beat is obviously tainted by using the G4 every day, but the camera is nowhere near as stellar as the latter’s. You could do better at this price with other camera-centric smartphones. It’s not all doom and gloom though.
Bundled with the same brilliant camera software, the LG G4 Beat does serve nicely as a camera phone, sucking in low light images with ease and reproducing vista’s nicely without overexposure on bright, sunny days. But there were a few issues. I often experienced oversaturation on a number of snaps, and macro imagery doesn’t work as well as on the LG G4. Frankly, manual focusing on the Beat is more difficult, and that’s perhaps due to the lack of finesse the screen offers.
Nevertheless, it’s probably that screen that helps the Beat outlast it’s larger brother in battery life. I could easily get a day and a half from the Beat on one charge, while I’d get around 19-hours maximum on the LG G4. Fewer pixels matter in the battery war.
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In full sunlight, the camera does a good job of snapping objects a fair distance away.
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Manual mode's focus control isn't as precise as one would expect.
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Sometimes you do manage to get it right though.
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Snapping images into the sun is no problem thanks to the manual mode's exposure settings.
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Indoor snaps leave a lot to be desired.
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If you're into nature photography, you won't have any problems snapping flowers in low light.
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There's that oversaturation I spoke of/.
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Overall, it didn't exactly feel like a camera phone at all.
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LG largely just slapped the LG G4's camera software on a worse camera.
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Here's a case of overexposure too in auto mode.
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Auto mode was average really. It won't set your heart aflutter.
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With lower light than usual, snaps of vistas will look decidedly dreary, even after all the manual settings have been honed.
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But I should reiterate that the lack of storage space really counts against this phone. In 2015, 8GB is just not enough, and I was deleting images more often than I was able to snap them. Seriously idiotic move, LG.
And for this, practicality takes a knock as well.
While the device is perfect for the fashionable — with LG bundling two additional rear covers alongside the phone — you can’t store much on it at all.
With that ignored, it’s a comfortable daily driver. The 5.0- to 5.2-inch form factor has always been the ideal screen size for a pocket, and like it’s larger brother, it feels wonderful in the hand. Unfortunately, also like its brother, the screen does tend to scratch itself at the mere sight of something sharp, which isn’t what I’d expect from a R5000 phone.
Value for money
And for R5000, is it worth it?
Not a chance, considering that there are other devices in this price range that will pummel it on value alone. LG really has oversold the Beat.
And if you’d like me to mention a few devices: the Huawei P8 Lite, the Huawei G7 and the Samsung Galaxy A5 all come to mind. Although these may not boast the style or camera quality of the G4 Beat, they’re arguably more rounded smartphones.
So, to finally answer the question I posed earlier in this review: does shrinking the LG G4 down into the LG G4 Beat, slapping a fairly hefty price tag on it and giving it a leather jacket detract from the phone itself?
Not only is it overpriced, the LG G4 Beat is the sibling in the family that always had the potential but ultimately never lived up to its other brother’s achievements. Unfortunately, with that name and price tag, it’s something that the LG G4 Beat will have to live with forever.
Verdict: This isn’t LG’s best attempt at the mid range phone but it is better than the LG G3 Beat, which really should die in a fire. It has oodles of style and does well in its multitasking faculties, but it lacks in obvious, simple areas like storage capacity and asking price. The camera’s also gravely disappointing too. Would I buy one? No, but if you’re looking for a phone that’ll match the pizzazz of your selfies, perhaps the LG G4 Beat is the phone for you.