LG G2 Mini Review

LG_G2_Mini (16)In October 2013 I reviewed the LG G2 and I was extremely impressed. I concluded the review with:

There is a reason LG has the slogan “Life’s Good” because this is the case when using the G2, cheesy as it sounds. There is little to find fault with. I mean this truthfully. Yes, there are a few small annoyances, but none are perfect. The G2 is very close though.

The main frustrations are ones that many users will not look to use regularly, if at all. At no point have I felt a real urge to go back to my S4. I would quite honestly have no trouble switching to the G2 as my primary device. I thought I was content with using Samsung.  LG have come in and firmly rocked the boat on this one. (full review here)

6 months on and LG have brought the G2 Mini to market. It is smaller and a little less feature rich but does it have what it takes to stand out?

Trying not to compare the Mini to the original G2 will be difficult.  The G2 brand is strong and the Mini carries this.

The G2 Mini needs to be judged on its own merits as it competes with devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, HTC One Mini and the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact.

As my current device is the Z1 Compact I am both well placed and excited to review this.

I never like to make assumptions but opting for a Mini version of the premium device in my eyes is for most, more a question of getting a device that is better suited to your needs, mainly focused around size and price rather than having the all out high end specs. Thus it is with this in consideration that I make some points throughout.

Hardware Specifications

Unlike Sony, the G2 Mini makes more sacrifices on the specifications than many would like, but this has a knock on effect for the weight and price, which could be a positive.

This said, the G2 Mini isn’t exactly a slouch.

Headline features include:

  • 4.7” touchscreen
  • Google Android 4.4 Operating System
  • 8 megapixel rear camera
  • MicroSD memory card slot
  • 8GB internal memory
  • Quad-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz

Click here to be taken through to a list of the full specifications.

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Competition

As I have already mentioned, the G2 Mini has tough competition and usually I would leave this part of the review until the end.

However the standards and competition is so tough I believe it is necessary to consider these throughout.

Without getting bogged down in the specs, they are all fairly similar, the Z1 Compact takes the crown followed by the One Mini, G2 Mini and bringing up the rear is the S4 Mini.

The G2 really should have more than 1GB of RAM as the older S4 Mini has 1.5GB.

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The G2 has the largest display at 4.7” but its overall profile is almost identical to the smaller 4.3” of the Z1 Compact. Whilst the larger display is a benefit the resolution is inferior for its size.

The G2 does have the largest battery at 2440mAh.

The Sony does have the benefit of being IP rated, something neither the G2 Mini and S4 Mini offer.

The One Mini and Z1 Compact feel best in the hand from a quality point of view.

In terms of price it will depend ultimately on what you need and desire, but all told I feel the G2 wins this.  Although the S4 Mini is cheaper, the slight differential is more than justifiable. The Compact has it all, but wields a £100 premium for the pleasure.

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If you are in the market for a Mini version of the premium devices any of them have a lot to offer, but truthfully I feel it is more between the G2 and the Z1, but then the S4 Mini has been out for a long time.

Should the rumoured S5 Mini come to fruition, it will likely be a very different story.

If you are making comparison to the original G2 the Mini is altered in the following ways.

  • 1.2GHz quad-core processor rather than 2.26
  • 1GB less RAM
  • 8GB less internal storage but the addition of a microSD slot
  • 4.7” display rather than 5.2”. The PPI also drops as a result of the resolution from 423 to 234.
  • Lacks video out and USB hosting
  • 8 megapixel camera rather than 13
  • 2440mAh battery rather rather than 3000
  • Lack of notification light

Design/Build

It goes without saying that the Mini shares some design cues from the original G2. On the surface they look very similar and to the untrained eye you would not necessarily be able to tell the differences, but they are there..

Starting on the front the G2 Mini has a sleek look.

Above the display is the earpiece, various sensors to the right along with the front facing 1.3 megapixel camera.

There are no buttons, they are built into the software. The LG logo then adorns the bottom of the display.

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There is an apparent bezel on all 4 sides of the screen, but what is quite remarkable is how the overall dimensions of the handset despite its larger size are almost identical to the Z1 Compact from Sony.  In fact it actually felt smaller in the hand to hold.

On the back of the phone, centrally located is the 8 megapixel camera with flash.

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Below this is one of the standout design features, the rear mounted power and volume buttons. LG introduced these on the G2 and it will take some time getting used to them here but they do work and certainly makes for easier in call volume control than most other handsets.

Personally I felt that these rear mounted buttons worked better on the Mini than the original G2 because of the overall size.

The back cover is removable, unlike the G2.  This means that under the back cover is the battery compartment that houses the user removable battery.

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On the upper right edge is the Micro SIM and MicroSD memory card slot. The SIM slot is the lower of the two, with the microSD sitting just above it.

The original G2 had fixed internal storage of 16GB, the Mini has the advantage of having only 8, but there is a MicroSD slot to expand this further; so you can essentially have more memory in the Mini.

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The back cover has a mesh design which gives a more premium look and feel.  On touch it is obviously plastic and felt cheaper than the Z1 Compact and HTC, but the slight mesh texture gives a better feel than the more glossy S4 Mini.

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Thanks to the removable cover and rear mounted buttons the side of the G2 Mini are kept sleek without interruption.

On the top edge there is a 3.5mm jack, microphone and IR blaster for the TV remote.

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The base is home to the microUSB connector and stereo speakers either side of this.

Display

It pains me a little to say that the screen here is below the standard I would expect.

By no means is it bad; it is quite acceptable, but in the age of HD displays the Mini is a bit minimalistic.

The S4 Mini has the same resolution and that has been on the market for a year.

The resolution is just 540 x 960 giving a PPI of 234. The Z1 Compact and One Mini have a 1280 x 720 displays with a PPI of 342 and 341 respectively, which is quite a difference.

This disparity is then made greater when you consider the G2 Mini has a 4.7” display compared to the 4.3” of the others.

Truthfully the screen is still pretty good on the G2 Mini.  It is an IPS panel which means lower power draw and good viewing angles.

The lower resolution does affect battery life for the better but put it next to the Z1 Compact and you will notice the difference.

Depending on what you are used to will ultimately depend on your thoughts.

I was a little disappointed coming from the Z1 Compact but the screen is still more than acceptable for the vast majority of what you will need it for.  Media playback is where it perhaps becomes most apparent.

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Software

LG_G2_Mini_Screenshot (47)The jury is out on what the best user interface is for a smartphone.

Some prefer the stock Android, some like the moderately customised Sony and HTC interfaces whilst others may like the much heavier Samsung Touchwiz.

It is inevitably going to be personal opinion.

Having used Android for the last 4 or 5 years I am still not sure what I prefer.

The heavier interfaces may have their downsides but they bring many features that are of benefit to many users.

The cleaner stock Android is fast, but lacks some of those value added elements unless you install apps that offer this.

Having previously used the Galaxy S4 for 1 year, I believe that I was spoilt with small additional extras that are just included by Samsung. These are additions which many of us would not think about from the outset, but make all the difference when it comes to long term use.

LG’s interface sides on the heavier of installs and out of the box of the 8GB internal memory just shy of 4 is available. By the time I had installed all of mine I was down to 1.5GB. This is before any media such as photos and music are added.

Like the G2, the Mini includes many of the value added features and explains why it eats so much of the internal memory. The kind of features I am talking about include being able to schedule text messages and change the software button layout.

LG_G2_Mini_Screenshot (19)One option I particularly like is the ability to orient the home screens into landscape mode. Too many of the latest phones can do most things in landscape and portrait mode, but few manufacturers allow the home screen to be rotated without installing a 3rd party app to do this.

LG have put together a solid all round offering. The graphics and styling makes sense but at times it feels a bit last year with many cleaner feeling themes available on other devices.

There is a lot for even an experienced user to customise on this handset, from font style and size through to the area of screen to be captured in screenshots. One option that is not present is the control of a notification light, there isn’t one.

When the G2 launched there were many device specific features that have transitioned now to the G2 Mini as well as some additions that are now present thanks to software updates.

The following is a quick overview of the key features along with my opinion.

  • KnockOn – A clever feature that makes sense when the power button is located on the rear and is not always the most natural position for some. You need to be quite firm with the taps, too softly and no response. KnockOn also becomes KnockOff as it can be used to lock the screen. Just double tap or knock the notification bar at the top of the display.
  • Knock Code – A new an innovative way of securing the device.  The display is split into 4 quarters in which a series of 2-8 taps are recorded 1 or more of the quarters.  When the screen is off and secured with a knock code you then make the relevant taps in the same formation as it was recorded, but there is no need to use the full screen to input this code.
  • Guest Mode – Essentially creating another user account that anyone can access without getting into your content. You control what the guest can access. Ideal for the kids or possibly the other half so they do not have access to or see what is on your phone and quite possibly most importantly do not do things they shouldn’t do on it,even if they didn’t intend to.
  • Plug & Pop – Quite simply as you connect a set of headphones or a USB cable you can have it automatically action the loading of a specific app.
  • Capture Plus – Great feature if you need it.  More appropriate for the mobile office worker.  Capture plus allows you to take an image of the whole web page rather than the portion that may be displayed on screen. It can be cropped accordingly.
  • Clip Tray – Stores multiple items you have copied to the clipboard ready for use later in other apps.  A similar experience to using a traditional desktop computer.
  • LG_G2_Mini_Screenshot (37)Smart Video – Look away from the display when watching a video clip and it is paused until your eyes return. It’s quite handy if you get distracted and don’t want to miss parts of the video.
  • QSlide - Allows you to have a window open on top of what you are doing in the background. For example you could have the video player open in the bottom corner of the screen whilst browsing a web page.  It worked well and I liked the ability to easily resize the window and change the opacity. I found this particularly useful when I was killing time or relaxing.  Whilst LG have not shouted too much about the following, they are included on the device out of the box and provide extra functionality to the G2.
  • File Manager – Always a handy thing to have, making access to folders and general device management that bit easier.
  • FM Radio – Often overlooked but useful. Headphones required.
  • LG Backup – Ensures key data is backed up simply and automatically – so much stuff on our phones is worth keeping.
  • Quick Memo – Think of it as a digitised scrap of paper for jotting down quick reminders and more. Useful, I used it.
  • QuickRemote – Simple to use and set up and better than Samsung’s equivalent. Set-up my lounge TV and Sky box within 90 seconds.
  • LG SmartWorld – LG’s very own app store similar to Samsung Aps. OK but I prefer Google Play.

From the original G2 there are vast differences in the software. The primary omissions include Notebook, Quick Translate, Safety Care and video guide amongst others.

There are two a few software features that were previously more focused on the camera that have now gone too.  This is likely because of how well in reality they actually worked and how often people would actually use them. The omitted features are:

  • Dual Recording/Dual Camera – Have used this previously on my Galaxy S4. There aren’t many occasions where I wish to use it but it is a nice t have especially when the device does have a front facing camera.
  • Tracking Zoom – Retaining focus on one particular item in the frame even when the camera was moved.
  • Zoom To Track –  Allows you to zoom in to part of the video footage you are recording and viewing.
  • Audio Zooming – Lets you zoom in on a particular audio stream in video footage. For example the voice of one person in a group becomes louder and more pronounced.

Of course we can not forget at the heart of this the G2 is an Android powered handset with all the normal Google services.  Download your favourite apps, navigate from A to B or stream music from Google Play it is all here.

It should be noted that LG have gone to considerable lengths to allow you to personalise the software on the device and neat tricks include being able to change the wallpaper in the app tray and the size of the app icons amongst many more.

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Connectivity

LG_G2_Mini_Screenshot (24)Unlike the G2, the Mini version does have some limitations here.  USB hosting and video out are not supported, but everything else is there.

Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC, GPS, 3G and 4G are all present.

As a result should you be looking to catch up on the news, your favourite podcast, sharing images with friends and family or completing work emails you should have most things you need to get the job done.

It is a small but important point that the microUSB port sits on the base of the device. The Z1 Compact’s side mounted microUSB port can be a bit awkward when trying to charge in a vehicle for example.

Whilst it is not present in any of the main competition, wireless charging is also not included.

Audio

Surprisingly good would be my response if you ask me about audio on the G2 Mini.  If I recall I was equally impressed with the original G2.

The HTC One M8 will beat it for overall quality and the One Mini will give it a tough time too, but that is no surprise as HTC’s BoomSound speakers are setting the standard.

The G2 Mini has pretty good clarity but lacks on the volume a little, but still hits the mid 80’s on the decibel meter.

At the higher volumes it did sound a little stretched at times, but by no means as stretched as some speakers I have tested.

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As with the original G2 the location of the speakers don’t give it the best opportunity. Right on the bottom they feel a bit more directional than I would have liked. Squeezing them into the front may have been a benefit but affected the overall dimensions, not to mention affecting the aesthetics when compared to the original G2.

The Mini lacks on the internal memory for anyone serious about music and media.  This is where the microSD can be of benefit or the 4G connectivity for streaming.

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Camera

With an 8 megapixel camera is is pretty much bang on the mark for a device of this type.

The Z1 Compact is a bit of an anomaly with its 20.7 megapixel shooter, but it is not perfect so the G2 Mini need not be left behind.

There are a couple of key features.

Pause & Resume Recording – Simply put as you record video you can pause it and then resume it again.  This means you can have one video stream from different time periods. Record parts of a football match in one video at lengths that suit you rather than lots of clips or one very long clip.

Fast snapshot – A long press on the volume down button gives you quick access to the camera even when the screen is locked.

Multi-point AF – Up to 9 focus points in one shot which gives you improved images with less blurring, great for those group photos.

These all sound great if they resulted in great final results.

Regretfully the results are mixed and I could not say why. In most instances the shots were ok and acceptable. But in quite a few, what I thought would come out as a good shot was actually disappointing.

Overall most images had a darker tone and colour balance to them than was the case at the time of capture.

I took some images on a rainy and overcast day so the light wasn’t the best but very common of an everyday scenario. The results were that the lighter colours often looked blown out against darker backgrounds, see the photos of the dog below as an example.

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Other results that appeared to look ok on screen were at times disappointing when reviewing back on the computer. The lighting and focus seemed a bit off and some had a definite noise to the image even in relative good lighting.  This was most noticeable indoors.

Some of this could be resolved through software updates however there will need to be some major work done here to bring them up to par with HTC and Sony, but some improvements would make a marked overall difference.

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Aside from the slightly disappointing results the camera app is well equipped offering various shooting modes and controls over the shot.

There is reasonable scope for the novice to the more advanced photographer.  The more advanced could even tweak the manual settings to produce a better final result, but that defeats the fast snapshot mode to some extent.

The app is not too heavy with features but rich enough to give you most of what you need for both stills and video.

It would be nice to have seen a few more editing features for a bit of fun and creativity.

As you may expect the volume controls can be used as zoom controls or a shutter button as there is no physical one.  The problem is the zoom is awkward to use because of the key positioning.  When you do capture with 4X digital zoom the result wasn’t all that bad considering.

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Battery Life

Smartly_powered_batteryThe Z1 compact is known for packing a punch here and the G2 Mini has not done bad in the time we have had it either.

From a full charge it was up for 10 hours with 25% remaining in a relatively intensive days use.

For average to lighter users 1.5 to 2 days is possible but it might be a bit of a stretch so the battery saver mode may be helpful; but it is not as good or as powerful as STAMINA mode. It does not offer quite such advanced power management controls.

I think you will generally be impressed with the performance here, it has done better than I expected, but lives up to the standard it needs to.  Whilst it lasts past the normal working day for most I would not be convinced of getting a full second day out of it.

LG_G2_Mini (20)Price

Naturally nobody wants to pay more than they have to in order to get what they want, but at some point there needs to be consideration for this.

The G2 Mini comes in at what I believe to be a fairly justifiable price for the features that it offers, £250 including VAT at the time of launch and writing.

However there is no denying that the likes of the Motorola Moto G that comes in somewhere around £80 less has a lot to offer and may be a viable alternative; but my feeling is what it makes up for in price it may lack in advanced software and user experience tweaks that over the life of ownership could easily warrant the additional initial spend.

As an owner of the Z1 Compact I am well aware of just how powerful the handset is.  I am also apparently aware of its downfalls.  It’s size considering the smaller screen is one as is weight another, but there is the solid and more premium feel.

It will always be about finding what is right for you.  But over 24 months, the Compact which is the more capable phone is £100 dearer or roughly a further £5 per month, which for many is not justifiable or necessary for the additional features it brings.

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Conclusion

Over the time I have been using the G2 Mini I have had a generally positive user experience, there is a lot to like about it.

It has not won me over like the original G2 did, but its not far off the mark., reingniting that spark I have for LG products.

Whilst I want to judge the G2 on its own merits I can not help compare it to the more expensive Z1 Compact.

In terms of overall size the G2 Mini wins, but the compact offers some features the G2 doesn’t but video out and USB hosting will not be for all, appealing to the more techi and business users.

The Z1 Compact and even Samsung S4 Mini beat the G2 Mini for camera performance but a software update could bring it up to par.

My concerns about the slightly slower processor and RAM did not really present itself as an issue during my time with it. A few months use and the difference may be more noticeable but everything seemed slick.

I can’t help but really like the G2 Mini I will genuinely be sad to hand it back.

It feels like the underdog in the race of the big brands, but an underdog that deserves its 5 minutes of fame because it has so much to offer and is a genuine candidate for your next phone, it just doesn’t get the attention of the ‘more desired’ alternatives.

To get your hands on a LG G2 Mini, click here.

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About Jon

Constantly challenging opinions and looking for new opportunities, Jon develops the product ranges and business activities and very much strives to maintaining growth and taking Clove in to the future.

Never knowing when to stop, he spends too much time in the office! He's very organised; writes lists, reports, spreadsheets, you name it, he's on to it!! When he does relax, however, he can be found driving his pride and joy (his Range Rover Sport), walking his Dog, down the pub or at a local restaurant. He does too like the finer things in life and often lives beyond his means, only the best hotels will do.

Comments

  1. a nice review

  2. Not a nice review, an excellent review. Others I’ve read are very biased towards personal preferences having used alternative phones and ignoring what the reader has in mind on his or her wish list. To me, the LG G2 Mini fits very nicely with what I want. Screen not up to par? It’s IPS which very few other reviews even mention and whilst nice to have HD resolution by no means essential. I also have an LG G3 which has a screen to die for and when I showed it to a friend in bright daylight it was hardly readable, and it’s going back because its too big in my pocket and I’m likely to break it if its in my back pocket and I sit on it. Yes it gives me bragging rights but so what? And even better, you’ve put a date on this review, other review sites should take note.

    • Josh Bethell says:

      Cheers for the kind words Adrian. We always try to pitch our reviews at the level of the person who would be buying the phone.
      There’s no point in comparing a G2 Mini to a flagship, however comparing to the Moto G for instance would be worthwhile.

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