Last week, I reviewed LG’s latest mid-ranger, the G4 Beat. For the uninitiated, the G4 Beat serves as the ‘mini’ version of LG’s main flagship, the G4. I found the G4 Beat to be a marked improvement over its predecessor, the G3 Beat, and elegantly distilled the premium factors of the flagship G4 into a desirable and far more affordable package.
Up next on my desk, then, is another unit from the same family; the G4 Stylus. A new entry into LG’s lineup, the G4 Stylus is positioned as the ‘daughter’ of the flagship G4. As its name might suggest, the G4 Stylus’ main attraction its its Rubberdium Stylus, which, in a manner not dissimilar from the Galaxy Note, slots out from the main device.
In hand, the G4 Stylus sits squarely on the border between comfortable and ungainly. The contoured back of the device sits neatly in one’s palm, while the device’s monstrous width and relative size aren’t for the faint of heart nor those with petite hands.
The rear, unfortunately, lacks the same draw factor that both the G4 and G4 Beat have shared before it; a premium leather back. Instead, the G4 Stylus is an intriguing beast, sporting a faux brushed and stiched aluminium cover that – while not leaving the same luster as a leather back – is quite attractive in its own way. The differences continue to the trademark LG back buttons, where the sculpted middle button that so nicely sits on one’s thumb on the G4 and G4 Beat is instead a single piece of clicky plastic.
The G4 Stylus is also the most radical departure from LG’s new-found design language that first appeared on the G Flex 2. Chamfered edges are surrounded by a steel-color rim that gives way to the plastic back.
The front of the device, too, is centered around the use of the stylus, and is absolutely flat as opposed to the subtle curve we saw introduced on the G4. Externally, the G4 Stylus is a mixed bag that feels somewhat like it should have been an evolutionary step between the G2, G3, and now G4, as opposed to one that has come after.
Internally, the G4 Stylus continues to confound with a peculiar mix of features. Arriving with Android 5.0 Lollipop, the G4 Stylus brings with it a 720p display, a Quad-core 1.2Ghz Cortex A53 (on the LG H635 model) and Octa-core 1.4Ghz (on the 3G model). Sporting the same dismal 8GBs of internal storage that the G4 Beat arrived with, the G4 Stylus is expandable up to 128GBs via MicroSD, accompanied by 1GB of RAM.
On the camera front, the G4 Stylus carries an 8 megapixel primary shooter and a 5 megapixel selfie snapper. There’s also a removable 3,000mAh battery, just for good measure.
In use, the G4 Stylus is an effective mid-range smartphone, but lacks many of the bells and whistles that its competitors have brought and continue to bring to the market.
With a density of 258 pixels per inch, the G4 Stylus’ display is bright and well colored, but lacks definition and depth. The Rubberdium Stylus slides across the length of the screen without hindrance, but feels uncomfortable in the hand; the stylus is a thin piece of plastic that is nearly at the juncture of becoming too thin to be easy to hold.
The G4 Stylus largely operates as any normal Android smartphone would; and therein lies a problem. The G4 Stylus brings no real use for its namesake beyond LG’s QuickMemo app and other third party applications in the Play Store. In use, I found it all too easy to forego the stylus and instead resort to using my digits as the prime means of navigating throughout the phone. Alas, there are no Galaxy Note style multitasking features to be found here.
That being said, LG’s QuickMemo app has never felt quite so reinvigorated. The Rubberdium Stylus brings with it an entirely new way to get to grips with LG’s Note-taking suite, which, before now, I’d largely written off as a harmless but ultimately irrelevant addition to LG’s take on Android.
The greatest criticism I have of the G4 Stylus is, in actual fact, its woeful camera. To my mind, an effective note-taking smartphone must do two things, and do them well; firstly, it should be built around its stylus. The G4 Stylus achieves this externally, yet leaves any software additions out of the picture. Secondly, the device must include an effective camera, as in this day and age, snapping notes via a smartphone camera is almost as much the norm as jotting them down by hand.
Sadly, then, the G4 Stylus’ camera greatly under-performs. Images captured on the device feel as if they were taken on a far cheaper feature phone, and lack the polish that even the G4 Beat brought before it. The primary camera suffers from a distinct lack of performance far more greatly than the front-facing camera, making LG’s decisions in this regard far more bizarre. Unless you’re famous enough to make your selfies more noteworthy than your captured images, I’d call this an unfortunate reversal.
In general use, the G4 Stylus performs amicably, and neither leaves any great shakes in it’s wake nor provides enough trouble to warrant complaint. App switching can sometimes prove a laggy experience, though this was the only real area of the phone that I found didn’t offer a consistent experience.
Ultimately, the G4 Stylus isn’t a bad phone. Unfortunately, neither is it an exceptionally good one. The main draw factor of the device, the Rubberdium Stylus, is woefully under capitalized upon and, overall, the phone is let down by it’s poor primary camera.
In conclusion, the G4 Stylus would be far more accurately advertised as a ‘budget G4 unit with a stylus’. The device is acceptable as a budget daily driver, but lacks the sophisticated play it needs to compete or even offer a competitive take on the king of phablets, the Galaxy Note series.