Upon pulling the LG G4c out of its box we were rather excited. This dinky looking version of the G4 has many of the design hallmarks that make the flagship model such a success, but with a 5-inch screen size making it an altogether more manageable package.
However, excitement turned to dismay after setting the phone up. We knew this affordable mid-ranger would have some concessions, but its laggy performance and some screen issues don't warrant the G4 name appearing anywhere in its title.
Having lived with the LG G4c for a couple of days in the hope this phone could reshape our opinions, it hasn't. Here's why it's a C grade against the G4 name.
Wolf in sheep's clothing
Now the G4c doesn't offer the swanky leather rear of the flagship G4, but on first inspection it does look like a similar phone. Which is a good thing. There's the diamond etched rear shell, the subtle longitudinal curve to the screen (perhaps so subtle that it's pointless, a qualm we had with the G4), and those power and volume up/down keys to the rear.
The rear cover can be removed to expose the battery (which can be swapped out if you buy a spare) and there's a stacked micro SIM and microSD card slot, which can be accessed without removing said battery. So far, so good.
Overall the LG looks more mature in design than, say, the Motorola Moto G's rounded edges. The LG is ever so slightly slimmer too, at 10.2mm, although it can hardly be called a slim phone by 2015 standards.
Thing is, the G4c doesn't follow up those sharp looks with sharp functionality, which is a real problem. Especially for a phone that's £215, which is a chunk more cash than the new Moto G (third-gen) and its £159 starting price. Motorola even offers Moto Maker for personalisation options, beginning at £179, which is yet another lure.
With a quad core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor at its core, paired with 1GB RAM, the G4c's performance ought to be similar or better than the Moto G. But it's not. The G4c is slow. It's laggy. It hangs in apps and on web pages. It takes five seconds to open a Facebook feed in the app with nothing else running in the background.
We never expected the G4c to compare to the flagship G4 in terms of operation, but this mid-ranger is simply slovenly. Which is no good when you want to get things done and, again, seemingly drags the prestige of the G4 name through the dirt.
That's not to say it's entirely incapable though. Load up Candy Crush Saga - which, by the way, takes 18-seconds just to clear the loading screen - and you can play the game. Not at silky smooth frame-rates by any means, but you can play nonetheless.
So what's to blame for this low-level performance? Well, we've seen plenty of competitor handsets running with the same or a similar hardware setup and none have been this slow. We suspect, therefore, that LG's UX interface (a reskin over the top of the Android 5.0.1 operating system) is a bit too heavy for it to cope. But it's hard to pinpoint the exact issue.
When we think G4, we think of the glorious quad HD screen resolution and wide colour gamut for vivid colours that the flagship can shout about. That's gone in the G4c, which instead opts for a 1280 x 720 resolution across its 5-inch panel.
We don't have a problem with the resolution, per say, as its 294ppi pixel density never leaves you squinting for more; it's always easy to see app icons and text with ample distinction.
The big problem comes with screen uniformity, with bright patches interspersed with slightly dimmer sections, like railway track sleepers. It's an issue at all times, particularly prevalent when viewing bright single-colour sections, but therefore somewhat masked when viewing more complex scenes with a variety of colours.
Pressing firmly on the screen makes these sleeper tracks move, a bit like touching the panel of a TV or non-touchscreen laptop. Now this issue may be isolated to this particular G4c review sample, but to receive a sample with such an issue is not a good sign. We've been in contact with other Pocket-lint freelancers who have different devices and who have not spotted the same discrepancy.
Otherwise there are good things to say about the screen in terms of brightness and colour. Even if auto-brightness is somewhat conservative in its estimates, set the screen to full brightness and it positively glows, making it great for use in sunlight (not that we've seen much lately in the UK) without compromise. The mid-ranger is far brighter than the Moto G, for example, although not quite as bright as the flagship G4. Contrast shows less pop at steeper angles too, but only by a small amount - the angles of view being more than good enough.
One area where the LG G4c really sells itself is its camera. The 8-megapixel sensor to the rear might not be the highest resolution on the market, but the autofocus performance and resulting images amount to more than that single-digit number suggests.
We've been able to focus in conditions bright or dim without issues, thanks to the almost-pro-camera-like autofocus system. If you want to focus on a specific area then a tap on the screen makes this possible, although sometimes close-up focus can falter.
Cameras produce images relative to the available light, and with its f/2.4 aperture letting in lots of light the G4c avoids cranking image processing too hard. It does, however, opt to use shutter speeds that are a little too slow at times, so keep those hands extra steady.
Even when it does need to crank up the image processing - such as with higher ISO shots (it's all handled automatically though, so no need to worry about messing around with manual controls) - the results remain solid. A dim fireplace shot at ISO 3200 maintains ample detail for a phone camera. In better light, such as the ISO 200 shot of a mini American flag (pictured above), there's even more detail on show - although look at 100 per cent scale and there are some slight processing artefacts and image noise. Nothing to worry about though.
Battery and sound
All these specs go fairly easy on the battery, however, with the 2540mAh cell lasting for a full day no problems. From an 8am unplug through a midnight plug-back-in we had dipped to around 25-30 per cent on each day of use.
Interestingly that time included some Candy Crush gaming which on more demanding processors found in flagship phones tends to up the heat and send things into meltdown. That's one of the benefits of a less intense processor: the G4c doesn't overheat at all in our experience, ensuring day-long longevity.
When it comes to sound we found calls were clear, but if you're the kind of person who likes to play things aloud then the small criss-cross speaker arrangement to the rear doesn't deliver the clearest or cleanest of audio.
Although we think the LG G4c has got the size and many of its design traits right, its laggy performance sends out the wrong message about the G4 namesake. It inadvertently compromises the flagship's integrity.
If you're looking for an affordable phone then the LG brand name is a logical lure, but there are better phones out there for less money than the G4c. Look to Motorola and its latest Moto G, or if you have an extra £85 spare then consider splashing out on the Moto X Play.
Sadly the LG G4c has too many low points - from display issues, to slow loading times and laggy performance - that even its decent camera performance and screen brightness can't save it from being a disappointment.
Based on the strength of the G4 flagship, the G4c has surprised us with just how far off the mark it is. On this occasion it's more a case of "c" for compromised.