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LG K4 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Excellent battery life
  • Decent main camera

The Bad

  • Lacklustre screen
  • Uninspired plastic build
  • Low internal storage
2.5

LG K4 review: Whilst most people are focussed on LG’s latest flagship, the G5, spare a thought for the baby of the bunch, the new entry-level 4G-ready LG K4.

Design

Phone makers like Samsung are upping the ante with regards to design across entire ranges, but the aesthetics of the K4 feel like a throwback to 2012.

LG K4 front LG K4 back

The entirety of its body is plastic, with a lightly textured removable back that’s functional, even if it isn’t the prettiest thing in the world. The smooth finish elsewhere, mixed with the heavily rounded edges and corners, not to mention its overall size and weight, make it a comfortable fit in the hand, with the hardware controls along the phone’s sides naturally resting against your index finger and thumb.

LG K4 side

Without a lip to get a fingernail under, the back doesn’t prise off particularly easily, but once removed you have access to the K4’s replaceable battery, microSD slot and microSIM slot. The back is also where you’ll find the loudspeaker grille, which can be obscured if the phone isn’t held appropriately.

Screen

Being a low-end device, you can expect a suitably conservative visual experience from the K4, which packs a 4.5-inch WVGA IPS LCD that does the job, but not much else. It produces nice colours and blacks head-on, but whites aren’t particularly punchy or accurate and more extreme viewing angles bring contrast and colour distortion.

LG K4 screen

You can quickly toggle between low, medium and high-intensity backlight levels to alleviate the lack of automatic brightness, but even at maximum brightness the screen still struggles with external light sources and glare, not helped by the fact that the cover glass is such a fingerprint magnet.

OS

Whilst some of LG’s lineup are already running the latest major release of Android, the K4 launches with version 5.1.1 Lollipop. Despite being a little long in the tooth at this point, it still makes for a robust user experience, here dressed in LG’s own skinned interface, iconography and apps.

You get typical LG experiences, like Knock Code security on the lockscreen, a slew of tools for power and storage management and a theme and customisation experience, but for the most part, it’s much easier to use compared to older interface offerings from the Korean smartphone maker. It’s also worth noting that unlike the new G5, the K4 hasn’t done away with the apps drawer either, making the transition for users coming from other Android phones that little bit easier.

Performance

Whilst the middling display highlights the phone’s low-level standing, the capabilities of the K4 feel as if they out-perform the humble silicon powering them. At the heart of this phone is an underclocked 1GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6735M, paired to a gigabyte of RAM, which in practice seemed more than enough to offer up a reliable user experience in day-to-day use – perhaps as a result of the relatively low display resolution. You’ll spend time waiting to open up more robust apps and you’ll notice lag and stutter when performing actions like pulling down the notifications tab, but most of the time, the K4 doesn’t feel like it’s struggling all that much.

LG K4 case
FlexiShield LG K4 gel case supplied by MobileFun.co.uk

Storage is very limited, with almost half of the phone’s 8GBs of total space occupied by ‘miscellaneous’ files, which we presume are predominantly comprised of the operating system and LG’s apps. With that in mind, picking this phone up with a microSD card should be considered a necessity, rather than a choice.

On the upside, such humble specs paired to a fairly sizeable 1940mAh battery give the K4 real staying power. Similarly to the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, the K4 can last a full weekend without needing to visit a wall socket and as it’s removable, should you run dry, you have the option of carrying a spare to switch it out instantly.

Camera

A 5-megapixel primary camera and a 2-megapixel front-facer mean K4 owners won’t get left out in the cold if they want to use their phones with apps like Skype and Snapchat.

The rear camera boasts an LED flash, whilst you can leverage a screen-based flash for selfies in low light using the front-facer, even if picture quality is decidedly weak. The 2-megapixel secondary snapper lacks detail and loads shots up with noise once lighting conditions are anything other than stellar.

Primary camera quality meanwhile isn’t an absolute train wreck. We weren’t surprised by the narrow dynamic range of the K4, which tends to blow out whites and crush blacks in high contrast environments, but in well-lit scenarios it can capture a respectable amount of detail and the LED flash helps to keep the colourful noise at bay in dimmer environments.

You also have usable 720p HD video recording and more advanced features like gesture shot and voice-activated shutter control.

Verdict

LG has stayed true to its word with the K4, offering an affordable smartphone experience with some standout talents that feel as though they punch above their weight. For £99, you get a compact 4G handset that sports a decent primary camera and a smooth user experience.

LG K4 handheld

We wouldn’t recommend it for media consumption, with its lacklustre display and paltry internal storage, but impressive battery life render this a reliable feature phone replacement for those on a budget.

The biggest barrier for the K4 is that low price however, as handsets like the Motorola Moto E and new Vodafone Smart Prime 7 offer even more phone (4G, a 720p HD display, higher resolution cameras and a partly metal build in the case of the Prime 7) for even less. The LG K4 has its place, but we wouldn’t call it a worthwhile purchase in the long run.

Handset and case provided by MobileFun.co.uk

Specification

Screen size4.5-inches
Screen resolutionWVGA (480x854)
Weight120 grams
OSAndroid 5.1.1 Lollipop
Rear Camera5-megapixels
Front camera2-megapixels
Processor1GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6735M
Memory1GB RAM
Storage8GB. Expandable via microSD up to 32GB
4G LTEYes
Bonus featuresKnock code, double-tap to wake

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