LG’s G2 smartphone arrives on Verizon today and AT&T on Friday. We’ve been using the handset for a few days now and have found it to be a strong top-tier Android phone that earns its place next to the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and the HTC One.

I should start by noting that this isn’t a full review of the device, as LG sent me a global review unit that wasn’t cleared for phone service. As such, I’m unable to get a read on reception and battery life. For a more comprehensive look at the phone, I’d recommend the ever-thorough Anandtech.

Display

lg g2 11 730x1227 LG G2 first impressions: Business in the front, buttons on the back

The G2’s 5.2-inch display is gorgeous. LG has done a fantastic job shaving down the bezel so that the majority of the phone is taken up by the screen. When measured next to other smartphones, the G2’s whites did have a bluish-tint to them, but it’s still a great looking phone.

While the Galaxy S4 and Sony’s Xperia Z1 have higher pixel-per-inch (ppi) displays because they pack the same 1920 x 1080 resolution into 5.0 inches, the G2’s 423 ppi is already well beyond what our eyes can distinguish.

Buttons

LG’s decision to move the buttons to the rear takes getting used to. It allows for several benefits, including the reduced bezel, cleaner side profiles and better ergonomics. However, it also makes the phone susceptible to rocking when placed on a surface and looks a bit odd when placed face-down.

The placement of the button fits naturally for how I hold the device without having to reposition my hand for presses.

I’ve been uncomfortable with the screen creep that phone manufacturers have fallen into recently, so it’s nice to see that LG is striking a balance between offering a 5-inch display without feeling over-large. The relocated button and the smaller footprint make the G2 generous with its screen real estate without being inconvenient.

Feel

lg g2 15 730x623 LG G2 first impressions: Business in the front, buttons on the back

The G2’s polycarbonate back has a solid feel to it. It’s hardly exciting, but it gets the job done. The phone weighs about half an ounce more than the Galaxy S4, but you’ll get an extra 0.2 inches of screen size for your trouble with only a marginal increase in dimensions.

I’m a fan of the unbroken lines on the sides of the G2, enough so that I’d actually like to see other device makers move their buttons to the back (though I imagine physical buttons in general don’t have much of a future).

KnockON

If you don’t want to use the buttons on the back, you can use the KnockON feature to wake the phone up by double tapping on the screen. For whatever reason, this isn’t reliable for me. It works most of the time, but drops my taps enough to be annoying. It’s hardly a dealbreaker, but it is a case where a feature that’s meant to improve the experience actually degrades it.

Camera

lg g2 730x410 LG G2 first impressions: Business in the front, buttons on the back

The G2 sports a 13MP camera with optical image stabilization (OIS). The phone is also capable of recording 1080p video at 60 frames per second. In our tests, the OIS has a nice smoothing effect that compensates for shaky hands and other movement.

Image quality on the G2 is on par with other high-end smartphones like the S4 and the iPhone 5. The 13MP and the OIS help keep shots sharp, even when zoomed in, but color reproduction isn’t always the most accurate.

Conclusion

The effort that LG put into the G2 to make it competitive with the current crop of smartphones definitely shows through on the device, almost to the point of quirkiness. The device does hold its own, but Samsung’s head start and stronger brand recognition will make the G2 a tough sell over the Galaxy S4 for many. However, if you think you can handle the awkwardness of back buttons and the slightly larger screen is a draw, LG’s latest is worth considering.

See also: iPhone user thinking of switching to Android? Read this first