I have mixed feelings about LG range of smartphones. Over the previous two years, the company has had a rough time of competing with the likes of Apple and Samsung with their flagship G-series range of smartphones. While last year’s G5 was amiss among tech pundits around the world, which affected the bottom line, the G6 earlier this year was a vast improvement. Still, despite the improvements made, it hasn’t been a fan favourite either. On the other hand, LG’s V-series has been hailed as the company’s whacky smartphone aimed at the creatives, with a great camera and audio support, while also receiving quite a few experimental touches. LG has stumbled upon a bit of a gem with the range and has pulled out quite a few more stops for the latest iteration, the LG V30.
It’s worth pointing out that the V30 and V30+ devices are identical, barring the difference in internal storage capacities – V30 has 64GB, while the V30+ has 128GB. We received the LG V30+ for this review.
Build and Design
Wielding the V30+ for around two weeks was bound to draw quite a lot of attention, as well as comparisons to the Galaxy S8 and even LG’s own, G6. The questions became quite repetitive after some time, at which point I could answer without hesitation. But that isn’t to say that it’s a simple answer. The V30 is a beautiful device by any means. When compared side-by-side against the likes of the S8, it stands up really well, much more so than the G6. As with the S8, the LG V30 is almost all screen – more on that below.
For the most part, the V30 resembles the S8. But upon closer inspection, you’ll notice quite a few differences. For starters, the screen doesn’t curve along the edges, instead opting for a more squared approach we’re used to. As a result, the nanoSIM slot is able to be placed on the side of the device, instead of the top, which leaves more room for the 3.5mm jack on the top of the device. I hadn’t noticed the annoyance previously of having the jack placed at the bottom of the device, which makes it a bit trickier to keep in your pocket while plugged in. That said, having switched to more wireless audio options, it wasn’t always a point of contention. Most of the other hardware buttons and the likes are similarly placed.
The only other noticeable difference is the missing power button on the right, which is instead swapped out for the dual-purpose fingerprint sensor on the rear. The sensor is perfectly positioned in the centre of the back, and at a good height to make the positioning of your finger natural. Slightly above the sensor is the dual camera, which is flanked on the right by the LED flash. The rear, while glass, has a cross-hatch pattern etched in below the glass panel, resembling a lenticular hologram. The glass back isn’t a hindrance to the wireless charging capability.
A point worth noting with this edge-to-edge screened device is that you can’t easily tell them apart when the screens are off, especially if you’re not familiar with each. It’s a definitely a small trade-off for companies looking to make even the smallest of gains to woo consumers.
Screen and Display
The standout attribute of the LG V30 is its brilliant screen. It slots right in between the S8 and S8+ with a 6″ P-OLED display (the first for LG in some time), which extends to the top and bottom edges. Without any setup, the device’s 2880x1440px resolution is crisp and beautiful right out of the box. The images are beautifully displayed on the screen with its 537ppi pixel density.
The screen isn’t without a few issues, however. There are some brightness issues in broad daylight. Things aren’t better on the opposite end of the scale as you’ll notice that colours and crispness tend to fade as well. This makes for slight challenges when viewing in total darkness when the auto-brightness kicks in. There’s also a slight discolouration when viewing the screen from the sides, although I wouldn’t read into that too much since you wouldn’t be doing this often, if at all.
A big difference between the LG V30 and both the S8 and S8+ is that it’s a lot wider. While the screen is 0.2 inches “smaller” than the 6.2-inch S8+, the V30 has a bigger overall viewing area – often an oversight when comparing screen sizes based on the diagonal measurement of screens. The wider frame does make it a bit more cumbersome to hold and use in one hand, especially for those with medium and small hands, but still doable.
It’s hard to pick a clear winner between the LG V30 and S8 devices when it comes to the build and design, and screen of either device. I enjoyed both almost equally, but there are a few limitations on the S8, which I’ll highlight below.
Performance and Battery Life
When comparing benchmarks, the LG V30 does a really good job at competing against the other leading smartphones for 2017. In fact, many of the benchmarks place the device among the top performing on the market today, roughly equal to the Google Pixel 2 XL and HTC U11, and better than the S8+ on single core tests. The multi-core results, however, make for an equal reading across the board. Only Apple’s iPhone 8 stands out from the crowd in terms of the current set of benchmarks, with the iPhone X set to beat even that. The device is fitted with a Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 chipset, which has an Octa-core CPU – x4 2.45 GHz Kryo and x4 1.9GHz Kryo. This is paired with an Adreno 540 GPU, 4GB RAM, and a choice between 64GB (V30) and 128GB (V30+) internal storage. These statistics make for very pleasant and smooth usage of the device, with no jitters, lag, and the likes. At times, however, the experience felt disjointed as a result of the quick changes when opening apps, drawers, settings and other features you’ll often find has a transition effect, which often goes unnoticed by many. These delays make for a better overall user experience, even if it seems slower when compared side by side.
Battery life on the V30 is another standout from the testing. For the most part, I could easily get through almost two days of usage, which also included a few games in between. For the first couple of days of testing, I used it simply as a benchmarking tool, running games and tests without a SIM card. For this, I was able to continue my testing for three or four days. Switching the unit to my daily driver significantly reduced the network connectivity, making and receiving calls and messages, and the likes. Still, two days of usage, coupled with one or two hours of gaming in between is quite a big statement. Additionally, I didn’t have to disable any of the settings or lower certain characteristics such as screen brightness or resolution. This is something I’ve had to do on the S8 smartphone, as running the device at max resolution and CPU only manages to eke out around 12 hours of battery, which isn’t nearly enough to power me through from start to finish. This is what I found quite significant during my testing.
Software and Audio
From a software perspective, the LG V30 has one of the best interfaces I’ve used. It may not offer the same level of detail in terms of transitions and other nice-to-haves, it is very well intergraded. Some of the best experiences come as a result of how apps respond to the underlying OS. For example, I can long press an app on the desktop, like Chrome, which gives me the option to open a new tab or an incognito tab. These internal app settings are now exposed to the homescreen and app drawer, which was brilliant. I’m not a particular fan of the no-app-drawer approach, but there are some nifty additions that make it much more user-friendly. Swiping down from the homescreen and you’ll see a list of recently used app, along with the most recently accessed web pages, all of which makes for a quicker means of navigating the interface. There are a few LG-designed bloatware, which seems a little dated at this point. I would have preferred the Samsung approach, which leaves the choice in the owner’s hands by offering these apps via the Play Store and not pre-loaded on the device when purchased. The device has launched in South Africa in the first week of November, and there hasn’t been any verification yet as to whether it would be receiving the Orea update – although this is to be assumed given its status as the latest flagship LG device.
Another nice feature bolted onto the V30 is its quad-DAC (digital-to-analogue converter) capabilities. This enhances the audio output, which makes for much better overall sound quality. It’s no longer just a marketing gimmick as it was on previous devices, but something very useful. Although you’ll need a fairly good pair of headphones or earphones to take advantage of the gains, it does make quite a difference in the end, with much more volume to the sound. One frustration I did have was the lack of support for the technology for wireless headphones. This, however, is the current limitation of Bluetooth, and not the device. More evidence that wireless audio cannot, yet, replace the overall quality of wired sound, despite its popularity of being a lot more portable and accessible. LG doesn’t include the necessary audio device in the contents to make use of this feature, as the earphones aren’t quite good enough to make large enough gains overall.
The previously launched V20 added a number of useful features when it came to both image and video capture, which put it on par with, if not ahead of, some of its competitors. The 2017 iteration hasn’t made many further gains in terms of quality, although there are a few useful items that make for an overall better result. Photo options like the wide-angle camera are quite a nice treat for your smartphone, allowing you to achieve a much wider view of the surroundings. The camera, however, while great, has lost some ground on the S8, which has a much crisper and brighter look on the photos when compared side by side. The S8 also has a few more modes that make certain photos stand out a lot better than the LG V30, such as taking photos of your food, which seems to be a major requirement these days.
I would like to say that the LG V30 punches above its weight, but its current price point places it among other flagship devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S8, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and Apple iPhone 8. That said, the V30 is a feature-packed device that feels a lot better rounded compared to many of the other devices on the market in 2017. That said, an easy way to judge how good it is compared to the 2016 variants, was to ask whether I’d trade my S8 for a V30. For some aspects, it would be a definite yes, but there are also quite a few reasons I wouldn’t. At this point, I’m torn between which device I would prefer. If I were to compare every feature side by side, I may be able to draw a better comparison, and I’d bet the V30 may come out on top as a result. But you can’t deny that aspects such as the screen and camera would carry more weight, which the S8 does. Although the addition of the second wide-angle camera on the V30 may add a new perspective to what you may want from your experience.
With an RRP of R15,469, it’s higher priced than the G6, and a good 50% increase over its predecessor. And that’s the fundamental issue I had with the device, that it’s now competing against the top dogs on the market, instead of remaining the underdog as the whacky alternative to the mainstream devices, losing some of its edge. But, it is more than apt to stand alongside these heavyweights in the industry, almost completing its journey from crazy teen to sophisticated grown up.