LG G7 ThinQ first look

Key Features

  • 6.1-inch, QHD+, IPS, 19.5:9 screen
  • Snapdragon 845 CPU
  • 4/6GB (market dependent)
  • 64/128GB storage
  • Dual sensor rear camera with 16-megapixel, 1.6 (OIS) 77 degree main, 16-megapixel f1.9, 107 degree secondary
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • 3000 mAh battery
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LG G7 ThinQ preview – Is it a Huawei P20 Pro and Galaxy S9 rival?

Getting bored of flagship smartphones? You’re not alone.

Nearly every flagship to arrive this in the past 18 months has had pretty much interchangeable features and close to identical metal and glass designs. But can the LG G7 ThinQ change that?

As well as having similar features to LG’s recently released LG V30 and LG V30S, the G7 also has a fairly by-the-numbers iPhone X-esque notch design that is sure to be controversial.

However, having had a two-day play with a pre-production unit, I can confirm there are plenty of reasons the G7 ThinQ could be a hit with a certain type of smartphone user. Chief amongst which are its ridiculous 1000-nit “Super Bright” display and advanced mobile-AI features.

LG G7 ThinQ – Release date

The G7 ThinQ doesn’t have a UK or US release date at the moment, but it’s expected to arrive in the very near future.

LG G7 ThinQ – Price

LG hasn’t confirmed how much the G7 ThinQs will cost, but considering its specs and the V30’s original price, don’t expect it to be cheap.

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LG G7

LG G7 ThinQ – Design and “Boom box” sound

The LG G7 ThinQ isn’t an ugly smartphone; it’s just familiar-feeling. It looks like a V30 with a notch – which LG’s marketing as a “New Second Screen”.

It works in pretty much the same way as it does on every other phone. It’s a gap in the middle of the near bezel-less design that houses the phone’s 8-megapixel front camera. The surrounding screen real estate on either side of it is custom coded to push notifications to the user.

The only bonus is that LG has added the ability to turn off that section of the screen, or set it to display a specific colour or pattern. This is useful, but hardly groundbreaking.

Connectivity and extras are also pretty standard. You’ll find a USB-C charging port along its bottom edge and a fingerprint scanner on its rear.

Elsewhere – and like every other Android flagship this year – the LG G7  has clearly been inspired by the iPhone X. It features a Gorilla Glass 5 front and back, metal sides and a minuscule bezel around its screen. Under the hood, it follows the same pattern: the G7 ThinQ runs the same Snapdragon 845 CPU and 4-6GB of RAM (market dependent) seen in other top-end phones.

The end result is a pretty par-for-the-course design. I’d be genuinely interested to see how many regular consumers would be able to tell apart the Huawei P20 Pro, Xperia XZ2 or Galaxy S9 with the branding removed.LG G7

It’s only when you get up close that you’ll spot a few design differences. For starters, LG’s engineers have chosen to load the G7 ThinQ with a custom Google Assistant button. The handset I was testing didn’t have an active internet connection, but as far as I can tell, it works in the same way as the Galaxy S9’s Bixby button, but using Google’s more advanced AI Assistant.

As an added element of allure the key also apparently has a “walkie talkie” mode, which means the Assistant will continue listening as long as the button is pressed.

The only downside is that, like Samsung’s Bixby button, the G7 ThinQ’s smart assistant button isn’t remappable. This is disappointing, since handsets featuring remappable keys have provedpretty useful, making it easy for you to add a physical shutter button, or shortcut to commonly used apps for example.

The G7 also includes a 3.5mm input. While this may not be a big deal for most folk, audiophiles who have invested in a pair of decent wired headphones will be pleased. The phone’s audio capabilities are further aided by the addition of Quad DAC seen on past LG flagships, DTS:X 3D support and a new custom “Boom Box” speaker.

The DTS:X 3D tech works in the same way it does on every phone or MP3 player, meaning that if you have a pair of compatible headphones then you’ll be able to enjoy virtual surround sound. This is great for music, movie and games audio.

The Boom Box speaker is more interesting. It’s a single bottom-firing speaker built by LG that apparently boosts audio quality by using every bit of spare space in the phone as a resonance chamber. This apparently lets it offer a significantly chunkier low-end and a maximum volume that’s twice as loud as that of most competitors.

I only got to test the speaker with pre-installed tracks from LG, in less than ideal conditions with a fair amount of background noise. This makes it all but impossible to accurately gauge audio quality, but in general I was impressed. The speaker was loud by smartphone standards and more than powerful enough for basic YouTube and Netflix streaming.

From what I’ve heard so far, I’m not convinced it will prove a match for the insane volumes or low-end power delivered by the Razer Phone or HTC U11 Plus, however. Both those devices feature dual-speaker setups and currently offer the best sound quality we’ve experienced on a smartphone.

Stereo image quality also wasn’t great and the mid and high-end showed signs of distortion at maximum volume. However, this remains an issue on every smartphone I’ve tested, and micro-speakers in general.

The only downside to the speaker design is that it extends the phone’s chin. The bottom chin isn’t as pronounced as it is on the Pixel 2 or LG V30S, but by wrapping the speaker around the bottom of the G7 ThinQ, it’s noticeably larger here than the top, damaging the illusion that it’s a truly bezel-less phone.

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LG G7

LG G7 ThinQ – Super Bright display

The chin isn’t a big deal since it’s the screen that looks set to be the key selling point of the G7 ThinQ – which is a surprise considering its use of a not-in-vogue IPS panel.

For non-techies, IPS is an alternative to the OLED screen type you’ll see in most top-end smartphones such as the Galaxy S9, iPhone X and LG V30-series. Manufacturers have started favouring OLED because the panels are smaller and offer deeper blacks and better contrast ratios. However, wrongly implemented the results can be pretty terrible – as evidenced by the V30 and Pixel XL 2, which have POLED screens that display fairly dirty whites and out-of-whack colour temperatures.

However, I found that the G7 ThinQ’s 6.1-inch 19.5:9, QHD+, IPS screen offered a significant step up on the Pixel 2 and LG G6 I compared it against for a variety of reasons. Chief among these was its custom “Super Bright” tech. Super Bright is a marketing term for a number of modes that take advantage of the screen’s insane 1000 nits max brightness.

The 1000 nits capacity is unheard of on OLED phone screens, which usually struggle to break the 600 nits threshold. According to LG, it meets true HDR 10, not the mobile HDR standard seen on most flagship phones such as the Galaxy S9.

I didn’t manage to get a firm black level figure, nor contrast ratio, which are key factors that inform if the HDR experience will be significantly better. To my naked eye, however, impressions were positive. Blacks were suitably deep and pleasingly free of the greyish quality I’ve seen on many competing IPS screens. Hopefully, these initial impressions will be confirmed once I am able to  play HDR mastered content on a review sample of the phone.

In general, the G7’s screen will never go above 600-700 nits unless you enter a set of predefined conditions – such as very bright sunlight – where it will kick into “Super Bright” mode. You can also manually crank up the screen brightness to 1000 nits for three minutes by tapping on an icon next the brightness slider.

On testing the feature, there appeared to be a significant difference in max brightness between the G7 and Pixel 2 I had to hand. “Super Bright” mode will  be a boon for users who regularly find themselves working outdoors, or just like their phone to be cornea scorchingly bright.

LG G7

The screen also appears to be pretty well calibrated and a clear step up on LG’s previous V30-series of OLED devices. LG also quotes the screen as covering 100% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut used by most movie makers. If true this means pictures and videos such as blockbuster movies, will display on the screen exactly as the photographer or filmmaker intended.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a colorimeter to hand. However, white levels – while a little blue in the phone’s default mode – appear way cleaner than the V30’s, and colours in general looked nicely accurate. The G7 also comes with a ridiculous seven separate screen modes in its settings. Like the company’s TVs, these include colour optimisation (default), gallery, eco, cinema, sports, games and expert options.

Sadly, none adjust the screen’s refresh rate. Aside of expert mode, each one simply adjusts the phone’s colour temperature, hue and sharpness. Of the group I found that cinema mode offered the most accurate colours to the naked eye. Although, for those who truly care, the expert mode is probably the best option. It features specific slider controls for reds, greens and blues, letting you tweak the screen colours to your exact preference.

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LG G7 ThinQ AI – Camera upgrades

The camera has also had an upgrade. To kick things off, LG has improved the rear camera setup, loading it with dual Sony IMX351 sensors. Specifically, you’ll find 16-megapixel, f/1.6 (OIS) 77-degree main and 16-megapixel f/f1.9, 107-degree secondary sensors on the phone’s rear.

The main sensor is on a par with the V30S, but the wide-angle has a higher megapixel count, wider aperture and field of view than its predecessor’s 13-megapixel secondary sensor. In theory, this should result in superior low-light performance and more accurate bokeh effects in portrait mode.

According to LG – and thanks to the Snapdragon 845 CPU’s improved ISP – the G7 ThinQ’s rear camera is also twice as sensitive as the V30S and will be able to capture “good” photos in dim lighting conditions below 5 Lux. We’ve heard these claims from phone makers numerous times before, but the hardware is nonetheless impressive on paper.

LG has also joined the AI camera race with the LG G7 ThinQ. According to the company, the camera will be able to automatically detect and optimise its settings for 19 different shooting modes. These include AI settings for everything from food and pets, to nature and close-up shots.

If, once again, this all sounds rather familiar, then there’s a reason. This year we’ve seen many other companies dabbling with similar “AI” camera features. The tech was a key selling point for the Huawei P20 Plus in the top end of the market, but we’ve also started to see it trickle down into mid-range handsets such as the Asus ZenFone 5.

I didn’t have a P20 Plus to hand to compare it against, plus the very early software wasn’t ready, so gauging quality is difficult. But if LG is successful then it will be a nice touch that will make it easier for average folk to capture decent images on the fly.

The only other semi-unique selling point for LG is the camera’s “Super Brightness” low-light mode. This is another custom setting that needs to be activated in the camera app’s settings. It activates when the camera is used in conditions below 3 Lux and aims to reduce noise and generally improve low-light photo quality using a process that appears very similar to the old-school Lumia 1020’s oversampling and HTC’s “Ultrapixels”.

Specifically, it aims to improve image quality by intelligently “binning”  – a fancy word in photography for combing pixels  – four of the captured pixels into a single larger one. The only technical compromise is that the mode limits you to a 4-megapixel resolution.

The P20 Pro uses a similar type of tech to improve low-light quality to great effect. Sadly, I can’t confirm photo quality at the moment as the software is far from finished. All I can say is that, from what I’ve seen so far, the camera should at the very least be a clear step-up on past LG flagships, especially for macro and portrait shots.

You can see some sample photos I took on the G7 ThinQ with pre-release software below.

While the camera features sound cool, I’m more excited about the return of the ThinQ’s Smart Bulletin and the new SmartThinQ Control feature.

Smart Bulletin replaces the left homescreen traditionally occupied by Google Now. It aims to intelligently push recommendations and alerts via 20 “advisory cards”. According to LG, the alerts are based around on-device data collected from your call, message and browsing history, GPS, app usage, settings, calendar, weather apps. This isn’t that different to what Google Now does, but the fact it uses only local data from the device, not the cloud, could be a bonus for security-conscious buyers.

The SmartThinQ control feature is more interesting. For those who missed it, SmartThinQ is LG’s smart home platform. It aspires to let every LG smart device – be it a fridge, soundbar, TV, washing machine or phone – communicate and be controlled by a central hub, which in this case is housed within the G7 ThinQ.

As such, the G7 ThinQ will be able to auto discover and connect to smart devices in the same family on the same Wi-Fi network. From their you’ll be able to check the status of and control all the smart appliances in your home from a single interface.

Sound cool? Of course. Sadly, neither feature worked on the G7 ThinQ I tested due to its pre-release software. In addition, SmartThinQ won’t be appearing in the UK anytime soon; it’s currently only available in Korea and LG has only confirmed expansion plans for the US thus far.

LG G7 ThinQ – Specs

Aside from those mentioned above, the G7 ThinQ’s specs are on a par with pretty much every other flagship released this year. The only one I’m slightly concerned about is battery capacity. The 3000mAh cell is pretty small by today’s standards, although without more time with the device I can’t sensibly comment on its stamina.

You can check out a full list of the G7 ThinQ’s specs in the table below.

 

Screen 6.1-inch, QHD+, IPS, 19.5:9
CPU Snapdragon 845
RAM 4/6GB (market dependent)
Storage 64/128GB
Rear camera 16-megapixel, 1.6 (OIS) 77-degree main, 16-megapixel f1.9, 107-degree secondary
Front camera 8-megapixel
Battery 3000mAh
OS Android Oreo (skinned)
weight 162g

 

Opening impressions

The LG G7 ThinQ may not look like the most original phone around, but from what I’ve seen thus far, it ticks all the right boxes for a flagship device.

The mixed-material design isn’t that original, but there are a few nice touches – the retention of the 3.5mm jack, for example. Sorry Apple and co, this remains a big deal for golden-oldie music fans such as me.

The specs, too, are top-notch – and, while it isn’t OLED, from what I’ve seen so far the 1000-nits IPS screen looks pretty darned sweet. I can’t wait to see how it performs with more rigorous testing. The same is true of the G7’s improved AI camera: while it doesn’t offer a huge step up on the V30S in terms of hardware, the added features and boosted secondary sensor are clear steps forward.

My only concern stems from the continuing absence of Smart ThinQ support in the UK. Without the advanced smart home controls, the LG G7 ThinQ lacks a killer differentiating feature to justify why you’d pick it over competing flagships such as the triple-camera Huawei P20 Pro and ruling Galaxy S9.

We’ll be updating this preview with more details about the LG G7 ThinQ’s release date and confirmed carriers when the information becomes available, so make sure to check back regularly.