For the first time, LG is bringing its secondary flagship ‘V’ series to the UK via Carphone Warehouse – and it’s using IFA 2017 in Berlin to announce it.
The LG V30 is a bezel-free device with numerous clever additions. The focus is on audio and videography, but LG isn’t forgetting about smartphone basics. This is a gorgeous, powerful phone that could well be one of the year’s best.
The LG V30 is the brand’s slickest phone to date and there won’t be many who question that. If the G6 showed that LG had started to care about how its phones look, then the V30 takes that to the next level.
Yes, it does have a whiff – and a strong one, at that – of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, but I feel this is simply the direction in which phone design is headed. Like the S8, the LG V30 says ‘bye-bye’ to bezels and ‘hello’ to a screen that makes up much of the front of the phone.
The sides of the screen curve ever so slightly and so does the rear, making it super-comfortable to hold. Considering the V30 has a 6-inch display, it feels almost unbelievably compact – and ever so light at just 158g. There’s so little wasted space; it’s a complete contrast to Sony’s hulking XZ Premium, which has a healthy chin above and below the display.
Gorilla Glass 5 covers both the front and back, which in turn makes the shiny rear a magnet for grimy smudges and grease. Moments after unboxing the V30 will be covered in fingerprints, so it’s handy that LG pops a little cleaning cloth in the box. A fingerprint sensor sits on the back of the device – typical for LG – and this acts as a lock button too.
The V30 will be available in a few colours: a shiny black, blue-tinged silver, a much darker blue, and an odd but lovely deep purple. Thankfully, all have a black front.
LG V30 – Screen
Even though the company builds some of the finest OLED televisions on the market, LG has stuck to LCD panels for its flagships phones recently. That all changes with the V30, which features an OLED display instead.
OLED panels offer more vivid colours, deep blacks and in general display more punch than the LCD counterparts. The 6-inch 2880 x 1440 ‘Full Vision’ HDR 10 panel here looks immediately better than the one on the G6. It boasts the same 18:9 aspect ratio and QHD+ resolution, but visually it appears much more colourful.
I loaded up The Defenders in HDR on Netflix and the experience didn’t at all feel like I was watching it on my phone; it drew me in with its vibrancy. LG has added a new ‘Enhanced Colour Mode’ that gives non-HDR content a faux-HDR look. Samsung offers such a feature as well.
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Previous entries in the ‘V’ series paired a smaller display with the main one, which acted almost like a shortcuts bar. I’m sure it had its fans, but I’m glad it’s gone here. It always felt like wasted space; besides, it really wouldn’t have worked with the new design.
LG V30 – Performance, software and audio
By trying to get the phone onto shelves before Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S8, LG had to forego including the latest components inside the LG G6. There have been no such compromises here. The V30 features the latest Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB internal storage.
I will save my full performance impressions for the final review – but predictably, the V30 feels quick.
LG’s downfall has often been software. Too many times it’s layered Android with an ugly skin that not only looked odd, but slowed down the handset in question. I don’t think LG has done a complete about-turn in this area, but there has been plenty of improvement.
LG’s skin is built over Android 7.1.2 and it retains many typical Android features. There are a couple of additions to stretch apps to fit the long display and a better battery saver mode, but most of LG’s work has resulted in altering the icons, native apps and the notification panel. None of the changes are overly offensive, but it isn’t as good-looking as vanilla Android on a Google Pixel, for example.
During the phone briefing, LG distanced itself from confirming when Android 8.0 Oreo would hit the V30. The company seemed to suggest it would be within six months; hopefully, before the end of the year. Neither is too positive, and considering Oreo is out already, I’d like to see it much sooner.
While the iPhone 7 and Moto Z2 Force are ditching the headphone jack, LG is actively improving and championing the port. Not only do you get a nice pair of B&O earbuds in the box in certain markets, but there’s a quad-DAC inside the phone that seriously improves sound quality.
LG V30 – Camera
The camera on the LG V30 is absolutely stacked with features, making it an exciting prospect.
Like the LG G6, there are two cameras on the rear. The ‘main’ camera is 16 megapixels with OIS and a wide f/1.6 aperture that should help low-light photography. Next to that sits a wide-angle camera that captures pictures with a 120-degree field of view. This secondary camera lacks optical image stabilisation, but it still has a wide f/1.9 lens.
Personally, this is my favourite combination of cameras. You might not get the ability to losslessly zoom or enter a bokeh enhancing ‘Portrait Mode’ – a feature LG simple calls gimmicky and would be reserved for cheaper devices – but the variation of shots achievable with that wide camera is far more useful in my opinion.
I took some sample shots in a dark hotel and the results were good, but I’ll need to use it at greater length to really get an idea of just how good this camera is.
LG’s second big push is in the area of video, with the V30 boasting a number of recording options that I haven’t seen before. The biggest of these is a new file format called LG Cine Log, which essentially allows you to colour grade your footage with a number of pre-made filters. These range from ‘Blockbuster’ to ‘Noir’; and in my short time with the phone, they look good. LG will ship 15 filters with the V30, and I’m sure there will be scope to add more.
Another new feature is ‘Point Zoom’, which lets you lock onto a target when you’re filming and softly zoom directly on the subject.
The only part of the camera that hasn’t been updated is the front-facing sensor. It remains a 5-megapixel unit, with LG basically admitting that it’s sacrificed the selfie-taking skills of this phone to rid the bezel.
LG V30 – Battery life
There’s a 3300mAh battery to keep the LG V30 going, which is the same size unit included in the smaller LG G6. It’s far too early to judge the battery capabilities of this phone, but hopefully the more efficient CPU will help it perform better than its sibling. It charges via USB-C and supports fast as well as wireless charging.
I don’t say this often, but I’m excited by the LG V30.
It looks gorgeous and focuses on areas that other phones just don’t. The quad-DAC sounds exceptional and the included B&O earbuds are better than any other boxed headphones I’ve experienced to date. As someone who listens to a lot of music via my handset, I appreciate a good audio setup.
The camera, with its f/1.6 aperture, sounds great too. I’m slightly more interested in its photographic capabilities than video, but the new Cine Log recording and colour-grading feature that go along with it do sound interesting.
Depending on how much it eventually costs, the LG V30 could be an Android smartphone that ticks all the boxes – and one that really takes on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.