The LG G6 is the first handset to use a wider 18:9 (or 2:1) aspect ratio that allows for a larger screen without impacting the general grip of the phone. If the rumors are correct, both Samsung and Apple will introduce a similar screen size later this year. LG’s overall theme for the G6 is simplicity, reliability, user experience and value to the user. From the industrial design to most other decisions about the phone, this focus can be found. LG has officially open the smartphone battle of 2017. Is the LG G6 for you? Let’s find out.
First, let’s get the technical specifications out of the way and give you a lay of the land. Here are the highlight of the LG G6:
- 5.7” display (~80% screen/body ratio) 2880×1440 QHD+, 564 PPI
- Dual-cameras 13MP (back), wide camera (front) 5MP
- 32GB -64GB* storage, 4GB RAM
- Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) processor
- 3300 mAh battery (+18% from G5), wireless charging*
- IP68 water-resistance
(*) means that the availability of this specific feature will very depending on the buyer’s geographical area. More details later in the article…
Industrial Design (excellent)
The LG G6 general design, appearance and build quality are excellent. If we are to believe the rumors, all the 2017 leading smartphone will be go towards a “screen-only” industrial design style and LG is leading the way. Both Apple and Samsung are expected to announce phones that share the same traits. More on the display itself in the Display section.
"LG WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG"Obviously, this is not the first time that a phone OEM has come out with claims of a “bezel-less” phone. The term is over-used but there is a real “ultra-thin bezel” trend and phone such as Sharp Aquos Mini SH-M03 and Xiaomi Mi Mix have pushed the envelope towards a screen-only design. However, one could argue that both had the same large-bottom and awkward selfie camera location.
On the contrary, the LG G6 design is more balanced and preserves the overall usage model that people know and like – but pushes the form factor envelope at the same time. LG was the first company to locate the ON/OFF button in the back, and 2017 may be the year where the industry recognizes that LG was right all along on that one.
One-hand experience: good
The LG G6 has been designed to substantially increase the display real-estate, while keeping the form-factor under control. This allows current users to upgrade to a larger 5.7″ display, without giving up on a specific size and feel they liked with previous-generation phones. Because of this, the LG G6 offers a good one-handed experience by providing a similar grip to a 5.3” phone like the G5. In fact, the LG G6 has a form-factor that is comparable to last year’s G5.
It’s fair to say that everyone’s definition of “one hand experience” may vary largely. Some use the metric of reaching the top opposite corner with the thumb, which is a severe limit these days (but still legit, if that’s your thing). Others are fine with a ~5.3” phone because it fits comfortably in hand and is mostly, although not perfectly, one-hand friendly. I’ll side with the second group – so keep that in mind.
LG has an optional soft button to pull down the Android notification area (instead of swiping from top-down), which has to be my most frequent reason to touch the top of the screen. That button is very handy!
IP68 Water and Dust Resistance
The LG G6 joins a growing group of high-end smartphones that are water-resistant (nothing is water “proof” given enough time). Although most people don’t know LG for IP-rated phones, the company has been producing some for a while and is quite familiar with the technologies involved. Typically, those phones have been shipping to places like Japan where IP-rating has been a must-have feature for a long time. It seems like the rest of the world is heading that way too.
The G6 IP68 rating is superior to the iPhone 7’s IP67 one, and equal to the Galaxy S7 and other IP68 rated phones. It means that no dust can get in, and it supports up to 3-meter immersion.
The interesting part about the water/dust resistance is how it holds over time. As phones get dropped the water-tight seals can be damaged. LG claims that its design will provide a better long-term water-resistance than competitors as the water seals get challenged by shocks and impacts – and this leads us to the next paragraph.
Increased durability against drops
The LG G6 was designed with the awareness that phones are dropped, and screens get cracked too often. Unfortunately, repairs are long and expensive, so it is best to avoid the damage in the first place. No phone, especially a beautifully designed one with glass on both sides, is immune to damage, but there are ways to mitigate the risk it and reduce the likelihood of severe damage.
We have previously explained how the LG V20 was designed to survive drops and shocks, and the LG G6 inherit of the same techniques as much as design allowed. With about ~50% of drops happening on one of the four corners, and at least another 25% landing on one of the edges, LG can cover about 75% (my estimation) of hard impact situations by adding a metal rim all around the phone.
"LG IMPROVES RESILIENCE AND AESTHETICS AT THE SAME TIME – A SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE FEAT"Also, the glass is sunk slightly below the rim level so that the metal takes the brunt of any shock, allowing the glass’ strength to do the rest of the work to survive an impact. LG increases resilience and aesthetics at the same time – a seemingly impossible feat.
If you compare this to the Galaxy S7 Edge, arguably the most beautiful Android handset of 2016, the likelihood of a crack upon a landing on concrete is very high, I would estimate it to be 75%.
Also, the glass and display have rounded cuts at the corners, so any impact force can be spread over a wider area (compared to a right-angle corner), reducing the chances of breakage. The antenna slits have also been moved away from the corners to reduce impact severity and damage potential. With this, the waterproofing is less likely to fail at the antenna slits, even after repeated shocks.
Slick lines and no protrusions
Another change in LG G6 design (from the G5) is the last of protrusion of the dual-camera module. Internal space is extremely tight, and it wasn’t possible to do so last year because of the battery placement. This time, LG has optimized the internal layout to accommodate a flush dual-camera in the back. The sleek design fits with the overall “simplicity” (even in visuals and design terms) that LG is aiming for. Note that other phones such as the Huawei P9 have achieved having flush cameras before.
The G6 will be available in three colors: Ice Platinum (blue), Astro Black and Mystic White (Blue/Black/White). Ice Platinum is my favorite color, and reminds me a little of that blue Galaxy Note 7.
G6 Display: 5.7” and 18:9 Aspect Ratio
What is a 18:9 aspect ratio?
The aspect ratio is the relation in size between the width and the height of a display. 18:9 also called 2:1 means that in portrait mode, the height of the display is exactly two times longer than it is wide. Visually, it looks like two squares stacked on top of one another.
What are the advantages of 18:9 ratio?
The main reason for choosing 18:9 is the preservation of a standard width (in portrait mode) which means that the grip comfort remains unchanged when compared to the previous generation of phones (LG G5). At the same time, the screen is a little bit longer in vertical space, and that adds valuable display real estate. As you have seen, LG compensates for the extra screen size by shrinking the top/bottom bezels to preserve an overall phone form-factor that people are familiar with.
As the phone doesn’t become weirdly elongated, there are no downsides to having an 18:9 ratio. Users get a more immersive experience, and the extra surface introduces the potential for higher productivity and/or better readability.
HDR 10 and Dolby Vision support
The LG G5 is the first mobile to be certified by Dolby Vision as far as I know. The late Galaxy Note 7 had support for HDR videos, but since it has been pulled from the market. The LG G6 becomes the de-facto HDR phone to beat going forward.
The LG G6 IPS LCD display has a maximum brightness of 600 NIT, which is about 2X brighter than the average phone. Just to cite a couple of examples, the Google Pixel tops 343 NITs in brightness, while the S7 Edge reaches 558 NITs according to our measurements.
HDR is more than just cranking the brightness of a screen. It is a different way to encode/decode image and videos (more bits = more information). With a higher dynamic range, and tone-mapping algorithms, extremely high-contrast images look more life-like. Extreme contrast is more common than most people think. When you are looking at most scenes in broad daylight, the dynamic range exceeds most non-HDR devices capabilities. There are many HDR standards, such as Sony’s Hybrid Gamma Log, but Dolby Vision is getting popular in consumer electronics.
Netflix has about 15 shows streaming in HDR. Amazon has about 40 shows in HDR. This has not yet become widespread, but going forward, this is the way content gets shot, so expect more HDR content coming in this format, some in 18:9 ratio as well. For legacy content in 16:9, it is possible to watch them with some cropping or extra border. Each app will decide how to best handle the situation and there should be no particular issue.
LG has confirmed to Ubergizmo that the LG G6 will not be compatible with Google DayDream VR. It’s not on the radar, and that’s because the DayDream specifications require an AMOLED display, which the G6 does not have.
Camera: still undefeated in wide angle shots
With the introduction of the LG G5, LG has created an increasingly popular “wide-photo” category in which it enjoys a virtual monopoly. Samsung is expected to stick to a single-lens design and Apple has opted to add a telephoto lens (2X zoom), which is the exact opposite of a wide lens. Huawei and others tap in the dual-lens format to compete with large single-lens optics. Note that what Apple calls a “wide lens” is just a “normal” lens, by smartphone standards. Don’t miss our iPhone 7 Review.
"LG DOMINATED DUAL CAMERAS FROM DAY 1"After using many dual-lenses solutions for half a year, I would say that LG dominated dual cameras from day 1 and remains the champion in my book. Wide shots bring much more value to the user than any other dual-lens solution.
The LG G6 wide lens is 125 Degrees wide, which is a little narrower than the G5’s 130 Degree angle. That’s because the optics system is a bit flatter to be flush with the chassis. The narrower angle is hardly visible to G5 or V20 users. The normal lens has a 71 Degrees field of view. LG says that an astonishing 50% G5 users use the wide camera primarily.
Both cameras in the back use the same Sony IMX258 13 MP sensor which makes it easier to introduce a seem less transition from one lens to the other when people use the zoom slider to go from wide to zoom. Now, color metering and other camera settings can be transferred on the fly. Effectively, the wide angle camera got an upgrade from 8 to 13 Megapixel, but the normal camera has lost some resolution from the G5, which had a 16 Megapixel sensor.
The G6’s Sony IMX258 image sensor has an effective resolution of 4224 x 3136 (13 MP), is 5.867 mm in diagonal, has 1.12 μm pixels and feature some phase-detect AF pixels sensors.
Previously, the LG G5 had an IMX 234, with an effective resolution of 16 MP, 1.12 μm pixels, but no phase-detect pixels. Thus, the LG G6 has higher AF speed, but slightly less image sharpness in bright photo conditions. In low-light, the megapixel count doesn’t matter so much.
The aperture of both G5 back cameras is different. The normal camera has an f1.8 aperture, while the wide camera has an f2.4 aperture. This means that they have different low-light performance profiles and it’s unlikely that sensor fusion would be widely used, if at all (that’s also the case on the iPhone 7). “Sensor fusion” means using data from both sensor to enhance the accuracy of a single photo.
The selfie camera has a native wide 100 Degree field of view (FOV). This is a feature inherited from the LG V20, and it is possible to reduce the FOV (in software). This means that group selfie of 3 people can be done without having to take multiple shot. The selfie camera has a 5 Megapixel sensor.
LG G6 Photo Quality: excellent
In broad daylight, the LG G6 should do well. In fact, it should be very much comparable to the best 13 Megapixel camera phones out there. It does lose a bit of resolution when compared to the G5, but unless you zoom in all the way, or print pictures, it should not be a big issue.
In low-light, the G6 does surprisingly well for a camera with 1.12 μm sized pixels, and in fact, if you look at other phones equipped with the same IMX258 image sensor (Sony Xperia XA, Meizu M3E, Xiaomi Mi 4c/Redmi Note 4X/Redmi Pro), the G6 comes out on top, by a margin – and that’s mostly due to the work and talent of LG’s camera software team.
"AMAZING TO SEE WHAT LG SQUEEZES OUT OF THIS CAMERA SENSOR"In the low-light photo above, shot with an pre-release G6 device, you can see that although it was shot with a less sensitive sensor, using higher ISO settings, the LG de-noising algorithm does a great job at cleaning up the image. The S7 Edge photo is noisier, despite using a longer exposure time and a lower ISO setting, with a better image sensor. I don’t expect the G6 to win every time, but this is a great example of how software Image Quality tuning can save the day. It is amazing to see what LG squeezes out of this camera sensor.
If you zoom all the way in, the Galaxy S7 does preserve some subtle color tones, but overall, I think that in this photo, the noise and the overall appearance matters a lot. Also, unseen is the fact that the S7 tends to be faster at metering and capturing photos. That counts too.
Most people don’t realize it, but software is critically important to mobile cameras image quality. I’d like to see what this team can do with an edgy sensor such as the IMX378 present in the Google Pixel.
That said, hardware still matters, and in low-light conditions, a Galaxy S7 or a Google Pixel are more likely to push past the G6 capabilities. Despite doing very well in low-light, the LG G6’s undeniable advantage remains its exceptional wide-angle shooting capabilities that no-one else has matched (why!?).
Camera User Experience: excellent
The camera hardware has not changed much from last year, but the overall camera experience is better for several reasons. First, the general camera is faster because the auto-focus (AF) system and the metering are faster.
Secondly, the user interface of the LG G6 Camera benefits greatly from the increased screen size. Display size and display quality is an integral part of the mobile camera experience when you take the photos, but also when you view them again.
In auto-mode the LG G6 Camera app has an option to show a film strip on the left side, with the latest photos taken. You know exactly what was taken, even if you missed a preview. Also, the camera app has an integrated photo viewer, so you don’t need to do round-trips to the Gallery app anymore.
With the film strip OFF, you get a nice full-screen camera user interface that maximizes the view, which is stunning because of the large and bright display. Display and viewfinder are an integral part of what we consider to be a great mobile camera experience.
System hardware and performance
As was reported ahead of MWC 2017, the LG G6 is powered by a Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) which was launched in July 2016 and integrated in high-end phones such as the Google Pixel. The processor has 4GB of RAM, and there is at least 32 GB of internal storage (64GB max). A micro SD card (up to 2TB) can be added via a tray.
Some may have expected LG to select the new Snapdragon 835 chip which is Qualcomm’s latest at publishing time, however practical reasons such as schedule and production volume did not seem to align this year. To make a long story short, Samsung seems to be getting all the early batches of Snapdragon 835 chips. This is further evidenced by various 835-powered handset that will be announced at MWC, but available only around June. This did not fit LG’s agenda for the G6, understandably so. We have a larger article that explains why we think LG choosed Snapdragon 821 instead of 835.
Furthermore, the LG G6 has not been designed to compete on “specs”, but instead to bring great value (for the price) to the user. The Snapdragon 821 chip has more mature and stable software, and LG engineers have had ample time to optimize their code to extract the most of it. Until the first Snapdragon 835 handset shows up (in April, maybe), the LG G6 has the best Android-friendly chip available today.
The LG G6 unit we have does NOT feature a final firmware, so it’s too early for definitive benchmarking. However, according to our preliminary readings, CPU and overall system performance numbers look very similar to the Google Pixel, while gaming benchmark numbers are ~18% lower. We’re not sure why, but we will revisit the numbers once the retail handsets are available for purchase.
Thermal management boosted by heat pipes (yes, vapor cooling)
The LG G6 uses a heat pipe system to improve the cooling of the main processor. This works by having a copper plate placed on top of the Snapdragon 821 as a heatsink (orange square in the photo above). However, that copper plate is connected to a heat pipe that is a system of tiny tubes filled with a very small quantity of water in a closed system. In the photo, you can see the heat pipe going all the way to the side.
As the water heats up, it takes energy to evaporate and expands to a cooler section of the pipe where it condenses back to a liquid. At that time, capillary force pull the liquid back to the hot area, to be evaporated again…
LG says that this technique can improve the cooling by as much as 30% (when compared to no copper plate and no vapor cooling). Better cooling can lead to longer sustained performance, a metric rarely measured, but important in real world applications, such as video recording or gaming.
The reduced heat also contributes to better battery performance/charge/lifecycle in general because all those hot components (chip, display, battery) are enclosed in a very compact space and tend to interact with one another.
Audio: the power of Quad-DAC trickles down from the V-Series
Arguably, the LG G5 Series had a Quad-DAC via a module. However, the LG V20 was the LG phone that integrated it into the chassis. LG says that the G6 Quad DAC is slightly improved from the LG V20 although it uses the same ESS chip.
LG has not communicated much about it, so it’s fair to assume that it’s mostly the same, which is very good. We were impressed with the LG V20 DAC, and I’m annoyed when I listen to music via a basic DAC. And I’m not even remotely “audiophile”. The bad news is that Quad DAC is not available in many markets, which leads us to the next paragraph…
Hardware disparity in select markets
As LG seeks to optimize the end user value and its own BOM (bill of material) costs at the same time, the product team has studied worldwide markets and reached the conclusion that removing some features in select markets will not hurt sales and experience (too much).
I’m sure that LG will take some heat for this decision because although in select markets a large portion of consumers don’t care much about a specific feature, a minority will surely miss some of them. In the end, it is a business decision, and customers will have (more expensive) options to vote with their wallet. I hope that LG is right with its estimation. I’ve created the table below to give you a quick glance of what’s available, and where. Some of this may change, but this is the most up-to-date information we got from LG Electronics in Korea.
My understanding is that 64GB will be available in “some” Asian markets, but the information is a little too vague to say that all of “Asia” will get 64GB SKUs. I prefer to remain cautious for now. Keep in mind that this table does only represents a high-level view. There could be more local granularity, down to the carrier level.
Large battery: 3300 mAh + thorough safety tests
The LG G6 gets a 18% battery increase from the G5 and gets closer to the biggest battery capacities available out there, and certainly for this chassis size. This handset also uses Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 which charges the handset many times faster than with a simple USB or USB high-amp charging. You can learn more about Quick Charge 3.0 in our reference article, but in general, fast-charging makes a huge difference when you are in a hurry.
"LG USES EXTREME BATTERY TESTS"Note that while the LG G6 charges at a speed of ~50 mAh/mn (47% in 30mn) which is among the best on par with the S7, and other high-profile handsets, the Huawei Mate 9 can at an astonishing speed of 70+ mAh/mn, making it the fastest charge we’ve seen on a handset, and quite frankly a bit of an anomaly. Don’t miss our review of the Huawei Mate 9.
The company makes its own batteries and has made a point of showing that its battery-testing exceeds international UL standards, and that LG uses extreme battery tests such as puncturing batteries or throwing them into a fire. Normally, batteries are simply expected to behave dangerously when such events happen. LG’s builds its battery to remain relatively safe even under these extreme conditions (that means not exploding). More details about how LG tests its batteries.
The USA version of the LG G6 gets an integrated wireless charging capability (sorry Canadians, LG didn’t mention Canada for now). This wireless charging works with WPC (Qi) and PMA (now Airfuel), which makes it compatible with a large majority of wireless charging pads out there. LG points out that cable charging usually doesn’t work if the port is wet, therefore, wireless charging could be an alternative way to replenish your battery in those situations (not easy to dry out a USB C port). Of course, it’s also simply handy to put it on a wireless charger at night.
Product value: yet to be completely revealed
As I mentioned several times, the LG G6 has been optimized to maximize the value to the user, but also LG’s bottom-line. At this time, the retail price for the LG G6 is not yet known, so it won’t be possible to fully evaluate the G6’s value-proposition before later, when things will stabilize.
The closest thing that we have to look at is the price differential between today’s LG G5 and Galaxy S7. With a 30% price advantage to the LG G5, it’s fair to say that the G5 does have an interesting value-proposition to customers. Since the LG G6 appears to be purposely design to accentuate this, we expect it to be particularly competitive.
Conclusion: a balanced phone
The LG G6 is a beautiful handset that is built with purpose: battery life, simplicity, beauty, durability, and reliability. LG has largely succeeded in achieving these goals into a solid handset that leads the way for a 2017 transition from 16:9 to 18:9 (2:1) display aspect ratio.
"A RARE COMBINATION THAT MAKES THE LG G6 DESIGN VERY DESIRABLE"The G6 gives users what they want the most: a great battery capacity, huge display, no size increase, a fast and stable hardware platform and an industrial design that is durable (IP68 water-resistant) and beautiful (80% display to body ratio) at the same time. This is a rare combination that makes the LG G6 design very desirable.
Taken one by one, some of those points could be challenged by a competitor (mainly the Pixel, the Galaxy S7 or LG’s own V20), but no other handset can mix all those qualities into a single device. If LG Can manage selling it at a competitive price, it may achieve the perfect balance between features, experience and value-proposition.