The LG Q6 is about experience and style, not specs

Highs

  • Compact and good-looking design
  • MIL-SPEC 810 certified
  • Large battery

Lows

  • Camera could be better
  • Below-average performance

Rating and Price

  • Rating: 9/10

The LG Q6 was released in July 2017 and was initially geared towards the entry-level market. At publishing time, the LG Q6 had not yet been officially priced in the USA. However, this product was designed to compete in the ~200-250 USD range. I’m not sure how to call that (lower-mid-range?) but keep in mind that many products will move positioning as their price decreases over time.

With that price in mind, we have found a good number of suitable competitors which we will use to assess how the Q6 fits in its immediate smartphone landscape. Here they are Galaxy J7 (2017), Moto G5, Sony Xperia X, HTC U Play, ZTE Axon 7 mini and Nokia 6. Let’s take a deep dive…

Key Specifications

  • 5.5” IPS LCD Display (2160×1080)
  • Snapdragon 435 platform 4GB RAM, 64GB Storage
  • 3000 mAh battery capacity
  • Android 7.1.1

A high-level look at the technical specification will reveal key differences that we will study in details later. First, the Q6, J7 and Nokia 6 have the largest screens. These three also have larger battery capacities of 3000 (Q6+Nokia 6) and 3600 (J7), while others are somewhere between 2500-2800.

Although you can opt for any other competitors because of personal preferences, these three phones take a natural lead, based on unbiased factors.

Industrial Design: Slim and edgy

With a width of 69mm (2.72 inches) and a thickness of 8mm (0.31 inches), the smartphone feels very comfortable in hand. We use U.S M-size gloves for male hand-size reference, so this will vary from person to person. The device weighs 149 grams (5.26 oz), and we would consider that weight to be a bit below-average for its size.

Build Quality

Plastic is light and durable, but even with a premium paint or treatment it simply does not look as good as metal or glass. That said, the plastic back cover of the LG Q6 is quite nice, and if you don’t look closely, it resembles the glass+metal look and feel of the LG G6 premium handset.

However, plastic is lighter than metal and will not break. Plastic may be easier to scratch, but the damage is not always as visible as it might be on a metallic surface (because it is not as reflective as metal or glass).

Analyzing how the smartphone was designed, we estimate that the risk of cracking during a drop on a hard surface to be reasonably low. You can refer to our reference article about how phones could be constructed to avoid cracks upon drops. This handset front-glass is exposed, but the edges, back-cover, and corners won’t crack. Talking about the back cover, LG has NOT integrated a fingerprint reader on this phone.

Durability: very good

"CERTIFIED FOR THE SAME SHOCKS AND VIBRATION AS MILITARY HARDWARE"

The LG Q6 and its competitors are not waterproof but the Q6 is the only phone in this line-up to have received the military MIL-STD-810G certification (according to LG). This means that it has a proven record of surviving the same shocks and vibration as the military hardware can endure during transport and storage.

Although this does not mean that it can or should be used ‘in combat”, that is a durability bar that most handset can’t pass, and certainly none of the current nemesis phones do. The certification is normally done by an independent lab, following well-established rules.

Learn moreWhat is MIL-STD-810G?

Additionally, the LG Q6 uses an LG battery, and those pass a battery of test that is well beyond what is legally required. We have visited one of the battery testing facility in South Korea, and have witnessed batteries being subjected to abuses such as being pierced by a nail or being thrown into a fire, without experiencing a catastrophic explosion.

Ingenuity

This industrial design features decent, but not impressive performance in relation to its size. From another standpoint, the amount of battery capacity the user gets is great for a handset of this size. The screen display-to-body ratio of 79.7% is not only the best in this category but excellent even when compared to much more expensive handsets.

"THE SMALLEST AND LIGHTEST 5.5-INCH HANDSET IN THIS GROUP"

The LG Q6 is by far the smallest and lightest 5.5-inch handset in this group. With the Galaxy J7 2017 being 15% larger and the Nokia 6 being 16% bigger. At 149g the LG Q6 is also much lighter than the J7 (181g) and the Nokia 6 (169g).

Display: very good

The Q6 display has a IPS LCD panel. Its higher resolution of 2160×1080 and the LG Full Vision aspect ratio of 2:1 set it apart from every other handset listed here. The resolution itself is not so far from the standard 1080p (1920×1080) but with a PPI of 439, the LG Q6 has a slightly sharper large display, since the J7, and Nokia 6 are at 401 PPI which is ~10% lower.

"BEST SCREEN-TO-BODY RATIO IN ITS CATEGORY"

To even things out, those two phones have a 7% larger surface area than the Q6. That is because of the more elongated shape of the LG screen which makes it also thinner and possible more comfortable to hold.

IPS/PLS LCD technology made LCD displays so good, first on mobile, then everywhere else. IPS/PLS can render more colors than normal LCD, with higher color saturation and wider view angles. Within the world of IPS LCDs there are still some differences, but frequently IPS/PLS are above basic LCD displays.

However, LCD and IPS/PLS LCDs as a whole are not as technologically advanced as OLED displays (like the Samsung J7’s display) and will have lower contrast ratio and less saturated colors. While it is feasible to design excellent LCDs that perform at a comparable level to some OLED, these LCD screens should be considered the exceptions, and they may not have any of the normal benefits associated with LCD (vs. OLED). You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article to learn more.

Camera: OK. Could use a larger aperture

Mobile cameras have become amazingly good over the years. However, it is true that there is a huge difference between them based on price, but also depending on technology and expertise of the OEM.It is critical to understand that mobile photography has two foundations of great importance: Software and Hardware.

The software is usually very secretive, and it is very difficult to get reliable insight to determine its quality through a fair process. Also, photography is not just science. It is art as well. The camera specifications are more measurable. Camera hardware is potentially a strong limiting factor to mobile photography performance. Even if you use the best software on it, the quality of the input image data still plays a major role in the final photo outcome.

OpinonWhat’s a Great Mobile Camera Experience?

Technical aspects of the camera

In the Q6, the camera aperture of f2.2 is a bit small (larger f-number=smaller aperture), and the sensor size of ~12 square mm would be considered to be common (for a smartphone) in this price range. The Sony XPERIA X has a sensor with almost twice the area, but we have learned to be cautious of impressive specs from Sony because the final photo quality was not always there in the end – still it is an indicator that cannot be ignored. The Galaxy J7 has an f1.7 aperture, will make it faster and better, especially in low-light situations.

The 13 Megapixel count should not be used as a metric of photo quality. In low-light situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) does not matter much. Keep in mind that the physical size of each sensor pixel (aka “sensels”) is important. The LG Q6 has 1.12 µm sensels, which is quite in line with everyone else in this category.

With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller. Each sensel obtains less light information, and in dark scenes, it is better for the overall image quality to sense more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite. It is a balance that needs to be achieved. Today, 12 Megapixel seem to be the best sensor trade-off between sharpness, low-light and auto-focus performance.

On a sunny day or in very bright light situations, Megapixel could be a good metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a nature photo with a higher megapixel count could lead to finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and high-PPI display.

The Q6‘s camera does NOT have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on the primary camera module. The lack of OIS support will lower the chances to take great photos, especially in dim scenes. Of all the selected phones, only the HTC U Play has OIS.

Learn more: What is Image Stabilization?

OIS would help improve image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting minute hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it possible to leave the shutter open longer to capture more light (more prolonged exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are completely different, with digital stabilization suitable to help video recording smoothness

The autofocus of the Q6 camera is based on Phase Detection technology.

Phase-detection AF that started in specific AF sensor chips in the DSLR days. Then it got integrated into the camera image sensor. It works by adding specialized AF pixels sensors that would tell if specific points in the image were in-focus. This method is very fast, and the AF capabilities work well in most cases. AF performance is more or less proportional to the number of hardware AF sensels. Typically this number can go from dozens to hundreds of Phase-Detection AF points. Phase detection AF is an excellent system, which is only inferior to Dual-Pixel AF.

Camera user experience

Obviously, these phones are not going to compete with an LG G6 or LG v30 which cost 3x their prices. In the $200 range, concessions have to be done in every single aspect, and the camera modules are no exception.

Fortunately, to compensate for lower quality cameras, phone makers can increase exposure time and spend more time analyzing the scene before taking the shot. Basically, by slowing the camera experience down, it is possible to gather more light and still obtain fairly good pictures although scenes with many moving objects are more challenging for these lower-priced devices.

Phones like the LG Q6 and the other competitors here will tend to have slower shutter response time and take longer to save the images (1 sec in daylight, more in low-light, if they can focus at all). The whole process can take up to 1-2 sec.

Battery Life: Great

The battery capacity of Q6 is 3000 mAh, which is great in general, and very good in its category. The LG Q6 outsizes most phones in this comparison, except the Galaxy J7 which has 3600 mAh (20% more battery capacity). Even though the LG Q6 is a bit smaller, the J7 still packs 4% more battery capacity per cubic inch of internal space. The Nokia 6 equals the Q6 at 3000 mAh, but everyone else in the list is left behind.

Battery life is one of the most important features of a smartphone. A key metric is obviously the battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other). Battery life can be affected by many factors, but the main ones are the main processor, display and wireless radios (broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is not possible to accurately predict through synthetic tests how much energy drain YOUR unique usage pattern will generate. However, two things are surely always good:

  • A greater battery capacity
  • Very fast charging

It is impossible to predict real-world battery life by running synthetic tests. Factors such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will vary too much. Also, how many apps installed and their activity cannot be estimated. Battery capacity is the most important battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.

This product does NOT have a removable battery, which is the norm for a smartphone these days. Closed batteries cannot be swapped or easily repaired, but they do allow for smaller designs and slightly bigger battery size inside the same product design.

This handset has a relatively mild screen resolution. Although this may be a weakness from a display quality perspective, having fewer pixels to manage is a positive point for battery life.

Performance: below average

You can look at various numbers below, but in our estimation, this smartphone’s performance places it in the lower-mid-range class of products.

Before you focus on the charts, it is important to realize that most benchmarks are only loose pointers, usually for system or graphics performance. It is possible to see sharp performance deltas between different classes of devices (entry-level, mid-range vs. high-end), but it is less obvious to do so within handsets of the same class. Benchmarks alone should NOT lead to a smartphone purchase decision.

Gaming performance tests apply mostly towards complex applications using 3D graphics (GFXBench). Casual games like puzzles and 2D games do not need this kind of power and can run pretty much on any modern phone. CPU performance is shown by Geekbench, using one core, or all cores at the same time. To learn more, read out Are More Cores, Better? article (hint: not always).

The LG Q6 uses a Snapdragon 435 platform (June 2017). It is slightly better than the Snapdragon 430 (Sept 2015) used in the Nokia 6 or moto G5. However, it is not as powerful as the Snapdragon 6xx  in the XPERIA X. The Galaxy J7’s 7870 Octa chip is closer to the Snapdragon 6xx series. In short, the LG Q6 is in the lower-tier of its class when it comes to synthetic computing performance. From a gaming point of view, even the XPERIA X should not be called “gaming-capable”, despite the massive gap in graphics performance.

Storage (very good)

With 64GB of internal storage, the LG Q6 has one of the highest storage capacity. The Nokia 6 and the Sony XPERIA X also boast that number. Other phones have 32GB, and surprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy J7 starts at 16GB.

All the phones we looked at have a microSD card slot, but internal storage is both convenient and faster. With the operating system occupying a good of space, we feel like 16GB is very tight, especially if you download some movies or shoot movies with your phones. At 4MB each, photos will also fill up the storage very quickly.

RAM memory (very good)

The amount of RAM available to apps and the operating system is often a fault line between more and less expensive handsets. It mostly has to do with multitasking and avoiding to have data being moved from RAM to flash storage (internal storage) to free up RAM. When such a swap happens, things will slow down considerably causing hiccups and perceived performance and responsiveness issues.

The LG Q6 has 4GB of RAM, which is on-par with many high-end phones costing many times its price (RAM speed may be different). The HTC U Play and the Nokia 6 also have 4GB. Everyone else we looked at has 3GB of RAM, except the moto g5 which has only 2GB.

Although RAM is not a good proxy for performance, the lack of it may lead to performance issues. It is nearly impossible to predict how much RAM a user needs because it depends on the apps and usage pattern of that particular user. What we do know, is that having more RAM doesn’t hurt, as long as you are not overpaying for it.

Conclusion: a very potent option

With a price estimated in the $200 to $240, the LG Q6 does very well in this category of smartphones. As we have seen, two competitors are particularly close when it comes to battery capacity and screen size. The Samsung J7 (2017) and the Nokia 6 could be great alternatives to consider.

The HTC U Play could be one of the more powerful camera phones alternatives, but the J7 is also an excellent competitor. In the end, the best reason to buy the LG Q6 is for its design, battery, storage and Full-Vision wide display. LG was able to deliver a very compact phone that looks like a high-end phone, with excellent battery capacity in a light-weight and narrow body. The user experience is meaningfully better because of all this.

If you are more interested in technical specs, then the Samsung J7 seems like a worthy choice, because on the paper, it does look more powerful – but also bigger and heavier. Note that the J7 has only 16GB of storage, so you may want to look at micro-SD cards. Finally, if you want less pre-loaded apps, and a leaner interface maybe the Nokia 6 would be a fine choice.

Overall product rating: 9/10

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about LG, LG Reviews and smartphone reviews.

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