#IFA2017 – As we head into the holiday season, most companies will complete their line of products to compete. The LG V30 is the 3rd generation of LG V-Series handset, a line of product that is designed for power users and the creative types. While the LG G6 aims to please the largest number of people, the LG V30 specifically targets those who go off the path, taking time to craft experiences before sharing them. With a 6” 2880×1440 OLED display, an extremely powerful computing platform and a two camera setup, the LG V30 seems hot, and here’s what we think of the device.
- Snapdragon 835
- 4GB RAM, 64-128GB internal storage
- microSDXC support (2TB max, 256GB practical today)
- 6” 18:9 2880×1440 OLED “Full Vision” Display (as announced on Aug 3)
- 100% DCI-P3 colors
- Dual 16MP (OIS)/71Deg + 13MP/120Deg back cameras
- 90 Degrees 5 Megapixel Camera
Important note: this article was written based on the time we spent (days) with a pre-production unit. We have since updated it extensive field experience based on 1 month usage, and performance numbers derived form a retail unit.
LG V30 has a new (aesthetic) design, but a different philosophy as well. The original LG V10 was built as a very sturdy handset with a removable battery. The LG V20 pushed that concept further by merging sturdiness with a business look. Our LG V20 test unit was dropped (accidentally) on hard surfaces many times and did not crack.
This year’s LG V30 takes a new direction, and while it is classy and business-like, it is no longer designed with sturdiness as a priority feature. Aesthetics has come to the forefront of the LG V-Series design priorities this time.
"THE METAL MATERIAL HAS A MACRO TEXTURE THAT LOOKS INCREDIBLY SLICK"The LG V30 now has a sealed battery and a glass/metal back cover, similar to the LG G6. The metal material has a macro texture that looks incredibly slick. Even though a niche market for removable battery phones does exist, LG’s market research has shown that the sweet spot is in the 6” display category. It’s completely legitimate to want a removable battery, but it’s not where the market is going.
The LG V30 has a significantly better industrial design than the LG G6. The display to body ratio is noticeably higher, but the phone is also visibly thinner. At 7.39mm, you can feel it when holding the V30 and G6 (7.9mm) side by side. The new Galaxy Note 8 (8.6mm) is also noticeably thicker.
The LG V30 also feels surprisingly light for a 6″ phone. With a weight of 158g, it is comparable to the Galaxy S8 (155g) and much lighter than the Note 8 (195g). It is also lighter than the LG G6 (163g) despite being larger.
In my mind, this handset is not competing with the Galaxy Note 8, but with the Galaxy S8. The V30 is a little wider, and its screen is a little bit bigger (6” vs. 5.8”). As a result, they are competing for the same potential customer. If you think that the Galaxy S8 is a little narrow, the LG V30 could provide a slightly more comfortable typing experience and grip.
The industrial design is very nice, and the back metal/glass treatment quality is high. It is not easy to take photos that will show the LG V30 back cover it in its full glory, but it looks neat. All around the phone, there is a metal rim which ensures the structural integrity. If you look closely, you will see that the front glass does curve slightly to the sides, but the screen itself isn’t curvy.
As we explained in details with the LG V20 sturdiness analysis, phones can be designed to avoid cracking as much as possible. However, the LG V30 departs from this and becomes a glass/metal phone like many others (S8/Note8/HTC U11, etc…). The prevalence of glass means that if dropped on a hard surface, it has a higher likelihood to crack than the V20.
"LG V30 IS MORE BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT AS TOUGH AS THE V20"The corner and edges of the phones are the most likely impact locations. The LG V20 corners are made of metal, but since the glass does creep a little on the edges (not as much as S8/Note 8), there’s a higher chance of cracking there. We recommend using a clear case if you are a bit clumsy. That should lower the odds of cracking significantly.
Interestingly, the LG V30 has also passed 14 of the military transport test under MIL-STD 810G (complete explanation). Just to be clear, these tests were designed to certify that military hardware could resist being transported in trucks to the front. The test emphasizes more vibration and temperature than impact against hard surface, or even water contact. The Mil-STD 810G impact drop tests are done on plywood because army trucks and barracks often have wooden floors. In the end, the LG V30 is more beautiful, but not as tough as the V20.
Unlike the LG V20, the V30 is water-resistant, which is a big deal in general, but particularly in markets such as Japan where buyers won’t even consider a product which does not have this feature. The absence of a removable battery certainly makes IP68 much easier to integrate. That said, phones such as the Galaxy S5 had both the removable back cover and some water-resistance.
Back in the days, most smartphones died prematurely due to water contact. Since more and more handsets are now IP-Rated to be water resistant at various degrees, the stats may have gotten a lot better.
Note that LG has pushed many of the antenna slits as far away as possible from the corners to avoid weakening the waterproof seals during impacts. Not everyone does that, and it’s worth mentioning.
MicroSD storage extension
Since the LG V30 is destined to power-users, the presence of a microSD memory card is significant. Although the phone ships in 64GB and 128GB configurations (internal memory), it is more cost-efficient to add memory with a card.
microSD cards are not as fast (~100MB/sec) as the internal storage, but it is fast enough for most applications, including 4K video recording. In fact, most things that require massive amounts of storage will run just fine on an SD card. The costly internal memory is best for app launches and other things that should run as fast as possible. To give you an idea of the prices:
- Samsung 256GB 100MB/s (U3) MicroSDXC EVO (~$150)
- SanDisk Ultra 256GB MicroSDXC UHS-I Card (~$120)
- Samsung 128GB up to 48MB/s EVO Class 10 Micro SDXC Card (~$52)
- Samsung 64GB 100MB/s (U3) MicroSD EVO Memory Card (~28)
Display: Full Vision is back in 6-inches
LG was the first company to introduce a super-wide, near bezel-less display to the smartphone market. The LG V30 has a 18:9 “Full Vision” display, just like the G6 did. However, the V30 display is better-integrated into the chassis, especially since the front is completely black. The front glass also has a gentle curve that makes it more agreeable to hold.
LG typically uses LCD IPS display for its handsets, but this time, an OLED screen has been selected for the LG V30. Rumors mentioned P-OLED or “Polymer OLED” as the technology behind it, but LG did not specify whether that’s true or not, so take this with caution until we can verify.
The 2880×1440 resolution is outstanding, and brings a pixel density of 537 PPI to this handset. If you wonder what PPI is, and why high-PPI is good (or not), follow the link below.
"DISPLAY IMAGE QUALITY VERY COMPARABLE TO SAMSUNG'S S8 SERIES"Without instruments, it’s quite difficult to compare displays in fine details, but for now, we can stick to what’s visually perceptible. Using the same set of images, I’ve compared the LG V30 OLED display with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, and in both cases, the color rendering and overall image quality are very comparable to Samsung’s S8 Series.
There are small differences in the color saturation, but this may simply be due to custom color settings. The V30 seemed a bit more saturated out of the box, but saturation alone is not a “quality” factor in itself. It can also be a matter of personal preferences.
The LG V30 display could emit 653 NITs of brightness, which is excellent, and more than the 600 NITs of the Galaxy S8. However, the Note 8 and its 720 NITs (measured) is noticeably brighter. The LG V30 is bright enough to play HDR content (600+ NITs required), but we have to see which HDR certifications the phone will feature at launch time. There are two that people are looking for: HDR10 and/or Dolby Vision (Mobiles).
Camera: LG, the only game in town for ultra-wide photo
You can find full-size versions of the photo samples in our LG V30 Flickr Album. Mobile photography is without a doubt one of the most important differentiation in the phone market. It is challenging to build and improve upon. Among all the phone makers, few can consistently deliver a great experience, and LG is one of them. If you want to understand how we review mobile cameras, we suggest to read the article below, but the short story is: we try to consider real-word common use cases.
At IFA 2017, LG is promoting the V30 camera’s f1.6 large aperture and glass lens with good reason. However, we noticed that the V30 sensor surface area (~16.45 mm²) and sensing pixel size (1µm) were smaller than the V20’s (20.28 mm², 1.12 µm). The main LG V30 16 Megapixel camera module uses a Sony IMX-351 mobile camera sensor.
"IMPRESSED WITH THE IMAGE QUALITY TUNING SKILLS FROM LG CAMERA ENGINEERS"As we played with the phone, the LG V30 still manages to produce an outstanding image quality despite the small sensor. Sensor specs is not the only parameter for photo image quality. The larger aperture and improved lens can compensate partly for the sensor size. Of course, signal and image software processing remains one crucial factor.
But to to obtain such good image-quality with this small sensor borders on sorcery, especially in low-light where the V30 seems to compete with the iPhone 7. In daylight photography, the extra Megapixel count makes it produce image a bit sharper than the top 12 Megapixel phones. I’m continually impressed with the Image Quality Tuning skills from LG camera engineers. I can only imagine what they could produce with a 25 mm² sensor + 1.44 µm pixels.
Also, LG did not promote Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) for its main camera, but I can confirm that it is indeed present on the 16 Megapixel camera module. In addition to OIS, I think that LG and other OEMs are using multi-shots techniques more than in the past. This involves taking several high-shutter speed images and combining them into a single final photo.
"SUCH GOOD IMAGE-QUALITY WITH THIS SMALL SENSOR BORDERS ON SORCERY"That’s exactly what the Google Pixel does, and this works very well. Not only the high shutter speed makes the camera a bit less reliant on OIS, but shooting successive images like that in low-light conditions actually reduces the noise-to-signal ratio. The (very big) challenge is to re-align the images to compensate for small camera movement during the capture. I was under the impression that the LG G6 camera greatly used this technique, but it might have been further tuned since.
Learn more: What is Image Stabilization?
Bokeh photography: not so much
LG finds itself to be one of the major brands to use dual-cameras for ultra-wide shots instead of “Bokeh” photography. Bokeh is often used for portrait photos with a strong background blur that brings attention to the subject. In practice, Bokeh requires a bit more work and adds friction in the overall mobile photo process. That explains why you don’t see more mobile photos using Bokeh on your social networks. That said, it is legitimate to like or want Bokeh.
The LG V30 does not pretend to be good at Bokeh (it’s not). In the end, if you want nice bokeh photos, you should get a Galaxy Note 8 or iPhone 7 Plus. The Huawei Mate 9 and Huawei P10 come close behind in bokeh performance.
Learn more: Dual Cameras vs. Single Camera
Ultra-wide photography: the real deal
In my opinion, the use of the secondary back camera for ultra-wide photos is most pragmatic. LG reports that 50% of its users have set the ultra-wide lens as the default when they start the Camera app. Ultra-wide doesn’t require you to switch to a special Mode. Just zoom in and out, and the phone chooses the appropriate lens. You shouldn’t even know that there are two lenses.
Everyone that I know who with a G5, G6 or V20 has taken a whole lot of ultra-wide photos (UWP). Super-Wide photos are just great in many situations where the regular-angle lens simply can’t “see” enough of the scene.
The LG V30 has the best implementation of the ultra-wide mobile photo. Not only the pixel count has sharply risen to 13 Megapixel (from 8), but LG has also added some distortion correction, which was one of the more frequent criticisms of UWP.
Low-light photo: very good
Despite the small sensor size, the LG V30 captures very good low-light photos. Since our initial review, I had many opportunities to put the low light photography to the test, and in my final analysis, I found the LG V30 performance to bet somewhere in-between the iPhone 7 Plus and the S8/Note 8 for low-light photos.
The Galaxy S8/S8+/Note 8 cameras performed a bit better in low-light than both the V30 and the iPhone 7 Plus at the moment. Also, the iPhone 7 Plus came out a year ago but is visibly behind the V30. It comes down to Image Quality tuning choices. LG seems to be aiming for low ISO which is good for reducing noise, but the camera app has to use sub 1/30 exposure, or capture multiple shots (2-4) to compose the final image. Both these techniques make it difficult to capture moving subjects.
That is even more true for the secondary camera which has an f2.0 aperture. You can see this clearly in the wide crowd photo above.
In the grand scheme of things, I think that the LG V30 is close enough from the Galaxy 8-series that this will not be a deal breaker. If you like Bokeh photography, the Note is better. If you think that ultra-wide photos are great, then the LG V30 is your top choice.
With a 3300 mAh battery capacity, the LG V30 lands into the “large battery size” category, although it is not unexpected (Learn: What is Mah). Batteries just don’t evolve that fast, unfortunately. The Xiaomi Mi Mix has a 4400 mAh battery, and the Galaxy S8+ has a 3500 mAh one. We’re comparing it with two of the best handsets when it comes to battery integration here.
"EXCELLENT BATTERY CAPACITY PER CUBIC INCH"Interestingly, the LG V30 industrial design offers an excellent 640 mAh of battery per cubic inch. This is more than the S8, S8+ and Note 8 — note that all other large display phones can’t even compete based on these metrics. For example, the LeEco Le Max Pro has a 3400 mAh battery, but its design is 47% larger than the LG V30.
Other large-capacity battery phones can be found in the mid-range segment of the market with displays, cameras and industrial design that can’t match the LG V30 (not even close). As it stands, the LG V30 offers an excellent amount of battery in regards to its size.
Although LG no longer promotes fast charging actively because it has become common, we expect the LG V30 to hover around ~50 mAh/mn which is the standard fast-charge for high-end phones, or simply for phones using a high-Amps charging system such as Qualcomm’s Quick Charge.
Only the Huawei Mate 9 and the OnePlus 5 have significantly faster chargers that can top speeds of 77 mAh/mn and 65 mAh/mn respectively. That is truly extraordinary, and quite a big deal if you’re really stressed by power consumption and charge speed.
Integrated wireless charging
The LG V30 will have wireless charging integrated by default (another closed-battery convenience), and that’s a great thing because it removes a little bit of friction by not asking the user to touch a cable. Yes it’s a small thing, but dropping the phone on a charging mat is simply a little bit more convenient than connecting a cable. That is particularly true in a car.
System Performance: Snapdragon 835
This is LG’s first handset that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, part of the Snapdragon Platform. The LG G6 is powered by Snapdragon 821 (here’s why), last year’s flagship processor for Android phones.
Snapdragon 835 is the best hardware platform for Android at the moment. The main alternative is Samsung’s Exynos 9 chip, but those are only used by Samsung as far as I know. 835 offers higher general performance, but the leap in graphics performance and in modem speed (Gb-class LTE) are the most noticeable parts.
Snapdragon 835 phones exhibit very comparable performance, so we don’t worry too much when seeing small differences in synthetic benchmark scores between different phones. They all land within the same “class” of performance and capabilities and that’s the important part.
Finally, and this is non-scientific, but using more or less the same apps and setup, I found the LG V30 to be less prone to slowing down (vs. the Galaxy S8) after a month or so of usage. It might be due to a lower number of pre-loaded apps, or a lighter Android custom layer. It is hard to tell, and to measure accurately — yet worth mentioning.
The LG V30 is a handset with powerful attributes that define a high-end device: amazing display, excellent industrial design, a very good camera and a very fast processor and connectivity. While the LG V30 can be challenged by its competitors on specific points (industrial design, primary camera), the overall package is extremely solid and makes sense.
"AN EXCELLENT ALTERNATIVE TO ANY 5.5 TO 6.0 PHONES"The LG V30 is noticeably smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus despite having a considerably larger display. On the Android side, I consider that it is an excellent alternative to any 5.5 to 6.0 phones. The LG V30 provides a different experience based on two things: first, the industrial design is a bit more comfortable to certain users. Secondly, the ultra-wide camera gives it an edge that you cannot find anywhere else.
The LG V30 also comes with apps that have an emphasis on creativity, and aimed at people who want to do much more than simple media consumption. Out of the box, it is for “creators” (especially video/audio). How much of that can be reproduced with commercial apps on another phone, we don’t know yet.
At the end of the day, the real story here is that the LG V30 experience is truly different from the S8/S8+ and Note 8. It is large, yet feels extremely light like a “normal” phone. The S8 feels tiny, while the Note 8 and S8+ are quite large and heavy in your hand. Pick one up in your hand, and you will immediately see what I mean. The V30’s positioning is unique, and the addition of a better than ever ultra-wide photo capability reinforces its outsider’s position.
Operating system aside (not comparable due to personal preferences), the LG V30 is also superior to the new iPhone 8/8+ from an industrial design standpoint. I’m not talking about being pretty (you decide), but about the fact that it has a much larger screen for its size, a better grip, slightly better waterproofing rating and more battery capacity for its size/weight. Again, the main camera difference is about whether or not you like Apple’s Portrait mode, or would rather capture in ultra wide angle.