LG has just launched its LG V40 ThinQ smartphone, the first smartphone with five camera modules. LG introduced the ultrawide lens to the smartphone market and innovates again with a triple lens main camera system, complemented by a dual-camera selfie setup. Let’s take a deep dive into the LG V40.
Using cost and screen size as selectors, we found an array of suitable competitors which will be used to assess how the LG V40 ThinQ fits in its immediate smartphone landscape: The LG V30 (~490 USD), Apple iPhone XS Max (~1099 USD), Samsung Galaxy S9+ (~720 USD), Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (~999 USD), Google Pixel 2 XL (~600 USD) and the Huawei P20 Pro (~740 USD).
Key technical specifications
|LG V40 ThinQ|
|Display||6.4” P-OLED Display (3120×1440)|
|Camerw||Primary 12M Camera, f/1.5, Ultra-wide 16 MP, f/1.9, 2X Zoom 12 MP, f/2.4|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 platform 6 RAM, 64 GB of Storage + MicroSDXC (400 GB max)|
|Battery||3300 mAh battery capacity|
This smartphone feels comfortable in hand because it has a width of 75.7mm for a thickness of ~0.3 inches. For reference, this is based on a medium size hand (US M gloves). You can try guessing based on this. The 169 grams weight (5.96 oz) makes it a “medium weight” smartphone which is much lighter than other large-screen devices such as the iPhone XS Max (6.5”, 208g) and Galaxy Note 9 (201g)."MUCH LIGHTER THAN OTHER LARGE-SCREEN DEVICES"
In our opinion, the light weight is an essential aspect of the LG V40 handset, which carries on the legacy of the V30 handset. Weight and bulk, especially with a case have always been a negative factor for such massively large display phones. The LG V40 is a 6.5-inch smartphone which is ~5% lighter than the 5.8-inch Phone XS.
And LG does not compromise on build quality to achieve this: this handset uses the typical glass-sandwich design found in most modern high-end phones. Additionally, it is tough – but more on that shortly.
This handset design features excellent performance in relation to its size. From another standpoint, how much battery capacity the user has available is very good for a device of this size. The screen display-to-body ratio of 80.5% is also quite good in absolute terms.
Any glass sandwich design has a higher risk of cracking if the device lands on a hard surface. Regardless, people still prefer these materials because they are so nice. Handsets can merely be protected by a case.
Looking at how the smartphone was designed, we estimate that the odds of cracking during a drop on a hard surface to be quite probable. You can refer to our reference article about how phones could be built to avoid breakage on impact: How the LG V20 Was Designed To Survive Drops.
The V40 smartphone has an IP68 IP rating, which means that it is protected to some degree from dust and/or water. Here’s what the IP68 rating means: Dust-tight, no dust can penetrate. Up to 3-meter immersion waterproofing. In some cases, waterproofing means that “some” water can penetrate, but without harming the device
It also has a MIL-STD-810G Mil-Spec certification which means that it will survive U.S military battlefield storage and transportation. This is a bit different from battlefield usage, but it does reveal a certain level of toughness that many smartphones cannot achieve. This certification is highly unusual in the smartphone world.
Boombox Speaker and Hi-Fi DAC
Ther LG V40 features a powerful speaker system that LG calls Boombox Speaker, which uses all the internal volume of the phone as a resonance chamber. LG introduced it with the LG G7 ThinQ, and it has proven to be a formidable smartphone speaker, outclassing every other competitor, even those with dual front speakers.
The V40’s Boombox speaker doesn’t quite match the quality if the LG G7 ThinQ’s, but it’s close and comparable with the S9, iPhone XR, HTC U12 or XPERIA XZ2, which we all reviewed recently. The bass seems to be a little less powerful, and at maximum volume, there’s a bit more distortion. The G7 ThinQ will remain our reference handset for speakers at the moment.
V40 is equipped with a Hi-Fi DAC, although it’s not clear if it’s from ESS or Qualcomm. Either way, the quality is excellent, and when we tested both at Qualcomm’s HQ in San Diego, we couldn’t tell the difference, even with very expensive headphones.
LG V40 FullVision 6.4″ Display
The V40 display has a 3120×1440, 537 PPI, P-OLED panel. OLED is an entirely different display technology (than LCD) that has been widely seen in handsets mainly thanks to Samsung. The primary difference between OLED and LCD displays is how light is emitted. With LCD, there is a small number of white light emitters (1-2 for handsets, 2-100 for TVs) and black pixels are created by “blocking” the white light with a filter. Unfortunately, using a filter leads to “light bleeding” and “black color” that is really dark-gray.
With OLED, every pixel emits its own light. This also means that creating a black pixel means merely leaving it OFF. As a result, black color is indeed black, and other colors are more straightforward to control without using complex filters and color control technologies such as Quantum Dots and Nano Dots. You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article which goes deeper into the details.
The display brightness of is 720 NITs is impressive and slightly above-average in its category. In general, higher brightness is preferred to read the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness leads directly to better image quality in widespread situations.
This display also supports HDR (High Dynamic Range). HDR-certified handsets can replay HDR media, with a brightness of at least 600-800 NITs being required. There is more to HDR image quality than only a bright display, but it’s the first requirement for it.
The resolution of 3120×1440 would be considered to be very high in absolute terms and compared to the competition it would be comparable to Samsung phones, but ~15% sharper than the XS Max, and 24% sharper than the Huawei P20 Pro.
LG V40 camera: the first Penta-camera phone!
LG’s previous multi-camera efforts have been a little outside the box, thanks to the introduction of an ultra-wide lens. Frankly, we think that the company was right all along because ultra-wide is just so much more useful than a 2X zoom (which equates to moving forward by about 3 feet).
However, the portrait photography and 2X zoom marketing has proved to be powerful, and that’s where the market went. With LG V40, you get it all: standard, zoom and ultra-wide lenses in the primary camera system."LG KICKS THE DOOR WITH THE TRIPLE REAR CAMERAS AND WE COULD NOT BE HAPPIER ABOUT IT"
We really wondered if LG or Huawei (or Nokia) would be first to market with this, but now we know: LG kicks the door with the triple rear cameras and we could not be happier about it. This is what we wanted all along: excellent classic camera capabilities, couples with ultra-wide and zoom.
Photo Quality Bright and daylight HDR
In broad daylight, the primary LG V40 camera performs very well and produces images that are comparable to the Galaxy Note 9 or iPhone XS, also equipped with a 12 MP camera. In bright daylight, 16 MP cameras such as the OnePlus 6 can capture a bit more details, just as our technical analysis below predicts.
We noticed that the LG V40 has a slight disadvantage for background details sharpness. LG has also increased the color saturation and contrast a little bit by default to make images more appealing.
Low-light Photography: competitive with the best
In low-light photography, we pitted the LG V40 against the leading low-light cameras (all tests shot at 5 LUX brightness). In the first duel, the LG V40 beats the iPhone XS with less noisy and clearer images. To achieve this, the V40 uses a larger aperture, and some image processing but without going overboard. For some reason, the iPhone XS was a little off with the color balance, giving a warm tint.
In the second comparison with the Huawei P20 Pro, the LG V40 shows better details and image clarity, but the P20 Pro has lower noise levels and less image processing, but the image isn’t as sharp, partly because in low-light the P20-Pro uses Pixel Binning which brings the resolution to 10 MP.
The Galaxy Note 9 has a slight advantage in low-light with an image that as a bit clearer and less noisy. V40 also has more image processing. You can look at the cropped images below and zoom on the details:
Note that LG has an extra-bright mode that also uses Pixel Binning, and the image above was shot without it. Pixel Binning would bring the resolution down to 4 MP, but it can be beneficial under extreme low-light conditions.
The 2X zoom of the LG V40 is a welcome addition, but in our tests it was not able to overtake the Galaxy Note 9 and the iPhone XS Max. The Huawei P20 Pro easily outclasses both competitors. Although the LG V40 zoom photos are still much better than less expensive phones, the battle for supremacy at the high-end is difficult.
P20 Pro aside, the Note 9 has a great mix of noise and details, while the iPhone has a bit more details but with too much noise. Note that this is an extreme zoom situation (10X) to push the camera to its limits. The more moderate the zoom, and the harder it is to notice these details.
Cool feature: Triple Preview and Triple Shot
Because the LG V40 offers so many different focal lengths, the company has included a real-time thumbnail review of each lens in the camera app. Just tap and hold the lens selector at the top, and the preview will kick in. What a neat feature, we love it!
And if you can’t decide, just use Triple Shot, a mode in which the camera app will successively take one photo with each lens. Additionally, it can also create a short “zoom” animation based on all three photos.
Main (rear) camera system technical analysis
- Ultrawide camera: 16 mm focal, 16 MP, f/1.9, medium-size sensor, no OIS
- Primary camera: 26 mm focal, 12 MP, f/1.5, large-size sensor, Optical Image Stabilization, 4K/60FPS
- Telephoto camera: 52 mm focal, 12 MP, f/2.4, medium-size sensor, no OIS
The 12 Megapixel resolution should not be used as a general proxy of photo quality, but on a sunny day, it could be a useful metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a landscape photo with a higher megapixel count could show 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/or high-PPI display.
In dark scenes situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) does not matter much. Also, the physical size of each sensor pixel is essential. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller.
Each obtains less light information and in dark situations, it is better for the overall image quality to gather more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite. It is a balance that needs to be found. Today, 12 Megapixel seem to be the best sensor trade-off between sharpness, low-light and autofocus performance.
The presence of an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) module on the primary camera increases the odds of capturing sharp images in daylight, and brighter images at night
OIS helps to achieve better image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting minute hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it practical to leave the shutter open longer to gather more light (more prolonged exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are completely different, with digital stabilization suitable to improve video recording smoothness
This handset supports Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), which is specifically designed to stabilize video recording from excess motion induced by hand-holding, walking, running. Road vibrations or drone flight turbulence could also be offset by this technique. EIS does NOT help with still photography and is not meant to replace OIS. Certain video formats such as extreme resolutions or frame rates may not be compatible with this device EIS capabilities.
The auto-focus of the V40 camera is based on Phase Detection technology. Phase-detection AF that was originally built into discrete 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 swift 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.
Selfie camera: LG surpassed itself, and leapfrogged many others
We have criticized LG for the relatively low-quality of the LG V30 front camera in the past. Fortunately, the mobile design team has listened to user feedback and came back with a brand new, more powerful, dual-lens selfie camera. The new selfie setup is much better than V30 and manages to beat the Galaxy S9 / Note 9, to land near the iPhone XR selfie quality, with the iPhone staying ahead because of a superior Bokeh rendering.
In fact when I asked Hubert Nguyen to snap selfies with these phones, we noticed that the Pixel 2 XL and the LG V40 were the phones that preserved details better. Some image processing / beautifying going on by default on the V40, but you can disable it, which we did.
- Selfie Main: 26 mm, 8 MP, f/1.9
- Selfie Secondary: 21 mm, 5MP, f/2.2
The 8 MP selfie camera comes with a standard 26mm focal-length comparable to the main rear camera. The secondary 5 MP selfie camera has a wider angle (21mm) and should decently in bright light situations. The main advantage of the dual selfie camera is to add a more accurate Bokeh mode (background blur, or portrait photography). LG also lets you change the blur amount after taking the shot, which is always nice.
LG V40 Battery
The battery capacity of the V40 is 3300 mAh, which is very good in general, and slightly below-average in its own category. Battery life is one of the most sought-after features of a handset. A key factor is without a doubt the battery capacity.
Battery life can be affected by a lot of factors, but the main ones are the central processor aka SoC, display and wireless radios (LTE broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is impossible to precisely predict through synthetic tests how much energy drain YOUR unique lifestyle will generate. However, two things are surely always good:
- A larger battery capacity
- Very fast charging
It is generally not possible to predict real-world battery life by running synthetic benchmarks. Things such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will change too much. Also, the number of apps on-board and their usage is unpredictable. Battery capacity is the most important battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.
With a charge speed of 51 mAh/mn, the LG V40 charge speed is very fast in absolute terms and is equalled by few. It uses Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 and just to give you some perspective, the fastest-charging phones out there can top ~65+ mAh/mn, which is truly extraordinary. The iPhone XS is the group’s laggard with only 20 mAh/mn (with the in-box charger). Wireless charging can be very convenient and the V40 comes with integrated wireless charging.
This product does not have a removable battery, which is common for handsets nowadays. Fixed batteries can’t be taken out or conveniently repaired, but they do allow for more compact designs and a bit bigger battery size within the same product volume.
Since this smartphone has a huge screen, keep in mind that larger displays tend to consume more power because of the larger surface area to light up. It depends on the brightness levels displays are being used at, but the potential for higher energy exists, so higher battery capacity is preferable.
This device also has a very high-resolution display (3120×1440). This is great to show extremely crisp images, but handling 2.42M pixels more than a 1080p/FHD (2M pixels) screen will draw a bit more power from the battery. Fortunately, there’s a setting to reduce the rendering resolution if desired.
This handset central processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (8 Cores), which has access to 6 GB of memory (RAM). The amount of RAM is essential for power-users, or for having many apps/services on the device. When the memory is tight, the phone may become less responsive if the OS has to read/write from the slower Flash storage instead, thus killing the performance.
Before you focus on the charts, it is important to realize that most benchmarks are only loose indicators, usually for system or graphics performance. It is possible to perceive sharp performance gaps between different tiers of handsets (entry-level, mid-range vs. high-end), but it is much more difficult to do so within handsets of the same class.
Benchmarks alone should NOT lead to a smartphone purchase decision. To learn more, read our Are Benchmarks Important? Article. Gaming performance benchmarks (3DMark, GFXBench) apply only to intensive applications using 3D graphics. CPU Benchmarks (Geekbench) are a loose indicator for general purpose computing performance.
Wireless Broadband Performance
The V40 has a CAT18 (1200 Mbps ⇣ / 211 Mbps ⇡ ) LTE modem. This level of performance is excellent in its category and also excellent in general. Nearly all Snapdragon 845 phone can reach LTE CAT 18. Last year’s LG V30 had a CAT 16 connection, which incidentally is the same than the new iPhone XS, at 1000 Mbps ⇣ / 105 Mbps ⇡
Wireless networks (3G/4G) performance is often thought as peak download/upload speeds, but it is the average speed that counts. These days 4G/LTE is the primary network of interest, but 5G is coming. The higher the paper LTE performance and the better the average actual performance. Additionally, wireless providers have better and more efficient LTE networks to lower their own costs.
The LG V40 is an excellent large-display smartphone that competes very well at the high-end. It shares the same Snapdragon 845 processor with most high-end phones, that is still the best for Android today."EXCELLENT UX AND THE MOST FLEXIBLE MOBILE CAMERA TO DATE"
Its high-performance camera system introduces an unprecedented combined range of 16-52 mm that makes it the most flexible mobile camera to date. The ultra-wide lens adds a dimension that smartphone users should look into. The primary camera can go toe to toe with the very best smartphones out there, and beat most of them, including the new iPhone XS.
The industrial design and the lightweight of this handset creates a distinct experience. It feels incredibly light for its size and power, and feature a very good battery capacity and charge speed. We recommend holding it and comparing how it feels against any other choice you may have. What a phone!
Update: US Carriers have started to announce the V40 availability:
- AT&T: Oct 12 pre-sales, available on Oct 19
- T-Mobile: Oct 12 pre-sales at ~$920, available on Oct 19
- US Cellular: Oct 12 pre-sales
- Verizon: Oct 11 pre-sales at ~$979.99, available on Oct 18