LG has officially launched the LG V30, the third iteration of its V series with the aim of changing the opinion of this family of phones. The thing that's always been slightly strange about the V models is the limited availability and the strong focus on advanced video capture skills.
In fact, LG found through its own research that people saw the V device as something for professionals. That's not what the V series is really about and the best manifestation of that is the LG V30, which is every inch a flagship handset to compete with the best out there.
We've had our hands on a pre-production model and been using it since launch. We've taken quite a shine to it.
LG V30 preview: Design
- 151.7 x 75.4 x 7.3mm, 158g
- Gorilla Glass 5 front and rear
- IP68 waterproofing
Both LG and Samsung have made a major shift in smartphone design in 2017 and that's adopting a different screen aspect. The advantage this move makes is allowing lots of screen space without the phone getting too wide in the hand.
For the LG V30, that means a display that measures 6-inches on the diagonal, yet a body width that's only about that of a 5.3-inch device. Reducing the front bezels top and bottom and shifting away as much of the clutter to maximise display space dominated the LG G6 design, an act repeated on the LG V30.
For the V30 the result feels more accomplished in the hand than the LG G6 ever did. The metal core of this phone creates the edges, while the Gorilla Glass 5 front and back of phone curve neatly to meet those edges. It's smooth, it's sleek, it's very refined, but it's also a great size too. This shift in display aspect isn't just a fad - even Apple is embracing it with the iPhone X. Remember - LG did it first.
Coming in four colours - Aurora Black, Moroccan Blue, Cloud Silver, Lavender Violet - it's the silver we have in hand here and it looks great. There's a depth to that rear colouration, it's not a flat silver like the metal phones of 2016, thanks to the use of glass. LG has also tidied up the rear space, shrinking the rear camera for a better look overall.
We also really like the placement of the fingerprint sensor. Like so many Huawei and Honor phones or the 2016 Pixel devices, the fingerprint scanner sits on the rear. Unlike Samsung's phones, it's easy to hit and distinct, also incorporating the power button, so it will depress slightly.
That leaves the sides of the phone offering the volume buttons on one side and the SIM/microSD card tray on the other. Everything looks ordered and neat, an accomplished design that somehow fits the size of the device better than it did in smaller format. We'd happily say that we think this is LG's best designed phone in a long time, although how the glass rear stands up to rough treatment only time will tell.
LG V30 preview: Display
- 6-inch, 2880 x 1440 pixels, 536ppi
- 18:9 aspect
- OLED panel
Although LG is one of the biggest users of OLED in its televisions, it hasn't used the display technology in its smartphones with a great degree of regularity. The G Flex was an exception, with OLED showing one of its skills in that form - flexibility.
For the LG V30, OLED takes centre stage, giving us a flagship phone with a display that could be very capable. One of the reasons behind the switch in technology from LCD has been the form factor. It's using OLED that has allowed Samsung to curve the edges of its phones and although the LG V30 doesn't follow that design lead completely, there are some similarities between the display looks on the V30 and something like the Galaxy S8+.
OLED, P-OLED, AMOLED - call it what you will - comes with a few advantages over LCD displays. It's generally richer in colour and offers deeper blacks. The downside is that whites can be tainted and peak brightnesses aren't always as high. The LG V30 will let you tweak the colour balance on the V30, so if you think it looks too warm (slightly yellow whites, for example), you can make them cooler.
Gone from the display is one of the things that defined the earlier V models - a secondary display. Previously this would offer up notifications, shortcuts and the like, but now becomes a Floating Bar. Again, it's similar to some of the stuff that Samsung is pushing into its edge panels, but this more about shortcuts.
You can customise the apps offered and you can also have third-party apps supported in music controls, like Spotify. Yes, Spotify is well supported in the lock screen and in the notifications area, but for those who are struggling to reach the top of the phone one-handed might find this feature really useful - you're also free to position the Floating Bar icon wherever you like on the left or right edge of the display.
Having used the LG V30 for a number of weeks, we can't say that we used the Floating Bar at all. We suspect that for those who had a previous dual display device, then you might use Floating Bar to make up for that loss, but in reality, it's never hard to get to what you want, or get the information you want through notifications.
We've been using a pre-production version of the LG V30, so we can't draw any definitive conclusions about the quality of the display, but from what we've seen on our model, it's not quite as bright as Samsung's versions. We've seen reports that it might be less even in illumination (which shouldn't be the case as it's OLED), but we can't say that our device suffers from this. As we said, we're in a pre-production device and that needs to be considered.
The LG V30 will also be Daydream compatible, something that Google themselves confirmed way back at Google I/O, which means you can join the VR revolution with this handset.
LG V30 preview: Hardware and performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage + microSD; 128GB in V30+
- 3300mAh battery, Quick Charge 3.0
With a pre-production handset it's difficult to establish exactly what the long-term performance will be like but first impressions are good. The phone flies through the apps that we've installed and sitting on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 which we've seen in a number of other phones, we'd expect nothing less.
Having lived with the V30 for a couple of weeks we've been impressed with the fluidity of the phone. It doesn't get hot under load and when fed demanding games it has no trouble running them - and that's exactly what you'd expect from a flagship level device.
There's 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage with the option to expand the memory via microSD, although there will also be a V30+ model that 128GB storage. Exactly who, where or how much the V30+ will be compared to the regular V30, we currently don't know.
Beyond that, we'll have to wait for a production unit to fully evaluate how it handles, but so far so good.
On the battery front there's a 3300mAh cell, which is pretty capacious. It's also supported by Quick Charge 3.0, so you can expect it to charge in about an hour or so. Having used the V30 for some time, we're happy that it will last through the day without too much of a problem. That's a great result and we'd say that this phone matches the sort of performance that you'll get from the Samsung Galaxy S8+. That means you can use it (with a dab of power saving) and it will get through the day and get you home again. Of course, go full blast on power hungry activities and you'll need to top up around mid-afternoon.
LG has long been looking to boost the audio performance of the LG V models and the V30 not only offers a quad DAC to boost those tunes (and sounding great from what we've heard so far), but in some regions, the partnership with B&O will also see a pair of those headphones in the box.
LG V30 preview: Cameras
- Main: 70-degree, 16-megapixel, f/1.6, OIS
- Wide-angle: 120-degree, 13-megapixel, f/1.9
- Front: 5-megapixels
For many, the V30 is all about the cameras. That's something that's come from the V series heritage and there's a lot on offer on the back of this phone and not just for the videographers that this family originally found favour with.
Using a similar configuration to the LG G6, there's a wide-angle lens sitting next to the regular camera. We like this configuration. Having two cameras is rapidly becoming the norm, but few have opted for the wide-angle that LG has chosen, meaning this remains rather unique.
Yes, the iPhone and Galaxy Note 8 are pursuing 2x zoom, while Nokia and Huawei are chasing quality with an RGB sensor and a monochrome sensor. But neither of these are as cool as the wide-angle of the LG V30. Wide-angle is one of the photographic skills that needs hardware and we love that LG is sticking to its guns and offering something different.
Looking to improve the regular camera, one of the lenses has been switched from plastic to glass on the main 16-megapixel camera. That also offers optical image stabilisation as well as a f/1.6 aperture, which is hugely wide, so it should be great in low light.
We can't assess the final quality on this important aspect of the phone yet, but having used it for several weeks, we're really impressed by what this phone can do both from the regular camera and the wide angle.
LG is offering a full range Cine Video effects to stylise your video, as well as offering customisation options for your photos, on top of a load of photo modes and manual controls. There's a lot to explore in the V30 so this is something we'll be focusing on more when we have a final hardware model in for review.
LG V30 preview: Software
- Android 7.1.2 Nougat
- Plans for Oreo update
- Some app additions
The LG V30 launches on Android Nougat and LG hasn't been drawn on confirming when the Oreo update might arrive, but has confirmed that it's something that's in the pipeline. LG has been pretty good with some updates in the past, so we would expect it to be pretty rapid.
The LG V30 presents LG's skinned version of Android, which is slowing stripping away the bloat and making itself more accessible. There some addition of apps, like LG's own calendar, music player, gallery and other bits and pieces, but for an Android user it's easy enough to orient yourself and get to all the things you want.
You can change the themes and look of your phone, along with getting the option to turn off the default squircle app backgrounds and use the original icons. Some of the additions, like the calendar, is barely worth using, so you're better off sticking with Google's own and we soon switched to using G Board to improve the keyboard experience.
However, from what we've seen on this pre-production device, everything seems to run smoothly enough. There's sometimes the odd hiccup when forcing an app into fullscreen - like the loading screen of Pokemon Go - but overall that's rare and things are pretty much smooth sailing. Of course, until we have a final retail device we can't evaluate the full performance, but things look great so far.
With big phones increasing in popularity, the LG V30 lands in a space that's more competitive than ever before. Samsung launched the Galaxy S8+ and the Note 8 and there' competition from devices like the Huawei Mate 9 and forthcoming Mate 10.
On first impressions the LG V30 acquits itself well. Some questioned LG's early jump with the LG G6, choosing to launch at MWC 2017 in February with older hardware, but that only makes the LG V30 feel like the flagship LG phone that we really wanted. It surpasses the G6 in a number of ways, making this a big flagship with stacks of appeal.
The LG V30 isn't just for creatives, it isn't just about enhanced video capture. It's a slick flagship phone and we can't wait to spend more time with it.
The LG V30 will be available from 21 September in Korea, followed by "key markets" in North America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It has been confirmed that Carphone Warehouse will be bringing the LG V30 to the UK.
Originally published on 31 August 2017.