After years of removable batteries, half-baked modules, and tiny secondary screens, LG appears to finally be done with the hardware gimmicks on its flagship phones.
It started with the LG G6 — a well-made, feature-packed premium phone — earlier this year. Now the company’s launching the V30, another no-nonsense smartphone that focuses on what truly matters the most to people: the cameras.
Looking at the V30, I couldn’t help but notice its similarities to rival Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8. Both Android phones have metal and glass bodies and huge bezel-less screens.
I was immediately sucked in by just how light the V30 is. Compared to dense phones like Note 8 or the Essential Phone, the V30 is almost feather light. I kept tapping at the glass back wondering if there really were components and a battery inside.
Even in my brief hands-on with the phone, I walked away admiring how handsome it is. The 6-inch screen is a P-OLED (the “P” is for plastic), but you don’t really need to worry about the quality compared to, say, Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays. The 18:9 aspect ratio and 2,880 x 1,440 resolution will still make your eyes tear up because everything’s still so clear.
A 6-inch phone, like the Nexus 6, was a whale in 2014, but the slimmer bezels on the V30 makes it feel like something you could reasonably carry around everyday.
Flagship on point
The rest of the V30 is what you’d expect in a 2017 flagship: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, 4GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage with microSD card expansion, and a 3,300 mAh battery.
Performance felt snappy, and while I know a lot of people still dislike LG’s own skin for Android 7.1.1 Nougat, it’s not as bad as it used to be. Everything seemed to fly on the pre-production model I tried. LG says it’ll be one of the first phones to get Android Oreo when it launches this fall.
If you miss the V20’s little secondary screen that sat above the main display, don’t you worry. The “floating bar” of shortcuts is now a virtual one on the home screen and you can place it anywhere you want.
It’s also IP68 water and dust-resistant, supports Quick Charging 3.0 via USB-C, and comes with built-in wireless charging. And, yes, it still has a headphone jack. (It’s so weird that I have to keep pointing this out on new phones, but it is important for a lot of people.)
For security, the phone has a handful of features: the KnockOn code where you have to tap the screen a certain way, fingerprint sensor, face recognition unlock (it’s not iris-based), and voice imprint unlock which lets you create say a phrase to unlock it. And best of all: you can have all of them turned on.
And of course, the V30 has the usual hi-res audio LG’s always had in the V-series, including a Quad DAC that is supposed to enhance hi-res music even if you don’t use audiophile-grade headphones.
But enough about the boring specs that every other Android phone has. How are the cameras?
They’re interesting, to say the least. LG was doing dual cameras for years before the iPhone 7 Plus, and it’s approach has always been different.
On the LG G6, there’s a regular wide-angle lens camera and a secondary ultra-wide lens. It’s a good combo, but the V30’s is better.
The main wide-angle lens has 16 megapixels and an f/1.6 aperture. In photography speak, the lower the f-stop number, the more light the lens absorbs, which translates to better low-light photos and videos.
LG’s pretty proud of the f/1.6 lens since it’s the brightest on any smartphone. The iPhone 7 and Note 8 only have camera lenses with f/1.7. To construct the better lens, LG replaced one of the six plastic elements within the lens with a glass element. The change in a single lens element’s material resulted in a camera that sucks in even more light.
The secondary 13-megapixel camera with f/1.9 aperture is still an ultra-wide lens, but LG’s corrected the fisheye distortion so that content looks more like reality without any weird warping.
Where LG’s really improved things is with video recording, too. Rather than simply increasing video recording resolution, LG says it worked with 15 Hollywood colorists to create special “Cine effects,” or color profiles to help users capture more cinematic footage.
Color, after all, is what creates a mood and feeling. A bright color profile might be used for a romantic scene, or a dark, moody black and white profile to show suspense.
Most of the Cine effects look like simple filters, but LG says that’s not the case. The V30’s cameras are actually recording all of the RAW data from the footage and preserving the details and dynamic range. In other words, the Cine effects are basically “color-grading” your footage in-real time without any loss to the video quality.
The Cine effects look pretty neat and combined with a new beginners-friendly video editor should make creating short videos on your phone a whole lot easier.
The V30’s other really sweet video feature is called “Point Zoom.” Normally, when you zoom in digitally, the camera zooms in on the center. With Point Zoom, you can tap on an area on the screen and the phone will electronically zoom in towards that point.
Though I only got to handle the V30 for less than an hour, it’s so great to see LG drop all the gimmicks and just make a really nice phone.
This isn’t our official review, so obviously I have no idea how well it performs in real life and how well the battery will hold up, but so far I’m liking the V30. (And I’ve never liked the V-series at all.) They’ve always been too big with features that are out of touch with what people actually want.
The V30 is a return to form, now LG just needs to get people to buy it instead of an iPhone 8 or Note 8. Pricing has yet to be announced. Hopefully it’s less than the $930 Note 8.