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LG G6 Review

WHILE LG MAY HAVE HAD a couple of months in the limelight, given the fact the LG G6’s unveiling came before the Galaxy S8’s, now that both are vying for your cash side by side, which should you get? We should really throw the iPhone 7, Huawei P10, and OnePlus 3T into the mix too, given the fact that 
there’s something of a glut of excellent smartphones out now.

So what’s LG’s strategy for 2017? Ditch the G5’s modular design in favor of a more traditional premium fit and finish, and place all the emphasis on its FullVision Quantum IPS display. But is a very wide screen and a spiffy new design enough to pull focus in a crowded phone shop?

Design

The LG G6 is a long phone with an 18:9 display and a fantastic screen-to-bezel ratio. LG did the whole ‘long phone’ thing before Samsung jumped on the bandwagon with its slightly longer Galaxy S8, and we’re not just talking about the G6, we’re thinking further back to the LG Chocolate BL40. The benefits of a phone packing a longer screen are two-fold. First off, it means the phone is narrower and easier to hold, all the while getting a big screen onboard. Second, it optimizes the aspect ratio for video content. While this wasn’t a priority back in the day, now, it’s a primary consideration.

Design-wise, the LG G6 is the best-looking LG phone ever – yes, even beating out the grim, leather-backed LG G4 – just why? Poor cows.

We’re reviewing the Platinum Silver G6 with a brushed metal finish underneath its slightly curved glass back. That’s paired with a blasted metal frame housing all the buttons and ports you could want, except for stereo speakers that are. Meanwhile, adorning the front is very little bezel and very much screen – 78.6 percent screen to be precise. This doesn’t quite win out against the Galaxy S8’s 84 percent, but it’s better than any other phone you can pick up in the UK.

LG G6 Review

Even though there’s an LG insignia on the front, it’s tiny and inoffensive, as to is the front 5MP camera. There’s also an equally demure G6 insignia around the back and a more prominent dual-camera set-up.

The phone isn’t too thick either at 7.9mm, easily sliding in and out of the pocket, helped along by its high-gloss Gorilla Glass 5 back. Balanced weighting and sleek, premium looks help round things off well for the G6. Add IP68 water and dust resistance and you end up with a great-looking, competitively designed phone.

Thanks to a well-placed, easy-to-find fingerprint scanner around the back, secure unlocking of the G6 is also a breeze.

Despite looking excellent, the LG G6 fails to look better than the Galaxy S8. That said, it does feel better in the hand thanks to its slightly thicker form and flat, easy-to-grasp sides. So while not as svelte, it’s still a partial design win for LG.

Screen

The display is what it’s all about on the LG G6, a 2:1 aspect ratio panel that LG terms FullVision really does steal the show when looking at the device head-on. Quantum IPS screen technology is at the heart of it all. Translated, that’s LG’s own flavor of LCD. That tech paired with a resolution of 1440×2880 pixels means everything is also pin sharp with a PPI of 564 pixels per inch.

At 5.7in, the screen is a smidgen smaller than that of the Galaxy S8, but like the S8, this still feels smaller than a traditional 5.5in the device. This is most noticeable when put alongside the likes of the Huawei P10 Plus, iPhone 7 Plus, and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, all wider phones with smaller screens.

LG G6 Review

The left and right sides are easy to reach with one hand, though the upper corners will still require some thumb contortion. For this reason, it was foolhardy of LG to over-confidently scrap the one-handed mode in the G6’s UI. While it might not be as big an omission as a 3.5mm headphone jack, it’s still acutely felt.

It feels excellent swiping across the Gorilla Glass 3 panel protecting the display, though it isn’t the shiny new Gorilla Glass 5 found on most current flagships, at least not on the front. LG opted for the older variant on the display side, and the newer variant on the rear. This might sound like a big deal, and weird, but it actually makes sense. Gorilla Glass 3 is purported to withstand scratches better, while Gorilla Glass 5 edges ahead are in terms of shatter-proofing. This makes the LG G6 a fit-for-purpose Gorilla Glass lovechild, with a scratch-resistant front and crack-resistant back.

When it comes to the IPS display’s picture, the screen is very cool by default, giving everything a bit of a blue wash. Personally, this works for me, but it won’t be for everyone. Colour calibration options are limited – there’s no custom white balance for example, though there is an eye comfort mode with several options present to warm things up

The LG G6’s dimensions make for perfectly optimized multi-tasking, giving each split-screen app the same amount of screen real estate, irrespective of whether you’re viewing the phone in portrait or landscape orientation. It’s also the exact dimensions of 18:9 feature films, so the most premium content will take full advantage of every pixel on-board.

While not as deep, vibrant, or punchy as the Super AMOLED laden Galaxy S8, the LG G6 display still holds its own. It looks great – better than most phones around, and offers a more traditional, curveless alternative for anyone who wants a long device without Samsung’s edge.

Software

Android 7 and LG UX 6 make the user experience tick on the G6, and the whole thing works well for the most part.

Android means excellent app support and plenty of features like Android Pay for contactless payments, excellent Google Maps support, and Google Assistant, the conversational voice assistant from the big G.

The crux of the UI is a variable number of home screens that can be populated with apps and widgets. There’s no application tray by default though you can bring this back by diving into the settings. Rather than have a Google Now screen to the left, LG’s optional Smart Bulletin is back, with LG Health, Calendar, and Music shortcuts just a swipe away, as well as limited third-party support from Evernote and Glympse.

LG G6 Review

LG’s interfaces have historically been somewhat fluffy and the G6’s are no exception with bouncy transitions and themes aplenty. But while LG’s fluffy interfaces have been prone to stutter in the past, this time around, everything flows like water making it the best iteration of LG UX to date. There are quick folder organization options, various home screen grid sizes, and customizable quick toggles, so it feels like the G6 delivers a tweakable experience for Android fans while finally offering stability that until recently, has been reserved for iDevices.

It isn’t perfect though. As mentioned earlier, the lack of a one-handed mode hurts the G6 in day-to-day use. There is also a BlackBerry/iPhone-Esque universal search. This can be activated by a pull-down on any home screen but proved useless for me after it failed to index my applications. These shortcomings hurt the G6 critically not because they break the experience completely, but because this time around, it feels like everyone else has brought their A-game while LG gets an A-.

Multimedia

We’ve covered the screen in some detail – it’s very good. Ideal for watching new movies on, it delivers minimal letterboxing and now includes HDR video support as well as Dolby Vision. Currently limited to a handful of Amazon Prime titles, these accolades translate to the increased vibrancy and deep, yet discernable detail in the blacks and dark colors.

The screen is also excellent for gaming. Most titles are well-optimized to take advantage of their full width and even those that don’t look great. In fact, from a purely ergonomic point of view, playing games on a wider screen phone means there’s far less thumb covering up the center of the display, usually where the gameplay is centered. In fact, owing to the flat sides, I’d go so far as to say, in hand, the G6 is the most comfortable gaming phone around.

That said, three of the LG G6’s most damaging shortcomings are felt hard when gaming. The first is the mono speaker. While loud, it’s far too easy to cover, making for a muffled sound whenever the phone is held in landscape orientation. The second is the chipset. A Snapdragon 821 falls behind the pack for games like Marvel Future Fight, resulting in worse performance than other 2017 flagships. Finally, by default, it has 32GB storage and despite support for an SD card, will still fill up fast after installing larger 3D games and RPGs.

If gaming isn’t your thing though, the G6 is excellent. Perfect for reading and enjoying the content. As for storage, stick a memory card in it for all your photos, videos, and any movies you want to load up and you’ll be laughing.

Camera

The dual 13MP camera set-up around the back of the LG G6 should have been the phone’s highlight. Along with the G5, it offers something unique, an ultra-wide-angle as well as a more narrow-angle for more standard shots. It is exceptional to use in this respect, as you can quite easily jump through your entire focal range with confidence, knowing it isn’t just digital zoom at play.

LG G6 camera

The fact there is extensive control over shots thanks to a comprehensive manual mode that extends to video only adds to the experience. While there’s a lot to be positive about when talking about the G6’s camera though, once again, a couple of shortcomings stop it from being a knockout.

The first, and most important area in the LG G6 that falls short is picture detail. The hyper-aggressive post-processing snuffs out far too much clarity while reducing noise, making for pictures that look mottled when you zoom in. The sad fact is, raw shots taken on the G6 don’t suffer from this, so it’s all down to LG’s image processing decisions.

LG G6 camera sample

The second shortcoming, the focal ranges. The narrow field-of-view sensor is the one you will use most often as it’s the only one with auto-focus. Any close-up shots, portraits, or detailed pictures should be shot using it. That said, its focal range is too narrow for most day-to-day shooting scenarios like group shots and objects. While you could pinch out and engage the secondary camera for a wider picture, the result will lack noticeable detail because it has a fixed focus lens, so, it’s a catch 22 – less detail or less in the picture.

These shortcomings are bound into the G6’s camera’s strengths though, and its versatility definitely lends to compensate for them. This is also true in the video, with shooting resolutions as high as 4K, optical image stabilization, fair performance from both lenses across lighting conditions, and support for full manual control too.

As for the front 5MP camera and its f/2.2 lens, the combination is fair, but nothing to shout home about with its low resolution and lack of advanced features like autofocus.

Performance and connections

Google’s Pixel series introduced the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor last year, so the fact the chipset has found its way into the LG G6 almost six months later is something of a disappointment. LG ensures us that it’s a revised chip, optimized to better support Dolby Vision and HDR video, however as mentioned in the gaming section, it is still behind the curve for extreme tasks.

Benchmarks reflect this, with Antutu putting the G6 behind the Huawei Mate 9, OnePlus 3T, Galaxy S8, and iPhone 7 with a score of 138777, just 3000 higher than the G5. Meanwhile, Geekbench goes so far as to put the G6 behind even the Exynos variant of Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge with a multi-core score of 4032.

As ever though, benchmarks are just numbers and the reality is that the LG G6 is still a powerhouse, well up to the task of everything from web browsing to app opening, and yes, even gaming.

LG G6 Review

The G6’s connection list is fair, from its USB-C port at the base, NFC support around the back through to on-board sensors like an accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope. There isn’t an IR blaster or wireless charging, and while there’s some biometric security in the form of an excellent fingerprint scanner, the G6 doesn’t support face recognition or have a retina scanner.

Battery

In a departure from the removable battery in the LG G5, LG has opted for a 3,300mAh fixed battery in the G6, and if you ask me, it’s a good move. The size is big enough to get the phone from morning through to night with relatively heavy usage. It also charges quickly too, supporting Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0, though the lack of wireless charging is a bugbear.

In short

The LG G6’s worst enemy is the Samsung Galaxy S8, we always knew that would be the case, but that doesn’t mean the G6 doesn’t have a place alongside it. For starters, the G6 is easier to hold and feels more ergonomic. The traditional flat-screen may also suit some over the S8’s dual curves. Add to that the fact that the cameras offer so much versatility, while the S8’s camera is nothing short of traditional, and the G6’s appeal is clear. It also sports more innovative, arguably better design and display tech than the iPhone 7, OnePlus 3T, Google Pixel, and Huawei P10.

That said, it has shortcomings too. It isn’t as drop-dead gorgeous to behold as the Galaxy S8, owing to less ‘wow’ design and a less vibrant screen. The cameras are also worse at the basics than much of the competition and, if you’re in the UK, you’ll likely be picking it up with 32GB storage, while most flagships worth their salt are shipping with 64GB as standard these days.

The result is an excellent phone with a few marked shortcomings.

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Our verdict

  • Design