LG presented the LG V30 at IFA. It’s 2017's top smartphone from the manufacturer, and with high end specs and a certain something special, it’s sure to be a winner. After testing a pre-series device for about one and a half months, we've now spent enough time with the final version to deliver our verdict.
- Good performance
- Practical Always-on-display
- Easy to handle
- Mediocre display
- Slow HDR mode
LG V30 release date and price
The LG V30 comes in four colors: black, silver, blue and violet. An unlocked LG V30 costs (around the time of writing) $800 in the US and £700 in the UK.
In addition to the standard V30, there will also be a V30+, which will come with 128 GB of internal storage (rather than 64 GB). In the US, the V30+ will be carried exclusively by Sprint.
LG V30 design and build quality
LG already made a big change with the G6 by opting for glass on both the front and back along with a prominent metal frame. The V-series adopts this appealing design, which recalls the Galaxy S8 - the edges are curved, but LG's new device retains more of a metal frame. The corners are there to protect the device from falls. The front and back aren't quite as dramatically curved as the S8. At at 158 grams, it's even a bit lighter than the G6.
The bezels of the V30 have been reduced above and below the display to match those of the G6, and despite the large display, it's easy to fit in the hand. However, the V30 cannot be operated completely with one hand, as the display is simply too big. The V30 does not support gestures on the rear fingerprint sensor.
Overall, the LG V30 makes an excellent visual impression. However, the workmanship is slightly flawed: minimal gaps are present at the transition from metal to glass. Dust or small dirt particles can get caught in it. The SIM and memory card slot is attached to the side edge - here LG has not been able to integrate the slide completely evenly into the edge.
Overall, the LG V30 is very easy on the eyes and you can sense the great build quality. The V30 is IP68 certified against water and dust. Further robustness is guaranteed according to the Mil-STD-810G standard.
LG V30 display
The V-Series was previously known for a second display mounted above the main screen. This has now been deleted by LG and instead relies on a software solution - more about this later. This leaves the main display with its 6-inch screen: here, LG is installing its own in-house OLED displays for the first time in several product generations. The V30 has an aspect ratio of 2:1 and a resolution of 2,880 x 1,440 pixels.
LG's OLED technology has attracted criticism for a small flaw found on the one they provided for the Pixel 2 XL, but it's worth taking a closer look. The OLED displays from LG do not in some respects match AMOLED panels from Samsung. It can already be assumed that the first batch of Pixel 2 XL had problems, which should be solvable. Why? Many of the problems of Pixel 2 XL are not visible on the LG V30 - but the LG V30 is not without flaws.
The color representation of the V30 is nice to the eyes. No trace of pale colours. There are some additional profiles in the settings that optimize the coloring for videos, pictures or the internet. The result is a matter of taste. The internet setting seems to be the most natural, but red tones might be a bit more powerful. Other modes always display colors strongly. Personal preferences are decisive here.
But as already mentioned, the display also has its flaws. It especially seems to struggle with the color white. White areas tend to have an uneven brightness distribution at low brightness levels. In addition, there are two stripes around three millimeter wide in the lower display area. At these points the brightness is noticeably lower and the stripes remain in place while scrolling.
In particular, the problem of narrow viewing angles can also be seen in the LG V30, as with the Pixel 2 XL. The colours quickly fade into the bluish tones as soon as you no longer look at the front of the display. This is clearly visible in light colors. We did not have any problems with the burning in of control elements on our three pre-series units - the final sample has also shown no abnormalities so far, although it is still too early to make a final judgement on this.
The slow response speed of the pixels is also visible. Sliding an image of a person against a dark background on a web page you will notice that the head always sloshes a little bit - black streaks are clearly visible. In the case of letters, black lines draw two pixels after each other. After a software update, this effect has been significantly reduced, but it has not completely disappeared.
Overall, the LG V30's display is quite good, but the V30 doesn't come close to the current top class, which is defined by Samsung with the S8 or note 8. The narrow viewing angles are disturbing and the display also struggles with bright colors at low brightness levels. However, these problems are hardly visible in movies or games.
LG V30 software
Android is pre-installed in version 7.1.2 - an update to Oreo will follow. As usual, LG is relying on its own user interface, so the LG UX in version 6.0 is used. This does not differ so much from its predecessors in terms of appearance.
As with almost every smartphone, I get the feeling after a few days that the manufacturer's UI is not the best option. With the LG UI, this starts with the strange sorting in the App Drawer: Google and LG apps are at the top of the list, then the installed apps are sorted (in my case always between 80 and 100 more). Sure, LG offers a sort function, but why not from the beginning? My tip: Look for alternative launchers. They are better and allow extensive personalization.
The keyboard is also a headache for me: Proposals for corrections are not automatically adopted, but must always be selected manually. If you don't mind my saying so, Swiftkey is better. So the following applies here too: Look for keyboard alternatives.
Then there is the renunciation of the V20's second screen. The V30 instead offers a floating bar. However, this is not activated in the factory settings. Who would want to activate it? I don't know.. At first the idea seemed good, but in the end the added value is modest.
The appearance of the new Always-on display, on the other hand, is convincing. This displays the time, the charge status and notification icons. Optionally you can also add a picture. The Always-on display contains a worthy second-screen successor: In the bar you can add more functions, and thus call up quick settings or a control for Media Player.
Like the LG G6, the V30 has a display with an aspect ratio of 2:1, which causes problems when used in conjunction with apps. While these were still quite pronounced on the G6 and led to strangely large edges and small playing surfaces, this is less noticeable on the V30. A few apps are not shown on the display, but this can be changed with a single click. The app will then be restarted, but then the applications will take up all the space.
LG V30: Face recognition
Face detection for unlocking was already implemented in Android a few years ago, but the feature has quickly disappeared from the screen. In contrast to Apple, LG does not use special sensors, but uses the selfie cam instead. In simple mode, unlocking is quick, but it only starts after a movement that is similar to holding the phone in front of your face. Lying on the table, the device requires a double-tap-to-wake to start the detection. In safe mode, the detection takes a little longer. The picture gallery below contains three selfies taken in a situation where the V30 has unlocked in safe mode.
In everyday life I have deactivated the function nevertheless: Too often the V30 unlocked when I put it in my pocket.
LG V30 performance
For the G6, LG used a processor from the previous year, but the V30 is hitting the shelves with the current Snapdragon 835. This SoC has proven itself already in several smartphones and it provides more than satisfactory performance in the V30. This is particularly good news for gamers: the large display lets games shine in a completely new splendor. We have already covered the performance in a separate article:
In terms of memory, LG leaves it at a standard 4GB. The competition seems to be concerned with providing 6 or even 8 GB of RAM, but they’ve yet to prove that amount is strictly necessary. Multitasking was quick in our testing of the device, and there was never any delay in changing between apps.
LG V30 audio
What's the point of a smartphone, however good it is, if the audio components are inferior? That's why LG has implemented a lot of audio features to satisfy even the most demanding users. But this is not entirely successful.
First of all, LG leaves it at mono loudspeakers, which is annoying with video chats, because a finger covers the loudspeaker grille all too easily. The balance of the sound is also very right- and bottom-heavy, depending on the orientation of the V30, but the quality is all right, but miracles can't be heard either in terms of volume or sound characteristics.
As a highlight, LG is promoting the Quad-DAC, the digital-to-analog converter with a particularly low noise and low distortion. To take advantage of this added value, however, you must use wired headphones, otherwise this component is not active. All in all, the V30 sounds very good with the Quad-DAC. If the Quad-DAC is deactivated, the V30 seems to be less loud - hardly audible, but the difference is there. In any case, the V30 provides excellent audio quality at the headphone output.
I was less happy at first with the quality of Bluetooth audio in combination with my bluetooth headset. The sound was prone to dropouts when Wi-Fi was enabled. Without Wi-Fi, the dropouts were less frequent, but not completely gone. After a software update, this problem was reduced to rare dropouts during song transition. In the meantime I can give an all-clear at this point...
And finally to another topic of sound quality: recording. The Quad-DAC should lead to better results, especially in noisy environments. That's what the HD audio recorder is for. In manual mode, you can set volume caps and gains to adjust the recordings to suit the situation. These additional options are very practical and quickly prove themselves. Manual control requires a certain amount of familiarization, but this investment is worthwhile.
LG V30 camera
As usual, LG has chosen a dual camera, and it uses one normal and one wide angle lens. The former has an f / 1.6 aperture, which can be used in low light conditions. It has 16 MP, while the wide angle lens has 13 MP and an f / 1.9 aperture. LG has significantly reduced distortions from the wide angle camera, and it's immediately noticeable in a direct comparison.
The camera is now covered with Crystal Clear Glass, designed to provide more consistent color. In addition, LG wants to reduce distortions with the wide angle camera. The V30 is equipped with both electronic and optical image stabilization, as well as laser autofocus.
So much for the numbers. But what does the camera do in everyday life? First of all, the wide-angle lens allows you to capture interesting subjects in your own unique way. The added value of this function can be seen immediately in many situations, I don't miss the bokeh mode.
During the day, photos are usually good to very good for the V30. They usually lack the sharpness of detail that Samsung or Google manage to achieve with their high-end cameras, but this is only noticeable with high zoom levels. Thus, LG cannotbeat the top dogs among mobile cameras with the V30. The HDR mode provides good-looking images with high contrast in the subject, but has a huge disadvantage: it takes ages to get a photo in the box - sometimes one second to store the photo.
During the day and in good lighting conditions, all smartphones actually make good pictures. The chaff separates from the wheat only when it becomes dim. Here the V30 doesn't shine so brilliantly. At an event I had the opportunity to push the V30 to its limits with colored lights in the background, but dim light in the foreground.
The picture is not completely bad. In the background, however, overexposed areas are visible, in the foreground the people lose details and it is easy to detect noise. Parallel to me another person with a pixel 2 also took a picture. That was so much more vivid and detailed, which was a bit of a nuisance to me.
- Google Photos: Gallery of shots taken with the LG V30
LG also emphasizes the video functions. Log capabilities, a moving zoom, adjustable color profiles. Yes, the V30 is even supposed to match a professional camera for movies. Really? Well, there must be bigger video experts on this planet than me. I experimented with the camera, but found that many functions are either not very intuitive to use or hidden in additional camera modes. Here it really takes some effort to achieve acceptable results.
Image stabilization is on a high level: it compensates for slight trembling, which gives the videos a stable look and takes away the trashy home-video charm from the videos. But it's a pity: If you want to record with UHD or 60 frames per second (but then only Full-HD), you have to do without this stabilization.
Fortunately, our expert Stefan took a close look at the V30's video camera. But his conclusion is also rather sobering.
LG V30 battery
The LG V30 contains a 3,300 mAh strong, though not replaceable, battery. For charging, there is a USB C port with Quick-Charge 3.0 support and LG has also thought of wireless charging. For a long time I was on the road with a pre-series model of the V30 - and the following information is largely related to this model. However, the final test device has had the same characteristics during the first weeks of use.
My daily use varies considerably. During the week I often use Twitter and the browser - usually for about two hours. There are also incoming messages, here and there a photo, sometimes Spotifying with Bluetooth headphones. I rarely watch videos - rather for testing purposes. Not exactly a heavy user profile. However, the many installed apps are aggravating: I usually have several Twitter clients installed and set up, Facebook and Instagram are active. In addition, professional networks such as Linkedin and Xing. Several messengers, games and shopping apps are also installed.
On weekends, the use of the camera shifts somewhat - but then the camera is used more often, while Twitter and surfing are less common. Usually I charge smartphones completely at night, so I start around 7 a. m. with 100 percent rechargeable battery in the day. My expectation of the runtime is that the smartphone will last a day. Ideally the next day is also possible, but from my point of view the battery has to be at least 50 percent in the evening - only then I would not charge it.
The characteristics of the battery life have been very different in the two months with the two V30 test devices. Every now and then there were days when the battery had dropped to 30 or 40 percent in the afternoon for no apparent reason. This was the case twice when I set up a number of apps and added login credentials. Many active apps and sync accounts drain the battery. Because I didn't immediately set up all the accounts, this development was noticeable from week to week. Mostly the V30 was also equipped with enough battery capacity in the evening, so that an evening appointment was possible without recharging.
All in all, my observation is that the V30's battery lasts for an average length of time. A battery miracle like the Huawei Mate 9 or Mate 10 Pro is definitely not the V30 - colleague Eric made it through a whole weekend with a Mate 10 Pro. The LG-reality is: In the evening the V30 has to go to the charger. Maybe sometimes in the afternoon too. Less active users could save more battery power - but that's not a good option for me.
LG V30 technical specifications
The LG V30 is a smartphone with amazing looks. And while it's not the most innovative thing out there in terms of features, it's on the whole very compelling.
There are some improvements, like the Floating Bar, which is a seemingly practical and logically intuitive way of perpetuating the second screen idea further. The display and camera also got some attention from LG. The OLED display may be huge, but the device is still comfortable in-hand. LG keeps to having two focal lengths for its dual camera, and that's enormously practical in day-to-day life.
There's often a bitter aftertaste with LG smartphones, but for now, we were absolutely convinced by our first impressions of the device.
In the high-end market, the competition is very tough. LG knows this. There are a lot of good approaches in the V30: The design has finally been really successful, but the case suffers from slight defects in workmanship - especially with regard to the material connection. The display is beautifully large and colorful, but has only a narrow viewing angle. The camera offers interesting photo options thanks to the wide-angle lens, but suffers from a slow HDR mode and poor low light performance.
There is little to complain about when it comes to performance: here all performance junkies are happy, gamers especially thanks to the large display. Ultimately, you won't find any real amazing highlights on the V30.
LG has presented a very good smartphone with the LG V30, which is not enough for this tough competition. The rating of the LG V30 varies between 3.5 and 4 stars. This is where the price comes into play: A the starting price, I tend to 3.5 stars. But after a drop in price, the V30 edges into four stars.