LG V20 Review

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Things I liked

So what do I like about the V20? Let me list the ways…

It records great audio

The V20 the phone for the concert-goer because it handles live audio recording superbly. It’s equipped with three mics and four digital-to-analog converters (the latter apparently helps reduce white noise). The phone can record much clearer and accurate 24-bit sound compared to the standard 16-bit.

I took it to a Gallant concert and recorded only a few feet away from the third row. Afterward, I listened to the recordings on separate stereo speakers. It sounded fantastic — bass tones were deep and full without sounding distorted and blown out, and compared to my friend’s footage (who happened to have a Google Nexus 6P), the V20’s recording was notably richer, crisper and more immersive.

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You can swap out the battery and increase storage

You don’t always have to offer the latest technology to keep people happy. Like I mentioned before, the V20 has a removable battery and expandable memory. They’re nothing new, but they’re a rarity among marquee handsets these days. Many people can’t live without at least one of these features, and the V20 has both.

A replaceable battery comes in handy when you’re out and about, running low on battery life, and want to quickly swap in a reserve. It’s also useful if you plan to resell the device and you can promise a fresh battery. Expandable storage lets you snap and record way more photos and videos, without really worrying about running out of space..

Its secondary screen is actually useful

Like its V10 predecessor, the V20 has a secondary screen that sits on top of its regular display. With this iteration, LG increased its contrast and brightness, so it’s easier to read. You can choose to have this screen perpetually on (even if your device is sleeping) or off, and it displays your custom signature, common settings, favorite apps, recent contacts and notifications.

This isn’t essential, but it can be pretty useful. Because there’s no app drawer by default (you can turn it back on from Settings) having shortcut access to your favorite apps is easier than sifting through several home screen pages.

It’s as fast as any Android (but slower than the iPhone)

With its Snapdragon 820 processor, the handset had no problem keeping up with its rivals. It performed as well as the Pixel XL (which has the slightly more advanced 821 processor) in our benchmarks, though both the Galaxy S7 Edge and OnePlus 3 edged it out by a hair. The iPhone 7 Plus, however, which has an altogether different and proprietary A10 chipset, dominated the results with impressively high marks.

Then again, these are just diagnostic tests on paper. All these devices work fast and smooth, and any speed differences between any of these phones would be hard to discern. For all your daily mobile needs, you should be satisfied with any of them.

What gives me pause

The V20 has many strong points, but there are drawbacks, too. While none of these shortcomings are individual deal breakers, they are things to keep in mind.

The camera is good but won’t blow you away

Like the G5, LG is doubling down on its wide-angle endeavors. The V20 has two shooters on the back, including a 16-megapixel standard lens and an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens that can capture up to 135 degrees. The single 5-megapixel camera on the front can also switch between an 83-degree frame and a wider 120-degree setup.

The wide lenses are useful for fitting more content in each frame, but be prepared to capture distorted curved angles near the corners of your photos. It lends pictures an unrealistic fish-eye look, and if you’re taking a selfie with an outstretched arm, your arm will appear elongated.

In general, photos looked consistent with what I experienced on the G5 (which has the same dual-camera setup). Pictures were sharp and clear, but colors had a tendency to look washed out. The cameras aren’t bad per se, but low-light images (which are difficult to capture with most phones) looked muddy at times. Especially when compared with how well the Pixel performed with low-light environments, the V20’s camera didn’t blow me away. You can check out CNET Espanol’s camera shootout between the iPhone 7 Plus, the Pixel XL and the V20, and for more on photo quality, check out the shots below (click on them to view them at their full resolution).

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The V20 does pack tons of camera and editing tools, though. It has video filters, a manual mode (for adjusting things like ISO levels and white balance) and more. It uses advanced optical image stabilization (something the Pixel doesn’t have) to make it easier to snap clear photos when you have an unsteady hand.

Battery life isn’t anything to write home about

The V20 has a 3,200mAh battery, which isn’t as big as its rivals. In our tests, it clocked an average of 12 hours and 30 minutes of continuous video playback on Airplane mode. While that’s a respectable enough time to outlast the iPhone 7 Plus, both the Pixel XL and OnePlus 3 lasted over 13 hours (the latter with a lower capacity battery than the V20). The Galaxy S7 Edge dominated all with its 19-hour run.

Those who plan on taking advantage of the phone’s swappable battery have no reason to sweat these stats. Whenever reserves get low, you can easily switch out for a fully charged battery . But if you’re not going to purchase a spare battery, this runtime is something to keep in mind.

The battery also employs Qualcomm’s Quick Charge Technology 3.0. Plugged in for 30 minutes, you get about a 37 percent charge and an hour yields 75 percent. A full charge takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes, which is the expected time for a handset with Quick Charge.

I can’t dunk it in water

A water-resistant phone would have been acceptable a few years ago. But because Sony, Samsung and now Apple all have flagships that can survive underwater submersion, the V20 loses out on this front. LG does tout that the V20’s metal construction makes it tougher against scratches and casual drops. However, given that it’s just as expensive, if not pricier than its competitors, it’s disappointing that there’s no water protection.

LG V20 SPECS COMPARISON

LG V20 Google Pixel XL Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge OnePlus 3 Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Display size, resolution 5.7-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920×1,080 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 515 ppi 534 ppi 534 ppi 401ppi 401 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.29×3.01×0.3 inches 6.09×2.98×0.34 inches (at its thickest) 5.9×2.9×0.3 inches 6.01×2.94×0.29 inches 6.23x 3.07×0.29 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 159.7×78.1×7.7 mm 154.72×75.74×8.58 mm (at its thickest) 150.9×72.6×7.7 mm 152.7×74.7×7.35 mm 158.2×77.9×7.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.24 oz; 177 g 5.92 oz; 168 g 5.5 oz; 157 g 5.57 oz; 158 g 6.63 oz; 188 g
Mobile software Android 7.0 Nougat Android 7.1 Nougat Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Apple iOS 10
Camera 16-megapixel, 8-megapixel (wide) 12.3-megapixel 12-megapixel 16-megapixel 12-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide)
Front-facing camera 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 7-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.15GHz +1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapgradon 820 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Apple A10 chip (64-bit)
Storage 64GB 32GB, 128GB 32GB, 64GB (varies by region) 64GB 32GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM 4GB 4GB 4GB 6GB TBD
Expandable storage 2TB None 200GB None None
Battery 3,200mAh (removable) 3,450mAh 3,600mAh (nonremovable) 3,000mAh (nonremovable) 21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE
Fingerprint sensor Back cover Back cover Home button Home button Home button
Connector USB-C USB-C Micro-USB USB-C Lightning
Special features Both cameras capture wide-angle images; secondary screen on top; rear cover release key Google Assistant built-in; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR ready Water-resistant, wireless charging Notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging Water and dust-resistant, Taptic Home button, dual rear cameras, up to 10x camera zoom, Depth of Field mode
Price off-contract (USD) AT&T: $829; Verizon: $672; T-Mobile: $770; Sprint: TBD $769 (32GB); $869 (128GB) AT&T: $795; Verizon: $792; T-Mobile: $780; Sprint: $750; U.S. Cellular: $780 $399 $769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)
Price (GBP) TBD £719 (32GB); £819 (128GB) £639 £329 £719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB)
Price (AUD) TBD AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB) AU$1,249 Converts to AU$530 AU$1269 (32GB); AU$1419 (128GB); AU$1569 (256GB)

Feeling a little stale

The mobile industry is extremely competitive, and your success can change on a dime (just ask Samsung). Likewise, new companies like OnePlus can burst onto the scene and create wildly good phones for cheap, and older companies may just wake up one day and want to throw their own hats into the ring (as in the case of the Pixel, Google’s first in-house designed handset),

In order to overtake the competition, LG needed to pack the V20 with something successfully fresh and novel (or at least make it super-affordable). And while it gets the basics right (high-end hardware, polished design), ultimately there are better choices.

For the price of the V20, you can get the Galaxy S7 Edge, which has a great battery life and a waterproof design. The Pixel has a fantastic camera (specifically in low-light) and unique software features like Google Assistant. For top-tier specs at a great value, the OnePlus 3 is my top choice. And if you’re fond of the V20’s wide-angle camera, LG’s G5 flagship does the same thing (and costs a bit less).

The V20 is a solid and reliable device. But it doesn’t drum up enough appeal outside of battery swappers and audiophiles. Aside from these niche features, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. And in such a dynamic and fast-pace landscape, that’s unacceptable at a premium price.

 

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