While the LG G5 brought us the world’s first modular phone, the handset never really managed to take off in the public eye, at least not to the degree LG had likely hoped for. Still, it was an interesting experiment for the company and we applaud LG for at least trying something new, even if the Moto Z line arguably ended up doing a better job when it came to actually implementing and supporting mods.
LG isn’t holding still, however. As we head ever closer to the busy holiday season, things are going to be even more competitive in the mobile landscape. You’d be inclined to believe that LG would continue with the whole modular theme with its next smartphone, the V20, but you’ll be surprised by what changes and differences it bears.
Last year, the V10 was regarded by critics as one of the most underrated smartphones released, due to how it appealed to audiophiles and focused heavily around video recording, but will its successor generate as much attention and praise? While we won’t fully have the answer to that question until we conduct a full review, in this hands-on we take a closer look at LG’s latest.
The most apparent change right from the start with the V20 is its design, which totally ditches the design language of its predecessor. So much so, that, you’d hardly believe this is the successor to last year’s offering. Instead, the V20 follows after the G5 with its metal and silicone polycarbonate combination construction – AL 6013 metal to be exact, which you can say is aircraft-grade quality.
For us, the design makes it seem like it’s part of the G-line, as opposed to its own in the V-series. Gone are the Dura skin and stainless steel frame, shedding in the process that heavy duty look and feel that the V10 brought to the table. While LG tells us that there’s still a level of drop protection with the V20 (MIL-STD-810G), metal typically doesn’t handle drops and scuffs quite as well as plastic, kevlar, and other similar material. Thankfully, Josh has conducted a drop test that take a closer look at how well the LG V20 handles a bit of rough use, and without spoiling anything, we can tell you it actually does pretty well.
While the design doesn’t look quite as rugged as before, on the flip side, it now features a more premium design. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t adopt the same modular design we find in the G5 – despite the deliberate similarities it shares. There’s a button near the bottom-right corner of the phone to indicate that, however, it merely allows the back plate that comes off and provide us access to the battery.
A part of us really wish that the design followed an evolutionary path to last year’s model, since it meant etching out a particular identity with the V-series. That’s no longer the case here, just because the two smartphone lines, the G and V series, seemingly are now one and the same this year when it comes to design. To LG’s credit, however, the V20 is slimmer and lighter than its predecessor – so it doesn’t feel like a handful to operate like the V10.
This year’s display on the V20 doesn’t deviate much from what we saw previously on the V10, especially from the specs side. Specifically, the V20 features a 5.7-inch Quad-HD IPS-LCD screen with Gorilla Glass 4. The matter might be a shock for some, as Gorilla Glass 5 is used by the Note 7, but LG claims that the decision shouldn’t worry people because it’s been refined to reach nearly the same integrity and strength as the newer offering. Quite frankly, we’re pleased by the screen, but we’re totally not blown away either.
Interestingly, though, the identity of the V-series rises to the surface once again with the Always-On Second Screen that’s here with the V20. Similar to its predecessor, this second screen of sorts allows for some quick-glances and access to certain functions of the phone – all without having to turn on the phone itself. There are some improvements made to the second screen, like its improved visibility from 35 nits to 68 nits, higher contrast, and the option to have a longer signature this time around.
All told, however, this is basically a rehash to what was introduced with its predecessor. Yes, it definitely distinguishes itself as being part of the V-series, but it would’ve been more compelling to see some newer, more notable features along with this year’s display.
This one is hardly a shocker, given that the Note 7 leverages the same chipset. The LG V20 exclusively relies on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC (2.15GHz & 1.6GHz quad-core CPU), coupled with 4GB LPDDR4 RAM. Much like the other high-spec’d phones to come out of LG’s camp, the V20 exhibits the same level of buttery response to make it indicative of all the qualities we want in a high-end phone. Our short hands on time is enough to make us believe it won’t be a slouch when it comes to gaming either.
In terms of storage, it seems as though that it too will be offered in one capacity: 64GB. Most folks will find that capacity more than sufficient, especially when expansion is made available through its microSD card slot.
One of the complaints from owners of the V10 was its atrocious battery life. Sure, the battery here with the V20 is still accessible and removable, but we’re itching to see if there are any notable improvements to its longevity. Of course, the slightly larger 3200 mAh battery it’s using is the first indication, compared to last year’s 3000 mAh capacity, but we won’t know for sure until we have more time with it. While the V20 does indeed support Quick Charge 3.0, it still doesn’t offer wireless charging as part of its arsenal.
Security remains the same here with the V20, thanks in part to the fingerprint sensor that’s slapped below its rear camera module. It’s almost similar to the one in the G5, but the entire thing appears more flush – rather than having the entire section being raised a little.
The area where we see the most attention and focus on pertains to the V20’s incredible audio recording capabilities. Well, it looks like that the rumors turned out to be true, since the LG V20 is poised to deliver crisp and clear audio thanks to the four DACs employed by the phone. From what we’re told, the LG V20’s audio arsenal includes white noise reduction by up to 50%, support for lossless music formats (FLAC, DSD, AIFF, & ALAC), 75 stage fine volume, and left/right balance control.
Even more impressive, it can achieve nearly the same audio recording level as some professional devices for recording concerts and such, just because they’ve increased clarity into the 132dB range – up from the V10’s maximum level of 120dB. Combine that with its new 24 bit rate and no compression, you know the V20 isn’t messing around when it comes to this kind of stuff. While all the specs boosts sound mighty impressive on paper and to audiophiles, we’re itching to hear for ourselves the end result.
Another stark feature that made the V10 so distinguishable from everything else was its dual front-facing cameras. Well, that’s no longer the case here, since it’s just now a single 5MP camera with an aperture of f/1.9 – albeit, it’s referred to as being “wide-angle.” Don’t worry, it seems adequate enough for selfies, including more than a few faces in the shot because of its 120-degree capture. However, the dual camera implementation is instead reserved to the rear camera, similar to what you find on the LG G5’s rear.
Even though it might appear to be the same camera configuration as the G5, since it packs a 16MP (f/1.8) and 8MP (f/2.4) combination, LG has actually improved stability thanks to its new Steady Record 2.0 system. Relying on a combination between a gyro-based EIS (electronic) and image stream analysis based DIS (digital), the V20 is able to improve the sync accuracy between the image and gyro – while distortion issues caused by rolling shutter is minimized in the process as well.
All told, this thing is essentially going to deliver smooth, shake-free video. And based on what we’ve seen so far, it does just that. Beyond that, the LG V20, much like its predecessor, follows in the same manner by tuning itself to be the premier smartphone for video recording. It’s one of the few to offer true manual control while recording video, something that’ll undoubtedly keep video junkies amused.
However, as much as this thing is poised to be once again the king of video recording, we wished that some other modes and features besides stabilization were brought along for the ride. Take mobile video editing for example, as we’ve yet to see true 4K editing available for mobile. Or how about some slicker slow motion modes as well? Regardless, we’re certain that this one won’t disappoint – neither will its still shot performance.
When the LG V20 was teased for the very first time, the company made sure to let everyone know that it was going to be the world’s first phone to launch with Android 7.0 Nougat. That’s all fine and dandy, if it weren’t for the fact that many of the Nexus branded devices have already received the latest and greatest version of the platform. So yeah, that stole a little bit of the V20’s thunder, but despite that, LG spent little to no time at all talking about the software in the V20 besides the obvious of it being Nougat out of the box.
It’s a little funny, just because Nougat brings to the table many features that have been used in other customized skins – like TouchWiz and LG’s own interpretation. For example, side-by-side multitasking is now baked into the platform, which means that more apps will be supported. This is especially great news, given that LG’s implementation with its QSlide apps in the past were limited to just some of the native apps of the phone – and almost none to third party ones.
Overall, LG’s take on Nougat here with the V20 doesn’t look as visually dramatic as previous iterations. For the most part, it again follows the recipe of maintaining a cleaner, more straightforward approach. In that regard, the simplicity of the interface means we’re not being overwhelmed by redundancies. We are, however, curious to see what else the experience has to offer. It’s also worth mentioning that, once again, the app drawer isn’t available with LG’s interface.
Pricing and thoughts at a glance
LG is reluctant to mention the V20’s price, leaving that for the carriers in the US to announce separately. It’ll likely to be priced similar to the Note 7, so that’s some reference to what we can expect. Timing seems to be on LG’s side with the introduction of the V20, seeing that it’s being announced a little ahead of Apple’s new iPhones – as well as the woes surrounding the Galaxy Note 7 at the moment.
At the moment, it’s tough to say if it’s the phone to beat for this upcoming holiday season. Visually, the updated design language will please some folks, but at the same time, it might also alienate those who would’ve preferred the more ruggedized look of the V10. And while it certainly does follow the design language established by the G5, the V20 still emphasizes its audio and video prowess – so in that regard, it’s still shaping up to be the best in its class.
Fall isn’t here yet, and as we know, there will be plenty more entrants coming onto the scene. This offering from LG favors a more practical convention in comparison to the G5, so if it’s able to excel in the areas it alleges to be superior over the competition, namely the audio and video side, it’ll surely be a phone to contend with.