Review: LG G6 – possibly the best smartphone you can buy, with wide-angle cameras, big screen and great battery life
LG has dropped the modular style and gimmicks of the G5, in favour of a streamlined design that uses two wide-angle cameras and maximises screen size
Last year LG released a phone that our reviewer called “one of a kind”. The G5 had a modular concept with removable chin that allowed for various plug-in accessories – and it proved to be too niche. With that in mind, the South Korean company has opted for a G6 that does away with the gimmicky features, instead focusing on the two main areas of concern: the screen and the camera(s).
Design and hardware
The first thing about the G6 is how tall the screen looks, and how much of the front it takes up. This year mobile phones will be drastically trimming the fat around the screen, but LG has beaten both Samsung and Apple to the punch. The G6 has a screen-to-body ratio of almost 90 per cent, and like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8, will make all other phones with similar display sizes look and feel chunky.
Another trait that the G6 and S8 share this year is the glass unibody, which has been a staple in Samsung’s phones for years, but is new to the G series. That means just like Samsung’s phones, the G6’s back is shiny and glossy, but an absolute fingerprint magnet and prone to cracking. In my opinion, the matte metal black on the LG V20 feels and looks better. Despite this, however, the G6’s hardware is top notch.
Under the hood the G6 runs on a Snapdragon 821 with 4GB of RAM, which is not as flashy as the Snapdragon 835 that’s hitting Samsung’s S8 and the 6GB of RAM that comes with various high-end Chinese phones. Still, the G6 was able to handle any task I threw at it, including editing short videos and running YouTube and Chrome side by side.
Software and features
The camera, likewise, comes up short on paper at first glance, but operates wonderfully. The G6’s main camera is “only” a 13-megapixel, a drop from the G5’s 16-megapixel main shooter, but the difference is negligible due to an improved software algorithm that handles digital image processing. LG’s mobile design chief Ian Hwang told me in a previous interview that mobile photography has plateaued in terms of hardware, and any improvements in the near future will have to come from the software side. This is the same thing Huawei reps told me, and judging by the Galaxy S8 sporting the exact same camera as the S7, it’s something Samsung believes to be true too.
But it’s not really about the main camera anyway, because just like the G5 and V20, it’s the second, wide-angle camera that steals the show. Its ability to capture images at 145 degrees (wider than the human eye can see), results in shots with a perspective that feels grander. With the G6, you are able to capture more of the scene without having to physically back up.
Do you remember at the very beginning of La La Land, when the film’s image literally stretched outwards from both sides to become wider? That was film buff Damien Chazelle’s tribute to CinemaScope, an extra-wide screen format (2.3:1 aspect ratio) that used to be the preference of old Hollywood until the entertainment industry settled on a more conservative 16:9 aspect ratio (which carried over to just about every modern gadget with a screen).
The G6’s screen was built to bring back the glory days of extra wide screens. Hwang said the phone’s 18:9 (aka 2:1) aspect ratio means you can watch La La Land (and other content shot on extra wide screen, such as NetFlix’s House of Cards) on the phone without letterboxing (black bars on top and below the film) for a true full-screen feel.
I’m not entirely sold that a 5.7-inch display can make content “more immersive” just because it doesn’t have black bars, but I do think the extra tall/wide display makes for easier multitasking using Google’s built-in split screen mode.
Performance and battery life
As mentioned earlier the G6 is smooth as butter, likely because LG has pared down its software in recent years in favour of a cleaner Android look. The G6’s 3,300 mAh battery is non-removable for the first time in an LG phone, but it’s a trade-off that’s worth it considering the G6 is, like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S8, water- and dustproof. Besides, improved battery optimisation on Android 7.0 means the G6 can usually last me a full day.
The G5 failed mostly because its modular concept was too niche. With the G6, LG focused on strengthening areas that appeal to the masses (a brilliant large screen, fun wide-angle camera) and on these fronts the phone is a resounding success. With the possible exception of the Galaxy S8, the G6 is the best phone on the market.
Dimensions: 148.9mm x 71.9mm x 7.9mm
OS version reviewed: LG UX 6.0 on top of Android 7.0
Processor: Snapdragon 821
Cameras: dual 13-megapixel lens with f/1.8 and f/2.4 aperture, 5-megapixel front-facing lens
Memory: 32/64GB ROM and 4GB RAM
Colours: black, white, platinum