The LG V10 and the LG V20 were different phones. They looked different, and had quirks that others didn’t have, which made them unique, and a little bit special. They weren’t for everyone, but then again, what is? LG have continued the line of highly-specced devices in the “V” series with their latest offering, the V30. This does not continue the line from the V20, however. Instead it seems to be an attempt to redesign the LG G6 a little, throwing in a few features and components that were missing from the G6, and that leaves me scratching my head for a second or two. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in a way, the V30 definitely improves upon the G6 in ways I’ll dig into later. But for the most part it’s a tad strange that LG have a) kinda killed the V series’ special uniqueness, and b) released something so similar to the G6 just six months later.
My first impressions of the V30 were positive. It is a beautiful phone, and its lightweight feel in the hand belies its overall size. As large “phablet” phones go, the V30’s 158g makes the Note8’s 195g seem as if Samsung had decided to put a slab of lead inside the Note just for fun. Holding both phones in your hands makes you wonder how LG manage to create a large phone with almost as many whistles and bells as the Note 8 but with a sizeable 37g lopped off somehow. To hold the V30 you would think something might be missing, a bit like how phones with replaceable batteries felt when the battery wasn’t inside the device. But no, LG have managed to craft a phone that is not only beautiful in all aspects, but is pocketable and not weighty. Well done to LG for managing this.
As you use the V30 more and more, you do appreciate this lesser weight, both in your pockets and in your hands. I do a lot of reading on my phones, and I have to say, reading for long periods of time with the Note8 isn’t exactly uncomfortable, but it’s more about you being aware of the phone’s weight, and wanting to switch hands now and again to alleviate any discomfort, even if it’s very slight. There is no such discomfort with holding the V30 for long periods of time. And more to the point, the V30’s smooth and glassy back coupled with nicely-rounded curves and corners make it extremely nice to hold. It might not be as sexy to look at compared with the Samsung Galaxies of 2017, but it makes up for that in areas where it counts practically.
I had the LG G6 for a stint back when it was released in the spring of this year, and I’ve been using the newer V30 for around two weeks. I feel comfortable comparing the two devices in terms of usage and experience. What I found, almost straightaway, was that the V30 felt like a phone with some extra horsepower underneath the hood. The G6 was no slouch, but with the Snapdragon 835 chip inside the V30, the thing just flies. Having that newer chip architecture pays off, and no matter how I tried, I could not slow the V30 down. The G6 was a quick phone too, but it’s the same with anything; the newer models are always going to be a bit slicker and quicker, and that’s what we have here.
The camera on the V30 is quite similar to the G6. We have a dual camera set up, one lens being the standard kind of camera shooter found on many smartphones (16 MP, f/1.6 with autofocus and OIS) and a second super-wide angle camera (13MP, f/1.9 with no autofocus, no OIS). I found the experience very similar to the G6 in terms of shooting and editing on the phone. LG have decided to keep their green tinged peaking during manual focusing, just like on the G6. I prefer a magnified area of the view finder for that kind of focusing; the green tinges aren’t always a great guide and I feel that my own interpretation of what I can see is sometimes more reliable. Samsung have implemented this on the Note8’s camera UI as well now, so it looks like it’s the way forward. The camera is fast as you’d expect from a 2017 flagship, and I have no complaints on the overall speed of the camera. I would say it seems a tad slower to focus compared with the Samsung S8 and Note8, but seemed quicker than the G6 which was a noticeably slower camera to kick into gear.
One of the biggest drawbacks for me with the V30 however, is the fact that nearly all of the photos I took with it were subpar compared with those from the Note8. Not that the V30’s photos were terrible, they were absolutely fine, but when zoomed in had a lot of graininess that was hard to ignore. Details were good and sometimes better than the Note8’s shots, although it was always a close call. One night time shot produced a better image on the V30 than the Note8, but only marginally so. I found that any kind of close up, brightly lit or in dim lighting produced a great image, until you zoomed in, or if you heavily cropped the photo. Tons of grain, noise and fuzziness prevailed. If I was going to choose a phone between the V30 and the Note8 based on photo quality alone (and I’m no expert) I would choose the Note 8 in a heartbeat. That said, not everyone “pixel peeps” their photos so you might be very happy with the V30’s rich detail and sensible saturation levels.
A couple of other features of the V30 that I liked were the souped-up Glance screen or Always On Screen. The choice of clock designs are better than on the LG G6 and I had opted for the large red and white digital clock which I thought looked different but useful too. LG’s choice to use an OLED screen over an LCD one is leaps and bounds over the G6. Colours pop and blacks are deeper. The G6 screen looks quite washed-out in comparison. LG have created a special type of plastic substrate in their OLED screens, and as such, they have named it P-OLED, which is being used in the marketing as if it’s some newer and fancier type of screen, but as it happens, it’s not really any different from Samsung’s AMOLED screens found in the S8 and Note8. However, that said, when sitting next to the Note8, the V30 screen isn’t as saturated and “poppy” – maybe the Samsung screen is too vivid.
After two weeks using the V30 I found myself really missing the Note8. There was nothing really wrong with the V30, but I missed the stylus from the Note, the taller screen with the deeper blacks and more vivid colours, and the overall look and feel of the Note8. The trouble with the 2017 Samsungs is that Samsung made them too sexy, too desirable and now everything else seems nice but not as special. The V30 lacks that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that the S8 and Note8 have. They seem to raise more eyebrows out and about and more people ask after them as opposed to the LG. The design is great, no doubt about it, but it’s just not as delicious as the Galaxies are. Once my sim card was back in the Note8 I felt almost a relief that I was back where I belonged. And not just because I own the Note8; the V30 was a trial device sent to us by the wonderful Jeff Holmes in partnership with AT&T. But because it’s what I would choose if given the two major Android flagships of the second half of 2017.
I’m sure people will love using the V30. When I was using it I impressed with the battery life which seemed decent to me, getting me through a long full day and getting wirelessly charged up overnight, which seems to be the norm these days for most flagships. Speaking of charging, the V30 comes with the ability to charge very quickly using the Quick Charge 3.0 plug, and can charge about 50% of the battery in just half an hour, which is both impressive and useful in many circumstances.
I’m sure people will love the ever-so-slightly quirky video features such as the touch-to-zoom-in feature which allows you to tap a spot in the viewfinder while recording, and the camera will carefully zoom in on that spot for you – very cool and smoothly done, but something I would probably never use. In reality, a lot of the V30’s special sauce is in the video UI within the camera app, and I’m just not a video kinda guy. I’m not sure why, but I don’t find the opportunities presenting themselves very often for video over photos. I was also very impressed with the audio output from the phone via wired headphones (yes! it has a headphone jack!) thanks to the built-in audio Quad DAC. This was another oddity that LG took out of the US-bound G6 devices, but included it in other variants of the older flagship. This time it looks like they’ve thrown the kitchen sink at the US version, which is a welcome change.
The V30, I fear, will be overshadowed in many ways by the current offerings from Samsung, and of course, the newer iPhone collection that includes the much-talked about iPhone “X” with its notch and ears. No, Apple were not first with their “all-screen design” (as some tech reviewers will have you believe, cough-BGR-cough) nor were they the pioneers of built-in wireless charging. That tip of the hat goes to Nokia with the Lumia 920 from 2012. Man that seems like a long time ago now! But LG have produced a phone that some will adore, mainly because of the beauty in the design, the lightness of the phone despite its size, and the camera app with all the goodies within.
I’m left wondering what the V30 is going after in the market, but perhaps it’s not going after anyone in particular. Maybe LG are giving LG fans something that is better than the G6 but doesn’t upset the trend too much. Gone is the second screen as seen on the V10 and V20. Gone is the black rubbery back and removable battery. Instead, we’re left with a gorgeous G6-design, with better features and internals. That can’t be all that bad, no can it?