A few weeks ago I got my hands on the final build of LG’s latest flagship and with many improvements with design over last year’s G6, a faster chipset, a larger and brighter 6.1-inch all-screen display, an artificial intelligence enhanced camera, battery life, and impressive loud ‘boombox’ for speakers, the real question remains, does the G7 ThinQ offer a significant difference from its competitors to stand out?
If you’re familiar with last year’s LG V30, there are some clear inspirations there. The frame is a polished metal rim with Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and the back, which allows wireless charging.
Also back there are the dual-cameras centered at the top vertically, with an easy-to-access fingerprint sensor below it. The display is an edge to edge with a familiar ‘notch’ (made famous last year by Apple’s iPhone X) where the front-facing camera and call speaker are located. The power button returns to the right side. Paired with the slot for the sim card is an area reserved for SD expandable memory. On the left side of the phone houses, the volume rockers and the AI Hot Key button.
With one tap, the button opens up a familiar Google Assistant with LG Integration, with two taps, the button opens up the Google Lens app. Simply take a photo and with AI integration, you can instantly access a more detailed product information about the photo online.
On the surface, the design may not be revolutionary. It is a good looking phone, with a very clean unibody glass, eventually I can get used to the notch above. I was surprised it kept the small chin on the bottom, versus a curved OLCD like many of its competitors. In my hand, the G7 felt comfortable, natural light and familiar. LG is clearly pushing for the AI end of things to seperate it from the rest. I am a fan of having a dedicated button for AI, and I’m glad LG isn’t forcing their own personal virtual assistant. Now for those you have a habit of accidentally tapping the AI button, there is an option to disable it. I asked an LG rep about the ability to remap the button, his response was, in the future, it may be a possibility. On the bottom we have the now standard (for Android devices), a USB Type-C charging port, a welcomed headphone jack, as well as a single, mono speaker.
The LG G7 has a 6.1-inch QHD+Fullvision (3120 x 1440 / 564ppi) LCD display taking up the complete front of the device. Not including the area where the notch is, they were able to reduce the size of the bottom bezel to squeeze in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. One of the more impressive feats of the phone is the brighter screen. The screen is vibrant, just the right amount of saturation with vivid color and photos and videos look great on it. LG reported this is because there is an additional white sub-pixel that in turn increases the overall brightness.
While I still question LG’s decision to stick with LCD versus OLED, This phone’s display can be comfortably seen in any lighting conditions, sunlight included. With a peak brightness of 1,000 nits (Outdoor), in testing and comparison with my Samsung s9+ it too was able to manage similar nits, (standard for phones I discovered is between 500 and 600 nits) but the LG did so without minimal image distortion while consuming 30-35 percent less power (than the LG G6). Now when I first read about it, I honestly thought it was gimmicky, and didn’t think much of it, but the more and most I used it I realized it was indeed living up to that power conservation promise. It is important to note, the ‘Super Bright Display’ mode can last for up to three minutes. I expect this is to prevent power consumption and overstressing the device.
As I never got comfortable with the notch on the top (yet), I was glad for the Second Screen screen option, the ability to customize and minimize the bezels, change the notification bar to a different color, I chose to black it out completely. I was able to test the six different viewing modes: Auto, Eco, Cinema, Sports, Game, and Expert.
I found myself relying on Auto mode, letting the phone analyze the content while it optimizes the display and power consumption accordingly. Very rarely did I find myself fine-tuning an image if I so choose I could by adjusting the screen temperature and RGB levels individually.
The AI Cam:
I was more impressed with the software than I was the hardware here. The phone’s AI camera app paired with the machine learning software identifies subjects into as many as 19 shooting modes. In auto-mode tries to identify a scene, then adjusts the photo optimizing the contrast, saturation, brightness, and color depending on whatever you’re shooting. It may even recommend a wider-angle view or suggest using the Super Bright Camera mode when it’s too dark. This is clearly a work in progress, as something in some cases it misidentified what I’m pointing at but sure enough, the more I used it the more it adapted.
Let’s touch a little more into the camera’s low light mode or “Super Bright Mode,” if it detects the lighting is not ideal, it will combine pixels to form a “superpixel.” with the ability to shoot images up to four times brighter than the LG G6, this feature comes at a quality cost. If the mode is enabled, the quality of the photo and videos will be brought down, 4MP photos and 4K UHD video is cut down to 1080p. Luckily, the mode can be turned off.
The front camera is 8-megapixel, while the back cameras sport dual 16-megapixel Sony IMX 351 camera sensors, a f/1.9 wide-angle camera lens featuring a 107-degree field-of-view, while the standard camera has a f/1.6 aperture measuring 1/3.1 inches. Now Google’s Pixel 2 has a 1/2.6-inch sensor and the Samsung S9 camera has a 1/2.55-inch sensor. When compared to photos taken by LG G7 ThinQ, the competitors had a slight advantage. In good lighting, the G7 takes great photos, in low light the LG just can’t beat the competition. You could use the “Bright Mode” but you’ll be sacrificing quality. How the G7 did with the ever important portrait mode? Thanks to the normal and wide-angle lens combo the software were able to properly blur almost everything in the background, what’s interesting was the camera didn’t crop into the subject. It managed to stay at the same distance as the auto mode so there’s no need to suddenly adjust your framing.
The G7 completely won over the competition with the wide-angle shots. That 107-degree field-of-view I mentioned above is a huge difference, when compared to the other competitors. Versus the standard camera, I did notice slight color and detail discrepancies with wide-angle shots, by the time of this writing I narrowed down the problem to possible a software or stabilizing issue.
As for the video camera, the G7 is capable of recording in 4K this time with HDR video capture for absorbing more color details. Overall I am happy with the camera, easily my favorite feature is the wide-angle mode, if you are a Samsung S9 or Google Pixel 2 camera phone user, this will not impress.
Speakers and Sound:
When in a pitch and without an external Bluetooth speaker, if you place the G7 onto a hollow surface the LG G7 ThinQ can use its internal resonance chamber as a woofer to amplify the bass effect, even more, turning the surface into a “boombox”. It does this by utilizing the inner space of the smartphone as a resonance chamber to amplify sound up to ten-fold. I tested the feature on a few different surfaces as well as different genres of music, and I was quite surprised. The quality of the output depends greatly on the surface you place it on.
I consider myself an audiophile, I when I heard that the LG G7 ThinQ would be the first smartphone to offer DTS:X 3D Surround Sound, for up to 7.1 channel performance without the need for premium headphones. I had to give it a shot, and I’ll say I was impressed.
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform
Display: 6.1-inch QHD+ 19.5:9 FullVision Super Bright Display (3120 x 1440 / 564ppi)
Memory: 4GB LPDDR4x RAM and 64GB UFS 2.1 ROM for G7, 6GB LPDDR4x RAM and 128GB UFS 2.1 ROM for G7+, microSD (up to 2TB) for both
Rear cameras: 16MP Super Wide Angle (F1.9 / 107°) / 16MP Standard Angle (F1.6 / 71°)
Front camera: 8MP Wide Angle (F1.9 / 80°)
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Size: 153.2 x 71.9 x 7.9mm
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac / Bluetooth 5.0 BLE / NFC / USB Type-C 2.0 (3.1 compatible)
Software, Battery and Performance:
The LG G7 ThinQ is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor and depending on your region, are available in two flavors, either 4GB of RAM with 64GB of internal storage or 6GB of RAM with 128GB of internal storage both will be shipped with Android 8.0, Oreo, with a promised upgrade to the next operating system when available. I am currently running the 4G/64GB version.
The LG G7 ThinQ comes with a 3,000 mAh battery, which is quite a drop from the 3,300 mAh on the G6. According to LG this is on purpose. The G7’s display doesn’t require as much power. After power-using it a full day I ended the night with roughly 85% of my battery life gone, which isn’t bad, but about the same as my Samsung S9.
The tests I ran are based on the final build of the phone, without any additional carrier software. I’ve run dozens of performance tests using custom benchmark tools as well as popular ones over the past few weeks. I gauged performance based how many applications are actively running, including games that require more system resources. I was aiming to stress this phone out. On a processing level, the phone ran brilliantly as it stayed up to the tasks without any slowdown. When I was first introduced to the phone one of its driving points was “Continuous software upgrades expanding the features and options of the device”. So when it came to software, I made sure it became one of my more focused tests. Earlier in the month, I did run into a few software problems, and I sent my notes in. A few days later a software update was available and voila, the problem no longer existed. Now I don’t expect all support cases will be addressed at the same speed, but I was surprised by how fast my issue was addressed.
The LG G7 ThinQ officially launches on June 1st but you can preorder the new handset from most major US wireless carriers.
Verizon is taking pre-orders asking $31.25 per month for two years.
Sprint is offering the handset for $33 per month on an 18-month Sprint Flex lease.
T-Mobile will offer the handset via its EIP for $30 down and $30 a month over 24 months. And with T-Mobile’s Buy One Get One deal, a second LG G7 ThinQ can be purchased using the EIP, and you will receive 24 monthly bill credits to cover the cost. Full transparency, there may be a two-month period where you will have to cover the monthly payments for both units until the bill credits take effect.
For those wondering about AT&T, earlier this month they announced they will not be carrying the G7 ThinQ. Instead, AT&T will carry a different, exclusive LG phone.
I happen to like the LG G7 ThinQ quite a bit. The simple design, the display, the response time, and the speed are important features for me. Eventually, I can see myself using the boombox, but the deal breaker for me though is the camera. I take a lot of photos, and while the AI camera has the capability to take great shots, how the G7 handles low light natively is a problem. There are other phones on the market that tackle this problem with minimal effort. While there may not be a fix for that, what LG has going for it is a promised expandability via software updates. In just using it the last few weeks I have noticed the speed in which LG addresses problems in the device. Something I have not experienced before with other smartphones. LG may be on to something.