LG is slowly losing its mark in the smartphone market. Not only did the G5 have poor sales, their budget range is no match for its Chinese rivals. Even the Nexus branding was axed by Google this year, something with which LG did well in the past years.
Last month it launched the V20 smartphone for the Indian market, which was quite a late decision considering the smartphone was announced globally in September. A desperate move to bring a new flagship, perhaps.
I took the smartphone for a spin to see if flagship attempt number two by LG is worth the money.
Build and Design: 7.5 / 10
The smartphone is all metal on the back with sloping edges on the top and bottom. The front is mostly glass. You don’t see a lot of smartphones that have a back panel these days, but for those who like a nostalgic touch, the V20 does have one. There is a button on the right edge which pop opens the metal back panel revealing the removable battery, SIM card slots and the microSD card slot.
The back is curved close to the edges and you can see the camera module bulging out from the main body. Right below that is a round fingerprint scanner which is also a hardware button and acts as the power key. Around the edges you can see the volume buttons on the left edge, the infrared sensor on the top, the back panel ejector button on the right and on the bottom are the ports (3.5mm audio and USB Type-C) and the loudspeaker grille.
The build quality is solid and LG even says that if you accidently drop it, chances of it breaking are low as the back panel and the battery dislodge upon impact. I was very tempted to try it out. But to be honest, the design is a bit simple. I am not saying it’s a bad looking phone, but I think there are better looking options in the market.
Features: 7 / 10
The LG V20 comes with top of the line features making it sit with all the flagships of 2016. It features a 5.7-inch display with a QHD (2560x1440 pixel) resolution and sitting right above is a secondary 2.1-inch touch bar offering a 1040x60 pixels resolution. Inside there is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core chipset, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The storage can be expanded further using a microSD card of up to 256GB.
It features a dual camera setup with 16MP and 8MP sensors with laser autofocus, OIS and a dual LED flash. The front camera offers a 5MP resolution. Apart from features like infrared sensor and a fingerprint scanner the V20 features a dedicated audio quad-DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). Connectivity options include dual-SIM support (dedicated slots), 4G with VoLTE, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, GPS/A-GPS, USB Type-C port and FM Radio. The handset comes with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box with LG’s UX 5.0 skin on top and rounding it all up is a 3,200 mAh battery.
Display: 8 / 10
As I mentioned before, the V20 comes with two displays, a 5.7-inch IPS LCD with a 2560x1440 resolution and a 2.1-inch strip with a 1040x60 resolution. Both the display are covered with a Gorilla Glass 4 for protection.
The primary display is sharp and vibrant. For an IPS panel it is quite impressive as the brightness levels are great, even under direct sunlight. Colours are accurate and pop out with a slight cool tone. LG has kept the double tap to wake feature as well, which is always great to have especially on a display that is this big.
The secondary display is an interesting addition. It’s basically a new take on the always-on display. I wasn’t very sure about how useful it would be but when I got used to the device, I started loving it. You can access your notifications, quickly open apps and settings, open your favorite contacts, control music and more. This small display gets its own settings so you can customise it according to your liking. I ended up using it mostly to control my music, read notifications, switch on the flashlight and opening the camera.
Software: 7 / 10
The V20 was one of the first few smartphones that shipped with Android 7.0 Nougat right from the box. LG has used its own custom UI which is very similar to what we saw on the LG G5. It seems heavily customised, but it is silky smooth. I didn’t face any issues in the software and it was one of the most responsive UIs I’ve used in the past few months.
By default, there is no app drawer. But you can enable it in the settings if you fancy a traditional Android look. The UI offers personalisation options such as themes and wallpapers. Regarding the apps, there are a few pre-installed ones including a backup tool, a remote control app for the infrared sensor, LG Health app, LG Friends and so on. Most of them are in the system so they can’t be uninstalled.
I do like to mention the HD audio recorder app that comes with the handset. Since the V20 has a quad-DAC, LG has put this neat app that lets you record high-fidelity lossless audio. While there is a simple recording option, once can also fine tune it under the concert or custom audio recording settings.
Performance: 7.5 / 10
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset with 4GB of RAM, I had my hopes high and the V20 didn’t disappoint. Load times are short, apps open fast and the handset easily manages to play heavy resource demanding games. While I mostly played Pokemon Go, I did play a bit of Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger 2 on the device, and I was quite satisfied. It mostly felt warm but there were a couple of times when it got really hot after a long session of Pokemon catching. It never slowed down even after opening about 15 apps at the same time.
RAM management has also been tweaked as I could easily resume games without having them to re-load from the start.
Moving to the benchmark tests, you can see that the hardware has potential as most of the scores were pretty good. While it maxed out on Ice Storm Extreme, it scored 28,632 on Ice Storm Unlimited and 1,29,505 on Antutu.
Call quality and volume on the earpiece were all good and even signal reception for Wi-Fi and cellular data had no issues. The single loudspeaker which is at the bottom edge is quite good. Its loud and very clear with a bit of bass, but I think a slight bump in the volume would’ve made it perfect.
I was a bit annoyed by the fingerprint scanner though. While it was accurate in scanning, the way it has been implemented isn’t very comfortable. It feels very flushed when compared to the plane of the main body and since it also happens to be power button, you have to pick it up all the time. There is double tap to wake the display, but it took me time to get used to it.
Camera: 8 / 10
Just like the LG G5, this smartphone gets a dual camera setup. There is a 16MP camera with a 29mm f/1.8 lens and an 8MP camera with a 12mm f/2.4 lens, in fact it is the same as the one used on the G5. The camera also gets laser autofocus, OIS and a dual LED flash. And like the G5 the two camera setup lets you shoot a normal frame or a wide, almost fish-eye, like photo.
I was pleased with how wide you can capture with the camera, although I wasn’t happy with the overall image processing. Colours were mostly flat and and pictures felt over sharpened in daylight, especially in HDR. Low light is disappointing as there is visible loss in details. The wide angle mode also offered a bit of barrel distortion, similar to what was had seen on the G5.
Apart from letting you select the normal and wide angled field of view, the camera app offers a bunch of features. You can manually control your settings when shooting video, things like shutter speed, ISO and even keep a tab on your audio channels. There is RAW support for still images as well. Of course, there is HDR, manual controls for stills, slow-mo mode, time-lapse, panorama and 4K video which was quite good and smooth, thanks to OIS.
There is a also a 5MP front camera with an f/1.9 aperture. Just like the rear camera, you get a wide and normal view, but done through the single lens. The front camera tends to make everything soft but it was just decent in bright conditions. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Battery life: 6.5 / 10
LG has utilised a 3,200mAh battery which is removable, great for people who want to quickly swap with a charged one. But with so many power banks at your disposal, it seems unlikely that anyone would carry two batteries. The phone lasts a full day with light usage and about half a day if you are a heavy user.
The battery does charge quickly though as the USB Type-C port supports Quick Charge 3.0. LG also bundles a high-capacity charger which fully charges the device in about an hour or so. For me the battery experience was a bit mixed. There were days when I was left with 40-50 percent charge at the end of the day, and on some occasions it trickled down to 20-25 percent.
According to the PCMark Work Battery life benchmark test, it scored 6 hours and 55 minutes which is lower than most of the flagship smartphones this year.
Verdict and Price in India
LG’s flagship for 2016, the G5, turned out to be a disappointment. The company’s approach for making a modular phone was ambitious, but wasn’t quite polished. Where the G5 falls, I think the V20 shines.
There are a bunch of things that impressed me.The audio recording, playback capabilities and camera features get a thumbs up. Now while the camera is loaded with features, it is not quite up there when it comes to performance. The always-on display bar is practical and could go a long way. In terms of overall performance, I was impressed at how snappy and fluid the phone felt.
The V20 is a loaded smartphone, no doubt. But in my opinion LG is late, especially in India. Yes, there are features that catch your attention, but it misses out on being one of the best smartphones of 2016 by a whisker. At Rs 55,000 (best buy price) it is a bit of an expensive deal too. For a bit more you can get the Google Pixel which is the best Android smartphone today. Or you could also go for the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge which is relatively economical but an excellent performer.
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