Budding movie makers might have a new favourite smartphone. Audiophiles, too.
In fact, it’s difficult to see who wouldn’t want to slip an V30 into their pocket.
With hardware to drool over, cinematic video recording, a quad-DAC for superior audio, and an eyeball-soothing OLED screen, I’m struggling to see the downside.
LG’s latest and greatest takes everything we liked about the G6 and turns it up a notch, ditching some of the V-series gimmicks and doubling down on design to make something truly desirable. At least, that’s the idea.
I got to play with a pre-production device ahead of LG’s official reveal at IFA in Berlin, in order to bring you some early impressions.
DESIGN & BUILD: SLIMLINE STUNNER
If the G6 was a tentative dip in the water, as far as bezel-free phones go, then the V30 is a full-on cannonball straight off the diving board. It’s an absolute beauty.
Gorilla glass 5 protects an 18:9 aspect ratio screen, which practically fills the entire front of the phone, and the shiny rear gets the same treatment. 3D glass then wraps slightly around the sides, merging smoothly with the frame, which has its own slight curve.
The whole thing sits comfortably in your hand, with your index finger resting perfectly on the rear-facing fingerprint sensor. The camera modules take up less space here than they did on the G6, giving the back a more refined look. Oh, and they’re nowhere near the fingerprint sensor, either. LG: 1, Samsung: 0.
It looks especially slick in Moroccan Blue and Cloud Silver colours, which morph subtly in the light as you move it around, but the Lavender Violet and Aurora Black shades are pretty tasty too.
The whole thing is IP68 dust and water resistant, so won't come a cropper if it takes an accidental dunking, and LG has drop-tested it too, so hopefully a case of butterfingers won’t mean a smashed screen.
OK, so the screen itself might not curve around the edges of the phone like the Galaxy S8, but in all other respects, the V30 is as modern as handsets get right now.
SCREEN & SOUND: OLED ALL THE WAY
The V30 marks LG’s return to OLED smartphone screens, and what a return it is.
The 6in panel produces bright, vibrant colours, with a QHD+ resolution that ensures everything looks pin-sharp. Viewing angles are excellent, and of course, contrast is unparalleled - exactly what you’d expect from OLED.
It’s ready to play back HDR10 videos, too, so compatible Netflix streams should look even better than their SDR counterparts.
The switch to OLED means the V6 will also play nicely with Google’s DayDream View VR headset - a first for an LG phone. LG’s always-on display tech makes a lot more sense on an OLED screen, too, as it’s only using power to draw a few pixels, rather than relying on a backlight.
Until I do a side-by-side comparison with the Galaxy S8 there’s no telling which is the superior panel, but this is easily the best screen you’ll find in any LG phone.
As good as it is, though, the V30’s sound has the potential to be better. LG has added a quad-DAC, which is audio geek speak for making your music sound as good as it possibly can from a smartphone.
That includes MQA support, a world’s first in a phone. This cutting-edge new file type is much smaller than a FLAC or WAV file, but stays lossless for the best possible quality. You’d normally find it on very high-end Hi-Fi kit, so to have it in a phone is a big deal for audiophiles.
Add in a speaker tuned by audio experts B&O Play, and a pair of B&O earphones in the box (country-dependant, sadly) and it has every potential to be the best portable listening experience around, short of spending thousands on a dedicated Pono or Astell & Kern device.
I can’t vouch for the sound quality yet - funnily enough, I didn’t bring my back catalog of obscure British Jazz albums in near-perfect FLAC quality with me to Berlin for IFA - but if it’s half as good as the Korean-only LG G6 (which had a similar quad-DAC setup) then LG is surely on to a winner.
CAMERA & VIDEO: DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
OK, here’s where things are going to get geeky. Apologies in advance, non-camera fans.
The V30 takes the dual camera setup from the G6 and gives it an upgrade, upping the main sensor’s resolution to 16MP, and giving it an extra-wide f/1.6 aperture - something you won’t find in any other smartphone.
The lens is actually made from glass, too, or at least the final lens element is. That should help even more light hit the sensor with every snap: two whole light stops more. Add in optical image stabilisation and low-light performance should be something special.
It’s paired with a 13MP, 120°, f/1.9 wide-angle lens, for squeezing that much more into every photo. You won’t find any depth-blurring effects here, which helps separate the V30 from the rest of the dual camera crowd.
I haven’t had the chance to snap any serious photos with the V30 yet, so can’t comment on picture quality. Hopefully it’ll be a step up from the G6, which didn’t fare very well in Stuff’s smartphone camera shootout earlier in the year.
Stills are only half the story, of course. It’s video where the V30 really carves out its own niche, with Cine Video presets. These use wider colour gamuts and dynamic range to jazz up your videos - but aren’t just simple filters. It’s actually using LOG profiles, colour-grading your footage like a pro video editor might do.
This mode also has target-based zoom, letting you smoothly zoom into a focus-locked target. Instead of just zooming into the centre of the frame. Sure, it’s still using digital zoom, but the effect is a lot more cinematic now.
Add in two AOP microphones and 24-bit lossless audio recording, and your videos should sound as good as they look.
Of course, this is all in theory - I’ll be shooting my own clips this week at IFA to see how it actually performs in real life.
PERFORMANCE & BATTERY: WIRELESS WONDER
The G6 was the last major phone to arrive with a Snapdragon 821, and while it was hardly a slouch, as soon as the rest of the world stepped up to the Snapdragon 835, it felt out of date.
That’s not a problem for the V30 - it’s got Qualcomm’s latest and greatest silicon under the skin, with eight cores ticking along at a healthy pace to keep your apps running smoothly, game frame rates high and Android stutter-free. 4GB of RAM is onboard for multitasking, too.
Everything certainly felt responsive during my short time with the phone, although I didn’t get to download any demanding 3D games to see how it handles the QHD+ resolution screen. Mobile data might not cost extra to use in Europe now, but I’ve still got a 4G data cap, dammit.
My demo unit was the standard V30, which has 64GB of on-board storage and a microSD card slot for adding more later, should you run out. There’s also the V30+, which doubles that capacity to 128GB - but to be honest, a 64GB microSD card will cost you significantly less cash.
I’m hoping the 3300mAh battery will be enough to get through an entire day of regular use, although wireless charging and Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 mean topping up shouldn’t be a struggle.
This will be one of the first things I test when I get a final review unit, as the G6 wasn’t quite the battery life champ. The more energy-efficient Snapdragon 835 and OLED screen should help out here, fingers crossed.
OPERATING SYSTEM & SOFTWARE: FLOAT ON
The V30 ships with Android Nougat out of the box, which might come as a disappointment to some, but LG has promised version 8.0 Oreo will be on the way - potentially by the end of the year.
In the meantime, there are plenty of LG’s own software tweaks to use - including a floating shortcut bar that effectively replaces the outgoing V20’s second screen. It’s a worthy replacement, able to sit anywhere onscreen within easy reach instead of right at the top, where only the most nimble of thumbs could reach.
You can jump straight into apps using shortcuts, control music playback, choose your favourite contacts to call or message, or access game tools like screenshots - and that’s just the start. Hopefully LG will let third party devs add their own features, so it can compete with Samsung’s Edge panels.
LG’s custom UI looks relatively unchanged from the G6, but that’s not exactly a bad thing - it made minimal changes, and kept the best bits from Google’s original vision for Android.
That includes the return of Google Assistant, after making a first appearance outside of Google’s own Pixel phones on the G6 earlier in the year, and this time it knows a few LG-specific tricks. Ask to take a video with a particular movie mode, and it’ll jump right into the camera app with the correct filter already loaded.
Finally, security has taken a step up with voice recognition unlock and face unlock options. I’m still happy to stick with the fingerprint reader, which is perfectly placed and quick to skip the lock screen, but it’s nice to have the choice. I’ll be testing out the other modes soon to see if they’re just as reliable.
LG V30 INITIAL VERDICT
On paper, the V30 sounded like a laundry list of everything you could want from an Android phone. After trying one out, it feels like LG might have delivered on its promises.
The OLED screen is gorgeous, the design is a slick step up from the G6, and media-friendly upgrades like the quad-DAC give it a real step up over any other smartphone you can buy right now. Performance was never in doubt, thanks to that snapdragon CPU, too.
Battery life is still an unknown right now, and I haven’t been able to properly test the camera yet. Here’s hoping LG has improved its processing algorithms over the G6, which hasn’t aged well against the likes of HTC’s U11.
Unless it bombs in either of those areas, the V30 is a phone I’d happily slip into my pocket. Stand by for a full review, when I can fully test it next to its main rivals, and deliver a final verdict.