How do you go from niche appeal to mass-market crowd pleaser? It’s the question LG has been battling with since the modular G5 sunk faster than a lead balloon.
The answer, apparently, is to ditch the upgradeable antics and double down on everything you could want from a flagship phone.
That’s not to say this is just a by-the-numbers upgrade, though: take one look at that 18:9 display, with those barely-there bezels, and it’s clear that the G6 is something special.
After switching from our early pre-production version of the G6 to a finished retail model, and giving it a thorough test, I'm finally ready to deliver a full verdict.
Yes, it might be overshadowed by a certain Samsung, but this is still a fantastic phone.
LG G6 DESIGN & BUILD: MOVE OVER MODULAR
Last year’s G5 was an interesting experiment, but ultimately wasn’t very successful. The idea of a modular phone you could upgrade on the fly never really gained steam with the wider world - even if we loved the idea here at Stuff.
Motorola fared better with its Moto Mod accessories, which could be swapped in and out without shutting your phone down first. That really didn’t leave a place for LG’s ungainly upgrades in 2017, so they’re gone now.
Instead, the G6 is a sealed sandwich of metal and glass.
It’s an approach that paid off: You might not be able to remove the battery any more, but the G6 is a stunning slab of smartphone elegance that easily holds its own with the current crop of flagships.
It feels every bit as luxurious as a Galaxy S7 Edge, if not quite as attention-grabbing while that unique screen is switched off - there are no curved screen shenanigans here.
At 7.9mm it’s a little chunkier than the G5, but it’s narrower too, and sits comfortably in your hand. The Gorilla Glass 5 rear has slightly rounded sides that better fit your grip, so I didn’t feel like the phone was going to slip out of my palm at all.
After a few weeks of being pulled in and out of my pocket, it has so far stayed resistant to any visible scratches, even if my Astro Black sample is something of a fingerprint magnet. The silver version fares much, much better, but has more noticeable bezels on the front; here, you’ll struggle to spot where the screen ends at all. It visually sinks into the frame as soon as the phone enters standby.
If only there was a version with a black front and silver back - make it happen, LG.
LG picked the perfect place for a fingerprint sensor all the way back with the G2, when it stuck the power button on the rear - even if it took two more phones to actually turn it into a fingerprint sensor. It's no surprise to see it return in the same place here, sitting right where your finger rests, so you don’t need to fish around for it blindly every time you unlock the phone.
It’s IP68 dust- and water-resistant, of course. What self-respecting 2017 flagship isn’t? It’s able to withstand a dunking down to 1 metre for up to 30 minutes, and you don’t need to cork the USB-C port on the bottom, or the headphone jack on the top before you get wet, either.
The fact there’s a headphone socket at all shows that LG isn’t just singing from the Apple hymn sheet. If you do decide to cut the cord, though, you won’t lose out on sound quality: the G6 has aptX HD Bluetooth, which offers hi-res wireless streaming.
The single speaker at the bottom of the phone is surprisingly capable, with real clarity and no harsh frequencies when you crank up the volume. I didn’t need headphones just to watch YouTube clips, but you’ll still want to pop on a pair of cans for any critical listening.
It’s the only way to do justice to the gorgeous display.
LG G6 SCREEN: WHERE'S THE BEZEL?
The 5.7in panel stands out for two reasons: the novel 18:9 aspect ratio (that’s 2:1, maths fans) and ludicrously slim bezels around each of its four sides.
The 85% screen-to-bezel ratio means it utterly dominates the front, but the phone doesn't actually take up any more room in your hand than the 5.2in G5. No wonder LG calls it a Full Vision display.
Xiaomi might have managed to shave even more bezel around the top edge of its Mi Mix concept phone late last year, but it had to shunt the front-facing camera to the bottom corner to make it happen. That basically meant you ended up looking like a triple-chinned monster whenever you took a selfie.
The G6 sensibly keeps it at the top of the screen. That means it’s not quite edge-to-edge, but is still one of the thinnest bezels ever fitted to a phone. At least until the Galaxy S8 arrives in April, adding curved edges into the mix as well as skinny bezels of its own.
Swapping to 18:9 hasn’t impacted on ergonomics much. I could still reach the top of the phone with one hand. Just about.
The extra space means extra pixels, so the resolution gets a bump too - up to 2880x1440. As you'd expect, everything looks pin-sharp, both from arms’ length and when you’ve got your nose pressed to the glass.
I love how LG has rounded off the corners of the panel, too, making it look like the pixels themselves are curved. I couldn’t spot a single right angle anywhere on this thing.
Oddly, though, it’s protected by Gorilla Glass 3 - not the newer Gorilla Glass 5, like you’ll find on the back. The camera lenses use Gorilla Glass 4, too. Why not just stick with one kind of glass?
The panel itself sticks with LG’s tried-and-tested Quantum IPS tech. It might not have the deepest blacks or most vibrant colours, like you’d get on an OLED panel, but it has fantastic viewing angles and is plenty bright enough.
The odd aspect ratio isn’t LG’s only party trick, either. The G6 such a wide colour gamut that video experts Dolby have certified it for Dolby Vision HDR video. It can play back HDR10 videos too.
Samsung did HDR last year with the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7, but it wasn’t Dolby-certified, and there wasn’t much in the way of content. That’s only partly true here: the phone ships with a single demo clip, but both Netflix and Amazon have pledged to support HDR streaming to mobile very shortly.
Is High Dynamic Range video really worth it on a phone, though? I think it will be, once the content is easy to get hold of.
I’ve seen HDR and SDR versions of LG’s demo video running side-by-side on two G6 handsets, and you really can see an improvement in the HDR version.
Bright whites can be onscreen with deep blacks at the same time, with all the subtle variations in between. The vibrant colours looked seriously impressive, and shadows aren’t washed out whenever a bright light source appears onscreen.
Because the screen isn’t as blindingly bright as a 4K HDR TV, it doesn’t seem to drain your battery faster, either. HDR and SDR came out about the same in my tests.