LG V30 review: Stunning hardware optimized for media creators and audio lovers

  • Editors' rating
    8.7 Outstanding

Pros

  • Elegant design and superb feel in hand
  • Fun and creative video tools
  • High quality dual rear cameras
  • 3.5 mm headset jack with Quad DAC
  • Long battery life
  • Future proof on T-Mobile with 600 MHz support

Cons

  • Auto-brightness is wonky
  • Price is about $100 too high
  • Doesn't launch with Android 8.0 Oreo

I've been using a LG V30 for a couple months, check out my first impressions, and last week a T-Mobile retail version arrived while the V30 finally hit store shelves. If you use your phone for video creation and you still enjoy music through a standard 3.5mm audio jack then the V30 is the best available.

The LG V30 is a gorgeous, well-made smartphone that keeps pulling my T-Mobile SIM back from the Note 8, HTC U11, and other smartphones. There are other phones out there with compelling features, but LG brings everything together in such an elegant package with the V30 that it is tough not to love this phone.

CNET Review: LG V30 sports a gorgeous OLED screen with a camera to match

The V30 is a bit of a departure from the V20 and V10, with it more closely matching the LG G6. It no longer has a removable battery that enterprise customers have come to appreciate on the V series, but does add wireless charging and the battery life will get you through a full day.

In direct comparison to the non-final model I have been testing, battery life has improved and I have not seen a single slowdown or app failure on the retail unit.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core
  • Display: 6.0 inch 2880x1440 pixels 18:9 resolution OLED
  • Operating system: Android 7.1.2 Nougat with September security patch
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Water and dust resistance: IP68 rating
  • Cameras: Dual rear 16 megapixel f/1.6, 71 degree view, and 13 megapixel f/1.9, 120 degree field of view cameras. Front 5 megapixel f/2.2 camera
  • Audio capability: 32-bit Quad DAC and 3.5mm headset jack. Advanced mics for high quality video capture.
  • Battery: 3,300 mAh with Quick Charge 3.0 and wireless charging technology
  • Dimensions: 151.7 x 75.4 x 7.39 mm and 158 grams

The LG V30 is the world's first 600 MHz device so it will work as fast as any phone coming in 2018 as T-Mobile continues to roll out this expanded network. It is also a Gigabit class LTE device so you can trust you will have the best coverage on T-Mobile with the LG V30 until 2018 when other phones start to support this network band.

Hardware

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Like most modern flagship smartphones, the LG V30 is a Gorilla Glass 5 sandwich with an anodized aluminum frame. Unlike these other phones though, the LG V30 has passed 14 different MIL-STD 810G shock resistant tests so it is designed to handle the occasional accidental drop. It is not a rugged device designed for field work, but should be OK if it slips from your hand onto a benign surface.

The LG G6 was the first phone to launch earlier this year with the 18:9 aspect ratio and the LG V30 continues that trend with an 81.2 percent screen-to-body ratio and a brilliant FullVision OLED display. It is not quite as stunning as that found on Samsung's flagships, but the colors are vibrant and everything looks great. There are narrow bezels on the sides, which is fine as it allows me to hold onto the phone without accidental screen presses.

The two volume buttons are positioned on the left side, a 3.5mm headset jack is up top, a USB Type-C port is on the bottom along with a mono speaker (it's just OK), and the dual rear camera setup is centered on the upper back. The center rear fingerprint scanner is perfectly placed and performs flawlessly. After using the off-center one on the Note 8, it really is a joy to use a rear one like this on the LG V30. I can unlock the phone as I lift it up or out of my pocket so it is ready to go when I look at it.

I've never been satisfied with the auto-brightness functionality on LG phones and I continue to be disappointed with the V30. It's best just to find a setting that works most of the time, about 40-50 percent for me, and keep auto-brightness off. I'm not sure why LG can't figure this out, but it is worse than on all the other phones I have tested.

Battery life on the non-final model I was testing was fine, but I would usually reach a low percentage remaining at the end of the day. On this retail version, battery life has been excellent, even exceeding what I see on the larger Note 8 and other smartphones in my collection. You can get through a full, rather heavy day with the LG V30. It is also great to know that Quick Charge 3.0 is supported, as well as Qi wireless charging.

As a daily train commuter, I enjoy music and podcasts on my phones for a couple of hours a day. I am still overwhelmed by the HTC U11 and the included Usonic headphones, but the quad DAC and 3.5mm headset jack on the LG V30 is also very impressive.

I wrote about the camera functionality in an earlier article and am mostly pleased with the three cameras on the LG V30. I tend to primarily capture photos in the day and outside, which is where most smartphone cameras excel. The LG V30 does fine in low light, but not quite as good as expected given the f/1.6 aperture and glass lens.

The LG V30 is unique in that its second rear camera is a wide-angle camera to help you capture landscapes and more of the action. While the fisheye look has been improved over the LG G6 and V20, there is still a bit of curvature on the results that bothers me in some scenarios. I prefer to have a monochrome second lens for black and white photography and bokeh effects, but there are valid use cases for the wide angle lens too. You can check out several sample photographs in full resolution in this Flickr album.

Software

The retail model I am testing has Android 7.1.2 with the September 1, 2017 security patch. We don't know when the LG V30 will get Oreo, but with the release months after the announcement that would have been a nice addition that might have earned it a few bonus points for purchasing. Last year's LG V20 launched with Android 7.0, making it the first non-Pixel smartphone to launch with this newest version of the OS. I think LG would have been able to tell a better story if it had achieved that same result this year.

One of my pet peeves has been addressed with LG finally supporting visual voicemail directly in the phone app, similar to the way Samsung has it implemented. On T-Mobile, there is also now embedded video calling support in the dealer so you can fully engage in the services supported by T-Mobile without the need for third party apps.

Thankfully, I am also testing out a T-Mobile model so there is not any bloatware present on the device. The LG V30 has a FM radio, HD audio recorder, and a few other utilities, but is a fairly stock clean device.

There are some LG customizations in the settings, widgets, and the launcher. You can always install any launcher you desire on an Android device and I don't find the LG UX to be overwhelming or prohibitive in any way.

On the LG V30, you can toggle on a floating bar and then place in anywhere you like on the right or left side of the display. Tap the arrow and then you can view up to five app shortcuts, capture the screen as a GIF, cropped image, or extended image, control your music, or access quick contacts. There is not as much functionality as the LG second screen, but after a couple of months of use I find myself using it more than the edge panels on my Samsung devices.

lg-v30-aod.jpg

I am a huge fan of good always-on displays and LG's is one of the best. I like having some of my own photos appear on the display or my Captain Solo signature. You can enable quick utilities, such as the camera, flashlight, and other controls right on this display too. Media controls are also provided so you can do a lot without even advancing to the lock screen.

Most of the LG customizations come in the form of advanced camera software. There is a rather stunning amount of modes in the camera, including auto, cine video, food, snap movie, popout, manual, time-lapse, 360 panorama, slo-mo, and more. In cine video, there is a very cool point zoom option that lets you engage a slick zoom toggle that looks very professional and really improves your video product. You also have cool video default settings to choose from for an interesting result.

When you tap manual photo mode, you are presented with Graphy options that "train" you on using manual settings. Tap a thumbnail to have manual settings adjusted to match the thumbnail and then you can toggle things further if you like. It seems people rarely use the manual settings on their phones, but the Graphy option helps you learn and lets you explore the full capability of your smartphone's camera.

One reason I prefer to use Samsung and LG smartphones over the Google Pixel or HTC models, HTC used to have an excellent gallery app, is the presence of gallery and editing tools that are more advanced than just using Google Photos. I wrote about some of these tools in my earlier LG V30 article and continue to enjoy these tools on the retail LG V30. Check out the cool video below from Parker Walbeck to see a sample of what you can do with the LG V30.

Price and competition

The LG V30 is available today from US carriers, priced in the $800 range. That's $130 less than the Galaxy Note 8, the same as the 6.2 inch Galaxy S8 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus, and $200 less than the iPhone X.

Given that the LG G6 is down to $500 on T-Mobile, I imagine we will see the LG V30 drop quickly in price as well. It's a great phone, but I was expecting to see it in the $700 to $750 range.

LG is offering a new Google Daydream View VR headset with the purchase of the LG V30 so that's a $99 bundle value.

LG is also offering a second year of warranty coverage, upon registration, since they are so confident in the device quality.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

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The LG V30 is one of the best constructed phones I have ever held and it actually brings back memories of the HTC One M7 that I used to love to just hold in my hand and flip around. It feels fantastic in your hand and gives you a sense of high quality construction. It just feels right for some reason.

The LG V30 is offered at a reasonable price, could be $50 to $100 less expensive to better compete though, with no real compromises, like we see in some other Android flagships. It has wireless charging, a microSD card slot, dual rear cameras, a 3.5mm headset jack, dust/water/shock resistance, and long battery life.

LG hasn't proven to have the best track record for Android updates and it would have been great to see the LG V30 launch with Oreo out of the box. As it stands, we don't know when it might get Oreo or how reliably LG will get the monthly Android security updates out the door. I have seen August and September security patches on the V30 so there is hope for these regular updates.

The LG V30 appears to be well liked by those who have reviewed the pre-production and retail units over the last couple of months, but the Android smartphone market is crowded at the high end. LG does distinguish itself with the quad-DAC and advanced video creation and editing features so creators are such to love it.

Specifications

Cellular
Type Smartphone
Service Provider AT&T
Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat
Miscellaneous
Color Aurora Black
Processor
Clock Speed 2.45 GHz
Manufacturer Qualcomm
Processor Core Qty Octa-core
Display
Diagonal Size 6.0 in
Dimensions & Weight
Width 2.97 infinity
Depth 0.29 in
Height 5.97 in
Weight 5.57 oz

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