LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen, long-term test: Two screens good, but beware bulk and battery life

The LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen is an interesting and affordable alternative to a folding-screen handset, but it does have some significant drawbacks.

lg-g8x-thinq-long-term-main.jpg

The LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen is a Snapdragon 855-powered handset with two 6.4-inch 2,340x1,080 OLED screens. It costs $699.99 in the US.

Images: LG

While companies such as Samsung work on their folding-screen handsets, LG has taken a different approach. The LG V50 ThinQ, which is available in the UK on EE 5G, offers two entirely separate screens, and a second handset with a similar design -- the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen -- got a full review from my US colleague Matthew Miller back in October ("an affordable two-screen device that is better for productivity than the Fold"). I've been using the LG G8X for several weeks, and have some longer-term thoughts to add into the mix.

The LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen isn't available in the UK through official channels at the time of writing, so there's no UK price to quote here. When that changes, we'll update this article. In the US, the handset costs $699.99 (down from a launch price of $949.99), which is positively affordable compared to Samsung's $1,980 Galaxy Fold.

As with the V50 ThinQ, the second screen attaches to a standalone handset via a case cover. This makes for a big, chunky phone to carry around. The handset on its own measures 159mm by 75.6mm by 8mm and weighs 192g. The Dual Screen hinged case has the second screen on its inside. The case measures 165mm by 84mm by 14mm thick and weighs 139g. The handset slips inside a frame that holds it securely in place, bringing the two-screen device weight to a hefty 331g.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

I go into this detail because whatever the second screen has to offer, you have to consider the size and weight factor. I found the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen too large for most of my pockets, so it had to sit in a bag much of the time, making basic tasks like taking a call or checking an appointment much more of a hassle than usual. On the other hand, I didn't want to leave the second screen at home -- if you've got it, what's the point of not having it with you? An IP68 rating for dust/water resistance and MIL-STD 810G compliance provide reassurance that this is a sturdy device.

The screen cover has a huge cutout on the back for the cameras, while buttons on the outer hinge for volume and power map onto the handset's buttons. These work fine.

lg-g8x-thinq-long-term-dongle.jpg

To charge the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen, you need to use a separate USB-C dongle or opt for wireless charging.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The bottom of the case has cutouts for the 3.5mm headset jack and speaker grille. My favourite wired headset fitted fine and felt secure. The handset charges via USB-C, but rather than provide a large cutout for cable to access the port, LG has come up with a separate, small, magnetic charge dongle. I found this arrangement irritating. First, I had to remember to carry the dongle around. Second, leaving it permanently fitted to a charge cable is not convenient: if, like me, you use one cable to charge multiple pieces of kit, that little dongle will need to be kept safe and not get lost. Good luck with that. 

The charge dongle is held in place with magnets, which I found to be far from ideal. There were several occasions during testing when I thought I'd left the phone charging only to come back a few hours later to find the dongle and handset had parted company as things had been moved around my desk or I hadn't ensured a firm connection in the first place. Thankfully, wireless charging is also available.

The practicalities of charging will matter if you want to make full use of the second screen because it's a real battery drain. With just the main screen in play you'll get pretty good life from the 4,000mAh battery: over a four-hour period the LG G8X ThinQ lost just 19% of its charge when running a YouTube video continuously in full screen. It's a different story when it comes to the dual-screen configuration: with the main screen on but doing nothing and the same video looping full-screen in the second screen, the battery lost 67% of its charge in four hours.

This phone actually has three displays. The reverse side of the second screen has a smallish display of white text on a black background that gives the time, date and some notifications. It's just for information -- not for interaction -- but is quite useful.

Still, it's how the phone and second screen work together that will make or break this handset's popularity. The hinge on the second screen cover rotates through a full 360 degrees, so that the screens can be set back to back. I couldn't think of a single situation in which I wanted to use this: most often. the screens were either flat on a desk or with one raised up in laptop mode.

As a writer, I found the ability to have a word-working app in one screen and keyboard in the other only marginally useful. In laptop mode there's little speed or comfort gain over the usual handset keyboard, while in portrait mode the screen splits with half the keyboard on the left, and half on the right. Some people might be OK with this, but I just found it awkward. Overall, I'm not convinced of any real productivity gains over using conventional typing techniques on a phone.

lg-g8x-thinq-long-term-video-screen-2.jpg

The second screen in landscape mode, showing video content.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet
lg-g8x-thinq-long-term-screen-menu.jpg

You can control the configuration of the screens via an easily accessible menu.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

You can spread content across both screens in portrait and landscape modes. In portrait mode the huge 'spine' down the centre of the screen gets in the way, but it works a bit better in landscape mode. Still, it's not a patch on simply having a larger screen in the first place. The gaming mode with a virtual gaming controller on the main handset screen and the game itself on the second screen is better -- but remember that battery life issue (gamers will need ready access to mains power). I used the second screen as a viewfinder to take photos occasionally, but most useful of all was running two separate apps full screen -- reading an ebook on one while doing a myriad of everyday things on the other, for example, or comparing two web pages.

Using the second screen is remarkably easy thanks to a mini sidebar menu that you can pull out with a quick tap on the right edge of the main screen. Once this is visible it's easy to swap content between the left and right screens, switch in and out of dual-screen mode and, if you're viewing content at the time, to use 'wide view' across both screens as just described.

The LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen has a flagship-level specification. Both screens are 6.4-inch OLED displays with 2,340 -by-1,080 resolution and in-screen fingerprint recognition on the main screen. The Snapdragon 855 chipset with 6GB of RAM powered the handset to impressive three-pass average Geekbench 5 scores of 2702 (multi core) and 744 (single core) -- see the Geekbench browser for comparative Android handset results.

There is 128GB of internal storage, of which 103GB is free for use. This can be boosted with a MicroSD card, which will sit in a caddy next to the single SIM. A 32MP front camera is fine for selfies, while at the back there are two cameras: a 12MP sensor with an f/1.8 lens and OIS and a 13MP sensor with an f/2.4 ultra-wide-angle lens. It's not the triple- or quad-camera setup that so many handset-makers offer these days, but it's good enough for general-purpose photography. Android 9 is, inevitably, augmented with various tweaks -- notably, for controlling the second screen -- but there's no intrusive overlay here.

It's been interesting using the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen for a long-term evaluation. The second screen has proven useful for using two apps at once, but not for working with text, while gaming is a positive experience but a real battery drain. The battery suffers generally when both screens are in use, and the miniature USB-C dongle makes charging more troublesome than it should be. The phone is also large, heavy and too big for my pockets. 

The LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen is certainly an interesting and affordable alternative to a folding-screen handset, but it does have some significant drawbacks.

RECENT AND RELATED CONTENT

How LG's G8X ThinQ evolves the dual-screen smartphone

LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen review: For $700, better productivity than the Galaxy Fold

Sold the Fold: Samsung's innovative device has room for improvement

Samsung Galaxy Fold review: Most innovative phone of 2019 nears Holy Grail of One Device

Fold fight! Can Surface Duo deliver more productivity than Galaxy Fold?