While Samsung is pushing innovation with the Galaxy Fold, it is very expensive at $2,000, and despite the large 7.3-inch display, the dual app experience is definitely compromised by screen size. For the past week, I've been testing out the LG G8X ThinQ with its LG Dual Screen cover, and it clearly offers a platform that is much better for productivity at a price that is even less than flagships from Apple, Samsung, and others.
Rather than focusing on gimmicks this time, as it did with Air Motion on the G8, LG is heavily promoting the LG Dual Screen cover experience, which is a great approach since that is the standout feature of this device and is improved over what was offered in the LG V50 ThinQ device. In addition, you still get LG's Quad DAC audio, MIL-STD 810G shock resistance, Google Assistant key with LG specific functions, and capable video recording features. A microSD card and 3.5mm audio socket are also found on this phone
At the MSRP of $699.99, it's tough not to at least consider the LG G8X. The OnePlus 7 Pro is priced in this range, along with the Apple iPhone 11, but the Dual Screen cover offers a lot for multi-taskers and is not something that has to be attached at all times.
LG G8X ThinQ specifications
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
- Display: 6.4-inch, 2340 x 1080 pixels resolution OLED 19.5:9 aspect ratio (403 PPI)
- Operating system: Android 9.0 Pie with LG UX 9.0 UI
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 128 internal with microSD expansion card slot
- Cameras: 13MP super-wide (136 degrees) f/2.4 and 12MP rear f/1.8 cameras. 32MP f/1.9 front-facing camera.
- Water resistance: IP68 water and dust rating
- Shock resistance: MIL-STD 810G
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, FM radio
- Battery: 4,000mAh non-removable with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
- Dimensions: 159.3 x 75.8 x 8.4mm and 192g
- Color: Aurora Black
For the first time, we see LG going without a rear capacitive fingerprint sensor. Instead, it places one under the display with optical technology.
The LG G8X has dual stereo speakers and that lovely 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC that LG is known for so audiophiles will love this phone. The dual rear cameras are flush mounted and are aligned horizontally on the G8. It has Android 9 Pie out of the box with the April 2019 security update so it is current at launch.
LG Dual Screen specifications
- Display: 6.4-inch, 2340 x 1080 pixels resolution OLED 19.5:9 aspect ratio (403 PPI)
- Outside cover display: 2.1-inch mono
- Hinge: 360 freestop
- Dimensions: 165.96 x 84.63 x 14.99mm and 134g
- Color: Aurora Black
The LG G8X ThinQ has a gorgeous OLED screen with a small teardrop notch for the front-facing camera. Something new for LG is an in-display fingerprint sensor. It's an optical one, so it has been performing well -- better than the ultrasonic one on new Samsung phones.
A 4,000mAh battery gets me through a full busy day, but heavy usage of the Dual Screen cover will burn through battery life at a pretty quick pace. I still made it through the day but developed battery anxiety with constant use of both screens. Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging and wireless charging are also present so battery life should not be a concern with the G8X.
LG was the first to launch dual cameras with an ultra-wide-angle lens and it continues with a dual-camera setup on the back. The ultra-wide-angle lens is a bit wider than we have seen on previous LG devices with the field-of-view going from 107 to 136 degrees. There has been some disappointment with Google's move to using a telephoto lens for its second camera, so this setup may please folks who prefer ultra-wide-angle photography.
One aspect of this rear camera setup that differs from others is that these two cameras are designed so there is no protrusion from the rear and the back glass panel also serves to cover the camera lenses. The cameras are centered in the upper third of the phone.
While nearly every flagship today has some level of dust and water resistance, an IP rating, LG is the only one that continues to design and certify that its phones meet some level of drop/shock resistance. This capability is often overlooked, but the MIL-STD 810G certification of the G8X is something to seriously consider when you are in the market for a new smartphone. It also has a high-level IP68 rating so it is ready to go with you in the field.
LG is also one of the rare brands to continue to offer microSD expansion card support and a standard 3.5mm audio socket. It takes it even further with an integrated 32-bit Quad DAC so that you get an optimal audio experience when plugging in a headset.
LG also supports enjoyable audio playback through the speakers on the phone itself with the top speaker appearing at the very edge above the front-facing camera. The front-facing camera is incorporated into a teardrop design and sports 32 megapixels.
A dedicated Google Assistant button is on the left side with two volume buttons while a single power button is on the right. The microSD card/SIM cardholder is at the top of the phone. The second speaker, headphone jack, and USB-C port are all on the bottom of the G8X.
Android 9 Pie is installed by default with the Sept. 1, 2019 Android security patch. LG doesn't have a great record for updates, but even more important than the major software versions is the monthly Android security updates. Let's hope that LG improves in this area as it offers a very affordable, compelling phone with a capable dual-screen approach.
LG has worked to improve its UX a bit with the layout changing to a card type menu system, colors, and icons being refreshed, and grouping options and icons into a more intuitive arrangement. Tabs have been moved down to the bottom to be more reachable and user-friendly, too.
Out of the box, the G8X comes with the home screen set like the iPhone with all apps present on the home screen. Your Google Discover page is also an option as a home screen panel, which I find useful and use on every Android device I can find that supports this.
As an Android traditionalist, I prefer the home and app drawer setup so quickly switched to this layout. The problem here is that the app drawer continues to be a disappointment. In the app drawer, LG provides a couple select folders and then app shortcuts are placed one after the other as they are installed. There are a few menu options for organizing apps -- but even if you select alphabetically, that only applies to that moment. Apps installed after accessing the menu appear back in installed order, so you have to reorganize again. It's pretty terrible that you have to so actively manage the app drawer and I look forward to the day LG updates this area of the OS.
Just like Samsung, LG provides some duplicate apps in addition to what is provided within Android. I prefer some of these over what Google offers, such as email (excellent for Exchange accounts), FM radio, file manager, and gallery. However, the rest of the apps seem to offer more confusion than utility, especially when these apps are then updated via LG SmartWorld rather than the Google Play Store. These apps include; QuickMemo+, calendar, music, LG Health, and messaging.
Unfortunately, I tested the AT&T version that comes installed with AT&T Call Protect, AT&T apps, AT&T Mobile Security, AT&T Secure Family, AT&T ProTech, AT&T Smart Wi-Fi, DriveMode, Device Help, Setup & Transfer, Visual Voicemail, DIRECTV Remote, AT&T TV, DIRECTV, CNN, Bleacher Report, B/R Live, and various games. Some of these can be uninstalled, but the rest can only be hidden from view and are still taking up device storage.
The camera application is well designed with a simple interface similar to what we see on the iPhone and other modern Android smartphones. Auto mode launches by default with bottom swipe options including studio, portrait, auto, manual camera, and more. More options include slo-mo, manual video, panorama, flash jump-cut, night view, YouTube Live, and AR stickers. You can add, remove, move around on the more page, or move these options into the mode slider. Cine video, cine shot, food, and more utilities are also available to download and use with the camera.
Icons appear on the right side of the viewfinder to switch between the two rear cameras or you can pinch and zoom to move between the wide-angle and standard cameras. Four options are present on the left side of the viewfinder that provides access to general camera settings (Google Lens suggestions, HDR, live photo, grid, and more), filters, a flash toggle, and timer settings.
Dual screen optimization and use cases
While the LG G8X is a solid smartphone by itself, the real power comes with the full package that includes the LG Dual Screen cover. There is a Dual-Screen utility that appears on the right edge of the primary display to give you the following options: Swap screens, show main on dual screen, show dual screen on main, put the main screen to sleep, wide view, and turn off the dual screen.
Some apps have been optimized for the Dual Screen experience, as well as interesting use cases with the cover in place. Some examples include:
- Text entry: Open up an app like Google Docs or Google Keep where a cursor appears in the app and then the bottom display will turn into a keyboard for mini QWERTY keyboard entry. I prefer to have the keyboard appear on the main display since it is heavier and will balance out the vertical second display best.
- Wide-screen view: While there is an option to have the application you are using appear across both displays at once, I haven't yet found much utility in this mode because it's just too hard to ignore the large hinge and separation between the two displays.
- Gaming: LG provides the ability to set up a custom game controller on one display, or use a default one, and then have gameplay appear on the upper display, when in landscape orientation. One aspect of gaming on phones that bothers me when playing first-person shooters and other action games is having to use your fingers on the display to control play. Having a separate display for this is a great option, while a physical controller would still be the best.
- Watch and work: If you can multi-task, then it is fun to have a movie playing on one screen while you work on the other screen.
- Shop and chat: I detest going to the grocery store, but I'll do it for my wife if she gives me a list. I have shopped with the list in Google Keep on one side and messages open on the other to get updates from my wife while I'm in the store.
- Watch a ball game and check stats: Given that we are in the final days of the World Series, you can watch a game on one screen while checking stats in the browser on another display.
Price and availability
The LG G8X ThinQ is available from B&H, AT&T, and Sprint for an MSRP of $699.99. The LG Dual Screen cover is included from most sellers too. For the lowest price, consider purchasing it from B&H Photo Video as it also comes unlocked without all of the extra carrier bloatware.
Daily experiences and conclusions
It's nice to see LG address a couple of the cons that ZDNet's Sandra Vogel listed in her full review. She mentioned lower resolution on the second screen and a poor speaker, but we now have the same resolution on both screens and solid stereo speakers. The resolution on the primary display has been lowered to match the second display, but at 403ppi, I doubt anyone will notice while the slightly better battery life may be worth the change in resolution.
LG has always come in at a launch price a bit lower than others, but this year it is trying to compete with a price hundreds less than comparable flagship phones. Also, users get a dual-screen experience that helps take productivity and efficiency to the next level.
If you want a phone that can stand up to the elements, brings an interesting experience with a second display, and doesn't break the bank, then you should seriously consider the LG G8X ThinQ.
Initial testing of the camera reveals it is solid, but may not be quite as good as what we see from Google, Samsung, and Apple. This is one area I could not fully test in a week though so I'll continue to use it and see how it works out.