LG is entering a very competitive Android market with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and S8 models, HTC U11, Moto Z2 Force, OnePlus 5, and Google Pixel 2. At the right price, the LG V30 may be one of the best in the high end smartphone segment.
For the past week, I have been capturing photos and videos with a pre-release, non-final sample LG V30. It follows the design and style of the LG G6 more closely than the LG V20, but still has the same focus as the V series and brings these elements to the next level.
Over the last couple of years, the LG G series has been focused on the general consumer, much like the Samsung Galaxy S models. The LG V series always offered a bit more than the G series, similar to Samsung's Note line, with an emphasis on high-end video creation, high-fidelity audio, and dual camera experiences. We have seen the G series start to incorporate some of these features, but the V series still stands out as the high end model.
No removable battery
Before we dive into some first impressions of this sample LG V30, let's address the elephant in the room and never speak of it again.
While nearly every other smartphone incorporated an integrated battery, the V series stood out as an option for those who preferred to swap out their batteries while on the road or over time when battery capacities were depleted. The V30 does not have a removable battery and we may never see this as an option again.
Incorporating a removable battery requires a manufacturer to make trade-offs. These include space and arrangement considerations, high level of water resistance, enhanced drop protection, fingerprint scanner placement, and fit and finish. I am a heavy smartphone user and rarely found the need to swap my battery, so I have no problem giving up that feature to gain all of the other benefits. We have a plethora of external battery solutions and fast charging on the device itself, so let's face the fact that the removable battery is dead.
Hardware first impressions
The LG V30 has all of the buttons and openings in nearly the same places as the LG G6, but it is wider, taller, and a bit thinner. The silver sample I am testing has less blue tint than the silver G6 but still looks great.
The dual rear cameras on the V30 have a smaller overall footprint on the back than the G6 with the flash off to one side instead of being positioned in the middle. There fingerprint sensor is still well positioned on the upper center of the back.
The LG V30 runs Android 7.1.2, and the sample I have has the August security update installed. The experience is mostly stock with some LG flavor to the settings, some LG utilities, and a powerful LG camera application.
One thing that was distinctive on the LG V10 and V20 was the top second screen that appeared adjacent to the front facing camera and sensors. This small display offered options to have your signature, quick tools, recent apps, app shortcuts, music player controls, quick contacts, and upcoming events and tasks appear with the display on or off. You could also see incoming messages and phone calls. I found it handy, but most of the feedback I heard was that people rarely used the second screen.
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 week, I find myself using it more than the edge panels on my Samsung devices.
Just like the LG V20 and LG G6, the second camera has a wide-angle lens that is great for capturing landscapes, rooms, and other situations when you need to capture more than your typical camera phone.
The main rear camera is a 16 megapixel f/1.6 shooter with glass lens. I've captured some fantastic photos over the past week, even with a non-final device. I've included just a couple of samples in my gallery, but will have more in full resolution on Flickr when my full review goes live with a retail unit.
Most high-end Android devices come with a manual option for the camera. While this is fantastic for those who spend the time learning all the advanced functions in manual mode, most people shoot in automatic mode with their smartphones. LG provides an option called Graphy that appears as an icon in the top right of the viewfinder. Tap the Graphy button and then a filmstrip of sample images appear just to the left of the capture button that mimic scenarios, moods, and environments. Tap one of these thumbnails to have your manual settings adjust to that image style and then shoot your image. You can also start with one of these options and then the software will prompt you how to adjust the settings while also giving you the option to continue manually changing what you want yourself. This is a good way to train you further on using manual mode, and I look forward to more testing of this functionality.
An advanced video mode on the LG V20 is called Cine Video. This is designed to help add a filter to your video that mimics a movie style. There are 16 styles available, including thriller, classic, drama, documentary, blockbuster, and more. Tap one and shoot your video to later perform other advanced editing.
You can also tap the top right button in video mode to engage point zoom. This function lets you cooly zoom in and out while recording video to give your video a more professional look and feel. I have only tested this a couple of times and need to spend more time as I evaluate the V30.
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