LG V10 review: Bigger, stronger, and better than the LG G4

  • Editors' rating
    9.7 Spectacular
  • $258.50

Pros

  • Rock solid, durable design
  • Large removable battery
  • microSD expansion card slot
  • Reasonable price for high end device
  • Excellent camera with unique video recording functionality
  • Functional use of area above display

Cons

  • Lollipop instead of Marshmallow OS
  • Backlight auto settings still too low

I put the LG G4 in fifth place in my recent best 10 smartphones post but I didn't show the LG V10 the respect it deserves. After using the T-Mobile LG V10 for more than a week, I think it would honestly challenge the Note 5 and iPhone 6s Plus as the top dog available today.

The LG V10 improves on the already excellent LG G4 with a bigger screen, more RAM, fingerprint scanner, and more polished fit and finish. The LG V10 also adds manual controls for video recording, making these two latest LG smartphones some of the most capable cameraphones available today.

Out of the box impressions

I was sent an evaluation unit from LG that came in a plain cardboard box, not a typical retail experience. The first thing that caught my attention when I took it out of the box was the feel of the stainless steel frame running along both sides of the LG V10. They are smooth with an angled design that has brushed steel on the upper portion and a glossy finish on the outermost side and bottom. These frame pieces taper into the hard plastic top and bottom pieces, offering up a very professional look and feel.

The LG V10 is also a heavy phone, weighing in at 192 grams. For comparison, the iPhone 6s Plus weighs 172 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 weighs 171 grams. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but something to note before you purchase one for yourself.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 1.8 GHz hexa-core 64-bit
  • Displays: 5.7 inch Quantum IPS 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution, 513 ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 4. Secondary 2.1 inch IPS Quantum display 160 x 1040 pixels
  • Operating system: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • RAM: 4GB LPDDR3
  • Storage: 64GB internal storage with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: Rear 16 megapixel camera with f/1.8 aperture. Dual 5 megapixel front-facing cameras, one with 80 degree lens and the other with 120 degrees
  • Sensors: Rear fingerprint, proximity, motion, compass, gyro, barometer, Android Sensor Hub
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, GPS, NFC
  • Battery: User replaceable 3,000 mAh battery with fast charging support
  • Dimensions: 159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6 mm and 192 grams

The specifications are top notch for the LG V10 with a focus on the media capture and creation experience. There is no wireless charging out of the box, but there should be a Qi-compatible back cover in the future.

Hardware

The LG V10 is dominated by the large 5.7 inch IPS display on the front that looks great. It's not AMOLED so the colors don't pop like they do on the Samsung Note 5, but the display gives you a more real life experience.

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As I look at the other phones in my gear bag and on my desk, there is empty black space located up above the display adjacent to the front facing camera. LG smartly uses this area to squeeze in a 2.1 inch long display, advertised as a secondary display. Given that the bezel below the display is reasonably small, LG was able to add this in while keeping the height of the LG V10 just about the same as the Nexus 6P, iPhone 6s Plus, and Samsung Galaxy Note 5. See my discussion in the software section regarding what you can do with this cool new addition.

LG uses a high quality matte plastic above and below the display and on the top and bottom. The LG V120 is built with a stainless steel frame, dual-layer glass display, and rugged textured back. These design elements contribute to its shock resistant rating. It passed the MIL-STD 810G Method 516.6 Transit Drop test, which means it survives 4-foot drops onto two inches of plywood over concrete on every face, edge, and corner. It also passed an enhanced version of the test that consisted of 26 drops from four feet onto a concrete surface. While you should not test your own device with these criteria, it's good to know the LG V10 is likely to survive your typical smartphone drop.

The sides of the phone are what you hang onto when it is in your hand and I personally love the substantial feel of the stainless steel side rails. LG calls the stainless steel frame Dura Guard and notes it is corrosion resistant and hypoallergenic. On the back you will find a patterned silicone cover that LG calls Dura Skin. It feels great, does not collect lint, and is flexible.

In typical LG fashion, the volume and power buttons are centered on the back. LG has also added a fingerprint scanner to the center power button. For some reason there is a bit of "play" in this button, but the fingerprint scanner has performed flawlessly for me. The camera, laser focus, and flash are all positioned above these center buttons.

The IR blaster and one of the three mics are positioned at the top while the microUSB, headphone jack, and speaker are found on the bottom.

The headphone jack isn't just your typical one either. It includes a 32-bit Hi-Fi digital to analog converter (DAC) so you can experience sound at a very high level.

LG includes the same excellent 16 megapixel found in the G4, with some software enhancements to improve video recording capability. Interestingly, they also include two front-facing 5 megapixel cameras. One has an 80 degree angle lens while the other has a 120 degree wide-angle lens. You can see the results in my sample photo below. LG advertises these camera options as a way to get rid of selfie sticks.

lg-v10-4.jpg

Software

Given that the new HTC One A9 is launching with Marshmallow, I am a little disappointed that we don't see Marshmallow here on the LG V10. LG is starting to roll out this update to the LG G4 so I imagine we will see it come to the LG V10 early in 2016.

The same user interface that LG launched with on the LG G4 is present in the LG V10. This custom UI provides tons of user customization options, but is also "heavier" than stock Android. I personally like the customization options that include custom vibrations, reorganization and selection of the home screen buttons, custom font types and sizes, location-based smart settings, and a whole lot more.

The second screen I detailed in the hardware section above is also user-customizable. You can choose to fully turn off the second screen or customize what appears there with the display on and off. To view the different content that you select, you simply swipe left or right to slide to the next content screen. When the main display is on, you can choose to show app shortcuts, recent apps, quick contacts, your signature, music player controls, and you upcoming events and tasks.

lg-v10-1.png

Up to five application shortcuts can be selected. For my current usage I have Twitter, Facebook, calculator, clock, and settings up in the second screen. Recent apps shows you the last five apps you used and with this second screen I find that I use the task switcher far less on the LG V10.

You can add up to five contacts for the quick contacts screen. Tapping on a contact gives you options to call or text them, all appearing up in the small secondary display area.

The signature option is just for fun, but it does give you the ability to add a personal touch to the device. As you can see in my screenshots, I have Captain Solo appearing in cursive on the LG V10.

When the display is off, you can have the signature or date/time shown. By default, when the main display is off you can swipe from right to left to view profile, WiFi, flashlight, and camera shortcuts. These cannot be customized, but are exactly the options I would choose and I have been enjoying quick access to these options.

Since this is a carrier version, there are several T-Mobile apps and utilities installed on the LG V10. These include App Source, device unlock, Lookout, Mobile HotSpot, Mobile Money, T-Mobile My Account, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV, and Visual Voicemail. I'm sure AT&T and Verizon will load up versions of the LG V10 with even more bloatware. You can disable some of these, but none can be fully removed.

There are only a few LG apps installed out of the box, but you do have access to LG SmartWorld if you wish to add more. By default, you will see LG's calendar, file manager, image gallery, LG Backup, LG Health, QuickMemo+, QuickRemote, Voice Command, and Voice Recorder. It's nice to see LG still has an IR blaster to help you control your media with your phone.

The camera is a major focus of the LG V10 and thus the camera software is extensive. The first place to start is over on the left side of the viewfinder where you have icons for simple, auto photos, manual photos, auto videos, and manual videos. If you simply want to point and shoot, then just use the simple mode to see a nice clean interface appear in the viewfinder.

However, if you are buying the LG V10, then you are likely buying it for the amazing camera capabilities. Auto modes include multi-view, panorama, slow motion, and time lapse. HDR auto, timers, various resolutions, voice-activated shutter, grids, and image stabilization controls are all present.

Manual mode for both photos and videos is rather stunning. In this mode you have full control over everything that let's you capture content just like a professional. I'm not an experienced photographer so it is extremely handy to view your settings live right in the viewfinder. This means you know exactly what you are capturing, which is even more than most DSLRs can provide to the photographer.

Pricing and competition

One area where the LG V10 stands out from other high end smartphones is the price. It's much lower than the competition and helps establish LG as the flagship manufacturer with reasonable prices.

The LG V10 is available with 64GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot with a price on T-Mobile of just $600. Compare that to the 64GB Google Nexus 6P at $549 (with no memory expansion), the 64GB Samsung Galaxy Note 5 at $780 (again with no memory expansion) and the 64GB Apple iPhone 6s Plus at $849 (yet again with no memory expansion) and you can see the LG V10 is quite a steal.

To make the deal even sweeter, LG has a special launch promo where you get a free 200GB microSD card, extra 3,000 mAh battery, and battery charging cradle. That's a $300 value bundle if you buy the LG V10 at T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T.

Even with AT&T and Verizon's higher $700 and $672 prices, respectively, you still save money compared to the Note 5 or iPhone 6s Plus.

Summary and conclusions

The LG V10 is just about the same size as the iPhone 6s Plus and Nexus 6P, which means it's a big phone. The smooth stainless steel side rails help it feel a bit narrower than it is. The back patterned silicone helps you hold onto the phone as well.

LG set the bar for Android smartphone cameras this year with the LG G4 and that same camera appears here with some improvements in video recording capability. An extra camera was added to the front to make selfies more functional as well.

Rather than black dead space above the main display like other phones, LG used some of that space to create a convenient secondary display that I find more useful than the side display on the Note Edge.

Everything I loved about the LG G4 is here in the LG V10 with improvements made in the fit and finish. If you like the LG G4 and don't mind the bump in size and weight, then you will love the LG V10. LG doesn't seem to get much respect in the smartphone space, but when its flagship offers more for less it deserves to be recognized for its innovations.

Specifications

Cellular
Type Smartphone
Operating System Android 5.1 (Lolipop)
Processor
Manufacturer Qualcomm
Display
Diagonal Size 5.7 in

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Where To Buy

LG V10 (luxe white)

Part Number: V10-luxe white