- ✓Excellent camera performance
- ✓Unrivaled video recording quality and control
- ✓Outstanding audio recording and playback features
- ✓Removable battery and microSD storage
- ✓Android 7.0 out of the box
- ✓High quality display
- ✓Useful 2nd display
- ✕No water resistance
- ✕LG UX 5.0+ is still a bit heavy
Last month I took a pre-production LG V20 for a spin and then was recently sent a T-Mobile production model to evaluate. The LG V20 will be available in US carrier stores at the end of this week and it will appeal to many Android fans.
The LG V20 is one of the few flagship devices with a removable battery and microSD expansion card slot. Thankfully, it does not have the failed modular design of the LG G5. It's a worthy successor to the LG V10 and may appeal to the road warrior.
The LG V20 is the first non-Pixel Android smartphone to launch with Android 7.0 Nougat so you won't have to wait ages to be updated to the latest version of the operating system.
LG sent along the T-Mobile LG V20 for me to evaluate so I could use it daily with my own personal SIM card, which is the best way to truly test out a mobile phone.
- Processor: 2.15 GHz Snapdragon 820
- Display: 5.7 inch Quad HD IPS at 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution, 513 ppi. Secondary display: 160 x 1040 pixels, 3.1 inches
- Operating system: Android 7.0 Nougat
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 64GB internal storage and microSD card slot
- Cameras: Dual rear cameras; 16 megapixel 75-degree f/1.8 and 8 megapixel 135 degrees f/2.4. Front-facing 120-degree 5 megapixel f/1.9 with toggle for 83 degrees.
- Audio: Loud, bottom-facing mono speaker with 3.5mm headset jack
- Extras: IR port for remote control, FM radio
- Battery: 3,200 mAh removable battery with Quick Charge 3.0 technology
- Dimensions: 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6 mm and 174 grams
Last year, it was rare to find water resistance and millions of us were able to survive without it for years. However, after I killed the pre-production model while it was in my pocket during a walk in light rain, I am hesitant to buy a phone without some form of water resistance or nano coating.
The LG V20 is a big phone, 1.5 mm taller and 0.2 mm wider than the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. It is 14 grams lighter so if you are OK carrying the iPhone 7 Plus, or 6s Plus for that matter, then you will likely be just fine with the LG V20 too.
Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the LG V20 is a glass and metal beast. With a removable metal back, you might think it feels cheap and that the fit and finish would suffer. That is not the case here as LG has done a great job with a solid back release button, positioned as if it was a camera capture button, and a metal back that extends up the sides and nearly the entire back of the phone. The metal is thin and light, but when it is locked into place on the back of the LG V20 it feels great.
Seams are tight, the glass/metal/plastic meetups on the corners of the sides look good, and overall the LG V20 is a smart looking device. It will definitely look good in the office and conference room.
In addition to good looks, the LG V20 is built with AL6013 aluminum and silicone polycarbonate to withstand the MIL-STD 810G transit drop test. We saw this integrated durability with the LG V10 so it's great to know your phone could survive an accidental drop. The LG V10 had sturdy stainless steel rails and a rugged rubberized back. The LG V20 uses thin aluminum material and it doesn't feel as substantial as the V10.
The front Gorilla Glass 4 extends all the way to each side and just a few mm from the top and bottom. There is a plastic and glass bottom bezel with LG stamped into the glass portion. It's a smaller chin than the Google Pixel and Moto Z with the plastic and glass offering a nice place to rest your thumb. Above the main display you will find the secondary display with the front facing camera to the left and headset speaker above.
Volume buttons are found on the upper left with the back cover release button towards the lower right. The speaker, a mic opening, 3.5mm headset jack, and USB Type-C port are all positioned on the bottom. Another mic is placed on the top, along with a very small opening for the IR port.
There is a definite camera hump on the back, centered above the rear fingerprint scanner. I'm personally not a fan of rear fingerprint scanners as it requires that I pick up the device to unlock it while it rests on my desk. The camera protrusion contains the dual LED flash, two rear cameras, and the laser sensor. Just looking at the back tells you that the LG V20 is a media capture focused device.
One rear camera has a 135-degree lens with a single button toggle in the camera software. You can capture more content in your photos through the front 120-degree lens too. Again, there is a toggle for the front facing camera to have a standard image or wide-angle image from the front.
T-Mobile continues to improve and expand its LTE network and one unique feature of the LG V20 is support for T-Mobile's new LTE AWS-3 spectrum. This support should give users more capacity for data, depending on whether or not the area you are in supports AWS-3. It's nice to buy a phone with support for the latest and greatest network technology, especially when it also launches with the newest version of the Android operating system.
The LG V20 is a media creation machine with three excellent cameras and three mics. The V20 captures audio using 24-bit/48 kHz Linear Pulse Code Modulation (LPCM), the same format used in professional video equipment.
A quad-DAC (digital to audio converter) from ESS Technologies is included in the LG V20. T-Mobile and Sprint include the B&O Play H3 headphones so you can enjoy a fantastic audio experience with your favorite music. Android Authority has a very detailed article that explains all you ever wanted to know about this technology. The bottom line is that high resolution audio files should be more enjoyable, but even with my standard quality audio files I am enjoying the music experience on the LG V20.
Typically when you purchase a new Samsung, LG, or HTC device you are buying one with the previous version of the Android OS. Thankfully, LG worked with Google to launch the LG V20 with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box. Google will keep some Nougat features exclusive to the Pixel line, but it's still good to know that you are purchasing a phone with the latest version of Android. The LG V20 I am using has the 1 September 2016 Android security update too.
As the mobile space continues to evolve, most manufacturers have learned to reduce the influence of their custom UI. Samsung TouchWiz is unrecognizable from the past heavy-handed cartoon animations, however LG still has a UI that is a bit too strong in my opinion. You can customize the heck out of the device though and you can always install a third party launcher if that works better for you. I installed the Google Now launcher as I prefer to swipe over for the Google Now screen and am satisfied with the LG V20 running in this manner.
LG calls its latest UI LG UX 5.0+. By default, there is no app drawer present, but a simple toggle enables the more traditional app drawer for those who prefer this interface. LG UX 5.0+ includes Knock Code, 2nd screen notifications and controls, advanced audio recording modes, themes, LG Health improvements, multi-window support, and more. These type of manufacturer customizations may slow things down a bit, but so far I haven't seen lag on the LG V20.
LG attempts to implement a comfort screen feature, but it is only enabled manually. iOS and some other Android devices let you setup a time when the display switches to a mode to help with late night or early morning usage and I would like to see LG implement this functionality too.
Pricing and competition
The T-Mobile LG V20 will be available this week for $769.99, which is actually about $100 less than competing flagship devices. In addition, when you purchase this phone from T-Mobile you receive a free pair of B&O Play H3 earphones, a $149.99 value.
LG phones have always launched a bit less than other flagships and the LG V20 is no different. A comparable 128GB Apple iPhone 7 Plus is priced at $849. The 128GB Google Pixel XL is $869. The 6-month old Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, with 64GB internal and microSD card, is priced at $789.99.
The price of the LG V20 looks to be all over the place with AT&T charging $829.99, Verizon $672, and Sprint $792. Sprint also includes a free pair of Bang & Olufson H3 earphones.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
LG doesn't get much respect in the mobile space, but then again it launched the LG G5 with no useful modular accessories so hasn't necessarily convinced people it deserves their business. The LG V20 was announced in early September and may have won some new customers if it could have been available a few weeks ago when the Galaxy Note 7 went down in flames.
That said, the LG V20 will be launching this week and it is a fantastic option for Android smartphone fans. As I stated in my first impressions, the more I use the LG V20 the more I like it. Now that I have it loaded up with all of my favorite apps and have been using it as my daily driver it is definitely a device to consider.
If you create content, both in images or audio, then I don't think you will find a device better than the LG 20. Audio quality is outstanding and the ability to control and edit the audio right on the phone is amazing. It's truly a portable media creation machine.
Call quality is outstanding on the T-Mobile network with VoLTE and video calling support. The inclusion of AWS-3 is important for the enterprise customer looking for a phone that is able to work with future network expansion.
Some folks won't buy a phone without a removable battery and with this feature, you will be able to use the LG V20 for years. When the battery degrades over time, simple replace it and get back in action again.
It would be great to at least see some nano coating in the device, but without that if you intend to use the LG V20 outside in the elements you should look for a water resistant case.