LG V40 ThinQ review: Full-featured smartphone built for Android tinkerers

  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent
  • $949.99

Pros

  • Solid hardware with drop resistant rating
  • Five cameras to cover all modes of capture
  • Excellent RF performance
  • Fantastic audio experience
  • Wireless charging support

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • Terrible app launcher
  • Timeliness of updates remains to be seen

For the last couple of years, LG has remained unique with its secondary rear camera having a wide-angle lens. It took a leap forward this year as one of the first to launch with five cameras; three on the back and two on the front.

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The wide-angle lens is present, as always, while a telephoto lens is added to the mix so the LG V40 has the potential to capture virtually any situation with its three rear cameras. Standard and wide-angle lenses on the front mean you can capture your buddies in a selfie too. There is so much packed into the cameras and camera software that we need to spend more time with them and post a separate article focused on LG V40 imagery so stay tuned for that coming in the next couple of weeks.

Five months ago I posted my full review of the LG G7 ThinQ and gave it a solid, but not outstanding rating. The LG V40 ThinQ is better for me than the LG G7 and earns a deserved higher rating.

CNET: LG V40 ThinQ review: Savvy Note 9 rival wields 5 versatile cameras

All of the features that made the LG G7 better than I first realized are a part of the LG V40, including a Boombox speaker, Hi-Fi Quad DAC, 3.5mm headset jack, dedicated Google Assistant button, IP68 dust and water resistance, and MIL-STD 810G shock rating. The LG V40 looks to have it all and may be one of the best phones of 2018, but the competition is stiff in late 2018.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • Display: 6.4 inch 19.5:9 1440 x 3120 pixel resolution (538 ppi) FullVision OLED, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Operating system: Android 8.1 Oreo
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal storage with microSD storage card
  • Cameras: 12-megapixel standard f/1.5 (78 degrees), 16-megapixel super wide angle f/1.9 (107 degrees), and 12-megapixel 2x telephoto f/2.4 triple rear cameras. 8-megapixel f/1.9 standard angle (80 degrees) and 5-megapixel f/2.2 wide-angle (90 degrees) front-facing cameras.
  • Wireless technology: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, FM radio
  • Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, Hi-Fi Quad DAC, DTS:X 3D surround sound, Boombox speaker
  • Durability ratings: IP68 dust and water resistant rating, MIL-STD-810G shock resistant rating
  • Battery: 3,300mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 and wireless charging technologies
  • Dimensions: 158.8 x 75.7 x 7.8 mm and 169 grams
  • Colors: Aurora Black and Moroccan Blue (Verizon only)

I am a little disappointed that the LG V40 doesn't start with 128GB internal storage since 17GB of the 64 is taken up by the system itself. While a microSD card is supported, a flagship of this caliber should start with 128GB of storage.

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In the past, LG was one of the first to launch with the latest version of Android so I was surprised, and disappointed, to see Android 8.1 Oreo rather than Android 9 Pie installed at launch. Sony was able to get Android 9 on its Xperia XZ3 device so hopefully LG can roll out this update soon.

Hardware

The front of the LG V40 is dominated by the flat 6.4 inch OLED display. The display looks great and has vibrant colors. LG's auto-brightness functionality has bothered me on previous phones, but after using the V40 for a week it has performed well.

There is a notch in the V40 display, just like there is in the G7. However, LG didn't go crazy like Google did and only notched out what was needed for the dual front cameras and sensors. It can be hidden or even colored to your liking. There are some very small side and top/bottom bezels and it feels like you are holding mostly just a viewable display in your hand.

The microSD card/SIM card tray is found on the middle of the right side with the power button positioned above it on that side. You can double-press the power button to launch the camera, but for some odd reason this is not enabled by default.

Two volume buttons are found on the upper left side with a dedicated Google Assistant button on the middle left side. Press the button to launch Google Assistant, press and hold to immediately talk to the Assistant, and press twice to launch Google Lens.

The bottom stereo speaker, USB-C port, and 3.5mm headset jack are found on the bottom. The LG V40 shines in the audio department, both in listening to audio content and capturing audio content. The bottom stereo speaker, one also serves as the handset speaker above the display, powers the Boombox capability of the LG V40. LG claims it is ten times louder than the competition and testing has proven it has high volume and also lots of bass, when placed on a table or other flat object. LG exposes the speaker driver to the internal space within the phone to create a resonance chamber with a dramatic effect.

The 3.5mm headset jack, on the other hand, is extremely functional with 32-bit Quad DAC technology and DTS:X support. There are several advanced audio settings on the phone that appear when you plug in a 3.5mm headset jack and the DTS:X virtual 3D surround sound is crazy good. I've been using wireless headphones lately since most phones have been leaving out the 3.5mm port, but with the LG V40 it is time to pull those wired cans back out of the drawer.

Also: LG V40 ThinQ lets you add a splash of motion to still photos CNET

One the back we have glass with a fingerprint sensor centered in the top third of the phone. The triple camera system is arranged horizontally above the fingerprint scanner. Camera order from left to right is telephoto, wide-angle, and standard with the LED flash all the way to the right side.

While I captured a few quick shots with the cameras, much more testing is required with five cameras serving different functions. We'll be posting a dedicated V40 imaging article in the next couple of weeks.

Cellular reception results show that the LG V40 easily beats out the Apple iPhone X and XS Max, not surprising there, while it closely matches the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in weak signal areas. I was able to stream Netflix shows for my entire Sounder train commute, while the iPhone XR provided a terrible intermittent video streaming experience.

Software

Some people love a stock experience, but after using the Google Pixel 3 for a couple weeks, phones from LG, Samsung, and others meet my own needs better thanks to the included apps (email and image gallery/editor, for example), floating bar, vast number and capability of custom settings, and more. LG's UI is similar to what is seen on the Google Pixel, with the app launcher and settings areas being the major differences.

The app launcher continues to drive me crazy since LG includes folders and then keeps those folders intact even if you choose to sort by alphabetical order. New apps you install always show up on the last page of the launcher so you have to keep messing around with the app launcher to keep it organized. Android supports third party launchers and with the LG V40 you may want to seriously consider using one.

Also: Pixel 3 XL vs. iPhone XS Max vs. Note 9 vs. LG V40: Specs showdown CNET

The floating bar (similar to the Samsung Edge Sense functionality) is available and since I used it on the G7, I'm using it on the V40 too. Your Google Feed can be shown to the left of the main home screen and it looks like Smart Bulletin is thankfully finally dead.

While the Google Pixel 3 and iPhone XS focus on providing the masses with a quick and easy automatic mode to capture the best shot, LG offers up an amazing experience for photographers and videographers. While there is a simple automatic mode, the real benefit of the LG V40 is the plethora of options available to use the cameras to their full potential. Advanced modes and features include the following, with many more available to the LG V40 owner:

  • Triple Shot: Capture 3 shots (standard, wide, and tele) and create a short video with one touch
  • Triple Preview: Press and hold a camera icon to see a live preview of the 3 rear lenses
  • AI Cam: Intelligently suggests the optimal effect and angle by automatically identifying what's in the shot
  • Cine Shot: Create partially animated GIFs by selecting specific areas to animate
  • Flash Jump-Cut: Photos are taken every 3 seconds and saved as a GIF
  • Video Studio: Merge up to 50 photos or videos; trim and add title/text, background music, and theme effect overlays
  • Makeup Pro: Manually change the appearance of selfies by adjusting complexion, lip color, or enhancing eyes and eyelashes

Like other phones today, the LG V40 captures live photos so it captures movements before and after you press the shutter button. On the Google Pixel 3, the software picks the best and then gives you the ability to choose another frame. On the Apple iPhone X/XS/XS Max, you can do all sorts of things, including long exposure shots for moving water. So far, I haven't figured out anything special that the LG live photos offers you, but plan to dive deeper and try to find out why anyone would turn on live photos.

Price and competition

The LG V40 is priced at $920 on T-Mobile while B&H Photo already has a massive price reduction with a price of just $749.99 until 3 November. If you are thinking of picking up this phone, this is a fantastic deal and it is definitely worth this price. This B&H Photo offer also includes a second year of warranty and a SanDisk 256GB microSD card for free.

AT&T has the V40 for $950, Spint's is $960, and Verizon's price is $980. Verizon is the only carrier with the Moroccan Blue color while all of the others have just the Aurora Black one that I tested out.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is $900, the Galaxy S9 Plus is $840, the iPhone XS Max is $1,099, and the OnePlus 6T is $580 at T-Mobile. The LG V40 is one of the more expensive Android phones, but the only thing it really lacks is superb battery life.

The Google Pixel 3 XL can be picked up for $899 (64GB) and the camera is a major part of the Pixel experience. With the lowest capacity Pixel 3 XL priced lower than the V40, it's tough to go with the LG device right now.

Daily usage experience and conclusions

I've thoroughly enjoyed using the LG V40 for the past eight days, but when I didn't place it on the charger I was not able to make it into the evening without the phone jumping into battery saver mode. The battery life is just average with typical days seeing four hours of screen on time when you should expect on the order of six for a phone of this price and caliber.

Audio sounds awesome on the LG V40 and I enjoyed using wired headphones for even better audio. Netflix content was streamed during my commute and at night in bed with a wonderful, vivid full video experience on the large OLED display.

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It has been a busy week so I have not been able to use the five cameras as much as I hoped during this time. Given all of the functionality and an upcoming vacation, I'm taking the V40 along for focused testing with an article planned for these cameras.

The LG V40 feels great in the hand and has just about everything you could ever want in one phone. The $950 price point is a bit high and just like Samsung it is likely we will see some special offers from LG or carriers as we get closer to the end of the year. Given I am not happy with the iPhone XR's reception, I may jump to the LG V40 in a month or two.

The LG V40 is clearly designed for photographers/videographers who want to take control of the experience. It is also an audiophiles phone with advanced audio support.

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Specifications

Cellular
Service Provider Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, Unlocked
Operating System Android 8.1 Oreo

Where To Buy

Price
$949.99

Top ZDNET Reviews

Where To Buy

LG V40 ThinQ (aurora black)

Part Number: LM-405UAB
Price
$949.99