LG has had a pretty strange flagship phone strategy lately, with near constant releases and a blurred line between their G and V series of devices. Just this past year we’ve seen multiple flagship devices that are barely differentiated at all, and with the V30 dropping the secondary display it’s pretty much just a slightly improved G7.
But despite all of that, on its own the V40 ThinQ looks like a pretty stellar device, on paper. It’s loaded with features, still has a headphone jack, and is easily the most advanced phones LG has ever released. Is that enough to make for a worthwhile purchase, though? Let’s find out.
LG has found their groove with phone design, and they’re sticking with it. The LG V40 ThinQ doesn’t stray far from its predecessor, which again kept most of its fashion sense from the LG G6. I wouldn’t call it a bad design, either, as it’s a fairly unoffensive, sleek phone with LG’s signature rear fingerprint scanner that’s extremely common on devices now.
The biggest difference from previous phones is the display notch up top, which is the most hotly contested design decision in 2018. Like many others, though, LG does include a way to hide the notch via software, so if you really hate it you can pretty easily eliminate it. Otherwise the phone is lightweight and fits very well in hand, although sometimes it feels a little too light. It’s glass front and back but doesn’t feel like particularly premium glass. Small gripe, but next to something like a Galaxy Note 9 or an iPhone XS, it doesn’t seem like LG is using the same quality of materials as their contemporaries.
That glass on the back is supposedly sandblasted to give the V40 a “silky” feel, which I honestly don’t really notice. It just feels like cheap glass, but maybe you’ll understand LG’s manufacturing methods better than I do.
The back of the phone houses three cameras in a horizontal orientation with a small LED flash off to the side. Below those is the fingerprint scanner in a nearly perfect location. I tested the Aurora Black version of this phone, and let me also point out that back is one of the worst fingerprint magnets I’ve ever seen. Not sure if that’s going to apply to other colors, and this phone does look stellar, but you’re going to need a good case or a cleaning cloth to keep this thing looking slick.
The right side of the phone houses the fingerprint scanner, while the left side has the volume buttons and LG’s Google Assistant button. It might be because the button is less noticeable than Samsung’s Bixby button, but I found myself almost never accidentally calling up Google Assistant unlike how I constantly summoned Bixby. That’s a plus.
And yeah, there’s a notch on the front. By now everyone should know what a notch looks like and whether or not you like it. We’re not beating this dead horse.
|LG V40 ThinQ|
|Announced||October 3, 2018|
|Software||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Display||6.4-inch OLED, QHD+ (3120 x 1440 resolution), 19:5:9 aspect ratio, 538ppi|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core|
|Storage||64GB/128GB (Plus Model) UFS 2.1, MicroSD card support (up to 2TB)|
|Primary Rear Camera||12MP Standard (F1.5/ 1.4μm/78°), OIS, PDAF|
|Secondary Rear Cameras||12MP Telephoto (F2.4/1.0μm/45°), 2X Zoom
16MP Super Wide-angle lens,1-micron, f/1.9, 107-degree
|Front Cameras||8MP Standard (F1.9/1.12μm/80°) + 5MP Wide (F2.2/1.12μm/90°)|
|Battery||3,300mAh, Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, Fast Wireless Charging|
|Sound||32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC, BoomBox speaker, DTS:X 3D Surround Sound,
3.5mm Audio Jack
|Notable features||Cine Shot, Triple Preview, AI Cam, AI Haptic, Super Far Field Voice recognition, HDR 10, Face Recognition|
|Connectivity||NFC, Bluetooth 5.0 BLE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, USB Type-C 2.0 (3.1 compatible)|
|Water/Dust Resistance||IP68, MIL-STD 810G|
|Measurements||158.7 x 75.8 x 7.7mm|
|Colors||New Aurora Black, New Platinum Gray, New Moroccan Blue, Carmine Red|
LG is using a Snapdragon 845 with 6GB of RAM for the V40, which is a common sentence that means “this phone is fast.” Like most other flagship devices this year you’re going to get a processor that you simply can’t slow down and sufficient memory for all of your multitasking needs. No, this phone doesn’t have double digit RAM, but let’s be real, you probably don’t actually need that. 6GB is plenty.
On the display LG is using their favorite P-OLED tech that also supports HDR10 playback, and it’s a joy to use and look at. The phone gets bright, handles video and colorful content like a champ, it’s one of the few phones that Netflix supports HDR for. For some reason this is yet another phone that doesn’t support Dolby Vision from Netflix even though LG’s own G6 did, but that’s a complaint for another time.
LG talked up the boombox speakers of the V40 ThinQ, but honestly they’re fairly weak and tinny sounding, which is extremely disappointing considering that the phone does have a quad DAC for better music playback. They’re still fine for movies and music, but they don’t have the thump that I was expecting from press materials.
But oh man, that quad DAC. I used a pair of AKG N60NC headphones plugged into the device, and they sound fantastic. It’s nearly impossible to find a phone that can properly push a good pair of headphones, and while I’m not going to say that it’s going to be enough to impress any hardcore audiophiles, I will say that it’s easily the best music experience I’ve ever had on a smartphone. It’ll put any other phone to shame, especially if you’re listening to your own high bitrate music or something like Tidal.
Another small detail that I’ll mention is LG’s above average haptic feedback engine. Clicking around the camera app or typing feels better than it does on other Android devices thanks to the better vibration, mimicking a little bit of Apple’s polish. It’s nothing that’s going to make or break a device, but it’s a small piece of a bigger puzzle.
The phone does only have 64GB of internal storage, which is great for most entry level flagships right now, but for a more premium device that’s intended to butt heads with the Galaxy Note 9, that’s a letdown here. LG really should’ve gone for a little more internal space, even if there’s a microSD card slot.
The battery’s pretty meh, which is expected but disappointing considering the 3300mAh battery. I don’t know if it’s fair to continue to compare the V40 to the Galaxy Note 9, but next to Samsung’s heavy hitter LG has a phone with nearly 20% less battery capacity. That shows in weak battery life, especially if you keep the Always On Display feature turned on.
You’ll pretty typically get through a normal day on a single charge from the V40, but don’t expect much more than that. I could pretty easily knock it out in a single day by just playing some games or watching more YouTube than usual.
With AOD turned on, it’s a totally different story. I don’t know if there’s a problem with LG’s display tech or my model just didn’t like the feature, but that absolutely wrecked my phone’s battery life to the point that I’d need to recharge at least twice a day. Galaxy and Pixel phones can do that display feature without such heavy penalties, so LG definitely loses points here.
I won’t compare the V40 to the Note 9 as much in this section, because instead I’ll have to draw some comparisons to Apple’s iPhone. LG certainly isn’t the only OEM to shape their software experience around iOS, but you can see tons of inspiration from Apple’s software design team. The lack of the app drawer, the rounded icons, and the overall feel of everything is reminiscent of Apple, for better or worse. Personally, I really don’t hate it, and I think anyone coming from an iPhone will appreciate some of the familiarity.
Avid vanilla Android enthusiasts are probably going to hate a lot here, including the lack of an app drawer, but if you go into things with an open mind you might actually like some of the changes. You also won’t find too many useless apps aside from your carrier bloat, as LG relies on lots of Google apps for default phone features. There’s still LG’s own music player, plus things like QuickMemo and LG Health, however.
LG also puts tons of features in their settings menu instead of nesting them behind other entries. All of your screen sharing, Android Beaming, and wireless connectivity is front and center of the first tab in the Settings app, and that’s a trend throughout the entire phone. It’s good that you won’t have to sift through menus to find small things to change, but it can be overwhelming at first.
Those settings do hide some of LG’s cooler phone features, though, like custom vibration patterns for notifications, the sound quality effects (including DTS:X and quad DAC customization), and screen resolution and HDR settings. You can drop the resolution of your screen down a bit to save batter and fine tune the color of your display, turn on extras like LG’s game settings and their floating bar, create shortcut keys, and a ton of other things. Android purists may cringe at all of this, but power users should be very happy.
LG really hyped up their triple-camera system on the V40 ThinQ, including its integration with AI for top-notch shots. The results are fairly mixed.
Obviously it’s a good camera; it’s hard to spend this much on a phone and not get a camera that’s at least good enough to take impressive social media shots. It can also use those cameras in tandem to create zoomed in and wide angle shots, and there’s a mode that literally snaps three pictures using all three lenses so you get all of it at once. It’s neat, mostly, and I only ever really had problems with the optical zoom blurring out pictures. That effect was exacerbated at night and in poor lighting, too, unfortunately.
The AI mode of the camera is really just a fancy way of saying the phone tries to figure out what you’re taking a picture of, like food, for example, and then it applies a preset scene to try and make that photo turn out a little better. I tested it with some food, and when I showed my girlfriend the two pictures to see if she noticed the difference, she said the AI shot “looked more green.” Take from that what you will.
Non AI shots on the left, AI shots on the right.
Regular low light performance is pretty good, with minimal blooming and blowing out. It still happens and is probably one of the weakest points of LG’s camera, but it’s still punching in an above average weight class. The wide angle lens is also pretty cool and doesn’t suffer from the blurring problems of the telephoto lens.
It’s a really fun camera, and for most people you’ll be able to get plenty of great shots out of the phone; just try not to compare it to the Pixel 3.
LG tends to struggle to make great phones without major flaws, but the V40 ThinQ seems to manage to avoid any major pitfalls. It still has a problem with mediocre battery life and a camera with some strange problems, but honestly, I really like this phone.
It’s still packed with features and checks most of the important boxes for a smartphone. You’ve got a headphone jack, plus a killer music experience, a camera that’s going to be good enough for most people, an excellent screen with support for some of the latest media standards, and enough extra features to please even the pickiest of power users. If nothing else it’s an MP3 player on steroids that just so happens to make phone calls. The media experience really is just that good.
That’s not to say everyone should run out and buy one of these, especially at LG’s MSRP. While it’s normally dangerously close to the Galaxy Note 9 and kind of holds its own, at a discount I think it’s an excellent choice for anyone that’s primarily into media consumption on their phone. There’s enough extra polish with some of the software and hardware features to keep this phone at the top of the dog pile, flaws and all, and as a media enthusiast, this might just be one of the most fun phones I’ve used all year.
Hit me in the comments. I’m ready.> > >