LG V30: muddled software holds back great hardware

LG has been a staple behind Android for years now. From the Nexus program to the G series, all the way to the latest Pixels, LG has been on the strongest partners in Google’s ecosystem. The V series stands for the company’s video and cinematic tier just above the G class phones. Originally launched with the V10 which was a monster and followed by the more suave V20, the V30 continues the lineup’s heritage while slimming its profile yet again. But how does it hold up to previous generations, as well as the G6? Let’s find out in our official review of the LG V30.

Design

The design of the LG V30 is very well constructed, and I came away mostly impressed. The immediate response is how much the industrial design aligns with that of the G6. Traditionally, the two models don’t favor each other very much, if at all. This is not the case with the V30. LG is making a huge effort to bring the G and V series closer together, and I think this is a smart move. Samsung and even Moto have had success, regardless of price, creating multiple lines that are immediately recognized as their respective brands. LG seems to be making the same move with the V30.

The entire phone is wrapped in glass and aluminum. You have Gorilla Glass flanking both the screen and the back plate while the rest of the trim and buttons are a nice shiny aluminum. Around the left side of the V30 you’ll find the volume rockers, and if you’ve never owned an LG phone, you might be wondering where the power button went. Well, move to the back of the phone and locate the fast fingerprint scanner…that’s also your power button. Just above the scanner/button is the dual lens camera module with both a wide-angle 13MP as well as a 16MP standard setup.

At the bottom of the phone are a single speaker grill, USB-C power port, and a mic pinhole. The right side, where the volume rocker should be, is completely bare other than a dual SIM and MicroSD tray. Around the top of the phone is an increasingly scarce 3.5mm audio jack. We’ll have more on this one later as LG has not only offered an audio jack, but a tricked out one at that! Overall, I like the design of the V30. It’s well built, feels great in hand, and offers a large screen in a slim package.



Display and Specs

One of the biggest bullet points for the specs has to be the display. The V30 has crammed a 6-inch FullVision OLED screen inside a pretty small footprint. Overall size puts it fairly close to the original 5.5-inch screened Pixel XL in size. It has an 18:9 aspect ratio sporting 2880×1440 resolution. The display is bright and colorful, but I did find that the viewing angles do struggle quickly depending on how the phone is turned. This a well-documented fault of LG displays, but if you don’t have three phones laying on the desk, I’d be curious how many average consumers would notice. However, it doesn’t let LG off the hook that they need to step up their game to compete at the premium levels of Samsung and Apple.

One thing that is missing from the displays of previous V series devices is the secondary display at the top of the main screen. Again, I think LG is trying to streamline their production and support structure here. By eliminating the second screen, you offer the same experience across your entire ecosystem and make this easier on internal training as well as limiting customer confusion.

Internally, the V30 is a standard premium smartphone to the specifications of most in 2017. A Snapdragon 835 is paired with 4GB of RAM to offer the powertrain under the glass structure. Speaking of power, you’ll get a decent amount of cells here with a 3300mAh non-removable battery. Some V10 and V20 owners my see the removable battery as another omission, but it’s all but necessary to offer the IP68 waterproofing for this refreshed model. To round out the specs LG includes 64GB of internal storage along with expansion via the microSD slot of up to another 2TB of storage space. And yes, it can be formatted as internal storage which is a nice touch.

To wrap up the internals there’s also wireless Qi charging built into the phone. I’ve long been a proponent of the wireless standard and it’s nice to see LG including this on all their latest models. Is it a deal breaker? No. Do I love to see it on a specs listing? You bet I do! While I don’t believe USB-C is quite as hard on the charging port as the previous micro USB, taking the stress of any port will only add to the likelihood of the unit lasts longer before needing to be replaced or repaired.

Audio

While technically a specification, the audio on the LG V30 deserves is own section of any review. While others are eliminating the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack, LG is embracing it. And not just with a standard jack. It’s powered by a Hi-Fi Quad-DAC that supercharges the experience. To put it bluntly, it’s the best audio experience you can find on a smartphone. I’m not an audiophile by any means, but it’s a noticeable difference. Highs and mids came through crisp and clear while bass has a tight punch to it you just won’t hear on other phones. If you are an audio freak and love music at a high level, then the V30 should be on your radar if not at the top.

Cameras

The V30 stays true to its heritage here as well. The cameras on the V30 are really good. Not quite Pixel good, but really good. I’d put them up against any shooter out there for most shots. The standard 16MP rear lens takes fast and sharp photos whenever you need them. Even in lower lighting conditions, the shooter holds its own well. It has laser focus, optical image stabilization, and allows for f/1.6 aperture. The V30 is a solid camera phone worthy of competition with all the others in the premium segment.

There are two more cameras on the devices other than the main lens. The dual camera on the back of the phone allows for wide angle shots with f/1.9 aperture from a 13MP lens. This allows a nice flexibility for larger shots where you want to really feature the surroundings and not just the main subject of the photo. Around the front of the phone is a pretty standard 8MP front-facing camera for all your selfie enjoyment. Both offer good photos with no complaints, but I think most will use the more refined 16MP rear camera.

Software and Performance

This is the mixed bag for me when evaluating the V30. The performance is solid, but at times seems to bog down for no reason. After a few stutters it recovers, but it’s still there for some reason. I honestly don’t know how else to explain it other than my next gripe. LG’s software is still not where it should be and is simply not necessary with the current state of Android without it. From the overweight Settings menus to the lack of App Drawer, the LG “skin” just seems dated and overkill. And LG, your key shortcut to launch the camera…it’s stupid. Just stop and implement the one offered by Google. A double-click of the power button is perfect for every other Android phone in the world. Why change it to a double-click of the volume key THAT ONLY WORKS WITH THE SCREEN LOCKED!

I would actually prefer the LG build and design to that of the Pixel 2 XL if the software would just get out the way and give me a more stock approach. I know that with some tweaking and an alternative launcher, I can accomplish a much cleaner look and feel, but I shouldn’t have to think about it. And quite honestly, most users won’t take the time. It’s an old beef with Android, but one that I still think is worth mentioning. Android’s base software offerings have matured to the stage that OEMs can still offer customized user experiences without completely bastardizing it in the process. I shouldn’t have to relearn Android everytime I pick up a device not made by Google or Moto.

Final Thoughts

LG will market the V30 heavily as a media creation and consumption device. And I think it performs well above the average in that regard. From the incredible audio to the awesome cameras, the V30 really does have a lot to offer consumers. However, it has a lot of competition this year at the high-end market it resides. Coming in at around $800 the V30 contends with other great phones like the Galaxy line and the Pixel 2 XL in the world of Android. They all have their own consolations, but the LG V30 doesn’t indeed hold it’s on with both of them. The cameras on all three are a push, while software would have to go to the Pixel line. But with a truly rounded spec sheet including Qi wireless charging, IP68 waterproofing, dedicate audio DAC, and dual camera setup, the V30 should be on anyone’s short list at Verizon.

Buy From Verizon

 

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