LG G7+ ThinQ Review

Summary

Note: the full name of the phone that I am reviewing, which is the variant that is on sale in Singapore, is LG G7+ ThinQ, where the ‘+’ denotes that this is the 128GB/6GB variant rather than the 64GB/4GB one. But for convenience sake, I shall refer to the phone as simply “G7” for the entirety of this review.

Things I liked

– Excellent build quality, nice tactile buttons, military grade hardware with IP68 water and dust resistance

– Has a notification LED (the G6 didn’t have one)

– LCD screen has surprisingly deep blacks, gets wonderfully bright outdoors and comfortably dim in the dark

– LG has set up a dedicated software team so hopefully software updates will be timely

– Dedicated lock button now on the side rather than integrated with the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor

– Wonderful vibration motor that gives a different vibrations for typing, swiping away notifications, etc.

– Headphone jack with Quad DAC is here to stay, so is the wide-angle camera

Meh

– The notch: Most reviewers fail to mention that LG’s option to hide the notch only does so for certain LG apps like the settings app, and is not system-wide

– The navigation bar can’t be turned black, and you’re only allowed to choose from a bunch of light colours, which makes it distracting in apps with dark UIs

– The good news is that there is third party software to fix both of the above issues, so they aren’t that big a problem

– Poor colour accuracy, noticeably cooler than normal, but can be tweaked in software to be slightly more accurate

– Dedicated Google Assistant button: It’s better than having a dedicated Bixby button, but I’ve never used it other than launching it by accident. After a week I disabled it.

Things I disliked

– The speakers: The “boombox” design of the speakers cause the phone to vibrate when outputting audio, which can be rather distracting

– The marketing for this phone. The full name of the G7 is “LG G7+ ThinQ”, which I take issue with for two reasons. Firstly, the unnecessary designation of the “+” to distinguish the 128GB/6GB model from the 64GB/4GB one. Secondly, the “ThinQ” branding. It looks and sounds awkward (why is “ThinQ” in superscript?), is seemingly pointless, and is literally etched onto the back of the phone, which works against the otherwise clean design.

TL;DR

Ultimately, the G7 is a worthy flagship smartphone that I would gladly have as a daily driver. The gripes that I have with the phone are minor and the majority of them can be fixed via already-available third party solutions. The inclusion of a headphone jack with a Quad DAC and a wide-angle camera is certainly welcome, though admittedly I personally did not use these features organically during the review period, and I doubt any of these features would be compelling enough a reason for the average consumer to choose the G7 over other flagships. The asking price of S$1,198 is rather steep for what the G7 has to offer, but if you can get it at a good deal, it is a phone that I have no problems recommending.

The Bulk Of It

Reviewing the G7 has me nostalgic for the early 2010’s, back when the smartphone market wasn’t dominated by Samsung and Apple, and companies like Sony, HTC and LG had their own unique signature and mark on the smartphone market. LG, in fact, probably isn’t given enough credit for many smartphone trends that we take for granted. The concept of having fingerprint sensors on the back of the phone can probably be traced back to the G2, when LG decided to place the power and volume buttons on the back of the phone other than the sides, allowing it to accomplish impressively thin side bezels. The G3 was probably the first mainstream flagship smartphone with a 1440p display. The G4 experimented with premium materials like leather, and the G5 experimented with a modular design.

The G6 and the new G7 seem very conservative in comparison. It’s got no obvious experimental features, and has a notched display and a glass back like every other smartphone in 2018 (I literally got asked if it was an iPhone X). Its distinguishing features are more subtle, like the inclusion of a wide-angle camera and a headphone jack with a Quad DAC; but to the average consumer, these are not immediately obvious. Given that a dual camera setup is ubiquitous among smartphones today, majority of consumers would assume the typical setup of an “ordinary” lens and a telephoto lens for portrait photos.

While these are certainly welcome features, are they enough to justify the purchase of the G7 over say, the Galaxy S9 or OnePlus 6? Many people who have used an LG phone from the G5 onwards would swear by the usefulness of the wide-angled camera and would stick to LG flagships just for this feature alone. I can imagine the same for the Quad DAC, albeit a smaller number of people. Unfortunately, realistically speaking, these people most likely make up a small percentage of the market. Even though I praise the inclusion of a wide-angled camera and a high quality headphone jack, the truth is that during the period of my review (which lasted for a couple of weeks), I did not use either of these features organically, and had to consciously get myself to use them for the purposes of writing this review. But that’s just me; I tend not to take photos on my phone and I tend to use wireless headphones for audio.

Certainly, this would vary from person to person, but given the rising ubiquity and quality of wireless headphones, I simply do not see the inclusion of a headphone jack with a Quad DAC as something which many people MUST have. Similarly, while the wide-angled camera is certainly convenient in many situations, it is not something which most consumers would find necessary, especially if they’ve never owned a phone with a wide-angled camera before.

This makes the G7 “just another” flagship smartphone to the vast majority of consumers, which is unfortunate, because the G7 is a solid and unique offering.

If you are one of the few who feel that a wide-angled camera or a Quad DAC are features that you would benefit from, then go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

I could end the review like this, but for those who are still on the fence, read on to see if this is the smartphone for you.

Hardware

Build quality of the G7 is excellent. It employs a conventional glass sandwich design with Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides and metal around the edges. The feel of the phone is significantly better than that of the G6, which had a flat back and edges which resulted in a boxy, jagged feel. The G7 on the other hand, is significantly more ergonomic thanks to its subtle curves, and is a joy to hold. It is even more comfortable to hold than my OnePlus 3, due to its narrower stature, in spite of its larger display. This alone demonstrates the benefits of having tall displays on smartphones rather than the conventional 16:9.

The military grade hardware is also IP68 dust and water resistant and supports wireless charging. Also, there is an LED notification indicator, which was inexplicably missing from the LG G6.

As a side note, the G7 has great tactile buttons and an excellent vibration motor that even gives different vibrations for say, typing, and swiping away a notification.

Audio

LG has gone for a rather unique “boombox” design for the G7. The idea is that it behaves as an “echo chamber” of sorts, which amplifies audio output if you lay the phone down on a solid surface, such as a table. It works, though the quality of the sound is questionable, as I find that it tends to be “hollow” sounding when the phone isn’t rested on a surface, and gets distorted at maximum volume.

My bigger gripe with this design is that the multimedia experience can be rather annoying as anything from watching a YouTube video to playing a game causes the back of the phone to vibrate.

I’m not going to lie; I’m not an audiophile, so take what I am about to say with a pinch of salt. I am happy that the G7 has a headphone jack, though admittedly I haven’t used wired headphones for as long as I can remember. For the sake of this review, I listened to some songs on wired headphones on both the G7 and my OnePlus 3 to see if the Quad DAC produces any noticeable improvement in audio quality.

The sound was good, and if anything, it was slightly richer than on my OnePlus 3, but nothing too noticeable to my ears. You should be looking to other sources for a more detailed audio review.

On the software side of things, LG gives the option to enable the new DTS:X 3D surround sound codec, which is supported even on wireless headphones. You’re able to choose from several surround-sound presets for a more immersive audio experience, which is a concept similar to the popular Dolby Atmos. It works surprisingly well to create a more cinematic-like experience for your music.

Display

The display is a 1440 x 3120 IPS LCD of a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, which is unusually tall even amongst today’s phones. It is a terrific display. All concerns about it not being an AMOLED panel were gone after a day with the phone. While I do still prefer AMOLED panels due to their true blacks, LG’s display brings unbelievably deep blacks for an LCD panel. I haven’t seen an LCD display with such deep blacks since the ClearBlack displays of Nokia Lumia phones.

The panel gets wonderfully bright outdoors, and even has an ultra bright mode, allowing the phone to boost the brightness even further for a couple of minutes for those moments when you’re trying to look up Google Maps while in the afternoon sun.

The screen also gets amazingly dim, allowing for comfortable viewing in the dark.

While AMOLED clearly makes more sense for features like an always-on display, LG’s screen does a stellar job despite being an LCD. The backlight gets very dim in the dark, and is in fact almost unnoticeable, so you won’t get blinded by your phone’s always-on display when you’re checking the time in the middle of the night. Since it is an LCD, you won’t have to worry about burn in either.

The only complaint that I have is the poor colour-accuracy of the display. The white balance is quite obviously cooler than normal out of the box. However, this can be tweaked (to a limited extent) in software, so I am not too concerned about it.

Overall, it’s a good display.

The Notch

I’m not opposed to the notch as long as there is good software to manage it. LG’s software implementation for hiding the notch only applies to LG apps and is not system-wide, which is something that most reviewers have failed to mention.

The main issue is that the notch disappears and reappears depending on which app you are in (a dark app results in a dark system tray, making the notch effectively invisible, while an app like say, Instagram, will result in a white system tray, highlighting the notch). This makes it impossible to get used to the notch as you keep noticing it whenever it reappears.

More importantly, for some reason there’s no way to change the navigation bar to black, leading to a very distracting experience when inside of primarily dark applications.

Fortunately, there is a free third-party app called Nacho Notch (not sponsored content) which solves both of these problems by masking the notch AND changing the navigation bar to black.

Performance

Nothing to talk about here. With the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 processor, the G7 is finally given the flagship performance it deserves, instead of yesteryear’s processor like the Snapdragon 821 in the G6.

6GB of RAM is also plenty for running multiple apps in the background, and I never had an issue with RAM management even with multiple intensive apps open.

Camera

LG remains pretty much the only OEM to put wide-angled cameras on its phones, and it’s as wonderful as ever. The wide-angled camera uses (what seems to be) the same 16MP sensor as the regular one, and has a relatively large aperture of f/1.9, which should make for decent low-light performance on paper. The “normal” main camera has an even larger aperture of f/1.6.

Image quality is good, but there are some noticeable flaws in LG’s image processing algorithms, which makes the G7’s camera just shy of flagship quality. For one, edges are oversharpened, while uniform areas have noticeable grain, resulting in an “oil painting” effect. These issues are even more prominent in low light conditions. Dynamic range isn’t very good on the camera either.

In low light, the camera will suggest activating a “super bright” mode, which works to increase exposure, while the camera tries its best to keep noise at a minimum. Useful for photographing an object in the dark, but it most likely will not be a photo that you’d be proud of.

On the software side of things, the “Cheese shutter” feature is still present, where you can take a photo by saying “cheese”, “smile”, “whiskey”, “kimchi” or “LG”. LG is also jumping on the “AI” train with an “AI Cam” button within the main camera. Like all other “AI” cameras though, it isn’t actually AI, but rather simple scene recognition. When in this mode, the camera tries to identify what you’re taking a photo of, and adjusts the settings accordingly.

While the tech is neat, the practical usefulness of this is limited. For example, when taking a photo of some flowers, the camera simply increased the saturation of the image.  The image was already not very natural-looking thanks to the aforementioned oversharpening and oil painting effects, and increasing the saturation didn’t do this any favours.

The front-facing camera has been hugely upgraded from the 5MP f/2.2 one on the G6 to 8MP f/1.9. Image quality is improved, but it suffers from the same image processing issues as the main camera.

Interestingly, there is a shortcut to Google Lens from within the camera app, which was actually rather convenient for the couple of times I had to scan QR codes during the course of this review.

The G7 can record 4K video at 30fps and 1080p video at 60fps, with optical image stabilisation (OIS) on the main camera but not the wide-angle one. Slo-mo recording is also available ([email protected]). The same issues with oversharpening plague the video as well, but the quality is decent enough.

Software and Battery Life

LG’s UX has improved since its previous iteration. Icons have been refined, and there are more convenient features such as face unlock, which works similar to OnePlus’ implementation, albeit at a slower speed. It is certainly a welcome addition, and even comes with the option for you to enable raise to wake, such that raising your phone from sleep will trigger it to look at your face and unlock within a second or two. Neat.

Other software features include an always-on display, with options for displaying the time, date, battery percentage, calendar, personal signature, or even an image. You can enable music and quick toggle controls, double tap to wake, and a daily schedule for the always-on display.

The main gripe that I have with the design is with the notification shade, which is bright white and can’t be natively changed to a darker colour (the notch reappears whenever you pull down the notification shade). Thankfully, this can be fixed with Substratum x Andromeda with a (paid) G7 Andromeda theme on the Play Store (once again, not sponsored content), which I would probably get should I own a G7 myself.

Another minor gripe is how the brightness slider disappears with a second swipe on the notification shade. This is something I mentioned on my G6 review, and continues to be an annoyance; even more so now that the display is even taller and the brightness slider is even harder to get to.

Battery life from the 3000mAh cell is decent. It lasts me a full day with about 4-5 hours of screen on time, constant music streaming, and some light gaming. It’s not excellent, but it’s not poor either. Disabling the always-on display will indubitably increase the battery life.

Pricing and Conclusion

The LG G7 costs S$1,198 without contract at launch, which I feel is definitely too steep an asking price for what it offers. Though to be fair, I feel that any phone that is asking for S$1000 is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s a topic for another day.

Fortunately, as with previous LG flagships, it is likely that the G7 will quickly depreciate to half of its launch price within a couple of months. In which case, the G7 would be a compelling option. Otherwise, getting the phone on contract at your local telco or sourcing for deals online will nab you a lower price point.

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