[Review] LG V20 - a lot of moxy that has something but still leaves me wanting more


So, the LG V20 is available.  I was excited because the V10 never came to Canada, and I really liked the concept.

When the G5 came out, it was neat, it was novel, but it felt like it was still 'too new' in my opinion.  My thought was that the V20 was what should have been the G5, and the V20 should have been the 'all bells and whistles model'.  But that's just me.

All in all, I was interested to try it out.  It touted pretty much the same specs as the G5, but upped the ante in some key areas.



The device is avaailable at Wind and Videotron for about $1000 off contract and then as low as $250 on a plan.

What I really like about getting this was the box.  I don't know why, but I love when OEMs put in some effort into the box.  Slide the sleeve off, and you can fold out the box into 3 parts.  The phone, the charger/cable and then the battery.


It's just something small, but I like it.

Okay, you got my little 'auto awesomed' video, based off this 9 minute video of my review below.  Enjoy

okay, really REALLY sorry about the quality - was using the Axon Pro and it has some focusing issues

So first up, the question I had was how it would stand up to the G5.  Pretty much it's the sister phone, and the G5, mods aside was a real powerhouse.  Great battery life, superb performance, good display, great camera.

Well, here's the specs to reference:

G5V20
Size5.3"5.7" + 2.1"
Resolution2560x14402560x1440 + 1040x160
Processor2.15GHz x42.15GHz x4
TypeSnapdragon 820Snapdragon 820
RAM4GB4GB
Storage32GB64GB
microSD?yesyes
Rear Cam16MP + 8MP
(f/1.8, 1/2.6") + (f/2.4, 1/3.2")
16MP + 8MP
(f/1.8, 1/2.6") + (f/2.4, 1/3.2")
Front Cam8MP
(f/2.0, 1/4")
5MP
(f/1.9)
Battery2800mAh3200mAh
distinctive featuremodular optionssecondary display

So, you can see it's pretty much the exact same device hardware wise (second screen, we'll talk about that later).  It is odd that the front camera was reduced to just 5MP.  But really, I don't think you're going to notice in that area.  The bigger battery is essentially because there's a bigger housing now (my assumption) and with a bigger display, there's going to be a bigger draw (more on battery performance later).

What's not mentioned is that Android Nougat is out of the box for the V20, the G5 in Canada still has yet to get that update.

There's not much difference visually with Nougat, with the exception of the quick actions allowing you to perform the action 'inline' vs. in its own pop up screen.  Anyways, we're not here to debate Marshmallow vs. Nougat.

Let's talk build.

First off, it's a big device.  Personally, I'm finding the 5.5" of my Moto to be on the upper limit for me.  The G5's 5.3" was perfect.  5.7" and then some for the secondary display really tests the limits for me. If you're a Note fan, then you'll like it, but 2 weeks with it, and I was still finding it big.

The rest of the body feels awesome.  It really feels like LG sat down and really thought about how they were going to make this feel premium.  I love the grey aluminium and how it accents against the black of the display, the subtle angling back and away.   The speaker placement is reminiscent of the Blackberry Z10 series, which I also liked for it's style.

The volume rockers are on the left side (gotten fairly used to them on the right with my Moto, but it's still in line with the G5).  I was really hoping they'd go back to volume controls on the back like the G2-G4.  The loudspeaker is placed at the right side of the bottom, which makes it easier to hold and play games than with the G5 (as it was opposite side and all too often got covered when you held it in landscape).

Neater was how they handled the battery.  There's a little 'spring button' on the right side that if you press it, it'll pop out the back, and it kinda feels like it's hinging on the opposite side, but it actually isn't.  The back plate feels strong, and then putting it back on you want to hinge it on the opposite side and clip back into place (and then double check the other side as usually they don't snap in always.



Similar to the G5, the camera bump is very minimal.

You'll notice, like the G5, it's using USB-C, and still has a headphone jack (more on why later).

Okay, so, turn it on and it's very much the same UI we saw on the G5.  Personally, I'm not a fan of all the apps on the homescreens.  So, immediately, I switch to their 'home and app drawer' option, or personally, my favourite is Google's launcher.

You'll also notice a very nice display.  Sure, the colours aren't as super strong as you'll see on Samsung displays, but personally it's what I prefer.

Software features for the device are similar to what you'd see in the G5, so I won't go over those.  You can read that review here.

The real difference in the software comes from the extra hardware.

First, let's talk about the camera.  (Note, that since I've had the device, there's been 2 updates to the camera via OTA updates)


I have to say, I really missed the camera app.  Just the way everything is set up, I feel like I have more control. The Moto is good, but it feels too simple, going to the manual mode it's a little too cluttered.  With LG, they've got it done right.

For a review on the camera, go check out the review of the G5, the camera is exactly the same.

The big advantage for the V20 in the camera comes from the fact that they've included a really nifty chip, called the Digital-to-Analog-Converter (DAC).  Sure most have them, but they went with a high end, and was the first 32bit processor for it. I'll talk more about the listening end later, but it can also be used for recording.

Not only does this software allow you the option for manual controls, which is very awesome.

One of those features is adjusting the audio recording ... allowing you to play around with features like LCF and LMT

Wait, you don't know, know what those are?

Well...

...they give you a screen to explain.  Personally, I'm not that into production to know what the difference is.  I tried playing around, and personally I didn't find much difference.  I guess it's for more of those folks who really know what they're doing when it comes to this kinda thing.

So nice to have, for if you need it.  For most, it's just a bonus you'd likely not use.

Another feature is to adjust the audio recording directionality.

Well, by directionality, I mean how much is recorded behind the phone (i.e. you), versus how much is in front.  This is awesome, because how many times have you made a video recording your kids and the audio picks them up okay, but then as soon as you ask them a question, your voice is super loud.  That's really annoying.  This helps fix that!


The neatest thing about the camera with the V20 is how it's one of the best uses of the secondary display, as when you use it, you'll have buttons there to switch been auto (camera or video), manual camera and manual video.  Making it very easy to switch, and it doesn't take up any of the screen real estate.

So, let's deal with the second screen.

It's neat.  It's not obtrusive, especially when the screen is off.  Check out the section of the video about 3 minutes in.


Essentially you can cycle through some options depending if the screen is on or off.

It's all easy to set up via the setting.


What I found out, just by doing the video, is that there's an app one, and you can adjust it by dragging apps into or out of that area.  That would have been nice to know for the 2 weeks while I used it.  Could put the commonly used apps there and always at hand.

The only problem is that it feels like the early days of the edge variants of the Samsung devices.  There's a limited amount of what you can do with it so far.  Same with the flip cases for the other LG, there was optimism that 3rd party developers that would come up with some other ways to take advantage of it.

But no... it's the same.  In my mind it's fairly banal.  It's novel, but not as useful as you might expect.  Sigh.  The best case scenario for how useful it could be was with the camera app, I wish that could have been seen throughout the other LG apps at least.  But nope.

Well, the HD audio recorder app does have a feature:


The other thing is that you'll see notifications scroll out in the area, and then show up in the notification tray.  Would be nice if it was always in there.

Anyways.  It's biggest feature (to the outside observer) and in my mind comes up a little short of some cool promises that I had built up for it.  *sigh*

What would have been neat is if they included it in the screenshots too...

One last thing I'll mention about the software is the DAC being used for quality audio.  Now, I don't have any super awesome headphones, but ... I wanted to try it out.



You probably can't hear too much difference, but with my headphones on my head there was a difference.  Like hitting a 'sound effect' or something... but cleaner sounding.  I bet with better headphones there'd be even a more pronounced difference.

When you plug headphones in there's the option to have some better adjustments.


The precise volume control is nice as the volume rockers changes the volume by 5%.  Sometimes it's nice to have better control.  Like at night 5% can be too much in a quiet house, so now you can play better.

Performance

Well, it performs awesomely.  I'd say as fast as the G5, but with Nougat it feels even faster.  The animations are smooth and nothing ever slowed down when I used it.

The only area I might say about performance is the battery.  It'll get you through the day, but depends on your usage.  Personally I found it to burn through faster than the G5 did.  Even just sitting through me writing this review, the occasional popping screen on for some screen grabs, the battery dropped about 2x more than my Moto did while I was using it to do some filming here and there.

So, yeah, it's not a bad battery, but for 3200mAh, I would have expected more.

Overall.

I liked it, the performance was amazing, the camera features are AWESOME.  The only things that I had any hang ups on it were the battery being a smidge less than I'm used to, the phone is larger than I'm used to, and I wish the second screen did more ... may more is coming.

For $1000, that's a lot.  It's tough to say that over the price of the G5 the big advantages are going to be the size (for those that want it), or the cool audio features you can get.  For those that want that last feature, they'll go for it, regardless of the price. For most, I would find them hard pressed to say "yeah, it's worth it".  To be honest, I don't think the second screen really enters into a decision making process.

For me, I'd say stick with the G5.  I can live with the slightly less build quality of it for the savings.  Tho' the phone does feel nice.
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