LG took the wraps off its newest flagship this week, the LG V30. We’ve got the usual high-end smartphone specs: a Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3300mAh battery, and an old version of Android—7.1 Nougat. What’s interesting are the display and the camera. The display is the first LG-made OLED display we’ve seen in some time, and the camera hits a new high with an f1.6 aperture.
We recently got to spend some time with the device, and the first thing that stands out is the aesthetic. The design is great; it’s a clear evolution-of and improvement-on the LG G6. The G6 was LG’s first phone with super-slim bezels, and on the V30 the bezels are even smaller. The ugly “LG” logo is gone from the bottom of the phone and the front glass is nicely curved to meet the sides, instead of the flat slab of glass used on the G6. Like the G6, the corners of the display are round, but again things are improved over the G6. The G6 did a clunky job of transitioning the screen corners into the rest of the display, but on the V30, the corners are a lot smoother and form a more natural, pleasing shape.
The front is dominated by all-new LG-made 6-inch 2880×1440 P-OLED display with an extra-tall 18:9 aspect ratio. LG has been producing OLED TVs for some time, but the company’s OLED display production has kept away from smartphones after the awful LG G Flex and G Flex 2 displays in the 2013-2015 era. These were physically curved smartphones (they were banana shaped for some reason) and LG’s flexible OLED technology was so early that the display couldn’t display a smooth, consistent color.
Two years later and things don’t seem to be any better. The OLED panel on my pre-production unit still has the same issues as the LG G Flex. In low brightness in a dark room, the screen is grainy and has “dirty” looking horizontal banding all over it. The light level is also woefully uneven, with hotspots blazing out of the left and right corners.
Above, I’ve pitted the LG V30 against the Galaxy S8 in an attempt to capture the issues on camera. By all means, open the full 4000×3000 image in a new tab and inspect it. Don’t worry too much about the gain in this image—that’s mostly from my camera due to the low light (just look at the background). What we’re worried about here is the comparison to the Galaxy S8, which is under identical conditions. Notice how the Galaxy S8 produces a smooth, consistent color from the top of the display to the bottom. The LG V30 is supposed to be displaying a solid color, but it’s so uneven that it starts out dark grey at the top and transitions to a light grey at the bottom. There’s also lots of horizontal lines present in the LG display that aren’t in the Samsung. It just looks so much worse.
It would be remiss of me not to again emphasize that my V30 is a pre-production unit, but I can’t imagine too many more changes will be made to the OLED production line between now and launch. It’s also worth mentioning that LG is making the Pixel XL 2, and with that device also rumored to use an LG-made, 6-inch 2880×1440 P-OLED display, there’s speculation that it and the V30 are sharing panels. If so, things aren’t looking great for Google’s next display.
There’s no major technology difference between Samsung’s “AMOLED” display and LG’s “P-OLED” display technology. AMOLED stands for “Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode”—all modern smartphone displays use an active matrix to address pixels. The “P” in LG’s “P-OLED” display stands for “plastic,” the material used in the substrate (the base layer the display is built on). Samsung OLEDs also use a plastic substrate as opposed to glass, because plastic is thinner and flexible. Just due to experience and a much bigger production line, Samsung is still the leader in OLED displays, as every phone seems to hit higher and higher levels of brightness, wider color gamuts and better viewing angles.
The back of the phone looks like most other LG phones: there are two cameras, one 16MP main camera and a 13MP wide-angle lens, along with the usual flash and laser autofocus system, plus LG’s signature clicky power button/fingerprint reader. LG is making a big deal out of the main camera’s F1.6 aperture, which it says is the largest of any smartphone, providing “superior sharpness and color accuracy.” The large aperture pulls in more light, which should result in better low light pictures. But in a quick low light test, my V30 turned in disappointing dark, grey shots. Above, you can see a comparison between it and the Google Pixel, and the Pixel clearly wins. Again, this is pre-production software and cameras are usually the last things to be tweaked, tuned, and configured on a device—heck, a lot of times cameras get fixed after release. There’s a chance the V30 camera will get better by the time the phone releases.
The back is unfortunately glass, which means any drop will probably cause some serious damage to the device. Under the glass slab, there’s a nice, almost microscopic line pattern cut into the back, which makes it look a bit like lenticular print hologram (just without the hologram, of course). The glass back also allows for wireless charging, and there’s fan favorite features like a MicroSD card, a headphone jack, and IP68 water and dust resistance.
There’s no price yet, but the V30 will be out sometime this fall.
Listing image by Ron Amadeo