2016 is a very Pixelly year. For any other manufacturer to be releasing a new phone at the end of the year, they’re going to find it very difficult, especially with the large marketing push Google are doing this year. LG have decided to release their second flagship for the year, the V20, in Australia this time around (the V10 wasn’t released here) and with good reason. By all accounts, and despite Chris’ positive review of the G5, sales were a flop. LG are hoping to turn this around with the V20.
We have had quite a bit of interest in the V20 from our readers in it and how it compares to the Google Pixel phones, and with good reason — they have similar specs and are both considered premium handsets. For this reason I am going to do my best to give my first impressions of the phone, having had it for all of 2 full days now. These impressions are far from final, of course, as it is hard to give a definitive opinion with only a couple days usage.
The V20 comes with some impressive specs — Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 MSM8996 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB RAM, 64GB of internal storage (52.11GB available), microSD slot, 5.7in display with 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution (544 dpi), 3200mAh removable battery, 16.3MP main rear facing camera, 8MP secondary rear facing camera, 5MP front-facing camera.
The SD820 is far from new — it has been in quite a number of 2016’s top-shelf phones including LG’s G5, the Moto Z, HTC 10 and more — but it is far from a slouch. The V20 touch responsiveness is a bit lacklustre when compared to the Pixel XL but the speed of opening apps and loading data within them was approximately the same IRL. For example Riptide GP Renegade (my go-to gaming test on review phones) opened faster on the Pixel XL but was ready to play on the LG V20 slightly before it was on the Pixel XL. The V20 feels much faster than other phones with the same processor.
Where the LG V20 seems to be let down is the fingerprint sensor. At this stage, maybe because I am not used to how flush it sits with the rest of the phone, it seems to be failing a lot for me. Time will tell whether it improves. I suspect a case to guide the finger to the right place would also help.
The display is a 5.7in LCD with 2k resolution, which is reflected in the overall size of the device — it is big. It is basically exactly the same size as the Nexus 6P. The colours are not as vibrant as the Pixel XL, with the overall colours/white point set “colder” on the V20, something many manufacturers prefer, even though it is not considered accurate colour representation.
The display seems to be crisp and a pleasure to watch and consume any form of media — albeit from my very short trial of it. The second display is a great idea — just needs a bit more customisation possible but seems to be LG’s answer (and a pretty good one) to Google’s Ambient Display and Motorola’s Moto Display.
The build quality … is different. We do not see many phones with removeable batteries anymore and I think this tends to make the phone feel flimsier than a solid build. While the back cover is an aluminium alloy of some sort which is nice but not as solid as, for example a Huawei phone or the Pixels. There is a weird button to pop off the back cover rather than a cover you peel off which is a strange design choice.
The design is far from ugly with a simple, understated design. In my eyes it isn’t are pleasing as the Pixel XL but it is a good looking device from the front. The back, less so.
I have long been an opponent of manufacturer skins on phones. LG’s UX 5.0+ has not changed my mind. It is just wrong. The colours and theming, while consistent are consistently ugly in my opinion. They lack the simple elegance of stock Android in my opinion. Whether the theme grows on me is another thing. LG do include a theming app but DO NOT include a Material Design theme which would be much appreciated by a lot of people, even if only for the choice. LG do offer a lot more customisation than Google do with many of them really handy– not so many of the gimmicks that I have often been critical of some manufacturers.
LG have seemingly attempted to destroy their software with a woeful launcher, and removing the app drawer is a step further in that direction. I defy anyone to use it as they intend for an extended period of time. I’ll go into this more in the review but I’ll just leave this here: the launcher is a massive step backwards for LG in the western market and totally detracts from a great phone.
The LG V20 is one of the first phones to be running Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box and you can tell. It’s speed and options are great. LG have done a great job getting this on their end-of-year flagship.
There are 2 rear cameras, one with a wider field of view. They employ 3 auto-focus mechanisms including Laser Detection AF, Phase Detection AF, and Contrast AF for both videos and photos. The camera app opens quickly, once again not as fast as the Pixel XL but quickly. It is also able to snap those photos as fast as the Pixel XL, with auto HDR on. There is a lot of manual control possible in the LG camera app which is much better than the Pixel XL offering. See examples below for a few quick snaps (no manual focusing, just point and shoot) I took this afternoon in my backyard — you be the judge.
The LG V20 seems to be a great phone. Whether it can maintain the speeds at which it has started with in the first two days remains to be seen. I intend to give it a very thorough testing over the next week or so to give a good representation of what you should expect if you were to buy one of these. They are $1099 at JB Hifi at this stage with not much stock around according to my local JB Hifi insider. Stay tuned to see if the LG V20 can continue to stand its ground against the behemoth that is the Pixel XL.
Editor’s note: Originally we had referred to the Nexus 6P as having a Snapdragon 820 processor. While it was rumoured to have this in a refreshed edition, the Nexus 6P only launched with the earlier Snapdragon 810.