I’ll be quite honest, I didn’t know exactly how I would go about this seeing as though I’ve restricted myself to Apple ever since the iPhone 4s and have not looked back. So when LG sent over their LG V20, my world was completely shaken up. How did it turn out?
LG sent me over their latest flagship smartphone, the LG V20, which is the first Android device to ship with highly touted Android 7 Nougat OS which I’ll admit, I’ve been following my favorite Android sites, and this is the first time in years I’ve said to myself “wow, such and such feature is amazing”. But man, as an iPhone 7 Plus user, the LG v20 just has so many elements that made me consider “have I been restricting myself all these years?”. The model that I received did not come with the B&O H3 Play headphones which was a bit of a bummer, but most carriers if you purchase through them will actually go ahead and include them for a bundled price. I have Verizon Wireless so LG sent over the review unit for that service for me. Here are a few specs of the LG V20 smartphone:
- Chipset — Qualcomm® SnapdragonTM 820 Processor
- Display — Main) 5.7-inch QHD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440 / 513ppi)
- Secondary) 2.1-inch IPS Quantum Display (160 x 1040 / 513ppi)
- Memory — 4GB LPDDR4 RAM / 64GB UFS ROM / microSD (up to 2TB)
- Camera — Rear) 8MP Wide (F2.4,135°) / 16MP Normal OIS (F1.8, 75°)
- Front) 5MP Wide (F1.9, 120°)
- Battery — 3,200mAh (removable)
- OS — Android 7.0 Nougat
- Dimension — 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6mm
- Weight — 174g
- Network — LTE-A 3-BAND CA
- Connectivity — Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac / Bluetooth 4.2 BLE / NFC / USB 2.0
- USB Type-C
- Colors — Titan / Silver / Pink
My first impressions of the box were pretty “meh”, but I’m used to just a typical unboxing since Apple’s has been brick and mortar for so many years the element of surprise isn’t really there when it comes to opening a cell phone box. I appreciated the fact that LG’s all white box had quotes such as “life’s good when you play more”, certainly something we adults wish we could do instead of actually working more than we play. Once you open up the box you get the actual V20 to the left of the tri-fold box, covered in a film to protect it until you decide to put a screen protector on it. In the middle you get the power brick you’ll use to plug into the wall and a flat, tangle-free USB-Type C cable that’s about three feet in length. It’s worth noting that the power brick does come with Qualcomm quick charging, so if you’re in a pinch, your phone won’t take hours to charge up on you (looking at you, Apple). On the far end, you get the 3200mAh battery which is removable, but we will get into that a bit later.
Let’s take a moment to just appreciate the sheer craftsmanship of the LG V20. The LG V20 is LIGHT people. Like to the point where when you put it in your pocket, even standing at 5.7-inches, this thing is LIGHT. Compared to my iPhone 7’s rounded corners and weighted appearance I’ll go to lengths and say this: I prefer carrying the LG V20. There is actually a slot on the lower end on the right side of the V20 that is used to pop open the back of the phone to expose the internals where you’ll add the removable battery, as well as a microSD slot which is something I have missed but fight Android users in the iPhone Vs. Android discussion ever since I switched from the HTC Thunderbolt years ago. There’s also the sim card slot as well on the left of that.
Coming from an iPhone 7 Plus, one thing I wanted out of the v20 was a little bit of resistance to water. While the iPhone 7 Plus isn’t exactly water PROOF, it’s not even resistant, so even if I wanted to give it the water test, I couldn’t. Samsung has the water-resistant phone, Apple slowly caught up but they have it now too, but I certainly expected LG to keep up with the times and give me a similar experience from what others have on the market. And yes, I’ve had prior iPhones, go ahead and tell me how long I’ve been without. But once you HAVE, you can’t really go back, you know? Especially for an $800 device.
Once closed you get a smartphone made up of a metal body that’s not only gorgeous to look at but aesthetically functional thanks to the home button/fingerprint sensor being embedded onto the back of the device. Being used to touch ID and Apple for so long, having the fingerprint sensor on the back of the device dare I say feels natural. The fact that LG designed the V20 to not only be the sleep/wake button, but the fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone meant that not only are you not wasting your time fidgeting with multiple buttons, but it just makes the entire phone look so damn good. Above that are not just one, but TWO 16-megapixel cameras that come jam-packed with image stabilization and 3x optical zoom so if you are the type that wants to show off your photography skills, this is exactly what you’d want from a phone like this, but then again LG typically brings the heat when it comes to photography features.
**It’s worth mentioning that the camera itself does protrude a little bit, not as much as the iPhone 7 Plus’s dual camera, but enough that if you are typing on a flat surface, it has the potential to move. Obviously, companies made cases for this sole purpose, and while I have used none at the time of this review, rocking the LG V20 naked and getting the occasional moving phone hasn’t hindered my typing performance in landscape or portrait. **
With the phone screen facing you, to the left of that are the volume rocker buttons which sit pretty flush to the V20 which is somewhat similar to my iPhone 7 Plus which I like. I’ve used Android phones with protruding buttons that never lasted too long so getting some form of familiarity with the V20 goes a long way.
At the base of the V20, you have the standard USB-Type C port with a speaker to the right of that. And to the left, you’ll get A HEADPHONE JACK (with its pre-installed DAC)! Oh my, have I missed you (a little). Before you go there, I have friends (one in particular) whose whole mission in life is to bash iPhones, more recently by saying things like this:
Powering up the phone, you’re immediately prompted with the LG watermark page, as well as instructions to set up which are pretty self-explanatory so no need to really divulge into that. But when you get to the fingerprint portion, especially coming from another brand, you’ll appreciate the process SO much more. Dare I say the process is actually more intuitive and even faster than my fruity-logo device? Yes, it is. I literally lifted and dropped my finger on the sensor 3-4 times and it recognized with ease.
Once completely set up you’re greeted with Android latest OS on the killer HD 1440 x 1560 pixel IPS LCD screen. The glass itself is Gorilla Glass 4 which is apparently one of the best, but obviously as an iPhone user, something I’m not too versed with. But just the sheer look of the phone there aren’t any glaring issues, more specifically when viewing it in sunlight or in a relatively dark room, colors bounce off the screen, and unlike most people who’ve complained about the iPhone’s screen giving off a yellowish hue, I’ve yet to encounter that with the V20. Although the Gorilla Glass 4 is sturdy and LG stands by its MIL-STD 810G military certification that comes with the V20, and promises that it will withstand a four-foot drop, but at the time I was not able to test this theory (not that I wanted to try out, either).
Android Nougat on the LG V20 is just a compliment to how great of a device the LG V20 truly is. LG’s UX 5.0+ home screen highlight features like the ability to get to quick shortcuts. Even though one of the most hyped up feature of Nougat is the split screen feature, it doesn’t work with every app, and even if it works with one perfectly, if the second is not compatible, it will not work at all. I’m pretty sure that companies will transition to update their apps to support this, but since there aren’t many devices to test Nougat on yet, many are holding off until either it’s required, or they open up the OS to more smartphones. I received a small update as soon as I turned the phone on for the first time and actually received another one shortly after that which goes to show that LG and Android are serious about making sure their device is up to date and bug-less. This is a serious thing for me, especially in terms of security. Having an iPhone makes you appreciate frequent updates, even in beta stage, and it’s been one of the glaring things I’ve hated about Android: Once the device is deemed aged or dated, the chances of getting an update is slim to none, but for now, the LG V20 seems future proof for the next 2-3 summers in terms of future updates.
The LG V20’s UX 5.0+ is the world’s first interface to not only just look cool, but to be able to extend your battery life with its Doze feature that knows when it’s in your pocket versus being in your hand, and it will act accordingly in order to conserve your battery life. At a recent Redskins game, instead of being that guy with the battery pack, or the person not being able to live tweet about the typical Kirk Cousins interception because my phone battery is at 20% or less… I was the one who pulled out my phone after four hours of tailgating still having 88% battery life in the third quarter.
So about the battery life. A removable battery as an iPhone user is pretty much never going to happen, so it was very welcoming to know that in the even that my phone battery did die, if I had a spare I could easily just pop it into the back of the device. Many Android cell phone providers actually have stopped making phone batteries removable altogether, or you know.. the batteries catch on fire (slight jab at Samsung there).
But to be truthful, I really appreciate LG V20 for giving the user the ability to choose what they want to do with their smartphone. While I haven’t carried a spare battery in a while, I could see the case where someone would. But with this particular device, the V20 really doesn’t “need” the extra battery. I’ve sat my iPhone in a drawer for a week and gone solely off using Groupme (my equivalent to Facetime for my communication), Snapchat, emails and Twitter as my daily driver, and the battery has held up.
There are other features of Android’s OS that I’ve missed such as the dropdown menu, which is a lot more useful than Apple’s Control Center. Features like the ability to turn on and off Bluetooth are things I’m accustomed too, but Comfort View is typically something I would have to jailbreak in order to even have a shot of having on an Apple Product. While I can dim a bit with my 7 Plus, but having true night view mode on my V20 is excellent for quick controls. Also the ability to switch and move which buttons you need showcase Android’s completely interactive and open-source nature, down to the fact you can even change the quick buttons at the bottom of your device that come onto the screen when you need them.
Courtesy of a Snapdragon 820 processor the LG V20 not only sports over four gigabytes of RAM, but it also has an Adreno 530 graphics chip to boot, and I don’t mean to be cliché, but it names the phone “snappy”. Opening apps is very quick, and alternating between two or more is as fluid as you can ask of a smartphone, err phablet. Compared to my iPhone 7 I’m obviously biased, but the LG v20 isn’t too far behind on benchmarks when it comes to the iPhone 7. Where the processor truly shines is in the camera.
LG is known for their impeccable cameras, and their attention to the major as well as minor details most overlook in order to focus on details we mostly do not want. The popular company simply gets it done, all while continuously being innovators in the photography space. The V20 is not only the first to have Android Nougat, but it’s also the first to have a wide –angle lens camera on both the back AND the front of the device. So say you have a group of friends who just happen to want to go out for a night on the town. Instead of searching for the one with the longest arms to take the photo, you can now use the V20 to get a complete shot of you and the people in the photo using the five-megapixel front camera. It sports a 120-degree lens so you’ll never have to worry about spotting that stranger out at the bar saying “Hey, you mind taking a photo? No, can you turn the phone that way?” – It’s the small things that make a difference, and this one is certainly one that will come in handy.
I’m pretty shaky handed when it comes to the camera, regardless if I’m taking a selfie, or even just taking photos of things that are sitting on a countertop. But things get even worse when I’m looking for that perfect action shot like my dog jumping for a treat, or watching sports live. So I put the V20’s Hybrid Auto Focus up to task. Also called HAF, the Hybrid Auto Focus guarantees that you’ll get a sharp picture every single time. LG states that they integrated three AF mechanisms: Laser Detection AF (LDAF), Phase Detection AF (PDAF) and Contrast AF for not just photos, but videos as well. I’m a chronic photo taker, especially while using video I’ll snap photos simultaneously, and with my iPhone, the photos come out at least 30% of the time blurry. With the LG V20 it’s been a little bit less, but obviously less than my iPhone.
Listening to audio on the LG v20 is where the phone really shines, however. You can tell LG made this to be a multimedia phone with the way the speakers are made, however, when listening in-ear you get the notion that LG may have focused more on the media aspect than anything else.
From the Joseph Gordon-Levitt commercial spot, you get everything from him playing drums on the subway, to various other characters playing different instruments in different locations, with a few spots of people taking photos and/or videos with the v20. And with all of the spectacular choreography, music seems to be the theme here. For two weeks I tested out Beyerdynamic’s DT 990 Pro headphones every single day testing out the audio for the v20, and man… LG did their thing here. While on the train, the sound quality was absolutely marvelous, and I have to give partial credit to the DT 990’s, but the phone itself carried a lot of the load courtesy of the quad DAC and amp that is built in. Playing the track “Leave” by Post Malone, I could tell a significant difference in audio on my v20 than I did on my iPhone 7 which I had plugged into an attachment DAC to fairly compare the difference (since Apple did not include a quad DAC and amp on the 7). It’s a WHOLE NEW listening experience when listening on the v20 compared to the 7 Plus (with and without the silly dongles you’d been for that). And this goes for both music, and movies.
Unplugged, the LG v20 is hands down the best phone speaker I’ve used to date, including with my iPhone. I was a bit of a skeptic seeing the speaker grill on the bottom being the only sound of speaker audio on the phone, especially when charging on a dock, or on a flat surface not immediately facing you. I was able to actually dock the LG v20 in portrait mode in order to watch some DirectTV Now broadcasts shows while out in the park, and even with the elements around me, I could hear crystal clear. When at home, I frequently sit the phone on the countertop without the need to plug into a speaker and can hear audio without a hitch. And this isn’t just your typical base-y music, but I’m talking podcasts, cooking instructions, you name it. With my iPhone, this certainly wasn’t the case at all.
Overall I have to say the LG v20 is my new personal favorite phone. While I will say I wish that LG did a little bit more of a press run with the v20, it is certainly a top notch device. Since the device was announced virtually a day before the iPhone 7, it seems like it flew under the radar a bit, so LG was hoping to capitalize by throwing in a bunch of audio accessories in order to counteract the hype of the headphone jack-less Apple device instead of just marketing their device itself. Such an awesome phone needs and should be highlighted with more than just two or three commercials, but ad placement, and hyped for premiere features like the elite cameras and the stellar software rather than being marketed as a phone that is an audiophile’s dream. At $800 bucks, it’s a pretty hefty price, and if you were one of the unlucky few who did not receive a pair of headphones with the special they had running it’s even more justified to want to pass on the device. However, if you can look past details like this, and want a phone that not only works great straight out of the box, is hands down one of the best smartphone cameras on the market today, with little features that even if you don’t use you’d appreciate just knowing you have… the LG v20 is the device you need to check out.
Would I ditch my iPhone 7 Plus and go to the LG v20, that’s hard to say. I’m fully engulfed in the culture that is Apple, but LG travels with me every single day. Not only is the phone snappy and gets frequent updates to it which I appreciate, but watching movies on it is a dream, especially on the go. Now not everyone can carry around two phones so I will go to lengths to say this: the LG v20 is certainly THE Phablet to have, especially if you’ve been scorned by the Note 7, or if you have not completely handcuffed yourself to Apple products. I don’t know of the last Android phone that impressed me quite like the LG v20, but it’s safe to say, by the time I do, it’ll probably be the update to LG’s v-series device.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review unit
What I Like: the best smartphone for multimedia in the market – great camera, DAC & amp; Front camera is awesome; viewfinder for camera is much wider than Apple’s
What Needs Improvement: For $800, it’s pretty expensive unless you can get the headphone bundle