LG hasn’t had a good year in a long time. The LG G4 was good, but was overshadowed by the Galaxy S6. The LG G5 was, well, simply not very good at all. The LG V10 was solid, as was the V20, but they just didn’t sell. Now, we’re at the LG G6, the company’s first truly great phone in quite some time…
Nomad case for Pixel 3
LG’s take on “Bezel-Light” is fantastic
The first thing you need to talk about with the LG G6 is absolutely its display. LG’s new “FullVision” display is a 5.7-inch, QHD panel with an 18:9 aspect ratio. While 5.7-inches sounds big, it’s not unwieldy on the G6 since the bezels have been trimmed along every side. It’s not as jaw-dropping as the Galaxy S8, but it’s very good-looking and functional too.
In terms of size, the G6 is more compact compared than other handsets like the Pixel XL, making the larger screen easy to handle, and even improving grip thanks to the skinnier overall size.
However, that display doesn’t come without its issues. For one, not all apps take advantage of the extra real estate, and some don’t play well with it. LG tries to combat this, but really, developers are responsible to fix it (and thankfully that’s something Google is pushing heavily).
Then, there’s the fact that the taller display makes certain things harder. This is especially true in two areas ─ hamburger menus and the notification bar. While the former isn’t really that big of an issue, accessing the notification tray is. LG again combats this by offering a button on the navigation bar to pull down the tray, which helps, but I would have much rather seen a gesture like on the Google Pixel.
The 18:9 aspect ratio also means that when you’re using multi-window, the G6 splits them into two equal squares which feels extremely natural and offers up more room compared to a standard screen. It’s a nice touch for multi-tasking which I quite like.
It’s all about the hardware, for me at least
Since I started using the LG G6, there’s been one thing that stands out above all else: its hardware. LG has nailed it in this department, with a metal and glass build that feels solid in the hand with no issues in grip ─ something I can rarely say about phones with a glass back. I used the phone both in and out of a case, and for the first time when using a phone with a glass back, I can actually say that I prefer the feeling without the case.
The unit I tested was black with a gray frame, and I can’t express enough how solid this hardware is. The metal frame makes the phone look thicker than it is, but that’s not a bad thing. Its almost perfect thickness allows the phone to sit in my hand without any fear of dropping it.
I do have to note, though, that as is the case with glass back phones, especially dark ones like this — this phone is a fingerprint magnet. You’ll be wiping it off pretty regularly if you pick up the black model, although the other options do conceal this a bit better. One other thing to note is that, despite the use of Gorilla Glass 5, the back of this phone can still scratch, and it can do so fairly easily, so be careful.
Along the top is the headphone jack (with no DAC in the US), the power buttons are along the side, and along the bottom edge, you’ll find the single speaker and USB-C port. It’s simple, and solid. LG has simply built a great smartphone when it comes to hardware, and I absolutely love it.
The software is… fine, but performance isn’t
In my review of the LG V20, I gave LG credit for developing a solid overall software experience, and not much has changed on the LG G6. Just like on the V20, the G6 comes out of the box with Android Nougat with LG’s skin over top. For the most part, LG’s skin is good, with several big elements from stock Android left in. However, that’s really all that’s there.
There’s just nothing particularly special about this software. Of course, there are the typical LG features, like Q-Slide, but most of them are pretty pointless if you ask me.
Some things come in handy, like Knock Code (which lets you unlock the phone when the screen is off) but overall there’s just nothing special here. In a way, that’s a good thing, since it shows that LG has really trimmed back on the software front, let Google’s efforts shine through a bit more, and focused its attention on more important things.
But there’s not really any user experience-enhancing software experiences here, and that’s definitely not going to help draw in the average consumer.
Then, there’s the unfortunate fact that, despite the trimmed back software from LG, performance hasn’t gotten any better… at all. The LG G6 had decent performance out of the box, but in just over a week of daily use, that has already degraded, which doesn’t give me any confidence on how this phone will age.
Lag is apparent throughout the UI and everything feels a bit slow compared to other phones. Many will point toward the Snapdragon 821 as the problem here, but I highly doubt that’s the case. Rather, I’d point the finger at LG’s simple lack of attention given to optimizing the phone. Just like there’s nothing new here, it feels like optimization wasn’t paid enough attention to. It just feels like my unit is still on pre-release software, even though it’s not.
The LG G6 is also the first phone to come out of the box with Google Assistant (outside of the Pixel), which would have been awesome, if Google hadn’t rolled out the functionality to basically every other phone ahead of the G6’s launch.
Battery life is shockingly good, all things considered…
One of the big things that concerned me leading up to the G6’s launch was its potential battery stats. LG has packed an impressive 5.7-inch display in this phone, but under the hood, there’s a mere 3,300 mAh power pack. Just looking at the footprint of this phone alone, that would be a massive battery, but considering the size, it’s really not.
Despite that, the LG G6 pulls pretty solid results. Personally, I’m not a super heavy smartphone user simply due to the fact that the majority of my day is spent writing at a computer. However, I was given the chance to put the LG G6 through some stress tests on a trip to New York City. Over the course of an 18-hour day, the G6 provided me with enough battery to get through most of the day, with one quick charge in the car to ensure I’d make it to the end of the day.
Over the course of an 18-hour day (6:30am to 11pm), the G6 provided me with enough battery to get through most of the day, with one quick charge in the car to ensure I’d make it to the end of the day. During that day, I used the phone for taking pictures, firing off messages, using social media, and various other tasks, including a few hotspot sessions. By about 3pm I was down to about 40%, and charged it up to 60% which I then finished the day on. Personally, I was happy with those results, and standard day-to-day usage matched up with this for the most part. So, in summary, battery life is pretty solid on the LG G6, and you’ll likely be happy with it.
It’s also worth noting that LG has included wireless charging on the US variant of the LG G6, something I enjoyed. While, granted, fast wireless charging isn’t available, the simple act of using the wireless charging method of your choice is a nice addition, as was Quick Charge 3.0.
I’ll never get over the wide-angle camera, but it’s still not flawless
One of my favorite things about using LG smartphones is the camera. Since the LG G5 the company has been using a dual-camera system that uses one standard sensor backed up by a wide-angle option which can capture much more of the scene without moving the phone. It’s extremely handy, and in the G6, these two sensors finally match up in quality for the most part.
Overall, both sensors are pretty good. Stills taken from either lens in a well-lit area are pretty solid, and while low-light isn’t great, it’s good enough for most users. However, this isn’t exactly what you’d find in the Google Pixel or in one of Samsung’s flagships. It’s a good camera, but it’s not perfect by any means.
This is especially true in video, where the primary sensor takes decent video, but the wide-angle sensor, which is very useful in video, takes less than stellar shots. The biggest issue is the lack of stabilization in that lens, which turns a handheld shot into a mess.
LG’s camera app is pretty great. It’s easy to use and presents full manual controls both in stills and video, a huge plus for anyone looking for a bit more control over their shot. The camera app also includes a camera roll (disabled by default for some reason) that can take up the added screen real estate and give you a live view of your previously taken photos in the viewfinder. It’s a nice touch which makes sense given LG’s new display.
The little things
- Speaker & audio quality
LG has put a focus on audio quality in the past year, but it doesn’t really give the same love to the G6. The 32-bit DAC I adored in the LG V20 is limited to certain regions only, and the speaker, while loud, isn’t anything special and is easily muffled. The standard audio jack on the US model is solid overall, though.
- Fingerprint sensor
As usual, LG has its fingerprint sensor on the back of the G6 which doubles as a power button. The interaction here feels natural, and the sensor itself is quick and reliable.
The LG G6 also packs an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. This probably isn’t something you’ll use on the daily, but it will certainly come in handy if you want to take pictures in the pool or jam out to some music in the shower. LG also says that the phone can handle a drop or two, and it certainly feels like it could.
The LG G6 is available in a few colors, but really, I can only recommend the black one. While yes, the other colors will conceal fingerprints better, they also eliminate the illusion of a bezel-less display since the front panel’s color matches the back. It’s a minor thing, but it’s something that even Samsung understands on the S8, so I’m not sure why LG decided to use colors in this case.
Overall, the LG G6 isn’t the perfect phone, nor is it the best I’ve tried in a while. It’s a great phone, but that’s about it. For now, it’s worth mentioning, however, that it’s the only phone you can buy that brings the mostly-bezel-less display experience. As you probably know, that’s going to change soon.
The hardware is fantastic (including its awesome 18:9 display), and the cameras are solid, but the overall software performance really knocks this phone down a lot for me personally. LG could fix this in software updates, but given the company’s track record, I’m not counting on that.
If you pick up the LG G6, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with it, in fact, you’ll probably be quite happy with it. LG did a lot of good things with the G6, however, I don’t think this is a phone worth rushing to the store to buy, at least not right now.
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