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LG, the South Korean smartphone vendor, has been struggling a lot in recent times. The company' first valiant attempt in the modular smartphone market with the LG G5 was backfired. Although the G5 has incredible rear cameras and offered stellar performance, it was heavily letdown with its ill-fitted modular design.
Previously, LG used to release only flagship smartphones every year in their famous 'G' series. With the flop show of the LG G4, the company switched to two flagship smartphones per year much like what Samsung does with their 'S' series and 'Note' series of smartphones. And, at the IFA 2015, we saw the LG V10 came into limelight with its unique approach of the dual display, dual front-facing cameras, dual stereo speakers, and nearly everything 'dual.' It inspired many, but we never got a chance to test the phone as it did not reach the Indian shores.
But, that isn't the case with LG V20. With the terrible show of their LG G5 in the country, the firm, earlier this month, announced the V20 in India with a price tag of Rs. 54,999, which was pretty much expected. And, it is worth noticing that the V20 retains all the duals from the V10 and adds one more dual to the list. Yes, we are speaking about the dual rear camera setup. Also, LG has included an exclusive DAC in the phone, which is its USP, probably.
Does the LG V20 justify the asking price? Or is it another flop show from the company? Let's find out in our complete review of the phone.
Design: The Phone Feels Substantially Heavy in Hands
The LG V20 is a larger LG G5 minus the modular mess. However, the phone's chin looks like a removable panel same as the G5. From the first glance itself, we started calling the phone a 'bulky monster,' and yeah, the phone is substantially heavy at 174 grams and easily falls into our list of bulky phones we used this year.
The LG V20 is bigger as well with a 5.7-inch display. The phone comes with dimensions of 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6 mm, and it is worth noticing that it is taller than the Google Nexus 6 with 159.7mm, thanks to the secondary display present above the primary display. Thankfully, the phone is thinner than the competition at 7.6mm.
Most of the front is dominated by the display and the phone boasts of a 72.4 percent screen-to-body ratio. Both the chin and portion above the secondary display are made up of plastic for better RF (Radio Frequency) signals. Apart from this, the phone is entirely made of metal and LG is one such brand offering removable batteries with every smartphone they release onto the market and the V20 is no exception. The phone's rear panel along with the battery is removable. This removable back panel has some interesting mechanism under it sleeves as it automatically opens up when the phone accidentally slips from your hands and protects the display from shatters.
There's nothing fancy with the button placements, though. LG sticks to their design language as the power button is still present on the rear of the phone. That said, the power button also has the fingerprint sensor embedded into it within reach of your index finger. Unlike the scanner on the LG V10, this is an active scanner, which wakes up the device directly from sleep.
The volume rockers are present on the left side of the phone and the USB Type-C port along with the 3.5mm headphone jack and single speaker are present at the bottom of the phone. Overall, the phone feels good in the hand but too bulky at the same time.
Display: The QHD Panel is Bright, but Not as Bright as the Competition
The LG V20 comes with a 5.7-inch Quad HD display with a resolution of 1440*2560 pixels that further expands to a pixel density of 515 PPI. This Quad HD panel is bright and vivid with punchy colors and deep blacks. Having said that, text appeared crisp, and even the sunlight legibility is far better from the previous iteration of LG phones. On the whole, the display on the V20 is a much improved one but slightly lags behind the Google Pixel XL and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge as they both exhibit better colors than the V20.
Another interesting aspect in the LG V20 is its secondary display which is 2.1 inches in size with a resolution of 160x1040 pixels. This display is present above the primary one and acts an always-on display feature present on the LG G5. It displays the notification icons when a notification arrives and when the screen is on, it shows the quick notification toggles such as the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.
Hardware and Performance: Buttery Smooth!
The LG V20 might be the last phone released in 2016 to come powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, which is a quad-core chip with two of its cores clocked at 2.15GHz, and two of them are clocked at 1.6GHz. The phone also gets 4GB of RAM and Adreno 530 GPU to handle the system and graphic intensive operations.
The LG V20, much like other Snapdragon 820 phones released this year, performs well enough even with graphic heavy tasks. The phone heats up a lot when the brightness levels are set to maximum, and as a result, we have experienced severe battery drain. With ample gaming, the phone becomes warm on the rear.
The major flaw which we came across the phone is: when the battery is down to below five percent, the power button becomes irresponsive. To overcome this, we need to pull out the battery (thankfully) and reboot the phone to get it function properly. Apart from this, we never faced a single issue.
Audio Performance: Manufactured to Impress Audiophiles
The LG V20 comes with a special 32-bit Quad DAC that delivers superior sound quality. However, the DAC should be enabled manually to get it working, and that's too easy. There's a notification toggle present for the DAC in the notification center. After turning on the DAC, the audio is heavily impressive and interestingly, LG is bundling a B&O (Bang and Olufsen) headphones. We will be making a separate article on the V20's audio capabilities by the end of this week. Stay tuned for that.
Software: The First Android Nougat Laden Phone Apart from Pixels
The LG V20 comes with Android Nougat based LG Optimus UI out-of-the-box. With the LG G5, the company has ditched the app drawer and all the apps are spread across your home screen, but thankfully, LG has added the traditional app feature. Though, you need to enable it manually.
The LG Optimus UX is a heavily customized interface and there are no signs of stock Android anywhere. LG has added some exclusive features such as the profiles that allow you to create a profile of your choice and these profiles will be automatically enabled based on your location. For example, if you are at home and created a profile exclusively for home timings, then that profile will be activated automatically when you reach your home. However, this feature only works when location services are turned on in your phone.
Apart from these, regular features such as the double tap to wake and sleep and a particular theme engine are also present in the phone. The user interface is neatly polished, and we never came across a single issue with the interface.
Camera: The Same Old Dual Camera Setup
The LG V20 retains the same dual-camera setup as the LG G5. The primary camera sensor on the V20 is of 16MP and the secondary one is an 8MP one with a wide angle lens. Out of them, the images captured by the first sensor turned out to be excellent with great clarity and accurate colors. Low light performance was decent with some noise in extremely low light situations.
However, the major letdown is the 8MP wide-angle camera, which captures decent images in bright light conditions but fails to exhibit the same in low light situations. Noticeable noise can be seen on all the images captured with the 8MP camera on the rear. Having said that, we were pretty much disappointed with the secondary camera.
The most impressive thing with the LG V20 is its video recording capabilities. The phone can record Ultra HD videos, and with the help of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), there is no distortion in the videos at all.
Speaking of the 5MP front-facing camera, a wide-angle lens is present in it as well. You can quickly toggle between the standard camera and a wide-angle camera easily in the camera app. Selfies captured with this camera in bright light conditions turned out to be good but doesn't inspire confidence in low-light shots.
Battery Life: Lasts Easily for a Day
The LG V20 comes with a 3200mAh battery with support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 technology. The phone takes about one and half hours to charge from zero to 100 percent completely and easily lasts for a day with 4G mobile data turned on all the time. With moderate usage involving social messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, etc., one hour of gaming, and 30 minutes of internet browsing, the phone lasted for one and half days.
However, the battery quickly drains while using the camera app. In our review period, the battery drained about 30 percent for 15 minutes of video recording, which is underwhelming. LG G5 has the same issue, and the same continues with the V20 as well. But, with moderate usage, the phone easily lasts for a day on a single charge.
Verdict: The Most Underrated Smartphone of 2016
LG has been with us for a while now, and we know what their smartphones can offer. With the letdown of LG G5, there were several questions asked by the consumers, but thankfully, LG has answered all those with a decent all-rounder in the form of LG V20.
Although the phone is priced aggressively, it justifies the asking price. The phone delivers excellent performance, non-buggy software, decent cameras, and a whole day of battery life. However, there is a stiff competition in the form of Google Pixel XL and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. The Galaxy phone has better aspects than the V20 and is available for a lesser price as well. But, you will miss the wide-angle camera and dual display as well.
The major advantage with the LG V20 is its 32-bit quad DAC that offers superior audio quality, and no other phone matches it regarding audio performance. The loudspeaker is decent as well, whereas we get a below average speaker on the S7 Edge, which is mainly due to its water resistant properties. The LG V20 is clearly a winner if you are looking for a smartphone with incredible audio performance.