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LG Velvet Dual-Screen Review: Unique Form-Factor But Questionable Overall Performance
LG made huge profits during the festive season sale, thanks to the 2019's flagship smartphone- LG G8X. Down from its original price- Rs. 49,999 to just Rs. 19, 990, the flagship device sold like hot cakes on Flipkart giving the veteran brand a record revenue of Rs. 350 crores in less than 12 hours. I am still doing the math around LG's profit-loss game with yearly schemes of selling flagship phones at one-third of their original cost. Technically phone business isn't LG's focus area in India since last few years. The brand needs a new strategy, new product portfolio and an aggressive marketing plan to revive its lost market share to Samsung and Chinese brands.
- Unique Dual-Screen Design
- Excellent Display
- Premium Aesthetics
- 3.5mm Audio Jack
- Impressive Audio
- Durable Body
- Effective Multitasking
- Underwhelming Battery Life
- Irregular Software Update Cycle
- Occasional Lags
- Below Par Camera Performance
Despite poor yearly sales and tough competition, LG isn't shying away from experimenting, which is something worth appreciating. The all-new LG Velvet Dual-screen smartphone represents the very sentiment. It's a sleek and premium looking phone with a two-year-old flagship Snapdragon chipset. What makes it truly one-of-its-kind in its respective price bracket is the additional accessory that gives the device a whole new makeover. The dual-screen accessory once again reminds us of the G8X and places the Velvet in the leagues of innovative and premium dual-screen foldable smartphones.
After using the LG Velvet with and without the dual-screen accessory, I am sharing my experience in the following review.
LG Velvet Design
The Velvet name seems justified when you see and pick up the phone in your hands. It is unbelievably sleek, minimalistic and simply looks gorgeous. In fact, the LG Velvet is one of the sleekest (7.9mm) smartphone I tested in 2020. The front of the device is occupied by a mammoth 6.8-inch curved OLED screen with a waterdrop notch. The side bezels are extremely thin and blend seamlessly with the tapered sides.
Refreshing Design With Corning Gorilla Glass Back Panel
The minimalistic back panel, which is technically a layer of the Corning Gorilla Glass 5, also tapers towards the sides and add to the premium feel. The newly designed linear triple-lens camera module with varied sensors sizes reflects a falling water droplet and looks refreshing.
The Velvet is available in only two color variants in India- Aurora Silver and Aurora Black. It's a bit of a disappointment because globally LG unveiled the sleek handset in six distinctive colors- Aurora White, Aurora Gray, Aurora Green, Aurora Silver, Illusion Sunset, and New Black.
IP68 Water-Dust Resistant And MIL-STD 810G Certified
The Velvet might have a bit fragile appearance but it feels solid in hands and maintains high durability standards. Similar to all LG flagships, the Velvet is also IP68 water and dust resistant and MIL-STD 810G Certified. Based on our experience with LG flagships; the Velvet can easily withstand some rough handling. Overall, if looks and durability are what you are looking for in a smartphone, the Velvet is worth considering.
The metal frame firmly holds the two sides and houses all important buttons and ports. The phone even offers a 3.5mm audio jack and a stereo speaker setup signifying that LG has once again focused on delivering a solid audio performance. Additionally, the Velvet also comes equipped with a hybrid SIM card tray offering a microSD card to expand the phone's built-in memory to up to 2TB.
Moving on, the Velvet can be an ergonomic nightmare. Due to the bigger 6.8-inch curved display and super glossy finish, the Velvet is extremely slippery and is best used with a good case. You can buy some good quality cases for the Velvet or can make a one-time investment on the dual-screen accessory which also works as a solid case for the Velvet. Let's find out more about the dual-screen module which costs an additional Rs. 13,000.
LG Velvet Usability With Dual-Screen Accessory
The Velvet is already a big phone and isn't quite easy to use with one hand. Strapping the dual-screen accessory makes it even bulkier and demands two hands for proper handling. As the secondary screen is technically a battery-less accessory, it draws power from the phone's 4,300mAh battery cell and uses the phone's Type-C charging port to function. The case ships with a magnetic connector for Type-C charging port so that you don't have to take out the phone every time you plug it on charging. Additionally, the dual-screen accessory has cutouts for audio jack and bottom-firing speaker.
Decent Foldable Case With The Third Display For Quick Glance
The dual-screen accessory also works as a good foldable case for the device that offers the required protection from accidental damages. The case is made up of decent quality plastic, which could have been better for the asking price, and has been given a matte finish. The case even adds a third cover display to let you see time, date and some other useful information without opening the case. Further, the secondary display can be reverse folded making it easy to use the Velvet with one hand. The software allows you to turn off, dim the screen or keep it on in the reverse folded form-factor.
LG's software customizations for dual-screen let you dim the screen which is not being used or simply turn it off to save some battery life. You can also control the secondary display's brightness independently of the primary screen but you cannot use the notification panel on both the screens at the same time. Also, LG doesn't offer an option to customize the lock screen on the secondary display. You can only customize the primary lock screen which limits the usability of a fully functional secondary screen.
LG Velvet Display- 6.8-inch Full HD+ (2,460 x 1,080)
The Velvet sports a big 6.8-inch OLED 20.5:9 aspect ratio curved display with a standard 1080p resolution (2,460 x 1,080). It's an excellent screen for binge-watching, reading and for other day-to-day phone tasks. The P-OLED display with ~395 PPI density produces deep blacks, vibrant colors and impressive viewing angles. LG's color science on the Velvet's P-OLED seems highly accurate and better than OLEDs from Samsung and OnePlus devices. If you spend most of your time consuming multimedia content on your handset, the Velvet is an excellent sub-40K phone. Further, the screen also gets fairly bright for a comfortable outdoor viewing experience. But not everything is excellent with the P-OLED display on the Velvet. It also falls short of expectations in some areas.
Dated 60Hz Refresh Rate And Teardrop Notch Design
The 60Hz refresh rate feels dated on the mid-range flagship that costs Rs. 37,000, especially if you have already moved to a higher refresh rate panel. I shifted from the OnePlus 8T's 120Hz display and the difference is clearly noticeable. The Velvet's 60Hz OLED lacks fluidity of a higher refresh rate screen and you can feel it while navigating through the UI and while scrolling through social media timeline. Further, the Velvet still uses an old teardrop styled notch that's so 2018. You can still get away or get used to the teardrop notch but the dated refresh rate is a definite letdown.
Having said that, if you haven't made the transition to a higher refresh rate panel, LG Velvet won't disappoint you; however, if you are looking for a fluid display user-experience, you must explore the market. The OnePlus 8, OnePlus 8T and the Galaxy S20 FE are some good alternatives. But what these handsets lack is the support for a dual-screen module which can enhance your multimedia experience multifold. Let's find out how.
LG Velvet Dual-Screen User-Experience
Foldables are extremely costly and can set you back by at least 1.25 lacs INR. The Velvet tries to offer somewhat similar functionality at one-third of the cost with the Dual-Screen accessory. Priced at Rs. 13,000, the battery-less flip cover also works as a protective case for this rather sleek and slippery device. The accessory adds a fully functional 6.8-inch OLED display that works just like the Velvet's primary screen. Take it as another Velvet handset strapped on the left-hand side that can be dismantled when required. The screen can be used for all day-to-day phone tasks and comes extremely handy in several use cases such as gaming, reading, e-shopping, note-making, etc. Below are some use cases for LG Velvet Dual Screen.
Use Dual Screen For Enhanced Multitasking Experience
· You can read the news on the primary display and watch YouTube videos on the secondary screen.
· Use primary display as a gaming console while gameplay runs on the secondary screen for a console-like gaming experience.
· Run Google maps on the primary display and use the secondary screen for finding interesting places around or simply to scroll your social media timeline.
· Use camera viewfinder on the primary screen and use the secondary display to check out the gallery. Run different e-commerce apps on two displays to compare prices and products.
· Keep the device on a flat surface in flex mode with screen fixed at any angle to stream multimedia content.
Create Custom Multi-App Shortcuts
The possibilities are endless and LG also allows you to create custom app bundles to run two different apps on two displays. You can create unlimited app bundles from ‘Multi App Shortcut' to run tow apps as a pair. The first app will open on the dual-screen while the second one will run on the primary display. LG also offers some neat dual-screen settings that allow you to customize the secondary display. You can choose to keep the dual-screen turned on or set it to 10-sec timeout. The dual-screen settings also allow you to move swap the content on both screens and move what's showing on one screen to the other.
Processing, Gaming And Multitasking Performance
LG's choice of underlying chipset for the Velvet in the Indian market is rather surprising. The Indian variant of the LG Velvet is powered by the Snapdragon 845 SoC, while the global variant gets the latest Snapdragon 765G chipset. A two-year-old 4G-only chipset on a smartphone which costs Rs. 37,000 isn't the ideal hardware I would recommend to someone in today's time, especially when the 5G-enabled Snapdragon 865 powered devices are retailing at slightly higher price-point. However, if you are eyeing an affordable dual-screen device, the Velvet is the device to go for. You can buy LG Velvet in only one configuration in India, i.e. 6GB RAM with 128GB storage.
Having said that, the SD845 powering the velvet has already proven its capabilities in several flagship handsets and is no doubt a bad processor. It still holds pretty well in the year 2020 and makes the Velvet a very capable value flagship handset. However, the performance doesn't match the likes of 2020 flagship chipsets, especially with higher refresh rate panels and Android 11 out-of-the-box. The Velvet feels slightly underpowered while running heavy games and when you run two heavy apps on different displays. It is also marred by occasional lags and hiccups, especially when the dual-screen accessory is strapped. Also, the in-screen fingerprint scanner is very inconsistent and often struggles to unlock the handset.
Software Performance And Update Cycle
The Velvet runs on LG UX 10 based on Android 10. The UI is colorful, offers pleasing animations and comes loaded with several useful features like LG 3D Sound Engine, Integrated Search, smooth Android 10 gestures, built-in screen recording, Dual apps, Game launcher, etc. At the same time, I also found some bloatware and unwanted persistent hardware notifications saying don't remove your battery for a phone that ships with a non-removable battery. The phone can definitely use some software optimization to make the user-experience smoother as the hardware is still very much capable.
Moving on, LG has always lacked behind the competition in the software game and the Velvet is no different. Unlike most of the mid-range, value flagship and flagship handsets in the Q4 2020, the Velvet comes running on the Android 10 out-of-the-box. While I am sure the Android 11 will be around the corner, the Android 12 update is a big question for the Velvet. LG's software update cycle is slow, irregular and is a serious deal-breaker. I still have an LG G7 ThinQ which isn't listed to receive the Android 11 update.
Camera Performance- Not Up To The Mark
The Velvet comes equipped with a triple-lens camera setup featuring a 48MP f/1.8 Samsung GM2 primary sensor, 8MP, f/2.2 wide-angle lens and a 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor. For selfies, the Velvet boasts a 16MP f/1.9 front-facing camera. Images from primary and wide-angle lens show the good dynamic range and accurate color tones but turn out soft. Even the 48MP shots look somewhat softer and lack the level of detailing that one would expect from a value flagship smartphone. It is only when you feed the camera system a great amount of light that it captures crisp shots with wide dynamic range. But then, the dynamic range goes back to being poor if you zoom in to capture 2x shots. One good thing about the Velvet's camera is that LG has managed to tune the cameras well to offer similar color profiles across the sensors, something OnePlus hasn't been able to figure out yet.
Average-Looking Portraits And Wide-Angle Shots
LG has added a dedicated 5MP depth sensor that's very inconsistent and can only deliver decent results with some efforts. It largely keeps the centre of the object in focus and leaves the corners with poor edge detection. Some handsets sans a dedicated depth sensor deliver better results than the Velvet's camera setup. The Pixel 4a is one good example. As far as wide-angle shots are concerned, the camera only performs when there's an ample amount of light. The low-resolution sensor mostly captures softer images with poor detailing. As far as video recording is concerned, the phone captures crisp and steady 4k 30fps videos that get the job done. The phone also has a dedicated night mode that can deliver decent results if you have a tripod handy.
Battery Life Could Have Been Better
The sleek form-factor comes at a cost of a modest 4,300 mAh battery cell which only lasts a full day with moderate usage. The battery life further drops if you are using the dual-screen for continuous multimedia playback and gaming. While I liked the sleek design of the LG Velvet, a bigger battery would have made much more sense for a device that supports the dual-screen form-factor. Also, the Velvet's charging time is lagging behind the competition. The phone ships with an 18W power adaptor that takes two hours to full refuel the phone's battery. Smartphones in 2020 can fully charge from flat to 100% in less than 40 minutes.
LG Velvet is a design-focused value flagship smartphone with unique dual-screen form-factor. It is the only handset in the sub-50K price-point that comes close to offer a foldable smartphone user-experience at one-third of the price-point of premium foldable devices. If that's what you are looking for, the Velvet will not disappoint you. Other performance parameters remain largely outdated. LG could have made some significant improvements on the camera front but the poor choice of sensors left us wanting for more from this gorgeous looking smartphone. Also, the lack of 5G connectivity, poor software update cycle and a higher refresh rate panel are major deal-breakers.