Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
LG G6 phone: full, in-depth review
Almost perfect: LG's new flagship Android smartphone is very comfortable to use and has few foibles
- Good battery
- Good low light camera
- Comfortable to hold. Great ergonomics
- IP68 Waterproof
- Selfie cam is poor
- Audio quality is mediocre
The G6 matches the internals of major flagships in a smaller, more-ergonomic body. It does almost everything very well and only persnickety issues with audio and the (mainly Selfie) camera stop us from declaring it the outright king of smartphones.
Price$ 1,008.00 (AUD)
Update: Before you choose a phone, check out the amazing Samsung Galaxy S8 review.
LG’s G series has been getting better and better over the years. The modular G5 was an interesting phone that turned out to be great value once the price dropped (plummeted). Now here’s the G6 which brings a spec sheet and features that aim to take on the best on the market. It might not look too fancy at first glance, but there’s a lot going on. We suspect the big question will be, ‘Is it the phone to get right now, or should you bother waiting for, what history suggests, will be a big price drop in a few months?’
5.7in, 1440 x 2880 LCD screen, 32,64GB/4GB RAM, 2.35GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 821 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU, Dual 13MP rear cameras (regular and wide-angle) plus 5MP front camera, microSD (dual SIM slot on some models), USB-C, IP68 dust/waterproof, Android 7, Google Assistant, 3300mAh battery, 149 x 72 x 8mm, 163g. Full specs here.
Design and handling
Lets face it. It’s not much to look at. It’s a shiny, black (also available in “silver”) box that’s a bit chunky not unlike the disappointing Sony Xperia X Performance. How... ev... er... Phone aficionados will appreciate what LG has done here. The company has focused more on function than form – running more-than-usual usability tests with the public. As such we still have a big, 5.7-inch screen but it takes up a large 80 per cent of the front face – the top and bottom bezels are small compared to competitors. And yet the phone is also much narrower compared to competitors while retaining a useable bezel (so that your fingers don’t interfere with the screen when you’re holding it). That’s because the screen is ‘longer’ than usual. It has a 18:9 aspect ratio instead of the usual 16:9 and this allows for some nifty features that we’ll mention below.
As for the thickness, social media is rife with stories of how users aren’t fussed about super-thin, hard-to-hold phones and would rather have bigger batteries. While the 3,300mAh unit here isn’t the largest on the market, if there was a screen-area-to-battery-size competition, this would do well. The upshot is that this large-screen phone is comfortable to hold even if you have small hands. And if you don’t like the look of it, a case will easily cover that without increasing bulk. We approve.
The power button
One thing we weren’t initially convinced about is having the rear-mounted fingerprint reader at the back double as a power button. This means it’s only easy to press the button and turn on the phone if you’re firmly holding it at the same time. If it’s lying on the table or you’re holding it differently this can be tricky. However, LG’s knock code gets round this. By entering a combo of 6-10 taps around the screen, you can easily unlock it. It works very well. Problem solved.
It’s also worth noting that the fingerprint reader is exceptionally fast and accurate. No matter what orientation, when we tapped it the phone instantly unlocked. However, it wasn’t so comfortable with damp fingers.
The screen itself is an LCD unit – strange considering LG’s owning of the OLED TV space. It’s high quality but the colours don’t pop like they do on some AMOLED competitors. We could also notice a bit of light bleeding through the bottom of the screen on some occasions but it’s not distracting. The screen does emulate the TVs in that it supports Dolby Vision and HDR 10 – this means that colours and contrast can be superior to other screens. Certainly the demo reels we saw were impressive and few won’t be impressed with the video reproduction on offer here. However, at the time of testing, the Netflix app would only let us watch content in HD – not 4K and not with Dolby Vision. It’s early days though and we expect apps to catch up quickly.
One curious design choice is that while Gorilla Glass 5 is used on the back of the phone, the older, weaker Gorilla Glass 3 is used on the main screen. That’s another reason to use a case with this phone.
Don’t expect too much from the speakers. They don’t get particularly loud and they get quite muddy quickly when playing treble-rich and bass-rich music. We say they but it’s really only speaker one at the bottom. Also, the whole phone vibrates in your hand when the volume is turned up – more than we’ve noticed on competitors. It lends itself to headphones.
This carries through to speakerphone usage. While we could make out what was being said, it wasn't as loud-and-clear as competitors.
The G6 uses the same components as the expensive Android flagship Google Pixel XL and also the HTC U Ultra. While it sped along as expected when performing day to day tasks there was definitely some slow down when playing basic games like Angry Birds. We suspect that this was partly down to the not-quite-final versions of our phones’ hardware but it could be due to LG’s heavy tinkering with the raw, Android 7 Operating System. We'll update this as we learn more.
Android 7 is included and it comes with the excellent Google Assistant. We were seriously impressed with this on the Pixel XL and it feels some distance ahead of competitors to the point where we actually use it regularly. Unfortunately it is not compatible with Google Daydream VR yet, though.
Previous users of LG’s phones will be happy that the old penchant for using cheap-looking, unsophisticated icons has gone and, for the most part, it feels like stock Android. LG adds some nice touches though. The knock-to-unlock code (as mentioned above) is still there and works well. You can also get the phone to automatically choose different ringtones for your favourite contacts. A weather animation can appear on the lock screen and Smart Settings can automatically adjust settings/open apps when you’re at/away from home or connect an audio device. A Smart Doctor app can manage memory, keep things ticking along optimally and diagnose problems. You can easily set the size of icons to be bigger or smaller and some apps can run in separate windows – so you can do things like watch video and access social media at the same time. Not all of these features are unique and some can be replicated with third-party apps, but they’re all nicely integrated into the OS and simple to turn on and off.
An 'LG Friends' app lets you connect with physically-nearby friends who have a compatible phone. An LG Health app offers the usual health-tracking trimmings including a pedometer.
The other area LG has focused on is making the most of its 18:9 screen, especially the fact that it can easily be divided into two, equal squares. At a basic level you can adjust the screen sizes of apps although some, like Google Maps navigation, will instantly work better because they can display more of what’s ahead. But the main area where the 'benefits' can be seen is with the camera...
Next: Camera, Battery and Conclusion
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