When I reviewed the LG V20, I explained how much of a flop the 2016 LG G5 was. Its modularity factor was clumsy, Friends never really took off – okay, I’m not gonna explain myself again. But you get the point. LG just tried way too much stuff last year and they failed while doing so.
The V20 fixed most of these flaws. They got rid of the modular factor altogether, found another (and really clever) way to include a removable battery, and gave the whole phone a new design that feels sturdy, durable, and all around great in the hand despite being a bit too big for some people.
But it’s 2017, and it’s time for the successor to the G5 to make it’s debut. Hence, the LG G6.
The G6 has taken everything wrong with the G5 and absolutely obliterated it from existence. It follows a new design language manufacturers are beginning to adopt by slimming down the bezels surrounding the display. There’s also modern-day specs inside, therefore categorizing the handset as a flagship. But is this enough for you to buy one?
Let’s start with the display. The G6 features a 5.7-inch Quad HD+ display that packs 2880×1440 pixels into an unusual 18:9 aspect ratio. It’s this factor that gives the G6 a taller form factor than normal. And since not every app is optimized to take on this dimension, you’re gonna get black bars above and below open applications. You have the choice to crop them in to fill up the entire screen, but this way some controls get cut off and buttons aren’t as accessible.
The same goes for video. Most videos, movies, and television shows are shot in 16:9, but thanks to the 18:9 aspect ratio of the G6, you get black bars on either side of the content. This isn’t something that’ll drive you crazy, but it gets kind of annoying.
Of course, any content shot in 18:9 looks extremely gorgeous and immersive since the display is as big as it is and takes up 80% of the front of the phone. Everything also looks good thanks to those rounded corners which LG says even helps with drop protection in case the phone slides out of your hand. The overall quality of the display is also great, with good contrast and vibrant colors throughout. It’s by no means an AMOLED panel since LG continues to use LCDs for whatever reason, but it at least gets bright enough and does the job well throughout the day.
The G6’s display also supports Dolby HDR content which not many people are pushing right now. I’m sure in the future this will change, but for now, you’re limited to just Netflix and Amazon who have a few select titles streaming in this quality.
I’ve probably already said enough about the display and how good it is, but there are some changes LG has made to the software on the G6 thanks to its size and aspect ratio that are worth noting.
For one, while using Android Nougat’s split-screen multitasking, you can have two apps open in two perfect squares since the aspect ratio boils down to 2:1 and allows for this type of arrangement.
LG has also included a live feed of all photos and videos you take to the left side of the camera app so you know what you’re taking pictures of.
Finally, you can also use a special Square Camera app that will take a square photo and automatically allow you to preview it on the bottom of the screen. All of these features and other little tweaks throughout the UI take great advantage of the extra screen real estate present.
The overall design of the G6 isn’t too shabby either. It features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and Gorilla Glass 5 on the back that, by the way, isn’t all that prone to fingerprints. There’s an aluminum rail surrounding the borders of the device, while chamfers add a little extra pizzazz to the look. Two cameras sit on the rear alongside the fingerprint sensor/power button which definitely takes getting used to, while the front camera, ambient light sensor, earpiece, the display, and an LG logo sit on the front. On the top, you get a microphone and a headphone jack; on the left sits volume up and down keys; on the bottom is a USB-C port, speaker, and microphone; and the right side houses nothing more than a SIM/microSD card tray.
The G6 feels great in the hand. It’s easily manageable thanks to the 18:9 aspect ratio and the fact that it’s only 2.83-inches wide. It doesn’t feel as big as something like the Google Pixel XL or iPhone 7 Plus with their measly 5.5-inch screens, while it’s definitely not as small as something like a Galaxy S7 or iPhone 7. Rather, it meets somewhere in the middle with a large screen and small body. This was LG’s goal all along with this new look and feel, and I have to say, they pretty much hit the ball out of the park.
It’s also waterproof. LG has been granted an IP68 rating for the G6 which allows for the phone to be in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes before bad things start happening. It’s a handy feature to have and is almost mandatory to include in 2017 since more and more phones are beginning to support different types of element proofing.
Of course, with waterproofing comes some compromises. Rather a removable battery like LG had with the G5 and V20, the G6 is forced to include a sealed-in cell. There’s also a pretty bad speaker on the bottom that’s required to be present in order to be properly waterproof. Sure, these are just nit-picky things to complain about, but they’re definitely worth noting if you’re coming from a previous LG device or one with improvements to these two areas of interest.
Inside of the G6, you’ll find a Snapdragon 821 paired with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU. Yes, these aren’t the latest and greatest specifications available in a smartphone (this goes solely to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ which sport Snapdragon 835s and Adreno 540s), but they’re decent enough to provide great, fluid speeds and almost zero stutters during use. I say almost since LG’s skin on top of Android isn’t all that optimized for the hardware present and therefore results in a slight lag or two when pushing the phone. But most people probably won’t see these imperfections since I was really challenging the G6 during my testing, so I’m gonna say performance is spot on.
While playing games, you’ll also get a great experience. Apps like Asphalt 8 and Stack work great on the G6, especially thanks to its big display. Mind you, a game like Super Mario Run will include black bars on the top and bottom since it’s not yet optimized for 18:9 displays while cropping it to fit the entire screen results in some controls and interface elements getting cut off. But as more and more apps begin getting outfitted for taller displays, gaming on a device like the G6 will get a lot better.
Regarding the software, it’s Android 7.0 Nougat outfitted with LG’s UX 6.0 on top. By no means is this my favorite Android skin as the default launcher doesn’t include an app drawer, the color scheme is childish, and the icons are pretty ugly to say the least, but it’s fine for the average consumer, LG’s target audience with the G6. Of course, since AT&T supplied us with this review unit, there’s a boatload of junkware onboard you’ll probably never use, but this is to be expected when you don’t buy the phone unlocked.
Speaking of AT&T, we tested the G6 on their network all around the South Jersey area. Much like the V20, we experienced data download speeds of around 40-50 Mbps and upload speeds of 8-12 Mbps. We also never got any dropped calls or interrupted connections other than a few extremely weak points around Vineland while streaming music or watching YouTube. Then again, this rarely happened so we were pleased with the cellular connections we were provided.
As for the cameras, there’s two mounted to the back of the G6 with each serving up 13MP sensors. The difference, however, lies in their angles, whereas the standard camera features a normal angle while the secondary sensor has a wider angle. This allows users to capture more of a scene in their photo if need be. There isn’t a huge drop in quality when switching, but note you’ll get some GoPro-esque distortion around photos’ edges when using the wide-view camera.
Photos taken with the G6 look fine. There’s nothing special other than a Pro mode most people will probably ignore, while colors and contrast seem pretty on-point alongside the cameras’ depth of field. Dynamic range could be better, but all around these are two decent cameras. They won’t stack up against leading competitors like the Google Pixel or Galaxy S8 which is really a shame, but they’re good enough.
It’s also worth noting the autofocus on the G6 is pretty terrible. During my use, I had to manually focus each and every time I wanted a subject to step forward. Therefore, don’t expect to be able to move closer to something and expect your phone to automatically focus properly if you pick up this device.
Video is also rather decent. Again, nothing special in this department, but it takes some pretty good-looking 4K video at 30 frames per second.
As for the front camera, there’s a 5MP sensor to work with that includes a wide-angle view to get more friends in your groupie. It’s fine for taking quick pictures for Snapchat or Instagram, but not much else.
Battery life is one area where I was pretty disappointed. Sure, there’s a 3,300mAh battery in the G6, but that doesn’t mean squat when you’re dealing with a 5.7-inch Quad HD+ display. Normally, I’d get around 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours of screen-on time which is nothing special, while standby time is also pretty terrible as it tends to drop from 90% to 50% overnight. Luckily, there’s a USB-C port that supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 and wireless charging in the U.S. if you need it to top off during the day (which you probably will), but overall, don’t expect to get more than a day of mid-to-heavy use out of the G6.
The LG G6, in a nutshell, is a good smartphone. It’s also LG’s saving grace since the G5 flopped last year. But the phone isn’t groundbreaking or pushing the limits of design like the Galaxy S8 is doing. Really, the G6 is just there if you don’t have the money for an S8. I hate to say it, but that’s the truth. By no means am I downplaying the device because, in reality, it’s a great phone with good specs, a nice screen, stellar build, and decent cameras. But LG played things safe to kick off 2017, with the only gimmick or differentiator being the dual cameras on the back. This really isn’t enough to make this particular handset exciting, and I’ve found it pretty boring. In fact, I had to really push myself to use this device, that’s how bland it is.
Regardless, LG shoe-horned its way back into the smartphone game after a rough 2016. And it’s nice to see them competing for attention again, but I’m not sure if you should buy it. I mean, the S8 is so much prettier. But I get it, not everyone can afford a $720 smartphone. That’s why you buy this, the LG G6, for $650 and make the compromises that come with a weaker camera setup, poor software, and a lesser-grade processor.
But hey, the display is gorgeous.