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LG V30 Review: The Hidden Gem

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LG’s V series of smartphones has always been a bit confused. The company tended to pack everything but the kitchen sink in the smartphones which were made of big, bulky materials that felt like they belong in no other place but your garage. But I have to admit it: I loved the V20. It was one of my favorite phones of last year, possibly the best I tried. But it’s 2017 now and form over function seems to be the new trend. What with bezels and headphone jacks flying out the window, you’d like LG would try to jump on this same bandwagon with the introduction of the V30 as a follow-up to the G6 in order to stay modern and keep the V series alive. Well, they kind of did, but in a way that, to me, makes the handset the best of 2017.

Period.

The first thing you’ll notice about the V30 is its design. Immediately, you’ll notice how glossy, smooth, and premium it feels in your hand. It’s basically the other extreme LG could have taken its V series to after going the opposite direction with tough-as-nails designs for the V10 and V20. There’s glass on the front and rear of the V30 and a stainless steel frame around the edges which seamlessly meets the front and back panels. The phone is also freakishly light at just 158 grams. You’ll surely feel like this phone will fly out of your hands.

The phone just feels perfect

At the same time, the V30 is manageable. It fits a 6-inch pOLED Quad HD+ 18:9 display into a body smaller than even the Google Pixel 2 XL thanks to its near non-existent bezels. To me, the phone just feels perfect since it’s not too wide, not too tall, and can actually be used with one hand while, say, sending a text. That’s saying something for a phone with such a large display.

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I really don’t see any issues with the display

Actually, let’s talk about that display since it’s been the center of controversy for quite a while. Many are complaining about the screen on the Pixel 2 XL due to its drab colors and blue shifting issue while looking at the phone off-axis. Because it’s the same display as what’s on the V30 (LG built both, by the way), people also accuse the V30 of these downfalls. During my own usage and testing, however, I really don’t see the issues. The V30’s screen came out of the box already saturated enough so it doesn’t look too cartoonish or without any color at all, while the blue shifting isn’t as bad as what’s on the Pixel 2 XL. I was able to confirm this after I got my Pixel 2 review unit. Yes, the V30’s screen still looks blue while looking at it from different angles, but I tend to look at my phone straight-on more often than off-axis so the problem never bothered me.

It’s also not a deal breaker. Whereas many reviewers are boycotting the V30 because of its display, I’ve actually found it to be nearly as bright and vibrant as Samsung’s panels, therefore making it very nice to use day-to-day. In fact, I can say the same for the Pixel 2 XL’s screen after it received that software upgrade, but I won’t dive too deep into this. In a nutshell, if you pick up the V30, you won’t be disappointed in the display’s quality.

(It’s also worth noting I didn’t experience any ghosting effects some users are reporting, although, over time, it could happen. I’ll keep you in the loop over on Twitter).

Sitting above the display is an earpiece and front-facing camera, while below sits an extremely small bezel that houses display components. The V30’s bottom has a USB-C port and loudspeaker which is sub-par in quality, and the top features something we don’t typically see nowadays: a headphone jack. I’ll have much more on this later.

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The back is where you’ll find a dual-camera system, LED flash, and fingerprint sensor that doubles as a power button. LG’s been doing this trick for years now and it kind of grows on you once you get familiar with the handset. Volume buttons are to the left of the device, while the right side houses the SIM/microSD card slot. The entire package is even rated at IP68 water and dust resistant so you don’t have to worry about getting it wet.

The V30 shouldn’t shatter with an accidental drop

It’s also worth mentioning the V30 has passed the MIL-STD-810G Transit Drop Test, meaning you also shouldn’t have to worry about accidental stumbles onto hard surfaces. I wouldn’t go out testing this for yourself, but at least you shouldn’t experience your entire device shattering into pieces of glass with a single accidental drop.

Overall, the V30 has a beautiful design. Like I said earlier, it’s basically the complete opposite of what we’ve seen with past V series smartphones and directly competes with other beauties on the market such as the Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X. It’s one of the lightest smartphones you’ll ever pick up, and the entire device is usable with one hand. It’s essentially the spitting image of a 2017 flagship, and I love it.

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Inside the V30 is a Snapdragon 835 processor, Adreno 540 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. A special V30+ variant gets you 128GB of space for storing your apps, games, music, and more. I shouldn’t have to tell you the V30 is fast based on what’s seen in this spec sheet, but I’ll do it anyway. Day-to-day operations are lightning fast and the entire device zips around like any other high-end smartphone in 2017. The software on board, Android 7.1.1 Nougat with LG’s UX 6.0 (soon to be upgraded to Android Oreo), is even optimized to offer better performance than in year’s past. Mind you, it’s still not perfect with some elements of the OS laid out a bit differently than some will come to expect, but simply slapping on a third-party launcher and downloading a theme from the Play Store can make all the difference. I’ve actually been using the modded Pixel Launcher for most of my time with the phone and have enjoyed my experience as the phone handles the software nicely.

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A big design difference between the V30 and the V series of the past is the fact that the new one doesn’t come with a dedicated secondary screen on the top. Instead, LG has opted to include a software feature called the Floating Bar that acts the same way. You can use it to access your favorite apps quickly, control music playback, or quickly contact one of five assigned people. Unfortunately, previous LG V10 and V20 fans likely won’t appreciate the change as it isn’t as utilitarian as having a second screen. However, the handset kind of eliminates the need for such a feature since you can even use all the off-screen functions you could with the V20 and V10 on the V30’s always-on screen. Therefore, I haven’t missed the V20’s secondary screen, even though I rarely use the Floating Bar.

I’d also like to note that while swiping through pages or menus within Android, it’s a pleasure with the V30 since its screen is slightly curved at either side. It just adds a touch of satisfaction while using the phone.

Oh, and bloatware with my Verizon unit is out of control. Verizon, stop it. Stop it right now.

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The cameras on the V30 are the bomb

An area where the V30 absolutely shines is the camera setup. LG’s V series of smartphones has always proven to provide some of the best photo and video capturing experiences, and the V30 doesn’t fail to live up to this expectation. On the back sits a dual camera array consisting of a 16MP main lens and ultra-wide-angle 13MP shooter to take in more of a landscape. At least for me, a wide-angle camera is better than having a secondary lens that can only take bokeh or black-and-white photos since it offers more utility by letting you get more of a scene in a single photo.

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As you can see, photos in good lighting are excellent. Sharpness is on point, colors aren’t oversaturated, and the amount of light let in is usually enough to not overblow highlights or elements like clouds. The camera’s HDR capabilities are also fantastic and balance everything out nicely. As an added bonus, the barrel effect of the secondary shooter has also been reduced by 30% with the V30 over last year’s V20 which makes for a cleaner shot.

Night time photography is also excellent thanks to the V30’s main camera featuring a f/1.6 aperture, the first for any smartphone on the market. It’s nice to be able to let in a bit more light into the foreground, so I’m a fan of this feature.

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Of course, you can’t talk about the V30 without talking about its many shooting modes. LG packs one of the best pro modes in any smartphone (if not the best) and lets you fine-tune exactly how you want your photo or video to look. Exposures, highlights, focus – you name it and it’s probably adjustable one way or another.

New for the V30 are fresh video capturing tools all grouped into a new mode called Cine Mode. In this mode, you can select a point on your frame to slowly zoom into much like you’d see in a professional film. Normally, smartphones only let you zoom into the center of a frame, so this feature offers some much-needed versatility. You can also add a movie-like filter to your image to capture dramatic shots and add a touch of flair to your project. Finally, you’re also able to save your video files in Cine Log format which literally strips your videos of any color correction so you can apply them yourself in post-production.

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Of course, LG didn’t leave those who may like to just capture photos in the dust as they’ve also added integration with a new service called Graphy. Graphy is an app you can install which lets you add professional shooting configurations while in Manual Photo Mode to get the type of shot you desire without having to adjust the controls yourself. I’ve found it extremely convenient since I’m not the biggest camera junky out there.

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My face is NOT supposed to be that soft.

Unfortunately, the front-facing camera on the V30 can’t receive this much praise. It’s basically a potato, but a bit better (maybe a sweet potato?). You won’t wanna use it for vlogging or anything, but a quick snap for Instagram Stories shouldn’t hurt. Just don’t plan on taking too many selfies with this handset.

Buy the V30 if you’re interested in taking up photography or need more from your phone’s camera

There’s a pretty famous saying that a lot of YouTubers say when people ask them which camera they should get to start their own YouTube channel. “If you have a smartphone, you already have a camera” is usually the gist of it. So if you wanna outsmart them all and get the phone with the widest array of shooting capabilities, get the V30. Or if you’re simply interested in taking up photography or need more from your phone’s camera, LG’s latest V installment isn’t to be missed.

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I forgot to mention one detail about the LG V30’s video capture: audio capture.

Anything related to audio on the V30 is outstanding. Touching on my previous point, capturing audio with the V30’s wide array of microphones is a pleasure. It’s one of the few smartphones on the market that captures stereo audio instead of mono which gives videos a high-end feel. Even recording voice memos or making phone calls gets improved by the mic system on board.

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Headphone jack! Quad DAC! Ahh!

Moving on, LG has also included a 32-bit hi-fi Quad DAC that improves the sound output for any pair of headphones you connect to the V30. And yes, those headphones all connect to the dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack mounted to the top of the handset. I’m no audiophile, but the phone provides the best experience while listening to music. For those wondering, in my opinion, it even sounds better than last year’s V20 which offered a similar feature. I’ve linked my friend Juan Carlos Bagnell of Pocketnow‘s review of the V30’s audio output here so you can get a feel for how well it performs when compared to other smartphones on the market.

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This thing lasts all day long

In terms of battery life, the V30, once again, shines. I’m able to get anywhere from four to five hours of screen-on time with my unit and can survive a 16 hour day with as much as 40% remaining by the end of it. Charging the phone is no hassle at all since it comes with Quick Charge 4.0 on board to top up quickly, while wireless charging thanks to the glass back is also here. Overall, you shouldn’t experience any problems whatsoever with the 3,300mAh cell inside the handset.

However, it is worth noting the battery is no longer removable. Instead, it’s sealed inside the glass walls of the V30, the opposite of what the V20 and V10 offered. Before, you could pop off the back of the phone and take out the battery and put in a new one if you had to, but now that’s not an option. Luckily, the battery lasts long enough that you shouldn’t want to switch out your battery for a recharged one, but for fans of the feature, that versatility in this generation is gone.

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At the end of the day, the LG V30 is just really well rounded. It has a big, beautiful display with only minor issues, really speedy performance for handling everything from heavy multitasking to graphics-intense games, enough power to last a day, a stupid versatile set of cameras, a headphone jack (!!!) with a quad DAC for excellent sound output, IP68 water resistance, a sleek 2017-esque design, and a modern version of Android. As far as I know, there isn’t another smartphone on the market that’s as well-rounded as the V30.

The V30 is my favorite phone of 2017

But here’s the thing: regardless of how fantastic this phone really is, not many people are gonna know it exists. Sitting next to a Samsung, Google, or Apple phone from this year in a carrier store, LG’s latest offering will get blinded by the bigger names. Also, LG seems to screw up its marketing for its V series smartphones every year, so the V30 won’t even get in front of consumers like other handsets will. This makes the device a sort of hidden gem found deep in the wide selection of flagship smartphones that were released this year. So if you’re reading this debating which flagship phone you should buy, get the V30 because it offers the most bang for your buck and, in my opinion, will deliver the best experience. It’s my favorite phone of 2017, and it deserves a place in your pocket.

Rating: 9.5/10

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13 thoughts on “LG V30 Review: The Hidden Gem”

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  3. Michael Carr says:

    Great Review. Finally a reviewer who gives the V30 the accolades it deserves. A smartphone that is a joy to own.

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