To say LG has had a rough year is putting it lightly. While the company made a ton of money in other aspects of its business such as appliances and other industrial equipment, 2017 brought nothing but bad news for its smartphone division. The G6 and V30 were great phones, don’t get me wrong, but they were both poorly marketed and weren’t as flashy as the Galaxies, iPhones, and Pixels of the world. Therefore, they didn’t get the attention they deserved, which was quite disappointing.
So of course, LG hopes to turn things around in 2018 with a new lineup of devices. The company recently said it would begin releasing phones when it felt like it should, not just because Samsung or Apple was releasing something new.
This idea led to the introduction of the V30S earlier this year and the new G7 ThinQ that debuted early last month. Serving as the company’s first true flagship of the year, the G7 (as I’ll be calling it throughout this review because I’m not saying “ThinQ” over and over again) is a great smartphone with some interesting features. But when you put a bow on it, the phone just feels kind of generic and, quite frankly, the perfect fit for an average consumer.
In short, the G7’s as consumer-friendly as it gets. Keep reading to find out why.
The design of the LG G7 is nothing short of what we’ve come to expect for a flagship Android device in 2018. It sports an all-glass exterior that’s super glossy and a real fingerprint magnet. I received the Aurora Black model of the G7 which is my personal favorite out of the available options, despite being the most prone to fingerprints. The sides are made of metal and are flattened to add a bit of grip to the device.
The phone’s also extremely light. LG impressed me last year with the weight of the V30 considering its overall size, and the same goes for this year’s G7. Weighing in at just 162 grams, it’s one of the lighter devices on the market and feels comfortable to hold for extended periods.
It’s also worth noting the G7 is rated at IP68 for water and dust resistance and is MIL-STD-810G compliant, meaning it can handle a fall better than your average smartphone. Still, try not to drop this thing since it’s made of glass.
For the G7, LG has ditched a certain design feature that’s been a staple for both G and V series devices for years: the fingerprint sensor on the back no longer doubles as a power button. Now, to turn on your G7, you’ll need to hit the dedicated power key on the right side of the handset. It’s unclear why LG opted for this design choice, but it does make figuring out how to turn the phone on a bit easier for those new to LG smartphones. The fingerprint scanner sort of hid the button after all, so it makes sense to opt for something simpler and more obvious.
After hitting that power key to the right, you’re immediately greeted by a near bezel-less 6.1-inch Quad HD+ display. For the most part, the screen looks pretty good with good color reproduction and decent contrast. It uses an LCD panel which, to be honest, I’m not thrilled about in a flagship phone (especially since others like Samsung and Apple are using OLED), but it’s still a good display. It’s also a bit taller than normal with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio which helps with handling the phone and using its large screen with one hand.
Of course, there’s also a special feature LG added to the display called Super Bright mode. Essentially, this mode boosts the G7’s display brightness to 1000 nits. This is thanks to a fourth sub-pixel added to the standard RGB array you’d find in a normal pixel. With the device’s RGBW array, you’ll be able to see the screen much easier in environments such as direct sunlight. You can only boost the brightness to 1000 nits for three minutes at a time to preserve battery life, but it definitely helps in a pinch if you need to read something outside.
You may have noticed I didn’t talk about the notch yet. It’s right up at the top of the screen and houses the selfie camera, earpiece, and notification LED amongst other components. At least according to my tastes, I don’t find a need to really mention it. Sure, it sticks out a bit from the rest of the display, but it doesn’t necessarily bother me. Videos don’t get interrupted by it, most apps don’t, and it begins to fade away once you get used to it.
If the cutout bugs you, LG lets you hide it with a software bezel tweak in the settings app. It works fine, but the notch is still noticeable since the pixels surrounding the cutout aren’t truly black due to the LCD display.
If a black border doesn’t float your boat, you can also stylize the notch’s surrounding area with different colors. LG calls this feature the New Second Screen which, to me, is pretty dumb since the first Second Screen on the V10 and V20 let you do lots of other things such as access apps, your calendar, and even weather forecasts. This implementation is by no means as advanced. And quite frankly, I think the tweak makes the notch uglier. So I kept the feature disabled because, like I said, the notch doesn’t bother me.
As for specs, the G7 ships with all the internals we’ve come to expect from a 2018 phone. It boasts a Snapdragon 845 processor with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and an Adreno 640 GPU. The entire experience has been consistently been smooth and fast, while heavier tasks like switching apps often and playing graphics-intense games are also enjoyable experiences.
I will say, however, the software feels a bit clunky. The G7 comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box with LG’s heavy skin on top. To me, the software feels bogged down with all the layers of customization the company put on top of the OS. Luckily, this generation doesn’t come with too many duplicate apps (it uses the Google Calendar and Calculator but opts for its own clock, contacts, and phone, for some reason), while my unit came unlocked with zero carrier bloatware to worry about.
Still, something feels a bit sluggish about the G7. I compared the phone’s speed to my V30 from last year and was surprised to see the V30 come out on top in tests like app launch times, multitasking, and heavy game loading. I have a theory the G7’s LCD display isn’t as responsive as the V30’s OLED, but I can’t rule that out as being the cause. Regardless, LG really needs to double down on making a better software experience because right now, it isn’t great.
That being said, the aesthetic of LG’s skin for the G7 is actually sort of appealing. The iconography has become more sophisticated this generation and the entire device doesn’t feel as cartoonish as its predecessors. Admittedly, LG still uses a bunch of punchy colors throughout the system UI that feel kind of childish at this point, but the software definitely shows signs of evolution which has been a long time coming from the Korean giant.
As for cameras, LG includes a dual setup on the back of the G7 with a main 16MP f/1.6 shooter and a secondary 16MP f/1.9 sensor. The latter camera uses LG’s signature wide-angle lens which, for this generation, has seen a reduction in barrel distortion thanks to its smaller 107-degree field of view.
In terms of quality, the G7 is capable of taking some nice photos. Its main shooter reproduces color pretty well and handles different exposures with ease. The phone’s HDR capabilities are okay if a little underwhelming (especially with light and dark scenes such as sunsets) and contrasts are, surprisingly, pretty pleasant. Photos do tend to come out a little overprocessed for my taste and are oversharpened more often than not. While we aren’t talking Pixel or Galaxy S9 quality, you’ll be overall pretty pleased with the images that come out of this camera, including when you take low-light pictures.
The same can be said about the wide-angle shooter. All of the same characteristics play a role in this department, while the dramatic effect you get with the wider field of view simply can’t be beat. No other flagship smartphone is doing an ultra wide-angle lens so if this is a feature you desire, you’ll want to pick up the G7.
Video is also very pleasing coming out of the G7. Again, things get pretty oversharpened and over processed, but colors are still pretty accurate and vibrancy is always on point.
Also, I never usually talk too much about selfie cameras, but this is the best selfie camera I’ve ever seen on an LG phone. I’ve reviewed the V30, G6, and V20 in the past, all of which have potato-quality front shooters. Finally, the G7’s 8MP f/1.9 lens is actually usable and isn’t embarrassingly soft. Bravo, LG. I actually want to take selfies now.
For the G7, LG joins the bandwagon with its own implementation of portrait mode. It uses both cameras on the back to deliver the effect and, while does make the background of a subject satisfyingly blurry, doesn’t do a good job with edges around a subject, especially when it comes to hair, ears, and anything thin like fingers. In other words, the Google Pixel 2 still leads the pack in terms of portrait mode quality.
Of course, things don’t end here. The G7’s full name is “LG G7 ThinQ,” and it’s that way for a reason. LG has implemented its AI Cam technology into the G7 from the V30 and V30S that will automatically identify what your camera’s pointing at and adjust its settings accordingly. For instance, if you point your phone at a plate of food, it’ll boost its saturation to make it more appetizing. Or if you point your camera at a flower, saturation and contrast will see a bump.
In theory, this technology should help to produce better photos, but in practice, it’s a slightly different story. I was able to achieve some photos with a quality that reigned supreme to a normal photo taken with the G7, but oftentimes things were just way too over saturated and created an unpleasant picture. The same goes for videos that are taken with AI Cam flicked on.
The mode also isn’t that accurate. I’ve seen the phone trying to figure out what it was looking at while throwing up suggestions that were completely from left field. Usually, when I’m trying to take a photo of French Toast, I’m not looking at an animal or sunset. Therefore, while you can get some nice results from AI Cam once in a while, you’ll probably be better off sticking with the phone’s normal mode.
The AI story of the G7 continues onto the left side of the device where, directly below the volume keys, sits an extra button that’s used to summon the Google Assistant. We’ve seen a feature like this in the past with Samsung’s Bixby button on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, and now LG is doing something similar. I have to say, it’s my favorite way to summon the Assistant since it’s the most convenient. You can even hold down the key to talk to the Assistant like a walkie-talkie. Plus, double-tapping the button gets you Google Lens which is extremely helpful.
Unfortunately, LG isn’t letting users reprogram the button to do whatever they want, but the company isn’t shutting out that idea just yet; a future software update might bring that functionality to the device. Therefore, we’ll need to keep our fingers crossed. For the time being, however, the button serves as one of the best ways to access the Assistant, at least in my opinion.
Okay, on to audio. This is usually where LG shines when it comes to their smartphones, and the company doesn’t disappoint with the G7. Not only do you get a 3.5mm headphone jack with a 32-bit hi-fi quad DAC, but there’s also DTS:X 3D Surround Sound support to make listening to music even more immersive. I have to say, the feature works really well, although I don’t recommend using it with typical earbuds. You’ll want something over- or around-the-ear for this.
But that’s not all. The G also comes with LG’s new Boombox speaker which utilizes a standard mono grille at the bottom of the device to output sound. However, instead of building a smaller one to accommodate the speaker, the company uses the entire device’s internal space as a resonance chamber, allowing sound to travel through the phone’s body and create a louder sound. It’s especially prevalent when placing the phone on a hard, flat surface or on top of something hollow like a box or guitar.
I have to say, besides a good pair of stereo speakers, this is one of my favorite speaker implementations on a smartphone. It gets extremely loud for having a single grille on the bottom and packs enough clarity to deliver excellent sound quality. There could be a bit more bass (I love me some good ol’ fashion 808s rattling my eardrums), but other than that, the speaker setup is pretty awesome.
As far as the phone’s battery is concerned, LG packs a 3,000mAh cell inside the G7. Personally, I find the battery a bit too small for what the device includes. It needs to power one of the sharpest phone screens on the market (that can reach up to 1000 nits of brightness), a Snapdragon 845 processor, an Adreno 640 GPU, Android Oreo with LG’s skin on top, a quad DAC, DTS:X surround sound – shall I go on?
In the end, with my mid to heavy use every day, I’m getting around 3 to 3 /12 hours of screen-on time. Admittedly, my numbers will likely be lower than others since I constantly am streaming music, but it’s still a shame the company included such a small battery in a world filled with phones packing 3500+mAh cells.
Luckily, when you do need to top off, the G7 doesn’t take very long thanks to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. You can also wirelessly charge the device using any Qi or PMA-enabled charger.
As some final intangibles, the phone sports Bluetooth 5.0, a speedy fingerprint scanner, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, a USB-C port, a microSD card slot, HDR10 compliancy, and support for all four major US carriers.
Last year, I called the G6 good. Just good, not great. I sort of feel the same way about this year’s G7. While it does serve as an all-around good smartphone, there isn’t a ton that makes it stand out from the pack. Because of this, it serves as the most consumer-friendly device you can get. Sure, phones like the Galaxy S9, iPhone X, and Pixel 2 all are great and user-friendly, but they all feature an experience you kind of have to get used to like Apple’s gesture navigation system, Samsung’s Bixby assistant, or Google’s clean, simplistic software. LG’s phones simply don’t have that type of learning curve.
Everything from the display and cameras to the headphone jack and specs makes the G7 ThinQ the perfect phone for any average Joe or Jane who just wants a smartphone. Nothing fancy, just a smartphone.
The phone’s even priced to make itself look a bit better than other devices. Starting at $750, the G7 sits at a cost that simply feels like a price most people are willing to spend on their next smartphone. It ticks all the boxes and delivers a good experience for any user.
In the end, if you’re looking for just a darn good smartphone, the G7 should definitely be considered. But if you want something fancier, look elsewhere.