LG doesn’t sell many phones. Whether that’s because its devices are downplayed by the media or there simply isn’t a general interest in its products among consumers, the company tends to lose more and more money each quarter in its mobile division despite earning record sales in other departments. And no, the new V40 ThinQ isn’t gonna change that, but at least it’s a fun phone for the few that actually buy it.
Let me explain.
The V40 (as I’ll be calling it since “ThinQ” is a stupid name) has one big selling point: it’s the first major smartphone to ship with as many as five cameras. That gives users versatility you can’t find in any of the iPhones or Samsung Galaxies of the world. They provide a unique experience that’s flexible and, yes, fun.
On the back, you’ll find a standard 12MP lens with an f/1.5 aperture, a 16MP ultrawide-angle lens with an f/1.9 aperture, and a 12MP telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture. Together, the photos create a unique experience that gives you fun ways of capturing a scene or subject in front of you.
While I was testing the V40, I didn’t necessarily focus on camera quality. Rather, I looked at the versatility of opting for this smartphone over, say, a Pixel 3 or iPhone XS. What I found was it’s just a lot of fun to capture images with this device. You can choose between a normal photo, a wide-angle shot, or a close-up thanks to the telephoto sensor. There’s also a mode called Triple Shot that will capture images from all three lenses at once in case you can’t decide which sensor to use.
Triple Shot also stitches the images together in a super weird video with odd background music which is pretty much a straight-up gimmick that doesn’t work well.
In the camera app, you also get portrait mode (which is fine), Google Lens integration, AI Cam (again, fine), manual controls for both photos and videos, and even 4K video capture at 60 frames per second. With this amount of versatility, you can create different types of photographs, movies, and so on that you simply can’t with other smartphones. For these reasons, I’ve found the V40 to be a great camera phone to use that’s capable enough for any type of shot.
If I did have to criticize the cameras, I’d do so about the overall quality. Pictures come out pretty good with the normal lens and wide-angle sensor (they work as you’d expect, in other words), but the telephoto sensor doesn’t have a very shallow depth of field. For that reason, you can’t get that close to a subject without digitally cropping in first. This kind of stinks, but it isn’t that big a deal.
What may be a big deal, for most people, is the results you get from taking normal photos day in and day out. Yeah, they’re totally fine, but they can feel over-processed at times, especially when it comes to well-lit areas where contrast and sharpness are taken to rather extreme levels. What’s more, the HDR doesn’t kick in as much as I’d like, but it’s at least enough to capture a decent shot of the sunset.
Video capture, surprisingly, is really good. Arguably, the iPhone is best for capturing videos, but the V40 is definitely not to be messed with thanks to its ability to capture 4K at 60 fps. Honestly, it’s the best at video recording among all LG phones and is good enough for most people, even if you’re vlogging or shooting a movie.
Remember I said the V40 had five cameras? That’s because the front has two of them. There’s a normal 8MP sensor with an f/1.9 aperture and a wide-angle f/2.2 5MP sensor. Both work just fine, although I wish the wide-angle were a bit wider so I could fit more people in the shot. Still, once again, it’s nice to have that versatility in my pocket.
These five cameras define the V40. Sure, it has upgrades in other areas that we’ll get to, but if there’s a concrete reason to buy this device, it’s because of the camera setup, hands down. It’s the whole reason I’m calling it the “fun camera phone.” If you’re a camera geek, you’ll be really happy with this device.
Okay, we have a whole phone to get to. Let’s move onto the design.
The V40 more or less resembles the G7 ThinQ from earlier this year which was already a pretty good looking device. For the V40, LG is going with a similar glass form factor but with a larger display, rounded steel sides, and nicer buttons. Honestly, the buttons on the G7 feel like they could fall off at any moment (especially since I have a super-sturdy UAG case around it that’s a mother to take off) so I was glad to see nicer, more flush buttons with the V40.
Speaking of buttons, the V40 also comes with a Google Assistant key (pretty helpful, by the way, if you don’t wanna yell out the word Google a bunch of times a day) and a dedicated power button. This is opposed to the V30 from last year that included the power button integrated with the fingerprint reader on the back. That part’s still on the V40, but LG finally bit the bullet and transitioned to a normal power key which I thank them for.
Display time. On the front, the V40 packs a large 6.4-inch 19.5:9 P-OLED Quad HD+ screen. It is miles ahead of what the G7 includes, mainly because this one’s OLED and the G7’s is LCD. You can’t see any pixels, text is crystal clear, and colors pop much more than they did with last year’s V30. We haven’t reached Samsung’s full-on-saturation mode just yet, but it’s a pleasant screen to behold every day nonetheless.
On the bottom, you’ll find a USB-C port for charging, a headphone jack connected to a 32-bit hi-fi quad DAC, and a speaker grille. This speaker grille outputs sound from the Boombox feature LG developed originally for the G7. This allows the entire body of the device to act as a resonance chamber, therefore spitting out higher volumes and better clarity when listening to audio. Plus, when you place the phone on a hard surface, it gets even louder and is capable of filling a small to medium-sized room when at max volume. I’m a huge fan of this feature, although it’d be nice if the earpiece acted as a stereo separator for even more immersive audio.
For those of you wondering, yes, the earpiece and the two front-facing cameras are located within a notch on the V40’s display. This is not a big deal whatsoever since it’s a very slim and short notch (unlike one particular phone). LG gives you the option to turn the notch off in settings, but the feature doesn’t work outside of LG’s own apps. So really, unless you strictly use LG’s in-house software and nothing else, you’ll be looking at the notch even though you may have turned it off. Keep that in mind if you’re a curmudgeon about notches.
As far as specs go, we’ve seen this show before. The V40 packs a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. In other words, it has the same specs as the V35 I reviewed earlier this year which already offered great performance. You can expect nothing less in the case of the V40. Games run smoothly, multi-tasking is a breeze, and scrolling is hitch-less. In other words, it performs as well as any other flagship Android phone in 2018.
Software-wise, we’re looking at Android 8.1 Oreo with LG’s skin on top. I’m still not a huge fan of LG’s skin mostly due to its aesthetic, but you can easily apply a theme and hide the looks. Plus, the software’s fast enough that it doesn’t feel bogged down. Unfortunately, you still get LG’s custom bloatware and all the carrier apps you’re used to if you get your phone from, say, Verizon, but most of it can be disabled anyway so you won’t have to look at it.
Also, I’d like to add that LG’s default launcher is straight garbage town. The app drawer doesn’t automatically sort itself alphabetically, it feels outrageously slow for a flagship phone, and you don’t get the Google feed to the left of the main home screen. Therefore, if you want a good home launcher, install Lawnchair or something the moment you take it out of the box. I did and it improved things 1,000 percent.
For audio, as previously mentioned, LG includes a headphone jack that’s connected to a hi-fi DAC with the V40. This allows users to push hi-fi audio to high-impedance headphones for even better clarity and overall quality. You also get Bluetooth 5.0 which supports all the cool new wireless audio codecs which is a plus if you’ve already made the switch to wireless audio. For the rest of us, the headphone jack is here to stay and I couldn’t be happier.
One of the most important features people are concerned about when it comes to new smartphones is, undoubtedly, battery life. Unfortunately, the V40 struggles in this area a bit. Its 3,300mAh cell is good enough to push through a day of medium to heavy use (for instance, I put the phone through its paces while I was covering the OnePlus 6T and taking pictures all day long). But if you try to extend the battery into another day, you’ll run up against a wall because the cell’s only good for around 12-13 hours of usage. Still, though, that’s enough for most people to get through the day with so long as they plug in at night.
I’d also like to add the V40 comes with wireless charging, although it certainly isn’t as fast as wired charging which can take the device from zero to 50 percent in around 40 minutes or so.
Finally, let’s go over some miscellaneous stuff. The V40’s glass design is super slippery which makes it tough to keep in jogging pant’s pockets unless they’re deeper than what you’d normally find. It’s also extremely fragile, with a random crack appearing at the bottom of my review unit just a week into reviewing the phone. There’s also IP68 certification for water and dust resistance, a microSD card slot for expanding storage, and a fingerprint sensor that, unfortunately, isn’t the fastest out there. It works, though, and that’s all you should really care about.
There’s a lot jam-packed into the LG V40 ThinQ. Its five-camera system makes taking photographs and videos fun, the Boombox speaker provides great audio output, there’s a headphone jack (!!!), it packs plenty of performance, and the screen’s gorgeous. It has its downsides, but I’ve yet to come across a phone that doesn’t.
All of this is to say the V40 is a fun, well-rounded phone. That’s unfortunate because LG won’t likely sell many units. It’s definitely doing a better job at communicating the device over past V series phones with various TV commercials showing off the five camera system. But in the end, not many people pay attention to LG and prefer what other, more prominent companies like Samsung and Google have to offer.
In the end, I think you should buy the V40 or at least consider it. The shooting methods included can’t be found with any other phone available in the US. Plus, you get a flagship phone in exchange with a nice display, great performance, and high-end audio support. It may not be as great as what other companies offer (and it’s certainly not worth the $900 asking price), but if you find it on sale at your local retailer or carrier, pick it up. You’ll really enjoy it.
Also published on Medium.