I’ve been a fan of LG for some time actually. Not only was I a fan of their Nexus line of devices for the now-defunct Google product line, but they stole my heart with the LG G Flex 2 back in 2015. It wasn’t the best device in the world, thanks mainly to one of the poorer SoC releases from Qualcomm with the ill-fated Snapdragon 810’s overheating issues, but its svelt and daring design of a curved smartphone was what I loved. I haven’t run an LG device since then as my main phone, but I’ve kept a watchful eye. When I saw an incredible deal for an LG G7 ThinQ, I grabbed it with both hands, and set resumed my love affair once again – and it hasn’t waned. Let me take you through why the LG G7 ThinQ is the best Android smartphone you won’t buy, in my full review.
- Top tier hardware
- Excellent audio
- Software has improved
- IP68 rating
- Just adequate battery life
- Low-light picture quality suffers
- Update promises yet to be realised
Disclaimer: This review was conducted over a 3-4 week period with the LM-G710EMW variant which is a Dual SIM enabled, Far East market device. All other specifications match the Global variants.
Let’s just start with the price of the LG G7 ThinQ which is something I normally leave to the end of my reviews as a point of consideration when delivering my conclusion. The G7 can be purchased, right now, SIM free for around the £460 mark from Carphone Warehouse. This puts it firmly in the same territory as the OnePlus 6, and cheaper than the majority of its major competition, namely, the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+, HTC U12+, Huawei P20/P20 Pro as well as the recently released Sony Xperia XZ3. This is a relatively recent phenomenon that perhaps lends an insight into the sales numbers of the LG device as it sits today. If I were a betting man, I’d guess that they aren’t selling too well at all. Either way, the above illustrates that for a 2018 flagship, the LG G7 ThinQ sits, on paper at least, as a compelling offering.
Of course, there are many consumers that won’t be buying the LG G7 ThinQ to replace their ageing device, and that includes hardened LG fans perhaps. They too have been burned with a number of devices that just fail to deliver against their nearest rivals. Could 2018 be the year that changes though? Spoiler alert, the answer is nearer to “it depends..” than a resounding “Hell yes!”.
Overview – LG G7 ThinQ
Let’s put to one side the slightly ridiculous name here. I’m sure LG Mobile wanted users to pronounce this as “think” but the majority will simply be calling it the G7 I think, and so they should.
The device itself is a lovely little departure from the last few generations of LG devices. With the G7, LG seems to have taken some design cues from their V range of devices as well as the competition, with a glass back face supporting the included Qi Wireless charging, as well as a metallic chassis to keep it nice and rigid. The power button sits on the right-hand side of the G7 with the volume buttons adjacent to it on the left, slightly above the dedicated Google Assistant button. No, it’s not able to be mapped but, unlike Samsung’s Bixby button it a) is actually useful and b) can be turned off in settings if required.
On the rear is a fingerprint scanner sitting just where a lot of consumers would prefer, centrally, and located slightly under the dual 16MP camera setup.
Around front it the 8MP selfie camera within the now ubiquitous notch, along with an earpiece and some sensors.
Along the bottom edge, is a speaker, the USB Type-C port for charging, and, rejoice, a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The in-hand feel, for the first time at least, is an interesting experience. I immediately felt happy with the weight of the device, less happy with the slippery glass on the rear, at home once again with a thinner device coming from something like the OnePlus 5, as well as slightly worried about the hollow sound that comes from tapping on the rear of the G7. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a cheap knockoff, with no internals of any use. Thankfully, I didn’t spend my review period tapping on the rear of the device, and once in a case, that particular foible was well and truly ignored.
There’s an IP68 rating again this time around which should mean the LG G7 is both dust and waterproofed to a depth of more than 1 metre. Pro-tip; keep your devices away from water anyway. This is pulled straight from the LG G6 and a number of other 2018 flagships, and really an IP rating is not only common but more and more a requirement for those who like to go out and about with their ever-increasingly expensive devices.
The IPS LCD display looks bright enough under normal circumstances, and manages okay outdoors in direct sunlight most of the time, with the added benefit of the Super Bright technology (more on that later), and the 6.1″ display has only minimal bezels to worry about.
Finally, the included 3000 mAh battery is 10% smaller than that of the LG G6, which I’m unsure how to explain. The LG G6 has the same thickness of just under 8mm, had a dual camera system, as well as a slightly smaller chassis overall. Strange, but true.
Performance & Use – LG G7 ThinQ
We’re going to skip over the usual specifications here, but if you fancy seeing how it stacks up, on paper at least, to some of the other leading 2018 flagships, check out this GSMArena link for comparisons. Suffice to say that it delivers the same class-leading CPU/GPU as its nearest rivals (Huawei P20 Pro to one side) as well as enough RAM and storage to match many other 2018 devices. The LG G7’s display is an IPS LCD whereas many others are AMOLED, but it delivers a very high PPI on it’s 6.1″ Gorilla Glass 5 covered screen, with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio.
What all this basically means is that it should perform, and it does. During the last three-four week period, testing has revealed only slight niggles with general performance, but gaming and multi-tasking are flawless in big weighty titles such as Ark, Asphalt 8, and Injustice 2. During these gaming sessions, the device didn’t get too hot at all either. There was a definite rise in temperature, but even without a case on it wasn’t a huge rise.
The display is a nice 6.1″ ‘Super Bright’ LCD panel which covers the majority of the devices face, aside from the notch and their ‘New Second Screen’ which is what LG is calling the status bar either side of the notch. The ‘Super Bright’ tag is a fancy way of saying the LG G7 ThinQ screen can boost the peak brightness to 1000 nits for up to 3 minutes when you need it, which is mostly in direct sunlight. The ‘Super Bright’ mode does enhance visibility during those times but it sometimes comes at the cost of some clarity. Without ‘Super Bright’ however you’re going to ‘Super Struggle’ to enjoy the crisp image that the IPS LCD puts out in direct sunlight, although it’s not completely unusable.
The notch can be hidden in software as with most devices, and it does a good job of cleaning up the lines, but it is visible in some scenarios that the LCD cannot match the deep black of the unlit glass. What I’d really like to have seen is something a little more innovative from the people that brought you the Second Screen on the V series, rather than just a status bar split by the notch.
In more general terms, we’re pleased to say this device just feels right during use. The power button is on the right-hand side of the device as you look at it, with the volume buttons on the opposite edge. The fingerprint scanner is situated, on the rear, just under the dual camera setup and is easily reachable too. There are also some familiar gestures that many smartphone users will have become accustomed to such as double tap to wake, and double-click the power button to open the camera; both are speedy enough to be used often to simplify operations.
Then there’s the audio. LG has been perhaps the only smartphone manufacturer of the last few years to put some real effort into the audio on their devices. They don’t skimp here either with the LG G7 ThinQ boasting some impressive audio specifications; DTS:X 3D when using wired headphones, noise cancellation and a 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC. If you have particular honed ears you’re going to notice a large difference over some other 2018 flagships. Then there’s their Boombox speaker itself, which delivers a loud, crisp (for a smartphone) sound, which is increased by orders of magnitude when resting on top of a hard, hollow surface. Perhaps the one disappointing aspect here is that there is just one bottom-facing speaker for the audio output which is too easily covered up when consuming content in landscape mode. Such is the power of the speaker, you will hear some sound coming out of the earpiece as the audio strains to be let out of any opening, but it’s not channelled through there specifically.
The there’s battery life. This has been promoted in recent years to my most important specification of any device. Without the juice, you don’t get to enjoy the features these new devices bring, and I’m sorry to say that the battery life on the LG G7 ThinQ is a little underwhelming. I’m going to caveat that by saying it does well, for what it has under the hood, but what it has under the hood is largely 2016/2017 levels of juice. Sporting a 3000 mAh battery, the LG G7 can just about get through a full day in general use, but you’ll be reaching for the charger, or the Qi charging pad, before the end of a heavy day. Given lots of devices are providing larger batteries to cope with the larger, higher resolution screens available in 2018, I was sad to see this specific specification.
Equally challenging in fits and bursts is the software on the LG G7. Shipping with Android Oreo but with an Android Pie update semi-promise, things don’t look too bad to begin with. The LG skin seems a little slicker than it used to but the icon choices and colours are still straight out of 2015. Luckily with the theme engine included and LG Smartworld on hand to grab new fonts, wallpapers, themes, and sound packs from, you can customise the device as required. I suggest you check out some of the Pixel themes on Google Play if you want something a little more stock feeling.
There are some nice little touches here. Smart Bulletin is LG’s version of Google’s Feed, accessible from a home screen swipe, Smart Places can use context awareness to trigger WiFi hotspots when you hit your favourite Coffee shop for example, or turn on Bluetooth when you arrive home, and Smart Doctor is a tool that can be used to de-clutter and manage your smartphone’s storage, something that I personally have to keep an eye on, due to my 64GB variant.
It’s not stock Android by any stretch of the imagination but it seems to have made some simple steps forward since I last used the LG skin in anger, and whilst they have a way to go, they are heading in the right direction. That being said, if they aren’t moving fast enough for you, throw on a new launcher; this is Android after all!
It remains to be seen whether LG’s insistence on providing more timely updates comes to fruition. At the time of writing (16th September 2018) the latest Android 9.0 (Pie) hasn’t materialised. If LG is to deliver on their promise here, we’d expect to see an Android Pie update before the end of October/November at the latest.
Camera Use – LG G7 ThinQ
It’s fair to say LG isn’t known for their camera prowess when it comes to smartphone optical packages. Samsung is usually the one to come out on top here, and I’d love to be the one to say that this punches above its weight versus the big boys, but sadly, it slightly falls short; but it delivers 90% of the time which is a big improvement for LG and still makes it a contender.
Whilst these shots are largely taken on auto, with a few bokeh shots thrown in, there is enough detail from the 16MP cameras to work with in post, should you wish to. When the LG G7 gets it right, the colours are rich and vibrant, and the clarity is immense. Sadly, as a “click and forget” type of guy, I didn’t manage to hit those heights as often as I’d like. There’s a sharpening that occurs in automatic mode which I’m not a fan of either.
The same can be said for the video of the Lg G7 also. In daylight I got some great footage of football match in progress (I’d show you if the drive I’d exported the video to hadn’t died), but moving into dusk and night time, I started to get quite a bit of grain and some blowing out of lights.
There are of course a number of different modes to use here. There’s Google Lens mode which offers some AI-fuelled contextual awareness to a subject it focuses on. There’s the obligatory Portrait mode which attempts to provide software-provisioned shallow depth of field effects to shots, with varying results. There’s also a live photo mode which captures the first few seconds of a shot before you take a still, which can be nice to play with, in the gallery. Then there’s AI Cam, which can be found on a number of 2018 flagship devices, and uses the integrated AI on the device to recognise the scene conditions, and use a preset of shutter speed, vibrancy and other post-processing techniques to capture the best possible shot in that scenario. In my testing, this worked very well, and seeing descriptive words appear on your screen, such as “Water”, “Bottle”, and “Beverage” when focusing on a glass of water is cool.
Even the camera interface is improved over recent years with key settings available easily and more advanced and less used settings buried in the menus off-screen both in video and photo mode, with the manual controls being incredibly configurable. This is a smartphone photographers dream, and with the audio this device can produce, it really carries on from the LG V30’s legacy of being the media creation device of choice, but you just have to take the time to learn some of the devices foibles.
Conclusion – LG G7 ThinQ
Was the LG G7 ThinQ, to give it the full, shocking name, everything I was hoping for? It didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, but it did deliver something I have been searching for since the original OnePlus device was released, and the LG G Flex 2. It’s a unique, solidly built, quality device, that not many people out there carry. That niche carries some kudos with those who get to play with tech as often as I’m lucky to, and I’m willing to personally overlook some of the skin-deep issues to meet that requirement. Juan Carlos Bagnell, Michael Fisher, and a couple of others whose names I could drop, are individuals I know who personally choose to use, and actually like their LG G7’s for varying reasons. I count myself as one of them now. It’s not perfect, but it has some value propositions that elevate it above the sum of its parts.
The audio is excellent, media creation using manual modes, whilst has a learning curve, can produce some great results, and the screen is finally more than just acceptable on an LG device. Had it not been for poor battery life, I think I’d be willing to forgive everything else, but in 2018, there’s just no excuse for a phone that doesn’t deliver the juice to allow you get lost in some of its nuances.
This isn’t a single date kind of phone. You need to put in some effort here, buy it some flowers, take it to a movie, talk nicely to its parents. You’ll need to put in some time to get to know its idiosyncrasies, but if you do, you’ll perhaps learn to love it, the way I do, in spite of its imperfections.