LG G6 smartphone review: A decent enough phone in isolation, but it can’t challenge a flagship

If you’re looking for a flagship smartphone, your requirements are very simple and very clear. You just want the best smartphone there is. There will be some leeway in this requirement of course; you might prefer Android to iOS, for example, but the fact that you want the best device is unquestionable.

What you want is a phone with no compromise, a phone with exceptional build quality, a great camera, a great display and, admit it, something extra to brag about.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Apple iPhone 7 are unquestionably flagship smartphones. They’re the very best smartphones available in the world today. With the G6, LG is attempting to muscle its way into this select group. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s quite managed to do that yet. Here’s why.

Build and design: 7/10

LG G6 1

In terms of materials used, the G6 is very sturdy. The front and back are covered in glass and sandwiched between the two sheets is a metal frame. Many manufacturers do this, and it’s nothing new, but it’s the finish that matters in the end.

On an iPhone or an S8, the screen seamlessly merges into the frame. On the G6, the flat display sits within the frame and you can actually feel the sharp edges of the metal frame. This is not very nice.

Hold an S8 in your hand and you feel like you’re holding an elegant, meticulously crafted gadget. The LG G6 just feels like it’s all edges.

LG G6 2

The lack of refinement extends to the display and buttons as well. The corners of the display, for example, look like they’ve been cut with a pair of scissors rather than some sort of precision CNC machine. The curves of the actual display panel don’t line up with the frame.

It’s a small thing to complain about, but such things add up.

The buttons are a bit mushy as well. Again, the buttons on a flagship like the S8 or iPhone 7 feel tactile and clicky. I was expecting the same from the G6.

The design itself is nothing remarkable. Pull this phone out of your pocket and nobody will look at it twice. The unusual aspect ratio of 18:9 makes the phone longer than a phone with a similar screen size, which is one nice thing with this device.

The power button doubles as the fingerprint sensor and it’s placed on the back of the device. The back of the device is glass, but the mild matte finish of the sensor’s surface means that it’s not hard to miss.

LG G6 3

The star feature of this phone is its dual camera on the rear. This unit sits flush with the back. But it’s not seamlessly integrated into the back. There’s a discrete glass panel covering the camera unit and I assume it was chosen to offer more protection and to not interfere with the camera’s optics.

The plastic inserts for the antenna bands can be found around the frame of the device. A minor irritant for me, personally, is the fact that the bands aren’t balanced. Maybe I have OCD, but I find it quite irritating that there’s a single, off-centre plastic strip at the bottom while everywhere else it’s balanced out with two strips. But that’s just me.

LG G6_4

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the G6 is in the same league as the iPhone or the Galaxy S8. The quality of the materials used in the G6 is undoubtedly good, but the finish leaves something to be desired.

Compared to a device like the OnePlus 3/3T, I think I can make the argument that the G6 feels better built, but it’s definitely not better designed.

The G5 was a design disaster, the G6 is an understandable “back-to-basics” type design. But, if anything, it’s a bit too basic and unimaginative, for my taste anyway. Your mileage may vary.

Features: 8/10

Despite running on slightly older hardware, the LG G6 is a powerful device. It’s powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 platform that you’ll find in the OnePlus 3T and the Google Pixel. This is backed by 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage and a 3,300 mAh battery.

As expected with flagships this past year, the phone is rated as IP68 for dust and water resistance.

LG G6_5

The usual assortment of connectivity options, including Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and more, are available.

Bonus features include support for Qualcomm’s aptX technology for high-fidelity wireless audio playback and support for USB 3.1 over a Type-C connector. Fast charging support is also included.

The standout features include a dual-camera setup on the rear, a pseudo dual-camera setup on the front and a Dolby Vision and HDR-10 certified display in an unusual, 18:9 aspect ratio.

These features sound very nice when you rattle them off like this, but as you’ll find out in more detail further on, they’re not compelling.

The network speed supported is LTE Cat 12, which is rated at a downlink speed of 600 Mbps. This is lower than the 1 Gbps CAT16 rated Galaxy S8, but the speed difference is irrelevant in India at the moment.

Display: 7/10

With an 18:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2880×1440, the display size and resolution is almost identical to that of the Galaxy S8. The S8 boasts of a slightly taller aspect ratio of 18.5:9.

That’s where the similarity to the S8’s display ends, however. The G6 packs in an IPS LCD screen as opposed to the Super AMOLED screen on the S8. Given that the G6 uses a standard RGB layout for its pixels, the G6’ display is sharper on paper. Given that the S8 has a PPI of over 500, this doesn’t matter.

LG G6_6

The S8’s AMOLED display should have an edge in contrast ratio, blacks on OLED are truly black, after all, but the G6’s display is exceptional and black levels are virtually indistinguishable in normal lighting conditions.

My biggest problem with the display is that it seems perpetually dull, as if there’s some kind of filter placed over the screen. When compared side-by-side with various smartphones, the problem is very apparent: The LG G6’ display has a noticeable blue tint to it. To add to this, the automatic brightness setting maintains a very low brightness, making the screen seem even duller than it actually is.

Manually setting a higher brightness value is always an option, but even at its maximum value it seems duller than an iPhone 6s Plus display.

The LG G6 is on the left, an iPhone 6s Plus is on the right. Both phones are at maximum manual brightness

The LG G6 is on the left, an iPhone 6s Plus is on the right. Both phones are at maximum manual brightness

I attempted to measure the brightness by measuring the exposure using a digital camera (by looking at shutter speed at a fixed ISO and aperture value), and the detected brightness appeared to be on par with the iPhone. Now I’m certainly not saying this was a very scientific measurement, but clearly, the blue tint is doing the display no favours.

As on the G5 before it, the G6 gives you an always-on display, an unusual choice for an LCD screen. However, LG’s power management tools and display design mean that the power draw of the display unit in always-on mode is minimal. In airplane mode with the always-on display turned on, the phone barely lost 2 percent charge overnight. The always-on display is not as bright as that on the S8, however.

Coming to colour accuracy, I feel that the display on the S8 seems a bit oversaturated and I prefer the more natural colours of an iPhone LCD screen. The G6’s display is not bad. The colour accuracy is decent and if it wasn’t for the blue tint, I think it would have been very good.

The brightness in direct sunlight was good enough to keep text legible.

Screenshot_2017-05-29-12-07-08

LG claims that the display is Dolby Vision ready, but it’s not actually an HDR display (high dynamic range). A regular LCD panel has been tuned with an HDR panel for reference. The availability of HDR content is also very limited and neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime Video, both of which have shows that are Dolby Vision compatible, managed to run in HDR mode. The only HDR videos we could view had to be downloaded via an LG app.

Software: 7.5/10

LG G6 UI 1 640

On the software front, the phone is running Android 7.0 Nougat with the LG UX 6.0 skin on top. In terms of design, UX 6.0 is a minor bump to that on the G5. The icons are a tad more colourful and some of the fonts have been changed.

Overall, the UI isn’t bad.

As with the display, it’s in the details and finish that LG falls short.

In some apps, the software buttons turn transparent, in others, they’re left as a black bar. In the camera app, the on-screen buttons disappear and you have to swipe up from the bottom to reach them. In other words, the response is inconsistent. The S8 also has the option of 3D touch to activate the home button, the G6 has no such option.

On the S8, it’s easy to resize an app for the unusual aspect ratio — most phones employ a ratio of 16:9, the G6 and S8 use ratios of 18:9 and 18.5:9 respectively. The G6 requires you to dive into the Settings menu to scale apps. The S8 only requires you to tap on the multitasking button and another button after that. Apps like YouTube can’t be scaled and videos will have vertical black bars on either side.

LG G6 UI 2 640

There are also a number of performance bugs that I think come down to bad coding than actual performance issues. There’s a swipe-down to search gesture for example, as on iOS, but the phone takes half a second to respond to the gesture and another half-second to start searching when you start typing.

The calling app also displays some lag at times and might take half a second to respond. It’s small issues like this that make the G6 irritating to use. Hopefully, these bugs will be ironed out in later updates.

I’ve used the OnePlus 3T and the Google Pixel, both of which run on similar hardware, and the performance on those devices is more consistent and very fluid.

Performance: 7/10

LG G6 AnTuTu

For whatever reason, the LG G6 scores lower than even than the predecessor it replaces.

As mentioned in the software section, the janky performance seems to be an issue with the software rather than hardware. When it works, everything is fast and fluid. Apps run perfectly and there was never any stutter.

Heavy games like Asphalt and Real Racing also ran beautifully.

LG G6 GeekBench 4 MC

The LG G6 pales in comparison the S8 and struggles against its peers.

Strangely enough, synthetic benchmarks peg the G6 as performing worse than the G5 and the similarly specced Google Pixel and OnePlus 3T, which was very odd.

The phone did tend to get warm very fast, and this leads me to assume that the device might be suffering from a slight heating issue, resulting in the poor performance that I saw in the tests.

All tests were run thrice while the phone was in airplane mode. No background apps were running either.

Camera: 7/10

LG G6

The camera system on the G6 consists of dual, 13 MP rear cameras and a 5 MP front camera. One rear camera is a normal lens while the other is a “wide-angle” one. The normal lens features an aperture of f/1.8 with OIS (optical image stabilisation) and phase detection autofocus (PDAF).

Strangely enough, the wide angle camera has no AF and an aperture of f/2.4. The lack of AF is a big deal.

LG G6 Camera UI 2 640

As you can see from the images here, the camera isn’t half bad. The excessive processing and noise reduction has a tendency to smear textures and details to the point that some images look like paintings when cropped, but overall colour accuracy is actually decent. As long as you don’t zoom into the image or intend to crop anything out, the camera is fine.

The wide-angle lens is a novelty and it’s nice to have in certain situations. However, the lack of sharpness in texture and details can get annoying. To top it off, the camera doesn’t seem to include any fancy hybrid modes of the type we’ve seen on Huawei’s Leica-branded dual-cameras or Apple’ dual-camera.

All things considered, the LG G6 still can’t hold a candle to any of the current flagships, though. The Pixel, the iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy S8 offer measurably better image quality, particularly in low light.

Worse still, images taken on the OnePlus 3T actually seem sharper. I would only classify the G6’s camera performance as adequate and its wide-angle camera as a novelty.

The front camera is no better. Its 5 MP sensor is decent and it includes a faux dual-camera mode. There is only one camera on the front, so what you’re actually getting is a wide-angle selfie camera that pretends to be a dual camera. Image quality in either mode is decent enough, but it’s nothing special.

By default, the regular rear camera shoots in the 18:9 aspect ratio at 9.7 MP. I’d strongly suggest you avoid that because a) few people have a phone with an 18:9 display, b) the 18:9 aspect ratio cuts down on the field of view c) you’re losing precious megapixels.

Battery life: 8.5/10

With a 3,300 mAh battery and Android 7.0, I expected a great deal of battery life from the G6, and I got it. The phone would easily last me a full work day, which involves around two hours of video and music, hundreds of messages and dozens of calls.

Standby time was also impressive.

Surprisingly, our standardised battery benchmark, which involved PCMark 8’s battery benchmark loop running on a device with a fixed brightness, no background apps and the device in airplane mode, rated the G6 at an abysmal 6.5 hours. This is shocking when you consider the fact that the Google Pixel comfortably crossed the 12-hour mark. I ran the battery benchmark twice and got the same result both times.

I don’t know what’s at fault here, because real world battery life was much better than the synthetic benchmark lets on. Standby time was also exceptional.

The phone charges very fast as well, going from zero to 100 percent in about two hours.

Verdict and price in India

I really wanted to like the G6. The concept videos and the initial leaks described a stunning phone. But LG was too late. LG made a grave mistake by launching this phone after the stunning Samsung Galaxy S8.

We’ve had the S8 in our office for weeks now and instantly fell in love with its design and performance. After experiencing the star that is the S8, the G6 simply feels like an extra.

Compared to the S8, the G6 is just…bland. If the phone had launched alongside the Pixel in November, it may have stood a chance, but even that is debatable.

Today, with a stunner like the S8 already in the market, I cannot think of any reason to recommend this phone over the S8. I mean, why would you? The S8 is more elegant, more refined in design, better built, offers much better performance, a much better camera, a better display, high-quality headphones, better battery life and is even worth bragging about.

The G6 is in a very awkward spot. It’s not as budget-friendly as the OnePlus 3T, and it needn’t be, but it’s also doesn’t deserve to be called a flagship.

If you have over Rs 50,000, you’ll want the Galaxy S8, if you don’t want to spend that much, you’ll take the OnePlus 3T. The G6 is in an awkward spot with neither price, performance nor even design doing it any favours.

The G6 isn’t a bad phone, but it’s no flagship.

Publish date: June 16, 2017 3:37 pm| Modified date: June 19, 2017 12:23 pm

Tags: LG G6, LG G6 camera, LG G6 design, LG G6 display, LG G6 features, LG G6 India, LG G6 India review, LG G6 performance, LG G6 review, LG G6 specifications


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