G6 Is LG’s Best Phone to Date, but Is It Enough?
The LG G6 fits in your hand. That’s an LG G6 impressive feat for a smartphone with a 5.7-inch display. In addition, the G6 includes many of the features we liked about LG’s previous flagships, such as dual rear camera sensors, while adding new elements like a waterproof build and an HDR screen. The question is whether that’s enough to break through, especially with powerful contenders such as the Samsung Galaxy S8. The G6 is the best phone LG has released to date, but we think it’s worth waiting to see what’s just around the bend.
PRICING, DESIGN, AND FEATURES
The G6 varies in price depending on your carrier. T-Mobile—the carrier we tested on—is the most affordable. Verizon is a bit pricier, with Sprint and AT&T coming in and respectively.
The G6 is an unusually long, narrow phone, with slim bezels and a 2:1 (LG says 18:9) screen aspect ratio.
Metal sides combine with a pleasantly grippy glass back that won’t easily slip out of your hand, though the black model we reviewed picks up fingerprints and smudges easily. It should be a bit less noticeable on the silver (LG calls it Ice Platinum) model.
- Excellent one-handed form factor. Sturdy build. Useful dual rear cameras. Crisp HDR screen. Waterproof. SD card slot.
- Processor lags behind upcoming flagships. Screen could be brighter. Odd aspect ratio. No removable battery.
There’s a standard headphone jack on top (the G6 doesn’t feature dual speakers or quad DACs like the LG V20), a USB-C port on the bottom, and LG’s signature power button/fingerprint scanner on the back, located under the dual camera sensors. A pair of clicks’ volume buttons are on the left side, while the SIM/microSD card slot on the right worked fine with a 256GB card.
STILL, TRY NOT TO DROP IT…
The rounded metal corners of the phone spread shock, helping to make it more resistant to drops.
The phone measures 5.9 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches (HWD), weighs 5.8 ounces, and is just narrow enough to reach across with your thumb. Compared with the behemoth Google Pixel XL (6.1 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches, 5.9 ounces) and the even heavier iPhone 7 Plus (6.2 by 3.1 by 0.3 inches, 6.6 ounces), the G6 is much easier to use with one hand.
It’s just a touch wider and slightly heavier than the Galaxy S8 (5.9 by 2.7 by 0.3, 5.5 ounces), which squeezes a 5.8-inch, i8.5:9-screen into its frame. Despite the similar dimensions, the S8 feels a bit easier to grip thanks to its gently curved display that better conforms to your hand. That said, both phones are sure to please fans of big screens you can comfortably hold and operate with just one hand.
There’s no carrier branding on the front or back of the LG G6, which helps it retain a clean, premium look.
There’s no carrier branding on the front or back of the LG G6, which helps it retain a clean, premium look. Rounded sides spread shock and give the phone some impact resistance. Like the V20, it’s rated MIL-STD-810G, meaning it can withstand drops onto hard surfaces. It survived several five-foot drops onto the rubberized floor of our test lab with no visible damage, though keep in mind if you drop it on concrete, you’re likely to crack the glass back.
The LG G6 has a tall, narrow 5.7-inch LCD with a unique 2:1 aspect ratio and support for HDR (both Dolby HDR and HDR 10).
This is also LG’s first phone to be IP68 waterproof. We dunked it and rinsed it off in the sink without any trouble.
DISPLAY AND APP SCALING
As touched on above, the real selling point of the G6 is its 5.7-inch, 2,880-by-1,440 LCD with a unique 2:1 aspect ratio. This means you’re looking at a tall, narrow screen. It can be disorienting at first, but you get used to it. And one nice aspect is that when multi-window multitasking, you get a lot more content with each app.
The aspect ratio also means built-in apps have been altered, and there may be some compatibility issues with third-party software that isn’t properly scaled. Fortunately, in Display settings is an option for App Scaling that lets you pick between aspect ratios of 16:9 (Compatibility), 16.7:9 (Standard), and 18:9 (Fullscreen). You’re likely to encounter a similar issue with the S8, which has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio.
Stock apps such as the dialer, messaging app, address book, music player, weather, and email have been altered to take advantage of the increased screen real estate, usually with larger graphics toward the top of the screen. The camera also gets a bunch of new’ modes where the top half of the screen is a viewfinder, and the bottom half show’s an image preview’ or lets you coordinate with another image. As the screen can be divided into tw’o square halves, w’e see some real Instagram potential here.
Samsung may be widely known for having the best displays on the market, but the G6 can give the S7 Edge a run for its money. The screen resolution is 565 pixels per inch (ppi), matching the sharpness of the Quad HD AMOLED panel on the 5.5-inch S7 Edge (534ppi) and Pixel XL (534ppi). But it’s not just mere pixel density’ that makes the G6 stand out. The phone has unusually rich colors thanks to its support for HDR (both Dolby HDR and HDR10). When you see HDR and non-HDR content side by side, the HDR really jumps out.
But despite great color and viewing angles, the screen could use a bit more brightness for outdoor visibility since it’s hard to see under direct sunlight. Like the LG G5, it has an “always on” mode that keeps time, date, and notifications visible w’hen the screen is off, but it’s dimmer than Samsung’s.
NETWORK PERFORMANCE AND CONNECTIVITY
The G6 is available on all the major US carriers. We review ed the T-Mobile version, w’hich supports GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHZ), UMTS (1/2/4/5), and LTE bands (1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/20/66), giving it good connectivity on T-Mobile and international roaming. We tested the phone in midtow’n Manhattan where we recorded a top download speed of 9Mbps and an unusually high upload speed of 28Mbps.
The phone also supports dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.2. The Galaxy7 S8 is slightly more future-proof thanks to its inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0.
Call quality is acceptable. Earpiece and speakerphone volume are both loud, but calls made with the phone tend to sound a bit robotic. Noise cancellation was good at handling the sound of traffic, but struggled to blot out wind, sometimes resulting in garbled transmissions.
PROCESSOR AND BATTERY
The G6 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor clocked at 2.34GHz, rather than the new’er Snapdragon 835. In terms of benchmarks, the phone performs similarly to other Snapdragon 821-pow’ered devices, scoring 136,907 on AnTuTu, which measures overall system performance. That’s a bit low’er than the Google Pixel XL (140,121), w hich runs a pure form of Android. It’s also lower than the OnePlus 3T (159,144), which benefits from a less-demanding io8op screen and more RAM (6GB compared with 4GB).
But the main concern here isn’t day-to-day performance, as you’re unlikely to notice a difference between the G6 and other existing flagships when it comes to multitasking or playing games like GTA: San Andreas. However, the Snapdragon 835-powered Galaxy S8 will not only offer better performance, it’ll also support, letting you take advantage of the faster networks that many carriers are in the process of rolling out.
In most regards, the G6 is an improvement over the G5, but if there’s one aspect that may disappoint fans of the series, it’s the demise of the removable battery. The 3,300mAh cell in the G6 is sealed in, partly to make the phone waterproof. Thankfully, battery life is fairly solid.
The G6 clocked 5 hours, 57 minutes when we streamed full-screen video over LTE at maximum brightness. It’s not as long as the Pixel XL (6 hours, 43 minutes), and falls far hours short of the S7 Edge (10 hours), but it’s a big improvement over the V20 (4 hours, 38 minutes). LG has incorporated smart charging technology, allowing the battery to better maintain its charging capacity for over two years. There’s a built-in batterysaving mode that turns off the always-on display, reduces screen brightness, and limits background data to save juice. The included adapter supports fast charging, and the phone is compatible with wireless charging pads (not included).
The 3,300mAh cell in the G 6 is sealed in, partly to make the phone waterproof. Thankfully, battery life is fairly solid.
The always-on screen gives you time, date, and notifications, but it’s dim and hard to see.
The dual rear camera sensors from the V20 and G5 are back, but LG has made one big improvement: At 13 megapixels each, both cameras are now of equal resolution, so switching between normal and wide-angle shots doesn’t compromise image quality. The main sensor offers a 71-degree angle, while the wide lens is 125 degrees. The phone does a smooth zoom between the two cameras, as the iPhone 7 Plus does.
And as with the iPhone, the quality is striking. Unlike on other phones, you don’t lose detail w hen you zoom in. The price is that there’s significant barrel distortion in wide-angle shots, with straight lines appearing curved at the edges of the frame.
The sensors excel outdoors. Noise is minimal, and quality compares favorably with the Google Pixel XL. Indoors, the Pixel XL has better white balance and color reproduction, taking superior shots in low light. But the G6 has manual controls, so with some tweaking of ISO and shutter speed, you can improve low’er-light photos quite a bit from the default settings. The phone also records 4K video with both rear cameras.
Image quality is striking, and you don’t lose detail when you zoom in.
The G6 comes running Android 7.0 Nougat, a step behind the newer Android 7.1 you get on the Pixels. LG’s software layer is quite heavy. Colors, icons, and much of the launcher have been modified, and LG adds its own gallery and music apps in addition to Google’s options. Out of the box, the phone comes with the app drawer disabled and all of your apps strewn across the home screens, but that’s easy to change in Settings. There isn’t much in the way of useful new software features. Shortcut keys let you launch various applications by pressing the volume buttons twice, but that’s about it.
If there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from carrier phones, it’s bloatware. The T-Mobile G6 comes preloaded with seven carrier apps, five LG apps, Evernote, and Lookout. The most egregious is LG Friend Manager, which helps you connect and manage LG’s defunct Friends accessories that were supposed to launch alongside the G5. Fortunately, it can be uninstalled, along with most other LG apps, but the T-Mobile ones can only be disabled.
Most carrier phones come with a plethora of preloaded apps, and the LG G6 is no exception.
BRING ON THE H20
The G6—LG’s first IP68-waterproof phone—can be submerged in five feet of water for 30 minutes. We dunked it and rinsed it off in the sink without any trouble. That may be handy, as the black model we tested picks up fingerprints and smudges easily.
Out of the 32GB of internal storage the phone comes with, you have 20.05GB available for use. Considering the S8 comes with 64GB of storage, the G6 seems a bit short on space. Of course, you can always toss in a microSD card if you need more.
The LG G6 represents the refinement of ideas drawn from the company’s previous flagships. It has the dual-camera setup from the G5 and V20, but now, both sensors are of equal resolution. It has a large, gorgeous screen that you can use with one hand. It also has crowd-pleasing features such as waterproofing, drop resistance, and wireless charging. Losing out, though, are the removable-battery stalwarts, v ho now’ have no major phone makers on their side.
All that said, a large, Samsung-shaped cloud looms over the G6. The Galaxy S8, which started shipping April 21, matches LG’s narrow7, big-screen approach with a gorgeous curved display and throws in a Snapdragon 835 processor with gigabit LTE speeds. It also comes with a custom AI assistant, Bixby, and a small ecosystem of accessories, including Samsung Dex and the Gear VR, that give it a leg up in both productivity and multimedia. So while LG was smart to get the G6 to market ahead of the S8, it may not be enough of a head start.