LG V40 ThinQ has three cameras but the ultra wide-angle camera remains the impressive element.
Performance and Battery Life are fine but does not set any new benchmark
The Software continues to remain a sad story and needs immediate fix.
If Nokia, Sony Ericsson and BlackBerry fell victim to rise of smartphones then one can say that LG and HTC (to a larger extent) fell to that of the rise of Chinese smartphones. LG was once among the top five smartphone players in the world and made phones that stood against Samsung’s offerings. However, over the years, a lot has changed.
First things first, the V40 ThinQ is not a new smartphone at all. It was launched in October and the company has launched the device in India only recently. I have been using the V40 ThinQ for well over a week now and here is what I think about LG’s efforts to win the market with five cameras to boot:
With smartphones increasingly becoming the only computer and only camera most of us carry, the idea of more cameras per phone does make sense. Huawei added three cameras to the back of its P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro flagship while Samsung added four cameras to the back of its Galaxy A9 (2018). With the V40 ThinQ, LG just said it will add a total of five cameras. There are three on the back of the device and two at the front. This is the highest number of cameras ever put on a commercially available smartphone. Only the Galaxy A9 (2018) comes with a total of five cameras and if leaks are anything to go by, we might see as many as seven cameras on the Nokia 9 Pureview, set to launch at MWC 2019.
The V40 ThinQ, like G7 ThinQ launched early last year, has one wide-angle camera and another ultra wide-angle camera. The new addition for 2018 is the telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom. When you look at this combination of standard, ultra wide angle and telephoto camera setup, you might think that it is the most versatile setup ever. Even Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro has similar setup but in reality, the result could be anywhere between this is fine to this shouldn’t exist.
LG has not just blindly added cameras to the mix, it has also changed the sensors in order to enhance image quality. The standard camera and the telephoto camera are now using 12-megapixel sensors with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 25mm and 50mm, respectively. As a result, the optical zoom falls in line with what competing devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Apple iPhone XS have to offer. For the standard camera, LG has also opted for a wider f/1.5 aperture, which naturally produces a shallower depth of field unlike sensors with f/1.8 aperture. On the telephoto, the aperture is narrower at f/2.4 aperture, which makes it ideal only when there is a lot of natural light falling on the sensor.
I shooting with the wide angle camera on the LG V30+ last year. Since I click pictures with a GoPro, LG was the only OEM offering similar wide angle imaging experience. Now, Huawei and Samsung both offer wide angle imaging on their flagship smartphones. After clicking some ultra wide angle shots with that 16-megapixel sensor having a 35mm equivalent focal length of 16mm, I was both impressed and disappointed at the same.
While the really wide angle view captured by the sensor was impressive, the field of view, which is a bit less than its predecessor. Now that we have spoken about the camera, it is important to know it performs. In terms of image quality, it delivers very good pictures with sharp contrast and excellent details. It also does well with HDR, which is active by default but the color accuracy seemed a bit off with the V40 ThinQ favoring more warmer tones. One of the pain point that comes to haunt you repeatedly is the standard 12-megapixel camera which has spotty dynamic range and often tends to underexpose images.
While it has a really wide aperture, which should aid low-light photography, the results were not as great as the Google Pixel 3 XL. In every way, the Pixel 3 XL and even iPhone XR to some extent have a better camera than the V40 ThinQ but LG’s offering scores points for its zoom capabilities and that ultra wide-angle camera. During a recent luncheon, while most folks were shooting pictures of a tree reflecting on a glass facade, I could grab more of the scene including people taking pictures with that ultra wide-angle shooter. This helps in adding new definition to your photography. LG also offers a number of tools in the video mode, which will really appeal to vloggers and those who like to shoot videos with their mobile.
The bottom line is that the V40 ThinQ’s triple rear camera can come out on top of OnePlus 6T but it falls short of Pixel 3 XL, which has the best smartphone camera by a mile. That is relevant in the case of selfie shooters as well. The 8-megapixel + 5-megapixel do well when there is lot of light in the background but in scenes like late evening with incandescent lights, there is noticeable noise and lack of depth and information.
Design and Display
If there is one thing to really, really like about the V40 ThinQ then it has to be its design. Like all the major flagships launched over the past year, the V40 ThinQ also features a metal and glass sandwich design. However, the glass on the back of the device is frosted to the metal surface similar to that of the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. It is an expensive process and LG has done it in such a way that when you hold the device, you get the feel of touching metal but in reality, there is glass on top of it. I would also say that this process makes the V40 ThinQ feel lighter than other metal and glass smartphones and the back panel is curved so that it fits really well whether you are holding it one handed or with both the hands.
In India, LG is offering the smartphone in Moroccan Blue and Platinum Grey finish and our review unit in the blue color felt strikingly different from black, white, silver and gold colored flagship smartphones. LG has taken very little risk in terms of design with the volume rocker placed on the left and power button and SIM card tray placed on the right. There is a dedicated button for Google Assistant on the left, which I will talk about in a bit. The real deal of this design is at the bottom, where there is a 3.5mm audio jack placed alongside USB Type-C port for charging. It is rare to find a smartphone that still supports an audio jack and LG not only puts one but also includes a high quality headphone with the device. When I look at the V40 ThinQ, I think of it as much better version of Pixel 3 XL’s design and that is not a small accolade to win in 2019.
In terms of hardware, the LG V40 ThinQ is definitely 2018 and that has got lot more to do with the timing of its launch here than anything else. The smartphone is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile platform, which is the same mobile CPU structure that powers devices like the Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T in India. Unlike Pixel 3 XL, LG does not commit that mistake of limiting the device to just 4GB of RAM. LG sells only one model in the country and it comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage.
During my week long time with the device, I noticed that the V40 ThinQ works similar to that of Pixel 3 XL but it is not as fast the OnePlus 6T, which sets the bar high for any flagship smartphone to match in performance unless it is powered by the new Snapdragon 855 mobile platform. For basic things like browsing the web, accessing social media, doing video calls on Google Duo, streaming Netflix or any other streaming media platform, the V40 ThinQ cannot be battered. However, when you start pushing with intensive games like PUBG or Fortnite, you start to see the ills of Snapdragon 845 mobile platform.
During one 20-minute session with graphics set to HD, the phone got so hot that after a point, it was difficult to hold in hand. While Snapdragon 845 as a platform is good enough for gaming, the cooling mechanism built into the 7.6mm thin profile. It is not great for playing demanding games like PUBG or Fortnite but it does play well with games like Alto’s Odyssey and even Asphalt 9: Airborne. LG has also built a mode for gaming which gives options to edit graphics, take a break or screenshot during the game. The performance is suited for basic tasks but it is not ideal for playing battle royale style games.
The V40 ThinQ also does not offer flagship style battery life. It packs a 3,300mAh battery and in my time with the device, it averaged close to five hours of screen time. In my opinion, a flagship phone should give at least six hours of screen on time. For example, I have been constantly averaging over five and a half hours of screen on time on my Pixel 3 XL while the Honor View20 with its massive 4,000mAh battery delivers a screen on time of over nine hours. LG also falls behind rivals such as Huawei, Oppo when it comes to charging technology. It relies on an 18W power brick which charges fast but after using Huawei’s superfast charging and Oppo’s SuperVOOC charging, I find myself spoilt for quick charging.
This is probably the area where LG V40 ThinQ is very much behind the curve. Out of the box, the smartphone only runs Android 8.1 Oreo and has not received any update since the time I have had this device for review. It also runs December 2018 security patch, making it vulnerable PNG execution bug and several other bugs that Google has quashed in the past two months. This neglect for timely software updates and lack of proactiveness to respond to consumer call makes me wonder if LG is even serious about the game. When you look past that, the LG UX powering the V40 ThinQ is not at all bad.
The icons do seem very old but customization options inside LG Smartworld open a new world of opportunities. Then there is the floating bar, which earlier used to be a separate display panel, is now software based and does not really add a lot of value. During the one week that I have spent using the V40 ThinQ, there have been twice when the UI stopped responding and I had to reboot the device by long pressing power button and volume down simultaneously. As someone who uses a Pixel 3 XL as primary smartphone, these small kind of issues can look big and so big that you start to wonder whether Android is bad or OEMs are doing really poor job.
If you have read till this part then you already know that I am not recommending the V40 ThinQ. The biggest reason being that the V50 ThinQ will be announced at MWC 2019 and there will also be a G8 ThinQ with Snapdragon 855 next week. However, when you look at the V40 ThinQ as a standalone device then you can see that it does some things well but a lot of things really bad, making it a flagship that is underrated and often neglected. The V40 ThinQ’s camera is not the Pixel-level great but it delivers well with its super wide-angle camera. Its build quality is something that rivals must copy and that dedicated Google Assistant button is something no other company should adopt.
Watch: Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition First Look
At Rs 49,999, the V40 ThinQ is a decent flagship smartphone that delivers in areas like design, build quality and camera but its performance, battery life and software leave a lot to be desired. If LG could fix of these areas when it launches next flagship, likely at MWC 2019 on February 24, then it might have a shot at Samsung and Huawei after a really long time.