LG has been around in the phone market for many years now. It started back in the day of brick phones with number pads, slowly shifted to QWERTY devices and eventually segued into modern smartphones.
In more recent times, LG has been one of the few smartphone manufacturers that hasn't been afraid to experiment and the line it has done most of its experimentation with has been the V-series. The V10 started the trend with the back-mounted volume and power buttons and the V20 upped the ante with its modular design before the V30 turned down the experimentation level to something a little less flashy.
The LG V40 ThinQ, the most recent entry into the colorful line, also plays it more safe in refining its broad appeal while still taking a few ambitious shots in hopes of becoming the Android phone to buy.
Is the LG V40 ThinQ worth your money? It makes a very intriguing argument.
Let me start with the disclaimer that from here on out, the LG V40 ThinQ will be referred to as the V40. It rolls off the tongue much easier without the ridiculous ThinQ surname tacked on. Seriously LG, stop trying to make ThinQ happen.
Evolving from the V10, the V40 has come a long way in terms of design. LG reached a new level of refinement with its design thanks in part to the glass and metal build that seamlessly comes together to a near flush finish. It is very Apple and Samsung like.
The front and back glass panels curve into the metal frame to create rounded edges that make it feel really comfortable in the hand. We've seen this attention to detail before, but seeing it on an LG flagship reminds me of the impressive strides the company has taken in the last couple years with its smartphones.
The metal frame is made of aluminum with a shiny polished finish and the glass panels are made of Corning Gorilla Glass 5 which promise to be extra durable in holding off scratches and cracked screens.
For as impressive as body of the V40 looks, I was equally impressed by how light it is. It only weighs a brisk 169 grams, well below what other phones in its segment by a substantial margin. Compare that to the 208 grams of the iPhone XS Max and the 201 grams of the Galaxy Note 9. It is a striking difference when holding it in the hand.
Rounding out the impressive feature set of the V40 is its IP68 water and dust resistance, Boombox speaker, and headphone jack with 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC.
Adorning the front is a new 6.4-inch QuadHD+ OLED display with 3120 by 1440 resolution and 537 ppi density. It's super sharp with vibrant colors that beautifully pop on the OLED panel. LG made the polarizing decision to include a notch at the top of the display as opposed to the symmetrical finish the V30 had with the two minimal bezels.
LG added software tweaks that let you hide the notch in case it bothers you that much. You can add black bars to the sides of the notch or just embrace it. I embraced it because for as weird as the notch may look, after a few minutes I forgot it existed.
A peek under the hood reveals a spec array you'd expect from any modern Android flagship. It runs on a Snapdragon 845 processor, Adreno 630 GPU, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage with microSD expandability (up to 512GB) and a 3,300mAh battery. This makes navigating through the phone a seamless experience.
I never experienced any slowdown with it. Switching between apps was fast and although I'm not a regular user of split-screen mode, when I tried it it worked smoothly. As for battery, the V40 provides plenty of juice. On a regular day using it for YouTube, email, social media and texting, it last me well through the day.
It's disappointing that Android 9.0 is not available out of the gate given this is a brand new Android phone, but that update appears on the horizon. For now, you'll be stuck with Android 8.1.
Software adds wrinkles
On the topic of software, LG doesn't do stock Android. That's unfortunate because that's my favorite form of Android. However, LG's version is not too bad. Aside from the re-skinned apps and menus that needlessly change the look of things. The software behaves similar to stock with a few extra additions that make life easier.
Once such addition is the a dot corralled by the navigation buttons that lets you hide the buttons inside of apps for a full screen mode. This lets you fully maximize every centimeter of the display. If you ever need to use the buttons, a swipe up brings them up.
Other little details like the double knock to wake up or turn off the display when locked, shortcut keys to quickly access the camera and the dedicated Google Assistant button that tightly weaves the best virtual assistant with the device on a hardware level are useful as well.
Following the precedent set by Apple's Face ID, LG added a similar variant of the biometric sensor to the V40. Called Face Recognition, you can use your face to unlock the phone. It's not as secure as what you'd find on an iPhone, though it is a useful feature that can be used in conjunction with the fingerprint scanner to provide an extra method to unlock your phone.
I found the feature to work surprisingly well and ended up using it more than the fingerprint scanner. It worked quickly; as soon as I used the double knock to wake up, the phone was instantly unlocked.
Aside from its design, the biggest selling point of the V40 are its five cameras. Two are located inside the notch and three are on the back of the phone.
The front-facing camera consists of an 8MP standard camera with f/1.9 and a 5MP wide-angle camera with f/2.2 and a 90-degree field of view. The main camera delivers solid selfie images with good colors and rich details. It won't match up to the main sensor on the back, but for posting on social media it's more than good enough.
Moving over to the 5MP wide-angle sensor, here's where the fun starts. Though not something revolutionary, having the ability to take super wide selfies is really convenient. Swapping between the two cameras, it is impressive how much more content you can get into the shot. You won't have to stretch out your arm as far away as possible to get the widest shot anymore.
I should note that the V40's front-facing cameras set to default with facial smoothing, resulting in very unnatural pictures. I had to jump into the settings to figure out why the images smoothed out my skin so much. Changing the setting makes selfie images come out more natural looking. Casual users may approve of the pictures for social media, but those who are looking for natural images, you will want to adjust the settings.
On the back lies a horizontal array of three cameras: the main 12MP lens with f/1.5 and optical image stabilization, a 16MP wide-angle lens with f/1.9 and a 107-degree field of view and a 12MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 and 2x optical zoom.
What was once only possible with an external lens kit is now possible through the V40's camera system, making it one of the most versatile smartphone cameras around. Is it the best? I wouldn't go that far, it still doesn't quite match up to the Pixel 3 or iPhone XS Max, but it is pretty great. The camera suffers from what all LG smartphone cameras suffer from—oversharpening and overprocessing.
Low-light performance was also improved over the V30. The quality of the image is impressive as the subject can be made out and it balances the clashing tones of light and dark during sunsets, but there is some noise in the darker areas of the image and detail in the darkest areas gets completely lost when there is too much contrast.
However, its versatility makes up for it. I found myself continually having fun with the camera, switching between modes to get the right amount of detail in the picture. If you want to get a close up shot, switch to the telephoto camera, and if you want a wide shot taking in the most possible detail out of the scene, the wide-angle camera takes care of that.
LG included additional modes like portrait mode, studio lighting and cine shot to add some flair to your photography. With portrait mode, you can get some really great pictures but others can come out looking very weird with the background blur distorting at times. Studio lighting, a feature stolen from Apple, does not work at all. The effects produce wild results that at times cut out the subject.
It was surprisingly fun trying to get a cine shot. It essentially turns part of a standard photo into an animation like a GIF but the rest stays still. The results aren't overly impressive though they are quite entertaining. You can check out the end result in the camera gallery up above.
In the end, my thoughts of the V40's camera were mostly positive.
An Android contender
Like I said before, the LG V40 makes a compelling argument to be the best Android phone worth your money. It checks off every category consumers seek in smartphones: premium design, powerful specs, beautiful display and solid camera.
Whereas in past years it'd be a natural response to give LG credit for its phones but refer consumers to a Samsung or Google device, that's not the case with the V40. It stands up there with the Galaxy Note 9 and Pixel 3s of the world. In fact, LG did a better job with the V40's notch than Google did with the Pixel 3 XL even though both have similar dual front-facing cameras with the additional wide-angle lens. LG just put it in a much smaller notch.
The V40's impressive features are needed because it isn't an affordable phone. Coming in at well over $900 depending on the carrier you go with, you are paying top dollar for it and as such expect it to be an excellent device, which the V40 obliges with.
Next time you go into a store looking for a phone and stumble upon the LG V40, take a real hard look at it because it'll surprise you and may just earn a spot as your next smartphone.
Disclaimer: LG sent us the V40 for review. We used the device for 7 days before beginning our review.