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LG G7 ThinQ review: Beautiful hardware meets camera smarts

by Brandon Russell | May 25, 2018May 25, 2018 11:10 am PST

The saga of this year’s LG G7 release was strange. First, a report claimed the company was building a new high-end smartphone from scratch, with the possibility of completely rebranding its G line. Not long after, a device donning the G7 name appeared at a private event, suggesting LG was already done building its next handset.

If that wasn’t enough, LG then created a thread on Reddit asking fans for their opinion on the growing trend of notched displays. With responses that were almost universally against the notch, fans naively believed (or hoped) that LG would listen to feedback and introduce a phone closer in design to the Galaxy S9, which is among the few flagships without a notch.

But that isn’t what happened. LG’s Reddit thread was promptly deleted, and nearly two months later, the company’s device most definitely has a notch, despite vocal opposition from consumers.

Even with the G7’s peculiar production, it’s still a strong release from LG, but one that feels uninspired. We like it, we just don’t love it. And with the OnePlus 6 now in the mix—not to mention a myriad of other Android phones—it’s hard to find the one thing that makes the G7 a must-have.

At a meeting with the company’s executives a few weeks ago, LG made it abundantly clear the G7 is meant to be the culmination of its V and G lines, combining the best of both into a powerful flagship. The result is a solidly engineered smartphone that’s beautiful and smart, with some AI tricks.

The most striking thing about the G7, and something LG consistently excels at, is the device’s all-glass design. It shares a lot of similarities with last year’s V30, including its carefully curved edges, rigid frame, and understated elegance. It looks fantastic, and it’s really comfortable to hold.

The front features an expansive 6.1-inch IPS LCD display (3120×1440), which many people quickly wrote off for not being OLED. But the LCD panel looks excellent. Colors are vibrant and text is crisp. And with support for up to 1000 nits brightness, viewing the display outdoors isn’t a problem, whether it be browsing through Instagram or watching a video on YouTube.

It’s true that the G7’s display won’t match the stellar screens found on the Galaxy S9 or iPhone X, but LG’s phone still offers a really nice experience. Blacks aren’t quite as deep as what you’d get from an OLED panel, and white aren’t as white, but it’s still very good. The average consumer won’t care anyway.

Like the majority of Android devices in 2018, the G7’s screen features a notch. The good news is the notch is dramatically smaller than what’s found on the iPhone X, giving users a little more screen real estate. The time lives in the upper left corner while other status icons, including battery, is displayed in the upper right corner.

LG also allows users to hide the notch if they so choose. I personally don’t mind it, but there’s a setting that will display a black bar at the top to make it look like the notch doesn’t exist. LG includes other colors, too, which completely ruins the illusion. I’d stick with black and ignore the other options, unless you truly think a rainbow gradient fits.

Moving to the frame, you’ll notice there’s an extra button on the left side below the volume keys, which can be used to quickly launch Google Assistant. It beats a dedicated Bixby button, but similar to Samsung’s implementation, LG doesn’t let users customize what the button does. However, LG claims it’s open to allowing users to customize the button in the future.

Internally the G7 is pretty standard: Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, wireless charging, Android 8.0, and a 3,000mAh battery. The device also features a dual-camera setup, with one 16MP sensor with f/1.6 and 71-degree field of view and another 16MP sensor with f/1.9 and 107-degree field of view.

The specs make for a powerful experience that confidently runs apps, games, and more without so much as a hiccup. In other words, performance is excellent, and is one less thing for G7 users to worry about. But we’ve found battery life to be so-so. You can get through a work day with heavy use, but you’ll definitely need a charger by the time you go to bed.

One thing fans won’t have to worry about is sound. The G7 features a quad DAC, which makes for an immersive listening experience when paired with hi-fi headphones. Additionally, the device features loud audio by utilizing a resonance chamber within the G7 to amp up the bass. These features make for a rich audio experience despite the lack of stereo speakers.

Moving on from hardware, I’m ambivalent about the software. On the one hand, it feels paired back compared to previous releases from LG, with menus that are easy to navigate and plenty of customization options. There’s also a minimal amount of bloat. But I don’t find the overall look of the software all that appealing.

I’m a big supporter of “stock” Android, so I tend to gravitate toward OnePlus and Pixel devices, mainly because their software is so clean and minimal. Luckily, launchers exist to hide the look of the G7’s software, making it infinitely better than what you get out of the box.

One aspect I do really like, however, is LG’s Floating Bar concept, which gives users quick access to apps, tools, and music controls. It’s a nice addition that never gets in the way or feels overbearing. And it can easily be turned on or off, which is nice because it’s not something people are being forced to use.

Software also plays a big role when using the camera, which features AI similar to what was introduced in the V30S. Essentially, the software uses machine learning to recognize people and objects, capable of identifying up to 18 different categories. For example, if the camera recognizes it’s looking at fruit, it will dynamically adjust settings for the best possible shot.

A lot of phones have implemented some type of AI feature into their camera software, so the G7 isn’t particularly unique. After days of testing, we found the AI features to be hit and miss. Sometimes the software be right on the money, but it often got things wrong. Luckily, the feature can easily be turned off, which I preferred.

As for image quality, the G7 produces pleasing results, with good exposure and accurate color temperature. The device uses something called “pixel binning,” combining four pixels into one super pixel. The technology promises to provide users with improved details and better low light performance. In fact, LG claims the G7 can take photos and video that are 4x brighter than what the G6 was capable of.

One of the things that LG cameras have always excelled at is in its number of professional controls. With the G7, users can control ISO, white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and more. But the thing is camera algorithms have gotten so good that the novelty of these settings have worn off. It’s nice to be able to control every aspect of the camera experience, sure, but people are more often than not worried about how quickly their camera can take a picture.

And we’re happy to report that the G7’s camera operates smoothly. From opening the camera to focusing to processing the photo, everything is lightning quick. The quality you get doesn’t quite match the Pixel 2 or iPhone X, but it’s still very impressive.

When we heard LG was possibly building a phone from scratch, we became excited. LG is capable of making beautiful hardware, but the company’s G line has encountered a few stumbles over the past few years. While the G7 doesn’t feel anywhere near like a reimagining, it’s still a solid release—but one that doesn’t do much to stand out.

The device’s audio capabilities, while nice, cater to a very niche market, while the display and battery life don’t quite match the competition. Sure, the device is fast, and it looks pretty, but as a phone competing in the upper echelon, it falls short of phone likes the Galaxy S9 and iPhone X.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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