LG G6 review

The G6 arrived at a crucial time for LG. It made a loss last year following the disappointing sales of the G5 and V20 and its new handset is a bold step in the right direction, but that doesn’t always save a company’s fortunes. To cut to the chase, the LG G6 is an astonishing smartphone that easily holds it own against the best smartphones ever made. 

Note that LG has announced a 'Plus' model. See our G6 vs G6 Plus comparison for more details.

Its taller 18:9 screen is easy to get used to, and while many operations require two hands given the 5.7in screen, it actually is comfortable to hold, scroll, and use with one hand – just like the marketing would have you believe. LG has wisely ditched the gimmicky leather of the G4 and the cool-but-not modularity of the G5 to craft the best ever LG phone. And there have been a lot of them.

The design has been overhauled again following the leather-clad G4 and the modular G5 to a debatably more uniform metal and glass affair. LG’s Friends didn’t last long, did they?

We’ve tested the G6 rigorously since we got our hands on it before its announcement at MWC 2016 and it performs just as well as the best smartphones on the market. Here’s our full review of the LG G6.

Also read our comparisons to the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S8.

UK price and availability

MobileFun has revealed the UK price of the LG G6: £649. You can pre-order the LG G6 from its site now. The release date is unconfirmed, though we expect it to be in April or May, and we expect it to be available on all four major UK networks. You can also pre-order it here from Argos for £649.95.

Carphone Warehouse stocks the G6 for £649.99, and on new 24 month contracts from £43.99 per month

The £649 price represents a firm challenge to the Galaxy S8's price of £689

Design and build

So LG has gone big, but it’s the screen, not the handset itself, that’s grown. The G6 boasts an 18:9 screen, expanding the display from the traditional confines of 16:9. This leaves it with a 5.7in Quad HD display. It looks seriously good. 

Alongside that wonderful display is a design that conforms, unlike the modular G5 and the leather-clad G4. The G6 takes a leaf out of the iPhone 4’s book with a solid aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass on the front and back. It comes in platinum, white and black, with only the latter being a true fingerprint magnet. 

The refined design is simpler and more elegant, with the dual rear cameras and fingerprint sensor that acts as the power/lock button sitting flush with the body. The bottom edge houses the USB-C port (fully waterproof), single speaker and mic. The right edge is smooth and clear save for the SIM tray, while the left edge has the two volume keys. The top edge has that very welcome 3.5mm headphone jack.

Even though the metal and glass frame isn’t entirely original, the rounded design is made all the more striking thanks to the rounded corners of the actual display as well. It’s a clever detail that doesn’t negatively affect use while accentuating the G6’s thin bezels and unusually tall screen. It works really well. Read: OnePlus 5 vs LG G6

The black model sports this look slightly better than the white or platinum models though. The rounded screen actually has a tiny thin black gap between it and the coloured bezels, but it’s enough on the white and platinum to be constantly visible. Though it’s there on the black, it’s invisible and makes for an even better visual impression.

So, while we prefer the platinum model for looks and how it hides fingerprints, the black one wins because the rounded screen simply looks better on it.

LG said that its goal with the G6, after extensive customer research, was to make a phone with a huge screen but that you could still comfortably use with one hand. The problem here is that that is basically impossible, even for those with large hands. Where the company has succeeded though is by making the G6 perfectly pocket friendly while packing in a screen that it’s easy to scroll through and hold with a single paw.

This might sound easy to achieve, but it can be rare to find on phablets like the G6. The iPhone 7 Plus, for example, is a through and through two-handed device, and the G6 succeeds in fitting a larger screen than that phone into a smaller overall body.

From the precision cut metal rim to the flat back that still packs in dual cameras and a fingerprint sensor and, of course, the screen, LG has hit a home run with this design. If at first it looks ordinary, in use it really is far from that. No gimmicks, no leather, no risks – just incredible build quality that positively affects daily use.

Features and specifications

In the tech press, a new high-end smartphone usually takes a fair (and unfair) battering simply because of the specs. To us, the G6 actually feels like a marriage of hardware and software that transcends this sort of nit picking because it works so well as a cohesive whole. The flack the G6 has got for using the Snapdragon 821 is a little unfair given how well it performs. Here we’ll break down the features and specifications for you to decide for yourself what you make of LG’s decisions.

Processor

One point of contention among the tech community is LG’s decision to go with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor rather than its latest 835 that we expect to see in the Galaxy S8. Read: Galaxy S8 vs LG G6.

The 821 is in its third generation, and LG told us in an interview that it therefore has more expertise in how to optimise the user experience (UX) and implied the 835 wouldn’t have brought any more noticeable advantages.

It’s true that the 835 might bring noticeable battery life gains when we see it in the Galaxy S8, but if we don’t fully know why LG chose to forego it’s hard to fully criticise the decision. The 821 is, after all, doing just fine powering the Google Pixel

The G6 can handle some pretty heavy multitasking. We swiped between games, video streams, Spotify, document editing and more and the phone barely broke a sweat. Very occasionally in app (Spotify for example) we noticed a tiny lag on album art when switching songs, but live streaming services often do this even on high-end phones. 

We can’t imagine anyone having complaints about the G6’s performance, and the benchmarks below reflect how it holds its own against the best of the best. In fact, it is one of the best.

You’ll notice some of the frame rate scores are lower than the G6’s market rivals; the OnePlus 3T and Google Pixel have the same 821 processor but have better scores.

We are putting this down to the larger resolution on the G6 and its Full HD display, and the processor needing to push that bit harder to keep up. At no point during gaming, for example, was the frame rate lagging, but if top specs that give maximum possible performance are your thing, you may want to take this into consideration

Display

The display is a 5.7in Quad HD display with a resolution of 2880 x 1440 – it’s stunning. The extra pixels on that first figure are to account for the 18:9 aspect ratio, which you will get used to much quicker than you might think.

The latency is very good, with very fast response, but it still is a touch (tiny touch) behind the iPhone 7, but very comparable to any other Android phone we have used. It never affected our use of the device.

Aside from the 564ppi, the extra height of the 18:9 aspect means the whole experience of using the G6 is improved from the G5. If that sounds a bit too vague, it’s because you really need to get your hands on it to see what we mean. The extra height just makes sense in the slim form factor, and you really will use it with one hand. This impression is also intrinsically linked with the changes to the software, which we’ll come onto.

The screen also retains the always-on functionality from the G5, with a slightly altered setup lower down on the screen with a new default font. It still displays the time, date and apps that you have notifications for.

The rounded corners really help the display; they make it feel more contained, almost like the display has been penned in for fear of it becoming to large. This is to positive effect, and we found that everything from homescreen swipes to typing long messages was a joy on the larger display. There was a lot of room for error here, but in terms of pure presentation, LG has absolutely nailed it.

We delve more into how the aspect ratio affects the software in the software section of this review. Click here to skip down to it.

Cameras

The LG G5 impressed us with its dual camera setup that enabled wide-angle shots. The G6 retains this, with two 13Mp rear facing cameras. The wide-angle lens offers a 125-degree angle and the standard has optical image stabilisation. LG claims it has found an algorithm that lets you zoom between the two cameras smoothly without a software jerk. We found, unfortunately, that this isn’t the case. There’s still a tiny flicker as the lenses switch over.

These cameras can record up to 60fps at full HD quality, and in ultra HD at 30fps. HDR support is only for still images, not video, but this is quite usual for smartphones – even the high-end ones.

We found general image quality to be excellent. The display is a joy to use as a viewfinder given its size and the root files themselves show a superior handling of composition. 

The wide-angle lens option is still best on the G6 in comparison to rivals. The user-friendly presentation in Auto mode means you can easily and quickly switch between the two. Check out the comparison shot below for an idea of the perspective changes you get. Though be aware that the full wide angle does create a slight fishbowl effect at the edges of the image. 

 

The camera is also good at handling macro-style shots, and most casual users won’t need to stray into the manual mode, though if you do, it’s well set up.

Something that’s more pushed in the marketing is the camera’s Square mode that panders towards Instagram friendly shots. It also fits in nicely with the G6’s square themed GUI. There are four shooting options in square mode: Snap, Grid, Guide and Match. Here’s a quick rundown of what they do, and an example (examples below explanations).

Snap splits the screen in half and means once you’ve taken a picture you can preview it straight away whilst the second half of the screen remains a viewfinder to take another shot in. Handy if you’re trying to get a perfect picture of an important subject (potentially your own face). 

Grid is the simplest and is a quick way to create a four image grid of pictures that is itself a square. It’s the most simple and most effective mode. 

Guide is where it gets slightly too clever for itself, with the option to pick an image from your gallery to act as a ghosted guide image with which to overlay in the viewfinder and better compose another picture. It ends up overcrowding the screen and is confusing to use. 

Match is set up to capture two images like in Grid, but this is to be slightly kooky and combine (LG suggests) candyfloss with a vapour trail to create a trick image. It’s very hard to use and even harder to get a decent shot. 

They are fun modes to play around with, but it’s a distraction from the very good sensor that takes normal photos very well. But LG is trying to please the Instagram generation, and it has most likely succeeded there.

Storage and RAM

All variants of the LG G6 have 4GB RAM as standard. Regionally, some of the features differ. The European version of the LG G6 has 32GB storage but a micro SD slot for expansion up to 2TB. The same applies to the US version.

The Korean variant will have 64GB storage, but also the micro SD support. LG said these differences were down to regional marketing decisions. Hopefully it won’t make too much difference given the storage is expandable.

Connectivity and extras

Where regional decisions become a bit more frustrating is in the extras. The US G6 has wireless charging, which adds extra convenience, minimal extra weight and no design changes. However, the Korean and European versions miss out on this handy addition. 

The Korean G6 has Hi-Fi Quad DAC, a component that allows for high quality audio playback. LG told us that it doesn’t cost much more to add this feature, but the US and Europe miss out on it. It referred back to regional decisions on included components, but for us it’s frustrating that the European version misses out on two desirable features.

There will also be a dual SIM version, but don’t expect this to come to the UK or Europe. These three missing features aren’t vital to the G6’s success in the UK, but we’d certainly welcome them and it’s frustrating to see a major phone split its features like this dependent on market. Extra features are universally appreciated.

The G6 does have one trick up its sleeve for all regions though. LG claims it’s the first smartphone to support both Dolby Vision and HDR 10. In basic terms, it’s the first smartphone to theoretically support superior audio-visual standards normally associated with high-end televisions.

We say theoretically because while it supports both, streaming services such as Netflix don’t actually yet offer playback of this combined quality on mobile devices. Remember when everything was ‘HD ready’, before HD actually existed? It’s like that. Watch this space.

An iPhone 7 compared to the LG G6

Where it falls down slightly – but thankfully not too much – is in how it adjusts to display content that is by default 16:9 or similar. For example, using Netflix will display the video in 16.7:9 on the G6. Swiping down from the top pf the screen gives you a green icon, tap that and you have the option to view in 16:9 or expand to the full 18:9. If you opt for the latter, it warns you ‘The app’s content may not be fully displayed’. 

It’s a bit fiddly, and we found it meant having to return to the Netflix homescreen. And, in every option, some form of black bar remained on at least one edge to make sure all the content was still visible. It’s far from ideal if you want to view apps using the full display.

LG told us that it was working directly with Netflix to sort this out and bring a seamless 18:9 video experience to the G6, but we remain worried that with the plethora of services and games out there, the G6 might be doomed to a life of black bar playback. Hopefully not.

Battery life

The G6 has a 3,300mAh non-removable battery. This might bug LG fans of the G4 and G5 whose batteries you could remove, but in reality this is the correct decision. The battery is big enough to easily last a full day and the bundled fast charger continues Android device’s pleasing trend of above-average battery life and very fast top up times. 

Our review unit of the G6 was a pre-production model, so perhaps the slight erratic nature of the battery life can be put down to that. It was the only area of use that we suspected might be improved with the final retail version. We were never left out of juice, but some days the G6 would be on 75% by bed with reasonably heavy use (which is outstanding) while other days it’d reach that with light use by mid-morning. We’ll update this review in due course and after an even longer test period.

Our pre-production model was also a US version, and we can confirm the wireless charging works excellently with a number of third party charging pads and through various cases. It is, though, slower by a long way compared to fast charging via cable.

Software

The G6 pleasingly ships with Android Nougat 7.0, but then again it’d be a crime if it didn’t. LG’s overlay has a certain playfulness in the pastel colours, square design focus and rounded edges influenced by the screen. However it is well refined, with everything from app animations to menus flowing well and without pause.

It takes a bit of getting used to if you’re coming from Samsung’s TouchWiz or pure stock Android, but after a time it’s just as fun and practical to use as them.

The G6’s software has been quite substantially overhauled from the G5’s in order to play nice with the taller 18:9 screen. LG’s own apps such as messaging, weather and calendar have been redesigned to better manage white space and information displayed since there’s more room to play with.

When presented side by side with the G5’s screens, the difference is noticeably positive:

As you can see, apps have more space to work with, so LG has worked very hard to bring the user a more aesthetically pleasing experience, working on attractive, modernised graphics in the main apps.

The camera software too has been redone, with some excellent use of the extra screen space – we love that when taking photos landscape, you get a camera roll of the last few photos taken, rather than the smartphone norm of one tiny thumbnail of the one most recent photo. 

We also welcome LG’s decision to choose whether or not to display apps iOS style on the home screen or store them in an app tray. We don’t mind it on iOS, but given the choice on Android, we’ll pick the app tray every time.

Multitasking is also good on the G6. As with all Android phones that allow it, you can’t use it with every app, but it’s handy if you want to run two apps simultaneously. It works best though without a keyboard onscreen. As soon as you need it, even the 18:9 aspect can’t cope with the room needed, and multi-window becomes useless. It’s still a feature that we don’t really use, even though some continue to push it.

LG G6: Specs

  • Android Nougat 7.0
  • 5.7in 18:9 2880x1440 Quad HD display, 565ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • Adreno 530 graphics
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32/64GB storage (region dependent)
  • 13Mp dual rear cameras, Wide (F2.4, 125°) / 13MP Standard OIS 2.0 (F1.8, 71°) LED flash
  • 5Mp front camera, Wide (F2.2 / 100°)
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 4G LTE
  • Nano SIM (Dual SIM in some regions)
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • Hi-Fi Quad DAC (Korea only)
  • 3,300mAh non removable battery
  • Wireless charging (US only)
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • IP68 water resistant
  • 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9mm
  • Android Nougat 7.0
  • 5.7in 18:9 2880x1440 Quad HD display, 565ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • Adreno 530 graphics
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32/64GB storage (region dependent)
  • 13Mp dual rear cameras, Wide (F2.4, 125°) / 13MP Standard OIS 2.0 (F1.8, 71°) LED flash
  • 5Mp front camera, Wide (F2.2 / 100°)
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 4G LTE
  • Nano SIM (Dual SIM in some regions)
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • Hi-Fi Quad DAC (Korea only)
  • 3,300mAh non removable battery
  • Wireless charging (US only)
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • IP68 water resistant
  • 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9mm

OUR VERDICT

The LG G6 is no doubt a striking smartphone. Metal and glass shimmer while the huge 18:9 screen is impressively brought to life with the improved software and its rounded corner design. It is a more refined smartphone than both the G4 and G5, and should appeal to a broader audience – even if its features aren’t the same globally.

There’s a lot to cover with the G6, and it’s a complicated phone to assess. The differences in hardware and the tweaks in software mean that is a phone that reveals itself to you slowly than the immediacy of, say, a Samsung Galaxy S. The design looks uniform at first until you realise how well it all comes together.

LG has quietly managed to build a mature phone with next to no bezels and some genuinely unique tweaks to software, leaving it feeling fresher and more creative than any Android phone we’ve seen for a while.

The age-old question for LG though – will people buy it?

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