LG V60 ThinQ 5G full review

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LG’s smartphone release strategy is scattershot, to say the least. This means its phones tend to get criticised because they don’t belong to a coherent release cycle or product evolution.

This is unfair because the V60 is a very good phone. I like it for the very reason others might not: it’s a very different phone to the Galaxy S20 or OnePlus 8 Pro. Those phones aim for different end goals and are for different consumers.

If we accept that the V60 is a device with niche, exceptional features, it makes up for the fact that, on paper, other phones are better. The V60’s battery life, manual camera controls and wired audio are the best on any smartphone I’ve ever reviewed.

It’s a phone that you need to ‘get’ in order to appreciate and isn’t for the mainstream smartphone buyer. The gawky (but in my view, great) Dual Screen accessory is proof of that. People will either think it’s awesome or the dumbest thing they’ve ever seen.

I have plenty of time for the V60 and really like what LG is doing with it. That’s why it’s a damn shame it’s so hard to buy outside of the States.

Hard to handle

The V60 ThinQ 5G is LG’s second 5G-ready phone after the V50 but looks nothing like its predecessor. LG has abandoned the sleek pebbled look that it used on its G and V series for the last couple of years and has instead settled on a mammoth glass sandwich with aluminium rails all around the edge.

I think it’s a great look and feel, though you might be disappointed that a small camera bump returns from the V40 design here where V50 was completely flush. The blue colour of my review unit has subtle gold edges and it looks pleasantly understated (despite attracting fingerprints) compared to the rainbow of colours other manufacturers are insisting on. A white and silver combo is also available.

The phone is just too big though. It has a 6.8in OLED display in a chassis that is wider and thicker than the Galaxy S20 Ultra, though the oleophobic coating on the screen is very effective.

This decidedly makes the V60 a two-hand phone, as even scrolling with one can feel precarious. It also sticks out the top of every trouser pocket I’ve put it in.

A thin bezel runs around the edge of the flat display housing a semi-circle notch for the front-facing camera, and the glass is expertly recessed into the frame. Build quality is top-level here, and paired with the size, IP68 certification and an official MIL-STD-810G rating, the V60 comes across as a gracefully designed tank.

As ever with LG devices, the haptics on this phone are superb, plus it charges via wired 25W Quick Charge 4 and supports slower wireless charging too.

You better look twice

If you don’t mind the size, then you’ll be rewarded by one of the best OLEDs LG has put on a phone. If you’re spec-watching, you’ll be disappointed that the panel does not have a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate and I can sympathise. LG sticks to 60Hz but honestly, it looks so good that I wasn’t bothered.

I’ve used the OnePlus 7T Pro and S20 Ultra and will admit that those displays are great because of their higher refresh rates. But LG’s here is well-calibrated, has excellent colour reproduction and is pin-sharp, despite topping out at 1080p.

I also tested the V60 with its Dual Screen case, which is physically different from similar cases made for the V50 and G8X. It makes an already enormous smartphone even larger – it's impossible to carry it comfortably in most pockets. To charge the phone when it’s in the case, LG includes a magnetic pass-through adapter. Don’t lose it.

The case is a productivity and gaming-focused curiosity. There’s an identical 1080p screen on the inside that doubles your display size, and even has a fake notch to keep things visually symmetrical.

This is not a replacement for a folding phone like the Galaxy Fold. LG is clear about this in the branding; it’s a dual-screen thing, not two screens that should be treated like one large one. You can view some apps over both, but it obviously looks terrible thanks to the honking great hinge in the middle.

Instead, the Dual Screen excels and running two vertical apps side by side. It works really well, the USB-C connector in the case plugging into the phone to power the second display. If you view Gmail over both screens it looks horrid but turn the set-up landscape and the bottom screen becomes a mini keyboard with the top screen as the display.

Not many apps are compatible with features like this and I doubt developers will bother to cater for it. It works well enough as a gamepad and LG has a Game Launcher app that's compatible with titles like Asphalt 9 and Modern Combat 5, but the software is very confusing to use and it takes a while to set it up correctly. You can even use the app to build your own custom controls for other games.

I mostly used the Dual Screen while chilling out on the sofa to read articles and browse social media. As soon as I went outside I took it off. It’s a nice to have that comes bundled with most US carriers’ V60 deals.

Another trick up the V60’s sleeve is stylus support, though LG barely mentions it in the marketing of the phone. Both displays support Wacom styluses as well as LG’s own Active Pen. I defer to the excellent Some Gadget Guy for a full explainer, as I was unable to test this feature, but it means the V60 is a valid Galaxy Note alternative if you don’t mind forking out for a stylus.

The V60 also quietly supports a desktop mode that I was unable to test due to being stuck working from home without access to an external monitor. But it’s there, and that’s great.

Fight the power

The V40 and V50 had higher resolution primary displays that make the V60 look like a downgrade, but the reality is more nuanced than that. High refresh rates on high-resolution screens destroy battery life, so LG has paired a 5,000mAh battery with a 60Hz, 1080p panel and produced a phone with exceptional battery life. It’s even enough for a day’s use when the cell is powering the Dual Screen case, too.

In Geekbench 4's battery test with the screen brightness set to 120cdm², the phone lasted for 11 hours 45 minutes compared to the S20 Ultra's 8 hours 20 minutes (also at 60Hz setting). In real-world usage, I regularly saw six hours of screen-on time. 

Most flagship phones with large batteries feel like they pack in the power because otherwise, they would die after half a day. The V60 is different, and it feels as though the screen and battery combination was decided upon to benefit the user, rather than make up for an overtly demanding display.

You might see it differently, but it also means the V60, from $799, costs hundreds less than a $1,399 S20 Ultra and has the same Snapdragon 865 chip with X55 5G modem. It doesn’t support multi-band 5G on AT&T or T-Mobile though and is limited to slower sub-6GHz bands (Verizon buyers get full multi-band support). I was unable to test the phone on a 5G network, as I am based in New Zealand, and the provided T-Mo SIM was not set up for roaming.

The performance is outstanding, and the phone flew through everything I threw at it with no lag, stuttering or crashing. 128GB expandable storage should be enough for most people too.

You might expect the 8GB RAM to struggle, considering other phones are packing 10GB or even 12GB, but LG has set up the phone well by balancing internal component and hardware decisions. The V60’s in-display fingerprint sensor is optical and works very well unless your hands are wet. It’s miles better than the terrible ultrasonic sensors on all of Samsung’s S20 series.

Did you hear that?

LG continues to produce the best phones in the world for wired audio. The V60 has a 3.5mm headphone jack with a Quad DAC, a component that mirrors standalone DACs that can cost around £200/$200.

The V60 produced the best wired audio I’ve heard from a phone by toggling both Hi-Fi Quad DAC and another software option called 'LG 3D Sound Engine'. The latter adds 3D sound effects via four presets, but I prefer the audio direct from the DAC.

It’ll improve Spotify streams, compared to standard wired or Bluetooth audio, but it comes into its own with higher quality music files in FLAC format. I also streamed some of my favourite songs using my high-quality Deezer Hi-Fi subscription and heard sounds and textures I had never noticed before. It’s genuinely that good, and one of the best reasons to invest in a V60 over other high-end phones in 2020.

The stereo speakers at the top and bottom of the device are also well rounded in tone and volume, and I can tolerate podcasts through them. They’re also great for speakerphone calls, but like most phones, you’ll want wired or wireless headphones for music, TV and films.

Through the lens

The V60 has already been criticised for cutting its three cameras down to two. There’s no telephoto lens here, which is disappointing if you enjoy optical zooming on phones. Instead, you get a 64Mp f/1.8 main with OIS (optical image stabilisation), a 13Mp f/1.9 ultrawide and a time-of-flight sensor.

Images from the main sensor are very good in daylight, which uses 4-by-4 pixel binning to process 16Mp photos with accurate colour reproduction and decent dynamic range (I turned auto HDR on and liked my decision). Things get shakier in low light, and the night mode setting doesn’t do anything as good as Google or Huawei can.

The ultrawide is great to have, though the colour temperature differences between the results from it and the main lens are quite substantial. You’ll have to play around to get some consistency between the two. The 10Mp front-facing camera is nothing to write home about.

If you want to zoom on the V60, there’s a passable digital zoom that works by cropping images captured by the 64Mp main sensor. It’s a workaround but I didn’t miss optical zoom, considering I’ve used the 100x zoom on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, and it’s trash.

LG V60 ThinQ 5G camera test

Also, the telephoto lens on the Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus can only actually optically zoom by 1.06x – so those phones might as well not have them either. 

LG’s camera app comes into its own in manual mode. This isn’t really a phone I’d recommend to people who want the best auto mode, but it excels if you know what you’re doing with camera settings. Ditto for manual video – the V60 can record at up to 8K, though I couldn’t tell how good this actually was, without an 8K display at my disposal.

One small thing I love about the camera app is it previews at a higher frame rate than other phones, so the viewfinder is silky smooth.

But none of this can help escape the fact that LG’s imaging is still behind Google and Huawei’s by some distance. I prefer LG’s colour palette to Samsung’s over-saturation, but on a technical level LG’s cameras should be improving year over year, and they aren’t.

The cracks in the armour

With all of this to consider whether or not the niche, purposeful V60 is a phone for you must be contrasted with some of the annoying software quirks that LG continues to ship here. LG’s UX 9.0 Android 10 skin is by far the best the company has ever made (though don’t count on it being updated any time soon) and for all but the pickiest of buyers, it’ll be perfectly fine. I really enjoy the aesthetic, which really isn’t that different from the versions Google and OnePlus ship, no matter what some reviewers will tell you.

But it is unbelievable that the app drawer is still so bad. You can alphabetise apps, but when you download new ones they just get added to the end of the list, and if you delete apps they remain as gaps until you resort them with the setting again. No other popular app drawer in Android behaves this way, and it sticks out like a sore thumb on the V60.

Oddly, the UI won’t let you adjust the screen brightness if it’s set to auto. I think this is the first phone I’ve ever reviewed where that’s the case, and it means the V60 can’t use Android 10’s excellent brightness preference learning. If the auto-brightness was well-calibrated maybe I wouldn’t mind, but it’s too aggressive, so often I had to turn it off and manually change brightness throughout the day. It was really annoying.

There’s also no face unlock feature of any form, which is bad practice on a 2020 flagship.

The software experience is peppered with things like this. I ran two WhatsApp accounts on the phone using the dual app setting but found that it insisted on running the LG keyboard on the second account, even though I had switched to Gboard.

There weren’t many bloatware apps pre-installed on my T-Mobile review unit, but other reviewers are saying the AT&T version comes with 37, some of which you can’t delete. The T-Mo version is fine, but it’s something to bear in mind. 

Price and availability

This leads me to the most frustrating thing about the V60 – its availability. LG is only officially selling this phone in the US, and only through US carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

The price is right at $799 for just the phone and $899 for the phone with the Dual Screen, depending on where you buy from. $799 undercuts the OnePlus 8 Pro, Galaxy S20 and Huawei P40 Pro by some margin. So, for the V60 to be out of reach for many buyers worldwide is a crying shame.

You can’t currently buy it unlocked. I hope this changes, but for now, this is a phone whose success is hampered by its availability.

Verdict

The LG V60 is one of my favourite phones of the past two years. It is too big, but it is lovable in a way few phones are, with outstanding battery life, great audio and a Dual Screen case that you’ll love if you ‘get’ it.

I don’t even think the 1080p, 60Hz display is a dealbreaker because it makes sense in the context of the overall device and the price.

But the V60 is only available through US mobile carriers, meaning it will probably be frustratingly difficult to get ahold of for buyers across the rest of the world. LG has its reasons for sticking with this strategy, but I’m sad that this phone won’t get into the hands of some of the niche audience the company is trying to appeal to.

Specs

LG V60 ThinQ 5G: Specs

  • Android 10 with LG UX 9.0
  • 6.8in HD (1080x2460) P-OLED, 20.5:9 Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 octa-core processor
  • 8GB RAM 128/256GB expandable internal storage (up to 2TB)
  • 64Mp f/1.8 main, OIS
  • 13Mp f/1.9 ultrawide
  • ToF sensor
  • 10Mp f/1.9 selfie camera
  • Fingerprint scanner (in-screen)
  • 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • 5G
  • Single/Dual-nano SIM
  • USB-C
  • 5000mAh non-removable battery
  • Quick Charge 4.0
  • 169.3 x 77.6 x 8.9mm
  • 214g