LG G8X ThinQ full review

LG has already launched two flagship phones this year - the G8 and the V50 - and so it’s perhaps fitting that it’s third, the G8X, borrows a little from both.

The LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen - to give it its full name - borrows its name from the G8, the second screen add-on functionality from the V50, and mixes and matches some core specs from both. I spent a little time with the phone ahead of its IFA announcement, and here’s how it looks.

Price and availability

As is often the case with LG phones these days we can’t be absolutely sure that the G8X will come out in the UK. The G8 never hit British shores, but the 5G V50 did - it’s available from EE - so hopefully the G8X will follow in the latter phone’s footsteps. A US launch is pretty likely either way.

LG hasn’t yet told us anything about when the phone might release though, or how much it will cost. Going by the G8 and V50 though, expect the G8X to sit right at the upper end of the smartphone market on price at least, likely getting close to a grand - with an additional surcharge for the Dual Screen add-on, which will be sold separately.

Dual Screen 2.0

Like the V50 before it, the headline feature on the G8X isn’t technically part of the phone at all: it’s the separate Dual Screen add-on, an optional attachment that gives you a fully functional second touch screen in a laptop-esque clamshell design.

This isn’t exactly the same Dual Screen that we saw earlier this year though, as LG has packed in a few upgrades and refinements that fix some of the first iteration’s biggest failings and should help convince naysayers that this form factor is novel, but not a mere novelty.

The 6.4in OLED display (up from 6.2in) is now the same size as the main phone, which makes moving windows between the two feel much more natural - though it’s clear that once again display quality is not quite at parity, so you will notice slight variations in colour and brightness as you flip between the two.

More importantly, the new 360-degree ‘Freestop Hinge’ offers a fancy name for a simple function: it’ll let you rest the Dual Screen display at any angle, just like on a laptop - a near-essential upgrade from the previous design, which only let the screen rest while parallel to the main phone.

This also technically ups the screen count to three: a 2.1in OLED panel on the front offers a simple monochrome display of the time, date, and a few notifications, saving you from opening up the Dual Screen every time you want to check for new messages in the group chat.

The final tweak I noticed is that the phone connects to the Dual Screen using USB-C, which in turn blocks the USB-C port with a new magnet connector. This suggests that while you have the Dual Screen on you’ll have to charge it through a specific adaptor or dock, though I haven’t seen what that looks like yet. It does at least still give you access to the all-important headphone jack though.

Of course, all these upgrades won’t mean much if you don’t ever use the Dual Screen in the first place. I’ve found that the functionality of the original varies wildly between apps, and it depends in part on how comfortable you are committing to LG’s in-house software. The company’s own keyboard can expand across one screen in landscape for more space to type for example, while the gallery app can display your image library on one side and full photos on the other - but third-party alternatives, including Google’s, won’t do the same.

It’s most useful for multi-tasking between apps - letting you watch a movie on one screen while browsing the web on the other; reply to emails while keeping your calendar up on the second screen; or just mainline Instagram and Snapchat simultaneously in case you really can’t bear to disconnect. You’ll probably know already if any of these sound like ways you might want to use your phone - but if not, you can always ignore the Dual Screen entirely and grab the G8X on its own.

Phoning it in

I don’t want to suggest that outside of the dual screen the G8X is a bad phone - there’s nothing at all to suggest that - but it’s probably fair to say that without the double display it wouldn’t be an especially exciting one.

Aesthetically it’s incredibly similar to LG’s other two 2019 flagships - a slim slate of glass and grey metal that’s attractively functional. It’s not ugly, but it’s certainly not striking. It looks like a phone, one that could comfortably be mistaken for any number of other devices released in the past year or two. It’s absolutely fine, but no-one’s likely to buy one based on how it looks.

The single 32Mp selfie camera sits in a teardrop notch (confusingly mirrored on the Dual Screen for symmetry, even though that display doesn’t pack a camera) while on the back you’ll find another two lens - totally flush with the body, in one of the few design touches where LG is consistently trumping competitors.

Those two rear cameras are 12Mp and 13Mp respectively - with the latter a wide-angle lens - and the main lens packs what LG brands ‘extreme’ image stabilisation for shooting video, along with the option to shoot 4K timelapse footage and an AI action cam mode that will apparently adjust shutter speed based on how fast subjects are moving.

The 6.4in FHD+ OLED panel is a highlight, as you’d expect from an LG phone - the company still offers some of the best screens in the market - and a new night-time mode provides gamma adjustment to lighten dark scenes in video or games and in theory ease eye strain. The company has also finally offered an in-display fingerprint scanner, though I didn’t get the chance to test how well it works.

Core specs are typical for a flagship, but not quite cutting-edge - Snapdragon 855 (but not the newer 855+), and 6GB of RAM paired with 128GB storage. A 4,000mAh battery is welcome, but realistically even that will run out fast if it’s powering two displays at once - you won’t want the Dual Screen switch on the whole time.

Fast charging and wireless charging should help ease the battery nerves a little at least, while IP68 water- and dust-resistance paired with MIL-STD-810G military drop testing certification mean the G8X should be one of the sturdier Android devices around - at least without getting into a proper rugged phone.

LG always makes a bit of a fuss over sound, and this is no different, though there’s equally nothing too new either: a headphone jack and stereo speakers come as standard, with a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC driving the audio. Basically if you care about audio quality the G8X should deliver, and if you don’t know what a Quad DAC even is then you probably shouldn’t worry about it.

It’s also worth pointing out what the G8X doesn’t have. This isn’t a 5G phone - the V50 remains LG’s sole 5G handset - and it drops the gimmicky Hand ID and Air Motion controls that plagued the regular G8.

Finally, the G8X sees LG introduce LG UX 9.0, the latest version of its Android software, though this will hopefully make it onto other recent handsets soon enough anyway. It brings chunkier fonts, a night mode, and better one-handed use features, but doesn’t radically change the LG software experience, which is still pretty middling by Android OEM standards.

Early verdict

If you’re not sold on the Dual Screen, then the G8X is a fairly dull flagship for 2019 - decent specs and drab design combine for a handset that shouldn’t disappoint but wouldn’t do much to excite either.

For those intrigued by the possibilities of a second screen however, the G8X Dual Screen proves that LG might be onto something here. The bigger panel, better hinge, and front-facing notification display fix almost every pain point from the original design, meaning there’s less to get in the way of getting on with two things at once.

It may not be as fancy as a folding phone - but LG’s on its second dual screen and so far no rival has put a functional foldable in consumers’ hands. Folding may be the future, but until then the G8X proves that the second screen has its place.

Specs

LG G8X ThinQ: Specs

  • Android 9.0 Pie
  • 6.4in 19.5:9 FHD+ OLED
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 octa-core processor
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB internal storage
  • microSD
  • 12MP rear camera with 13MP wide-angle lens
  • 32MP selfie camera
  • In-display fingerprint scanner
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 4G LTE
  • USB-C
  • IP68 water and dust-resistance
  • 4000mAh non-removable battery
  • 159x76x8.4mm
  • 192g

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