LG G6

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The G6 comes at a cru­cial time for LG: it made a loss in 2016 fol­low­ing the dis­ap­point­ing sales of the G5 and V20. The firm’s new hand­set is a bold step in the right di­rec­tion, though that doesn’t al­ways save a com­pany’s for­tunes. To cut to the chase, LG G6

is an as­ton­ish­ing de­vice that eas­ily holds it own against the best smart­phones ever.

De­sign

So LG has gone big, but it’s the screen, not the hand­set it­self, that’s grown. The G6 has an 18:9 panel, ex­pand­ing the dis­play from the tra­di­tional con­fines of 16:9. This leaves it with a 5.7in Quad HD screen. 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 Ice Plat­inum (pic­tured), Mys­tic White and Astro 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 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.

The black phone sports this look slightly bet­ter than the white or plat­inum hand­sets, 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 mod­els 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 smart­phone for looks and how it hides fin­ger­prints, the black one wins be­cause the rounded screen sim­ply looks bet­ter on it.

LG said its goal with the G6 was to make a phone with a huge screen that you could com­fort­ably use with one hand. The prob­lem here is that this 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 is 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 such as 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

In the tech press, a new high-end smart­phone usu­ally takes a fair (and un­fair) bat­ter­ing sim­ply be­cause of the spec­i­fi­ca­tions. To us, the G6 ac­tu­ally feels like a mar­riage of hard­ware and soft­ware that tran­scends this sort of nit­pick­ing be­cause it works so well as a co­he­sive whole. The flack the G6 has re­ceived 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, which Sam­sung has used in the US ver­sion of the Galaxy S8 (page 33). The 821 is in its third gen­er­a­tion, and LG told us 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.

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 some apps (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 our bench­marks (see left) 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 G6 comes with a 5.7in Quad HD screen with a res­o­lu­tion of 2880x1440 and is 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 smart­phone 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.

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

The rounded cor­ners re­ally help the screen; they make it feel more con­tained, al­most as though the panel has been penned in for fear of it be­com­ing to large. This is to pos­i­tive ef­fect, and we found that ev­ery­thing from home screen 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 pre­sen­ta­tion, LG has nailed it. Cam­eras The LG G5 im­pressed us with its dual cam­era set-up 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 usual for phones. 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.

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 LG’s 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. Snap splits the screen in half and means once you’ve taken a pic­ture you can pre­view it straight away, while 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 a quick way to cre­ate a four-im­age grid of pic­tures. It’s the most sim­ple and 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. LG is try­ing to please the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion, and it has most likely suc­ceeded there.

Stor­age and RAM

The LG G6 comes with 4GB of RAM as stan­dard and 32GB stor­age. There’s also a mi­croSD slot for ex­pan­sion up to 256GB.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and ex­tras

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

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. Net­flix, for ex­am­ple, will dis­play the video in 16.7:9 on the G6. Swip­ing down from the top of 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 home screen. Plus, 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.

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 last a full day and the bun­dled fast charger con­tin­ues An­droid de­vices’ pleas­ing trend of above-av­er­age bat­tery life and very fast top up times.

Our re­view unit 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 with­out charge, but some days the G6 would be on 75 per­cent by bed­time with rea­son­ably heavy use (which is out­stand­ing), while other days it would reach that with light use by mid-morn­ing.

Soft­ware

The G6 ships with An­droid Nougat 7.0, but then again it would 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. It is, how­ever, well refined, with ev­ery­thing from app an­i­ma­tions to menus flow­ing well.

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 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.

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

Geek­bench 4

Guide

Match

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