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.
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 leatherclad 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 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 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.
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 44). 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 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.
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 wideangle 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 smartphones.
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 that is itself a square. 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 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.
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, foe 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 3300mAh nonremovable 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 preproduction 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.
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 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 on-screen. 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.
The L6 G6 is a striking phone. Metal and glass shimmer, while the 18:9 screen is brought to life with the improved software and rounded design
The LG G6 is a striking phone. Metal and glass shimmer, while the huge 18:9 screen is brought to life with the improved software and its rounded corner design. It is a more refined handset than both the G4 and G5, and should appeal to a broader audience. 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 it’s a phone that reveals itself to you more slowly than the immediacy of, say, the Galaxy S8. The design looks uniform at first until you realise how well it all comes together. LG has managed to build a mature phone with next to no bezels and some unique tweaks to software, leaving it feeling fresher and more creative than any Android phone we’ve seen for a while