The smartphone line-up LG presented us with this year has been uninspiring.
Sure, the modular design of the G5 was interesting but I felt that too much sway was put on the additional gadgets that came with the handset. The result was a lacklustre smartphone that only just managed to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.
On the other side of the spectrum the Stylus 2 was good enough for a low cost smartphone but was beaten out by more powerful and cheaper smartphones.
One could say then that my expectations of the LG V20 were low.
After using the handset for a good few weeks however, I’m impressed and if you are still deciding which smartphone to buy for Christmas, your choice just got a lot harder.
LG V20 review: The overly lit elephant in the room
At the top of the handset is an always on display. It spans about 75% of the handset’s width and at first it looks mighty strange.
The display is an extension of the V20’s 5.7inch display and it works quite nicely but it is terrible once you turn the lights off. The light bleed is awful and in darker environments the light contrasts awfully on the black display. It’s reminiscent of the trouble we had with the G5.
With that said the bar is very functional and displays a snapshot of messages (if you have enabled security features you’ll just see an icon and a prompt to unlock the handset) and notifications and you can easily toggle features like Bluetooth, WiFi and volume from that bar and swipe to reveal shortcuts to apps like Google Now and the notepad. You can also customise which shortcuts you see.
It’s a nice feature and can be convenient but I don’t see it being the main reason somebody would buy this handset.
LG V20 review: Assault the battery
A battery that keeps up with you for two days is becoming more commonplace in smartphones and LG is embracing that trend. If you are aggressive with the handset using it as a WiFi hotspot, recording device as well as making calls and taking pictures the V20 will need a charge after a 10 hour day.
More conservative use where you check your texts, scroll through Facebook and play some games will net you about 16 hours of continuous use.
The magic in the V20 is how fast it charges up.
From empty to a full charge will take two hours if the handset is left alone thanks to Fast Charging capabilities but expect the handset to warm up quite a bit during charging
LG V20 review: A tale of two lenses
The V20 is fitted with a dual snapper at the rear comprised of a 16MP and an 8MP sensor. The main 16MP sensor has an f/1.8 aperture which translates into passable shots in low light.
The real star however is the 8MP sensor which lets you take wide angle shots. Despite it’s lower megapixel rating, the snapper is extremely proficient and images are good but still have a bit of noise.
The bar at the top of the V20’s display is incredibly useful in the camera app. You can easily switch between manual adjustments for photos and videos or switch into full auto mode.
Perhaps my favourite part of the V20 is the ability to adjust settings for video. Exposure, white balance and myriad other options including frames per second are all adjustable, something many manufacturers overlook when creating a handset.
We’ve included shots in both wide angle and narrow angle which you can check out below.
LG V20 review: Performance
Driving the V20 along is a Snapdrgon 820 chipset that houses a quad-core CPU running at 2.15GHz and an Adreno 530 GPU running at 624MHz. This is paired with 4GB of RAM and together these components fly through tasks.
Whether I was editing an Excel document or playing Rayman Origins, the handset never stumbled once.
The V20 gets warm after extended gaming sessions but the heat that 820 is generating has to go somewhere. I can say that it never got uncomfortably warm.
LG V20 review: Verdict
The V20 is the handset that the G5 should have been although if you’re looking for raw performance the G5 does out perform the V20. What separates the G5 and the V20 is that the latter balances performance, and clever design (in the always on display and removable battery) rather than attempting to do both very well and failing. There is no need to buy extra attachments to get the full experience, everything is right there in the palm of your hand and as a whole it works well.
The camera options are magnificent but images can sometimes appear dull and noisy. The biometric scanner is great and works when your hands aren’t 100% spotless and even if they’re a bit damp.
The form factor is quite nice as well. In spite of the 5.7inch display the V20 never feels cumbersome or as if it’s sticking out of your pockets.
Overall then the V20 is a well crafted smartphone but it’s not as great as something such as the Mi 5 which trumps it in performance, looks, the camera image quality and price.
However, if you’re looking for a phablet that is great for work and play as well as the staying power to last a full day then the V20 is a great option, especially if the Mate 8 is just outside of your price range.