In the modern-day world of technology, where you can get smartphones with top-of-the-line innards at surprisingly affordable prices, powerful hardware alone is no longer reason enough to justify paying a premium for a flagship smartphone from a big-name brand. That’s why established players are increasingly focusing on outing devices with innovations that go much beyond than just commanding spec-sheets. And one such name is LG.
From the curved G Flex to the secondary display-toting V10, LG has a lot of ingenious smartphones to its credit. But not all of the company’s ‘innovative’ mobile devices have been as successful as it would have wanted them to be, the case in point being its last year’s flagship — G5.
The G5 was a really bold move by LG, banking on the whole modularity concept. However, the smartphone failed to find too many takers. It was also marred by issues such as subpar build quality and clunky implementation of the modular concept. The company acknowledged that it made ‘mistakes with the G5’, and launched the V20 in the second half of 2016 to recoup some of its market share.
Fast forward to the present, and the chaebol is back in the fray with its newest offering – G6. Ditching the modular approach, LG’s 2017 flagship largely sticks to the basics of smartphone design. In addition, it comes with a display that’s quite unlike anything else out there. And of course, there’s puissant hardware thrown in for good measure as well.
That sounds impressive, but is it a package compelling enough to merit a price tag of Rs 51,990?
Let’s find out, in our full review of the LG G6.
Design, build quality and display
Smartphones are often chastised for their uninspiring form factors. The G6, on the other hand, embraces its slab-like construction, and completely nails it in the design department. This is not a device that relies on fancy shticks to look different. Instead, it takes the very essentials of smartphone design and perfects them.
The G6 is crafted from two materials – aluminium and glass. The rear panel is made out of a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5. While it undoubtedly looks good, it also makes the smartphone’s back a fingerprint and smudge magnet. At the centre of the upper half of the rear panel is a rectangular module with rounded corners. It sits flush with the rest of the back and houses the dual-camera system of the G6, comprising two 13MP sensors – one standard (71-degree, f/1.8 aperture) and one wide angle (125-degree, f/2.4 aperture). A vertical dual-LED flash is situated between the two camera lenses.
Just below the dual-camera assembly is the circular fingerprint sensor, which also doubles up as a power button. The lower end of the smartphone’s back panel has a shiny G6 logo imprinted in the centre, with some safety/regulatory information and other details (such as the model number) below it. The rear panel is mostly flat, but curves slightly towards all four edges.
The sides of the LG G6 are all metal and have a smooth finish. The volume up/down buttons (which have a nice feedback) are located on the upper-half of the left side and directly opposite them, is the hybrid dual-SIM/microSD card tray, located on the right side.
Up top, the G6 has a 3.5mm audio jack and a secondary noise-cancelling microphone on the right. Coming to the bottom edge, it has a USB Type-C port in the middle, flanked by a microphone (on the left) and a speaker grille (on the right) with three big vents. The only breaks in the G6’s otherwise continuous side frame are provided by a couple of antenna lines – two on the top and one each on the left, right and bottom.
Coming to the front, it’s home to the G6’s biggest standout feature – display. The display has minimal side bezels, and those on the top and bottom aren’t that substantial either. A 5MP (f/2.2 aperture) front-facing camera is situated on the top left corner, above the display. At the center, there’s an earpiece, as well as the proximity and ambient light sensors. The chin bezel is bare, except for an LG logo stamped in the middle.
As for the display itself, we’ve got just one word for it — phenomenal. The tall 5.7-inch ‘FullVision’ panel of the G6 is truly a sight to behold. Being an IPS LCD one, it has flawless colour reproduction and excellent viewing angles. It gets plenty bright as well, so sunlight legibility is a non-issue. We enjoyed a couple of videos (both standard and HDR) and came away thoroughly impressed. The ‘Dolby Vision’ support really makes a world of difference, and you just have to know where to look (hint: Netflix) for the right HDR video content that can do justice to the G6’s gorgeous display.
Oh, and the rounded corners of the display look amazing too. As per LG’s claims, they help in minimizing the damage to the display in case of accidental falls. So that’s a plus as well.
With a resolution of 1440×2880 pixels and a pixel density of around 564ppi, the LG G6’s panel renders everything from 4K videos to even webpages with striking detail. The tall display and its unusual 18:9 aspect ratio may take some time getting used to, but it’s incredibly useful when you’re browsing the web or using apps like Facebook and Twitter. That’s because the added visual real estate allows more content to be displayed on the screen as you scroll.
The G6 lets you easily scale third-party apps/games (via Settings) and videos (via a button during video playback) to fit its 18:9 display. However, some apps and YouTube videos don’t support scaling (yet), leaving you no option but to bear with unsightly black bars on the sides. Also, for some reason, LG chose to put two-generation old Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the G6’s display. This is especially weird, considering the back panel is secured by Gorilla Glass 5.
There’s another area where the G6’s tall display makes a mountain of a difference – one-handed usage. And this is something that becomes apparent the moment you hold the phone in your hand. The LG G6 is a 5.7-inch smartphone but it feels much smaller than that. It’s perfectly usable with one hand. The only frequent-use issue that potential users might be concerned about – pulling down the notification shade from the top – can be solved by adding a dedicated on-screen button for the same to the navigation bar. This can be done via Settings.
All said, we found the LG G6 to be solidly-engineered and well-constructed piece of mobile hardware. Its design is understated yet classy, and its heft gives it a reassuring in-hand feel.
Performance, software and camera
Delivering processing muscle to the G6 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC, comprising a quad-core CPU (two Kryo cores clocked at 2.35GHz and two Kryo cores clocked at 1.6GHz) and Adreno 530 GPU. This is complemented by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, with support for microSD cards of up to 256GB capacity.
Much has been said and discussed about LG’s decision of opting for last year’s silicon to power its 2017 flagship. In its defence, the company clarified that it couldn’t use this year’s top-tier Qualcomm chipset – Snapdragon 835 – because fellow South Korean rival Samsung hogged the entire initial production batch of the 835 for its own flagships – S8 and S8+. Numerous reports have corroborated the same as well, so it seems like LG didn’t really have a choice but to use the older 821 chipset for the G6.
Now, if you love having the latest hardware specifications in your smartphone (and other gadgets, for that matter) and have already made up your mind that a Snapdragon 821 chipset in a 2017 flagship is simply not going to work, there’s no amount of reasoning that can convince you otherwise. And theoretically, the 835 is better than the 821, even if just a little.
But if you don’t care about model numbers and marketing speak, and just want a smartphone that works well, the Snapdragon 821-powered LG G6 is going to serve you just fine.
It may have come out last year, but the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 is still a top-of-the-line SoC that’s mighty powerful for handling just about every task that you might expect a flagship Android smartphone to perform.
During the course of our testing, we used the G6 to play the most graphic-intensive of games (e.g. WWE Immortals), stream/record 4K videos and browse ten different websites in separate Google Chrome tabs, all while juggling randomly between them. As expected, the smartphone (or its Snapdragon 821/4GB RAM combo) aced everything like a champ. Like every smartphone out there, the G6 does get a little warm when playing games or recording videos for an extended amount of time, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.
The bottom-line is, the Snapdragon 821 is all that the G6 needs. And the numbers back it up too. The smartphone scored 82257 in AnTuTu benchmark test, while GeekBench 4 scores were 1760 (single-core) and 4060 (multi-core).
However, formidable hardware is just one aspect of the picture. A well-rounded Android smartphone also has to have efficient software. To that end, the LG G6 runs Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the box, with its own UX 6.0 layer baked on top.
As such, all Nougat-specific features like split-view multitasking, display scaling, enhanced notifications and better power management are included in the G6. But what truly makes the G6 shine is UX 6.0.
That’s because UX 6.0 isn’t just a fancy software skin, it’s a custom interface designed to let users take full advantage of the G6’s 18:9 aspect ratio ‘Full Vision’ display.
LG G6’s 5.7-inch display essentially has a 2:1 aspect ratio, and UX 6.0 enhances the visual experience by dividing nearly all system apps into two perfect squares. So, if you open the calendar app in landscape mode, one square will display (monthly) calendar and the other will show your upcoming tasks/appointments. Similarly, accessing the Music app in landscape mode shows album art/playback controls in one square, and playlist in the other.
The 1:1 UI management works wonderfully with Android 7.0 Nougat’s split-view multitasking feature, allowing you to access two apps at the same time in separate perfect squares. It also lends a visual coherence to the entire user interface and blends will the G6’s overall design.
Other than that, UX 6.0 is a standard skin layer. Like its predecessor, it doesn’t come with an app drawer and all apps are arranged on multiple homescreens. But don’t fret, you can easily download ‘Home & app drawer’ from the ‘SmartWorld’ store if you prefer a cleaner homescreen layout.
Speaking of ‘SmartWorld’, it is LG’s own digital content store from where you can download anything from themes and wallpapers to ringtones and apps, and use them to customize the G6’s user interface to your heart’s desire.
There’s also something called ‘Smart Bulletin’ (accessible via Settings > Home screen), which shows a customizable feed of content such as calendar schedule, health data and smart settings in a vertically scrollable screen, accessible by swiping to the right. It’s similar to Google Now in functionality.
LG G6 comes with Google Assistant out-of-the-box, but it’s something that all smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or above are going to get it eventually.
The G6 isn’t too heavy on bloatware, but does come with a few of LG’s own apps such as Smart Doctor (for optimizing the phone’s performance, checking battery usage and diagnosing hardware), Mobile Switch (for transferring data between two devices) and RemoteCall Service (for connecting with LG’s customer service). While majority of these apps are useful, none can be uninstalled. Three third-party apps – Facebook, Twitter and Evernote – come preloaded too, with the first two being removable.
Some other nifty features such as Comfort view (another name for Bluelight filter) and screen gestures (Double tap to sleep/wake) are also thrown into the mix. Then there’s QSlide, which lets you run some system apps (e.g. E-mail, File Manager) in a small floating window on the homescreen.
The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor on the G6 worked sans issues during our time with it. It supports 360-degree recognition and works with moist digits, albeit sporadically. Furthermore, the content saved in some apps (Gallery and QuickMemo+) can be secured with fingerprints.
Just like its predecessor, the LG G6 has a dual-camera setup at the back. It’s comprised of two 13MP modules – one standard (f/1.8) and one wide angle (f/2.4). While the former is optically stabilized and has phase detection auto focus, the latter lacks both. That sounds great on paper, but is the real-world imaging performance of the LG G6 any good? The answer, is a conclusive yes.
The rear dual-shooters of the G6 are capable of capturing some amazing-looking pictures, especially in favourable and well-lit conditions. The pictures have ample amount of resolved detail and are plenty sharp, with accurate colour reproduction. Night-time photos come out to be incredible (for a smartphone camera), and only show compression artefacts when zoomed in. The HDR mode makes the results look even better.
Even though the Auto is more than sufficient for all your shooting needs, the camera app offers a full-blown Manual mode (with options to change everything from ISO to EV) for those who want better control.
The secondary 13MP module of the LG G6’s dual rear camera system isn’t just there for fancy Bokeh effects. Instead, it consists of a wide-angle lens (125-degree) that lets you capture a lot more in a single frame. Typical of wide-angle lenses, there is a slight barrel distortion, but nothing to be worried about.
LG G6 can record 4K (maximum 30fps) and Full HD (16:9 and 21:9 UltraWide) resolution, complete with high-quality stereo sound. Thanks to 3-axis OIS (on the standard 13MP module), resulting videos come out to be shake-free and pack as much detail as the photos. Videos shot with the wide-angle lens look good too.
As for the 5MP selfie camera up front, we found it to be more than decent. It does get a little grainy in low-light conditions, but is more than adequate for its intended purpose(s). To complement the dual camera system at the back, the front-snapper also has a software-based wide-angle mode that you can use to take photos with your entire group of friends. And of course, usual ‘beautification’ features like skin tone adjustments and filters are there in the camera app too.
By the way, the camera app deserves a special mention here. That’s because in addition to the usual features (e.g. photo/video modes, manual controls), it comes with a special ‘Square Camera’ mode. This in turn has four sub-modes – Match shot, Snap shot, Guide shot and Grid shot. These can be used to take a square photo and instantly preview it, take multiple photos and combine them, and then some more. Apart from that, some other modes included in the camera app are Slo-mo, 360-Panorama and Timelapse.
If you’re an audiophile, you’re going to love the G6. That’s because LG’s newest flagship comes with a built-in Hi-Fi DAC (Digital to Analog converter). All you have to do is plug-in a pair of earphones/headphones, and the DAC automatically recognizes the connected peripheral, enhancing audio output as it does so. Having tested the G6 to play both regular MP3 and lossless FLAC tracks, we can confirm that the built-in DAC does make a difference to the audio output, even if it’s a little.
Now that we’re on the topic, it’s worth adding that the G6’s speaker is one of the loudest that we’ve come across in a while. It’s quite clear and doesn’t throw distorted sounds at higher volumes either. But given the G6’s price tag, it’s a crying shame that LG couldn’t include stereo speakers in the package. As mentioned before, watching videos on the G6’s ‘Dolby Vision’ powered display is a joy.
And yet, all of G6’s features don’t mean a thing if it can’t help you stay in touch at all times. Thankfully, that’s not the case. During our test run, we found the call quality (on both sides) to be perfect. The smartphone latches on to 4G VoLTE/3G networks quickly, and cellular reception is generally great. Obviously, this depends on mobile network coverage in your area, so individual results will vary.
And if you accidentally drop the G6 in a fountain or a kitchen sink while talking to someone, don’t worry. This thing is IP68-certified, and can easily withstand the occasional splash.
From dual-band Wi-Fi and DLNA to Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC, the G6 checks all the right boxes when it comes to connectivity options.
LG G6 has a 3,300mAh non-removable cell. That’s not huge by any means, but still more 300mAh more than that of the S8. So how’s the battery life on LG’s 2017 flagship?
For our testing, we used a fully-charged G6 for an hour of gaming, around two hours of voice calls and an hour each of streaming music and video playback, all while keeping Wi-Fi/Cellular data and push notifications enabled throughout the day. Under this use case, the G6’s battery lasted us a full workday, even if it struggled a bit in doing so. The smartphone is yet to get the battery optimizations included in Android 7.1.2, so we expect the battery life to get better once it does.
LG G6 supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology, so you can charge the battery up to 50% in just about half an hour.
There’s absolutely no question that the LG G6 is a great all-round smartphone. From a subtly-elegant design to premium construction and from great audio quality to terrific camera experience, there are many things that LG’s 2017 flagship does right. And of course, the ‘Full Vision’ display is there as well.
But the thing is, the G6 has to compete against fellow chaebol Samsung’s Galaxy S8, which is near-universally considered to be the best Android smartphone out there. Compared to the G6, the S8 has a swankier curved display, iris/facial recognition support, Samsung’s own Bixby digital assistant, a better front-facing camera, wireless charging (The G6’s US variant comes with wireless charging, but doesn’t include the Hi-Fi DAC) and DeX workstation support.
Having said all that, the Galaxy S8 is also more expensive than the G6. Furthermore, it has a smaller battery, a single rear camera and a weirdely-placed fingerprint sensor.
The G6 is undoubtedly the best smartphone that LG has ever made. And if you’re willing to look past the ‘old’ Snapdragon 821, it’s every bit as flagship as it can get. Some may find the price tag of Rs 51,990 a bit too much, but the prices of LG’s smartphones almost always drop in a few months after launch.
So if you want an Android smartphone that excels in every department, go ahead and get the LG G6, you won’t be disappointed.