When the LG V20 arrived on my desk, the first thing I wondered is, “Could this be one of those smartphones that’s hugely underestimated and criminally overlooked by consumers?” The V20 is the successor to LG’s V10. It’s been completely redesigned, and looks more related to LG’s G5 than the V10. Its construction mostly consists of a metal and silicone polycarbonate design for the top and bottom. As a result, this phone looks damn nice, and it makes a great first impression.
When I started using the V20 I was terrified of dropping it, mostly due to the super-smooth finish, which I figured would mean the phone is fairly flimsy, easily scratched and tarnished. Sure, this can be easily solved by using a protective cover, but that would take away from the V20’s attractive aesthetic. Thankfully, this is the first area where the V20 surprised me. This phone has undergone military-grade drop tests, resulting in it sporting an MIL-STD-810G rating – which essentially means it’s extremely durable, capable of withstanding some nasty drops and shocks.
The phone’s measurements come in at a whopping 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6mm, and it weighs 174 grams, placing it in the same size/weight category as the iPhone 7 Plus. Access to the V20’s 3200mAh battery, sim card and microSD card slot is gained by pressing the release catch mechanism on the lower-right side and removing the protective metal plate. My personal phone doesn’t allow access to the battery compartment, and after using the LG V20, I’m now a firm believer in keeping a spare battery with me at all times, instead of carrying an on-the-go charging solution. I’d rather go from flat battery to 100% charge in no time by using a spare. Suck on that, you bulky power bank thingies!
Interestingly, the LG V20 includes an IR blaster, which is something a lot of OEMs have moved away from. It’s not something I’ve given much thought when purchasing new smartphones in the past, but I had so much fun with this feature that it’s something I’m going to miss when returning the LG V20. I was able to control my home entertainment system with the phone, randomly changing channels and adjusting volume without my family knowing how or why it was happening. Eventually they actually believed there was an issue with the decoder, and wanted to reset it.
With this smartphone, LG continue with their signature rear-facing power button, which doubles as an extremely fast, accurate fingerprint sensor. The V20 comes with a quad DAC (Digital to Analog Converter), which delivers higher-quality audio with less distortion/noise and better dynamic range – but to really enjoy this feature you’ll need a great pair of headphones. There’s 75-stage volume control, along with left and right balancing, so you’re able to fine-tune the audio to best suit your ears. It’s also capable of high-quality audio recording, and the built-in HD recorder lets you capture sound as 24-bit FLAC files. It manages to do this without clipping or sounding distorted. An interesting point to note is that there’s a microphone situated at the top of the phone which aids in recording audio, and that’s just one of three microphones on the V20. Overall, it’s a smartphone that’s certainly packing powerful audio capabilities. That said, I’m a little disappointed with the speaker located at the bottom-right corner of the phone. The sound it generates is passable, but left me wanting more.
Another unique LG feature on this device is the dual display. Yes, this phone has two screens. The main display is a 5.7-inch IPS LCD with stunning Quad HD resolution. It’s perfectly visible outdoors, super sharp and easy to read. The colours aren’t as vibrant as those of an iPhone 7, for example, but the display is nevertheless fantastic. The secondary display is at the top, aligned to the right. It’s slightly larger and brighter than the one that was on the LG V10. It’s always on and can be customised to show stuff like the time, battery life, around 28 characters of scrolling text, notifications from different apps, shortcuts, recently opened apps, call logs, media controls, upcoming calendar events, favourite contacts, and quick toggles for things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The secondary screen doesn’t have an on/off button and negates the need to wake the phone to view notifications, but it can be turned off during set times, like while you’re sleeping.
The V20 is powered by a Snapdragon 820 chip, Adreno 530 and 4GB ram, which provides superbly smooth performance. This is also the first non-Google phone to be shipped with Android Nougat 7.0 out the box. The 3200mAh battery easily powers one day of heavy use, and can survive up to three days if you’re more of a chilled user. I expected better battery life, but considering this phone is packed with features and the fact that the battery is removable, it’s not a huge issue. A full charge takes about an hour if left untouched.
The camera on this phone is a pretty big deal and certainly is fantastic. It has dual cameras on the back (just like the LG G5), with a 16-megapixel sensor at F1.8, optical image stabilisation and a wide-angle sensor at F2.4. The wide angle is my favourite feature, especially when I’m recording video, and it’s also perfect for group and landscape shots, and never loses its appeal. The native camera app has great features, especially when it comes to manually adjusting the photo and video settings. You can control everything from white balance, ISO, exposure, shutter speed and focus.
For video, you have a few settings at your disposal that’ll definitely impress. There’s a variety of video recording resolutions (including 4K), adjustable frame rate, bitrate, film effects and you’ll also be capturing high-quality, lossless audio the entire time. It includes audio controls for gain, a low cut filter, volume limiter, wind noise filter, and the ability to change the direction of the microphone’s sensitivity. I did find that the image stabilisation let me down whilst shooting and moving, however, which is disappointing. Picture quality when shooting in auto mode offers good-but-not-great colour saturation, doesn’t have the best dynamic range, tends to overexpose the image and struggles with bright colours. Start fiddling with manual mode, however, and soon you’ll be showing off fantastic photos.
The LG V20 certainly surprised me and left me feeling like I had the best Android smartphone currently available on the market in my pocket. It’s got features I never knew I wanted in a phone, and will definitely miss them when going back to my own phone.