At S$998 off contract, LG’s V20 coming in at the end of 2016 is designed and priced to stand with the flagship mobiles of the year. It is an extremely good mobile phone – if you’re into LG.
When it comes to the V20, you’ll really have to ask yourself if you really desire the five centrepiece features, namely: the wide-angle offerings on the front and rear cameras, the high fidelity headphone experience, the impressive audiophile-grade recording, the removable battery, and the very obvious second screen up top. The V20 definitely tops the list of feature-packed mobiles this year. In fact, on the edge of being just the best LG phone ever with its solid build and high-end performance, the V20 creeps ever so slightly into Best Android Smartphone of 2016 territory, losing out only to the Google Pixel for it simply existing and performing how Android is supposed to.
Also it just feels too big.
The V20 goes for clean lines this year, with a solid cool-touch airplane-type material housing the internals for a hardier case that’s supposedly able to handle a couple knocks more than the competition. While there wasn’t a chance for a deliberate drop test, I can’t say I haven’t had more than a couple of unwieldy situations with the device. With a 5.7-inch QHD LCD display and a second screen above, the V20 is about as wide as an iPhone 7 Plus but taller. The screen isn’t nearly as saturated or bright as other offerings in the flagship category, but I found it surprisingly more pleasing and colour-accurate than I thought over the course of 3 weeks. The V20 is also pretty light for a phone this size but again that just adds on to the couple of incidents where it just wouldn’t sit snug my hands.
The secondary screen is brighter than what I recall from the V10 but what it adds is nothing I find really useful apart from being able to constantly catch quick glances at icons of my multitude app notifications, and of course the date and time. While the V20 tried to change my habits of accessing quick tools and settings from the secondary screen – especially when I’m viewing media on full-screen – I found it was just easier to multitask the conventional way.
On the outside, there isn’t much else in terms of standout design apart from tiny grills for call speakers up top, single-firing audio speakers below the decidedly modest chin, a USB-C port that I thank the world for, a 3.5mm audio jack that’s becoming more of a bonus nowadays than a norm on current flagships. Flip the V20 and you’ll see dual cameras protected by a tempered glass already applied on (don’t try to remove this), and the rear fingerprint reader that also doubles as its power button. The response rates for recognising fingerprints are sky high in these times and thankfully the V20 doesn’t disappoint. For the ones who might be lamenting the possibility of a hassle in unlocking the V20 while flat on any surface, you’ll be glad to know Tap-To-Wake is a brilliant available option.
Inside the V20 lies power. With a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage on my unit (with external microSD card support up to 2TB), and a dual nano-SIM capabilities, the common man will probably not want for more in at least the next 18 months. You’d think they’d put in the 821 here, but I didn’t miss it. A 3200mAH removable battery that’s powered swiftly by the included Quick Charge 3.0 charger meets almost anyone’s battery needs, insofar as you’re willing to buy a couple more batteries anyway.
LG stressed on the in-built hardware DAC that activates with any headphones plugged in. In my tests with the included B&O earphones (they’re no shout), and my own B&O H6 and Sony MDR-1000X headphones, I did not notice too much positive difference compared to audio coming out of most other flagship phones this year, but I did get that instruments and singing voices just played with more clarity. Wirelessly though, none of this mattered, though it did not falter much with aptX HD technology over Bluetooth, guaranteeing you above-par audio quality while unwired. I was suitably impressed, and so should you be.
Audiophiles looking to create audio files will only need to look at the V20. With three high AOP microphones working flawlessly with the V20’s HD Audio Recorder app, you’re looking – hearing – at lossless 24-bit hi-res audio files. From real-time adjustments in gain to front or rear directional pick-ups of your choosing, the V20 was designed to be brought to concerts and for you to bring back the performances and share with respectful quality.
Now the camera. Everyone seems to only care about the cameras on phones more than improving their own skills, but that’s another tale to tell for another time. The V20 houses two camera lenses – one a 16-megapixel lens with a f1.8 aperture; the other, 8 megapixels with an aperture of f2.4 and a wide 135-degree field of view that is much more useful than I ever thought and will miss immensely. Optical stabilisation works wonderfully as does white balance. Shooting on auto didn’t always guarantee the best results, particularly with frequent blown highlights. However jumping into manual settings almost always ensures much better images with total control, and surprisingly without actually needing much more work for even novices. That it even had visible focus points as proper visual cues was something I did not expect from anything other than on an actual camera, and I’ll just give kudos where it’s due.
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On the front we’re looking at a pretty standard single lens with a software-enabled wide-angle offering. While I wouldn’t crown any of the V20’s cameras as a champ in any mobile phone camera selection, what with Google’s Pixel, HTC’s 10, Samsung’s S7 and also Apple’s iPhone 7 in the fray, it’s a camera I would readily grab as a secondary option to my main visual workhorse – photography or videography-wise.
When LG launched the V20, it was positioned as the first phone to come with Android Nougat 7.0 pre-installed and so far, it’s surprising that it’s still one of the only third party Android mobiles to have that. At this time of publishing, I’ve even had two updates already delivered over-the-air so make of that what you will, but that’s pretty stellar in my books. LG’s UI is technically one of the more subdued versions of Android already, but it’ll serve them well to tone it down even more. It’s a tall order for a device that packs so much, so I’ll give it a pass.
Running the top Android apps and games wasn’t any issue for the V20, and you’ll find plenty of options to help run games in various modes for speed versus beauty. LG’s niche offerings really appeal to the multimedia creators.
It’s exciting and packed full of features, and is an astounding device for anyone who wants to create and share media. While it’s not my top phone for its unwieldy nature – and this is a pretty personal thing – I’m pretty sure the LG V20 is perfect at filling up a Samsung Note7-sized hole in the world and your hands without much, if any, compromise.
As I packed this V20 back into its box – my second one apart from the preview model – I was left wondering if I would miss this phone as my daily driver, second camera to my main, and media creator.
Yes. Yes I would terribly.
The LG V20 comes loaded with Android 7.0 Nougat OS and the new Google In Apps search function. It comes in Silver or Titan, and now retails at S$998 at all M1, Singtel, StarHub and authorized LG Mobile retailers. Each purchase comes with a mobile casing premium pack worth $88 while stocks last.