LG G6 preview: the no-nonsense phone the G5 should have been


2016 wasn’t the best year for LG’s mobile business. While it did have some success in the premium segment with the LG V20, what should have been the company’s primary revenue generator – the LG G5 – sold poorly. It wasn’t a bad phone per se. Quite the contrary – we scored it highly in our review, noting strengths like its solid dual camera setup and its fluid overall performance. But in the end, perhaps its modular design – a key differentiating factor and selling point – failed to strike a chord with the general consumer.

Enter the LG G6.

LG’s latest high-end phone is a product shaped by experience, feedback, and a healthy dose of market reality. It aims to be an approachable, no-nonsense device with mass appeal and practical design. True, some sacrifices have been made along the way, but the trade-offs may have been worth it. Allow me to elaborate.

Design: less modular, more reliable

LG's foray into modular design didn’t pay off, which is probably why the LG G6 skips on modules entirely. The only things you’ll be plugging in or out are the wired headphones or a USB Type-C cable. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention the battery here, and that’s because on the G6, the 3300mAh cell is not user replaceable. There’s a couple of very good reasons for this. First of all, switching to a non-removable battery has allowed LG to use a cell of greater energy density – one holding more charge per unit of volume. Better yet, the LG G6 is now water resistant, carrying an IP68 rating – the highest smartphones have achieved so far.

Speaking of ruggedness, the LG G6 is designed to withstand abuse. It isn’t bullet-proof, of course, and that Gorilla Glass 5 back will surely shatter if subjected to enough force, but LG has put effort in minimizing the risk of the G6 breaking when dropped, sat on, or in any way handled without the care it deserves. In fact, LG is so confident in its new phone that it let us take a look inside its product testing laboratory, where we saw the G6 being mistreated in all kinds of ways. I witnessed multiple units tumbling in chambers without cracking or sustaining critical damage. Then I saw a metal nail puncturing the battery without that causing fire or smoke. Honestly, I was impressed.

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The level of toughness the LG G6 is built to meet is anything but evident from its glass and metal construction. At the end of the day, it is still an okay-looking handset, but I'm afraid some may write it off as too ordinary, as lacking any design cues that draw the attention. Yet it does stand out with things like ultra-slim bezels, high screen-to-body ratio (around 80%), and the fact that the display’s curved corners complement the handset’s shape. And if you think that this phone doesn’t possess enough of that special sauce that makes it an LG, be aware that quirks like the power key positioned on the back are still present.

Display: larger size, smaller phone

But the so-called FullVision is the primary factor setting the LG G6 apart from the crowd. The screen’s shape, to be more exact – unlike most other smartphones, it is of the unusual aspect ratio of 18:9, meaning that it is slightly taller/narrower than traditional 16:9 displays. As a result, the handset itself is narrower than competitors with similar screen sizes, which should allow for more convenient single-hand use and side-by-side multitasking. While the difference in handling is subtle, it is there, and even if you do not notice it at first, you surely will once you go back to a phone with a display of traditional proportions.

The screen itself is of the LCD variety and has the biggest diagonal size of any G-series phone so far – 5.7 inches. The pixel density is typical for a contemporary flagship (2880x1440 pixels, 564 ppi), meaning that graphics look nice and sharp. LG also boasts that it has improved the brightness of the panel compared to the G5. Under normal conditions, the display can reach 500 nits of brightness, and up to 600 nits can be achieved under bright sunlight. Outdoor visibility shouldn’t be an issue given these figures, and it wasn’t as I took a stroll down La Rambla here in Barcelona.

One thing that does leave room for improvement is the always-on display feature. On the G5, content shown during stand-by was too dim to be visible comfortably from an angle, and the same applies here with the G6. At least now there’s the option to increase the brightness level of the always-on display, but that comes with a warning that battery life may suffer noticeably. 

Interface: updated UI fits the new proportions

There’s Android 7.0 Nougat running on the G6, with LG’s custom skin designed to utilize the screen’s proportions to its advantage. Some stock apps switch to a split layout if you hold the phone horizontally: the email client, for example, shows your inbox on the left and the contents of the selected email on the right. Meanwhile, apps like Weather and Contacts now fit more content into the extra vertical space that they’re given. And during split-screen multitasking, apps have more space to run in. Strange why LG chose not to fit an extra row of icons on the home screen to utilize the extra room.

Does this boost my productivity in any way? That’s not a question I can answer at this time, but I should be answer to do so once I’ve spent a sufficient amount of time in the G6’s company. Still, it is nice to see that effort is put in making software and hardware work in unison.

On the topic of software, I was curious to see whether third-party apps would get along well with the 18:9 screen proportions, and the situation appears to be pretty stable. All of the apps I’ve tried adapt to the screen’s unorthodox aspect ratio without issues. Games, however, do require some involvement on the user’s side. When one is launched, you have the option to choose the aspect ratio for it to run in. Some games do run fine by default, while with others you have to experiment until you find the setting that works best. It’s a hassle, but at least it’s something you have to do only once for every game that you install.

One thing making the G6 special is that it the first non-Pixel phone to come with Google’s Assistant built in. For those not familiar, that is a voice-controlled feature accessible from any screen with a long press of the home button. Think of it as an evolution of Google Now, but with a friendlier, more natural flow of interaction. Whether you feel comfortable having a conversation with your phone is a whole different story.

Processor and memory: stability over performance

The SoC is the “brain” of any smartphone, handling every computation the software instructs it to perform, and for the G6, LG chose the Snapdragon 821 – the same chip powering phones like the Google Pixel and the HTC U Ultra. Yes, LG passed on the newer and faster Snapdragon 835, and it gave us a good reason for doing so – reliability.

Simply put, the Snapdragon 821 has been extensively tried and tested already, as it has been available for a longer time. As a result, LG was able to optimize the G6’s hardware and software to ensure that the phone is stable and performs its best, without running too hot under heavy load. Besides, going for the the Snapdragon 835 would have surely delayed the LG G6’s release.

To help with heat dissipation, LG has integrated a cooling system into the G6, consisting of a piece of copper resting on the SoC and a copper tube attached to it to draw heat away. This allows the processor to run faster without overheating. 

In terms of memory, we have 4GB of RAM on the G6, paired with 32GB of storage. These are acceptable figures for a contemporary smartphone, and most users should be okay with the amount of memory they’re given. Still, I feel like power users will be taking advantage of that microSD card slot for storage expansion. LG has confirmed that a 64GB model will be available as well, but only in a limited number of markets. The US is not among them.

Camera: a clearer wider picture

As I said in the beginning, the G5 took great photos, which is why my expectations for the G6’s camera performance are set high. The new model adopts the dual camera setup of its predecessor, comprised of a main camera paired with a secondary wide-angle cam, both based around a 13MP IMX258 sensor. 

In typical LG fashion, the camera software is made to cater to both enthusiasts and casual photographers. Those who know their way around a camera can use manual controls to produce content exactly as they want it. These work for video as well – a first for the G series.

And for those who like to snap for fun, there’s the new Square mode, allowing me to arrange silly collages comprised of square photos. Now, I don’t mind the feature, but figuring out how to use it is unclear to the point of frustration. I don't really expect many people to use it.

Looking at the camera specs, something doesn’t seem quite right. The G5 had an 8MP wide-angle cam, so the upgrade to 13MP is welcome. However, last year’s model used a 16MP main camera. Is switching to a 13MP sensor a downgrade? Well, not necessarily, but it’s not looking like an upgrade either. Allow me to explain.

The G5’s main camera used a wider camera sensor of 16:9 aspect ratio. Meanwhile, the G6’s sensor has a more traditional 4:3 aspect ratio. In plain words, the G5 took wider photos, and the three megapixels pretty much fill up that extra width. Given the fact that the G6 has the same F1.8 aperture, optical stabilization and 1.12um pixels, it should be able to capture an equal level of detail within its field of view, as visualized below. Still, software processing might also play a key role in the outcome. 

About that wide-angle cam, LG’s observations show that people use it quite a lot, so an upgraded sensor now makes sense. The extra megapixels result in more detailed images, as one would expect. It is also nice to see that the jerky transition when switching between cameras has been nearly eliminated. The aperture, however, is still fixed at F2.4 and OIS is absent, so don’t expect wide night-time shots to look as good as what the main camera can produce.

The selfie camera on the LG G6 is similar to the one found on the V20 – a 5MP wide-angle unit that lets you switch between normal or wide-angle mode depending on the situation. All I’m going to say at this point is that photos turn out fine – not amazing, but good enough for sharing and posting online, which is what most people need anyway.


Something unique about the LG G6 is that it can play back video in HDR. Both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards are supported, and they look quite magical on the phone’s display. While you can’t record HDR video content with the G6, you’ll be able to stream it via Netflix and Amazon Video.

But the phone has its drawbacks as well. Having an 18:9 display on the G6 means that online videos don’t fill the entire screen. Content on YouTube is mostly in 16:9 ratio, which is why black bars appear on the sides of every video that I watch – not a big deal, but something worth pointing out.

But video is only part of the story. The G6 adopts the Quad DAC technology that was introduced with the V20, which should translate to clearer, higher quality sound when a decent pair of earphones are connected. However, the catch is that Quad DAC is only available on the Korean version of the phone. 

Battery and charging

Inside the LG G6 you’ll find a 3300mAh battery. While we haven’t done our in-house benchmark yet, we’re expecting the results to be beyond satisfactory, as this is the largest cell put on a G-series phone so far. In my experience, the G6 holds up well during regular use, but gaming seems to take a heavier toll on the battery, as expected. 

With QuickCharge 3.0 compatibility, charging is as fast as it gets on a smartphone nowadays, and the stock charger is compatible with the standard. And now that I’ve mentioned charging, the US model of the G6 that I’ve been using supports the two most popular wireless charging standards – Qi and PMA. This feature, however, will not be available on models sold outside of the US.


It has been a couple of days since I started my LG G6 test drive, and the experience so far has been on the positive side. Of course, part of it is because having early access to such a phone is an awesome feeling, but it is also because the G6 is shaping up as a pretty solid, albeit quirky Android phone. The performance and responsiveness are there, the camera delivers results adequate for a high-end phone, and the extra attention paid to reliability is more than welcome.

But the same time, this doesn’t feel like the typical LG G-series handset. Previous models had that distinct set of traits that differentiated them in one way or another. The G6? Well, there’s nothing too radical about it. It looks like LG is playing it safe this time around by building a phone that would feel familiar and accessible, that would be universally likeable by the general consumer, that would appeal to those who need a reliable phone free of gimmicks. And who knows, that might not be such a bad idea after all.

Could LG make the G6 better? Most certainly yes. I’m not sure if its phone has the “wow” factor that it will need to compete against other Android high-ends, including a certain Korean Android model that is about to launch in several weeks’ time. But I do believe that the G6 will stand a chance against its rivals, especially if it is launched at the right price.

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