LG G7 ThinQ Preview: I spent two days with LG's best phone yet
I got to spend around two days with an LG G7 ThinQ (pronounced "thin-cue") in my pocket. Of course, that's hardly enough time to produce a full review, and since the preview unit I was handed wasn't running final software, I cannot draw any conclusions about the phone's performance at this point. But the time I spent with it gave me a solid idea of what's to come. Allow me to share my initial thoughts with you.
Embracing the notch
Firstly, I'd like to get a few things out of the way: yes, the LG G7 ThinQ has a notch and no, the world isn't coming to an end because of this. Sure, some might call it an iPhone X copycat, and while I can't deny the resemblance, I do appreciate the extra screen space the design approach provides. While the small cutout at the top of the display houses the phone's earpiece, front-facing camera, and various sensors, the additional screen area on its sides displays the typical bits of status information: battery level, signal strength, icons for pending notifications, and so on.
Personally, the notch didn't bother me at all, and most people wouldn't be bothered by it either, LG's research suggests. It doesn't get in the way of video, and it blends well with whatever app you have running. Still, those who don't find it particularly appealing can "hide" it by applying a colored or gradient background to the New Second Screen, as LG calls the area on the sides of the notch. I didn't.
Keeping up with the trends
Notch aside, the LG G7 ThinQ has all the qualities you'd expect out of a flagship smartphone in 2018. The sleek front and back are made of Gorilla Glass 5, while a metal frame wraps around the handset's perimeter. Water resistance is also present. The phone feels neither too light, nor too heavy. However, it is definitely on the larger side, with dimensions making it a bit narrower, but taller than the LG V30.
One button, many possibilities
On the left side of the G7 ThinQ, LG has added a dedicated Google Assistant button. This lets you access Google Assistant from most screens, while a double press launches Google Lens for visual recognition. And if you hold the button down – just as if you were using a walkie-talkie – you can speak out your queries directly without the need for the "OK Google" hotword. For the record, the button gets disabled while the camera is in use – a case where an accidental press may be critical.
LG hasn't added the option to link this button to a different function, but you do have the freedom to disable the key if you want to. I didn't. In fact, I found myself using the assistant more because of its super convenient walkie-talkie mode.
On the back of the G7 resides a fingerprint scanner, but this doesn't act as a power button anymore. The on/off key is now placed on the right side of the phone – to let users access Android's double-press camera shortcut, LG clarifies. Alternatively, you can wake the phone with a double tap on the screen.
A screen brighter than ever
The 6.1-inch IPS LCD display is one of the LG G7's key selling points. It is the largest and tallest on a G-series phone so far – with a 19.5 to 9 aspect ratio – and even with the notch and on-screen buttons, there's still plenty of space for apps and content. I had only one instance where an app didn't scale properly, and a tap of a button was enough to fix the issue.
And the screen gets bright. Super bright. The LG G7 ThinQ can hit 1,000 nits of brightness, its maker claims, and this really helps with outdoor visibility. The 1,000-nit brightness is sustained for up to 3 minutes, then it drops down to save battery and reduce heat generation. But I found out that I could switch back to 1,000-nit brightness manually if I wanted.
Colors that the G7 displays are bright and saturated by default. Those who know what they're doing may switch to a different display mode or fine-tune color balance manually from the Display Settings menu.
The software: a familiar affair
Android 8 Oreo comes loaded on the LG G7 ThinQ. To no surprise, it has been heavily customized by LG – the software looks very different from what you'd find on a Google Pixel phone, for instance. But anyone who's handled an LG G6 or an LG V30 should feel right at home, as the experience is nearly identical in day-to-day use.
LG's software is characterized by its lack of an app drawer. Instead, all apps are placed on the home screen. We also find the Floating Bar feature introduced with the V30, giving you quick access to apps, contacts, or features. LG's Always-On Display is also present. And if you swipe down on your home screen, you get a universal search bar that can find strings of information even inside an app's data, such as the contents of an email. Swiping over the navigation buttons enables one-handed mode – a welcome feature given the phone's size.
"So where's the AI?" you may be wondering. Well, most of it is found in the camera app, but you do get LG's Advanced Smart Bulletin feature – a page on your home screen designed to show you relevant information depending on the time of the day. This is designed to improve over time by analyzing the user's behavior.
Processor and memory: no compromises this time around
LG did the right thing by picking the Snapdragon 845 for the G7. This is the best chip Qualcomm has to offer at this time – and the same chip powering one of the G7's biggest competitors, namely the Samsung Galaxy S9. The chip is paired with either 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage or 6GB+128GB of the stuff. As I said in the beginning, it is too early to comment on the phone's real-life performance, but given the hardware that it packs, the G7 should perform like a champ.
Camera: same hardware, new tricks
Meanwhile, the front camera is a lone 8MP shooter. While it doesn't have any tricks to stand out with, it is expected to be an upgrade over the unimpressive selfie snappers of the G6 and the V30.
The Super Bright mode is a welcome addition to the camera package. Long story short, it combines four adjacent pixels in to one in order to capture more light in dark environments. The result is a brighter photo or video, but also one with lower resolution of 4MP/720p. Still, that's sufficient for posting on social media. Images taken with Super Bright mode do turn out brighter and with more detail than those taken in full auto. The mode is activated automatically, but you may disable it if you wish.
Boombox speaker rockin' the house
While many of its competitors offer stereo speakers on its flagships, LG chose to do things differently by sticking to a single mono loudspeaker. The accent is on "loud" here. The LG G7's Boombox speaker, as it is named, is not only bigger and more powerful than those on the G6 and the V30. It also uses the entire internal volume of the phone as a resonance chamber to improve bass response – much like how a guitar's hollow body amplifies the sound of its strings.
Thankfully, the classic 3.5mm headphone jack remains intact. The Quad DAC we had on the G6 and the V30 is also at our disposal, meaning that the LG G7 can easily drive those audiophile-grade high-impedance headphones.
The LG G7 ThinQ comes with a 3000mAh battery – one that's about 10% smaller than those in the G6 and the V30. That's not exactly great news, but the reduction in cell size may be countered by improved efficiency. Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon 845 is up to 30% more energy efficient, and the G7's display also promises up to 30% power savings. Of course, only proper testing will show how the G7 performs with its smaller battery.
When it comes to charging, the LG G7 supports Qualcomm's QuickCharge 4.0 technology, although the charger you get in the box may be only QC3.0-compliant. Qi wireless charging is also on board.
Is AI the future of smartphones? LG seems to think so, as implied by the fact that the ThinQ branding is so boldly attached to its latest flagship phone. But here's the thing: AI alone isn't exciting enough to make the LG G7 sell – not in its current implementation. And this applies to any smartphone who has some form of artificial intelligence on it. Right now, AI is little more than a cool buzzword, and the benefits it brings aren't as immediately obvious as a key selling point should be.