LG’s new V30+ is its uber flagship where it gets to show off all it can do. To that end, it ticks all the flagship boxes, and then some making it a solid contender for the best flagship of the year.
Of course, the best flagship statement is reliant on whatever smartphones are released after the V30+. At first look, its P-OLED, 6”, HDR10, 18:9, VR ready screen, married to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, and 71/120°, f/1.6 dual rear camera makes this a strong choice.
Add a 32-bit Quad DAC, MIL-STD-810G construction and IP68 water resistance, a 3,300mAh battery and a lot of close collaboration with Google on Android reinforce that this is one very desirable smartphone.
I like LG flagships – I have used the G5, G6 and V20 and now V30+ and they are all phones I could be happy with. That is not to take away from Samsung’s excellent Galaxy S8 series, HTC’s U11, Nokia’s 8, Huawei Mate 10 (Pro), or Google’s Pixel 2 XL – but this phone does everything very well in a very nice package, and you would be proud to own it.
V30+ with a black front and a steel blue (called Moroccan Blue) Gorilla Glass 5 back
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 charger
USB-A to USB-C cable
B&O tuned earbuds and mic with small, medium and large silicon tips and a headphone jack!
The first impression is small and light with softer curved edges belying the big 6” screen. I like the steel blue (think polished rifle barrel) finish, but the Glass front and back are fingerprint magnets.
It is 151 x 75.4 x 7.4 mm thin and 158g making it one of the more svelte flagships. It is a wonderful fit in my pocket and perfect in my hands. Gone is the home button – a double tap on the screen wakes it up, or you can use the round fingerprint sensor on the back.
LG uses its own 2880 x 1440, 18:9 ratio, FullVision, P-OLED (Plastic OLED) which means the base layer is plastic, not glass. It makes no difference to performance, and it should be more durable. It is covered in Gorilla Glass 5 (front and back). This screen is also used on the Google Pixel 2 XL.
It uses an Active Matrix, diamond pentile (2 green to each red and blue pixel) which gives it a maximum of 600 nits brightness and infinite contrast. It is a good screen with accurate colour. Being P-OLED, it is VR capable with Google’s Daydream View and many other VR headsets.
In normal mode, the screen has a slight bluish tint but is highly customisable with pre-sets for movies, photos, web browsing and custom where you can set colour temperature, and RGB that eliminates that.
Comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S8 series screens is inevitable. The latter appear slightly brighter and more colour saturated, but LG’s P-OLED is a strong performer and better than any IPS LCD screens. It also supports an always-on display.
In telephone mode it is loud, hands-free is clear, and the two mics (one at the top and one at the bottom) are excellent. It is better than the S8 series in that regard.
In music mode, the earpiece speaker is clear and loud, and this is complemented by a down-firing speaker on the base. It is not really stereo despite the B&O heritage and a high-end, 32-bit Quad DAC.
The B&O buds have QuadBeat setting to adjust bass, treble and vocal boost. They are impressive with clear and loud output. It is hard to measure dB output (as these are in-ear) but it verged into ‘painfully loud’ territory.
The LG Music player has pre-sets that make the best use of the V30’s quad DAC. I particularly like the pre-sets – normal is flat from 20Hz-20kHz, enhanced brings up the mid-range, detailed brings up the high-range, live reinforces mid and treble, and Bass is all bass.
The app also comes with DLNA, cloud support and an FM radio. It also has Google Play if you prefer.
Output to Bluetooth was excellent, and the 3.5mm jack provided a clean feed to an amplifier.
Sound summary – great – perhaps none better!
Many of this year’s flagships use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon’s 835 system on a chip. This is an eight-core – 4 x 2.45GHz and 4 x 1.9Ghz with an Adreno 540 graphics processor. It has 4GB RAM and as expected performs similarly to other smartphones using the 835. In other words, it has all the power you expect from a 2017 flagship.
The 3,300 mAh battery coupled with the latest 10nm version of the 835 processor and the P-OLED screen gives this outstanding battery life. In industry tests, it achieved a 93-hour endurance rating.
In practical tests, it will go a full day or more without a charge, and it supports Qualcomm fast charge 3.0 that fills the battery from zero to 50% in 30 minutes and 100%in about two hours.
It also has Qi wireless charge – this is important for a flagship.
Cat 16 Gigabit LTE
Gigabit means 1Gbps download and 150Mbps upload. Again, this is like other 835 flagships and supports 4×4 MIMO, carrier band aggregation and better mobile tower communications – Cat 16 is more stable and makes more efficient use of cell tower resources.
The reality is that Australian carriers can’t deliver the speeds so expect speeds up to 300Mbps download on Telstra 4GX networks.
It supports bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/28/38/39/40/41, supports Voice Over LTE and should support voice over Wi-Fi.
The dual sim can be used with two sims or one for the microSD card.
Again the 835 dictates its performance, and it is capable of Wi-Fi AC up to 866Mbps with a 2 x 2 MU-MIMO antenna. That is currently as good as it gets, and your router needs to support that.
USB-C 3.1 means up to 10Gbps data transfer, but in practice, this means data transfer of around 200-300Mbps (that is about 30-40 MBps) – as good as any other flagship.
Bluetooth is version 5, so it has improved range and speed plus aptX and aptX HD high-quality wireless audio.
It also has a 3.5mm combo jack for headphones.
LG largely pioneered smartphone dual camera technology. The V30+ has one of the better standard/wide-angle combinations offering 71°, 16MP, f/1.6, 1 µm pixel, standard lens and 120°, 13MP f/1.9 wide-angle lens to provide more flexibility in shot composition.
Practically 99% of shots use the standard lens – the 3-axis optical image stabilisation (OIS) and laser, and phase detection autofocus (PADF) produce excellent results in most conditions.
The wide-angle lens does not have OIS or PADF – it is strictly for ‘tourist vistas’ like the Opera House or large family group shots.
I was concerned that the 1 µm pixels were smaller than its big pixel competitors at 1.4 µm, but the bright f/1.6 lens and larger Exmor sensor adequately compensates for all but extremely low light.
DXOMark has not reviewed the camera, but it did review the G6 which scored 84 points. The V30+ camera is based on that but with brighter lenses, a larger 16MP sensor, and faster, more powerful image signal processors of the 835. I am guessing it would be in the mid-90s.
The reigning king is the single lens Google Pixel 2 with 98 points and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 a similar dual lens set-up with 94 points. I compared the Note 8 (GN8) reference shots with the V30+ shots and was pleasantly surprised.
In fact, the V30+ was equal to the GN8 for daylight and office light shots where powerful image post-processing is not required.
The GN8 is ahead on low and no light shots because the post-processing algorithms on its Samsung Exynos chip seem more developed. No doubt a future firmware upgrade will try to match Samsung’s prowess.
In the end, it came down to personal preference – which camera app do you like and in this case the 157g versus the larger and heavier 195g GN8.
The app is comprehensive offering match shot mode (compares the viewfinder image with the actual shot), Gridshot (uses the half the screen as a viewfinder) and Square camera mode.
By default, it shoots in 4:3 ratio (16MP) and can shoot at 18:9 at 11MP. It also has food, panorama (and 360°), slo-mo, time-lapse and more modes and filters than I could ever use.
The match shot mode was interesting – showing both the viewfinder and the finished product. The later was better as the full power of post-processing was evident with auto HRD and flash fighting to produce the best possible shot without making it look artificial in any way.
Manual mode offers, even more, options but I only test in full auto, idiot mode as that is what 99.9990% of us use.
Outdoors, normal lighting: Excellent. HDR was subtle filling in detail in shots comprising a partially shaded object, or a bright sky background.
Outdoors, early evening: Accurate colours with HDR and or flash working its magic – there was a slight hesitation as the camera decided which one to use. HDR usually wins, and optical image stabilisation (OIS) ensures crisp pictures for any longer exposure times.
Indoors office light (500 lux): Excellent detail, and colour although it produced even better shots with just natural light.
Indoors, very low light (1-5 lux): Flash comes into play and objects up to three metres away are sharp, and accurate with a little corner shading evident. However, this is where the very bright f/1.6 lens cannot compensate for the smaller 1 µm pixels – its Achilles heel.
Panorama is excellent with screen prompts advising if you are turning too fast. The resultant image is 11MB and produces a 24,944 (W) x 3776 (H) stitched image.
Video defaults to 1920 x 1080 FHD @ 30fps. It can range from HD 1280 x 720 to UDH 3840 x 2160. It has electronic image stabilisation at FHD (and below) as well as OIS on the standard lens. All modes were good, but FHD seemed to be the best all around. Cine effects allow you to play with a range of Hollywood style effects and point zoom does just that.
The 5MP selfie can use a fill flash and produce a 2760 x 1920 image about 1.5MB. It has a group mode for wide angle selfies and various filters and lighting settings.
Camera summary. Certainly, a flagship-class camera with excellent shots in all but very low light conditions. Colour is accurate and natural rather than saturated, noise reduction is excellent, detail is comprehensive, and post-processing ‘editing’ can fix any issues. It is a tad behind the GN8 and Pixel 2 but not that you would notice in everyday use.
Gadget Guy’s take
Before you read on let me say that the V30+ in Australia is not the V30 released earlier this year. Let’s just say LG took note of some criticisms and rapidly released the + model with availability here from mid-December. By all reports, it has sold out!
It is one of the better Android flagships with micro-SD support, P-OLED screen, Qi charging, Snapdragon 835, dual camera – it ticks all the boxes.
And its housed in one of the nicer chassis with a screen that takes up most of the space (81.2% screen to body ratio) – it is a delight to use.
Build quality, MIL-STD, IP68
P-OLED and VR capable
Snapdragon 835, 4GB and 128GB
Great battery life, fast charge, Qi charge
Great rear camera for most conditions – not far off the Galaxy Note 8
Face and fingerprint recognition
Price – at $1199 you get a lot for the money
Unlocked but no major telco sells it
Competent but not the best selfie camera with 5MP
Would have been nice to see Android 8.x on this but the upgrade will come
Overall: 4.8 – as you would expect from a flagship
Features: 5 out of 5 – it is fully featured with Android Oreo coming soon
Value for Money: 5 out of 5 but if you wait a couple of months you will get it for less
Performance: 5 out of 5 as it uses the 10nm Snapdragon 835
Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – the LG UX is better than past iterations but still not perfect.
Design: 5 out of 5 – love the steel blue and the all-glass design.
Specifications – Australian Model LG-H930DS
Screen: 6”, 2880 x 1440, 537 ppi, 81.2% screen to body ratio, 18:9 format, P-OLED covered in Gorilla Glass 5, Always on Display; onscreen double tap wake-up, on-screen and back and recent apps buttons. 148% sRGB, 109% DCI-P3
RAM/Storage: 4GB LPDDR4X/128GB UFS 2.0/microSD to 256GB (uses second SIMM slot), OTG and 2TB external device support.
Rear standard Camera: 16 MP, 1.0 µm pixel size; f/1.6; large 1/3.09″ image sensor; 71° view; digital zoom; laser and phase detection auto-focus; OIS/EIS; auto HRD10 and auto LED flash; 2160p @30fps record; JPEG and RAW save.