LG V20 review: 10 key takeaways

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1. Let’s start with the conclusion: the LG V20 might be a bit too complex for the average user, better suited for power users

Why is that? The main reason seems to be in LG’s interface: an app drawer-less interface that is a bit too complex, giving users confusing and excessive choice like asking them about the default launcher that they’d prefer. LG’s implementation of dual-screen mode also seems limited and often unusable, and in many aspects things like manual controls for video and hi-fi audio seem to be an overkill for a phone.

Let's start with the conclusion: the LG V20 might be a bit too complex for the average user, better suited for power users

2. Built tough, but lacks water-protection

The LG V20 succeeds the V10, a device that was almost the exact opposite of good-looking. Sure, it was built like a tank, but lacked sorely in terms of style. The V20 is a much better balance between looks (we would not call it gorgeous, but it is not the ugliest thing either) and durability. On the durability side, it features 6013-series aluminum alloy, a light yet durable material used in the construction of boats and planes. The strips at its top and bottom are made of 24% stronger-than-before polycarbonate. And just like its predecessor, the phone is MIL-STD-810G transit drop compliant, meaning that it can withstand more physical abuse than a typical phone. Water resistance is missing, however, so don’t go selfie-snapping near a pool with this one.

Built tough, but lacks water-protection

3. The secondary screen is more useful than before

The signature feature of the V10 is alive and well on the V20: the secondary display now has expanded functionality and a few new tricks up its sleeve. Here’s what it can show: your 5 recent apps (you can switch back and forth with a simple tap), shortcuts to 5 of your favorite apps, media controls (yes, you can have Spotify controls always handy), 5 of your favorite contacts, a row of toggle buttons for various settings, or your next calendar event, or even a ‘signature’ – a row of text that you can customize. But the LG V20’s second screen is not perfect. One particular annoyance is that when a notification arrives, it is shown only for a couple of seconds, giving the user no chance to actually read it. Another botheration is that the screen, being placed at the top, is practically unreachable with one hand. The secondary display draws 1% of additional battery energy in under 2 hours, so it’s not a huge battery pain.

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The secondary screen is more useful than before

4. The main screen features very bluish colors

The small screen might be the signature feature of the LG V series, but it is the main, 5.7″ display that you’d end up looking at most of the time. Unfortunately, LG has gone on the weird side here and this is far from the most color-accurate display we’ve ever tested. With a color temperature around the 9000K mark, the screen makes whites appear noticeably blueish. In fact, this bluishness compares to cheap devices, but we don’t expect that annoyance in a high-end phone these days. Sure, the average user probably wouldn’t be bothered by that, but the flaw becomes glaringly obvious once you place the V20 next to a display with accurate color reproduction.

The main screen features very bluish colors

5. Performance is top-notch

The V20 features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 system chip under the hood, along with 4GB of RAM. What you really need to know is that the V20 is a fast, responsive phone in daily use. The interface runs smoothly and executes every task in an instant. Switching between apps is also quick, as it should be, given the amount of RAM the phone has. Speaking of multitasking, there’s something really cool about launching a game and seeing that it is still stored in memory at the point where you left it yesterday.

Performance is top-notch

6. The secondary wide-angle camera is cool, but it’s the regular lens that offers truly remarkable image quality

Yes, not only does it have two displays, it also has two cameras on its back. One is practically unchanged from the LG G5 and V10, a 16-megapixel snapper that captures images that have a remarkable amount of detail, pleasant colors and a nice overall balance to them. It is the other rear camera that is truly unique: an 8-megapixel wide-angle shooter, it provides slightly worse quality during the day, and much worse at night, but it captures so much of the scene that it could become an indispensible tool for some photo and video enthusiasts. If you are trying to film or take photographs in tight spaces, this camera will likely show it all, and will allow you to also get architecture shots and landscapes with impressive width.

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The secondary wide-angle camera is cool, but it's the regular lens that offers truly remarkable image quality

7. Selfie camera has a neat wide-angle view as well

Then, there is the selfie camera: some devices like the iPhone have a traditional selfie camera that is good of taking a picture of one person, while others like Samsung have front cameras that do better fitting a group of people in the frame. The LG V20 offers both modes with just a tap of a button in the camera app you can select between two modes. Its wide-angle optics give it a 120-degree viewing angle. With 5MP of resolution and an aperture of F1.9, the camera captures enough detail and accurate colors under optimal conditions.

Selfie camera has a neat wide-angle view as well

8. Hi-Fi audio on board: here is what this means

What is very exciting about the V20 is support for the so-called ‘Quad DAC’ system inside the V20, based on an ESS SABRE ES9218 chip. For those not familiar with the matter, a DAC is a module converting digital audio into an audible analog signal, the latter being what’s sent to a pair of headphones via the 3.5mm jack. And the audio chip inside the LG V20 has four DACs working in parallel, which results in extremely low noise and distortion levels. Its main advantage over other handsets is that it can drive professional and high-end earphones with ease, so if you have a pair of high-impedance studio monitors, these will work with the phone just fine. Sound will be loud, clear, and dynamic.

Hi-Fi audio on board: here is what this means

9. 64GB of storage is liberating, you can also expand it

2016 is the year when many high-end phones started shipping with 64GB of internal storage. This is a big improvement and will eliminate the constant fear that you’re soon running out of storage on earlier phone. With the massive amount of storage required for 4K video, more storage is a necessity rather than a luxury. The V20 also features 64GB of UFS 2.0 (a faster standard) storage, and you can also expand that generous allotment via microSD cards.

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64GB of storage is liberating, you can also expand it

10. Battery life is average, not great

LG includes a larger battery in the V20, but it’s still not a battery champ. It’s rather average in fact: the built-in 3200 mAh battery cell lasts a full day, but hardly much more, and heavier use would push the phone to its limits, especially on a longer work-day accompanied with an evening rendez-vous. Luckily, there is fast charge on board, which alleviates some of the battery life pains: it takes less than an hour and a half to fully recharge the battery from 0 to 100%, but you can also just plug in for a few minutes and still get a substantial battery boost

Battery life is average, not great

11. One more thing:The V20 is the only high-end phone with easily removable battery

You might have also noticed that the LG V20 also has a small button on its side that no other phone has. What does it do? Pressing it lifts the back cover, which in turn lets the user access the removable battery, as well as the SIM card and microSD card slots. While battery swapping can be considered a power-user feature, power users do seem to be the demographic for the V20, so this certainly seems like a right decision. And it certainly makes the phone stand out as no other flagship phone these days has a removable battery.

One more thing:The V20 is the only high-end phone with easily removable battery

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