Review: LG G7 ThinQ

ThinQ of Everything

LG - The underdog smartphone manufacturer always seems to end up behind its bigger rivals. Even when the industry cried out for change and LG delivered a significant change, the company struggled. Their only real success being remembered as the LG G2, 5 years ago.

This year LG decided to launch a product that does it all, and in so challenge Samsung on their front lawn. The result is the LG G7 ThinQ, and weird naming aside it is a shame for some that the G7 will be over-looked by most consumers.

Here is my full review: 

Hardware

Specifications

The LG G7 ThinQ shipped with standard specifications for a big-brand flagship of 2018. You get the same processor, same 4GB of RAM and only 64GB of storage with support for micro-sd card support.

CPU Snapdragon 845
GPU Adreno 630
Storage 64GB (in Sweden)
RAM 4GB
Battery 3000 mAh
Display 6.1" 1440p+ IPS LCD
Glass Protection Corning Gorilla Glas 5
Rear Camera Dual 16MP cameras -
2nd camera wide-angle lens
Front Camera 8MP, f/1.9
Ports USB: 3.1, Type-C. Audio: 3,5 mm
Extra IP68 dust/water proof
MIL-STD-810G compliant
Single "BoomBox" speaker
Google Assitant button
 
Audiophiles rejoice, if you want to keep high-quality headphone jacks you should have bought an LG smartphone. But you didn’t, did you?

LG have decided to stick with an LCD-display for the G-series and it is a very pleasant 1440p display with up to a 1000 nits brightness-level for awesome sunlight-readability. The European version of the G7 does not come with dual-sim support and while it is limited to 4GB of memory, the Indian version dubbed the G7+ ThinQ is sold with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

The hand that Giveth, Also Taketh away

Do you recall the LG G7 leaks that floated around this spring? There were rumors of a cancelled version, a notched version, an ability to hide the notch, and evidens pointing towards a notched and chinned version, that was later said to be delayed or cancelled.

LG than finally released the G7 in May with their ThinQ-branding, it came with a 2018 trend-following notch and a trend-breaking headphone jack. LG did not only keep the headphone jack around though, they are determined to give you the best headphone jack in a modern smartphone.
I am almost ashamed to say that the hole on the opposite side of the single bottom-firing speaker kind of breaks the simple design. Yes, I said it, I do not care for the headphone jack at all any-more.

But its growing absence is still a shame. A lot of people want to use wired headphones, for both pricing and audio-quality. LG definitely delivers on that with both a high-quality DAC and a DTS:X 3D surround mode. Audiophiles rejoice, if you want to keep high-quality headphone jacks you should have bought an LG smartphone. But you didn't, did you?

Speaking of the speakers(…) LG made a huge marketing boom about the Boombox speaker set-up on the G7 with random boxes and guitars for the early reviewers to try it on. Just like others have said, it is hard not to place the phone on different surfaces just to see how well it works. In my testing it also works with the slimmer cases that I have bought for it.
Basically the phone has a resonance-chamber built into it and while Huawei also does something similar, the chamber on the G7 is larger, and the speaker seems to be bigger. The result is a really loud volume, and when laying flat you’d think it was firing right up at you.

Unfortunately that also means that the speaker is less impressive when you hold it in your hands. It is then less loud and the bass is thinner. But for music listening, or watching Youtube when you can lay it down, the speakers are great.

Design

There is not much to complain about when it comes to the G7's design. It is sleek with a glass back and fine glossy aluminium frames in between the back and front glass-panels. The screen is large with modern bezels, although not the slimmest bezels we have seen. The chin is there of course, and compared to the OnePlus 6's bottom-bezel this one is less curved which gives you less of an illusion. I honestly do not mind it though.

LG seems likes their iconography. While we are Finally through with the front-panel icon, the back is cluttered with both an "LG" logo on the lower end as well as well as the "G7 ThinQ" logo bellow the fingerprint reader. The camera sits in a vertical orientation with the flash besides it. There is something about the camera-proportion, I feel like the lenses should cover a larger area. The small size looked odd to me at first, but after some time I must have gotten used to it. There is barely any camera-bump meaning the phone does not wobble when laying flat on a table. 
Seeing as the back is made of glass however, I suppose you would like to put a case on it. The screen have an oleophobic coating applied which is wonderful and probably the best I have seen. Unfortunately there is no evidens of the back-glass having the same treatment. This thing is a greater fingerprint-magnet than Charlie Sheen ever was a magnet of other things. 

When tapping the back you will notice a sound of hollowness. While this might make you question the premium feeling it is also what allows for the Boombox speaker to work so well.
I am also quite happy that LG managed to include wireless charging into the mix, which also works even if there is a case on the phone.

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I have been using the Nillkin Super Frosted case on my G7. I bought it because I expected a sandstone-like feeling, but initially it felt quite slippery. After a few days though I really enjoy the in-hand feel of the case. Buying accessories for the G7 is not as easy as for Samsung, iPhones or OnePlus devices due to a lack of interest and therefore availability.

The buttons on the G7 are “clicky”, but at the same time the can feel kind of resisting in the beginning. After a while they are easier to press though, and they do give a nice click.
Of course, when talking about buttons on the G7 you don’t focus on the normal power and volume buttons. More on that later.

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Display

The G7’s clearest selling point is its screen. Whilst being an LCD display in a growing OLED-fixated market the colors and sharpness is beastly good. Even so, the screen brightness is what really steals the show here.

Besides the standard brightness-slider there is a button for “super brightness” which lets the display light up, reaching up to 1000 nits of brightness. That’s almost twice of what several other phones manages to reach. Now of course this is power-hungry tech, created by extra white sub-pixels that light up on command, and therefore usage is restricted to 30 seconds, 1, 2, or 3 minutes per activation. Of course, you can just activate it again right away if you so chose.

This is not a very scientific review of the phone’s display, but I have found nothing to complain about in neither colors, sharpness, nor responsiveness.
When on the subject of colors the G7 also lets you have your way with color-profiles, manual adjustments of saturation, hue, temperature, individual RGB-strength and even sharpness. So despite what you prefer the G7 lets you set out to achieve the screen calibration of your choice.

You also get the option to “hide the notch” like so many other Android manufacturers have implemented. LG calls this a New Second Screen paying homage to the legacy feature of the older LG V-series that featured a small second screen over the standard one. The similarities end at the naming though, and the new version is just a color overlay without extra functionality. Compared to OnePlus’ implementation you can make the notch area symmetrical to the chin-bezel though.

Google Assistant - button and all

The LG G7 ThinQ is equipped to be the best Google Assistant-compatible smartphone out there, except for the Google Pixel lineup of course. The phone comes with a dedicated button for the Assistant, very reminiscent of the Bixby button on Samsungs phones, as well as a functioning far-field microphone for voice activation. The company also want you to know about device-specific Assistant commands for stuff like the camera and quick-settings.
It operates well, but not as well as Bixby does on the Samsung devices. The Google Assistant cannot open the Smart Doctor and press optimize just by voice, for example. If you ask it to “open display settings and go to screen resolution” it will only go to display settings, the rest is still up to you. You can ask it to “take a selfie in five seconds”, which works, but if you accidentally used the camera previously and opened the gallery to look at that picture you just took the camera will open, get confused (I like to at least pretend like it is trying) and do nothing. So you need to remember to close the camera app if you like voice activating the camera.

The Google assistant button is a nice addition but it leaves me wanting, especially in performance. I would have wanted the button to work even if the screen is off, holding for walkie-talkie mode without first Unlocking the device.
If trying to hold it down when the screen is off you also reveal the issue I have with face unlock on the G7. While it works quickly enough and is a pleasant alternative to the fingerprint sensor, the implementation is strange. You need to wait for it to unlock before swiping, otherwise you're either stuck to go back, insert your pin code, or it might go back for you if it managed to unlock the device waiting for you to swipe again. Holding down the Assistant button wakes the screen and unlocks the device (if face unlock manages to see your) and waits for your swipe. When you let it go of the button the phone reacts like if you just pressed the button and unlocks to the normal Assistant mode. It's clumsy, and I feel like LG could have avoided the issue. Of course it might also be due to a Google restriction for using the Assistant at all with the phone locked, either way I think it makes the button less useful.

When the phone is unlocked and running I feel like the Assistant is a bit too slow to awaken. LG knows this so if you hold the button down you get one vibration when the button is pressed and another one to indicate when the Assistant is ready. This might be due to power-saving measurements though, as it is much snappier the second time in a row. We will speak further about the battery-saving later. As a conclusion I really wanted this feature to work just a bit better.

Double clicking to activate Google Lens works as expected. This is not a review of the Google Lens however, but I am pretty sure the garbage can in my office and a baby cradle is not the same thing.

On a positive note I have never click the button by accident. 

Software

LG UX (Previously known as Optimus UI) was back in 2012, on the LG G2, actually known to be a good software skin full of customization. Back then Android Purists weren't as large of a group though and Android was still considered best for those who wanted customization-options built in. 

Today LG's skin is known for being kind of boring, and lacking in identity. In many cases this is true, and I am guilty of looking at the first product-videos thinking it reminded me of Samsung's experience UI. Still, saying that LG UI is bad would not be fair.

Starting of with the screen you will spend a lot of time on, The launcher, it’s not a great contender in my book and pales when compared to third-party offerings like Nova Launcher Prime or the Rootless Pixel Launcher. You do however get choices:
You get to chose if you want an app drawer or not, and if you want that drawer to be accessed through a button or by swiping up. I cannot find a way to access the Google Feed from the launcher directly, but LG offers something called the Smart Bulletin which at least, compared to the Bixby feed, does not lag. This is pretty much a way for the user to keep track of the Contextual Awareness-triggers(I’ll get to that in a second), calendar-events and some other "smart tips" for the phone.

In my experience the Launcher with an App-drawer seems to lag, or suffer from several frame-drops when opening the app-drawer and scrolling through it. The Launcher without an App-drawer is very fluid though. I will personally stick to the Rootless Pixel Launcher myself.

The settings menu can be viewed as a list (standard Android menu) or in "Tab View" which actually is beneficial in some ways. Here you can access most of what LG lets you customize directly in the OS, and while it is not as overwhelming as it used to be there are still a lot of options. In tab-view it is easy to navigate through the different menus quickly. 

Contextual Awareness 

LG wants your ThinQ device to be smart, and while examining what smart means they have decided that intelligence requires awareness. Contextual Awareness is a page ment to let your phone do more for you, and relieve you of having to turn Wi-Fi on or off all the time. 
Simply put it can turn on Wi-Fi when you get home, as long as it knows were home is, turn it back off when you're away from home, and set your phone to silent when you reach work. There is also a setting for "Off Work" which I guess means when you're leaving work. Similar to "Away from home" and automations for when you plug in Headphones or connect a Bluetooth audio-device. Although the two former options only let you set an app to auto-open.

This is not innovating a lot, and services like IFTTT (If This Then That) have been able to do this for a while. Having it built into the devices standard settings could be a good way of preserving resources and stability though. Still, it requires and uses location data.

In my usage this is basically a good way to make sure I don't forget to turn on Wi-Fi when I get home, and for me to never turn Bluetooth off. I use it on the G7, but I don’t think I will miss it when I swap devices.

Security and methods for unlocking the device

LG have, like every other manufacturer, implemented a camera based Face Unlock feature for the users convenience. I always appreciate the ability to set it not to skip the lock-screen, but to unlock in the background and wait for me to swipe. While OnePlus does this effortlessly however letting me swipe and then wait for it to unlock or enter my pin, LG don’t want you to see the pin-numbers when using face unlock. Effectively this means that the device pushes you back to the lock-screen instead of just unlocking the device. This is pretty bothersome, and means that you have to wait before swiping or you’ll be swiping twice.

If you can look past that small annoyance however the feature works as expected, meaning it works well in daylight and indoors when the light is on, but not so well in darkness. LG also lets you activate a more secure version, but this one is also slower on purpose. I normally think about software-based face unlock solutions as something for us average humans - and I probably cannot recommend it if your phone is full of government secrets.

There is also something called Voice Unlock, functioning beside the normal “OK Google” recognition that also unlocks your phone. Here you get to set your own wake-up command. I have tried this using the phrase “unlock phone” as well as “Hey Jackass” which functions, the latter actually worked better. I highly recommend stepping away from the phone when it is learning the safe-word however so that it doesn’t expect you to have your mouth up to it every time (the same goes for Google Assistant recognition).

The back-mounted fingerprint scanner is secure and positioned in an almost perfect spot, but I have tapped the camera lens occasionally. It is also slower than the readers on cheaper Chinese models and feels cheaper as well, as if it is made by simple plastic. If you are moving from a OnePlus, Xiaomi, or Huawei device you will notice a decline in unlock-speed. From what I can recall though, it is not much slower than what Samsung offered on the Galaxy S8.

Battery Life and Stability

When it comes to battery-life the G7 gives a mixed feeling of results. Some days it is pretty good, other days it is a disappointing affair. I usually don’t use Wi-Fi at work seeing as hospital Wi-Fi isn’t all that good, but with the G7 I think it is the only way to remotely save battery. Watching videos feels like going on a mAh killing spree, draining the battery a lot most of the time and sometimes not at all. I guess the phone is made for someone other than me.
Other users do report up to 6 hours of screen on time over the course of 17 hours total though. No one have replied to my questions about how they manage so I am still left in the dark.

There is a pre-installed app, cleverly named the Smart Doctor, that gives you stats like battery-life, storage capacity, Memory usage, and some internal hardware test-labs for stuff like Wi-Fi and the fingerprint sensor.

I guess my experience when it comes to battery life should come as no surprise seeing that the capacity is capped at 3000 mAh. And while software could do a lot, it isn’t enough here. I usually end up with over 3 hours of screen on-time before the day is over, sometimes climbing to almost 4 hours. LG’s software have been nice enough to let me know that I never should deplete the battery bellow 5% though, leaving me with more battery-anxiety than I am used to.
There are two batter-saving modes called Extended and Maximum promising 10 and 20 hours of extra usage respectively. Of course doing so by reducing performance and background activity.

When it comes to stability I do not have many complaints, but this is most likely the only phone I have used that kills Spotify even during listening. Even more surprising, when I was taking some test-photos the other day activating the AI-mode forced Spotify to remove itself as well. I don’t think I have witnessed the music-app being killed while I am actively listening to music before, even less so when the screen is on. Memory is ment to be used but when it comes to the G7 you will have to manually restrict which apps the phone can kill without asking.

When I wake up in the morning I also notice that the recent-apps menu consists of around five apps in average. I am certain I did not close all other apps before going to sleep so my guess is that the LG UI does it for me. In other words power-management is pretty aggressive and you might need to tamper with it to suit your preferences.

Camera

LG have used dual cameras for a few years now, and remained their initial design by featuring a secondary wide-angled lens. Just from initial expectations I have looked forward to trying this setup, especially since I am not a fan of the zoom lenses that most companies apply.

The Primary 16MP lens features OIS and an apurture of f/1.6 and pixel size of 1.0µm. That is larger than most other flagships these days, and could mean that less light is captured by each individual pixel. 

Following the ThinQ-branding LG have also implemented an AI mode into its camera with scene-recognition and post processing. 

The App:

This is a first for me, but I want to complain about the camera app. I know a lot of reviewers and users give praise to LG’s camera UI, but I find it mostly annoying. There are a lot of icons to press for activating the wide-angle or primary camera, the icon for night mode is also small, and this would not be a problem unless they weren’t also hard to hit. I find myself pressing twice to hit these icons often, and while it might be because the camera-UI is not the smoothest, it usually results in the camera taking a picture.

Changing modes is also a slow process leaving you to wait in between AI mode turning On and Off with a black screen in between.

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Now I like that feature, if you press to focus there is a camera icon inside the focus-indicator that you can press again to capture the image. It is neat and effective for manual focus.
Using other manufacturers camera apps I have gotten so used to swiping in between modes that I tend to do so on the G7 as well. This results in a flip to the selfie camera no-matter which direction you swipe on the view-finder though.

The UI is not bad on its own, but I would have liked a larger area of registry when taping icons on the view-finder since I have missed them often enough for it to bother me.

Auto Mode

The camera performance on the LG G7 ThinQ is a mixed bag of better and worse. Some images turn out really nice when HDR kicks in, while others are left with a mess of white exposure in the background. Taking the photos above I left HDR on auto since I believe this is what most people will do, and what most manufacturers expect you to do.
In the eight photo I think the G7 does a good job in capturing everything, including color, distance, and detail. Looking at photo 2, 7, and 9 however, I am not as happy with the result.

I guess it is easy to say that while the camera is OK for an average user it is not a champion when it comes to capturing the moment in any way.

Wide-Angle

LG's fan-favorite feature have remained the Wide-angled lens the company utilize for its dual camera setup. with the G7, LG made the wide-angle less wide than before mostly to minimize the "fish-eye"-effect. Personally I am still very impressed with the pictures taken.

I find it pretty amusing that the wide-angled pictures makes the primary lens look like a telephoto in comparison. The second lens does not feature OIS, but according to numerous sources a lens this wide usually should not need stabilization.
The Wide-angled camera is also a great way to capture more dramatic shots, such as the second pictures of the church

Looking closely though there are still moments were the “fish-eye” effect come into place. This is especially noticeable when looking at the last capture where the walls around the gate curve at the very top as well as the sidewalk down bellow. The secondary lens is mostly ment to capture landscape and larger scenes though, not buildings up close.

AI Mode

Normal-Mode

AI-Mode

The AI mode has the best camera animation I have ever seen, giving you a pop-up of words describing what the phone is “thinking” when recognizing the scene. Mostly this is just a bunch of random words such as water tower and greenhouse, but it is still a great touch.
the mode itself however feels less useful than the one on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s i used earlier this summer, it is also slower to recognize a lot of scenes, and a lot of the time it decides to shoot in normal auto mode (not adjusting anything). When it works it works, and just like with other implementations it focuses on increasing the saturation sometimes also making the image brighter. In the first image the phone obviously chose “flower” while the second one picked “pet”, strange seeing as most of the image still is sky and landscape. The third image is mainly to showcase the AI mode with the wide-angled camera, as well as to display how subtle the changes can be. This last image is with the AI detecting the scene to be “city”.

Interestingly enough the AI mode’s detection of a person changes color tones etc. but does not activate Portrait Mode which I think could’ve been effective.

I also find it strange that a house does not automatically activate city, or architecture but simply picks auto a lot of the time. It might be that LG wants you to leave AI mode on, and therefore made it less aggressive so that it won’t ruin a shot but I like to activate and deactivate it. waiting for it to decide what to do only to get “Auto” feels kind of stupid and I have come to expect that.

Portrait Mode

Now to the very popular, and hated, portrait mode trend. You know I like Portrait mode shots personally, but I also know that a lot of people do not. Any how, pretty much every manufacturer have them these days - either by using software only, or two cameras for depth-sensing.

The LG G7 ThinQ takes Portrait pictures in the same zoom as the primary camera, which I like, and you can adjust the blur after the image is taken. seeing as this device was released in May I am impressed that Apple still managed to be first with the feature in September. It probably have something to do with the fact that LG only lets you adjust the blur while Apple lets you adjust the Bokeh, that must be it. Sorry, I lost track.

Pictures taken in Portrait Mode are hit or miss. Looking at the first and third image (Statue and Dog) both are captured and edge-corrected nicely, especially the dog. The second image however shows us that LG’s algorithms aren’t on par with some of the competition, looking at the area between the statues legs, between its arms, and on the right side under what looks like an arrows back-end these areas are in focus, giving the picture a choppy look all around. If you look closely you will notice that the same is true on the statue-picture were the rock behind it is in focus between the head and its pole.

Low Light

The G7's night mode can either be activated automatically, or by an icon appearing when the camera detects low lighting conditions. Night Mode is achieved by pixel-binning making the 16MP camera a 4MP one. This means the camera captures more light, but at the expense of resolution and sharpness. Unlike the P20 Pro’s night mode, this does not feel like magic.

As you can see the camera manages to capture a lot of extra light. I do not perceive the photos as pleasant to watch though and it should probably only be used as a necessary tool.

Selfies

The Selfie-camera is ok. Not more nor less, it is OK. Portrait mode works as expected and actually pretty good on the front camera. Colors are a little bit bleak and the sky gives it a hard time with exposure.

Manual Mode

LG have long been praised for their manual mode being the best. Some users also claim that leaving the manual mode on auto for each setting can produce better images than the normal auto mode. I have not experienced the same results my self.

Getting back on my commentary on the camera app I don’t think manual mode is as easily navigated as on the OnePlus 6 or the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s. Every setting is lined up on the top or bottom of the viewfinder and requires active use of both hands to click and adjust. For a phone that usually is very one-handed friendly this takes away from that experience.

Video

The LG G7 ThinQ can shoot video up to 4K resolution at 60 fps, as well as slow motion in 1080p at 240 fps.
LG still remains the proud owners of a manual mode for video, so if you really like filming it might be worthy of consideration.

Image stabilization remains good. Strangely though you cannot switch between the two camera-lenses during recording, which feels like a missed opportunity for some cool vacation-movies.

Conclusion

The LG G7 ThinQ is a good all-rounder. Initially I have been thinking that it is sad most people won’t buy the G7, and that this most likely applies to the upcoming LG V40 as well.

Truth is though, while the G7 is a good phone there isn’t much about it that excites. The size is pretty much perfect, and it fits well in the hand. The design and overall construction is good, but it is not exciting nor the best. For some users the headphone jack might be enough to be considered exciting but that is becoming a niche-crowd as well with declining demand. The notch is larger than that of the Huawei P20 Pro and the OnePlus 6 and while I am not bothered by it I know many still consider it offensive.

The camera does an acceptable job, but it is not the chosen one that leaps ahead of the competition. I’d say that LG needs to work on their post-processing efforts. The wide-angled camera is a great second lens implementation, but like the telephoto zoom I’d probably need to remind myself that it is there, though I full-heartedly prefer it to the zoom-lenses. The AI mode with all its cleverness feels kind of half-baked, slow and it is harder to understand than the others I have tested. Personally I prefer Xiaomi’s implementation better, although the animations on the G7 are great.

The display is a huge bonus on the device, especially when it comes to brightness the G7 is still undefeated and you can pretty much read the newspaper in direct sunlight mid-day.
The speaker set-up is also really nice, for music listening when the phone is laying flat down. That is why some also criticize the speakers seeing as plenty of users aren’t fans of the down-firing orientation and when you carry the phone the speakers are pretty mediocre.

Software-wise the G7 is solid, but there are better options out there. Most of the time it’s smooth and fluid, but then again battery-management is aggressive and it seems to kill Spotify more times than I am used to and there is the occasional frame-drop. I still hold on to my initial opinion that LG should start shipping their flagship phones with Android One. The LG UI is quick and smooth enough for most, but if you’re used to the OnePlus 6, or even the 5T, this is a downgrade.

Considering all of this I have a hard time recommending the G7 for most consumers since there are better offerings out there in the same price-range. If you love great audio and want to use your precious high-end headphones however, this phone might be for you. After all you do get a smartphone that nearly does it all.

What do you think of the LG G7 ThinQ? Let me know in the comments below!