LG G7 ThinQ Review

The G7 ThinQ is LG’s new Android phone, touting a Super Bright LCD display that’s viewable in direct sunlight – which is ironic because the rest of this phone has a hard time standing out.

It’s shaping up to be a reasonable, but not significant upgrade over last year’s LG G6, with a larger 6.1-inch all-screen display, AI-enhanced cameras, a loud ‘Boombox Speaker’, a faster chipset, and Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo software out of the box.

You may not immediately be wowed. The LG G7 doesn’t have a curved OLED screen like the Samsung Galaxy S9, the triple-lens rear camera of the Huawei P20 Pro, or the expected value of the OnePlus 6. And despite its controversial notch cutout at the top, it doesn’t have Apple’s fancy 3D TrueDepth camera as seen on the iPhone X.

LG is emphasizing that this is a smart, not flashy, phone. As the ‘ThinQ’ part of the name suggests, the company is determined to push AI onto all of its smart devices no matter how awkward the moniker sounds. The execution on this new ThinQ phone is, thankfully, a little more practical than the nomenclature.

Watch our hands on LG G7 ThinQ video below to see the phone in action

There’s a dedicated AI button on the left side of the phone, and LG isn’t forcing its own virtual assistant homebrew into your daily life like Samsung does with Bixby. No, this button leads to the familiar Google Assistant, and uses far-field voice recognition to better understand your commands. In short, we can tell that it’s already better than the Bixby button.

Its dual-lens AI camera is able to categorize subjects and automatically tune its settings to snap better photos via machine learning. It can also recognize low-light situations, and employ Super Bright Mode to make photos and video four times as bright as on the G6, albeit – at a reduced resolution.

The LG ThinQ a more normal-looking, risk adverse phone from LG. It’s pleasing, but not at all surprising.

We tested a pre-production LG G7 for one week, and noticed an uptick in photo quality next to the G6, just like we saw on the LG V30S ThinQ, the first LG phone with its AI camera and Bright Mode. We’ve also always liked having the wide-angle rear camera to capture more of what we see, and LG’s robust cinematic video tools. On the front of the G7, LG finally upgrades its front-facing camera to 8MP.

Machine learning is just one way to aid in capturing superior photos, but like the megapixel count, what matters more are how the pictures look after everything is processed. The final camera software and the still-to-be-announced price will determine whether the restrained LG G7 ThinQ is this year’s smartphone sleeper hit, or if we’ll be counting down the days to the inevitable LG V40.

Price and release date

  • The so-far-unknown price is slated to be cheaper than the iPhone X
  • Release date is mid-May for Korea and June for other regions

The LG G7 ThinQ is destined for Korea first in mid-May, about two weeks after its May 2 launch; LG always brings its flagship phone to its home territory first.

Its US release date slated for June, and we’re following up to see where else it’ll launch during that month, including the UK and Australia.

We’re still waiting for the official price and release date information.

How much will the LG G7 cost? There’s no confirmed price just yet, but LG has hinted that it’ll cost less than other flagship smartphones. In other words, while it’s rumored to carry a higher price than the G6, with speculation landing at around $740 (£720, AU$1,120), it won’t be as expensive as the iPhone X. The wildcard is that LG V30S ThinQ pre-orders just launched for $929, so we’ll see how much cheaper LG can realistically offer the LG G7 ThinQ in the US.

We’ll update this portion of the hands-on review when we know the official price and release date details.

Super Bright LCD and glass design

  • 6.1-inch Super Bright LCD display makes it easier to see your phone screen outdoors
  • Notch design makes way for status icon-filled ‘New Second Screen’ 
  • Sleep/wake button moved to the side, fingerprint sensor remains on back
  • Glass back, 3.5mm headphone and IP69 water-resistance 

The LG G7’s design puts an emphasis on its 6.1-inch LCD screen, which takes up nearly the entire front of the device, save for a notch at the top and a small chin bezel at the bottom. Its clean-looking unibody glass and all-screen aesthetic are a big upgrade over the fractured metal LG G5 look two years ago, even if this means you have to forgo a replaceable battery.

The notch left and right sides can be hidden in black or accentuated with various colors and gradients. Either way, it’s extra screen space for status icons, the time and the battery life percentage.

LG calls the top screen space to the left and right of the notch its ‘New Second Screen’ – it’s not. At least not like it was on the LG V10 and LG V20 second screen which showed detailed notifications. This is simply where the time, battery life percentage, and small notification icons live.

The notch is also LG’s way of expanding the screen to a 19.5:9 aspect ratio – there’s a smidgen more space to fit all of those status icons. And, hey, If you don’t like the controversial notch look, you can always ‘hide’ it by masking the screen corners. Or, if you really want to highlight this Apple-esque design trait, you can change up the color and even add gradients (the middle notch will always be black, though). Sure, you can see the blacked-out LED notch sides, but only  with a discriminating eye in certain light.

What’s more important is that the entire display can get very bright – maxing out at 1,000 nits. This makes it ideal for outdoor use when a normal smartphone peaks at 500 or maybe 600 nits. LG calls this its Super Bright Display, and says it’s 30% more energy efficient in this mode versus the LG G6 screen.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus (top) vs LG G7 ThinQ (bottom) in direct sunlight. The G7, in this test, looked brighter.

The Super Bright Display mode lasts for three minutes, a cap meant to save your battery and not overheat the device. That was just enough time to read messages our phone screen while walking outdoors in direct sunlight in our preliminary testing. The problem is that the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus we were carrying also showed a peak brightness of more than 1,000 nits. It’s one of the few phones that can do this besides the G7, but it’s also LG’s chief smartphone rival.

The LG G7 ThinQ has an easy-to-reach fingerprint sensor on back, just below a vertically stacked dual-lens rear camera. Only this sensor pad doesn’t click in to double as a sleep/wake button like on other recent LG devices. LG’s design team has returned the power to the right side of the phone – where it belongs – after much feedback.

Remember when LG used to put both the sleep/wake button and volume buttons on the back of its phones, circa LG G4? Yes, it provided cleaner sides, and it was easier to grasp the device without accidentally pressing these buttons, but the design always felt too unconventional. The LG G7 feels like a mainstream, immediately familiar smartphone, and that’s pleasing.

The sleep/wake button returns to the right side of the phone. The fingerprint sensor remains on the back, but doesn’t click in.

There is one extra button, too: the new dedicated AI button that sits on left side of the metal frame. More than a few times, we mispressed this Google Assistant shortcut, mistaking it for the volume down key on the left side. It’s the same problem we have with Samsung’s Bixby button. Luckily, you can turn off LG’s AI button, and the company is contemplating letting users remap it to another action in the future.

LG’s AI button is better than Samsung’s, however. A single press launches Google Assistant, a double press launches you straight into Google Lens, and a long press on the key takes you straight into voice commands with Assistant. It’s a far more intuitive system than Samsung’s, and one we can see ourselves using.

The LG G7 comes in a bunch of colors: Raspberry Rose, New Moroccan Blue, New Aurora Black, and New Platinum Gray.

The LG G7 has a clean, albeit plainer look than the curved Samsung Galaxy S9 and Apple’s completely chin-less all-screen OLED. You can opt for a variety of colors to spice things up: Raspberry Rose, New Moroccan Blue, New Aurora Black, and New Platinum Gray. Not all LG G7 colors will be available in all countries.

AI-powered cameras

  • Dual-lens 16MP rear camera, one with an ultra-wide field of view
  • AI software tries to understand subject and adapts the settings
  • Super Bright Camera offers 4x the brightness at a quarter the resolution
  • 8MP front-facing camera is a big improvement over past LG phones

LG G7 ThinQ brings impressive specs to its camera hardware and combines it with AI software in an effort to actually understand what’s in front of you. The machine learning tech categorizes subjects into 19 different shooting modes, tweaking colors and brightness along the way.

The dual-lens camera setup allows for normal photos with a better aperture and ultra-wide photos.

Launching the AI camera software triggers a flurry of guesses as to what the subject is: person, animal, food, etc. It gets even more granular with these details, trying to guess specific product names and animal species, for example. Sometimes it’s right and adjusts the camera settings accordingly; sometimes it’s way off and a bit comical. It’s hard not to laugh when the AI camera guesses that your meat-filled sandwich is a poodle. At least we hope it was wrong.

The Super Bright Camera is more precise, automatically detecting low-light situations and amping up the brightness by four times compared to conventional pictures, and even twice as bright as the LG V30S ThinQ ‘Bright Mode’. The trade-off here is that photos are going to be 4MP, and 4K UHD video is cut down to 1080p. The Huawei P20 Pro does something similar with its 40MP camera, outputting 10MP photos. (See the math? Always divide the photo or video resolution by four.)

Tricks like AI-powered subject detection and Super Bright Camera mode keep LG in the best camera phone title hunt.

The 16MP dual-lens camera – with an impressively fast f/1.6 normal lens and a f/1.9 wide-angle lens – uses a pair of Sony IMX 351 camera sensors measuring 1/3.1 inches. This is smaller than the average camera sensor of a flagship phone (The S9 camera has a 1/2.55-inch sensor and the Pixel 2 has a 1/2.6-inch sensor). LG says it doesn’t need larger sensors to achieve impressive results. We’ll be the judge of that soon.

We still have to evaluate the final camera software to see if LG is right about its smaller rear camera sensors. But we can already tell that the 8MP front-facing camera is vastly improved over prior LG phones, and that we like the wide-angle rear shooter, which captures more of what’s in front of us thanks to a field of view of 107 degrees; a typical camera lens has a field of view of 71 degrees. And interestingly, the LG G7’s portrait mode doesn’t crop in on the normal frame because of this dual-lens array. That’s helpful when framing up bokeh-rich portrait photos.

Boombox speaker

  • Loud Boombox speaker provides deep bass
  • DTS:X 3D Sound and 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC

The G7 ThinQ includes what LG calls a Boombox speaker, and it’s plenty loud. It uses the entire phone to pump out rich bass, and it reverbs for an even more powerful sound when resting on a table or, even better, a hollow wooden box. There’s a noticeable difference when it sits next to the Samsung Galaxy S9 playing the same song, in our early tests.

Lay the phone against a hallow wooden box and you’ll hear much louder sound from the reverberating speaker.

The phone is filled with some of the best audio specs, too, including DTS:X 3D Sound through any wired headphones, and a 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC with 50% reduced noise. You’re going to be able to hear the difference if you’re an audiophile. The one problem we see is that this phone has a single bottom-firing speaker, so it’s too easy to cover up the speaker grille when holding the phone and watching a YouTube video in landscape mode.

Specs and software

  • Flagship-level Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage
  • 6GB of RAM and 128GB variant available, but availability is a mystery 
  • Android 8.0 Oreo with LG software skin and Smart Bulletin

With the LG G7 ThinQ, LG isn’t making the same mistake it made with the G6, which launched with the Snapdragon 821 chipset when other phones were being outfitted with the Snapdragon 835. If a company is going to launch a flagship, it needs the latest flagship-level specs.

The LG G7 is going to be fast, but unlikely to be the fastest phone available.

That’s why the LG G7 is powered by this year’s flagship smartphone chip, the Snapdragon 845, and it’s coupled with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot for expandable storage. All of this means the LG G7 is going to be fast enough to compete in 2018.

It won’t be the fastest performer – many phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, are packing in 6GB of RAM – but it’ll be plenty fast for most people. There is a version of the LG G7 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, but LG hasn’t said where that’s destined to launch.

The LG G7 also has the latest operating system update, care of Android Oreo. The actual software doesn’t appear to be all that different from previous LG phones, down to the leftmost menu being dedicated to the familiar LG’s Smart Bulletin interface.

Battery life

  • 3,000mAh battery is smaller than the V30 3,300mAh capacity
  • Should still provide all-day battery life thanks to software trick
  • QuickCharge 3.0 wired charging as well as wireless charging

Like the performance stats, we’re still waiting to do more in-depth tests to tell you how the LG G7 ThinQ does when it comes to battery longevity. We do have some clues, however.

With an LCD and a smaller battery, we’re going to take a very close look at the battery performance in the final review.

The G7 ThinQ has a 3,000mAh battery capacity, which is smaller than the LG V30’s 3,300mAh battery size. This is a compromise to maintain the phone’s dimensions, according to LG, even though the new phone it’s slightly thicker than the V30. The good news? We’re still likely in for all-day battery life, with advanced software tricks making up for the diminished capacity.

We’ll soon be putting the battery life to the test, as well as the re-charge speeds. The G7 uses USB-C and officially supports QuickCharge 3.0 and wireless charging. Unofficially, it supports QuickCharge 4.0 – if you can find a charger out there.

Early verdict

The LG G7 ThinQ is a completely unsurprising, risk-averse smartphone, returning the power button to the side where it belongs and giving us another all-screen display, enveloped by a typical glass body. It even rides the popular notch trend that’s prevalent among almost all new Android phones right now.

The LG G7 ThinQ gets bright, ideal for direct sunlight. But it doesn’t have too many hallmark features. It’s good at the basics.

Its 6.1-inch display gets extremely bright, and its single speaker is plenty loud. The rest of the big highlights are left up to AI software, most notably the 16MP dual-lens rear and 8MP front-facing camera. They’re shaping up to be at least competitive, even if the machine learning prowess isn’t completely convincing.

And that’s it. The G7 doesn’t take any big chances – it’s not curved, doesn’t feature a leather back, and doesn’t attempt to move all of the buttons from the side to the back of the phone like we saw with the LG G4. There’s no hot-swappable battery or modular technology here either, as in the LG G5. And this is LG’s third flagship with an all-screen display – that’s not new anymore one year after the LG G6. And yet, it may be LG’s best flagship smartphone in years if all you care about are the basics, and if it’s priced right.

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