LG has returned to take the throne with the bigger and better G6, but is this a royal affair? The ascent to power begins in our in-depth review!
Here’s the thing: the LG G5 was a flop. Where we were initially excited to see a smartphone execute a bold, modular vision, the G5 disappointed with pricey accessories of varying quality and a design that left us wanting. The LG G6, however, gives a fresh breath of life to the brand, and – on paper- is seemingly everything LG fans have been wanting.
It might lack the acute price sensitivity that propelled the LG G4 to stardom in our eyes, and it arrives at a heavily contested juncture in smartphone history where the Huawei P10 and Galaxy S8 are duking it out for the Android throne – yet the G6 promises a bold vision of change that could shift our perspective forever. Read: LG V20 Review: The beast, unleashed
In a world where the dark horse can often take center stage, can the LG G6 rise above the challenge, ascend the hierarchy, and topple a regime to take the throne?
It’s time to dive in.
The LG G6 makes an interesting play in the specs department. Where one of the Galaxy S8’s claims-to-fame is the presence of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 chipset, the G6 makes use of the elder Snapdragon 821, which still offers bang-for-your-buck performance. This is in-line with LG’s usual hardware strategy, in which more established chipsets are used for both reasons of affordability and performance.
Rounding out the package is 4GB of RAM as well as 32GB or 64GB of storage, expandable up to 256GB. Present is a 3,300mAh battery, a dual 13-megapixel camera setup with a 5-megapixel secondary lens.
Finally, a major highlight is the handset’s FullVision display, which makes use of an 18:9 aspect ratio and a 1440×2880 resolution.
Design and feel
There’s not much getting around it – the LG G6 is unapologetic about a number of things. It looses the vanity contest to Samsung’s Galaxy S8, and doesn’t possess the slim and trim fit of Huawei’s P10. As has been aptly said before, where the S8 feels like the final design, the G6 feels like the rough concept.
That doesn’t, however, mean that there’s nothing to love. Anyone who’s complained about smartphones becoming too lean in recent years – or prefers a chunkier handset – will fall in love with the G6 almost instantly.
There are no frills here, and no flash either – and where monarchs have been stately statues of silver and gold, the LG G6 is a robust people’s leader.
The G6 – on the face of it – is mostly screen, and that’s a great thing; there’s little in the way of distraction to part a user’s attention from the device’s glorious display. Even to those with smaller digits, the G6 is eminently reachable, and the left-hand side volume rockers are perfectly placed. Robust sides make the device easy to hold, and the rear is a masterclass in everything Samsung’s Galaxy S8 should have had.
On that note, let’s acknowledge for a second that where Huawei has for years pioneered onward with the development of rear-facing fingerprint scanners, LG has executed that vision with aplomb. The contextual flow of holding the G6, unlocking it, or powering it on and off are suburb – and the subtle protrusion of the power button from the rear is a masterclass in blind navigation for users worried about missing an easy chance to unlock their device.
The G6 feels a great deal more rugged than other premium smartphones on the market, and that’s something I truly enjoyed during my review period – so much so that I felt the device is best left out of a case, rather than in one.
Where LG’s software skin perhaps felt slightly ungainly in the recent past, the LG G6’s efforts in presenting a crisper, more refined version of the user interface are highly commendable. True, one still lacks the presence of an app drawer – and LG’s uninstalled apps system sometimes feels like a meddling interference – but on the whole this is a concept that functions well in day-to-day life.
Animations are fluid, and this is perhaps best exemplified by the smooth flow of system utilities when one drags down the notification drawer. Elsewhere, some might grate at having to have app icons confined into squircles by default – others might well rejoice at having a relatively uniform display.
If there is one aspect of the G6’s user interface that is perhaps critically undervalued, it’s the ability to run two apps side-by-side in perfect squares. Where other smartphones – such as the Galaxy S8 – might offer this capability, the unique spacing offered by the G6’s 18:9 display achieves sensible proportion, and make side-by-side multitasking less of a pipe dream on a mobile device, and more of a usable reality.
Where the LG G5 proved on-and-off (quite literally) in the case of everyday performance, the LG G6 is a tower of power.
If ‘keep it simple stupid’ best applies anywhere, it is here; day in and day out the LG G6 offers startling performance and – comparative to its price – is possibly one of the best over-achievers we’ve yet to come across in South Africa’s burgeoning mobile scene.
Apps rarely have reason to fail, and the G6’s interface continues to flow fluidly day-in and day-out. We never had to deal with a single case where the phone overheated. Usability is one achievement, but utility is another – and the G6’s software skin, subtle design, and the layout of its 18:9 display culminate to form a handset that feels like a meaningful tool rather than a sideshow attraction.
The presence of a headphone jack makes the G6 somewhat of a YouTube monster, considering the prowess of its display – and media is rendered exquisitely. Colours are sharp and vivid, but seldom oversaturated – and detail is executed with a finesse we’ve seldom experienced on a mobile display beyond the 4K monster that was the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium.
Unfortunately, our sentiments can’t extend wholly to the device’s battery life – given that the unit includes a sizeable 3,300mAh battery, we expected more stamina from the handset than we actually experienced.
The G6 will last a full day on a single charge, but there is little else one can expect from the handset. The device usually died early into its second day, and standby performance left much to be desired. The G6 typically consumed up to 20% of its battery when left to its own devices overnight, leaving us to advise that isn’t so much a road warrior as we might have liked it to be.
The presence of USB Type-C will enable a fast charge while on-the-go, though we’d argue that this is more of a hindrence considering the size of both the G6 itself and its internal battery. If we’re left with one thing to shed a tear over, it’s the fact that LG wasn’t able to include a removable battery as it did aboard the G5.
If you remember the days of LG G4, you’ve likely been waiting for LG to make a return to form in the camera department. While the device is no doubt one of LG’s best camera setups yet, we’re left to feel that it still feels just that marginal fraction less impressive than the setups found aboard other contenders.
What do we mean by that? Let’s put it in context – the Galaxy S8 relies on a single shooter, which Samsung has had plenty of time to optimize into the 12-megapixel beast we fawn over today. Huawei has the benefit of a partnership with Leica to create an optimal setup – something that pays dividends aboard the Huawei P9, P10, and Mate 10.
LG is more or less left to its own devices (pun intended) and some of that mixed effort has shown aboard the G5 and the V10 – both of which we found to be useful, but mixed contenders.
Let’s say it clearly, then – the LG G6 does have a great camera, but it’s not the best out there. The addition of a wide-angle lens will be useful for some, and colour reproduction is great – but where the G6 suffers is the replication of fine detail.
Often objects can be left fuzzy or only partially in focus, and noise is especially visible when using the wide-angle lens even insufficient light. The selfie camera somewhat mirrors these problems, and is only really suitable for group shots; thanks to a wide-angle lens, one’s facial features often distort to appear wider and fuller than they usually are.
Manual video recording makes its debut, which will no-doubt please those desperate for artisanal shots – though we imagine most consumers will be happy enough with automatic video capture. The presence of two built-in microphones will delight audiophiles, though we found capture to be somewhat mixed and lacking in definition and timbre. However, LG’s HD audio recording app will let users tweak outputs, file formats, and more to their fancy.
Let’s return to our analogy for a second – can the LG G6 take the throne from its more edgy competitors?
The answer is a mixed one. For one, the LG G6 is arguably the best phone one can purchase right now to compete with any flagship released throughout 2016.
Between a savvy design, 18:9 smarts, a decent camera setup and average battery life, the LG G6 is a stable, steady ruler that would be a natural fit for any kingdom seeking prosperity and peace. Where the S8 exudes Edge (ahem) and the Huawei P10 emphases style, the G6 is best described as the least offensive parts of either design rolled into one product.
Our point is this; the LG G6 isn’t an absolutely revolutionary device, nor is it actually seeking to break any substantial boundaries. This is a plain and simple flagship phone with a clever design, meant for the everyman on the market who needs a high-end phone to get the job done.
For that reason, the G6 is actually an excellent handset. There’s nothing truly controversial about the device, and little one could complain about either – something that’s said about the best kings and queens to rule throughout history. Sure – some monarchs might push for radical change; but it is often those who keep the boat calm and steady that have the happiest subjects.To round of that point, there’s little reason why the G6 shouldn’t sit atop the smartphone pile. To round of that point, there’s little reason why the G6 shouldn’t sit atop the smartphone pile.
With a respectable asking price of R12 099 ZAR compared to the bulshy figures demanded by the likes of Samsung, Huawei, and even Apple’s iPhone 7, the only reason the G6 might loose out is the fact that it doesn’t cause controversy and bend headlines in the same way that other present flagships do.
If there’s a staple and steady handset ready to tackle 2017 with an idea that makes the best of content and apps available here-and-now, it’s the LG G6.
Between a respectable asking price, a solid design, a robust feature set and a unique 18:9 display, this is a solid phone that – despite perhaps not breaking headlines like its competitors – is a subtle, confident presence on the market that is well worth its asking price. Score: 8/10 Read: Here’s how the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 will change the face of Android
Have your say!
What are your thoughts? Would you be interested in splurging on LG’s new flagship, or has another contender caught your eye? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA