LG has returned to the market with the LG Q6; a budget take that distills the G6’s best features into one easy-to-hold package. Read on for our full verdict!
I’ve a special place in my heart for LG’s Beat/Mini handsets of yore. Emerging at a time where leading Android device manufacturers pushed the envelope both with compelling flagship devices and smaller ‘compact’ variants, LG dared to release both the G3 Beat and G4 Beat in South Africa as mid-range contenders. While we missed a step with the LG G5, the LG G6 now has a smaller sibling in the form of the LG Q6.
Sure, there’s little doubt that LG has had a misfire in terms of naming convention – missing the opportune chance to resurrect the ‘Beat’ moniker or forge something inspiring (or meaningful) – but despite not sharing a name with its predecessors, the LG Q6 follows in their footsteps by trying to distill the best parts of a great flagship phone into something that the rest of us can afford. Read: LG’s V30 lands with a near bezel-less design, pro audio features
The trick with any summary, however, is carving out a brief and clear message without losing the focus or intent of the original text. The questions we have to deal with as the Q6 lands on our shores are two-fold – can this device both establish a foothold in the South African market, and meaningfully compose its own tune from the G6’s song?
Let’s dive in and find out.
The LG Q6 brings to market Android 7.1.1 Nougat with an 18:9 FullVision display with a resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels at a 442ppi pixel density, in addition to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 SoC. 4GB of RAM is present, while the handset arrives with 32GB of built-in storage.
A 13-megapixel primary camera is present with a 5-megapixel selfie snapper, while the Q6 leverages a Micro-USB port and a 3,000mAh battery.
The LG G3 Beat and G4 Beat weren’t ground breaking phones – while both meaningfully doubled down on their flagship companion’s design and brought interesting features and ideas to the mid-range of the market, neither were premium efforts that inspired much love beyond their ability to make great smartphones somewhat more pocketable and affordable.
The LG Q6 follows a very similar tack in this regard – though, significantly, it perhaps bests the LG G6 in one particular avenue. Let me explain.
With the Q6, consumers net the same FullVision display found on the LG G6 (and now the wider V30) in a far smaller 5.5″ package. While most of us want as much bang for our buck as possible – meaning that, surely, a larger display on a larger phone should do the trick – the LG Q6’s frame is brilliantly pocketable.
On the front, the FullVision display dominates as much as it did on the G6 – rendering it easy for a user to outstretch their thumb across the length and breadth of the display without the need for an odd shuffle up-and-down. This is all the more enjoyable while leveraging the Q6’s display for media content – YouTube videos, for example, can be dismissed or enlarged with a simple tap of a thumb – no movement need be required to hit touch targets across the breadth of the display.
The comfort offered by the Q6 doesn’t end there – the phone wraps around into aluminum sides that more closely resemble what one might remember of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, and shares an aluminum back that gently arcs in one’s hand. While the primary camera does protrude ever so slightly, it’s far enough out of the way of one’s palm that there’s truly little need to notice.
Put simply, this is an ergonomic masterpiece, and is the highlight of the phone. Rarely do we see a mid-range smartphone that has such a gentle and pleasing design, and the LG Q6 delivers in spades where other compact efforts fall mercilessly short.
If, for example, you’ve felt betrayed by Sony’s tendency to cram heftier bezels into its Compact series or feel abandoned by Samsung’s focus on offering the J, A, and S series in favour of a flagship and ‘mini’ duo, LG has succeeded in delivering an excellent endeavour. Put simply, it’s easy to commend the Q6 as perhaps the most well-designed budget phone I’ve used all year.
What the LG Q6 doesn’t try to be, however, is a performance rocketship. Where the LG G6 was the last flagship phone to fly the banner of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 chipset, the Q6 slows things down a pace by instead opting for the Snapdragon 435 – a tier below the Snapdragon 625 that has proven popular this year. Thanks to the Adreno 505, the Q6 can indeed soldier through most modern games with aplomb.
This means that the Q6 isn’t a heavyweight – though apps rarely lag and LG’s UI flies through most endeavors, the handset can at times become slow or unresponsive when multiple apps are running. This is a frustration that can easily be compounded thanks to the curiosities found in LG’s UI – in particular, the South Korean firm continues to rely on its frankly bizarre ‘uninstalled apps’ solution, rather than give direct access to an app drawer at first launch.
Another area where the Q6 falls short is that of security – the handset doesn’t carry a fingerprint sensor, which is an oddity in the market place considering the increasing tendency of some Android manufacturers to offer fingerprint scanners at the mid-range.
However, like many premium handsets that have debuted this year, the Q6 introduces facial recognition as its key security feature – yet this can be a hit-and-miss process. The Q6 often struggles to analyze faces in low light, leaving one either with the decision to seek out a light fixture or go manual by punching in a PIN code or pattern. Though the lack of a fingerprint scanner gives an uninterrupted rear panel, it’s an addition that is sorely mission aboard the Q6.
Mentioning the back panel is a good place to segway to yet another bug bear – the Q6 scratches incredibly easily. If you happen to be a neat freak (like myself) who hates scuffs and marks on a smartphone, you’ll either want to splurge on a heavy-duty protective case for your Q6 or avoid this smartphone altogether.
An easy win for the Q6 is the fact that despite the device’s smaller frame, it manages to cram in a large 3,000mAh battery – meaning that the device can blast though a day’s usage and beyond. This is mostly due to the fact that the Q6’s battery is tied to the stable Snapdragon 435 – which has become appreciated in the market thanks to its power-sipping smarts.
The Q6 regularly stretched into a two-day use period during the course of our review, and lasted more than a week when left to its own devices – though this is an impressive feat when measured against itself, the Q6 does have some work to do on the score of topping other mid to high-end smartphones in 2017; the BlackBerry KEYone remains our number one contender for magnificent battery life.
Here’s the kicker. LG, of late, has done interesting work with mobile photography – aside from the disastrous G5, the LG G4 did much to cement itself as one of our most favourite mobile snappers of all time – and the LG G6 as equally demonstrated that both of its cameras have ample merit when heading to market.
However, it’s not without sadness that we say that the Q6 brings with it one of the worst camera setups we’ve ever had the misfortune of using – and that’s a difficult statement to make considering the fact that the handset does manage to condense at least one key element of the LG G6 quite well.
Leveraging a single-lens 13-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.2, the Q6 has all the ingredients for success – for parity, the LG G4 was only a small cut above with a 16-megapixel camera and a f/1.8 aperture.
Sadly, however, there seems to be a disconnect between the potential the Q6’s camera has, and the way in which the smartphone processes image quality.
The Q6 captures muddy hues, where colours frequently wash out into the ether. Detail frequently suffers even in the most well-lit settings, while those who find themselves taking photographs in cloudy whether might struggle to craft a well-detailed scene.
When taking landscapes or other hyperfocal images, the Q6 has a habit of attempting to chalk up high dynamic range in a fruitless attempt to establish some level of contrast and definition – an effort that all too frequently fails and leaves a muddled image comparable to what one might have eked out of their BlackBerry circa 2010.
It’s a strange state of affairs for LG, which has managed to shape itself into a respected name in imaging in these last few years; and perhaps the Q6’s most maddening attribute is the length of time in which it takes the device to both focus on an object and close its shutter – meaning that magnificent moments can all too easily slip away as one fiddles with camera settings to speed up a lazy shutter.
The handset’s front-facing camera is capable of developing some well-rounded selfies so long as one strays from using the camera’s built-in beauty mode, which can all-to-easily render a face into a makeup smudge.
Perhaps the most ironic thing about the LG Q6 is that – despite the device’s nature as a summary of everything that made the G6 great – it’s a difficult handset to serve up in just a few significant words.
Let’s start with what the Q6 gets wrong. Firstly, it’s damn easy to scratch the handset’s rear to smithereens – something which one may not expect when unboxing a device that’s otherwise as glamourous as it is simplistic.
Further, there’s the presence of a sub-par camera that does little to deserve any form of acclaim – especially so when arriving from a firm that has worked hard to stand out from the likes of Samsung and Huawei in recent years.
Lastly, there’s the fact that the Q6 carries with it no fingerprint scanner, save for the fact that a facial recognition engine is present that is only moderately capable of authenticating oneself in the most well-lit of environments.
If we look beyond these failings, the LG Q6 isn’t actually a bad device.
What it does successfully is bring a brilliant screen down to both a more pocketable form factor and palatable price tag, and equip an otherwise mid-range effort with a premium design sense that many will appreciate the first time they hold it tenderly in their palm.
Put frankly, there are few mid-range devices with as stellar a design as the Q6 – and for that LG deserves acclaim. Paired with a power-sipping processor and a large battery, the LG Q6 is a great effort that – despite its failings – does manage to carve out its own unique profile on the market.
The LG Q6 is a great metaphor for the fact that sometimes one can distill the finer points of an argument, but not without losing sight of the original text.
For consumers seeking a great design and vehicle to absorb content, the Q6’s asking price of R6,499.00 at retail is not a huge ask. However, there are better options on the market at the equivalent price point – consumers could elect to swing for Huawei’s P10 Lite (R5099.99) or the Samsung Galaxy A5 (R6,999.00) instead.
Have your say!
What are your thoughts? Would you be willing to purchase LG’s Q6, or has another mid-range smartphone caught your eye? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA