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Hands-On Review: the LG V20 Smartphone

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As technology goes, we live in a pretty wondrous time. Every month we seem to edge closer to a Star Trek-ian future, where the gizmos and gadgets of tomorrow occupy the hands and homes of today. Arguably, some of the best examples of this movement are our smartphones, which become more and more capable (and more indispensable) by the season.

But there are side effects to living in such a technologically advanced period. One such drawback is that it's getting harder and harder to be genuinely amazed by anything. This might be a wondrous age, but it's not exactly an age of wonder, which is why I was so thrilled to write about my experience with LG's newest flagship, the V20 smartphone. With it, LG accomplished what so few phones have recently been able to do: it took me by surprise.

LG V20 US996 64GB Smartphone

Design and Display

If the V20 was a car, it would definitely be on the showroom floor. That is to say, it looks stunning. The clean metal body and 3D Arc Glass display give it the kind of ultra-sleek look we've come to expect from our flagship devices. In designing the V20's body, LG used AL-6013 aluminum. If that doesn't mean anything to you, don't worry. Just know it's the same material used in certain aerospace and military applications, as well as other high-end smartphones (the Samsung Galaxy S6, for example). It's also part of the reason the V20 is so thin (only 7.6mm), yet feels remarkably durable.

And speaking of durability, the V20 comes with a MIL-STD 810G shock-resistance rating, which means it's certified to withstand hard impacts and drops. Now, anyone who has shopped a smartphone case knows that terms like "military spec" and "ruggedized" get thrown around pretty loosely these days. However, without having performed a drop test (give it a minute—I'm clumsy), the V20 does feel like it could handle some serious impact. As opposed to my iPhone 6 Plus, which sans case, feels like I could crush it with my bare hand, the V20 feels sturdy and reliable, almost steel-like.

Another nice touch is the back cover, which pops off easily with a single button press to reveal the replaceable 3200 mAh battery, SIM card, and microSD slot. The simple elegance and easy access of this setup cannot be understated, and was definitely a warm welcome to an iOS user such as myself.

Rounding out the body design, the V20 features a USB Type-C port and (ahem) 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the device. It's also kitted with multiple cameras and DACs, which we'll go into later. Beneath the rear cameras is an always-on fingerprint reader, which provides added security and unlocks the device. Here, I must admit that I am still not quite sold on having a fingerprint reader on the back of a device. Perhaps it's because I'm an everyday iPhone user, but I thought the placement a little unnatural and often found myself instinctively thumbing the front display for a sensor that wasn’t there.

Premium build and aesthetic aside, what really impressed me about the V20 was its display. With the V20, LG continues its work in the dual-screen arena (à la the LG V10 and G5), aiming to port over the successes of its predecessors and improve upon any design flaws. And by all accounts, the company succeeded.

The V20's main display is a sharp-looking 5.7" IPS screen with Quad HD resolution. The graphics were crisp, and brightness levels surpass those of both its predecessors (though, I thought its contrast levels were merely good, not great). Sunlight readability was also excellent. I did a side-by-side comparison with my Apple iPhone 6s Plus and couldn't detect a noticeable difference.

Its secondary screen is a single 2.1" bar that continuously brightly displays time, date, and notification data even when the V20 is locked. It also provides quick access to certain apps, so you can get to important functions faster. Usage is straightforward and simple, but it's also incredibly handy, and provides a level of access that soon became one of my favorite features and something I sorely miss now that I’m back to my iPhone.

Under the Hood

One of the defining characteristics of any flagship phone is its chipset. If a device isn't running the latest, most powerful, or most popular CPU, we tend to give it a "meh" face even before testing it out. Luckily, that wasn't an issue with the V20, since it's equipped with the cutting-edge Snapdragon 820 with a hefty 4GB of RAM in support. 64GB of storage is also built in and, as mentioned earlier, there's a microSD card slot for increasing storage capacity up to 2TB.

As you might expect from such a premium device, the V20 is 4G LTE capable, and features dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity—all of which performed flawlessly. As an added bonus, an unlocked V20 supports both GSM and CDMA carriers, so you should be able to use it regardless of what network you’re on (be sure to check with your carrier before purchasing).

User Interface

The LG V20 is the first smartphone to ship with the new Android Nougat operating system. This addition couldn't have been more fitting, since the new OS allows for two apps to be displayed simultaneously onscreen at once—thus continuing the V20's "two-is-better-than-one" theme. LG did skin the V20 with its own UI, so you won't get the "pure" Android experience, but it's not heavily layered, and a few tweaks to the settings get you closer to the traditional Android layout.

Camera and Audio

Another feature that blew me away was the V20's camera array. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a seasoned (read: talented) photographer. I like to take pics of my family and friends, record videos at concerts, and that's about it. However, even a dilettante like me could recognize the power and capability of the V20's camera setup. The main camera comprises 16MP and 8MP rear sensors (for normal field of view and wide-angle shots) and is supported by some of the most advanced settings on the market. Admittedly, I tended to use the default auto settings, since they produced excellent shots, but for more experienced photographers, there are several manual settings that let you adjust everything from focus to exposure time to white balance and ISO settings. The manual settings are also available for shooting video, as well, enabling users to set focus, white balance, and more. The V20’s 2-in-1 front camera is a 5MP sensor that also features normal and wide-angle modes, so you can shoot ultra-crisp selfies, ussies, or depending on the size of your entourage, the whole squad.

Earlier I mentioned that the V20 has built-in digital-to-analog converters (DACs). Did I mention it has four of them? Not to be too hyperbolic, but that's kind of insane—in the best possible sense. I tested several different formats of audio files and there wasn't one the V20 couldn't handle. The sound quality, too, was equally impressive. And loud. So very loud. I can't say for certain, but I suspect this is one of the loudest smartphones on the market—definitely the loudest I've tested. When cranked up, I could hear it through the walls of my apartment no problem (much to the chagrin of my roommate).

Audio Field Test: One of the things I use my smartphones for is recording live shows and concerts. I took the V20 with me to two shows and have to say that not only did it record excellent footage, the playback on the audio was incredible—possibly the best I've ever recorded. I'm no audiophile, but the sound capabilities alone would make me take a long, hard look at the V20 as my next device.

Phone Stuff

Something that I always seem to forget when testing a new smartphone is that it is, despite all the bells and whistles, a phone—meaning its primary intended use if for communication. I was about three hours deep into trying out the V20's various camera settings before it dawned on me that, “Hey, maybe I should make sure this thing can call out.”

No surprise: it worked just fine. I called my mom, spent 20 minutes trying to explain to her what vaping was, then texted the highlights of the conversation to my brother with absolutely no hiccups at all.

Verdict

The LG V20 is a very good smartphone. It's better than good, actually. So much so, I sort of felt ashamed for not being able to make better use of all its features and functionality, many of which qualify as professional grade. When I showed it off to some of my photographer friends, they absolutely lost their minds over the V20's camera features. Likewise, a couple of musician buddies of mine wouldn't believe me when I told them it housed four DACs. And I could only imagine how a true multi-tasker would feel using the dual-apps feature or constantly staying up to date and in the loop, thanks to the second screen display. For my part, I was just happy with how gorgeous the V20 looked in hand, how crisply it rendered the latest Rogue One trailer, and its overall speed and performance.

That isn't to say this is a phone that's marketed for a limited audience. On the contrary, the V20's bevy of impressive features make it a phone that has something for everybody. Whether you're a mobile photographer, audiophile, or just someone who wants a phone that performs as beautifully as it looks, the LG V20 is a phone you should strongly consider. You won't regret it.

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4 Comments

I just bought this phone yesterday and most things so far seem great but the voice to text option is driving me crazy!  It won't write the last word I say so I'm having to repeat that word twice so it puts it there AND if I start to say a 2nd sentence for the text, it erases the first sentence to type the 2nd one.  Has anyone else had this issue?  I even tried using a different messaging app but it still does the same thing.  

Hi Dianne - 

It may be that you are using in this feature where there is a high level of ambient background noise or sound. Remember to speak slowly and clearly. Keep your mouth within a few inches of the phone.

From  GENERAL>Language & Keyboard:

• Google voice typing: Configure the options for text dictation by Google

• Text-to-speech output: Configure the settings for text-to-speech output

https://static.bhphotovideo.com/lit_files/294639.pdf

Make sure all updates are performed.

If you continue to have issues contact LG directly:

I just bought new V 20 today and somehow I hit sommething that made the screen be black and white. I think it was under visual impaired or some such thing. That is not what I want and can't seem to find how to get out of that black and white screen.

Any suggestions?

Sandy

You may be in black and white mode.  Go to your settings > Display > comfort view  and see if black and white is checked off there.

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