Korean manufacturer back on form with perfect blend of design and performance
The LG G6 is an excellent handset and a return to form for the Korean electronics manufacturer.
After the lacklustre LG G5, the company has gone back to the drawing board for its newest flagship offering. It has zero fancy gimmicks and seems to offer a perfect blend of design and performance, despite using a slightly older chipset. Call it a purist’s phone if you will, but there’s a lot to like about the LG G6. Problem is, can it go toe-to-toe with the Samsung Galaxy S8? Let’s find out...
Design & Screen
The LG G6 has decided to forgo the modular design found on its predecessor in favour of a water-resistant, unibody build. While offering attachments was an interesting idea, it never caught on, so it’s an understandable omission. If there’s something we’ve always respected about LG, it’s their willingness to try new ideas – even if they don’t always work out quite how the company would like.
Make no mistake, the LG G6 is a looker. Galaxy S8 comparisons aside, the Korean electronics giant has followed with an eye-catching display that takes up almost 80 per cent of the front. You’re getting what is effectively a 5.7-inch display crammed into a device with the same form factor as a five-inch handset. It’s perfectly capable of one-handed use and feels comfortable in the palm.
The back is now encased in glass, a departure from older designs which have always opted for metals and plastic. The G5 had a blasted finish which concealed the antenna lines, though it gave the handset a cheap feel overall. On the LG G6, the glass finish makes it feel like a true premium device. Fingerprint magnet aside, our initial worries over the glass rear seem to be in vain, as the G6 didn’t feel like it would slip out the hand by mistake. There’s actually a lot of grip to be had from the glass rear.
Move onto the sides and you’ll find machine-cut matte metal trim, which seems to have a gunmetal appearance. This is a welcome change from the shiny chrome finish usually seen on competitor devices and gives the handset a more modern look. The power button is once again missing, with LG integrating it into the fingerprint reader on the back. The only button you’ll find on the G6 is a volume rocker on the left side, with all other edges devoid of any protrusions.
A headphone jack can be found on the top of the device, excellent news for anybody with wired cans. On the right side, a watertight seal hides the SIM reader and microSD slot, with the latter doubling up a second SIM tray. Interestingly, you can also use the first SIM reader as a microSD slot, effectively doubling the storage capacity. Quite why you’d need this we have no idea but it would be pretty crazy to have 512GB external memory. On the bottom is where the USB-C connection lies, your main source of wired connectivity on the device.
The screen is perhaps the centrepiece of the handset. It’s a 5.7-inch, 18:9 IPS-LCD display that takes up almost 80 per cent of the front face. Resolution is a huge 1440×2880 pixels, which is more than any other handset besides the Samsung Galaxy S8. The decision to forgo an AMOLED panel is a little odd, especially since LG is currently making strides with OLED tech on their home TV displays. The curved display edges are a bit gimmicky but help to make the phone stand out; it also doesn’t seem to impact on real-estate when viewing full-screen apps and media.
The camera on the LG G6 isn’t a huge improvement over the G5, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The latter had a very good shooter, if not class-leading. You’ll get the same dual-camera setup, with each having different fields-of-view.
The second sensor has now been bumped up to 13 megapixels, which is the same resolution as the first. This has been done to reduce judder when zooming between lenses, but it doesn’t seem to have worked. The jump is still noticeable when switching over, though it is less pronounced. I would’ve thought that producing a seamless transition between lenses would be impossible anyway, since they reside in different spots on the phone.
Outdoor pictures are very impressive on the LG G6, if a little overly sharp at times. This is more noticeable on landscape shots, where the sharpening can actually detract from the overall quality of the image. High contrast scenarios proved a bit of challenge, with the G6 choosing to blow out the highlights a little in order to gain a more even exposure. Macro shots are excellent and the LG G6 can get exceptionally close to objects, pulling out plenty of detail along the way. Colours are vibrant and punchy, though you could argue they are a touch over-saturated.
The inclusion of two camera sensors with different focal lengths is an interesting feature that we loved in the G5 and this has been perfected here. Thanks to the improvement in sensor quality on the 125 degree wide-angle shooter, quality is now consistent across the board. The only downside is a lower aperture rating on the wide camera and a lack of optical image stabilisation, though you won’t be using that for macro photography anyway.
While other flagship devices announced at a similar time have opted for the Snapdragon 835, LG has gone for the lesser Snapdragon 821 and 4GB RAM. This chip is basically a faster version of the 820, a processor which debuted at the end of 2015. This is a last-generation technology in a current flagship, which we have to say is a little disappointing. Performance is still excellent and mostly up to scratch with the current crop of handsets, but as we start seeing more companies adopt the Snapdragon 835 however, it could leave the G6 feeling a little underpowered.
Using the LG G6 for general purposes, we found that it breezed through without any real problems. Gaming also caused no issues and Candy Crush Saga ran without hitch. More demanding titles such as Asphalt Xtreme were smooth on highest settings.
CPU benchmarks were surprisingly low for the LG G6, though this could be due to poor app support (being that it’s a new device and all). The handset scored 134,161 on the AnTuTu test, putting it behind the Apple iPhone 6s and similarly equipped OnePlus 3T. Geekbench 4 scored 3910 for multi-core and 1779 for single-core, which is about the same as a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and Note 7. Graphics benchmarks were a little better, with the handset scoring about the same as a Samsung Galaxy S7 on GFXBench and significantly better on the 3DMark test.
The LG G6 runs on Android 7.0 and version 6.0 of the LG UX UI. It continues to improve on the efforts made with the G5 and is still one of the better launchers available. The app tray is disabled by default but this can be changed in the settings quite easily, a welcome addition for those who want more order to their home-screen. Once enabled, we found the experience to be very close to stock.
This new launcher also takes advantage of the extra pixels, adding in a bunch of useful features. Multi-window is now a feature that the LG G6 happily parades when you first switch it on, with the app switching icon on the bottom even changing when you have multiple windows open. There’s also square camera which we mentioned earlier, which allows faster image previews.
The LG G6 ships with a larger-than-normal 3300mAh battery. This is above the Samsung Galaxy S8 and most other flagship devices, which tend to go for 3000mAh cells. We found that during general usage, the LG G6 could almost reach two days. Moderate use would see the device get a solid days use with a bit to spare. In our draining battery test at 50 per cent brightness, it lost 20 per cent capacity over 78 minutes. This is a great result and should get through the handset through a solid day of use. AnTuTu gave the battery a score of 7138, up there with the best.
It’s fair to say that in a year we’ll see a lot more of these bezel-less devices on the market. As it stands, the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 represent the pinnacle of design. It may stand in the shadow of the S8 but make no mistake, the LG G6 is still a fantastic device. The UI is great, it has a good camera and the design is excellent. Our only major concern is the price. At £649.99 it’s only marginally cheaper than the S8. This could make it difficult to tempt consumers.