TECHNOLOGY

LG V30+ Review: Nailing the Basics

LG’s latest flagship gets a lot right but falters in some minor areas

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BY Rahil Bhagat - 29 Nov 2017

The smartphone world is kind of like Game of Thrones.

You have Apple and Samsung perpetually vying for the Iron Throne, upstart Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi and Oppo looking to carve out new fiefdoms and a scattering of other smaller companies from around the world that are looking to dominate a particular market sector.

Then there is LG.

LG has been making phones since the dawn of time, with some real standouts being the LG Chocolate and the LG Shine from a decade ago. In recent years, however, especially since the Samsung Galaxy phones have become the poster child for Android, LG has started to wane.

It is sad because the South Korean company produces some truly awesome Android phones, such as the stellar G4 in 2015 and the Flex in 2013 which, while not a great phone, had some real interesting ideas behind it.

That takes us to LG’s latest and greatest, the V30+.

This flagship device is meant to go toe to toe with the best from Samsung, Xiaomi, and the like, with top of the line specs and a sleek design aesthetic.

Does LG succeed? Read on to find out!

Performance

The LG V30+ has some pretty sexy internals.

Rocking a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and the Adreno 540 GPU, the V30+ is a beast of a phone never slowing down once on me no matter what i threw at it--be it games, heavy productivity and the like. Apps launch quickly, scrolling is smooth and multitasking is seriously impressive.

As my daily driver for a few weeks, I must say that I never once found myself saying that “This needs more power.”

On the storage front, the version of the V30 I was using was the V30+ which comes with 128 GB of onboard storage. The device is identical to the regular V30 except for the V30’s smaller 64 GB storage space.

You need not fret however as both the V30 and the V30+ have space for expandable memory, something I wish all phone makers would include in their devices.

One of my favorite things about the V30+ has to be the amazing fingerprint sensor, located sensibly on the back of the device.

Coming from an iPhone X and its temperamental Face ID, the lightning fast unlock of the LG V30+ was a revelation. It’s incredibly reliable too and in just the right spot that unlocking it with my index finger is comfortable. It is also a nice move by LG to integrate the power button into the fingerprint sensor, eliminating the need for a separate side or top mounted power button.

A particular highlight for me on the LG V30+ was just how good the audio was.

I don’t mean just the external speakers, which are all round excellent with great volume and solid highs and lows.

The real magic here is that not only has LG not made the “courageous” decision, as Apple CEO Tim Cook says, in keeping the headphone jack but in that they have pimped the heck out of that 3.5mm port with some nice hardware additions.

The V30+ utilizes a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC from ESS Technology that is tuned by the folks over at B&O to power the aural experience.

What this means is that is that sound will not only sound clearer but also feature a more dynamic range, allowing you to hear more of the sound stage. The V30+ really shows its audio chops if you plug in a solid pair of high impedance headphones that takes full advantage of the Quad DAC but even with regular cans, the audio is pretty damn good.

On the software front LG has included a solid suite of equalizer and preset options for left and right channels and like the recently released LG G6, you get a nice 75-stage volume control, you even get support for MQA audio, something Spotify is rumored to be implementing very soon.

The V30+ also features Qualcomm’s aptx HD technology for better quality audio over Bluetooth.

Powering this bad boy is a non-removable 3300 mAh battery that, while not amazing, is solid for a phone with this kind of power. You will get about a standard day of use out of it but no longer. It helped to keep charging the phone throughout the day, though switching to power saver battery settings does help a bit.

Design

With the V30+’s design, LG has not taken much of a risk instead opting for a design that is similar to a lot of the 2017 Android flagships, such as the Samsung Galaxy S8.

There is of course nothing wrong with this form factor, especially on a device that just weighs 158 grams.

LG has not been as hardcore about bezel elimination as say Apple with the iPhone X or Xiaomi with the Mi Mix 2, but that does not mean that the V30+ is a slouch in this department. The thing is as much as bezel free screen are nice to look at, for everyday use I appreciate having a little bezel so that i don't accidentally press stuff while holding the device.

The phone also now has wireless charging and even though it has a proper headphone jack, the phone is also IP68 certified,meaning that it is both water and dust resistant--to a certain degree of course.

Design wise, what LG has done is take the basics and really refine the heck out of it to create a device that is both premium and understated.

Screen

Another positive step for the V30+ is LG’s decision to get rid of the second screen gimmick, which now only exists, thank god, as a software feature.

It was unnecessary and just not very good. Now, with the V30+ you get a staggeringly good 6-inch OLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio that LG calls “Full Vision.” These are all of course buzzwords but what you need to know is that the screen is a proper edge-to-edge affair that is excellent for video content.

Being an OLED, the screen on the V30+ is fantastic with great colour depth, black levels, and solid brightness levels. This is LG’s best smartphone screen by a mile and even in harsh sunlight, it is still easy to read.

Camera

LG’s V-Series devices have always been known for the excellent photo and video capture capabilities.

The V30+ is no exception, packing an amazing amount of features into a tiny package.

Like the V20, the V30+, houses a pretty solid dual lens set-up with a 16 MP shooter main sensor with an f/1.6 aperture, OIS and the like. The second lens is a 13 MP wide-angle affair with a slightly narrower aperture of f/1.9.

Both combine to take some pretty nice shots.

There is some good news and bad news here with regards to the camera. The good is that some of the features, like guide shot and snapshot, are fantastic additions that really help you take excellent photos. There is also an incredibly deep manual mode here that should keep even the most hardcore shutterbug enthralled.

Graphy for example is a great new feature that lets you take the look of a particular photo and apply those settings to the next photo you take.You don't have to fumble around with sliders and filters after you have taken that perfect shot.

The bad news here is that the raw photo quality is not as amazing as the software behind it. This is a great camera, but for all the work LG has put into building great tools, the actual raw photo quality isn't as good as something you will find on a Pixel 2 XL or an iPhone X.

Again, for the regular person, this camera is more than adequate but still, it is being held back from greatness.

There is also the weird decision to include a rather basic 5 MP front facing camera that while serviceable, falls short of some of the awesome selfie cameras you get on phones like the Huawei Mate 10 and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2.

The LG V30+ does get some major points back for having an excellent video camera that is able to shoot Log files for proper editing as well as the usual slew of 4K and HDR options.

Should you buy it?

The LG V30+ may be the best all-rounded phone I have used in a long time. It nails everything that makes a smartphone a smartphone while getting rid of the excess bloatware and gimmicks that so many LG phones in the past have had.

For consumers though, the big question is going to be why they should part with their cash for the V30+ over similar Samsung or Sony phones not to mention the plethora of good and cheap Chinese phones that are flooding the market.

There is no easy answer because at the highest level of Android, most phones are pretty good. The big benefit to the V30+ I feel is just how good it is at the core smartphone experience. There is no gimmicky voice assistant or unlock feature. The audio is amazing and the screen is gorgeous, not to mention top of the line performance.

The price tag of S$1098, here in Singapore, where it will launch in early December, is pretty much par for the course but one does feel that if LG had dropped the price below the thousand buck level, the V30+ would be a bargain hard to pass up.