Let's get this out of the way first: the LG G5 was a massive disappointment. LG tried to do something unique with the phone’s modular design, but ended up offering an impractical device with poor battery life and underwhelming build quality. It wasn’t surprising to discover later on that the G5 was not selling well as a high-end device.
The company has lifted their game significantly this year with the all-new LG G6. The modular concept is gone, replaced by a traditional phone design with a collection of high-end hardware. Like the Galaxy S8, LG has extended the display to cover almost the entire front panel, bringing a new aspect ratio into the mix.
The removable battery has been ditched, making way for a larger internal cell, while the dual rear camera setup has been upgraded with new sensors.
But LG hasn’t upgraded everything in their new handset. Due to an aggressive schedule that saw the G6 hit the market ahead of other flagships, the phone missed out on Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 SoC, instead relying on the older Snapdragon 821. Now that S835 devices are available, this could come back to bite LG throughout the rest of the year.
The design of the G6 is clearly LG’s best effort yet. The company has gone from producing average plastic bodies to premium metal-and-glass chassis in the space of two years, which has transformed their premium smartphone offerings. The G6 is a beautiful phone, and although it doesn’t try anything crazy, it succeeds through proper use of materials and a seamless build.
The LG G6 is one of several modern smartphones that uses glass on both the front and rear. The front pane is flat and almost seamlessly transitions into the metal edge around all four sides. The glass on the back curves in slightly towards these edges and gives the phone a fancier look than any of LG’s previous offerings.
There are some downsides to the all-glass rear panel, primarily its glossy finish that easily accumulates fingerprints. You’ll be cleaning the G6 regularly if you hate grime on your handset. Glass also tends to be rather slippery, although the wide metal edges make the phone reasonably easy to grip. The Galaxy S8 is significantly harder to grip than the G6, even though both phones use similar materials.
The G6 has another design advantage over the Galaxy S8: it’s not nearly as fragile. I didn’t even need to drop the phone myself to figure this out: someone who previously used my G6 review unit quite clearly dropped the G6, leaving a few significant dents around the edges. The screen is perfectly intact and the glass back is also fine, leaving a perfectly functional phone. There is no doubt in my mind that a similar impact to the Galaxy S8 would leave you with a shattered screen and an expensive repair bill.
LG has taken the same approach as Samsung with their phone design, opting for a much higher screen-to-body ratio than most handsets on the market. 78.6% of the front panel is occupied by the 5.7-inch LCD, with slim bezels at the top and bottom. Like the S8, the G6 still crams a front speaker, front camera, and sensors above the display, while it also resorts to on-screen navigation buttons. Displays that occupy almost the whole front panel look fantastic, and this is no exception on the G6.
Compared directly to the Galaxy S8, the bezels on the G6 are larger. Samsung uses a taller 5.8-inch display that occupies 83.6% of the front panel; both phones are the same height, but the S8 is slimmer by a few millimeters. The S8’s display is a mere two percent larger, which is a consequence of the different aspect ratios.
LG has continued to use a rear fingerprint sensor on the G6 that doubles as the power button. The fingerprint sensor is in a sensible position and I tend to think they work better than front sensors. The sensor is quick and accurate, though it does take a few days to become properly accustomed to its function as the power button as well. The only buttons around the sides are the volume buttons on the left edge.
Centered above the fingerprint sensor is the dual camera rig with an LED flash in the center. For some reason, LG has used a different type of glass to protect the camera lenses; glass that is more prone to scratches. There are noticeable surface scratches and scuffs on this section of my review unit, which is disappointing, although it doesn’t seem to affect image quality.
LG joins the pack of sensible smartphone manufacturers that includes both a USB 3.1 Type-C port along the bottom edge for charging and so forth, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. There’s a single speaker located along the bottom, which is pretty weak, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise, however the G6 does make up for it with 32-bit/192kHz audio support through the headphone jack and generally great audio processing.
The G6 also supports a microSD through the single removable tray on the right edge, which also houses the nano-SIM. Some flagship phones support dual-SIM functionality, but the G6 isn’t one of them.
I was pleased to see LG finally making their flagship handset water resistant. The G6 is IP68 rated for submersion in up to 1.5 meters of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. Water resistance is almost a requirement for premium phones these days. I don’t find myself often needing the water resistance, but it adds durability to the build and facilitates underwater photography. Just don’t take the G6 into the ocean, as salt water will corrode the seals.
One of the biggest upgrades made in the G6 is the new 5.7-inch IPS LCD, with a resolution of 2880 x 1440. This gives the display an 18:9 aspect ratio, or more correctly 2:1, which is essentially a vertical extension of 320 pixels from 2560 pixels tall in a traditional 16:9 display to 2880 pixels here. The pixel density remains very high, at 564 PPI, plus with a true three subpixel per pixel layout, the screen here is incredibly sharp.
The new aspect ratio used here is interesting, and presents an upgrade over last year’s 5.3-inch 16:9 display on the LG G5. In terms of pure display area, we’re getting more screen real estate by jumping from 77.44 sq. cm to 83.84 sq. cm, an increase of eight percent. This extra area is basically entirely additional height, as the G6 display is 1mm slimmer but 12mm taller. As LG hasn’t added to the screen’s width, the phone is just as easy to hold and operate as before.
If LG had opted for a 5.7-inch 16:9 display instead, we’d be looking at more like a 16 percent area upgrade over the G5, so don’t be fooled by the pure diagonal measurement of this display. A 5.7-inch 16:9 display is still seven percent larger than a 5.7-inch 2:1 display.
The main advantage to the taller display used here, aside from the beautiful design improvements, is the extra 320 vertical pixels of display that allows you to view more content in apps. Phone screen real estate is pretty limited, so when browsing the web, scrolling through tweets, reading the news and so forth, it’s always nice to see a few more lines of text or a few more tweets on the screen at any one time. The added real estate also comes in handy for Android’s split-screen feature.
The LG G6 automatically expands all apps to occupy the entire display space out of the box. Apps that were letterboxed on the Galaxy S8 to a 16:9 window won’t be letterboxed on the G6 due to this feature, which is a better implementation than needing to expand unsupported apps manually. For apps that don’t work well on the extended display, you can select a 16:9 compatibility mode in the display settings menu.
There are some oddities to LG’s app expansion feature. The default behavior is to expand apps to a 16.7:9 area with the on-screen navigation buttons permanently visible, which works fine for the most part. In full-screen apps, however, this can lead to a situation where the navigation buttons disappear (as they normally do), leaving a black bar along the bottom edge. When watching 16:9 videos in full screen, for example, this makes the video annoyingly off-center.
Again, there’s a manual solution to this, which is setting the app to use the ‘full screen’ mode in the display settings. Many apps are natively compatible with the larger aspect ratio, such as YouTube, so you won’t need to make this change for every app. But if you prefer using a third-party utility for local videos such as VLC or MX Player, you’ll want to set the app to use the full screen mode. You might need to make the change for some games as well.
Watching videos on a 2:1 display does present some interesting issues, letterboxing being the primary one. Standard 16:9 videos have black bars on either side, which is a byproduct of using any wider-than-normal display. Unlike on the Galaxy S8, there’s no tool to zoom videos (thereby cropping off the top and bottom) to use the entire display in any app. You can only zoom videos in apps that have a built-in expansion feature, such as MX Player or the first-party Videos app; you can’t do so in YouTube. Not that I’d personally zoom any videos, as that crops off some content.
Aside from the aspect ratio, what we’re seeing here is another excellent LG LCD. Peak brightness exceeds 600 nits, which is a regression from the G5’s 800+ nits, but still allows the display to be extremely viewable outdoors. Viewing angles are excellent for an LCD, as is the contrast ratio of more than 2100:1. Clarity is superb as well, outperforming similarly dense AMOLEDs due to a higher subpixel count.
In terms of color accuracy, LG has opted for a very cool display, with a color temperature falling in the 8200 to 8700K range. This creates a rather harsh and inaccurate viewing experience with somewhat of a blue tint. On top of that, the display uses a larger-than-sRGB gamut (118% of sRGB), which leads to oversaturation as Android does not support color management. The level of oversaturation isn’t as great as the Galaxy S8, and the display in general looks impressive, though it won’t please those who prefer an accurate experience.
There is good news, though. The LG G5 was one of the least accurate smartphone displays I’ve ever tested, but the G6 is far better when compared to other phones at their default display modes. Across our tests it still falls comfortably outside what we’d consider to be ‘accurate’, though I’ll happily take an improvement in this regard. It’s actually hard to believe the G5’s display was even colder than the G6 out of the box.
The main downside is the G6 does not include any way to adjust the color performance of the display, through display modes or otherwise. There is a low blue light filter that tints the display warm yellow for comfortable reading, but it doesn’t really improve the display’s performance. So when the G6 is pitted against other phones set to their ‘best’ display modes, it falls behind the pack leaders such as the Samsung Galaxy S range.
I did appreciate the inclusion of an always-on display mode that displays important information such as the time, battery and notifications even when the screen is ‘off’. It’s surprising to see this feature on a phone with an LCD rather than an AMOLED, as AMOLEDs can turn off pixels for a more power-efficient always-on display, however LG seems to have managed the standby power consumption of the always-on mode very well. I’d even say the handset outperforms the Galaxy S8 in this regard.
Hardware Overview and System Performance
The LG G6 is a lackluster hardware upgrade on the LG G5, primarily as LG hasn’t moved to upgrade the SoC in any meaningful way. The phone uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC, which is largely the same SoC as the G5’s Snapdragon 820, while 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage are still standard.
The Snapdragon 821 contains a quad-core Kyro CPU with two cores clocked at 2.34 GHz, and two cores clocked at 2.19 GHz. The clock speeds are higher here than the Snapdragon 820 – in fact the low power cores have received a hefty 600 MHz boost – but the fundamental architecture remains the same. There’s also an Adreno 530 GPU clocked up to 653 MHz and an LPDDR4 memory controller providing 29.8 GB/s of bandwidth.
Those expecting the G6 to perform significantly better than last year’s crop of flagship phones will be disappointed for the most part.
Wireless connectivity also remains mostly the same as last year. The G6 still includes Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC. LTE capabilities have been upgraded from Category 9 to Category 12, providing a bump up to 600 Mbps downstream and 150 Mbps upstream. Some Snapdragon 835 handsets like the Galaxy S8 support Gigabit LTE Category 16, so the G6 is still behind the pack here.
When comparing the G6 with the G5 in a head-to-head battle, the clock speed improvements in the S821 do provide 16 percent better CPU performance on average. That falls closely in line with what I expected to see considering the S821 is clocked higher than the S820. It’s a small but respectable upgrade on last year’s model.
The G6 is around 15-16 percent faster than the Pixel XL, which uses the variant of the S821 that’s clocked identically to the S820 (yep, confusing naming there Qualcomm). The G6’s variant is a faster S821 variant, hence there is a much smaller gap between it and the HTC Ultra, which uses the same SoC.
Unfortunately, though, the LG G6 can’t hold its own against current-generation SoCs. The Galaxy S8+ with the Exynos 8895 inside is seven percent faster on average in CPU limited workloads, while the Huawei Mate 9 with its Kirin 960 pulls away by 17 percent. The Snapdragon 835 should outperform the G6 by a similar margin.
These performance differences won’t make a huge difference in today’s Android workloads, though it’s always nice to know that you’re holding the fastest smartphone out there when you purchase a new flagship. The experience provided by the G6 is great today, though it may not be as capable as other devices towards the end of its lifespan.
Graphics, Throttling and NAND Performance
While CPU performance remains somewhat near other current-generation SoCs, the G6 unfortunately falls behind by a considerable margin in GPU workloads. The Galaxy S8+ is a good 32 percent faster on average in GPU-limited workloads, and manages to be twice as fast in Basemark’s intensive U-Boat test. The Mate 9 is only 10 percent faster, though its GPU isn’t as strong. The Snapdragon 835’s GPU is more powerful than either of these GPUs, so LG is missing out on top-end graphics performance by sticking with the S821.
It’s not surprising to discover the LG G6 is only 10 percent faster in GPU-limited workloads than last year’s LG G5, as the GPU only received a minor clock speed improvement moving from the S820 to S821. In GFXBench’s on-screen tests, the LG G6 actually comes in two percent slower due to its higher resolution display.
Throttling is still a concern with the Snapdragon 821 in the LG G6. After 25 minutes of intense gaming, performance drops by 25 to 35 percent, which is the highest rate of throttling we’ve seen from any Snapdragon 820/821 device. In fact, it throttles harder than the G5 in GFXBench’s 3.1 test, resulting in a lower score after 25 minutes.
Exynos SoCs still do perform far worse in these long-term stress tests, however the Exynos-powered Galaxy S8+ still outperforms the LG G6 during a lengthy gaming session.
The only major difference in NAND performance between the LG G5 and LG G6 is the G6’s far superior sequential write speeds. Every other aspect seems largely unchanged, leaving the G6 as a mid-table performer amongst high-end Android handsets. It’d be nice to see an LG flagship equipped with top-of-the-line storage in next year’s model.
The camera hardware included here is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the dual-sensor solution is compelling, and has remained from last year’s flagship. Both cameras use 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 1/3” sensors with 1.12µm pixels. The primary camera is paired with a 29.6mm (71-degree field of view) f/1.8 lens and optical image stabilization. The secondary camera has a wide angle 11.5mm (125-degree) f/2.4 lens with no autofocus or OIS.
On the other hand, many aspects to this camera have been downgraded from last year’s model. The main camera has seen a resolution decrease from 16- to 13-megapixels at the same pixel size, though it is good to see the wide-angle camera has been bumped from 8- to 13-megapixels. Laser autofocus has been removed in favor of just phase detection, and the color spectrum sensor that assisted with white balance has also been removed. Even OIS on the wide-angle camera has been removed.
It seems many of these features have made way to reduce production costs, which is a little disappointing. Laser autofocus in particular would have been handy to retain as neither sensor includes dual pixel technology, like the ultrafast Galaxy S8. The G6 isn’t a slow camera by any means, but it’s not hugely fast either.
I like the combination of a normal and wide-angle camera here. The wide-angle camera can be very handy for capturing landscape shots, but you don’t necessarily want the fish-eye look every time. The balance between the versatile primary camera, which is perfect for macro and mid-range shots, and the ultra-wide secondary camera makes this camera setup more flexible than normal single-camera setups.
It’s great to see both cameras using the same sensor now, which allows LG to use the same processing for both normal and wide-angle shots. The light-gathering ability of the wide-angle camera is reduced due to its f/2.4 lens, and its focus is fixed to infinity, but for the most part your shots will look similar whether they’re taken with the normal camera or wide-angle camera.
LG’s camera is still fantastic in sunlight, and with the G6 we’re getting improved detail. The G5’s camera was prone to significant noise reduction artefacts and the ‘oil painting effect’, but this is largely gone with the G6, leading to photos with a higher perceived detail even though the main camera’s resolution has decreased. This is a great result here and shows LG has spent some time tweaking their processing.
The G6 also performs spectacularly in low light, particularly considering the sensor only has 1.12 micron pixels. It outperforms the Pixel XL and Galaxy S8+ in this regard, producing bright, sharp and vibrant photos at night. The wide-angle camera isn’t as good in these conditions, but the primary camera surprised me with how great it is in low light. Again, LG’s processing has improved here.
Unfortunately, there is one area where the G6 has regressed in comparison to the G5. For some bizarre reason, indoor performance isn’t as good. Photos taken in weaker lighting can look a bit lackluster, and across the board it seems like the IMX258 produces lower dynamic range than the IMX234 used in the G5. The automatic HDR mode also tends to fall behind other top-end handsets in terms of the additional dynamic range it provides.
The main thing to note with the G6 is that, in general, it’s not as good as the Galaxy S8 or the Google Pixel. That’s not to say it’s a bad camera – it performs about par for a flagship smartphone – but it can’t match the top-end quality of Google or Samsung. The Pixel camera is still phenomenal in most aspects, and the LG G6 just can’t match it.
As for the front-facing camera, again we’re surprisingly seeing a downgrade from an 8-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 lens to a 5-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 lens. The selfie camera is much wider than before, now sporting a 100-degree field of view, although the quality isn’t impressive at all. In low light in particular, the selfie camera struggles badly, and there’s been a noticeable downgrade in detail compared to the G5. This is disappointing considering how important selfie cameras are.
LG’s camera app is still very good, with an easy to use layout and an outstanding manual mode. Access to frequently-changed settings is easy thanks to icons placed around the interface, and I love the ability to shoot both video and photo from within the same interface. Popout is an interesting camera mode that combines shots from both rear cameras, though for the most part, the G6 includes shooting modes we’ve seen before like panorama, slow motion, time lapse and so forth.
As both rear sensors are now the same, both cameras support up to 2160p30 video capture along with 1080p60 and even 2:1 aspect ratio recordings that fill the entire display. Slow motion recording appears to be 720p120 of okay, though not amazing quality. Of course the 4K captures use the same processing as still images, so they look great.
The LG G6 comes with a 3,300 mAh (12.71 Wh at 3.85V) non-removable lithium-polymer battery. This battery is a significant 18 percent larger than the G5, though it loses its removable functionality. The G6 is the first LG flagship smartphone to ditch the removable battery in favor of a fully-sealed unit, and you can see the larger capacity this move has brought.
Across the board, the G6 packs better battery life than the G5, though this isn't a huge surprise considering how poor the G5's battery life was. The gains aren't massive by any stretch, and due to the larger display, the G6 actually fails to reach an 18 percent battery life improvement in most tests. In PCMark, for example, the G6 lasted only 14 percent longer, with this margin falling to just five percent in browsing tests.
The improvement in battery life is welcome relative to the G5, however the G6 isn't a battery life beast. It falls in the middle of our charts, and gets handily beaten by the Exynos-powered Galaxy S8+ and the Google Pixel XL, though both those phones are larger.
The software offerings from some of the big players in the Android market can be seriously mediocre. While Samsung has been working hard to address their software failings by reducing the amount of bloatware and modernizing their interface, LG’s software platform has stagnated and remains unfriendly to those who prefer a cleaner Android experience.
The worst thing about LG’s software offering is still the inclusion of duplicate and bloatware apps. I complained about this exact same issue with the LG G5, and it seems LG has done literally nothing to address the issue with the G6. There is simply no reason that an Android OEM needs to clog up the phone with apps that Google already provides. Two gallery apps. Two email apps. Two music apps. Two app stores! This creates a confusing experience and litters the OS with annoying “choose which app to open” dialog boxes.
On top of this, LG bundles in unnecessary crap, including duplicate bloatware in the form of both LG’s QuickMemo+ app and Evernote. Why does the G6 need two note-taking apps installed out of the box? On top of that you get a tasks app, a health app and a few apps that are just shortcuts to settings menus. None of these things are necessary, particularly health and note-taking apps as most users just download their preferred third-party offering from the Play Store.
LG has cleaned up some areas of their interface, such as the notification pane, to closer fit with Android 7.0 that’s now included out of the box. Other areas still need attention, such as the settings screen with bizarre tabulation. Why do network, sound, and display settings get their own tabs, but a further nineteen submenus must be crammed into the ‘general’ tab? Simplifying the settings screen as much as possible makes it easier for users to browse to the settings they need, which is something Samsung did with the Galaxy S8 but LG has failed to do here.
The general style of LG’s software offering still feels dated compared to vanilla Android and skins from competitors. Parts of the OS like Smart Bulletin are just tacked-on additions that add little-to-no value to the experience, at least compared to what Google and others provide through tools like Now. One positive here is that the G6 does support Google Assistant, though this isn’t surprising considering Google recently pushed Assistant to practically every Android device. What was a selling point for LG when they announced this phone is no longer that special.
There are some good points to the G6’s software. LG continues to make their skin highly customizable, including the ability to switch between a homescreen with or without an app drawer. Theming support, the ability to change the navigation buttons, easy display size adjustments, and quick launch shortcuts are all included here. There’s also a few handy utilities, such as smart settings to adjust settings when you enter/leave your house, and ‘smart doctor’ for some storage, battery and performance optimizations.
But for the most part, LG’s software doesn’t do anything hugely special, and certainly packs no ‘wow’ factor. It’s a skinned version of Android with some interesting inclusions, though largely you’re just getting bloatware and a fairly mediocre visual style. LG needs to apply a heavy dose of polish throughout the OS to bring the software up the standard I expect from a flagship smartphone.
As for updates, LG doesn’t have an amazing track record with pushing out the latest versions of Android on time, in fact my review unit is still stuck on the March security patches. If you care about updates, stick with a Google Pixel.
LG's Best Phone in a Few Years, But...
After using the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and seeing how fragile that phone is, I was hoping the LG G6 would be a standout contender that would go toe-to-toe with Samsung’s best. Unfortunately, while the G6 is a solid smartphone and one of LG’s best, it falls behind in too many areas to take out the 'best smartphone' crown.
One area where LG strongly succeeds is the design. The sealed metal-glass chassis is well built and far more premium than anything LG has made previously. The display is one of the G6's best features. It’s taller and therefore larger than before, occupying more space of the front panel while shrinking the bezels. Like with the Galaxy S8, this makes the G6 look futuristic, while providing excellent brightness and an extremely crisp 1440p-class image.
The G6 packs a decent array of features, including water resistance for the first time, a USB-C port, an ultra-fast fingerprint sensor, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The microSD card slot has also been retained, while ditching the removable battery has allowed LG to include a significantly larger battery than the G5, leading to improved battery life.
One of the major downsides to the G6 is a collection of last-generation hardware. LG missed out on the Snapdragon 835, while other phones that shipped weeks later like the Galaxy S8+, Xiaomi Mi 6 and Huawei P10, all use newer silicon.
The cameras have also received a downgrade for the most part. Laser autofocus is gone, the color spectrum sensor is gone, and the selfie camera is not as good as on the G5. The inclusion of a secondary wide-angle camera, now with a resolution that matches the main camera, is decent and certainly the best part of this camera package. However image quality hasn’t progressed much from last year, and in some cases (particularly indoors) I feel the G6 camera has regressed.
The camera is still pretty good, though it can’t match the top dogs in the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8.
LG’s software also needs a lot of work. You’re still getting all the benefits of Android, but some of LG’s additions – particularly duplicate apps and bloatware – are not exactly user-friendly. The interface looks dated in comparison to vanilla Android and some other top skins, which doesn’t suit the new design all that well.
When you combine these features, what you’re left with is a good phone. Not a great phone, not the best phone on the market, but a good phone. It’s LG’s best phone in a few years, and that’s something to commend them on.
For those who purchase phones outright, it’s also nice to see the LG G6 currently retailing on Amazon for around $150 less than the Galaxy S8. I feel the asking price of $550 is about right for the LG G6 and its position in the market. Were it more expensive, in the traditional $650 range, I’d be questioning why LG had priced it so high.
Pros: Expansive, high-quality display. LG’s best phone design yet. Water resistant. Dual camera solution is handy. Gimmicky modular system is gone, leading to better battery life.
Cons: Hardware and performance straight out of last year. LG’s software needs a lot of polish. Camera is good, but can’t match the best and is missing features included in the G5.