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LG V40 ThinkQ Review: A Month Later

by Nicole on November 25, 2018
LG V40 ThinkQ
Positives
  • Bright pleasing display
  • IP68, wireless charging, a headphone jack, microSD slot, dedicated Google Assistant button, and five cameras - the V40 doesn't skimp on the extras.
  • LG's stock launcher, once you switch it to the app drawer-enabled mode, is surprisingly good. I don’t feel the need to put on a launcher.
  • Three different rear lenses means the V40 can shoot one scene three meaningfully different ways. The wide angle always kept an LG in my pocket, now there is less reason to reach for another handset.
  • Headphone jack, with a nice Quad DAC audiophile setup featured depending on the region.
Negatives
  • The battery life on the V40 is average, you get through the day with room to spare, however on the day’s with very heavy use I’ll want to charge before a night out.
  • It has a big price tag. With such high value phones on the market (cough, OnePlus 6T) nearly-$1000 is hard to swallow.
  • It ships with Android 8.1, and LG has no timeline for Pie other than to "soon."
  • The V40 costs basically as much as a Galaxy Note9 but offers half the storage, a slightly inferior display, cameras that aren't as strong in low light, and slightly weaker battery life. However, the flexibility of the cameras wide angle and great selfies might be more valuable that a pen to some. It depends on what you’re after in a phone.

I’ve been a loyal LG fangirl for many years, it’s that wide angle lens that made it my daily driver. Even though they may not have had the best selfie camera or low light performance, in my mind that wide angle made up for it. For years no one else seemed to get the joy of the wide angle, they wanted to creep in on the world around with there 2 times optical zoom.

The V40 ThinkQ is the first phone to come out with 5 cameras, in addition to the three on the back their are two on the front. They are 5 distinct stand alone cameras, the Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) has one depth sensing camera, so we don’t think it counts.

With all of its cameras and it’s best in class specs, we think LG might have come out with a phone with very few compromises. However, At $950 unlocked, the V40 seeks to play in the smartphone big leagues. Let’s find out if it stands its ground.

Design

+
Premium look and feel
Moroccan Blue with its frosted glass finish feels so nice and it is NOT a fingerprint magnet.


All glass means you can crack the back of your phone too

The LG V40 ThinQ has a distinguishing feature with its triple-lens camera on the back, and two small cameras on the front. It feels VERY premium in hand and it weighs just 168g. It’s noticeably lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (201g) and the iPhone XS Max (208g).
It’s the weight of a sizable plastic phone, with all the benefits (and risks, in terms of potential dings and scratches) of a premium, all-glass design.

The power button returns to the right side of the phone – a switch from the LG V30 and other V series phones before it, which had the rear fingerprint sensor button pulling double duty as a power button and a form of authentication. Now the rear sensor is just a pad for unlocking the phone, and the new clicky side power button is dedicated to sleep/wake.

Hardware

  • The fingerprint scanner is on the back (as on the G7, it’s no longer the power button), The fingerprint scanner is in a very good location, and I’ve no real complaints to report as to its responsiveness or accuracy – it’s very good.
  • There’s a dedicated Google Assistant launch key on the left hand side of the phone. I’m not sure I’m likely to use it very much, but at least it’s not mapped to Bixby, so I’m calling it a pro
  • Wireless Charging
  • IP68

Cameras to the side, the 6.4-inch V40 is the largest-diagonal V-series LG phone, for those keeping records. The must-haves that no longer make headlines include the Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6gigs of RAM and 64GB/128GB of storage which 1. is expandable and 2. opens the possibility for a top-spec V40S+ (or something) version with, say, 256GB.

LG V40 ThinQ specs

Body: Aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass 5 on front and rear; MIL-STD-810G transit drop test compliant; IP68 rated for dust and water resistance.
Screen: 6.4″ QHD+ FullVision OLED; 19.5:9 aspect ratio with a notch (LG calls it ‘Second screen’), 537ppi; HDR 10 support.
Camera: Primary: 12MP, 1.4µm pixel size; f/1.5 aperture, 78-degree FOV lens, 25mm equiv. focal length, OIS, dual pixel PDAF; Ultra wide-angle: 16MP; f/1.9 aperture, 107-degree FOV lens, 16mm equiv. focal length, fixed focus. Telephoto: 12MP; f/2.4 aperture, 47-degree FOV, 50mm equiv. focal length, 2x zoom, PDAF.
Selfie cam: Primary: 8MP, f/1.9 aperture, 80-degree FOV lens; Secondary: 5MP, f/2.2 aperture, 90-degree FOV lens.
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: octa-core CPU (4×2.8 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.7 GHz Kryo 385 Silver), Adreno 630 GPU.
Memory: 6GB of RAM; 64GB storage; microSD slot.
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo with LG UX, Android P update expected.
Battery: 3,300mAh Lithium Polymer (sealed); Quick Charge 3.0/Power Delivery fast charging; Qi fast wireless charging.
Connectivity: Single-SIM, Dual-SIM available in certain markets; LTE-A, 3-Band carrier aggregation, Cat.16/13 (1Gbps/150Mbps); USB Type-C; Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; GPS; Bluetooth 5.0; FM radio.
Misc: Fingerprint reader; Hi-Fi Quad DAC; 3.5mm headphone jack; 2 mics, Boombox speaker.

We’d have liked to see some more battery inside the V40, and we wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t complain about the dated OS version at launch – Oreo is no Pie, to state the obvious.

Display

It has a virtually all-screen 6.4-inch OLED screen on the front with that small notch cut-out at the top, making its face look like the iPhone X and every Android clone since. The notch is easy to ignore, with enough room to fit the two front-facing cameras and a smaller earpiece speaker. There is slightly more bezel around the sides and chin than on an iPhone, but you’ll only see the difference in a side-by-side comparison.

The new-and-improved OLED display is a generational leap over last year’s panel – much to my relief. While not quite on the level of Samsung’s latest displays for brightness and viewing angles, these new LG OLEDs are pleasant to behold and offer vastly improved ambient brightness and contrast. I think there was a real worry that LG would remain years behind Samsung in the OLED game, but the V40 sees that gap substantially closed, if not entirely eliminated. The screen supports HDR, too, so you can really take advantage of that expanded color gamut in apps like YouTube and Netflix.

Camera

Primary rear camera

The best photos come from the 12MP standard camera, which captures what’s in front of you with a typical 78-degree field of view.

This lens has a fast f/1.5 aperture to pull in more light, and the size of the pixels, or photosites, on the sensor is larger than is typical at 1.4 microns, improving the light-gathering capabilities of the sensor; combined, these two features offer improved performance in low-light situations. LG’s Super Bright Camera tech is also here, offering a mode that amps up the brightness in dark environments, but cuts the normal resolution.

Super-wide rear camera

The LG V40 is ready to capture everything that’s in front of you with its super-wide rear camera that has a 107-degree FOV. It’s not as dramatic as the 120-degree FOV on the original LG V10, but that’s in order to reduce barrel distortion at the edges.

The resulting 16MP photos from this f/1.8 lens gives you better context of scenes. The wide-angle effect works, but we did notice blurry and soft edges in the corners of most photos we took. You’re not getting OIS on this super-wide camera, and it’s noticeable sometimes when you’re looking for details.

Telephoto rear camera

This is new for LG, like the competition you’re able to get twice as close to subjects without distortion when digitally zoomed in.

Matt over at trusted reviews pointed out to me that low light photos while using the telephoto lens actually use the normal camera lens and just crop the image. He found this out because the EXIF details prove it uses the f/1.5 aperture of the normal lens. Apple and Samsung do this with their telephoto lens, so it’s not unusual. Things end up being less blurry with a faster aperture at nighttime.

Where things get interesting is that in triple Shot mode (which cycles through all three cameras) forces the telephoto lens to be used, even in low light situations. Which does lead to blurrier-than-normal shots. You also don’t really have the ability to frame properly in triple shot so it is a bit of a non-feature in my mind. You need to stay really still as the handset cycles through all three lenses. It takes 4 seconds, and I’ve found even if I’m really still the photos seem a little off, either blurry or the framing sucks.

Primary front-facing camera

The LG V40 has an upgraded 8MP front-facing camera, and that’s good news for anyone who tried the LG V30 selfie camera and hated the results.

This f/1.9 lens with an 80-degree FOV is capable of taking portrait photos, and while it’s not our favorite among selfie shooters, it’s a huge step in the right direction for LG. Just be sure to turn beauty mode off. We love using it, but the result in the photos are more aggressive than what is shown on the screen. So have it turned way, way down!

The wide front-facing camera from the LG V10 – our favorite feature on the original V series phone – gets new life in the LG V40, although things have changed a bit in 2018 as a result of feedback from users. This 5MP f/2.2 lens is limited to a 90-degree FOV, which is only slightly wider than the standard selfie camera and far tighter than the 120-degree FOV on the LG V10 wide front-facing camera.

Portrait photos did an okay job for us on the LG V40. There’s a healthy amount of blur in the background, though you’ll notice the blur drop into foreground subjects, especially around the hair.

Example of a photo that looked fine in preview, but looks insane after it was taken.

Software

+
You can add an app drawer

Does not ship with Android 9.0. For nearly $1000 this is disappointing.
UI feels busy and cluttered

The LG UI has always been a little bit of love it or hate it. I’m pretty adaptable, changing phones often means that I notice differences but I also don’t mind changing my flow to the way the manufacturer thinks I should be using a phone.

It is hard to argue that LG does have a busier UI than most, pulling down on the notification bar offers a lot of information and the settings are tabs. You can add an app drawer, which I really like, I feel more organized when I can tuck away hardly used apps and I have a place to scroll for an app that I can’t find because I organized it away in some folder.

You’ll either love the V40’s software experience or you’ll hate it. I really enjoy the simple bubble theme, since it matches Google’s Material Design 2.0 quite well.

Sound

The LG V40 has just one speaker, but we found it gets plenty loud thanks to its Boombox Speaker concept. We saw this with the G7, too – inside, the entire back of the phone is dedicated to a resonance chamber. You’ll also find a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC and DTS:X 3D Surround Sound, continuing the V series tradition of offering some of the best audio on a phone when you’re using it with headphones.

Battery Life

3300mah battery
Wireless charging

The battery in the LG V40 is 3,300mAh, which is admittedly a bit small for a screen this large. This also translates fairly directly into screen-on time. I would get between 4.5-5.5hr of screen-on time, leaning towards five on average. This isn’t exactly ideal, especially when LG markets this as the phone that can do everything. I would have loved to see a 4,000mAh battery to properly compete with Samsung’s Note 9.

Price

It is expensive, no way around it. However, not everyone cares about price, they upgrade and hardly take notice of the addition to their monthly bill.

It is hard to justify the cost when you can pick up one and a half OnePlus 6T’s. However, in hand, it feels premium, and the camera versatility is fantastic. Those who like the pen of the Note9 are paying for that feature, it depends on how much you love the zoom-wide angle combo.

Rating
Design / 8.5
Camera / 8.5
Sound / 9
Performance / 9
Battery Life / 8
Software / 8
Price / 7
Editor's Choice / 8
Hardware / 8.5
Display / 8
LG V40 ThinkQ

The LG V40 ThinQ is a top of the line smartphone that has fast performance and good cameras.

It is tough to look past the price-tag when making a recommendation. It is understandable that the Note9 comes it at the same price, it has a pen and it targetted towards a business user, or someone who might not have a computer in their lives anymore. The audio capabilities are hard to beat, however, audiofiles aren't a main stream audience. Which is exactly who I think this phone is aimed at, despite the price tag.

It offers a versatility, you can choose to use wired headphones if you want, you have the telephoto lens and a wide angle. It is the ultimate phone for those who don't think that they fit into a category except that they like taking photos and they are the kind of photographer that likes taking landscape or building photos.

The V series might not always have the best but it is in fighting position for those titles. Like I've said before, I'm willing to forgive a lot for the wide angle lens. In my use case, I travel a lot, love taking photos and need battery life that makes it through the day. I usually carry two phones, the life of a reviewer, but one of them is almost always an LG because of the wide angle.

8.3
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