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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Powerful, speedy processor
Strong audio features
Secure 3D face unlock
Very good battery life
It slides around on flat surfaces
Unremarkable flagship design
Annoying screen quirks
Hand gestures don't work well
The LG G8 ThinQ has a few things going for it, but there are much better phones that are more deserving of this kind of cash.
We purchased the LG G8 ThinQ so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
LG has a history of innovation in the smartphone space and of delivering premium, high-quality devices, but the company has struggled to maintain that reputation over the last few years. This is best exemplified by LG's G ThinQ series flagship phones, which have continually been outclassed and overshadowed by the increasingly diverse and compelling competition.
The LG G8 ThinQ is the latest example of a top-end smartphone that can't really compete with today's best phones. Visually, it's a near-copy of last year's underwhelming LG G7 ThinQ, with the expected annual spec bump and some high-quality components, but the overall package doesn't stand out from the crowded pack. And the "innovative" new features don't do much to move the needle in its favor.
Curiously, LG opted to stick with nearly the same exact design from the LG G7 ThinQ, which already looked anonymous the last time around. It's polished and curvy, with strengthened Gorilla Glass on the front and back and aluminum for the frame. The overall phone aesthetic is like a middle-of-the-road hybrid of an iPhone with a medium-sized notch atop the screen, but it has more bezel above the screen than a notched phone should require.
Even the back looks bland compared to other flagship phones of the moment. It doesn't have a gradient color scheme or two-tone finish—the LG G8 ThinQ just comes in glossy Aurora Black or Platinum Gray. Our Aurora Black unit does sometimes catches a flash of blue when the light hits it just right which is a nice touch. And the cameras are flush with the rest of the back which is an increasingly rare sight on premium phones these days.
Curiously, LG opted to stick with nearly the same exact design from the LG G7 ThinQ, which already looked anonymous the last time around.
However, that leads to one of the LG G8 ThinQ's biggest flaws: it's the slipperiest phone we've ever laid hands and eyes on. Like a lot of glass phones, the G8 ThinQ does feel a bit slippery when you're holding it, however, the bigger issue comes when you're not touching it. The G8 ThinQ has a strange tendency to slowly slide or creep around seemingly flat surfaces. We've seen it fall off of a table and a counter to a terrifying drop, thankfully without damage. Other times, it gradually slid along a table or couch until it was stopped by something else. It is deeply unnerving, and one of our least favorite things about the phone.
Fortunately, it’s IP68 rated for dust and water resistance, so it's built to survive being submerged in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes should it slide into a tub, toilet, sink, or puddle. LG also kept the 3.5mm headphone port intact on the G8 ThinQ, plus it has the added benefit of a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left side of the phone for quick access. Meanwhile, the fingerprint sensor on the upper back below the cameras is super speedy and responsive.
As for storage, the LG G8 ThinQ is only offered in a 128GB variety, but if you need more you can slot in a microSD card with up to 2TB of storage.
Setting up the LG G8 ThinQ is really no hassle at all, and it's very similar to how other modern Android devices handle their setup processes. Once the phone is powered on by holding the button on the right side, simply follow the prompts to agree to LG's terms, sign into your Google account, and optionally restore from a backup. Barring any issues or a slow backup download, you should be up and running in minutes.
On paper, the LG G8 ThinQ appears to have one of the strongest screens on the market. It has a QHD+ resolution (3120 x 1440) 6.1-inch display that uses an OLED panel, meaning you get bolder contrast and inkier-looking black levels than you'd typically see from an LCD screen. It's crisp and clear, large enough to provide a great view for watching videos and playing games, and plenty bright with strong viewing angles. The glass curves ever so slightly on the right and left sides, although there's very little of the actual screen under the curved portion.
However, it does have one odd drawback that we haven't seen with rival high-resolution OLED screens, like those made by Samsung. When switching between content, be it menus, apps, media, or websites, the screen appears to automatically shift the contrast based on the colors in view. XDA Developers performed an in-depth display analysis and described that feature as "dynamic gamma," and suggested that it "increases screen contrast too high."
It's less a big problem than a persistent annoyance. The constant shifting means the screen just doesn’t have the kind of consistency that we're used to from other smartphone displays. Changing the color profile and adjusting other menu settings didn't affect it, either. At a glance, the screen looks gorgeous, but in use, that quirk can be frustrating.
The LG G8 ThinQ uses Qualcomm's latest and greatest Snapdragon 855 processor, which means it's one of the most powerful Android phones on the market. It was speedy and responsive throughout our testing, ably handling all demands as we navigated through Android 9.0 Pie, played around with apps and games, browsed the web, and viewed media.
Running the PCMark Work 2.0 benchmark score, we registered a score of 9,190. That nearly matches the 9,276 we saw with the recent Samsung Galaxy S10, which has the same chip inside. And really, a benchmark difference that small is unlikely to represent any real-world difference in performance between these phones. They're very much comparable.
Likewise, game performance is strong with the LG G8 ThinQ. We saw smooth performance at high graphics settings while playing games such as racer Asphalt 9: Legends and online shooter PUBG Mobile. GFXBench's resource-intensive Car Chase benchmark registered 21 frames per second (fps), which is the same as the Galaxy S10, while the T-Rex benchmark hit 59fps (compared to 60fps on the Galaxy S10).
On Verizon's 4G LTE network, we saw download speeds of between 25-39Mbps, which varied between the higher and lower ends of what we typically see in this testing area just north of Chicago. Upload speeds fell into the 7-11Mbps range, which is also very much typical for this area. The LG G8 ThinQ works with 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz Wi-Fi networks, giving us no problems with either.
Interestingly enough, the G8 doesn’t have an earpiece. Instead, it sends sound waves vibrating across the entire screen in a feature called "Crystal Sound." It works well, for both private calls and public playback when you're using the phone as a speaker for music and media. The G8 also keeps the Boombox Speaker feature from last year's phone, which boosts the bass via a resonance chamber, and pairs those features with a small speaker on the bottom of the phone.
Add in DTS:X Virtual Surround software support and you get strong-sounding playback, regardless of content. It works well, but it doesn't sound significantly better than what we've heard from other recent flagship phones.
The LG G8 ThinQ is also built for audiophiles on the headphone front, with a 32-bit Hi-Fi quad digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that can produce higher-end audio than most other phones. We didn't notice any real difference over other phones when it came to listening to streaming music with the G8's included earbuds, but higher-quality media files (like FLAC) and higher-end headphones ought to reveal a difference in clarity and depth.
LG packed in a pair of back cameras on the G8 ThinQ: a 12-megapixel standard lens with a wide f/1.5 aperture that can pull in lots of light, and a 107-degree wide-angle 16MP (f/1.9) lens alongside. It's a well-equipped pair, as the G8 ThinQ can often snap strong, colorful shots when you have plenty of light to work with, pulling in a good amount of detail. The results weren't always consistent, but the G8 hits more than it misses.
It's not a best-in-class setup, however. The LG G8's cameras don't pack the vivid punch and triple-camera versatility of the Samsung Galaxy S10, the incredible detail captured by any of Google's Pixel 3/3a phones, or the steady consistency of Apple's iPhone XS. And the wide-angle lens isn't nearly as wide as the one in the Galaxy S10; we would've preferred a telephoto zoom lens instead. Likewise, the G8's night shooting mode can't match up to the Pixel's stunning Night Sight feature. But portrait shots with blurred backdrops look good, using the second back camera to assist with depth data.
The LG G8 shoots fine 4K video footage, but the new Video Portrait Mode—which blurs the backdrop behind your subject in a distinctive twist—worked inconsistently in our testing.
Hand ID worked very inconsistently in our testing, and only seemed to hit a solid recognition pattern once we deleted and re-registered our palm for the third time.
As for the front-facing 8MP camera, the selfies themselves are merely decent, lacking the crispness or color we'd hoped for. But the front camera is augmented by a facial scanner that allows for a 3D Face Unlock feature similar to Apple's Face ID. It's speedy and effective, and is a lot more secure than the facial security on most Android phones (like the Galaxy S10), which only uses the camera for 2D scanning.
On the other hand, LG's "innovative" new Hand ID feature feels like a dud. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi flick, using that front-facing camera to scan the veins in your palm to unlock the phone. However, Hand ID worked very inconsistently in our testing, and only seemed to hit a solid recognition pattern once we deleted and re-registered our palm for the third time. Beyond that, the circumstances in which we would actually want to (and think to) hold our palm above the camera to unlock the G8 seem very few and far between. And you can only register one palm with the phone, which is an odd oversight and further inconvenience.
Hand ID is paired with a new suite of Air Gestures motions, which let you move your hand above the front-facing camera to open certain apps or adjust the volume, but we couldn't get them to work reliably at all. These features don't save time or hassle; they add more.
The LG G8 ThinQ's 3,500mAh battery pack is in the same ballpark as other large Android flagship phones, such as the Galaxy S10 (3,400mAh) and OnePlus 6T (3,700mAh). In our testing, we found that it gave us a confident day's usage of the phone, letting us stream media, play games, browse the web, and send a steady flow of emails without fear of running out of juice.
It's not so robust that you should expect the G8 ThinQ to last well into a second day, but we ended most days with more than 30 percent of a charge left, giving you plenty of buffer for days when you play a lot of games or tap into the GPS a lot. The LG G8 ThinQ also offers wireless charging capabilities, or you can fast-charge it using the provided USB-C plug and wall adapter.
The LG G8 ThinQ runs Google's current Android 9.0 Pie operating system, and thanks to the Snapdragon 855 processor on board, it feels consistently smooth and speedy throughout. Pie brings new features to improve battery life and how quickly apps open, so the G8 is likely to feel faster and more efficient than whatever phone you're coming from—especially if it runs an older version of Android.
LG always puts its own skin atop Android, however, so Pie doesn't look quite like the near-stock version seen on Google's Pixel phones, or the stylish and sleek rendition seen on Samsung's latest devices. It's functional, certainly, but we didn't find this take to be quite as refined-looking as those versions, and some menus had oddly-jagged text that looked out of place on a screen this crisp. The G8 ThinQ does ship with some very cool seamless animated wallpapers, however, which smoothly transition from one part of the image on the lock screen to another on your home screen.
The original $849 asking price for the LG G8 ThinQ isn't far from the price tags seen for other premium Android phones—like the Galaxy S10 and Google Pixel 3 XL, both at $899—but it still feels far too high for the market today. If you're spending upwards of $1000 after taxes, then you should be coming home with one of the absolute best phones. The LG G8 ThinQ isn't that phone.
If you're spending upwards of $1000 after taxes, then you should be coming home with one of the absolute best phones today. The LG G8 ThinQ isn't that phone.
As of this writing, however, we've seen the G8 ThinQ selling for between $679-699 through retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy, or $749 on carriers like T-Mobile. That's a more palatable price for a phone that packs a lot of power and has some solid features, but it's hardly a deal. The new OnePlus 7 Pro might be a more appealing option at $669, or the $549 OnePlus 6T could save some cash while delivering a strong overall experience. If you don't mind spending more, the Samsung Galaxy S10e ($749) and standard Galaxy S10 ($899) are both excellent.
Competition is strong for the G8. Samsung's Galaxy S10 is one of the absolute best phones you can buy right now, pairing a stunning new design with high-end tech and few weaknesses. It has a brilliant 6.1-inch QHD+ Dynamic OLED display, a versatile and impressive triple-camera setup, just as much power as the LG G8, and neat perks like reverse wireless charging and Gear VR headset support.
The $899 price point puts it in the upper echelon of smartphone pricing, but it's well worth it if you're on the hunt for something seriously high-end. The G8 looks and feels awfully plain and next to it, and even with the G8's price beginning to drop, we'd still happily spend the extra couple hundred bucks for the Galaxy S10 instead.
The G8 ThinQ just doesn’t stand out against the competition.
The LG G8 ThinQ marries a couple of new ideas with a familiar, unremarkable design, and the end result is a phone that's pretty capable all-around but just doesn't stand out against flagship rivals. There are too many excellent phones out there for anyone to spend several hundred dollars on a boring, underwhelming flagship, and that's exactly what the LG G8 ThinQ feels like. "Pretty good" just isn't good enough at this level.