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Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff
Dual Screen offers some real multi-tasking, productivity and entertainment wins
You can always carry just the phone, if you prefer
Camera quality is very good
This is a tremendous value
The useless notch and cut-through on the Dual Screen
Battery life with two screens is just average
It can be hard to type on the main screen in portrait mode with the Dual Screen open
There's no way to use the two main cameras with the Dual Screen closed
The LG G8X ThinQ is a good, if not excellent, smartphone. However, once it’s plugged into the Dual Display, the combination is quite compelling. It’s versatile and fun-to-use, pocketable—if a bit thick and heavy—dual-screen workhorse. More than that, it’s an incredible value.
I used the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen as a tiny laptop. Seriously. I did it because I had no choice.
This was an unplanned trial by fire. It started when I worked unplugged all morning, then took my Surface Pro for an offsite and, naturally, left behind the proprietary charging cable. The laptop shut down and I panicked, knowing I had to get a rough draft of my next Untangled newsletter done before noon.
Next to the dead laptop was LG’s unusual dual-screen device that’s actually two devices in one. It’s the attractive 6.4-inch LG G8X ThinQ that sits inside the Dual Screen case, which includes a thin duplicate of the ThinQ’s OLED touch screen. Nothing spans across the two screens, but the case connects them so that the Dual Screen and the ThinQ can work in concert.
One critical way is that one screen can run an app like, say, Microsoft Word, and the other can serve as a full-screen virtual keyboard.
For the next two hours I cranked out over 1,000 words on that tiny Qualcomm Snapdragon 855-powered workhorse. I made a billion typos on the zero-feedback keyboard, but I also created a Word document, filled it with ideas, saved it to the OneDrive cloud, and effectively got the job done. In a pinch, this could be pocket-sized productivity tool.
Before we throw LG a productivity parade, it’s worth recognizing what the LG G8X ThinQ with Dual Screen is: A boundary-breaking hybrid device that’s designed with little concern for weight or size. It’s a near half-inch-thick brick that, in total, weighs 326 grams. You can leave the Dual Screen case behind, which leaves you with a large screen but normally sized Android 9 smartphone. It’s a good phone, by the way, with a trio of solid cameras, a brilliant OLED screen, under-the-screen fingerprint reader, and wireless charging. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom, as well as an, at this point, almost anachronistic, 3.5 mm headphone jack. Interestingly, some of the LG G8X ThinQ’s, like mine, will ship without headphones. LG told me that unlocked versions ship with the headphones, Otherwise, the decision to include or not is up to carriers. AT&T obviously decided not to.
The real show, however, is when the phone is married to the second screen.
LG did some impressive engineering work to make the process of seating the phone and even removing it from the Dual Screen case almost foolproof. You slide the bottom edge of the phone into the case and onto a male USB-C plug and then tip the top into the case. The back of the Dual Screen features a large opening to accommodate the 2-inch monochrome LCD info screen (time, date, temp) and so that you can use it to press on the phone when you want to push it out of the case.
At the bottom edge of the Dual Screen case are deep openings for the audio jack and one of the stereo speakers. Instead of passing through the USB-C plug for another USB-C port on the bottom of the case, the case offers a MagSafe-style charger that holds on magnetically to a tiny, magnetic charger-to-USB-C female plug adapter. It's a thumbnail-sized dongle that you’re sure to lose if you ever detach it from the included USB-C charger.
One side of the Dual-Screen, the one with the larger opening, is plastic, while the other is a gleaming, finger-print-magnet of shiny glass. The phone case size and thin secondary display are held together by a durable 360-degree “Freestop” hinge that lets you open the device like a book and rotate the second screen all the way around to the back. The real benefit, though, is that the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen can open like a like a laptop, with the thin OLED at a nice 45-degree angle that can be set up sandwich-board style for a presentation. Put simply, there’s a lot of versatility here.
There are also some quirks. Since LG uses the exact same screen as they do on the ThinQ phone, the Dual Screen display includes a teardrop notch for a non-existent camera and a cutout that I could look through for the non-existent top-edge speaker. I get how this simplifies the manufacturing process, but it also makes little sense for consumers who are not used to manufacturers leaving behind vestigial features.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to test drive Samsung’s Galaxy Fold before reviewing LG’s G8X ThinQ with Dual Screen. The philosophy between these two devices could not be more distinct. Galaxy Fold is a flexible-screen, foldable tablet masquerading as a smartphone. It’s literally 7.3-inches of screen in a pocketable 4.6-inch form factor. The ThinQ with Dual Screen is two full-6.4-inch smartphone screens that can work as a team, but never as one giant screen.
This is not to say that the screens don’t work together or recognize each other. As soon as you place the LG ThinQ in the case side, a small Dual Screen power button appears on the main phone display. I touched it and the second screen lit up. Once both screens are on, the Dual Screen menu is accessible under that tiny button, which you can move to any spot on the screen. It lets you swap screens, move Dual Screen view to the main screen, put the main screen to sleep, or turn off the Dual Screen.
You don’t always have to use the menu, though. I could, for example, open a Chrome browser window on the main screen and use a three-finger swipe gesture to send it to the Dual Screen. I love how smoothly this works. My favorite move was opening Chrome on the main screen, sending it to the Dual screen, holding the device in landscape mode for a wide-screen view of the browser, tapping the address bar and then typing in a URL on the full-screen keyboard that automatically appeared on the main screen.
Having two screens that can operate separately but in concert is also, to my mind, a cleaner way of handling multi-tasking. One of my favorite use case scenarios was when I launched Netflix, threw it to the Dual Screen and then opened Twitter on the main display. This is how, on one recent commute, I watched and episode of Supergirl (with paired Bluetooth headphones, naturally) and kept track of my Twitter feed at the same time. I could just as easily have opened Gmail on the main screen. In fact, I can even split the main screen and run two apps at once, but I prefer to use that space for one app at a time.
I struggled, every once in a while, to get my apps to open on the right screen, especially when playing games and using the LG Game Pad, a virtual game controller that actually connects to your Android games via the Bluetooth protocol.
In the best-case scenario, my favorite game Asphalt 9 Legends runs on the Dual Screen and the realistic-looking controller (there are a few pre-built control pads and the option of custom-building your own controller) fills the main screen. For some reason, every time I opened the game it appeared on the main screen and I could not push it to the Dual Screen. There was a sequence to opening the game on one screen and then the game pad on the other or vice versa that I only got right every few tries. I think some on-screen guidance could easily solve this.
LG made somewhat unusual camera choices for the G8X ThinQ. The front facing camera is, for instance, a reported 32 MP sensor. However, it uses a technique called pixel binning, which combines a total of four adjacent pixels for better exposure and lower noise. The result is high-quality 8 MP pictures. I did manage to capture some brilliant, highly detailed selfies (take note of the stubble on the side of my head).
I was generally pleased with the photo quality on the two rear cameras (12 MP wide and 13 MP 136-degree super wide, which is not quite “ultra-wide”). Images are clear, color-accurate, full of detail, and striking.
Like most Android phones, the LG G8X ThinQ hides a decent amount of photographic capability under sub menus. I found, for instance, the entertaining Story shot, which lets you take a photo of any background or scene, then it auto takes a selfie and, you guessed it, almost seamlessly combines the two. It’s an Influencer’s dream tool.
There’s also a Night view mode (but not astrophotography), slow motion, and UHD video (3840x2160 at up to 60 fps). For smooth video, the ThinQ uses Steady Cam technology, which combines Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) with information from the superwide camera.
It is worth noting that you cannot use the two rear cameras when the Dual screen is closed. There’s no visual pass-through on the back of the Dual Screen for any of the cameras. Also, if you flip the Dual Screen all the way around to the back, you effectively block both rear cameras. If you plan on doing a lot of rear camera photography, it might make sense to leave the Dual Camera case behind.
On the other hand, the Dual Screen can serve as a real-time photo quality checker. You take the photo on your main screen and the shot instantly appears on the Dual Screen, while the main display is still open as a camera viewfinder. It’s like having a post-production system connected to the phone.
The Dual Display also takes a healthy chunk out of the ThinQ’s battery life. When I used both screens throughout the day, the 4000 mAh battery died after about 12.5 hours. The phone does support wireless and fast charging, but, sadly, the Dual Screen doesn't add an additional a battery slab. Sure, that would make this device even thicker and heavier, but if I’m thinking of it as an occasional laptop surrogate, I might want a bit more juice.
Generally, the ThinQ performs as well as any other Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 (backed by 6 GB of RAM) phone I’ve used before across a wide-range of activities. Sometimes, however, the switch from one screen to the other or opening the full-screen keyboard could be a little slow. Even screen rotation, to fix the orientation when I turn over the device, showed some hesitation.
LG’s under-the screen fingerprint reader is one of the least reliable biometric security features I’ve ever used. Most of the time I had to give up and use my pin to unlock the device.
Also, if you drop the LG GX8 ThinQ with Dual Screen in a pool, it’s likely only the phone, which is water resistant, will survive.
The Dual Screen isn’t always a plus. It made thumb typing on the main screen, when I held the device in portrait mode with the screen flipped halfway open, virtually impossible. Obviously, if I really need to use the ThinQ in that way, I might as well remove it from the Dual Screen case.
The LG G8X ThinQ is a good, if not excellent, smartphone. However, once it’s plugged into the Dual Display, the combination is quite compelling. It’s versatile and fun-to-use, pocketable—if a bit thick and heavy— dual-screen workhorse. More than that, it’s an incredible value. The unlocked phone and Dual Screen with 128 GB of storage are being sold for $699. That’s simply mind-blowing, and some carriers may offer the combo for under $400.
So, while you’re wondering where you’re going to get the near $2,000 necessary for a true folding display, I’ll be riding the train with the little LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen propped up on my lap, furiously typing away or watching Netflix while I check my mail.