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Lifewire / Eric Watson
Sleek and comfortable
DTS:X Surround Sound capabilities
Poor graphical performance
Only 8 GB of free storage
The LG K30 is a jack of all trades but master of none, capable of streaming clear video and superior audio, but struggling with more advanced gaming apps and held back by a poor camera.
High-end smartphone features are becoming more affordable, but the newest flagship models will still set you back hundreds, or even a thousand dollars. The budget phone market has grown increasingly competitive as more luxury features become standardized.
The LG K30 has many of the features you’d come to expect from a smartphone, and at an affordable price. It also looks and feels great with curved edges and minimal exterior buttons, including a nice rear power button. But when compared to its bigger siblings—or even to other phones in its price range—the K30 gets outperformed in nearly every category.
One of the LG K30’s biggest advantages is that it looks and feels like a much more expensive phone. The K30 features a 5.3-inch screen size within a 5.85 x 2.96-inch frame, and weighs just under six ounces. The matte black exterior wraps all around the sides and rear, while the curved edges feel natural to hold. But the K30 lacks any kind of texture or grip on the back, which makes it feel slippery and a bit fragile.
The K30 features a unique rear power button recessed just below the flashlight and camera lens. It is recessed enough that we never felt like it could be accidentally pressed in a bag or pocket.
One of the LG K30’s biggest advantages is that it looks and feels like a much more expensive phone.
You can use the power power to quickly lock or unlock the phone. It’s also equipped with a fingerprint sensor. Since the button is on the rear, the sensor is designed to work with the index finger, which feels smooth and natural. The phone must be physically held to use this feature, though the touchscreen can be double-tapped to wake and then unlocked using a PIN or password.
Setting up the LG K30 is incredibly quick and painless. The K30 instantly recognized our SIM card. All of our contacts were there, and it let us choose which (or all) of the 50+ apps from our previous phone we wanted to transfer. Then we connected to our wireless network, downloaded a firmware update (which took several minutes), and then we were ready to make and receive calls, text, and use our new phone as normal.
LG recommends fully charging the phone before using it for the first time. The K30 had a 60% charge out of the box, and took about 45 minutes to fully charge.
You get what you pay for when it comes to mobile phone performance, and it’s no surprise that the relatively cheap K30 suffers when put to the test of processing advanced 3D graphics. Running the T-Rex test from GFX Benchmark resulted in a paltry 14 frames per second (FPS). The PCMark Work Performance 2.0 test provides a similarly dubious result of 3,288. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has a score of over 5,000.
We downloaded and tested PUBG Mobile, a popular online shooter game. Running on “low” settings we experienced occasional frame rate drops and texture popping when running outdoors. Despite these hiccups the game was stable and playable, and we never had any latency issues. But the K30 would be a disappointing choice for hardcore mobile gamers.
The K30 is often found for significantly cheaper than its listed price, but we’d recommend shelling out the extra cash for a phone with more power under the hood.
We had zero connection issues with the LG K30. It had no problem connecting to our wi-fi network and LTE networks both indoors and outdoors. Indoors the speed was a bit slower at 6.2 Mbps download speed and 6 Mbps upload speed. Outdoors we enjoyed a more comfortable 17.15 down and 9.6 up, keeping our ping around 24.
The LG K30 also supports Bluetooth and USB connections, with an included cable to easily connect the phone to a PC or projector.
The K30’s 5.3-inch screen size is comparable to most smartphones at this range, and its 1280 x 720 resolution is more than capable of producing bright, clear pictures and videos at that size. Text and colors remained clear and vibrant from multiple angles, and the brightness auto-adjusts perfectly when in a dark room or outside in the sun.
The navigational touch controls can be swiped up from the bottom of the phone and easily hidden with the press of a button. The home buttons default to the standard navigation suite of back, home, and overview, but they can be further customized by adding buttons for Notifications, Capture+ (for taking quick notes), and Qslide to overlay two separate windows on top of each other. The K30 also supports Dual Window mode, splitting two different apps between the top and bottom screens.
The speakers are located on the lower back side of the K30, which only becomes a problem if you leave it on a flush surface, resulting in muffled sound. Otherwise the little speakers produce surprisingly rich audio. Even when cranked up to maximum volume, we never heard any audio distortion from music or games.
When using headphones or external speakers, the K30 can activate DTS:X 3D Surround. This is a new competitor to Dolby Atmos Surround Sound and produces a similar surround-sound effect. It makes a big difference in audio quality for music and movies, and is a relatively hidden feature within the phone’s settings that can only be turned on when the phone detects a connection to external speakers or headphones.
We were less impressed with actual call quality, however, and voices often sounded muffled through the handset and on speaker mode. These issues were never bad enough that we couldn’t understand the person on the other end, but the quality was certainly less than ideal (especially when compared to the otherwise fantastic audio produced by music and movies).
With only an 8 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front camera, the K30’s picture-taking capabilities are relatively weak compared to other budget phones. While it’s technically capable of taking pictures at a decent resolution (3264 x 2448 rear, 2560 x 1920 front) the low pixel count can easily result in grainy, blurry, and heavily pixelated pictures, especially when viewed on larger screens like tablets and laptops. These camera issues became more prominent when we tried to take pictures indoors or at night. The K30 also defaults to 4:3 image scaling. It does have an option for 16:9 widescreen, but at an even further-reduced image quality of 6 MP.
With only an 8 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front camera, the K30’s picture-taking capabilities are relatively weak compared to other budget phones.
But the camera does come with some extra perks, including the ability to automatically snap pictures with a smile or a gesture, quick filter changes, 4x digital zoom, quick auto-focus, and a “selfie light” that illuminates the screen to best light up your face. Videos can record up to 30 frames per second and, surprisingly, up to 1080p Full HD (as well as 720p), but videos can suffer from the same picture quality issues, particularly in low light.
The 3,000 mAh battery is relatively small but gives you pretty impressive longevity. LG lists enough battery power for up to 12 hours of calling, or up to 14 days at rest. Note that the battery is strictly non-removable, which isn’t uncommon for budget phones.
Typical daily usage saw the battery drop to around 60% around evening. Streaming a two and a half hour movie via Netflix over wi-fi dropped our battery life by about 30%. Provided we weren’t using the phone for constant video streaming or phone calls, we could go about two days on a single charge under normal phone usage. It fully charges in about two hours while in standby.
16 GB of storage space sounds like a decent amount, especially for a budget phone. But half of that is taken up by the operating system. That means you only really have 8 GB of storage space to work with. If you want to install several big games, you’re probably out of luck—and if you plan to store any photos or videos on this device, your app space is reduced even more. Like most modern smartphones, the K30 supports a microSD card (sold separately) for additional storage.
On the plus side, the K30 does not come with very many pre-installed apps beyond the Amazon suite, which includes apps like Audible and Prime Video if you purchase this phone via Amazon Prime. Any unwanted apps are easily uninstalled.
The voice activated Google Assistant lets you quickly search Google without having to type anything. Voice activation works with many different apps like YouTube and can be directed to send texts or look up information on Google.
The LG K30 ($179) lands squarely in the lower-middle end of the budget smartphone pricing spectrum. But similarly priced phones offer bigger displays, more battery life, and higher-quality cameras. The K30 is often found for significantly cheaper than its listed price, but even at $139 we’d recommend shelling out the extra cash for a phone with more power under the hood.
LG K30 vs. Nokia 3.1: At $159 MSRP, the Nokia 3.1 is a close competitor to the K30 that offers more robust 13 MP rear and 8 MP front cameras as well as a superior Android 8 operating system with Android One support. That being said, we vastly preferred the physical design of the K30.
LG K30 vs. Motorola Moto G6: The Amazon-exclusive Motorola Moto G6 ($199 MSRP) gives you much more power for just a bit more investment, with a larger 5.7-inch display size, 64 GB storage, and dual rear cameras. If you have an extremely tight budget and limited phone needs, the K30 could make for a cheaper alternative, but there are far better options available.
It looks nice, but is vastly underpowered and generally underwhelming.
We only recommend the LG K30 if you’re looking for a budget phone for work and web browsing. The phone itself is well-designed, but the camera and processing performance are especially weak, and the internal storage is almost nonexistent without an additional MicroSD card. You can find better devices in this price range.
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