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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Functional for the average person
Odd power button placement
The K30 is a very underwhelming phone. It’s functional and affordable, but it’s showing its age, making it hard to recommend unless you can get it for a steep discount.
Sometimes you just need a smartphone that will work and doesn’t cost very much. The LG K30 is designed to fill that niche, providing an acceptable, affordable smartphone that checks off all the basic features modern consumers have come to expect from their portable computing devices. But it’s starting to get old at this point, so we put it to the test to see if the K30 can compete with other budget options and provide a passable user experience. Read on to see how it fared.
It would be hard to imagine a more bland and forgettable design for a phone than the LG K30, but if you can look past how average it appears, it’s really not unattractive. The back of the phone feels surprisingly premium and metal-like, though of course, it’s only plastic. It is very prone to smudging, but we were pleased by the lack of scratches. One aesthetic aspect we did enjoy was the slight two-tone look.
The sides of the phone are unfortunately made up of a far less pleasing plastic, lowering our first impression of the device. The bezel is thick around the screen, making the K30 appear larger and more cumbersome than it otherwise could be. The thick bezel also makes the phone appear more outdated. The K30 is not waterproof or ruggedized, but seems capable of holding up to the rigors of daily use. The screen itself appeared reasonably durable and scratch-resistant, though it is prone to smudging.
The 2,880mAh battery in the K30 was able to provide a reasonable runtime of about 6 hours under constant use, which is not impressive, but at least serviceable.
A 3.5mm audio jack is included, which is nice to have when many high-end phones are ditching this convenient port. Not only does it allow you to easily connect and listen to music on wired headphones or earbuds, it enables many of the other clever functions that have been invented for the port such as FM radio reception and remote camera operation. However, the K30 uses an outdated micro USB port that makes data transfer and charging slower than it could be if it included USB-C.
The one really interesting feature of the K30 is, surprisingly, its power button, which is combined with a fingerprint reader. This circular button is located directly below the rear camera and flash LED, allowing you to operate it easily with the index finger. It’s a smart design since you can turn on your phone and unlock it simultaneously with a single button. However, we are used to having the standard power button on the right edge of the phone, and often found our fingers searching for it before our brains could catch up to our muscle memory.
Volume buttons are located as is normal on the upper-left edge of the phone. They are tactile, though perhaps a bit mushy, and do not protrude much. This makes them a little hard to find by feel, though we didn’t find it to be too bothersome.
The setup process for the K30 is simple enough. This is a very basic Android phone, and you won’t have much difficulty with setup. Basically, you just pick your language, sign in to your Google account, and agree to the licensing terms.
We didn’t need to update our phone after initial startup, but your mileage may vary depending on when and where you buy the phone. If you have ever used an Android phone the settings and customization options should all be familiar, as there are no radical alterations of the basic operating system.
We found the K30 to have a barely acceptable display. To be clear, we didn’t mind the 1280 x 720 resolution. On a 5.3-inch screen, it’s perfectly acceptable for the size, and in terms of resolution, we never noticed the reduced pixel count.
Color accuracy, saturation, and contrast were also good when viewed at a favorable angle. However, tilt the phone too much and colors suddenly wash out. It’s not the worst offender in terms of viewing angles, but it’s certainly not the best. Perhaps more troublesome is how dim the display is, even at maximum brightness. This makes it difficult to use in bright daylight conditions, though it’s not so dim as to be unusable outdoors.
Trying to run recent games on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425-powered LG K30 is an exercise in futility. We played a match of DOTA: Underlords, and to our dismay found that we had to reduce the graphics settings manually to get it playable. We were forced to play at such low quality that the matches were more a blur of indistinct pixels than anything else. Even still, the lag in processing to be so great that we’d often we would miss key steps, and artifacts were rampant throughout the experience. You’ll still be able to run older games, but nothing current or remotely graphics heavy.
Running PCMark clearly showed the root of the problem—the K30 only achieved a lackluster score of 2,864. It failed to impress in any one area, but on the bright side, it didn’t fail particularly badly in any given field either. A disappointing performance, though at least a consistent one.
Trying to run recent games on the K30 is very nearly an exercise in futility.
GFXBench yielded 14 frames per second (fps) in the T-Rex test, which sounds decent until you realize that it is running at the native screen resolution of only 1280 x 720. The K30 is not capable of running the Car Chase benchmark.
Despite these abysmal scores and the lackluster performance in graphically demanding game, day-to-day use is quite responsive. When browsing in Google Chrome or Facebook, checking Twitter, even doing some light photo editing—the K30 won’t give you any trouble.
The LG K30 performed reasonably well in our tests on Verizon’s network, but in the rural region we tested it, mobile internet speeds are notoriously fickle. We were able to get 18.32 Mbps down and 16.5 Mbps up in one location, which fell in line with results from other phones such as the LG Q6.
We could easily stream Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube through a cellular connection in areas with good signal. The K30 can use both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, and has support for VoLTE. You also get NFC support, which is a feature we wouldn’t have expected from a budget phone.
We listened to Royal Republic’s “Boomerang” and 2Cello’s cover of “Thunderstruck”, and it was decidedly flat and tinny. Its worst failing was in the bass range where quite a lot of the detail of the low notes was lost, making the whole experience unsatisfying. To make matters worse, the location of the speaker is easily obscured by your hand, and if you set the phone down the sound is badly muffled. As the phone includes a 3.5mm headphone jack we recommend using headphones or connecting via Bluetooth.
Call quality was decent, though not exceptional. We had no difficulty hearing or making ourselves heard in loud environments.
The 13- megapixel camera on the K30 will perform adequately in good light. The photos look okay when taken in bright, outdoor settings with an acceptable level detail and color reproduction. However, even in good light, the results were far from impressive, and in dim conditions, it was truly abysmal with muddy colors, poor detail, and lots of noise.
Video isn’t very good either, and the extra modes and filters available are extremely basic. You get a “Cheese Shutter” that triggers when you say specific words, HDR, and a few other meager features, which sadly do not include a panorama mode.
The K30 isn’t a phone to buy for its photographic capabilities.
The front-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor that is even less capable than that on the rear. You’ll get very poor selfies out of it, even in good light, but it’ll do in a pinch for video chats.
Overall, the K30 isn’t a phone to buy for its photographic capabilities. It provides basic functionality, but nothing more. If you really enjoy taking photos we would recommend a phone with a better camera unless you regularly carry a dedicated camera with you.
The 2,880mAh battery in the K30 was able to provide a reasonable runtime of about 6 hours under constant use, which is not impressive, but at least serviceable. It was enough to get us through an average day of work or travel. It lacks fast charging but managed to get to full in 1.5 hours.
The K30 runs Android 7.1 Nougat, and we appreciated how minimal LG’s alterations to the operating system are, and how little bloatware was included. You still get a few annoying pre-installed apps such as LG’s Smartworld App and the usual calculator, clock, etc., but this is pretty minor compared to some phones that pack in all sorts of useless bloatware. One interesting included app is an FM radio that uses headphones plugged into the 3.5mm jack as an antenna, though it should be noted that this also works with any phone with a headphone jack.
We find the $179 MSRP of the K30 to be hard to justify given its generally lackluster performance and feature set. For that price, it should offer better processing and graphics power and a better camera at least. As it is we can really only recommend it if you can find it for a steep discount, though fortunately, it appears to typically retail at a much lower price point.
LG makes a lot of phones, many of which aren’t far removed from the price bracket of the K30. The Q6 offers more power and a better, larger screen in smaller form factor thanks to its significantly reduced bezels. What’s more, it typically retails for prices near or even below the MSRP of the K30. However, if you can spend a little more the LG Stylo 4 is a better buy. It can play modern games with high-end graphics at better than bare minimum settings and includes a stylus. Its MSRP is the same as the Q6, and it is often discounted nearly as steeply.
Not our first choice without a big discount.
The LG K30 is not a terrible phone, but we find it hard to recommend. It’s certainly not an expensive phone, but it still seems a little pricey for what features it has, especially considering its age. On its own, it is a perfectly passable device for children and seniors, but given its age, we recommend buying a newer budget phone if you can.