LG V20 Hands-On

Not an Experiment, but a Thoughtful Evolution

LG V20. Image Credit: Faryaab Sheikh (@Faryaab)

At a press event in San Fransisco, USA, LG has announced the successor to its V10 handset, and it’s calling it the V20. Now, even though the device has just been made official to the world,  LG invited me to briefly play with the smartphone a few days prior to the launch event. And here’s what I think of it from the short amount of time I had with a pre-production unit.

What’s new? A brand new design, which looks and feels premium, yet is durable at the same time. LG acknowledged the fact that the V10 was a big and clunky device, so they decreased the thickness by a millimeter, and, at the same time, made it a tad narrower as well. I have actually never held a V10 in my hands before, because it never came to Europe, therefore my LG UK PR folks weren’t able to arrange a review unit for me.

With that being said, just by comparing the dimensions of both devices on paper, the difference seems tangible — LG V10: 159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6mm; LG V20: 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6mm. Oh, the Korean manufacturer has also made the new smartphone around 20 grams lighter than its forerunner.

As for the build materials, LG has somewhat spiced things up with its next generation V-series smartphone. While the V10 was made mostly out of plastic, with stainless steel rails on the sides. The V20 is primarily constructed out of aluminum, which is not anodized and does actually feels like metal this time around, unlike the LG G5. The top and bottom part of the handset, however, are made out of Silicone Polycarbonate (Si-PC), which LG says reduces shocks by more than 20% compared to conventional materials; this is how LG is retaining the rigidity of the device while making the design more premium.

The V20 has also passed the MIL-STD 810G Transit Drop Test, which determined that the device could withstand shocks when dropped repeatedly from a height of four feet, landing in various positions, and still function normally.

Even though the back is made out of aluminum, it’s user-replaceable — simply press the button located on the bottom right side of the device and the cover will pop right off. You have probably already guessed where I’m going with this. Yes, the battery is removable. And its size has been increased from 3,000mAh to 3,200mAh. Additionally, the device supports QuickCharge 3.0 technology, so you don’t really need to carry an extra battery with you, but you can, if you want to. And the smartphone uses a USB-C connector for syncing and charging.

Just like the V10, the V20, too, is packing two displays. The primary display (IPS Quantum display) comes in at 5.7-inches with a Quad HD (2560x144) resolution and a pixel density of 513ppi. The secondary display is located just above the primary display. It has double the brightness and 50 percent larger font size, compared to its predecessor. What’s more, the Korean firm has implemented a new Expandable Notification feature, which allows the user to interact with their incoming notifications through the secondary display. The unit I tested suffered from slight light bleed, but, overall, I was impressed by the quality of the panel, during the short amount of time I had access to it.

Now it’s time we had a little chat about the multimedia capabilities of this device because they are insane. LG has brought the G5’s dual-camera system to the V20, which includes a 16-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.8 and a 78-degree lens, and an 8-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.4 and a 135-degree, wide-angle lens. I wasn’t able to extract pictures from the device I was testing, but they looked pretty solid to me. The device is also capable of shooting 4K video at 30FPS.

Then there’s the Hybrid Auto Focus system, which elevates the photo taking and video recording experience to a whole another level. In total, there are three AF systems: Laser Detection AF, Phase Detection AF, and Contrast AF. According to the scenario in which you’re shooting a video or capturing an image, the device chooses which AF system to go with (LDAF or PDAF), and then further refines the focus with Contrast AF.

With the LG V20, the company is introducing SteadyShot 2.0. It’s a technology which utilizes Qualcomm’s Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) 3.0 and works in conjunction with Digital Image Stabilisation (DIS). The EIS uses the built-in gyroscope to neutralize shakiness from the video footage, while DIS uses algorithms to minimize the rolling shutter in post-processing.

Basically, the new autofocus systems should allow you to easily focus on an object in any lighting condition. And the new SteadyShot 2.0 technology should make your videos so smooth, that they should seem like they were shot using a gimbal. Nevertheless, at this very moment, I can’t really comment how well these technologies work in the real world, as I haven’t extensively tested the V20’s camera yet; expect a thorough examination of the camera in the full review.

The front-facing camera setup has received a few changes as well. Remember how the V10 boasted two 5-megapixel camera sensors at the front, one with a standard, 80-degree lens and the other with a wide-angle, 120-degree lens? The V20 only has a single 5-megapixel sensor, but it can shoot in both, standard (80-degree) and wide (120-degree), angles. Neat, right? Well, I certainly think so. Moreover, It comes with an Auto Shot feature, which automatically captures an image when the software detects the subject has a big, wide smile on their face, so no need to press the shutter button yourself.

It’s not just the imaging system which has received an upgrade, the audio system has been drastically improved as well. The V20 comes with a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC (ESS SABRE ES9218), and the DAC’s main aim is to reduce distortion and ambient noise by up to 50%, which will, technically, result in a much clearer listening experience. The device also has support for lossless music formats: FLAC, DSD, AIFF, and ALAC.

Furthermore, there are three built-in microphones on the V20, and LG is taking full advantage of them. Firstly, the company is bundling an HD Audio Recorder app with every V20, which allows you to record audio with a wider dynamic range frequency range. Secondly, you can record Hi-Fi audio using 24-bit / 48 kHz Linear Pulse Code Modulation (LPCM) format, while recording video, and use options like Low Cut Filter (LCF) and Limiter (LMT).

And, that’s not it. LG is partnering up with B&O PLAY (Bang & Olufsen) to further enhance the audio experience, which will result in their engineers tweaking the device’s sound profile, B&O PLAY branding on the device, and the manufacturer including a set of B&O PLAY earphones inside the box. But, there’s a catch.

The B&O PLAY variant will only be available in Asia, at least for now, it won’t be coming to either North America or the Middle East. As for Europe, the LG rep wasn’t sure if it will receive the B&O PLAY variant or the standard variant, once the device eventually becomes available in the region — LG still hasn’t decided if it will be launching the V20 in Europe.

The LG V20 is packing a Snapdragon 820 SoC, with a quad-core CPU and an Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of UFS 2.0 internal storage, which is user-expandable up to 256GB via a MicroSD card slot. Performance-wise, I was actually surprised by how responsive the V20 was, switching through apps was lightning fast, but keep in mind that there were no 3rd party apps installed on the device, and I only used the device for about 40 minutes. There’s also a fingerprint sensor onboard, it’s located at the back, underneath the camera sensor, and works really, really well.

In terms of software, the V20 is the world’s first smartphone to ship with Android 7.0 Nougat with LG UX 5.0+ running on top of it. Yes, you read that exactly right. There’s not a single Galaxy or a Nexus device out there which ships with Nougat out of the box, but now an LG smartphone does. Congratulations, LG.

The V20 will be launched later this month in Korea and will be available in three colourways including Titan, Silver, and Pink. LG hasn’t yet confirmed pricing nor a release date for the US market.

So far, as you can clearly assume from my first impressions, I really seem to like the V20, much, much more than I liked the G5. And I can’t wait to put it through its paces and give you folks my full review of LG’s multimedia powerhouse. Stay tuned!


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