Geek Review: LG G7+ ThinQ

Consumers have been chasing their iPhone 6, 7 and X, along with Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, Note 7 and Note 8, but along the way, another tech company has also been slowly releasing smartphones with an ascending, companion number built into its name.

The LG G7+ ThinQ is a solid smartphone, with all the features you would expect in a 2018 smartphone, headphone jack included. Just excuse the mouthful of a name. ThinQ (pronounced thin-kew) is LG’s own AI platform, and it is also being applied to their home appliances as well, allowing your devices to communicate with one another.

And while other companies are constantly trying to outdo each other when it comes to slapping on a new feature that few are keen on having, LG’s biggest feature, or some would say its one single flaw, is that it offers the tried and tested, without having to resort to “features” that differentiate itself from competitors.

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Here is a quick look at the key specs:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB Internal Storage
  • 6.1-inch 1440p LCD Display
  • IP68 Water Resistance

The difference between the regular G7 and the G7+ is the increase in RAM, from 4GB to 6GB, and the larger internal storage of 128GB.

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As a daily driver, the phone is able to handle anything that you throw at it, from scrolling your Facebook feed, to handling work and playing games. The 6GB of RAM keeps the phone speeding along, with minimal to zero lag.

The G7+ ships with Android Oreo 8.0, with LG’s skin applied on top of it. It really comes down to personal preference as to which skin on Android you would like, and you could always install something like Nova Launcher for a more universal experience.

Design & Build Quality

The G7+ is a beautiful phone and the build quality is on par with that of any Samsung and Apple flagship device. With a thin aluminium chassis and curved glass on the rear, it is solidly built with no noticeable flex. The phone is lighter than its competitors, weighing in at 162g (in comparison to the Samsung S9+, at 189g). Gorilla Glass on the front and rear prevents major scratches to both surfaces, and it made me confident enough to use it without a case while doing this review. The camera bump on the rear is hardly noticeable, so the phone does lie pretty much flat on a table.

The fingerprint sensor is on the rear for your index finger, home button on the right, and volume button and Assistant button (more on that later) on the left. For an iPhone user the button configurations feel natural, but for Android users not using LG, it may take some getting used to.

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The display comes in an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, so it makes the phone a very tall one. For someone with small hands, the phone is comfortable to hold. One handed usage is possible, but with some awkward shifting in the palm to be able to pull down the notification centre from the top of the screen. It would have been great if LG had implemented the ability to swipe down the control centre from the fingerprint sensor on the rear, like what is seen in the OnePlus phones.

The phone is available in 4 different colours, Platinum Gray, Aurora Black, Moroccan Blue and Raspberry Rose, in a shiny finish that has different reflectivity at different angles.

Display

The G7+ sports a 6.1-inch IPS LCD display, with a resolution of 3120 x 1440 pixels. While LCD screens are looked down upon in comparison with OLED displays, the display on the G7+ is no pushover. It does not have the perfect blacks and contrast that OLED is known for, but still delivers crisp images and vivid colours. Just like the G6, it still supports HDR 10 for compatible apps, such as Netflix, and content.

As per the norm these days, the infamous notch is present here on the G7+. Few like it on the iPhone X, but many smartphones makers are seeing the need to copy it, without a good reason. LG calls it a New Second Screen, in reference to their older V20, which had a separate mini display. There are options for you to hide it completely, by slapping a black bar at the top, or have it filled in with various colour schemes. The way that LG deals with the notch however, is much better than other manufacturers, with the software fully aware that there is a notch present and full screen apps will be limited to run below that limit. You would not face the problem of the top of your application being cut off by the notch here.

The IPS screen has accurate colour reproduction, and we are also allowed to customise the white balance and RGB levels for the display, which is an option rarely available in smartphones. This is particularly useful for those into smartphone photography, ensuring colour accuracy while editing on the go.

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The screen boasts a maximum brightness of 1000 nits; While this is lower than the Samsung S9 at 1130 nits, it is still bright enough to be used in broad daylight. The issue with screen brightness on the G7+ is not that it is too dim, but it does not lower down to be dim enough. When using the phone in the dark, the lowest brightness setting is still brighter than that of the iPhone, causing some discomfort in the eyes with prolonged use. LG’s ComfortView, helps to cut the blue light, and makes it more comfortable on the eyes as the name suggests.

With the display being a LCD panel, the inclusion of an Always-On Display is an odd one, with the screen still consuming battery power even when displaying blacks. It is a good convenience, displaying the time and notification icons, along with a nice touch of being able to choose a personalised icon to display. In a dark room however, the Always-On Display is still bright enough to be a distraction to sleep.

With the choice to use a LCD panel instead of OLED, it would have been nice to see LG push the technology and incorporate a high-refresh rate panel, like the one seen in the Razer Phone or the upcoming Asus ROG phone.

Camera

The G7+ comes with a dual camera setup on the rear; with one being a standard focal length, and the other, a super wide angle lens with a 107° FOV. Similar to the G6, this is a rather unconventional choice of focal lengths, with most manufacturers going for a standard/telephoto combination instead.

The choice of a super wide angle lens allows for more creative freedom, but as most photographers would say, nailing good composition in an ultra wide photo, is an uphill task. While you’re not trying to get the Photograph of the Year, the super wide angle is useful for large group shots and when you’re trapped in tight spaces. Distortion in this mode is quite controlled, with minimal stretching in the periphery of the photo. The super wide angle camera is also the secondary camera, which limits certain camera functions such as manual focus and 4K video recording, from being used.

LG’s take on the AI Camera is somewhat of a hit or miss. Once activated, the on-board AI would try to guess what is the subject in the photo, and apply a preset filter accordingly. It seems that the AI makes a best guess, and most of the time it just seems like irrelevant random words are spewing up on the screen.

There are 19 different presets that the AI can choose from, and it does a decent job in picking the right filter, although whether the filters make your photo nicer is another matter altogether. Photos taken with the AI Cam are not the most flattering, and I personally would rather use the standard Auto, or Manual mode.

Left: Auto | Right: AI Cam applying the City filter

Using AI, there is also a Super Bright Mode which users can turn on, when the camera detects that the scene is too dark. It is a useful feature that brightens up your image, but at the cost of loss of detail and a lot more digital noise introduced.

Left: Auto | Right: Super Bright Mode

The Manual camera mode gives users the control over the exposure pyramid, as well as focus control for when the AF does not work. Manual focus is made easier with focus peaking via green highlights, although this would rarely be used unless shooting at macro distances. The camera’s minimum focusing distance is surprisingly short, so you would be able to focus on objects placed directly in front of the camera.

Shooting in RAW is still possible, with images being saved in the DNG format for easy editing with most RAW processing programs. Dynamic range in the raw files are limited, mostly due to the fact that it is still a very tiny sensor and any huge adjustments will introduce unpleasant digital noise.

LG still has some way to go before it can take on the big boys in the smartphone camera arena, but it is moving in the right direction with the G7+. Their take on the triple-camera setup would be interesting to watch, considering that they could cover an enormous focal range; from super wide to telephoto if they were to do so.

Audio

LG has not included the more popular stereo speakers configuration in the G7+, but packs in a “Boombox Speaker” instead. It is a single speaker unit on the bottom left of the phone, and it utilises the phone’s internal space as a resonance chamber. This results in the G7+ being noticeably louder than a iPhone 7. The audio volume and bass is further enhanced if you put the phone on a solid surface, like a wooden table. However, smartphone speakers are still smartphone speakers, and if you were looking to blast music to the space of an entire room, a separate Bluetooth speaker like the Sony Extra Bass would do a much better job.

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The stand-out feature for audio on this phone is the built-in DTS-X 3D Surround sound that you can activate when listening to tunes through headphones. Once it detects that headphones are connected via the 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth, the settings allow you to change the type of sound space you would like, with options for; front-facing, side-to-side and wide. This creates a really enjoyable listening experience, even on the LG earphones from the box, as compared to the default on most other smartphones. Hi-Fi Quad DAC is also in-built on the G7+, further enhancing the audio and allowing for audiophiles to adjust the equaliser to their liking.

Google Assistant + LG ThinQ

Like the new Samsung devices with their dedicated Bixby buttons on the left side of the phone, the G7+ comes with a dedicated AI Assistant button on the left too. LG has worked closely with Google to integrate Google Assistant into the phone, instead of creating their very own AI Assistant. This is a smart choice on their end, considering that Google Assistant would be more useful than whatever new AI program they would come up with. By the pressing the dedicated button, you can skip having to say “OK Google” or “Hey Google”, and immediately proceed with stating your request. Pressing the button twice brings up Google Lens, and holding down the button allows you to speak to Google Assistant like a walkie-talkie.

Unfortunately, like Bixby, the button is not re-mappable to launch a user-defined app. There is an option to disable the button altogether, which is still one-up from what Samsung is doing. However, the majority of users are hoping that manufacturers would start allowing them to re-map it, but don’t hold your breath for it to happen soon.

The ThinQ platform, in which is based off Google Assistant, cannot really be experienced with just one ThinQ device, but it essentially uses machine learning to analyse your daily routines, and tries to pre-empt your next move. For example, it will notify me of the weather and traffic, around the time before I leave home for work. With more ThinQ devices, this could prove to be a quality-of-life improvement, with the AI perhaps, unlocking your LG smart door lock when it knows you are at your doorstep (based on location tracking), or turning on your air conditioner 15 minutes before you usually reach home (learning routines). It is a bright look into the future, if LG plays its cards right.

Battery

Battery life is decent but not outstanding, with a 3000 mAh battery, identical to the one on the Samsung S9. Power efficiency is slightly lower than the Samsung S9 or the iPhone X, which is probably due to the LCD display. With medium usage it will get you through the day on a single charge.

The device supports fast charging via USB-C and wireless charging, and the fast charging charger will get your device charged up from 0 to 100% within 2 hours. As an improvement, LG should have incorporated a slightly bigger battery pack. The compromise of an additional half-millimetre to the thickness would definitely not be shunned by consumers.

LG seems to be playing it safe with the G7+, after their history with the modular G5 and experimental V30. This by no means, makes it a bad smartphone, but by bundling a bunch of predictable features into one smartphone, LG is not doing itself any favours to stand out in a crowded arena. The AI features from Google Assistant and LG ThinQ could have been the deal-breaker here in making the phone a stand out one, but the technology has not matured enough to do so. You would not be disappointed by the G7+ if you were to purchase it, but there is hardly anything to make you go wow.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

The G7+ ThinQ is a safe play from LG, and it is a solid 2018 smartphone overall. It just lacks a feature that really makes it stand out.

Overall
7.8/10
7.8/10
  • Aesthetics - 8/10
    8/10
  • Build Quality - 8/10
    8/10
  • Performance - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value - 7/10
    7/10
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