Like clockwork, LG is releasing its 2018 flagship high-volume smartphone: the LG G8 ThinQ. Designed to address high-end usage, but at competitive prices, the LG G-Series has found itself somewhere between the premium market (sub-$600) and the upper high-end market (~800+). Let’s look at what the LG G8 is, and how it performs.
Quick technical specifications overview
|Product||LG G8 ThinQ (2019), Price: ~620 USD|
|Display||6.3″ 3120×1440 P-OLED , HDR10|
|Battery||3500 mAh, Wireless Charging, Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0|
|Design||IP68, 167g (5.9oz), 72x152x8.4 mm (2.83 x 5.98 x 0.33 inches)|
As you can see above, the LG G8 comes with the most powerful processor platform available at the moment, loaded with enough RAM to keep the overwhelming majority of users happy with the number of apps they can install, but power users who want 8GB or more, might have second thoughts.
The ToF (time of flight) sensor is brand new and unique to LG. It’s a 3D scanner that occupies a much smaller footprint than the iPhone X / Xs one.
Industrial Design: 9.8 / 10
The design of the LG G8 is fairly classic by now: it uses a dual-glass (front/rear) chassis with a metal rim in the middle that ensures the structural integrity.
There’s no glass curving on the edges, but the 6.3” OLED display makes the large-screen user experience comfortable and is comparable to the Galaxy S10+ or the iPhone Xs Max usage. We’ll use as proxies here.
Despite having an overall size (volume) that’s nearly identical to the Galaxy S10+, the LG G8 looks and feels more compact because LG has chosen a less elongated design to reduce the footprint in width and height and some people might like that better.
The iPhone Xs Max has a 6.5” display but looks and feels enormous next to the LG G8. The iPhone Xs Max also weights 24% more at 7oz (208g) versus 5.9oz (167g) for the LG G8.
The G8 ThinQ features bezels that are relatively thin, but not as thin as the Galaxy S10+ and with the notch at the top of the display, it’s fair to say that most people prefer the visual design of the Galaxy S10+.
In the back, there is a neat dual-camera module that is flush to the surface (yes, no bump!) which is frankly very difficult to do these days, especially with the camera performance level of the G8, so “bravo” to the LG G8 design team!
The phone would look even more beautiful if the branding was not so prominent.
User Experience Over Appearance
For some reviewers, the LG G8’s classic appearance isn’t enough to make them “excited,” but we think that you can decide that for yourself, and it shouldn’t ding the phone’s experience and performance.
The iPhone Xs and Xs Max a huge notch and relatively thick bezels, and people don’t seem to mind that much, perhaps even the same reviewers. I’ll take the G8 over the Xs Max design any day."THE MORE SECURE UNLOCK OPTIONS, THE BETTER"
More importantly, this LG G8 design delivers a robust user experience: consider that users have a super-fast rear fingerprint and a secure 3D-face unlock systems.
That’s the two most-efficient (fast+secure) ways to unlock, although perhaps not the most elegant (ultrasound under-screen fingerprint). In reality, LG is right: the more secure unlock options, the better!
LG provides a third secure unlock option with its ToF Camera-based hand scanner that read your vein pattern. The same system can also detect gestures, but more on that later. Check this out in this official video:
Despite the undisputable beauty of the Galaxy S10+, its fingerprint sensor is not as fast, nor as reliable. Also, there are small things such as the location of the S10 power button that is annoyingly high on the phone.
The LG G8 power button is easy to reach with either hand. People use that button ~150 times every, single, day.
The triple unlock combination is compelling because there are instances where it’s easier to unlock with the face, like when the phone is on a table, or if my fingers are wet after washing my hands. The hand palm unlocks works okay too, but I rarely use it, because it overlaps with the face unlock function and both are secure.
The LG Air Motion hand-gesture controls is an innovative attempt to spice things up. There are times where I have greasy hands in the kitchen and need to use my phone. First. The hand or face unlock gets me in, which is good, then the gesture control is supposed to take me to the next step.
Upon placing your hand over the phone, LG’s Air Motion can help you open one of two apps, like “Music” and YouTube. From there, it’s possible to Play a video or change the playback volume.
For searching, you can use the voice search and tap, thus reducing but not removing finger-screen interactions. The LG tutorial video below shows the feature:
Air Motion is the smartphone equivalent of the Xbox Kinect camera and offers a miniaturized version of a similar functionality: you are the controller. It uses the ToF depth camera to construct a 3D version of the environment.
Air Motion is a bold move, but it’s fair to say that it’s not very easy or convenient to use at the moment. I recognize that LG is onto something that others might follow down the road, and Apple has also patented something related to gesture controls, so it’s something that other companies have been considering.
The best case scenario in my case was using it in the kitchen and being able to tune the volume. Alternatively, you can also set the Google voice assistant to do some of that.
So yes, there are slightly more beautiful designs out there, but most if not all have to tradeoff user-experience for aesthetics, it’s okay, but LG’s focus on the experience is justifiable and hopefully appreciated by buyers.
The speaker sound quality is excellent, especially if you lay the phone on a table, as the back of the phone vibrates to boost the sound using the table surface. When this came out with LG G7, we tried it on shoeboxes, guitars, etc., the difference is noticeable.
For instance, the LG G8 offers a better sound than high-end phones like the Huawei P30 Pro which is much larger. Oh, G8 has a 3.5mm audio port too.
Display Quality: 9.5 /10
We’ve already covered the screen design with the notch and all, but what about the image quality?
Our objective scoring system gives a technical advantage to the Galaxy S10+ because it has a brighter display (+35%) and a slightly better color rendering capability. That said, the LG G8 is technically superior to the iPhone Xs Max because the Xs Max has a pixel density (in PPI) that is slightly inferior.
In practice, the visual difference between these screens is not easy to spot by users, and the size and brightness are most likely the most significant differentiators. All three are probably at a level where the color rendering is near-indistinguishable from perfect.
The LG G8 display is HDR-certified and has the proper drivers to playback such content. In theory, the most recent movies from places such as the Google Play store should have the proper encoding.
LG G8 Camera: 9.7 / 10
We spent a significant amount of time testing and documenting the G8 photo quality in our LG G8 Camera Review. We will summarize our conclusions below, but if you want all the crunchy details and see more photos, read it.
We gave the G8 camera a Camera IQ benchmark score of 173, which makes it an excellent camera phone that improves significantly over the 2018 LG V40 camera (161). You can look at our ever-updated list of best phone cameras.
The primary (rear) camera system has two lenses: wide and ultrawide. It’s the best possible combination for a dual-lens camera because it covers the essential use cases. It’s much better than having one of them being a short zoom such as 2X (52mm).
Optical zoom lenses are much more interesting from 3X (80mm) and beyond. The Image above shows a difficult HDR shot with the LG G8."BEST ULTRAWIDE CAMERA WE HAVE TESTED TO DATE"
It’s proven that whenever available, the Ultrawide lens is utilized massively by users (the image above is shot with the Ultrawide camera).
That’s completely natural because the wide (25-27mm) cameras are a bit narrower than the human field of view, so using ultrawide lenses (~12-16mm) is a natural way to share what we’re experiencing.
Incidentally, the LG G8 has the best ultrawide camera we’ve tested to date, which contributes to its high overall score.
Above: a less than impressive zoom photo with the LG G8. Because the LG G8 has no dedicated zoom lens, its performance in that particular field is basic.
That said, the 52mm zoom of the Galaxy S10+ isn’t life-changing. If you want zoom lenses that make a big difference, check the 80mm and 135mm lenses that Huawei offers on the Mate 20 Pro camera and P30 Pro camera.
The Selfie camera of the LG G8 quite good and uses the secondary ToF camera as a Bokeh sensor. We don’t (yet) have an official selfie score but we do look at how good they are with skin tones, bokeh (blur) and bokeh contours (edges). Low-light conditions are also frequently encountered by mobile cameras.
In daylight conditions, the LG G8 takes great selfies and in general, the precision of the Bokeh contour is excellent, even in areas like the ears, or even with contour difficult situations for the camera such as my buzz cut.
Even in auto-mode the LG G8 didn’t process the image much and was the phone that preserved the best skin texture and color when tested against the S10+ (dual-cam), the Pixel 3 and the LG V40.
However, the Google Pixel 3 and S10+ might make your skin smoother, but they have sharper details in places such as eyes and eyebrows, making the overall image seem sharper.
Above: a closer look reveals some classic artifacts issues due to inaccuracies when creating the subject’s contour. Overall, the Google Pixel 3 had more edge issues than LG G8, and S10+ had the most precise one.
In low-light LG V40 visibly noisier and the Pixel 3’s bokeh starts to exhibit more contour issues. Both the LG G8 and the Galaxy S10+ have more accurate Bokeh contour than Pixel 3 in low-light conditions.
Above: the LG G8 properly capture mood of the scene and the color tunes and hues but the image is a bit blurry. The S10 brightens things up and has a sharper photo.
Above: the Google Pixel 3 uses extra sharpening and gets the texture and details better. However, the Bokeh contour is noticeably inaccurate on the right cheek.
During our tests, the S10+ made the skin whiter due to over-exposition, and the Pixel 3 made it pinker due to over-saturation, two traits we’ve seen at times in the rear cameras as well.
If you prefer a more natural skin tone and texture, then LG G8 is a good choice. If you want more details around the eyes and eyebrows, S10+ and Pixel 3 are good candidates, if you don’t mind a little “beauty touch up”.
LG G8 Battery life: 8.4 / 10
The LG G8 ThinQ comes with 3500 mAh of battery capacity, which is ~6% more than the iPhone Xs Max, but the Galaxy S10+ has ~17% more battery with its 4100 mAh of capacity.
That’s not a small number, so this would be an objectively valid criticism of the G8 specifications. Although battery life can vary due to optimizations, it’s fair to say that the phones with larger batteries tend to last longer, it’s that simple.
The LG G8 can charge at 54 mAh/mn, which is very respectable, but we’ve seen phones charge at 65, 70 and even ~100 mAh/mn. While this speed was “top notch” a few years ago, it has become much more “average” these days.
It’s not clear why neither LG or Samsung would use the dual-battery system that allows Chinese phone makers to recharge at double the Wattage (2x 20W). The concept is not that complicated, and if there’s any downside, we have not seen it yet, nor has it been explained to us by the competition.
Essentially, batteries are limited to 20W charging nowadays, but the workaround is to have two batteries in the same package, and charge them at 20W each, therefore reaching an effective 40W as you can replenish the total capacity twice as fast.
Wireless charging is integrated into the LG G8 as well, but there’s no reverse-charge functionality in the G8. In practice, it’s only useful to charge smartwatches and wireless earphones without an extra cable or charger, but it’s nice to have.
LG G8 Performance and Benchmarks : 9.9 / 10
The user experience of the LG G8 reflects the performance of a high-end phone. We try them all, so we know well how they behave. Some users have a particular preference for a pure Google experience, and some OEMs even tweak the interface animation speed to add an extra ‘boost’ to their interface."BASICALLY AS FAST AS THE GALAXY S10"
The LG G8 feels smooth and nice which is completely normal for this category, it’s basically as fast as the Galaxy S10.
The G8 uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 platform as the Galaxy S10, and oh-surprise, it obtains pretty much the same scores in standard benchmarks such as Geekbench (CPU/memory) and GFXBench (Graphics/Games).
We previewed the Snapdragon 855 performance at CES 2019 in January, and the real-world products are as fast as expected. As it stands, it is the most advanced processor available to Android phones.
Equipped with a vapor-cooling system, the LG G8 should be able to sustain performance longer than phones that don’t have such an add-on. This may be particularly useful for modern 3D games or extended reality (XR) applications which include AR and VR apps.
Conclusion (9.5/10) and Value (7.7/10)
The LG G8 scores very well in everything that can be objectively measured such as technical design (how much tech can fit inside the phone), display quality and camera quality.
It’s true that the Galaxy S10+ or Huawei P30 Pro fare better with the battery score because of their higher capacity.
That said, we find the LG G8 to be technically superior to the iPhone Xs Max because the display is brighter the G8 battery is larger. The LG G8 just packs more tech within a much smaller space and weight."AN EXTRAORDINARY VALUE, FOR A HIGH-END PHONE"
From a user experience point of view, the LG G8 gives users a total of three secure unlock mechanisms (fingerprint, 3d face, and palm), two of which are faster than the equivalent S10+ features.
There is no “killer feature” such as a super-zoom or crazy-thin bezels but think about much these actually contribute to your daily user experience.
LG G8 price and value: the LG G8 launched at ~$899.99, but you can find it for around ~$620-$699 (no contract) at T-Mobile or Best Buy. That is an extraordinary value which is typically found in lower-performing Premium phones such as the OnePlus 6.
Potential Apple switchers should take notice of the LG G8 because it is an iPhone Xr killer as it is better in nearly every single way when pitted against Apple’s Xr handset, except in synthetic benchmarks."AN IPHONE XR KILLER"
In conclusion, the LG G8 gives you a size comparable to Galaxy S10+, but with a camera performance and a price closer to the 5.8” Galaxy S10e. That’s a proposition that is worth considering if you are looking for an aggressively priced high-performance phone that is highly functional.