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LG G7 ThinQ review (hands on): LG’s new flagship is here and it’s a blinder

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It’s time to get your sunglasses out, but wait. Hold off on the suncream. Step away from the floppy hat. Don’t even think about shorts and deck shoes. The summer STILL hasn’t reached the UK, but the long-awaited LG G7 (sorry, the LG G7 ThinQ) has, and it arrives toting the brightest display I’ve ever come across on a smartphone.

According to LG’s claims, the LG G7 is capable of reaching 1,000cd/m2 at peak brightness, and not just in spectacular highlights like the Samsung Galaxy S9, but across the entire screen.

The benefits of having such a super-bright display are debatable for anything but HDR video – 500cd/m2 is readable in most conditions, after all, and anything brighter than that runs the risk of temporarily blinding you every time you look at your phone. But it’s good to see LG pushing the boundaries, even if it does leave you with stars in your eyes.

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LG G7 review: Key specifications, price and release date

6.1in, 19.5:9, 3,120 x 1,440 IPS RGBW display

2.65GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor

4GB RAM

64GB storage

IP68 dust- and water-resistance, Mil-spec tested

3,000mAh battery

Dual rear camera: 16MP, f/1.6, 106˚; 16MP, f/1.6 71˚ (wide angle); OIS across both cameras

8MP front camera

Price: TBC

Release date: End of May 2018

LG G7 review: Key features and first impressions

And yes, the screen really is that bright. I measured it with our colorimeter at a briefing before the launch event and it clocked 951cd/m2 with the screen displaying a fully white web page. It won’t stay this bright for long: after pressing the Boost icon to the left of the brightness-adjustment slider, it sears your retinas for only a few seconds before reverting to around 850cd/m2. That’s just as well, though, because if you left it at that setting I’m pretty sure the battery would last about ten minutes.

The good news is that the super-bright display isn’t the only area where the LG G7 pushes the boat out. The screen is a 10-bit panel and so is HDR10 compliant, and as with most of 2018’s flagship smartphones, it’s a big screen with a long, tall aspect ratio (19.5:9). This means there’s plenty of screen space to play around with without the phone being too big to hold in one hand.

More specifically, it measures 6.1in across the diagonal, delivers a near-4K resolution of 3,120 x 1,440 and is also, according to LG, 30% more power-efficient (at a brightness of 500cd/m2) than the screen on the LG G6.

That could mean better battery life than last year, especially given that the LG G7 is powered by the more efficient Snapdragon 845 (with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage to back that up). However, it’s worth bearing a few things in mind: first, the battery is 300mAh down in capacity on the LG G6; and second, with the screen reaching such highs in auto-brightness mode as well as Boost brightness mode, stamina might suffer a touch more when the sun’s out. It’ll be fine for most of us in the UK, then.

Oh, and the display also has a notch. Of course it does.

This looks like something we’re going to have to put up with for the time being – at least until someone figures out how to squeeze a decent front-facing camera, proximity sensors and earpiece speakers behind the screen.

This particular notch isn’t as wide as the one on the Apple iPhone X, but is a touch broader than the one on the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro. Personally, its presence here doesn’t bother me, but if you’re not a fan there’s no need to panic. LG offers the option of hiding it using a black bar, while simultaneously using the extra screen space flanking the notch for notifications. You can even pretty it up – one option is to display a gradient on either side, which softens its appearance somewhat.

Other than that, the LG G7 is a reasonably pretty phone. It’s clad in Gorilla Glass 5 front and back, and will be available in the UK in blue, black and “platinum” grey, all with a glossy finish that attracts fingerprints like crazy. The most eye-catching colour – “raspberry rose” – alas, won’t be coming to the UK.

It’s also IP68 dust- and water-resistance certified and Mil-spec tested. It has a fingerprint reader mounted in the centre of the rear panel below a vertically arranged dual camera array, while the volume buttons are on the left edge and the power button on the right. On the bottom of the phone is a single speaker grille, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer.

You might also have spotted from the photograph above that there’s one extra key: situated just beneath the volume buttons on the left edge is a digital assistant button, used to call Google Assistant into action. Pressing it once activates voice recognition, while holding it down launches the Assistant proper without you having to yell OK Google at your phone. And, if you’re okay with smartphone anthropomorphism, there’s also far-field microphone tech that helps the phone to pick up your voice from over five metres away.

LG G7 ThinQ review: Camera and audio

That’s not the end of the LG G7’s “AI” capabilities, however. In a move designed to ape Huawei and Asus’ intelligent cameras, the LG G7 can recognise objects and different types of scene on the fly and make adjustments to the camera as necessary. The difference here is that, as you point the camera at a scene, words fade in, floating above recognised elements on screen in real-time, showing the inner thoughts of the algorithm as it goes about its business.

When I tested this out, it seemed to work pretty well with easily identifiable subjects such as flowers, sky and cityscapes, but it was far from 100% flawless. I saw the word “cauliflower” float across the screen on numerous occasions. Was there any of the brain-shaped veg in the room at the time? Nope, none at all. Wine was another recurring theme, triggered by the colour of the burgundy-coloured carpet.

As for the camera hardware, that follows closely in the footsteps of last year’s LG G6 and the LG G5 before that. There are twin 16-megapixel rear cameras, both with an aperture of f/1.6 and optical image stabilisation. One of the cameras shoots a regular 122-degree view of your scene while the other shoots a 77-degree wide-angle view. And like every other smartphone on the planet, there’s a portrait mode that blurs out the background. In the LG G7 ThinQ’s case, the phone employs the secondary camera (whichever that might be) to produce a depth map so it knows which elements to blur and which to keep in focus.

Again, LG does things slightly differently here, applying the blur in real-time in the camera preview so you can see how successful your shot is likely to be without having to capture, review then capture again. With a slider to adjust the amount of depth applied – which also takes place in real-time – it’s the best UI for a portrait mode I’ve seen to date.

And there’s also a special low-light mode that uses four-to-one pixel binning to capture scenes in dark environments down to a single lux. My initial testing – which you can see the results of in the sample shots above – suggest this isn’t all that effective, producing overprocessed, rather unnatural-looking images, lacking any kind of detail. Bear in mind, though, that this was captured in a room with the blackout blinds drawn and all the lights switched off.

The last key improvement for the LG G7 is in the audio department. With a “sound box” 25 times larger than the LG G6, fitted in the bottom-right corner just behind the speaker grille, the G7’s Boombox speaker is capable of kicking out audio at truly impressive volume levels. It can also use surfaces it’s placed on as a resonator, boosting lower-frequency sounds. There’s still no bass to speak of, but popping the phone on a wood table definitely seemed to improve the richness of the audio.

LG G7 review: Early verdict

So, what to make of the LG G7 ThinQ? It certainly looks as if it’s a big improvement over the LG G6, and that’s a good thing. While the LG G6 initially looked like it would be one of the phones of 2017, it was swiftly overtaken by the rest of the market.

This year, LG’s flagship arrives later in the year, with far more capable internals, and it looks better equipped to take the fight to Samsung, Huawei and Sony. Whether it will do so depends on a couple of factors: how good the camera turns out to be and how long the battery lasts. If it can crack those two knotty problems, the LG G7 is set for a good run in 2018.

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