By Jt Nisay
THE fine-tuned V20 is LG’s return to normalcy—sort of. In late March this year, the South Korean tech giant shot for the stars by launching the first modular-designed smartphone with the LG G5. While the company missed the mark due to the clunky interchangeability, it still landed on the moon with the handset’s sweet software and camera features.
Take those two strong points, add a couple more that will make audiophiles sing and replace its unpolished, gimmicky build with a more traditional one—and you have the LG V20, the newest flagship of the company under its V series. Note that we use “traditional” in describing this device’s body in the loosest sense, since its two screens and three camera lenses make it anything but a cookie-cutter handset.
We’ve spent a couple of weeks with a V20 preview unit, and it’s conclusive that it bolsters 2016’s case as a strong year for smartphones. It’s already selling like hotcakes, as LG recently reported that 20,000 units are purchased in the US every day. That’s twice as much as the rate of its predecessor, the LG V10.
For one, the V20 measures at a phablety 159.7×78.1×7.6mm and weights about 174 grams, making it a much sexier and svelte device with an excellent weight distribution than its elder. LG has also substituted the V10’s DuraSkin build with a mostly metallic body and polycarbonate chin. In no way does the change compromise the V20’s durability as its 6013-series aluminum alloy is a material used in the construction of boats and planes, plus it’s an MIL-STD-810G transit drop-compliant, as well, meaning it can theoretically withstand drops from about 4 feet.
This may be a welcome sign for butterfingers making the transition from a small device to a phablet—one that combines what seems a slippery combination of a metal finish and slender build, no less—but concerns over grip prove to be fleeting. It doesn’t take long to adjust to the V20’s dimensions and design, which turns concern to appreciation over time. Edges are smooth but offer grip points, and buttons placements have been carefully thought of and effectively placed. Easy to press and oh-so tactile, the volume rockers are on the left side, while the power button/fingerprint sensor are once again found at the back, where the index finger naturally rests. So do you need to lift your phone each time you’re going to use it? No. Double-tapping the screen will also wake it up.
All other concerns about the V20’s size end where its massive and sharp display begins. Its main 5.7″ IPS LCD screen is seasoned with a Quad HD resolution, resulting in a scrumptious 2560×1440 resolution with 513 pixels per inch. We recently had a glimpse of Hoop Junkie Heaven, thanks to the perfect alley-oop of the LG V20’s generous screen size/awesome display and NBA League Pass’s on-demand games. At 513 ppi, you can clearly see the players’ sweat and emotions that make for an excellent mobile-viewing experience.
Slightly above the main screen is a second one at 2.1 inches, which serves as a nifty, customizable ticker. The screen is always on (unless disabled in the settings) and offers extensive display options through swipes from date and time, message notifications, app shortcuts of up to five, media control, custom signature and upcoming calendar events. This is a hold-over feature from the V10, but is improved in terms of brightness and readability at 160×1040 resolution, also at 513 ppi. We find it useful inasmuch as it allows for uninterrupted browsing and viewing activities.
As for the software department, the LG V20 proves it can hold a candle to 2016’s other flagships. It features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, backed by the Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of RAM, plus 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 256 GB with a microSD card. These equate to a reliable performance, where apps open quickly and multitasking runs smoothly. Its biggest selling point on this front, however, is its label as the first smartphone with Android 7.0 Nougat preinstalled. This latest iteration of market-leading Android maximizes the phone’s graphics and offers features such as split-screen multitasking (perfect for the V20’s huge screen) and improved Doze battery management.
We have mentioned that the V20 will make audiophiles happy, because they get the biggest bang for their buck on this device. As LG has put it, with the V20, you can record “studio-quality” sound. First, it comes with a built-in Quad DAC system (that’s 50-percent clearer sounds than single DACs, according to LG) for better headphone tunes, to go with three AOP microphones. Its HD Audio Recorder app is another sweet melody, with recording options of “Normal,” “Concert” and—for the producer wannabes—“Custom.” This allows lossless, hi-res 24-bit audio-quality recordings even in boisterous surroundings, minus the distortion. What’s more, audio tuning for the LG V20 in Asian markets is done by the Danish company Bang & Olufsen, as the units come with B&O H3 in-ear headphones. That’s what we got as our review device, and there’s nothing more to say other than it’s a flawless duet, from in-transit Spotify sessions or transcribing crisply recorded interviews.
The flaw, however, comes in the V20’s battery. It does pack a juicy 3,200 mAh, but not juicy enough to support all the things this phone can do. It’s quick to drain, but makes up for fast charging, thanks to its Quick Charge 3.0 support, so we’ll give it a barely passing grade on that score. One more thing, the battery is removable. So if all else fails, you can swap the V20’s drained battery with charged-up one. But are you willing to spend on another battery pack and take the time to remove the back case and interchange the batteries?
Anyway, the LG V20 redeems itself on its camera game. One of the G5’s positive features is its wide-angle captures, and LG equipped the V20 with two of those. One is at 5 MP front-facing camera set at f/1.9 aperture that can shoot 120° wide angles or 83° normal angles. The other is at the rear, which features a dual set-up: A 16 MP main sensor with f/1.9 aperture and OIS that shoots 75° normal angles, and an 8 MP wide angle with an f/2.4 aperture that captures 135° degree shots. We described these kinds of captures on the G5 as a photo-bomber’s dream camera, and it’s no different with the V20.
All told, the V20’s features and strong performance is a soothing harmony even nonaudiophiles can enjoy. Besides, everyone appreciates a good song.