Of all the major global brands in the smartphone space, LG is probably the easiest to overlook. The company is not very well represented in the budget and mainstream segment these days, but every year it launches a premium model of the V-series and the G-series. We liked a lot of what we saw and these phones impressed us with their cameras, displays and overall performance. More importantly, LG has apparently thought a lot about its products, with various small functions and amenities that stand out in an increasingly homogeneous world.
The new LG G8s ThinQ arrived a good deal later in the Indian market than we expected for a flagship device from 2019. Is this phone good enough to convince buyers who are looking at the current “Value Flagships” from OnePlus, Xiaomi and other or even more premium models from Samsung and Apple? We'll find out soon.
LG G8s ThinQ design
LG is not breaking new ground with the design of the G8s ThinQ. In fact, it could almost be considered outdated, with relatively chunky screen edges and a huge wide notch. Most other manufacturers have already developed into leaner designs. One thing that pops out right away is the off-center earpiece. This was probably necessary to accommodate a front camera as well as a time-of-flight 3D sensor and infrared lighting, but it's hardly an elegant solution.
This phone is only available in Mirror Black in India, and LG wasn't kidding when it chose the word “mirror” to describe it. Both the front and back are made of glass and both are incredibly shiny and reflective. The back wall is a mirror and looks very smooth and classy at first glance. However, it is impossible to use this phone without smearing it, and fingerprints are immediately captured.
Our test unit had a sticker on the back with some regulations and a backlog that took ages to remove. We were afraid of scratching the surface, but LG says there is Gorilla Glass 6 on the back and Gorilla Glass 5 on the front, which is comforting. The frame of the G8s ThinQ is made of metal and has a dark, polished surface that fits into the glass. It has an IP68 protection class for water and dust resistance, and MIL-STD-810G compliance for shock resistance.
There is no doubt that this phone is solidly built. It feels very expensive and of high quality, if not quite stylish. With a thickness of 7.99 mm (with a barely protruding rear camera strip) and a weight of 179 g, it is relatively easy to handle. The glass is not slippery at all, which was a great relief for us. One-handed operation is possible, although not very convenient.
The on / off switch is at the top right and is not within reach. To make matters worse, it is stiff and requires a little pressure, especially due to the plastic cover included. One compartment below can either hold two nano SIMs or one nano SIM and one microSD card, which is disappointing. The volume buttons on the left are also a little too high. Below them is a dedicated Google Assistant button that can easily be accidentally pressed when trying to turn down the volume or take a screenshot.
Many people will be happy to see that the LG G8s ThinQ has an analog 3.5 mm audio jack, which makes it a rarity in the premium smartphone sector. This is located next to the USB Type-C port and the speaker. The three cameras on the back are arranged in a horizontal stripe, and underneath is a fingerprint sensor. A capacitive fingerprint sensor is another, slightly outdated feature of this phone. However, it is very easy to reach.
Overall, the LG G8s ThinQ will not attract many looks and won't feel as fresh as many of today's cellphones. Therefore, it may not be particularly powerful compared to other current models. However, when you get your hands on it, it feels absolutely solid and meets a very high quality standard.
LG G8s ThinQ specifications and software
The LG G8 ThinQ should not be confused with the LG G8 ThinQ or the LG G8x ThinQ, all of which are pretty similar in terms of specs. Just like its exterior, this model has slightly outdated components. We start with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, which was recently replaced by the slightly faster Snapdragon 855+. While they are not out of date, they can currently do better in the sub-Rs. 40,000 parking spaces.
LG only offers a configuration of this phone in India with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. It is officially priced at Rs. 36,990, although sold online for a little less. You get a 6.2-inch full HD + G OLED screen (1080 x 2248) with a permanent on state, but without HDR. The battery capacity is 3550 mAh and Quick Charge 3.0 and wireless charging are supported.
Unfortunately, there is a hybrid dual SIM compartment, where you have to choose between a second nano SIM card and a microSD card. The stereo speakers are tuned by Meridian, and a DTS: X 3D enhancement is available. Other notable standards include Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, NFC, wireless charging, and three location services.
LG ships this phone with Android 9, and we were surprised to see the July 2019 security patch on our device with no update available. To say that this user interface is customized would be a massive understatement. LG has pretty much stamped everything on it, so it doesn't feel like Android at all (which was probably what the intention was).
Starting with the lock screen and the home screens, we worked out animated wallpapers that got really annoying after a while. There are numerous LG apps and several Google apps on the home screens. We noticed that long app and folder names were compressed uncomfortably, which just looks messy. You can choose between this single-layer user interface, an app drawer and a simple EasyHome layout with oversized symbols and texts. The Settings app has been completely redesigned with four tabs, making it easy to find simple settings. The standard keyboard is equipped with avatars, stickers and much more.
When you dig around, there are tons of user interface and behavior customization options. You can even choose the color of the navigation bar and apply effects to the area around the notch if it's masked. While browsing LG's apps and the Settings app, we found various features, including controls for sound effects, fonts, gestures, app cloning, a floating shortcut bar, screen capture, and context-sensitive routines.
One of the highlights of this phone are the Air gestures, which use the front camera and sensors to detect waves and traps in the air. You should be able to launch apps from your homescreen, take screenshots, control music playback, and reject calls or alarms. In the real world, this was frustratingly difficult to trigger. It only worked about once in twenty attempts, although a lot of time was spent training with the built-in tutorial.
Similarly, Hand ID claims that you can simply show your palm to the front camera to unlock the phone. During setup, you were warned that it was not very safe, and we found it almost impossible to align our palm just right. Face detection on the G8s ThinQ was also a bit slow, but LG claims the ToF sensor has better security than most Android phones with just one camera.
The last feature worth mentioning is the constantly available LG display, which is really useful. You can have multiple colors and choose whether to display music controls, a calendar, or even an image. Overall, LG's software is overcrowded and tiring. It reminds us of cellphones a decade ago when companies tried to differentiate themselves with tricks and distractions.
LG G8's ThinQ performance
The many user interface animations on this phone make simple things like unlocking seem slow, but it's actually pretty snappy among all of this. The SoC is powerful enough to handle any current app or game, and there's plenty of RAM. We found that apps remained ready to take action, and everything you'd expect from a premium Android smartphone worked as it should.
Fortunately, there is no advertising spam, but we could have done without constant notifications about LG's app updates. There were also several messages warning us to remove the phone's battery while in use – which is impossible anyway.
Apart from the notch, we really liked the display of the G8s ThinQ. It's very clear and lively, and we didn't really miss the brightness at HDR level. Games and videos were both pleasant. The loudspeaker on the underside in conjunction with the earphones gives you stereo sound that sounds relatively loud and clear.
Speaking of the earpiece: the off-center position took some getting used to, but it didn't really bother us in everyday life because it is loud enough no matter how you hold the phone. LG also included a headset with a nice braided cable and earplugs in three sizes that sounded okay but had no bass.
Benchmark performance was good, but not the best we've seen from phones at this price. AnTuTu gave us 415,110 points, while Geekbench 5's single-core and multi-core test results were 738 and 2,592, respectively. GFXBench's Manhattan 3.1 scene achieved 57 frames per second and the car chase scene 39 frames per second.
Of course, we also spent some time playing PUBG Mobile, which ran with its high quality preset and Asphalt 9: Legends. Both games were smooth and entertaining. We haven't noticed that the G8's ThinQ gets too warm to feel comfortable while playing. This is a very good performance, but you can improve it with the OnePlus 7T (review) or gaming phones like the Asus ROG Phone 2 (review) for about the same price.
The battery life is good too, but not great. Our HD video loop test lasted 11 hours and 51 minutes, which is disappointing. It was cheaper to use in the real world and we easily survived a whole day, with about 20 percent remaining at night. During the day we played games for a while, took lots of photos, streamed videos for about an hour, and used the Internet all the time. The charging process is also not particularly fast – we achieved 15 percent in 12 minutes and 69 percent in one hour.
LG G8s ThinQ cameras
LG's previous G-series and V-series phones have proven their worth in the camera department, and we weren't disappointed with the G8's ThinQ. Overall, the camera performance is excellent, although the technical data may not seem impressive. This phone has a primary rear-view camera with 12 megapixels 1: 1.8 and a wide-angle camera with 13 megapixels 1: 2.4 as well as a telephoto camera with 12 megapixels 1: 2.6 on the back. The main camera supports optical image stabilization as well as dual-pixel PDAF and HDR10 video recordings. The front camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels and an aperture of 1: 1.9, and portraits benefit from the time-of-flight 3D sensor. Interestingly, LG does not specify the optical zoom range of its telephoto camera.
Of course, LG has packed its camera app with features and quirks, and not all of them are great for ease of use. To begin with, there are no fewer than 18 camera modes for photos and videos, and more that can be downloaded. There is no separate video mode. You can take a still picture or start recording directly from the viewfinder with a single keystroke. You can even choose which modes to display in the carousel above the trigger. This is useful because at least three clicks are required to get to the overflow menu.
Some of these modes are extremely tricky, such as Flash Jump Cut, which creates animation, and Cine Video, which gives you adjustable filters and a targeted slow zoom effect. AI Cam is a separate mode that suggests filters or adjustments depending on what the camera is pointing at. Pro mode provides RAW files and presets for scenarios like street photography or nightfall. Triple-Shot takes photos with all three cameras one after the other as a set, which you can see side by side in the Gallery app. Speaking of gallery, it offers a variety of photo and video editing tools.
Switching between the three cameras is annoying because you have to press a single button that switches between them in a fixed order, and the icons for the standard and telephoto cameras are too similar. However, if you press and hold, three images are shown with a live preview of everything you point to, from each of the three cameras. This is really useful and unique – but despite all the other features that LG highlights, this can go completely undetected. This function is also not available during video recording. You can only scroll through the three cameras one after the other.
With all of this, it's easy to forget the basics, but the photo quality is really very good. With the LG G8, fine details and vivid colors could be reproduced excellently, the exposures were just right and even complex scenes were captured well. The focus was sometimes a little weak, but you only noticed that when you looked more closely. The wide-angle camera was not so good at capturing details, and some shots looked a bit artificial. The zoom camera seemed to be more practical and useful.
Portrait mode does not work with non-human subjects, but an error message is not displayed on the screen until after a picture has been taken. If it worked, the edge detection was almost perfect and we could adjust the blur intensity after taking the picture. Even without portrait mode, close-up pictures of flowers and objects had a nice looking natural depth.
At night, the LG G8s uses the digital zoom on the main camera and not on the actual telephoto camera. This is not shown to the user. It also seems to take a while for the phone to take pictures that are very bright but may be blurry. It's a little surprising that there is so much processing going on in the background, especially since there is a separate night mode and it can be difficult to take spontaneous shots. The quality is still very good. We were particularly impressed by how this cell phone reproduces frames with light spots on a dark background.
Videos recorded with the primary camera are stabilized at both 1080p and 4K, but the usual harsh stutters when walking have been replaced by minor small twitches. There is a separate camera called Steady Cam, which is recommended for taking photos while walking. The video quality is very good both during the day and at night.
You can also play with numerous modes when using the front camera. However, you cannot determine which work and which do not if you switch to the rear camera without warning. You can "green screen" on any background, but we found the effect extremely cheesy and gross at best. That being said, both portrait and standard selfies were pretty good.
LG's entire approach to the G8s ThinQ is absolutely out of date. It's not a bad phone for the price, but there are much better options, including the OnePlus 7T and the cheaper Asus 6Z (test) or the Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro (test). The look and hardware of the G8s ThinQ are a bit dated, and there are no very quick loads, no HDR or high-refresh screen, no fingerprint sensor in the display, or no design without a notch. Had this phone sold closer to MWC's February announcement, it would have had a much better chance.
LG relies on its cameras and software and has thrown everything in, including the sink. It can be a little overwhelming, and what's really unfortunate is that some of the best and most useful little details are hidden under a lot of fluff. If you love to discover and play around with small functions, you will be busy with this phone for a long time.
Despite all the bloated, the camera quality is really very good. If it matters most to you, the LG G8s wouldn't be a bad phone to buy. If, on the other hand, you value gaming performance, a high-end display, a long battery life or an innovative design, you should look elsewhere.