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LG V30: A gorgeous OLED screen with a camera to match

The V30 is laser-focused on making your videos great.

Sarah Tew/CNET
Now Playing: Watch this: LG V30 hands-on: Big screen, new cameras, sloooow zoom
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Announced at IFA 2017, the LG V30 is a gorgeous phone that sloughs away unnecessary features and amps up all its best. It gets a better screen, wireless charging and advanced video features you don't see on a typical phone.

Last year's LG V20 had a secondary screen that defined the V series; in the V30, it's gone, and that's great. In its place is a moveable on-screen tab that includes the shortcuts you used to see on the V10 and V20. I don't mind the tradeoff you get in return. In fact, it's better than any second screen: The V30 has a water-resistant body and wireless charging, which match up to Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Note 8.

But the V30 didn't abandon everything. LG doubles down on audio features and outfitted the V30 with an array of video and imaging tools. Now you can capture, record and edit all sorts of media to be the next Ava DuVernay, Annie Leibovitz or the YouTube or Instagram star du jour. To audio and video die-hards, this is a big deal.

If you have no intention of creating a bunch of videos and whatnot, the V30 may not do it for you. When you pick it up for the first time, its tools do take time to figure out and use fluidly, and while LG hasn't released an official price yet, I anticipate paying a pretty penny for these features -- the V family is typically LG's priciest phone of the year. Then again, the Note 8 and Apple's iPhone 7 Plus ($1,049.00 at Apple) have reached sky-high prices too. As an alternative, LG's G6 is smaller and (typically) less expensive, and there's always LG's rivals: the Galaxy S8, Motorola Moto Z2 Force and HTC U11.

If you do want to make movies on your phone, however, the V30 seems like it might be one of the better choices out there. I got my hands on a preproduction unit and below are my first impressions so far. Of course we'll hold off on our final judgment until we get the final production unit in for review.

In the meantime, the LG V30 is shaping up to be a seriously competitive media powerhouse that hopes to duke it out with tomorrow's best Android phones.

(From left to right): The Galaxy S8, V30 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When and where to get it

The V30 will be available first in South Korea on Sept. 21. North America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East will follow. So far, US carrier AT&T confirmed it will carry the V30, but gave no exact sale date. I'll continue to update this as more carrier announcements roll in.

As for pricing, nothing is official yet. But LG did say it will cost around the same price as the G6 and the V20, so expect it in the ballpark of $600 to $800, or about £650 in the UK and AU$760 to AU$1,010 in Australia.

OLED? Oh my

With the V30, LG switched to using an OLED display instead of an LCD display (which is commonly featured in its high-end phones). Samsung phones have had OLED displays for a while now and its advantages include less battery consumption than LCD, richer colors and deeper blacks. When I watched videos and images on the V30's 6-inch screen, blacks were indeed blacker (perhaps even "none more black") and colors had more "pop" compared to the G6, especially blues and greens. Then again, LG's LCD screens have always been bright and vivid, and LCD technology is still used by Apple and HTC, so don't expect your life to improve all that much with the switch to OLED.

The overall design is similar to the G6, which is great because I loved how the G6 looks. It no longer has the V series' signature second screen (more on that later), but it has the other huge benefit of being water resistant. Its bigger screen also makes it slightly taller and wider than the G6, but funnily enough it's thinner. I dig how the screen softly curves into its edges too, which makes it more comfortable to swipe across the display. The phone's narrow bezels and Gorilla Glass 5 panels on the front and back also make the phone sleek and glossy -- and, unfortunately, a little slippery.

The V30 is the most mature and elegant iteration of the V series and together with the G6, LG has hit its design stride this year. And though it may be "boring" now that LG isn't adding any more gimmicks (like second screens, modules or quick-release buttons for the rear cover), I much prefer this solidly built, cleaner look.

LG V30

No sweating the rain here -- the V30 is water resistant.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Camera and video: One-stop media shop

Like a couple of LG phones before it, the V30 has both a standard- and wide-angle camera. The 16-megapixel camera has a 71-degree range while the 13-megapixel shooter captures images at 120 degrees. 

Both are protected by a glass lens, which helps with clearer images and more accurate colors compared to plastic, but only the standard camera has optical image stabilization (OIS) and an f1.6 aperture. This is a relatively large aperture, wider than the OnePlus 5 (f1.7) and the Google Pixel (f2.0), which are both known for their low-light prowess. Sure, it's not by much, but having a wider aperture lets in more light, and light is everything in photography -- especially for nighttime or low-light shots.

A cloudy day in San Francisco.

Lynn La/CNET

Inside a dimly lit bar.

Lynn La/CNET

Using the standard-angle lens to capture the Cal Shakes seating area.

Lynn La/CNET

The same setting captured by the wide-angle lens.

Lynn La/CNET

So far, the camera is excellent. Images are sharp and clear, with bright, vivid colors. It shows good levels of contrast without being oversaturated. I was particularly impressed with how the camera handled low-light images, as pictures came out clear without an overwhelming amount of digital artifacts. I'll test the camera more when we get the final review unit and compare it to other phones in the coming days, so stay tuned for more details.

More camera and audio features

  • Point zoom lets you smoothly zoom in on a subject while recording, anywhere on the screen (usually, phones will just zoom to the center). Though it's a simple thing, it's probably my favorite video feature to use, even though the video can make it look like the shooter is a bit creepy towards the subject. It also has a natural comedic factor à la "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
  • The camera has preset filters that you can overlay on your videos while shooting, giving your footage different tints and colors. LG phones had this before, but now with labels like "thriller," "romantic comedy" and "summer blockbuster," it makes it clearer when you'd want to use these filters and for what emotional effect.
  • Only available in manual mode, Graphy applies manual settings (ISO levels, white balance and so on) from other photographers as presets, which are available through LG's Graphy app. Presets are useful when you want to consistently apply the same aesthetic or mood to your pictures -- think a Facebook album or Instagram feed.
  • Audio recording and playing capabilities were already stellar on the V20, and have been improved on the V30. The phone now records in clearer and more accurate 32-bit sound, compared to the V20's 24-bit and most phones' 16-bit. You can also choose from four different sound profiles (such as live and bass) and digital filters to tweak a sound's characteristic, like making them sharper or slower.
Now Playing: Watch this: LG V30's Point Zoom feels like Curb Your Enthusiasm mode
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Software features: Goodbye two screens, hello floating bar

With the V30, LG bids adieu to the V series' signature secondary screen that ran on top of the display. In its place is what's known as the Floating Bar. It's a little tab that lives on the side of your screen. Tap it, and it'll give you shortcuts much like the secondary screen had: favorite contacts and apps and music playback. It works in a way very similar to Samsung's Edge Screen on the last few Galaxy phones.

The last group of shortcuts in Floating Bar, which I find to be really useful, deal with screen capturing. Two shortcuts let you turn either a full screenshot, or just a section of the screen, into a memo. There's another tool that turns anything on your screen into a GIF. (You can do a similar thing on the Galaxy S8.)

All this is customizable, and you can choose where you want the Floating Bar, what shortcuts it includes and if you want to have it at all. Even if it's a ripoff of Samsung, I'm glad LG got rid of the secondary screen in lieu of the Floating Bar. I found it tidier and way more practical than the little ticker. (I mean, did anyone really care for that signature tab?)

LG V30

In addition to your voice and fingerprint, you can unlock the phone with your face.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other nifty new interface features:

  • You can unlock the screen with either your face or your voice. I found that using my voice by saying a preprogrammed word or phrase takes a beat longer to register, whereas face recognition works almost instantaneously the moment I hold up my phone to eye level. Also keep in mind that the Galaxy S8 has iris scanning and the upcoming iPhone 8 is rumored to have facial recognition. Don't be surprised if you continue to see biometric methods that are different than fingerprint reading in future phones.
  • LG's Always On lock screen, which continually displays the time, date and other info has more customization options. You can display a personal photo or choose a cute vector drawing that comes preloaded (one of which includes pizza).

The Floating Bar is expanded to display shortcut menu items.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Processing and battery

The V30 is as fast and speedy as other top-tier phones available now, and there's no discernible difference between speeds when it comes to everyday tasks like launching apps and browsing the web. But if you're interested in the numbers, below are the scores of a few benchmark tests. The V30 scored in the same range as the Galaxy S8, Moto Z2 Force and HTC U11. Remember though that this is a preproduction unit, so results on a final retail unit may be different. I'll update this first-take once we get an official model in.

LG moved away from removable batteries with the launch of the G6 and continue to do so with the V30's embedded 3,300mAh battery, which we've yet to test. That's a drag for those who look to LG and its V-series phones for swappable batteries, but alas, that's what most premium phones have adopted. On the upside, the V30 has wireless charging, which is available for all markets and not just the US, unlike the G6.

Other stuff

  • The V30 is rated IP68 dust- and water-resistant, and can be submerged in up to 4 feet (1.5 meters) of water for 30 minutes.
  • LG will offer the V30 in two memory capacities (64GB and 128GB) in certain markets, and the phone has expandable memory up to 2TB. The 128GB variant is sometimes referred to as the "V30+" but it's essentially the same phone.
  • There's a headphone jack, and it's on the upper-right corner.
  • The fingerprint reader is on the back and it doubles as the power and sleep button.
  • Color options include black, silver, blue and violet, though availability will depend on your region.

LG V30 spec comparison


LG V30 Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Samsung Galaxy S8 Motorola Moto Z2 Force HTC U11
Display size, resolution 6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels 6.3-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels 5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 538 ppi 522 ppi 570 ppi 534 ppi 534 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.96 x 2.96 x 0.29 in 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.34 in 5.9 x 2.9 x 0.31 in 6.1 x 3 x 0.24 in 6.1 x 3 x 0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 152 x 75 x 7.3 mm 163 x 75 x 8.6 mm 149 x 68 x 8 mm 156 x 76 x 6 mm 154 x 76 x 7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.57 oz; 158g 6.9 oz; 195g 5.5 oz; 155g 5 oz; 143g 6 oz; 169g
Mobile software Android 7.1.2 Nougat Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Camera (megapixels) 16MP (standard), 13MP (wide) Dual 12MP 12MP Dual 12MP 12MP
Front-facing camera (megapixels) 5MP 8MP 8MP 5MP 16MP
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 1080p
Processor Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz + 1.9GHz) or octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz + 1.7GHz) Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz + 1.9GHz) or octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz + 1.7GHz) 2.35GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.4GHz + 1.9GHz)
Storage 64GB, 128GB (varies by region) 64GB 64GB 64GB, 128GB (varies by region) 64GB, 128GB (varies by region)
RAM 4GB 6GB 4GB 4GB, 6GB (varies by region) 4GB, 6GB (varies by region)
Expandable storage Up to 2TB Up to 2TB Up to 2TB Up to 2TB Up to 2TB
Battery 3,300mAh 3,300mAh 3,000mAh 2,730mAh 3,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back cover Back cover Back cover Beneath screen Home button
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C
Special features Water resistant (IP68), wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-ready, wide-angle camera, Floating Bar tab S Pen stylus, water resistant (IP68), wireless charging; Gigabit LTE-ready Water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; Gigabit LTE-ready Splash resistant; Gigabit LTE-ready Water resistant (IP67), dual SIM (varies by region), squeezeable frame
Price off-contract (USD) TBA AT&T: $950; Verizon: $960; T-Mobile: $930; Sprint: $960; US Cellular: $963 AT&T: $750; Verizon: $720; T-Mobile: $750; Sprint: $750; US Cellular: $675 $730-$810, depending on carrier $649
Price (GBP) TBA £869 £689 Converts to about £615 £679
Price (AUD) TBA AU$1,499 AU$1,199 Converts to about AU$1,010 AU$999