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LG G6 review:

Making boring beautiful

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The Good The beautifully design LG G6 is water-resistant with a tall, expansive display and an extra wide-angle camera.

The Bad The phone is LG's first flagship in years without a removable battery. It has last year's Snapdragon 821 chipset.

The Bottom Line The LG G6 is a gorgeous phone and those wary of Samsung should get it.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.5 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 8.0

In high school, being different only works if you're also cool. Otherwise, you get mocked or, possibly worse, completely ignored. LG can no doubt relate.

After the lackluster reception of its unique, modular-like G5, LG decided not to double-down with another quirky approach to mods. Instead, it reversed course, toed the party line and released the more traditional G6. Gone is that funky hot-swappable chin. In its place is a slim, water-resistant build whose screen takes up an enviable 80 percent of the phone face. For LG, this is the safer but smarter play since the G6 has to do battle with the OnePlus 3T, the Google Pixel phones and the Samsung Galaxy S8.

So does it usurp its biggest South Korean rival, the S8? Not exactly. On paper, the G6 doesn't have as powerful a processor and as long-lasting a battery. LG fans will also be disappointed that said battery is no longer removable (then again, neither is the S8's). And while earlier LG was set to announce its big-screen, small-bezel phone, Samsung's S8 takes the same basic idea and adds more elegance with a unique curved-edge twist.

But Samsung's still dealing with some Galaxy Note 7 fiasco fallout, and the G6 is a great alternative if you're squeamish about Samsung. Plus, with a $600-$720 (depending on the carrier) price tag, the G6 is about $30-$100 cheaper than the S8. For the first time in a long time, an LG handset stands a fighting chance to be your next high-end Android phone. It may not be popular enough to be Prom King, but it's a no-compromise premium phone with enough mainstream appeal to be on the ballot.

Editors' note: This review was originally published on April 12, 2017 and has been updated and expanded with direct comparisons to the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Polished and splash-friendly

The G6 is LG's nicest-looking flagship yet, which I don't say often, especially given last year's out-there G5. But the polished G6 has a streamlined aesthetic and a smooth unibody design (think the LG V20 with fewer seams or the G5 with fewer bumps). It's a bit heavy in the hand, but that doesn't bother me much. Like with previous LG handsets, the fingerprint sensor is built into the home button on the back, which sits below the camera (and not next to it, like with the S8). Oh, and don't worry, there's still a headphone jack.

The sharp, 5.7-inch screen takes up roughly 80 percent of the front of the phone, leaving it with an impressively thin bezel all around. It's unique in that it has an 18:9 aspect ratio (with the exception of the S8, most phones are 16:9).

With the G6's 18:9 aspect ratio, your eyes will get an extra helping of content to view.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The phone feels expansive and "tall," especially when you're scrolling down your web browser or social media feed. Not all apps and games take full advantage of this ratio though, and when they can't, you'll see black bars on the sides of the display even at full screen, aka "pillarboxing." You can enable "app scaling" on some apps by going into Settings. The longer display works, and seeing that you get more screen for about the same build size, I'm all for it.

In addition to its beautifully glossy design and screen, the G6 is dust- and water-resistant like the S8s, the Apple iPhone 7s and several Sony Xperia phones. It's rated IP68, so you can dunk it in up to 4.9 feet of water (about 1.5 meters) for up to 30 minutes. For the everyday user though, it just means the G6 won't crap out after you accidentally drop it in the pool or spill coffee on it. (Get a deeper dive on IP ratings and what they mean for waterproof gadgets.) I dunked it in a fishbowl and a bucket of water and let it sit each time underwater for 30 minutes. I also placed it inside a shower with the water splashing on it for 30 minutes. In all three instances, the handset kept ticking fine afterward, and it even registered an incoming call during the full dunking.

With the G6, LG dives into waterproofing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Non-removable battery is a bummer

With that said, waterproofing and removable batteries don't tend to go together these days, so the fact that the G6 does not have a removable battery was kind of a given. Still, to longtime LG fans, this might come as a disappointment. After the LG G2 in 2013, the company has been one of the few holdouts to feature swappable batteries in its flagship phones, so people can switch a drained one for a charged one or replace an old battery with a fresh one.

Not having that advantage is a drag, but it's not a deal-breaker for everyone either. LG also hopes that the G6's increased battery capacity (from 2,800mAh in the G5 to 3,300mAh) and new wireless charging feature -- just for the US -- can offset the benefits of a swappable battery. During our lab tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the handset lasted an average of 13 hours and 21 minutes, which is better than last year's 12.5 hours.

The Galaxy S8 ($749.11 at Amazon.com) doesn't have a removable battery either. Samsung's flagships ditched that years ago. Its 3,000mAh battery clocked an average of 16 hours of drainage time. Samsung also said the overall life expectancy of the S8's battery life will last longer as well, years down the road.

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