LG V10 review:

Raising the bar on camera control

Close
Drag
  •  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
Compare These
4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars 15 user reviews

The Good The sturdily designed LG V10 gives users more camera control with manual modes for both photos and video, a fingerprint sensor, two front-facing cameras for wider selfie shots, expandable memory and a removable battery.

The Bad The handset is pricey, its secondary display doesn't offer any essential necessities and its manual camera features require some time to learn.

The Bottom Line The feature-packed V10 is LG's best smartphone yet -- just be prepared to pay a premium for its selfie- and photo-friendly extras.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 7.0

When LG announced that it would release a new line of extra-premium handsets, it wasn't kidding around. As the inaugural device for the company's V-series, the V10 is packed with nearly all of the luxuries found in high-end flagships and then some. It has a fingerprint reader, two front-facing cameras, two displays, tons of photo tools and more. It also has what lots of top-tier phones don't have: A removable battery and expandable memory.

By launching this new family of devices, LG gives itself space to experiment with its handsets. Unlike its marquee phone, the G4 , the V10 isn't meant for a wide audience. Rather, it's a premium device with features that appeal to a niche group of people -- say, budding cinematographers who will readily use V10's manual video controls.

For the average smartphone user, however, the V10's goodies verge on gimmicky and could easily be left unused. Especially because all of the handset's premium hardware comes a high price tag. Though UK and Australia pricing haven't been announced, the phone is going for about $600-$700 in the US without a contract (depending on the carrier). That converts to about £390-460 and AU$835-975.

If you find the secondary display useful and photo features compelling, the V10 is an excellent phone, and it doesn't cost as much as the other high-end, large-screen dual-display Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ . But if you're like me and don't absolutely need all the V10's bells and whistles, there are cheaper flagships available, such as the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition , the Google Nexus 6P and even LG's own G4, which has similar core features as the V10, but cost about $100 less.

Availability

In the US, the V10 will be available on T-Mobile starting October 28 for $600 without a contract. However, you can pay with $25 monthly payments over 25 months as well. On November 6, AT&T customers will be able to purchase the device for $700 with no contract, or $250 with a two-year agreement. Verizon will also sell the handset, though no pricing or date have been released yet.

Outside the US, LG plans to launch the phone in Asia including China, Latin America and the Middle East.

Design and build

  • 6.3 by 3.12 by 0.34 inches (159.6 by 79.36 by 8.6mm)
  • 6.77 ounces (192 grams)

The V10 has stainless steel rails running down its left and right edges and metallic accents around the camera and front-facing audio grille, making it one of the most premium-looking handsets LG has designed to date. It comes in five colors, and I got my hands on modern beige. This isn't my favorite of the five (the color reminds me of hospital walls), but the device's overall aesthetic is pleasing.

The phone feels pretty weighty in the hand, but it actually looks like it would be heavier than it really feels. Given its big-screen size, not everyone's going to dig the V10. It didn't fit comfortably in my front jean pockets (or back pocket, while we're at it) and unless you have a large enough grip, maneuvering it with one hand will be difficult. (To help out with this problem though, LG has "Mini View," which shrinks and pushes the screen's interface to the bottom left or right corners).

The device has steel railings that run along its side edges.

Josh Miller/CNET

And while some unwieldiness and heft is expected with a device this size, it's relatively comfortable to hold compared to other big-screen handsets. The steel railings on the side curve outward, helping with grip, and the textured backplate is made of a lightweight silicone-like material. LG claims that the steel and the silicone make the phone more durable and shock-absorbent than if it were to use plastic or aluminum. I tossed it into my shoulder bag multiple times a day with my keys, glasses and other knick-knacks and the V10 was fine.

On its top edges are infrared blasters that work with the QRemote app to turn your device into a remote control. Down at the bottom are a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Micro-USB port for charging and exchanging data and an audio speaker grille. The back houses a camera that is flanked by its flash and laser autofocus sensor. Below that are are the control buttons, which include the sleep/power button (which doubles as a fingerprint scanner) and the volume rocker.

Displays

  • 5.7-inch main display with 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution
  • 513 ppi pixel density
  • 2.1-inch secondary display with 160x1,040-pixel resolution
  • 502 pixels per inch

Let's start with the primary, 5.7-inch display. Featuring a 1,440p resolution, the screen is sharp and vibrant. Images and text are crisp and clear, colors are vivid and deep. I had no problems viewing the bright display outdoors in direct sunlight. It has a wide viewing angle, so it doesn't wash out when viewing it from off-angles, and it's sensitive and responsive to touch control.

However, it's the second display that makes the handset unique. This narrow strip is customizable and has six shortcut menus to swipe through. The first is a general greeting where you can write your name or a personal message. The second strip holds five of your recent apps. Next are five of your favorite apps that you can choose and arrange. Following that is the music player controls with back, pause, play, buttons. The next swipe brings up five of your favorite contacts. Tap on a contact and icons pop up to either call or text them. The last page is for your calendar, which displays any upcoming events.

The display isn't, as rumors speculated previously, a scrolling ticker for notifications. Notifications do pop up on this narrow strip once they come in, but after that, you can check if you have any missed calls or text messages in the same location as they're usually located -- to the left of the time (which is below the secondary display), or in the pull-down Notifications shade.

At the top is a 2.1-inch secondary display that shows your commonly used apps and favorite contacts.

Josh Miller/CNET

When the phone's main display is off, the second display can stay on and continuously show the time, date, battery status and a small icon for the current weather.

All in all, the display can be useful, and because it's just there, I find myself using it. But it doesn't have any key features that I just can't live without, especially since lot of these shortcuts are accessible elsewhere. You can still access recent apps from the square hotkey at the bottom of the display, and the home screen has plenty of room to house your favorite commonly-used apps. Music controls are available on the lockscreen and in the Notifications shade and LG's Smart Bulletin page (more on that below) lets me quickly check my calendar without having to open the actual app.

In addition, unlike the curved secondary displays on the S6 Edge+, it honestly doesn't look as novel. It's also stationary and is always shown (unless you choose to turn it off completely). There are some occasions, however, when it does disappear, like when a game or a full-screen video is opened. When the camera or QuickMemo+ is open, these shortcuts also change into their respective controls. But this is essentially different than the dynamic functions on the S6 Edge+. The controls seen on its curved edge display hide away when not in use, and you can move it to either the left or right edges. And when it tucks away, the size of the main screen has more real estate as well. Though the immobility of the V10's secondary display isn't a deal breaker, the S6 Edge+ provided users with a few more options.

Software and other features

  • Google Android 5.1.1 Lollipop mobile operating system
  • LG's custom user interface, UX 4.0
  • LG apps include LG Health and QuickMemo+
  • Rear fingerprint sensor

Since the G3 smartphone launched in summer 2014, people have been anticipating LG integrating a fingerprint reader into one of its premium handsets. But as Apple and Samsung continued to add the feature to iPhones and Galaxy devices, LG had yet to add fingerprint recognition.

Until the V10, that is. Folded into the rear power button, the sensor can scan up to four fingerprints. Users can use the sensor to unlock the lock screen as well as access hidden notes written in the QuickMemo+ app and pictures locked away in the photo gallery. It can also be used as a security measure for payments on Android Pay. The feature is easy to set up and fingerprint recognition is quick. I barely had to wait a beat before my fingerprint registered and unlocked content.

The rear power button doubles as a fingerprint sensor.

Josh Miller/CNET

The device runs Android 5.1 Lollipop OS. Currently, the latest Android OS is 6.0 Marshmallow , which only couple of handsets run at this point -- like the Google Nexus 5X and 6P. The update includes Now On Tap, an expansion of Google's digital voice and search assistant, a battery-saving feature called Doze, more user control over app permissions and the digital payment service Android Pay, which works with the Near Field Communication (NFC) standard.

LG has confirmed that the V10 will get the Marshmallow update within six months of its launch. Until then, you'll have to miss out on some of its features. However, given that the phone has NFC built-in, you can download Android Pay from the Play Store and use its services. And because it is possible authorize payments on Android Pay with a fingerprint, the device's fingerprint sensor will also come in handy.

As for the handset's included apps, keep in mind that the review unit I reviewed is for the Korean market and includes tons of Korean-language apps. Depending on your carrier, you'll get different preloaded apps. You'll also get apps from Google, such as Gmail, the Chrome Web browser, Maps, Google Now (which is also launchable by sliding upwards from the center home softkey), the Play Store and more.

LG threw in lots of its own signature software features as well. LG Smart Bulletin dedicates an entire home screen page to widgets of certain apps, including the music player, your Calendar, the LG Health fitness tracker and more. QuickMemo+ is a notes app that you use to jot down notes or doodles. Dual Window (which is nestled in Settings) splits your screen in two so you can use two apps simultaneously. LG's staple KnockOn and KnockCode features enable you to wake up or unlock the device with various tapping gestures while the display is asleep.

Best phones of 2016 See All

  • Google Pixel Phone

    Starting at: $649.00
    4.5 stars

    With the help of an Assistant, Google's first in-house designed Pixel phone makes a kickass...

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus

    Starting at: $769.00
    4.5 stars

    Apple's larger iPhone has a few distinct advantages, and its dual cameras can pull off...

  • Samsung Galaxy S7

    Starting at: $442.98
    4.5 stars

    We reviewed the new Samsung Galaxy S7 in London, Berlin, San Francisco and Sydney. It's...

  • OnePlus 3T

    Starting at: $439.00
    4.5 stars

    Our favorite mid-price phone gets revamped with a faster processor and a bigger battery.

 

Discuss: LG V10 (space black)

Conversation powered by Livefyre