LG V20 review: The concert-goer's phone

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MSRP: $649.99

The Good The LG V20 records really high-quality audio and features a swappable battery and secondary wide-angle lens.

The Bad For its high price, the phone doesn't break any new ground in camera performance or battery life.

The Bottom Line The LG V20 is the best phone you can buy with a removable battery, and its audio recording prowess is a cherry on top, but skip the phone if neither is a priority.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Camera 8
  • Battery 8

The LG V20 isn't a bad phone. It covers all its bases with the latest hardware and a solid design. But other handsets edge it out in so many ways that, aside from the V20's swappable battery, you're better off buying something else.

If you want a better camera, get the Google Pixel (or its bigger counterpart the XL). If you want a longer battery life, get the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Faster processing speeds (at least on paper)? The Apple iPhone 7 Plus. Better value? OnePlus 3.

The swappable battery is great. As is the ability to add storage via microSD. And my favorite feature about the V20 is its ability to record high-quality audio. It does this better than any other phone I've come in contact with. If the mention of these three features gets you pumped, then this might be the phone for you. If they don't, then there's no reason to buy it.

Things I liked

So what do I like about the V20? Let me list the ways...

It records great audio

The V20 the phone for the concert-goer because it handles live audio recording superbly. It's equipped with three mics and four digital-to-analog converters (the latter apparently helps reduce white noise). The phone can record much clearer and accurate 24-bit sound compared to the standard 16-bit.

I took it to a Gallant concert and recorded only a few feet away from the third row. Afterward, I listened to the recordings on separate stereo speakers. It sounded fantastic -- bass tones were deep and full without sounding distorted and blown out, and compared to my friend's footage (who happened to have a Google Nexus 6P), the V20's recording was notably richer, crisper and more immersive.

The V20 has a couple of options to tinker around with audio quality.

Josh Miller/CNET

You can swap out the battery and increase storage

You don't always have to offer the latest technology to keep people happy. Like I mentioned before, the V20 has a removable battery and expandable memory. They're nothing new, but they're a rarity among marquee handsets these days. Many people can't live without at least one of these features, and the V20 has both.

A replaceable battery comes in handy when you're out and about, running low on battery life, and want to quickly swap in a reserve. It's also useful if you plan to resell the device and you can promise a fresh battery. Expandable storage lets you snap and record way more photos and videos, without really worrying about running out of space..

Press the release button and swap out the battery.

Josh Miller/CNET

Its secondary screen is actually useful

Like its V10 predecessor, the V20 has a secondary screen that sits on top of its regular display. With this iteration, LG increased its contrast and brightness, so it's easier to read. You can choose to have this screen perpetually on (even if your device is sleeping) or off, and it displays your custom signature, common settings, favorite apps, recent contacts and notifications.

This isn't essential, but it can be pretty useful. Because there's no app drawer by default (you can turn it back on from Settings) having shortcut access to your favorite apps is easier than sifting through several home screen pages.

Swipe through the second screen for your favorite apps.

Josh Miller/CNET

It's as fast as any Android (but slower than the iPhone)

With its Snapdragon 820 processor, the handset had no problem keeping up with its rivals. It performed as well as the Pixel XL (which has the slightly more advanced 821 processor) in our benchmarks, though both the Galaxy S7 Edge and OnePlus 3 edged it out by a hair. The iPhone 7 Plus, however, which has an altogether different and proprietary A10 chipset, dominated the results with impressively high marks.

Then again, these are just diagnostic tests on paper. All these devices work fast and smooth, and any speed differences between any of these phones would be hard to discern. For all your daily mobile needs, you should be satisfied with any of them.

LG V20 Benchmark Scores

LG V20
Google Pixel XL
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
OnePlus 3
Apple iPhone 7 Plus


Geekbench 4 Single-Core
Geekbench 4 Multi-Core
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited


Longer bars indicate better performance

What gives me pause

The V20 has many strong points, but there are drawbacks, too. While none of these shortcomings are individual deal breakers, they are things to keep in mind.