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LG V30 review: While the new LG V30S ThinQ has better specs, the V30 costs a lot less

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The LG V30 was well-received upon its launch in November 2017. A significant step up from the G6, the V30 proved to be a worthy adversary to the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, especially in the camera department. With impressive battery life, a high quality headphone jack, and fast performance, it's easy to see why the V30 is still one of our favorite smartphones.

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8.6

LG V30

The Good

The LG V30 almost has it all: a great camera, speedy processor, huge OLED screen, excellent battery life, waterproofing, wireless charging, microSD storage and the best headphone jack on a phone.

The Bad

Ergonomic quirks can make the V30 awkward to hold. You may miss some shots due to slow camera autofocus. Carrier-specific versions come with annoying bloatware and logos.

The Bottom Line

The LG V30 is a rock-solid alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Plus and the Google Pixel 2 XL. If it fits your hands and your photographic needs, you won't be disappointed.

Update, 2018

In May 2018, LG pushed out an update, the V30S ThinQ, which is currently only available unlocked. This upgrade is essentially the same phone with a little more memory and base storage, plus better AI software.

Check out CNET's best smartphones for more information on competitive products.

Our review of the LG V30 -- originally published on Nov. 14, 2017, and otherwise is mostly unchanged -- follows.


I just want a phone that does everything. Is that too much to ask?

I want a sleek, durable handset that's practically all screen. A device with gobs of performance, loooong battery life, an amazing camera and a headphone jack. How about water resistance, wireless charging, microSD expandable storage and support for any cellular carrier, too?

Until recently, Samsung was the only company that offered such a product -- like the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Note. Now, there's the LG V30 as well. It isn't a cheap phone, it isn't a small phone and it isn't perfect. I've used it for a whole month as my daily driver, and I definitely have annoyances to share.

But here's what the V30 truly is: a worthy rival for Samsung.

In test after test against Samsung's similar Galaxy S8 Plus, the V30 held its own -- to the point that you might be happy buying it instead.

What's an LG V30 and how much does it cost?

It's LG's new flagship phone -- a solid step up in build quality and features from the LG G6 released earlier this year.

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The LG V30.

Josh Miller/CNET

With a new OLED screen, thinner build, improved dual cameras and a quad-DAC (digital-to-analog audio converter) built into the headphone jack, LG's marketing it as both a luxury phone and a content creator's dream, with particular focus on videographers (who can shoot pro-style Log format video) and audiophiles.

In the US, the 64GB phone costs between $810 and $840 depending on cellular carrier, with an unlocked version compatible with all four major US carriers retailing for $830.

Sprint is the exception: It sells an upgraded V30+ with double the storage (128GB) and a pair of B&O wired headphones for $912.

All about that screen

"Is that the new iPhone?"

I must have heard that question half a dozen times while using the V30, and there's good reason. Like the iPhone X and many other 2017 flagship handsets, the 6-inch LG V30 is a vision made of glass and aluminum.

It, too, has an unusually tall screen that extends practically all the way to the top and bottom edges. It, too, sports a smooth glass back and a shiny aluminum band. And it, too, houses a P-OLED display -- the first on an LG phone in quite a while.

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LG V30

The OLED screen really pops, even if LG's display is somewhat inferior to Samsung.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why are OLED screens so sought after? Each pixel emits its own light, allowing for more vibrant colors and deeper blacks. And I'm happy to report that LG's 6-inch, 2,880x1,440-pixel screen is crisp and beautiful right out of the box.

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The LG V30 does fit in pants pockets. How much it will bulge depends on your pants.

Josh Miller/CNET

(As we've discovered in recent weeks, not all OLEDs are created equal, and some worried that the LG V30's 6-inch screen -- built by LG -- might demonstrate the same ghostly afterimages and muted colors as the LG-built 6-inch screen in the Pixel 2 XL. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the case with ours.)

That said, the V30's screen isn't quite the best OLED has to offer. It didn't get as bright or clear as Samsung's screen outdoors -- which honestly made taking photos and video a little difficult. It looks a bit blue when viewed from off-angles, even if the color shift isn't quite as noticeable as Google's Pixel 2 XL.

The V30's screen has some odd issues at low brightness, too: I had a hard time watching Netflix and browsing websites in bed because LG's screen tends to crush blacks when the screen's brightness is set low. Dim scenes in movies didn't just look dim, but positively deathly. Just something to be aware of.

More importantly, I had a few issues holding the phone that surrounds that giant screen.

While I absolutely adore the V30's rear-mounted power button (which doubles as a responsive fingerprint sensor, and triples as a divot that helps me balance the phone), the phone is still so wide, it was hard to grip with a single, medium-size hand. The glass and metal surfaces are smooth enough that it's easy for the phone to slip.

Also, the rough edges of the USB-C cutout tend to dig into my finger, which made my "pinkie shelf hold" problematic. Plus, there lots of times when, trying to grip the phone tightly, my meaty fingers would occasionally brush the edge of the screen, and the display would unknowingly sense two fingers and failed to carry out a tap.

Don't get me wrong, the V30 looks and feels lovely (save the big AT&T logo on the back of my review unit) and the fingerprint sensor placement is way better than the camera smudge magnet on Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Note 8. I just don't think the ergonomics are universally great.

P.S.: If you're coming from a previous LG V-series phone, know you'll no longer find the second tiny screen that used to live on top of the display. But you can get most of the same quick-launch shortcuts by turning on the new Floating Bar in settings. Then, simply swipe in from the screen's edge to capture a region of your screen, create animated GIFs and more.

The camera: It's complicated

Let's make one thing clear: The LG V30's dual cameras take killer photos. They're crisp, full of life, and -- as often as not -- better than ones I took side by side with a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, with more detail and less splotchy noise if you zoom in. You can thank the additional megapixels (16MP vs. 12MP) and slightly larger lens aperture (f/1.6 vs. f/1.7) for that.

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100 percent crop (if you click to enlarge and/or right-click to save). Shot handheld, with each phone's normal lens. Note that Samsung's lens has a slightly wider field of view.

Sean Hollister/CNET

In the daytime, the LG's second wide-angle camera is a special treat, letting you capture more of your surroundings in every frame. You just can't get these photos with any other phone camera:

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Wide-angle FTW.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Wide-angle can also be the difference between sitting inside a shiny red Ferrari, or admiring it from a distance:

LG also offers a dizzying array of additional camera modes which I found genuinely useful. This includes an excellent manual mode with a smooth virtual focus dial, modes to let you compare and frame shots, modes to help you pull off vibrant food photos, create before/after juxtapositions and more.

But on full-auto, LG's camera simply isn't as smart as the best of what Samsung, Apple and Google offer. Autofocus is slow, particularly in low light. Mine often struggled to focus in situations where Samsung leaped to the perfect spot every time. The Samsung was also better at nailing white balance and exposure, where LG would skew too warm or make my pictures a tad too bright.

Here's a good example from a dark restaurant:

Video's much the same story. With a professional tripod, full manual control and some post-production skills, the LG V30 could shoot some decent video. (We filmed our entire V30 video review using another V30!) You can also:

  • Record audio with built-in stereo mics
  • Hook up an external mic via the 3.5mm jack
  • Monitor audio with a pair of wired 3.5mm headphones
  • Adjust gain and add low-cut and wind noise filters
  • Shoot Log-format video for extra dynamic range you can tweak in post

Just know you'll need to do an awful lot of tweaking to make LG's Log-format footage look sharp and lifelike.

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Watch this: LG V30 is the 'everything but the kitchen sink' phone

But again, the V30 leaves a lot to be desired if you're shooting on full-auto. In addition to slowish autofocus, the 1080p and 4K footage doesn't come out as crisp as the competition. I often found myself asking "Is this really 1080p?" (It was.) And while LG's camera technically has both optical and digital video stabilization, it's still too shaky to use if you shoot while walking around.

I did like LG's front-facing camera too, particularly its wide-angle mode. It's detailed enough to make selfie videos that don't look terrible.

Why are we comparing to Samsung's Galaxy S8 Plus instead of the company's flagship Note 8? Both Samsung phones share the same primary camera, and the second camera on the Note is a telephoto (zoom) lens instead of a wide-angle. Plus, the Note costs $100 more, while the V30 and S8 Plus are roughly the same price. It's a better comparison.

The best headphone jack

Reason enough to buy a phone? I'm not sure -- but the LG V30's "quad-DAC" (digital-to-analog converter) isn't just a marketing gimmick. It actually works. When I plugged my Grado headphones into this phone's 3.5mm jack, my music immediately lit up, growing richer, fuller and warmer.

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Not just a headphone jack. The best headphone jack you're likely to find on a phone.

Josh Miller/CNET

Mind you, you'll need a good pair of headphones to really notice the difference. Cheap earbuds won't cut it, and it'll help tremendously if you're starting with high-quality audio files instead of the shitty 128kbps MP3s you pirated a lifetime ago. But even with streaming services like Pandora, I noticed a slight benefit just by flipping the Hi-Fi audio switch: Harsh, high frequencies suddenly became a little less grating on my ears.

By the way, the LG V30 doesn't come with headphones, unless you opt for the more expensive LG V30 Plus.

Everything else you should know

  • Battery life: It's pretty great. I make it to bed every night with battery to spare, even on days I shoot a bunch of photos or use the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for an hour on the train. We measured around 17.5 hours in our standard video drain test -- where we run a local looping video in airplane mode -- just a half-hour shy of the similarly excellent Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.
  • No removable battery: The LG V20, this phone's predecessor, was one of the last flagship phones with a removeable battery. Sadly, the slim glass design means it's no more.
  • Raw performance is on par with the fastest Android phones we've tested. (Not surprising; they all have the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip.)
  • But real-world performance felt slower than I expected -- perhaps because of all the AT&T bloatware on our review unit. I'd definitely opt forthe carrier-free version
  • Bloatware: Seriously, there's a disgusting amount of bloat here. Like an AT&T app that downloads other AT&T-recommended apps -- which used 382MB of my monthly data without asking me.
  • Water resistance: We took a shower with the LG V30, dropped it into a vase full of water and left it at the bottom of a bucket for 28 minutes (twice) to test LG's IPX8 water resistance claims. It passed with flying colors.
  • Durability: LG also claims the V30 passed a laundry list of military-grade durability tests, including repeated drops. We haven't done a drop test yet -- but know it only took one accidental, shallow fumble to put a sharp ding in the phone's aluminum band.
  • Wireless charging works fine -- but it's not particularly fast. The V30 only supports standard 5-watt Qi charging and a newer 8-watt standard -- not the 15-watt Fast Charge variant supported by Samsung and some competitors. Thing is, it's tough to find chargers that support the 8-watt standard yet.  See correction below.
  • Wired charging: The V30 does support wired Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 charging with a certified adapter and cable. It promises 50 percent charge in 30 minutes.
  • Camera quick launch: You can double-tap the volume button -- if the phone's asleep. Or tap the screen twice to turn the phone on.
  • Virtual reality: The LG V30 works with Google's Daydream View VR headset, unlike previous LG phones. It wouldn't be my first pick because LG's OLED screen sometimes shows ghostly afterimages near dark objects, but I tried it and it works.
  • App drawer: Like many LG phones, and the iPhone, the V30 doesn't have an app drawer by default. (You can add one.) Every app lives on the home screen. The downside is that if LG won't let you uninstall an app, you can't easily hide it either. 

Correction, Dec. 2017: We are now seeing the LG V30 charge quickly with Samsung's fast wireless charging pads, complete with a Fast Charge symbol visible in the phone's status bar. We're not sure why it didn't work during our original review, but we're happy to say it does now. In fact, we've discovered the Samsung pads charge the LG V30 quite a bit faster than the Belkin Boost Up pad that LG recommends for fast wireless charging. Check out my timelapse video to see for yourself.

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Josh Miller/CNET

Versus the competition

The LG V30 is one of the most feature-packed phones on the market, whether or not you shoot a lot of video and photos and I'd definitely recommend it if that's what you're looking for. But here's how it compares to a few alternatives you might gravitate toward:

Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus: They don't have the LG V30's second, wide-angle camera, the extensive camera modes or the audio DAC that can make music such a treat. And yes, their fingerprint sensors are poorly placed. But for fire-and-forget photos and video in practically any lighting condition, they've got the V30 beat -- and they match it on practically every other spec. Plus, folks with smaller hands (and smaller wallets) can pick the standard-size Galaxy S8.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Don't mind dropping an extra $100? The Note 8 is an even bigger Galaxy S8 Plus with the same great performance and battery life, plus a second optically-stabilized zoom lens and a pop-out stylus pen that's genuinely useful.

Google Pixel 2 XL: Built by LG and on sale for roughly the same price as the V30, the Pixel 2 XL sports the same 6-inch, 2,880x1,440 OLED screen, is delightfully bloatware-free, and comes with three years of guaranteed fast Android updates and support for practically any cellular carrier, including Google's own Project Fi network. More importantly, the camera is a dream. But you lose the headphone jack, microSD storage expansion and quite a few hours of battery life. Plus, there're those pesky screen issues to consider (assuming you're a screen junkie).

Essential PH-1: For $500, this similar all-screen phone is not only much more affordable, but also bloatware-free and far easier to hold in one hand. The build quality feels superb. But its dual cameras can't hold a candle to the V30, and there's no amazing battery life, headphone jack or storage expansion.

LG G6: When you hear the LG G6 has the same dual camera and 18:9 screen for hundreds of dollars less, you might be tempted. But only the V30 has the digital-to-analog converter, that vibrant OLED screen, the faster camera and guaranteed wireless charging (on the G6, it doesn't come standard outside the United States). Plus, we measured four more hours of battery life for the V30 in our standard drain test, and the wide-angle camera is actually less distorted with the LG V30.

iPhone X: You might mistake the LG V30 for the iPhone X from a distance -- and they certainly have some desirable features in common -- but the latest, greatest iPhone is a notably smaller phone that's easier to use with one hand. It's also got an optically stabilized zoom lens instead of a wide-angle camera, portrait modes and the exclusive Face ID sensor for seamless unlocks. Oh, and it easily costs $200 more than the LG.

OnePlus 5T: The OnePlus 5, perhaps the best bang-for-the-buck phone ever made, has a successor coming Nov. 16. It might be worth waiting for.

LG V30 Spec Comparison


LG V30Samsung Galaxy S8 PlusSamsung Galaxy Note 8Google Pixel 2 XLLG G6iPhone X
Display size, resolution 6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels6.3-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels5.7-inch, 2,880x1,440 pixels5.8-inch; 2,436x1,125 pixels
Pixel density 538 ppi529ppi522ppi538 ppi565ppi458 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6x3x0.29 in6.3x2.9x0.32 in6.4x2.9x0.34 in6.2x3.0x0.3 in5.86x2.83x0.31 in5.7x2.79x0.30 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 151.7x75.4x7.3 mm159.5x73.4x8.1 mm162.5x74.8x8.6mm157.9x76.7x7.9 mm148.9x71.97.x7.9 mm143.6x70.9x7.7 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.57 oz, 158g6.1 oz, 173g6.9 oz, 195g6.17 oz, 175 g5.7 oz, 162g6.14 oz, 174 g
Mobile software Android 7.1.2 NougatAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.1.1 NougatAndroid 8 OreoAndroid 7.0 NougatiOS 11
Camera 16-megapixel (standard), 13-megapixel (wide)12-megapixelDual 12-megapixel12-megapixel13-megapixel, 13-megapixel wideDual 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 5-megapixel8-megapixel8-megapixel8-megapixel5-megapixel7-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K4K4K
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz+1.7GHz)Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz+1.7GHz)Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8352.35GHz Snapdragon 821 with Adreno 530 GPUApple A11 Bionic
Storage 64GB, 128GB64GB64GB64GB, 128GB32GB64GB, 256GB
RAM 4GB4GB6GB4GB4GB?
Expandable storage Up to 2TBUp to 2TBUp to 2TBNoneUp to 2TBNone
Battery 3,300mAh3,500mAh3,300mAh3,520mAh3,300mAh?
Fingerprint sensor Back coverBackBack coverBack coverBack coverNone (Face ID via TrueDepth camera)
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-CLightning
Headphone jack YesYesYesNoYesNo
Special features Water-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, wide-angle camera, Gigabit LTE-readyWater-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-readyS Pen stylus, water-resistant, wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-readyGoogle Assistant; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready18:9 screen ratio, wireless charging, IP68Water-resistant (IP67), wireless Qi charge compatible, TrueDepth front-facing camera adds Face ID for payments and enables front-facing AR effects
Price off-contract (USD) Unlocked: $830; AT&T: $810; Verizon: $840; T-Mobile: $800; Sprint: $912AT&T: $850; Verizon: $840; T-Mobile: $850; Sprint: $850; U.S. Cellular: $785AT&T: $950; Verizon: $960; T-Mobile: $930; Sprint: $960; U.S. Cellular: $963$849 (64GB), $949 (128GB)AT&T: $720; Sprint: $708; T-Mobile: $650; Verizon: $672; U.S. Cellular: $600$999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £799£779£869£799 (64GB), £899 (128GB)£649£999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,199AU$1,349AU$1,499AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB)AU$1,008AU$1,579 (64GB), AU$1,829 (256GB)
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8.6

LG V30

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 9Camera 8Battery 9