Still a good buy even in the shadow of the more powerful, but more expensive LG V30S ThinQ.
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 .
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.
It's LG's new flagship phone -- a solid step up in build quality and features from the LG G6 released earlier this year.
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.
"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.
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.
(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.
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.
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:
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:
Just know you'll need to do an awful lot of tweaking to make LG's Log-format footage look sharp and lifelike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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||Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus||Samsung Galaxy Note 8||Google Pixel 2 XL||LG G6||iPhone X|
|Display size, resolution||6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels||6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels||6.3-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels||6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels||5.7-inch, 2,880x1,440 pixels||5.8-inch; 2,436x1,125 pixels|
|Pixel density||538 ppi||529ppi||522ppi||538 ppi||565ppi||458 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6x3x0.29 in||6.3x2.9x0.32 in||6.4x2.9x0.34 in||6.2x3.0x0.3 in||5.86x2.83x0.31 in||5.7x2.79x0.30 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||151.7x75.4x7.3 mm||159.5x73.4x8.1 mm||162.5x74.8x8.6mm||157.9x76.7x7.9 mm||148.9x71.97.x7.9 mm||143.6x70.9x7.7 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.57 oz, 158g||6.1 oz, 173g||6.9 oz, 195g||6.17 oz, 175 g||5.7 oz, 162g||6.14 oz, 174 g|
|Mobile software||Android 7.1.2 Nougat||Android 7.0 Nougat||Android 7.1.1 Nougat||Android 8 Oreo||Android 7.0 Nougat||iOS 11|
|Camera||16-megapixel (standard), 13-megapixel (wide)||12-megapixel||Dual 12-megapixel||12-megapixel||13-megapixel, 13-megapixel wide||Dual 12-megapixel|
|Processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835||Octa-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 835||2.35GHz Snapdragon 821 with Adreno 530 GPU||Apple A11 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB||64GB||64GB||64GB, 128GB||32GB||64GB, 256GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB||None||Up to 2TB||None|
|Fingerprint sensor||Back cover||Back||Back cover||Back cover||Back cover||None (Face ID via TrueDepth camera)|
|Special features||Water-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, wide-angle camera, Gigabit LTE-ready||Water-resistant (IP68), wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-ready||S Pen stylus, water-resistant, wireless charging, Gigabit LTE-ready||Google Assistant; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready||18:9 screen ratio, wireless charging, IP68||Water-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: $912||AT&T: $850; Verizon: $840; T-Mobile: $850; Sprint: $850; U.S. Cellular: $785||AT&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$1,199||AU$1,349||AU$1,499||AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB)||AU$1,008||AU$1,579 (64GB), AU$1,829 (256GB)|