Oftentimes, LG phones play second or third fiddle to the iPhone and Galaxy brands. But with the LG V40 ThinQ, the Korean tech company is making waves as the first mainstream phone to have five (yes, five) camera lenses dedicated to taking better, more creative photos than the iPhone XS Max or Galaxy Note 9 -- three on the V40's rear, two on the front. (Technically the Amazon Fire Phone had five cameras, too, but those were used for motion tracking and not photography.)
But despite this impressive amount of hardware, I wouldn't knight the V40 as the best phone to take photos with. The V40, the Note 9 and the iPhone XS Max all have different strengths. And if we're considering the best phone to simply grab and just start taking amazing photos with, the Pixel 3/3 XL gets my vote, even though it just has one rear lens.
So should you get the V40? It's definitely worth considering if you see yourself using the wide-angle lens often -- that is, taking expansive photos with a wide field of view, and fitting lots of content in each frame. It's a signature feature in many LG phones, and the company has been iterating and improving on it for years.
It's also one of the few premium phones that still has a headphone jack, which can be a deal breaker for some. Plus, the V40's price ranges from $900 to $980 depending on the US carrier and $950 unlocked from LG. (We'll update with UK and Australia pricing when we get it, but for now that converts to about £724 or AU$1,306.) That means you can save upwards of $100 compared to pricier big-screen phones such as the Note 9 and new iPhones.
But if you don't need all that photo hardware, or already have any of the V30 models (including the V30S and V35 ThinQ), it's best to skip this phone. In addition, the Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T have exceptional cameras of their own, though both don't have headphone jacks or expandable storage. The Pixel 3 XL starts at $900, £870 and AU$1,349, while the OnePlus 6T costs $549 and £499. Australia pricing for the 6T hasn't been released, but that converts to AU$774.) Note that while the Pixel 3 XL starts at a cheaper price, its lack of expandable storage complicates its overall value.
During the V40's launch, LG unveiled a smartwatch too. It's the first smartwatch to run Google's Wear OS and have mechanical hands like an analog watch. Click here to read all about the LG Watch W7.
Editors' note: This review was originally published on Oct. 3, 2018, and was updated on Nov. 8 with additional analysis of the Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T.
While there are many dual-rear camera phones, and future phones are expected to add even more -- the recent Huawei P20 Pro has four, for example -- the V40 is a rarity with five. Its rear camera setup includes a standard lens with optical image stabilization, a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens with 2x zoom that takes dramatic, bokeh-style portraits. LG also loaded the camera with a bunch of lighting tools for portrait photos, nearly identical to the ones on the latest iPhones, which adds a studio-like quality to your pictures.
Photo quality on the V40 is excellent -- pictures taken in brightly lit settings were sharp and vibrant. Compared to the Note 9 and the iPhone XS Max though, the V40 washed out cooler hues just a tad, though it rendered whites purer than the other two phones. But when it came to red hues or skin tones, colors were more accurate on the V40 than that of the iPhone, which had a tendency to overwarm oranges and reds.
For low-light scenes, the V40 brightened up a dark bar easily. The iPhone XS Max brought in more details, however, while the Note 9 handled different exposures better and had a wider dynamic range.
The LG V40 also handled portrait photos well, and the drop-off between the subject in the foreground and the blurred background looked smooth and natural. Of the three phones, I liked the Note 9 the best in this instance because of the way it correctly handled white balance and skin tones. As for studio lighting features, the V40's image looked flat, while the iPhone's picture had much more depth and shading.
As the only phone of the three with two front-facing cameras, the V40 took the best portrait selfies. Skin tones were true to life and faces looked sharp. The bokeh effect also didn't look as patchy and overprocessed as the others, and it even recognized my flyaway hairs as part of my head rather than blurring them out.
If you're into photography, having this Swiss-army-knife style set of options at your disposal is useful. And it was fun, as well as impressive, capturing a variety of shots in a single device. But if you're more of a casual photographer, all the camera features on the V40 can get overwhelming. There are two AI systems baked-in, for instance, and you may end up using some tools, like Cine Shot, only once in a while. Also, when it comes to image quality, a phone like the iPhone XS Max takes comparable and at times superior photos with a more straightforward interface.
While the V40's expansive 6.4-inch screen rightly fits it into LG's V-family, the phone has more in common with the G7's design than the V35's. Both have physical buttons for Google Assistant, both have screen notches (more on that later) and both separate their power keys from their fingerprint readers (the V35 combines them into one).
But unlike the G7, the V40 has an OLED screen. Whites don't look as intensely bright as they do on the G7's LCD display, but other colors are still vibrant and the V40's blacks are especially inky and dark.
Though the V40 doesn't serve up anything aesthetically unique or novel, its design does offer one thing: comfort. I struggle with big-screen phones in general, and I'm not saying I navigated the V40 easily with just one hand or I could fit it into my pants pocket effortlessly. But it's noticeably lighter and narrower than the Note 9 and XS Max, and I had an easier time holding it. And while it's no official lab test, I did accidentally drop it waist-length onto a marble floor. In another instance, it fell from a bed onto a wooden floor. Both times the phone ended up unscathed.
Besides the bevy of new camera features, LG didn't add much in terms of new software tricks compared to last year's V30. (Read more about Android Oreo here.) With Google Assistant, you can set reminders, check the weather and carry out some more specific actions, like taking a photo with the wide-angle camera or launching the AI camera. Unfortunately, short of toggling the hotkey off altogether, the button isn't reprogrammable. There's also an optional "floating bar" tab for quick access to your contacts, music player and more on your home screen.
Equipped with a Snapdragon 845 chipset, the V40 is as fast and responsive with day-to-day tasks as other top-tier phones. That includes calling up the keyboard, scrolling through webpages and launching and quitting apps. There are some camera tasks, like autofocusing and Triple Shot, that requires a beat or two for the phone to carry out.
On paper, the V40 scored just as well as the Note 9, Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T on our benchmark tests. Compared to the iPhone XS Max, however, Apple's phone beat out both devices comfortably in all tests except one.
The V40's battery life is middling for a big-screen phone. During our lab tests for continuous video playback on airplane mode, the V40 lasted an average of 14 hours, 24 minutes. Though that's a decent time, the Note 9 had a 19-hour run by comparison. And the Pixel 3 XL, OnePlus 6T and the previous V35, which has a smaller screen and the same battery capacity, all clocked over 16 hours.
Anecdotally, the phone nearly lasted the weekend, starting on Friday evening, with mild to heavy usage without a charge. But by Sunday afternoon, the battery was at 12 percent and needed to be plugged in.
|LG V40 ThinQ||Galaxy Note 9||Pixel 3 XL||OnePlus 6T||iPhone XS Max|
|Display size, resolution||6.4-inch OLED; 3,120x1,440 pixels||6.4-inch Super AMOLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels||6.3-inch OLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels||6.41-inch AMOLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels||6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688x1,242 pixels|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.25x2.97x 0.3 in||6.37x3.01x0.35 in||6.2x3x.03 in||6.20x2.94x0.32 in||6.2x3.0x0.3 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||158.8x75.4x7.6 mm||161.9x76.4x8.8 mm||158x76.7x7.9 mm||157.5x74.8x8.2 mm||157.5x77.4x7.7 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||5.96 oz.; 169g||7.09 oz.; 201g||6.5 oz; 184g||6.53 oz; 185g||7.3 oz; 208g|
|Mobile software||Android 8.1 Oreo||Android 8.1 Oreo||Android 9 Pie||Android 9 Pie||iOS 12|
|Camera||12-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (wide) and 12-megapixel (telephoto)||Dual 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)||12.2-megapixel||16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto||12-megapixel standard, 12-megapixel telephoto|
|Front-facing camera||8-megapixel (standard), 5-megapixel (wide)||8-megapixel||8-megapixel standard, 8-megapixel wide-angle||16-megapixel||7-megapixel|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz)||2.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845||2.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845||Apple A12 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB||128GB, 512GB||64GB, 128GB||128GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|RAM||6GB||6GB, 8GB||4GB||6GB, 8GB||Not disclosed|
|Expandable storage||Up to 2TB||512GB||None||None||None|
|Battery||3,300 mAh||4,000 mAh||3,430 mAh||3,700 mAh||Not disclosed|
|Fingerprint sensor||Back||Back of phone||Back cover||Underneath display||None|
|Special features||Water resistant (IP68), wireless charging, DTS:X 3D Surround, Quad DAC, AI-enhanced camera, Cine Shot||Water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; S-Pen with Bluetooth connectivity; Iris and facial scanning||Water resistant (IPX8), wireless charging, Pixel Buds USB-C headphones included||In-display fingerprint sensor, dual-SIM, Dash Charging, notifications toggle||Water resistant (IP68), wireless charging, dual-SIM (nano-SIM and e-SIM), Face ID scanning|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$950||$1,000 (128GB), $1,250 (512GB)||$899 (64GB), $999 (128GB)||$549 (6GB RAM/128GB), $579 (8GB RAM/128GB), $629 (8GB RAM/256GB)||$1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)|
|Price (GBP)||Converts to £724||£899 (128GB), £1,099 (512GB)||£869 (64GB), £969 (128GB)||£499 (6GB RAM/128GB), £529 (8GB RAM/128GB), £579 (8GB RAM/256GB)||£1,099 (64GB), £1,249 (256GB), £1,449 (512GB)|
|Price (AUD)||Converts to AU$1,306||AU$1,499 (128GB), AU$1,799 (512GB)||AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,499 (128GB)||Converted: AU$774 (6GB RAM/128GB), AU$817 (8GB RAM/128GB), AU$887 (8GB RAM/256GB)||AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB)|