When MWC 2019 begins in less than two weeks, we'll get get a taste of some of the new flagships smartphones that will arrive in 2019, all vying for a spot in your pocket. These new models will feature the latest processors, slick new designs, and better imaging capabilities. This begs the question — does it makes sense paying full-price for a 2018 Android flagship right now?
The phone in question is the LG V40 ThinQ, which launched globally around October last year but only entered the Indian market last month. Priced at roughly Rs. 50,000, the V40 ThinQ is LG's current flagship. It can be seen as a beefed up G7+ ThinQ (Review), thanks to the extra cameras at the back and front, a higher capacity battery, and a bigger display. All of this comes at a premium of Rs. 10,000 over the G7+ ThinQ.
So should you spend this kind of money right now when we have a new crop of Android flagships right around the corner? Let's find out.
We have to hand it to LG for nailing the overall build quality and finish of the V40 ThinQ. This phone looks and feels a lot more premium than the G7+ ThinQ in our opinion, which is a good start. We also love the matte finish of the metal frame, and the glass back which doesn't attract fingerprints easily. The phone looks more or less pristine even at the end of a workday.
The front and back glass taper slightly towards the sides, blending seamlessly with the frame so you don't ever feel the edges. The exposed antenna lines on the top and bottom are a different shade of grey so they don't blend with the rest of the metal frame, but at least they're placed symmetrically.
As slick as the V40 ThinQ looks, it's also equally slippery. The smooth finish barely offers any grip, which makes one-handed use a little scary at times. We had the phone slip from our hands multiple times during our test period, but luckily it only fell short distances onto tables or couches. Our unit did not get damaged ,but we were lucky.
The large display on the LG V40 ThinQ does makes it a little hard to reach the physical buttons on both sides of the phone with one hand. Button feedback is good and we even have an extra Google Assistant button on the left, which can be used to wake the Assistant when the display is on or off. The button isn't customisable. The hybrid dual-SIM tray sits on the right of the phone, and can accommodate either two 4G Nano-SIM cards for dual 4G VoLTE or a single SIM and a microSD card.
The LG V40 ThinQ is one of the few flagships that still offer a 3.5mm headphone socket, which is placed at the bottom. Beside it, we have a USB Type-C port and a speaker. The latter uses a part of the body as a resonance chamber to amplify sound, which LG calls Boombox speaker. Since it uses the body to amplify sound, you get a slight stereo effect but the earpiece doesn't really contribute much and blocking it, makes no discernible difference to the audio.
The 6.4-inch QHD+ display dominates the front of this phone, but doesn't feel too immersive due to the relatively thick black bezels on the sides. There isn't much of a chin at the bottom, which is good, but you get a notch on the top. LG has managed to squeeze two cameras and a earpiece into the notch without making it too wide or deep. The earpiece sits a little off-centre but we didn't find that to be an issues with calls.
LG has used an OLED panel (P-OLED according to the AIDA64 app), which produces vivid colours and good black levels. You can choose different colour profiles depending on how punchy you want the colours to look. We found the ‘Web' colour profile to strike a good balance, but most of the other profiles made reds look too jarring.
In the box, the LG V40 ThinQ ships with a 16W fast charger, Type-C cable, SIM eject tool, and a 3.5mm headset.
Being a 2018 flagship, the LG V40 ThinQ is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 octa-core SoC. In India, there's only one version which has 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB of storage. The latter is expandable to a theoretical 2TB using a microSD card, but that will be at the cost of the second Nano-SIM slot.
The phone is also IP68 certified for dust and water resistance, has Gorilla Glass 5 for the front, back and cameras, and has the MIL-STD-810G military certification for shock resistance. Other connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, NFC, USB-OTG, GPS, and the usual suite of sensors.
The LG V40 ThinQ is still stuck with Android 8.1 Oreo and our unit was running the December 2018 security patch, which is a little shameful considering the phone launched only around four months ago internationally. Perhaps LG's custom skin is what's causing the delay. In any case, an Android 9 Pie update is only expected in Q2 this year, around the time Google will be announcing Android Q.
There's a lot going on in LG's custom skin, and most of the tricks and gestures are similar to what we've already seen with the G7+ ThinQ. The home screen can be a single-layered interface or you can enable an app drawer. The order of the navigation buttons can be swapped around, and two additional buttons can be added to the regular trio.
Other features include ‘Mini View' which shrinks the contents of the screen with a swipe gesture on the navigation buttons, the ability to mask the notch, a quick access panel to shortcuts and apps called ‘Floating bar', and Smart Doctor, which lets you manage your storage and RAM.
The LG V40 ThinQ doesn't have a notification LED but you can enable the always-on display. You can choose from different clock faces and it's also interactive, which means you can control your music or access wireless connectivity toggles without waking the phone from standby.
The fingerprint sensor on the rear works well for authentication but you can also use face recognition. The latter isn't as fast as implementations from others such as Vivo or Oppo, but it's fairly secure once you enable the the ‘Advanced face recognition' option.
The size of this phone takes some getting used to, but after a couple of days, it wasn't much of a bother. The cure for the slippery body would be to use a skin or a case. General app performance is very good. There's ample RAM for a good number of apps to run in the background, and multitasking is handled well too. The phone runs cool with regular use but fire up a game or shoot a bunch of photos and the metal sides get warm quickly. Prolonged use of the camera, especially video recording, heats up the metal frame very quickly.
The phone also posted good benchmark numbers. In AnTuTu, we got a score of 2,62,210 points while in gaming benchmarks such as 3DMark Slingshot, we got a score of 4981 points. These numbers are with the screen resolution set to the native QHD+ resolution.
In games such as Asphalt 9: Legends, we experienced smooth framerates on the ‘High' preset at the native resolution, however PUBG Mobile struggled to deliver consistent framerates with the ‘High' graphics settings and framerate set to ‘Smooth'. We had to lower the display's resolution to full-HD+ to get better results.
In some games, you can set LG's Game Tools feature to lower the graphics settings quickly without entering the settings page of the game.
Audio has always played a big role in LG's flagships, and just like the G7+ ThinQ, the V40 ThinQ has quad Hi-Fi DACs to drive even high-impedance headphones. The phone also supports DTS:X Virtual Surround for headphones, which is claimed to add more spatial elements to audio. The speakers are tuned by Meridian audio, and can get fairly loud, but as we mentioned earlier, we would have liked a true stereo effect when using the speakers.
The bundled headset offers very good audio quality too. There's a ‘HDR video effect' toggle switch in the Settings app, which boosts brightness and colours when watching videos in fullscreen mode although this phone's screen doesn't actually support HDR.
The camera setup is another big differentiating factor between this phone and LG's G series. The V40 ThinQ has three cameras at the back and two in the front. At the back, there's a 12-megapixel standard shooter with a f/1.5 aperture, dual PDAF, OIS, and a pixel size of 1.4 microns. Next is a 12-megapixel telephoto camera which offers 2x optical zoom, an aperture of f/2.4 and autofocus. Finally, you get a 16-megapixel wide-angle camera with an aperture of f/1.9 but no autofocus.
There's a ‘Triple Shot' feature in the viewfinder which lets you shoot photos with all three sensors at once, giving you three different perspectives. It's useful at times when you can't decide what type of shot to get. You can also enable ‘AI Cam' which will try and detect what's in a scene and suggest effects and filters. It takes a couple of seconds at times for the AI to figure out the scene, so it's not particularly useful for action shots.
You can switch between the three sensors with the respective markers in the viewfinder, and a long-press on any of them gives you a little preview of what your frame will look like using all three, which is a nice touch. The placement of these markers could have been better though, as they're a bit out of reach when shooting in landscape orientation.
In daylight, the primary camera picks up very good detail and colour tones in landscapes. HDR kicks in when needed, which balances the exposure nicely. The autofocus is quick too, and tapping your subject in the viewfinder locks the focus, making it easier to re-compose shots. The wide-angle camera naturally doesn't do well with close-up subjects but helps getting more objects in the frame in landscape shots. You'll get a bit of barrel distortion around the edges of the frame, but it's not very severe. The telephoto sensor captures fairly sharp images too, under good light.
The wide aperture of the primary sensor makes it fare well in low light too. Details in distant objects have good definition, colours are represented nicely, and noise is suppressed well without forfeiting detail. Even macros under low or artificial lighting at night turned out sharp for us, with accurate colours and good bokeh. In low light, the camera app doesn't switch to the telephoto sensor when you press its button, instead using the main sensor and a digital zoom, like most others phones with telephoto cameras. The wide-angle camera also captures decent detail in low-light, thanks to the large f/1.9 aperture.
The camera app has portrait mode which does a decent job with edge detection for both static objects and human subjects. The level of detail is good, even under artificial lighting. You can enable portrait mode for the front camera too, and this works fairly well under good light.
Coming to the selfie cameras, we have a standard 8-megapixel sensor with a f/1.9 aperture and a wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor with a narrower f/2.2 aperture but a larger pixel size of 1.5 microns. With the primary camera, selfies have very good detail in daylight as well as in low light. The slightly larger pixels in the wide-angle sensor compensate a bit for the narrower aperture when shooting in low-light.
The LG V40 ThinQ suffers from the same HDR issue we faced with the G7+ ThinQ, which is that white areas and highlights in selfies appear overexposed and burnt out. We really hope LG fixes this with the next update.
The camera app offers a tonne of different shooting modes, from the standard Panorama and Expert modes to some gimmicky ones. The 'Backdrop' setting in Portrait mode changes the background of your subject to a solid colour of your choice and ‘Flash jump-cut' captures a photo every three seconds and saves the sequence as a GIF. You can even create your own avatar using a photo of your face, but customisation is a little limited as there's no option to add or edit facial hair.
Finally, we come to the video capabilities of the LG V40 ThinQ. This phone can shoot at up to 4K resolution, either at 30fps (10 minutes per clip) or at 60fps (6 minutes per clip). The quality of video recorded in daylight is good and footage is stabilised well without any major anomalies. The phone uses a combination of electronic and optical stabilisation for video.
With the wide-angle camera, you can shoot at up to 1080p, but image quality dips. Colours look a little pale and objects lack good definition. When shooting in low light, video quality is still quite good although there's some amount of visible noise when shooting at 4K.
Heavy camera use does eat up a lot of battery life but with regular usage, we were able to get through an entire day on a single charge. The 3,300mAh capacity isn't a lot, considering the size of this phone, but with the display resolution at QHD+, we were able to just about go past a full day's worth of usage.
Switching to the full-HD+ resolution, we were able to get a couple of hours more, which was reflected in our battery loop test too. We got runtimes of 11 hours and 15 minutes, and 11 hours and 49 minutes of continuous playback time, with the resolution set to QHD+ and full-HD+ respectively.
The V40 ThinQ supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0, which charges the battery to about 77 percent in an hour and takes an additional 40 minutes or so to top it up fully. You can also charge the phone wireless using any Qi compatible charger, but it's going to be a lot slower. We managed to fully charge the phone from zero in 3 hours and 10 minutes using a 10W Qi wireless charger.
The LG V40 ThinQ is a solid package at its current price of Rs. 50,000. The only real competition is Samsung's Galaxy S9+ (Review), which is priced a bit higher but can be found for well under Rs. 60,000 online. OnePlus has priced the top-end version of the 6T (Review) at Rs. 46,000, and it offers similar CPU power but has fewer cameras and no shock or water resistance.
The V40 ThinQ offers better features compared to the G7+ ThinQ, but also has some its drawbacks. HDR for the selfie camera is still broken, the metal sides heat up quickly even under little stress, there's no proper stereo sound, and the Android version still lags behind the competition. On a more positive note, the V40 ThinQ feels like a Rs. 50,000 phone. It has a good display, a versatile set of cameras, good battery life, and speedy performance.
This brings is to our original question, which is, should you buy one right now? LG is expected to launch the G8 ThinQ and the V50 ThinQ at MWC 2019 in a couple of weeks. Given LG's track record from last year, these phones might take a while to reach India, but we could at least see a price drop for the V40 ThinQ.
Meanwhile, Samsung has teased the Galaxy S10 series launch on Flipkart, which means we could see these new flagships in India as early as March. Then there's HMD Global, which will also be launching a slew of new Nokia phones, including the highly anticipated Nokia 9 PureView.
Our suggestion would be to hold off on your purchase till MWC 2019 and choose one of the new 2019 flagships, or at least wait to see exactly how they stack up against current options. Upcoming phones should typically cost a bit more than the V40 ThinQ costs right now, but you'll be getting upgraded hardware and the current version of Android, which is a win-win.