LG G6 Review: The right phone at the wrong time

LG reinvents its flagship handset with the G6, but its great screen and industrial design are almost certain to be overshadowed by the Galaxy S8.

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Picture frame

LG has always packed its phones with serious camera capabilities, but unlike the G5, which brought dual cameras to an LG phone for the first time, the G6 doesn’t offer any must-try features. Rather, it refines an already great system and offers some neat improvements in the app to take advantage of the screen’s unique proportions.

lg g6 camera app2 Christopher Hebert/IDG

The G6's camera app has some neat modes to take advantage of the display's unique proportions.

On the back you’ll find the same dual camera setup, but the wide-angle lens no longer gets short shrift. Both rear cameras are now 13MP and use the same sensor, so you no longer have to sacrifice image quality to get a wide-angle shot. Like the G5, switching between the two cameras is as simple as tapping one of the icons on the screen, but LG has packed a bunch of bunch of new settings into the app to take advantage of the new 18:9 screen dimensions.

To be honest, I’ve never enjoyed using a camera app more. The unique proportions of the screen have allowed LG to explore fun new ways to enhance the shooting experience, and it’s refreshing to see some effort put into creating a new and improved camera app interface. Flip the camera to square and you’ll get a whole new set of modes. There’s Snap Shot that show you the last picture you’ve taken, Guide Shot, that lets you superimpose an image onto your viewfinder for creative compositions, and my personal favorite, Match Shot, which takes a simultaneous picture with the front and rear camera just like Frontback.

lg g6 wide angle Greenbot

Even on gloomy days, the LG captures detail well when using the regular camera (left), and can also photograph a wide-angle scene with little distortion at the edges (right).

And no matter the mode you chose, the photos you take are equally impressive. Whether shooting with the wide angle lens or the regular one, pics were extremely true-to-life, with crisp details and excellent color reproduction. Wide-angle shots had very little barrel distortion at the edges, much less than the V20. Even in low-light conditions, the camera performed admirably, though I did miss having a wide-aperture portrait mode.

lg g6 lighting photos Greenbot

Whether you're dealing with low light or strange light, the G6 handles it with ease.

Around the front, LG has actually decreased the pixels from 8MP to 5MP but it made up for it by adding a 100-degree wide-angle lens for more inclusive selfies. It’s a curious decision when most of its competitors are upping the specs on the front camera, but the G6 still takes decent selfies. As expected, low-light conditions can cause issues, but nothing like I haven’t seen on other phones. And the front screen “flash” (which adds a bright white border to your viewing window) definitely helps.

Square deal

The screen is by and large the G6’s best quality, but it’s not just because of its size. As you can see in the camera app, the proportions make it a bit taller than other 5.7-inch phones, and the ability to divide it into two perfect squares makes for some interesting interface possibilities. And LG took full advantage of it.

lg g6 multi window Christopher Hebert/IDG

I flat out loved multi-window on the G6.

In addition to the camera app upgrades, the G6 utilizes its unique screen in all sorts of fun ways in LG’s UX 6.0. For one, multi-window is just better. I didn’t expect a few millimeters to make that much of a difference, but they really do. The even proportions give both apps the room they need to breathe, and jumping between them is somehow more intuitive than it is on other phones. It’s hard to adequately describe, but I truly enjoyed using multi-window apps on the G6.

Elsewhere, LG has done a fine job with its Nougat tweaks. The usual LG customizations are here, including lock-screen app icons, extra navigation buttons, and shortcut keys, but surprisingly the best part of LG’s UX skin is its own apps. Like you, I generally ditch the manufacturer’s bundled apps in favor of the ones from Google, but LG makes a compelling case to at least try out the ones it has made.

lg g6 calendar app Greenbot

LG uses the 2:1 proportions of the G6 well inside its own apps.

Take the calendar. Looking at it in portrait mode you’ll see a bit more of your appointments, but in landscape you can see a full calendar on one side and a list of you upcoming appointments on the other. Or in the music app, artwork will be displayed on one side and tracks on the other. There's nothing groundbreaking, but all in all it’s a fantastic use of space that I’d love to see Google adopt for its own apps as 18:9 screens become more popular.

Should you buy it?

LG has built a fantastic phone with the G6. It might not have the sex appeal of the Galaxy S8 or the novelty of the G5, but it’s one of the best phones I’ve ever used, even if it isn’t all that exciting.

If there’s a criticism of the G6, it’s that it’s too safe. I started this review by comparing it to a high-end BMW, and that’s precisely what you get with a Beemer: a solid, dependable ride with conservative good looks. It might look bland next to a the newest Ferrari, but it can still hold its own in a street race.

LG made a conscious decision with the G6 to build a phone that doesn’t compromise for the sake of gimmicks. It’s probably the best phone LG has ever made, but it’s inevitably going to lose sales to the Galaxy S8. At $650 (give or take carrier padding), it’s cheaper than the S8, but not enormously so, and it’s hard to see the S8’s design and expanded feature set not winning over most high-end phone buyers.

But if the Galaxy S8 is just a little too flashy for you, or you just can't stand Samsung, the G6 will be a perfect fit.

This story, "LG G6 Review: The right phone at the wrong time" was originally published by Greenbot.

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At a Glance
  • The G6 is a well-designed phone with a fantastic screen and camera, but it's going to have a hard time fending off Samsung's Galaxy S8.

    Pros

    • Excellent compact design.
    • Incredible HDR-compatible screen with unique proportions.
    • Excellent app enhances an already great camera.

    Cons

    • Battery and processor are just OK for a 2017 phone.
    • Some design quirks stand out.
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