Even without a second screen, LG’s latest phone offers a lot
LG is planning a major refresh for its next mainstream smartphone, but before getting there, the company decided to release another entry in its spec-heavy V-series, the V60 ThinQ. With advanced manual camera controls, a hi-fi headphone jack, and top-end specs, these phones have always been geared toward tech enthusiasts.
This year, LG is undercutting Samsung’s Galaxy S20 — the Android standard-bearer for 2020 — in price, while still trying to cram a lot of upgrades into the V60. It’s got a Snapdragon 865 processor with 5G connectivity and is capable of shooting 8K video. You can outfit the V60 with a second display (with the optional Dual Screen case) for unrivaled multitasking. Microsoft’s Surface Duo is set to arrive later this year, and it will push the dual-display phone concept forward, but LG is already on its third try with the V60.
But the V60 lacks some of the features that are increasingly common on “flagship” Android devices in 2020. There’s no fluid 90Hz or 120Hz display; LG instead sticks with a traditional, no-frills 60Hz panel. Its bezels are plain to see and thicker than what you’d find on a Samsung or OnePlus. As other high-end devices move up to 12GB of RAM (and beyond), LG is being slightly conservative with 8GB of memory. And despite continued refinement, the Dual Screen accessory never really unlocks its full potential: the big selling point is still that basic, core ability to run different apps side by side at the same time. But LG’s hallmarks — a good camera, blissful headphone audio, and top-notch performance — are still represented in the V60. Pricing is a little scattered, with the phone itself costing $800 (T-Mobile) or around $900 with the Dual Screen on Verizon and AT&T. Either way, you come in under the S20’s $999 sticker price.
The V60 just does so much (doubly so if you get it with the Dual Screen) that, in a vacuum, it’s hard not to be impressed. The battery life is astounding, and it’s an excellent choice for the type of person who will use every trick this phone has in its arsenal. If that’s not you, there’s ample reason to look at Samsung or OnePlus instead.
Fair warning, though: even people familiar with LG’s past efforts will be taken aback by the V60’s size. This is a big, honking phone. At 6.67 inches tall and 3.06 inches wide, it’s somehow even larger than the Galaxy S20 Ultra and pays absolutely no mind to ergonomics. It’s possible to use the V60 with one hand, but doing so is an ill-advised exercise in finger gymnastics and grip adjustments. The chamfered aluminum rails offer a secure grasp on the phone, which has a flat 6.8-inch screen and sloped glass back. Volume toggles and a non-remappable Google Assistant shortcut button take up the left side, with the power button on the right. The V60 comes with 128GB of storage, but it supports microSD expansion.
At the bottom, you’ll find a speaker (which doubles up with the earpiece for stereo output), USB-C port, and a headphone jack, which still includes LG’s excellent 32-bit DAC for audiophile-grade music playback — if you’ve got the right headphones to get the most from it. LG gets my praise both for keeping the jack around and delivering a listening experience that can rival dedicated hi-fi audio players. Listening to hi-res tracks in Amazon Music HD with my Sennheiser headphones made me appreciate LG’s quest to preserve the headphone jack even when everyone else has moved on.
The V60 comes in either white (with silver edges) or navy blue, which has a gold frame. To me, there’s no debate to be had: the blue V60 is a stunner of a phone. The white one, meanwhile, is forgettable. LG uses an in-display optical fingerprint scanner on the V60, and my success rate was mixed, inconsistent, and worse than the readers I’ve used on Samsung and OnePlus phones. This is one of those cases where I miss the old, more reliable rear fingerprint sensors. (The V60 doesn’t have an equivalent to Face ID like the G8 ThinQ did.)
The V60’s display is a nice 2460 x 1080 OLED panel with a tiny teardrop notch that houses the front-facing camera. As I mentioned earlier, LG hasn’t managed to shave away bezels to the same extent as other companies. Some will find the black borders ugly; others will be thankful to avoid accidental presses — an occasional frustration that affects curved screens with barely there bezels. Brightness, color vibrancy, contrast, and viewing angles are all perfectly satisfactory, if a rung or two below Samsung’s best phone displays.
But the lack of a buttery-smooth 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate is noticeable and made all the more obvious when you switch between the V60 and something like the Galaxy S20 or Pixel 4 XL. Not everyone will care, and I think LG made this trade-off partially because driving two displays at 90Hz or 1440p would have posed a challenge. Still, I wish the option existed at least for the main phone. To me, this is the V60’s most glaring downside when compared against its 2020 competition. It offers a ton of power, but it feels held back — like it didn’t quite get the whole upgrade checklist — by the same-as-ever scrolling.
So the screen is a bit of a letdown, but there’s some good in all of this. Limiting the display to 60Hz and a modest resolution, combined with a massive 5,000mAh battery, helps the V60 achieve fantastic battery life. I’ve been able to keep the V60 running well into and through a second day of frequent use. This stamina only applies when using the phone by itself, however, since enabling the Dual Screen case will curtail battery longevity by 20 to 30 percent.
Throughout my review period, the Snapdragon 865 chipset has performed flawlessly, with the V60 chewing through any task I threw at it. Wi-Fi 6 is supported, and the V60 can pull down 5G data on T-Mobile and AT&T, though only Verizon is selling a version that works with ultra-fast (but very limited) millimeter-wave 5G.
Like the G8x, the V60’s Dual Screen connects over USB-C. There’s a little magnetic adapter that attaches to the bottom of the case if you want to plug in for charging while it’s on, though fast wireless charging is the more convenient option in that scenario. The secondary screen is an exact match for the primary display, with the same resolution and even the notch cutout. (It’s literally the same panel part, which LG says helps cut costs and preserve color uniformity.)
The most common use case for the Dual Screen is the simplest: two apps at once. This thing is the ultimate Zoom phone, let me tell you. You can chat with your colleagues over Zoom on one screen and look at cute pets on Instagram with the other. Want to browse Twitter while watching Netflix, YouTube, or Prime Video? Have at it. Once we’re all allowed outside again, I know the V60 will make it easy to keep an eye on my Uber or Lyft while writing an email at the same time. And this makes for an easy way of listening to music on YouTube while doing something else on the primary display. It’s all admittedly superfluous, but I still found myself really liking the flexibility at times.
LG optimizes some of its own apps for Dual Screen. When you take a shot with the camera and tap to see the photo, it pops up on the secondary display, so the camera app stays open and ready for more snaps. You can use the V60 like a mini laptop or portable game console with the entire bottom display serving as a keyboard or gamepad. You can also stretch a small number of apps (including some from Google like Maps, Gmail, and Chrome) across both screens at once, but I never found this very useful. The gap in the middle is too hard to ignore. LG, now on its third Dual Screen release, hasn’t made much progress and is leaving Microsoft a big opening to come in and show everyone what an Android device with two displays can really be. But remember that you can always just detach the chunky, heavy Dual Screen case when you don’t need those multitasking powers. Points for versatility, I suppose.
The rear dual-camera system delivers good results, with the main 64MP sensor (pixel binned down to 16MP) is able to capture a lot of dynamic range and detail. LG kicked off the ultra-wide trend, so that’s what the second 13MP camera is for. As is the norm, it’s a bit softer than the primary one. The third “lens” is just a time-of-flight sensor for depth data, so the V60 doesn’t have any kind of portrait or optical zoom lens in its repertoire. But I was very pleased with the color processing, pleasant depth-of-field, and overall output from LG’s camera. The company is using a larger sensor this year, which explains some of those improvements. If the V60 has one weakness, it’s night mode, which doesn’t meet the bar that Apple, Google, and Huawei have set. Video recording is also solid — LG gives you more manual control over settings and bit rate than most Android phones — though 8K is just silly overkill at the moment. You can’t even edit 8K footage on-device, so what does that tell you? Stick with 4K or 1080p and the V60 still excels, second only to Apple in video quality.
You can always count on LG to toss in one very strange camera feature, and this time, it’s 3D photos. If you’ve ever seen one of these on Facebook, you know what to expect. You snap a shot, and the V60 uses depth information to create the illusion that the focused-on object is shifting around as you move your phone. I took like two of these and then ignored 3D photos altogether. A nicer, more important touch about the camera is that, in most lighting conditions, the viewfinder is displayed at 60fps. It doesn’t really add any benefit, but now that I’ve had a taste, I want that smoothness from the camera on every other phone.
LG’s software remains a messy mixed bag. Some of it is good, like the excellent camera app, which has all of the manual controls you could want and helpful tools like focus peaking. The audio recorder app is also best in class. I even had a good experience with LG Pay (I just happened to have one of the few cards that’s currently supported), which can trick payment terminals into thinking you swiped a real credit card with a magnetic stripe — just like Samsung Pay.
Other corners of the software experience feel like they’ve been abandoned. The icons and general appearance feel dated (even after a recent refresh). And somehow, still, in the year 2020, LG’s app launcher cannot keep apps organized alphabetically. Every time you install a new app or game, you’ve got to sort the list again. Come on. Switching to a third-party launcher means losing out on Android 10’s gesture navigation, and none of them are optimized for the secondary display. The awkward software decisions extend to the Dual Screen, which is treated like its own home screen, which makes total sense, but it also gets its own app drawer instead of just mirroring the main phone’s, which makes no sense at all.
And then there’s the bloatware. LG is not selling an unlocked version of the V60 in the US, so you’re at the mercy of Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — and it’s not pretty. After setting up the phone, you’ll find at least five or six games you don’t want and a handful of carrier apps that you can’t fully uninstall. The Verizon V60 constantly presented me with a “helpful” device health notification that encouraged me to restart the phone and clear its memory cache. These are unnecessary, annoying distractions that people really don’t need to worry about.
One of the most under-the-radar perks of the V60 is proper stylus support. If you buy a Wacom pen, you’ll get Galaxy Note-like pressure sensitivity for drawing. There’s an optional slide-in shortcuts bar where you can quickly start writing a new memo, annotate whatever’s on your screen, and access other tricks. LG doesn’t have its own stylus like Samsung’s S-Pen or a slot to carry one in, but what’s here is pretty useful and, again, speaks to the V60’s versatility.
It should say everything about the V60 being a jack-of-all-trades that I’m ending on stylus support. This phone gives you a ton for $800 — even if you go without the Dual Screen. It’s a blazing performer, battery life might be the best for any phone in 2020 so far, and it’s got terrific headphone audio. But I really wish LG had done more with the giant display. I can put up with the bezels just fine, but high-refresh screens are already becoming table stakes at this price in the Android world. If I’m sacrificing comfort and ergonomics, the display had better be incredible. And I’m willing to pay a couple extra hundred bucks for it.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge
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