If the Galaxy S8 is a Ferrari 812 Superfast, the LG G6 is a BMW M760i. It’s sexy, but not as sexy. It’s fast, but not as fast. It can do a lot, but not as much.
It’s almost a shame that the LG G6 is landing when it is. A year or even a few months ago it would have been an absolute show-stopper, but most people looking for the hottest new phone are likely going to gravitate toward the S8’s intoxicating design. From the processor to the screen and everything in between, the G6 comes in just a little short of Samsung’s all-or-nothing gambit.
But even if it’s a safe, conventional phone, the G6 is still one of the best entries of 2017 and a firm testament that LG is still a contender in the never-ending smartphone race. It might not turn as many heads as the Galaxy S8, you’re still getting a dependable, luxurious phone that feels great when you’re using it.
But let’s face it, everyone wants a Ferrari.
Pure and simple
For a premium phone with all the trimmings, the LG G6 is quite unassuming. Lying on the table with its screen turned off, it could be a Pixel XL or any number of other “black rectangle” handsets. Even on closer inspection, there’s nothing about it that’s particularly unique. It’s a rounded rectangle with beveled edges, no more, no less.
Like the past few LG releases, there’s an LG logo where the home button would go, and there’s no 2.5D glass or curved edges. But even without any design innovations or frills, the G6 definitely has the look of a premium product. It’s simple for sure, but its design manages to feel modern and classic all at once, kind of like a vintage Leica camera with a touch screen.
Then you turn it on. Its 5.7-inch 1440 x 2880 QHD+ display takes up nearly the entire front face (80 percent of it, to be exact), and it makes recent bezel-heavy phones like the HTC U Ultra and the Pixel seem outdated by comparison. It’s not an edge-to-edge screen like the S8—and quite frankly, the side bezels, while thin, could stand to shed a millimeter or two—but LG has packed a ton of screen into a very small space, without resorting to the use of marketing buzzwords or visual flair.
Style and comfort
The G6 might not look like a 5.7-inch phone, but you don’t realize just how compact it really is until you pick it up. It’s not just that you can use it with one hand, typing and swiping really does feel as natural as they do with the smaller-screened Pixel.
The G6’s back is made of glass, but it’s not as slippery as other phones I’ve used (cough, U Ultra, cough). The dual camera system lies flush against the back, which tapers ever so slightly to nestle in the curve of your palm, something I wish the edges did, especially after getting to hold the Galaxy S8. The case is made of of Gorilla Glass 5, but the camera is covered in Gorilla Glass 3, and it picked up its share of scratches after just a week of use. I actually picked up quite a few dings on my G6, so you might want to invest in a case.
But while LG has kicked the G5’s gimmicky mods to the curb, some other quirks are still on display. The power button is baked into the fingerprint sensor on the back, which is just a terrible place for it. LG newbies are going to have to fumble a bit to turn it on, and when you have to take a screen shot, you’ll need to do some serious finger-contorting.
While I appreciate the decision to keep the headphone jack, LG has stubbornly kept it at the top of the device. It might have made sense last year due to the G5’s removable chin, but there’s no reason why is needs to be up there all by its lonesome on the G6. LG could have brought it to the bottom across from the the speaker where there’s a perfect bit of empty space. Plus, the jack just makes more sense on the bottom.
There’s no denying the G6’s industrial beauty. From the metal frame to its buttons and even the antenna lines, LG has gone to considerable lengths to make the G6 as pleasing to look at as it is to hold.
So, I may be picking nits here, but the G6’s rounded screen corners don’t really do it for me. I know they’re supposed to hold up better when the phone drops on pavement, but if there was a right-angle option, I’d prefer it. For one, they don’t quite mimic the corners of the frame, so it creates an asymmetrical feel. For another, they’re not fully smooth. You can look at the picture above to see what I’m talking about, but the flat edges don’t seamlessly blend into the curves, a flaw that’s not as noticeable on the S8 (which also has rounded corners) due to its curved display.
And one more quibble on the design: The areas above and below the display aren’t equal. I thought it was an optical illusion at first, but I measured and the bottom is 2 millimeters longer than the top (9mm vs 7mm). Once you see it, you can’t unsee it (or at least I couldn’t). I can’t think of a technical reason why LG couldn’t nudge the display down a millimeter to make the top and bottom equal, but they didn’t, and it detracts from an otherwise perfectly symmetrical design.
Even with a slightly off-center design, the G6’s display is a winner. Crisp, bold displays are de riguer for a smartphone in this range, but the Full Vision screen is a cut above other LCDs, with crisp, bold colors and rich blacks. As you might have heard, the 18:9 aspect ratio means the screen can be divided into two equal squares, which helps set the experience apart from other 5.7-inchers. Plus it supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, so when Netflix and Amazon start ramping up mobile HDR content, it’ll be one of the few phones that can take advantage of it.
The lack of a power button on the side will take some getting used to if you haven’t used an LG phone before, so the double-tap to wake and sleep will be your best friend. However, when I did reach for the fingerprint sensor, it was extremely fast and accurate, and the speedy animations actually made it seem a touch quicker than on Google’s phones, registering on the screen as soon as I felt the confirmation vibration.
I only know that because LG’s haptic system made me very aware of it. Vibrations aren’t something I generally pay much attention to (even though I keep all of my phones on silent), but on the G6, my fingers never quite got used to them. On most Android phones I’ve used, the feedback is generally sharp and pinpointed, but on the G6, it’s more of a dull rumble, even with the intensity turned all the way up.
I had the opposite problem with alerts. There five options for buzzes, but they all are fairly intense, to the point where normal notifications startled me. Mind you, I’m not an LG aficionado, so this could be a usual behavior for its phones, but I wouldn’t mind a way to tone it down in a future update. That being said, I never missed a text.
Like every premium phone released before the Galaxy S8, the G6 is powered by the Snapdragon 821, a very capable chip that’s just a little boring as this point. And since the G6 is in direct competition with the Galaxy S8, I can’t help but wish LG would have waited a month or two for the 835.
There’s no shortage of phones running the 821—the Pixels, OnePlus 3T, HTC U Ultra, Xiaomi Mi Note 2, to name a few—and anyone who owns one of them will no doubt sing its praises. Looking at the benchmarks, the G6 stacks up with the best of the best, and real-world experience holds up. It’s as good as any of the other 821 phones, and it’s hard to criticize its performance. But it’s also not exciting. The 821 is what top-tier phones have been using for some time, and it’s hard to get jazzed about a processor we’ve seen so many times before.
The same is true with the battery. LG has spent the better part of the last two months assuring us that the battery in the G6 won’t explode like Samsung’s Note7 did, but most people will be more interested in size than safety (especially since Samsung has been telling us the same thing). LG has put a 3,300 mAh battery into the G6, and while it’s bigger than some phones of this size, there are no real breakthroughs here. My real-world experience was mostly in line than the benchmarks, and I rarely had to scramble to charge the G6. And even when I did, a few minutes of charging was all I needed to get through the rest of my day.
LG stalwarts will gripe that the battery is no longer removable, but most users won’t care. And the addition of IP68 water resistance is good tradeoff, as is support for Qi and PMA wireless charging. (As long as you buy a U.S. model, anyway. Wireless charging is limited to models sold in the States, while quad-DAC is only on the Korea model, and the 64GB variant is exclusive to a handful of Asian countries.)