LG G7 ThinQ Review: Subtle and not enough

Do you ThinQ LG's latest flagship can compete with the big boys?

LG is typically one of the many names we take when mentioning smartphones. Last year, we had LG’s G6 flagship and the V30. While good phones, they did not exactly take the market by storm. And probably left LG with some ThinQ-ing to do, pun intended. So just around a year later since the G6, we’ve got the G7 ThinQ. But the name change isn’t the only thing that is different.

Notch again

Just like the majority of 2018 flagships we have seen, the G7 ThinQ comes with the now familiar notch on top of its display. Coming in at 6.1 inches and boasting a resolution of 1,440 x 3,120 pixels, it is not a bad display. Outdoors, the screen gets plenty bright for usage and viewing angles are as good as they should be on a typical IPS LCD panel. And  with features such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, I quite liked using the screen for multimedia consumption. Otherwise, LG offers software to tweak its colours and whether to enable or disable the notch based on your preference.

The notch is where the front-facing camera, sensors and the speaker are housed

But the visual experience is not well complemented by audio. One of the biggest omissions with this phone is the lack of stereo speakers, something that was noticeable instantly as so many flagships now equip them. And the difference in quality and depth in sound is felt. Nevertheless, LG does excel in other parts of the sound department. For one, it keeps the 3.5mm headphone jack. But additionally, the phone supports Hi-Fi Quad DAC support and 3D Surround Sound when using headphones. However if you like to use the on-board speakers frequently, you will experience some muffle in sound and the bottom-firing speaker is easily covered when in use.

Form factor

In the hand, the G7 ThinQ is a very manageable phone. It comes in at 162g and at an impressive 7.9mm thin. Carrying it in your pocket is no hassle and if anything, you have a fear of it slipping out of your pockets. The smooth glass finish of the phone does not help the cause but it is nice to see LG reinforce it.

The finish of the phone is attractive but not quite as glossy as a Samsung Galaxy S9

The phone comes protected with Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass 5, which does a good job at limiting scratches on the surface of the phone. The reinforcement carries over for the internals of the phone too. In addition to the standard IP68 water and dust resistance rating of the phone, it comes with MLG-STD-810 compliance for protection against accidental drops. Aside from that, the G7 ThinQ is nothing different in terms of design. The power buttons are where they should be and so are the volume rockers. They offer good tactile feedback and should hold up over long-term usage well. But most notably, there is an extra button on the G7 ThinQ, which is what we will talk about next.

Artificial intelligence at your fingertip?

Over the past year or so, companies have started to push artificial intelligence (AI) into their phones. Samsung has its native Bixby whereas HTC has its own Sense Companion as well but for LG, the approach is different. Instead of building something to compete with Google’s Assistant, which is at the forefront of AI technology, it has decided to embrace it. The extra button off to the side allows you to call upon Google Assistant whenever required.

The added hardware button for Google Assistant proves useful sometimes

Now, the ease of the button is convenient but it is not something that is leaps and bounds better than a swiping gesture. Unfortunately, you cannot program the button to do something else either, which means if you’re not an ardent user of Google Assistant, it is just unused hardware at the edge of the phone. Interestingly, the AI implementation also carries over to the camera UI. By looking at the subject being captured, the AI can detect what it is and adjust accordingly. This feature is similar to Huawei’s but does not work nearly as well. For instance, I have had the camera recognise vegetables at the market to be shoes. The success rate for the feature is very low, which swayed me from using it very often.

User experience

There is no doubt that this year’s phones have been relatively responsive. The G7 ThinQ comes in a higher end 128GB storage variant with 6GB of RAM or with 64GB and 4GB respectively. We got the lower end one for testing. Processor-wise, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset runs the show along with the Adreno 630 GPU. While speed on the phone is no issue, things start to slow down when multiple heavy applications are open. I would have preferred the extra 2GB of RAM especially because LG’s UX, while improved, is not the leanest. Compared to stock Android, it is quite different looking and feeling but nonetheless, it does run on top of Android 8.0 Oreo.

LG’s UX is different but it may not have adequate RAM to function smoothly in the long run

I will be honest, the interface is not hard to learn. It is kept quite simple but I just suspect it is quite demanding on the phone’s internals. And just to throw this out there, the phone also warms up a bit on the top right when gaming excessively but it is nothing too severe. Aside from this, the G7 has a few tricks up its sleeve. There’s the standard and convenient fingerprint scanner but also the more modern face recognition. Speed and accuracy wise, it is not quite the same level as the HTC U12+ or the Apple iPhone X and more often than not, I relied on the fingerprint scanner at the back.

Camera

LG is not very new to the dual-camera setup. On the G7 ThinQ, you find dual 16MP sensors with an f/1.6 and f/1.9 aperture respectively. Like previous LG phones, one of the lenses is a regular one while the other one is for wide-angle shots that have a fish-eye look to them. And surprisingly, you even get a portrait mode. During the day, the phone takes average- to good-looking pictures. I feel the detail on the phone is a bit lackluster and dynamic range could be better. The wide-angle mode is a nice feature to have to capture more detail and I do not mind the slight fish-eye effect you get with pictures taken in this mode. The mode in fact really helps with taking pictures of skyscrapers such as the Burj Khalifa which would otherwise be hard to capture.

With portrait mode, it is definitely a hit-or-miss kind of situation. Outdoors especially with portraits of people, it does quite a commendable job even with edge detection. But indoors, the feature struggles to distinguish complex foregrounds from backgrounds. And the drop in performance carries over to regular night-time pictures as well. Samples are not impressive and objects come out fuzzy. There is a dedicated night mode to improve quality but other than ramping up brightness, nothing substantial changes. Over on the front, you find an upgraded 8MP sensor which I think shows some good characteristics. Skin tones definitely remain natural and there is adequate detail in pictures as long as conditions are well lit. There is a portrait mode thrown in here too which performs well in daylight and indoors but struggles at night.

Battery performance

For a slender and manageable form, the G7 ThinQ compromises on battery in my opinion. In the phone you will find only a 3,000mAh cell, which is below average for phones of this size. The major concern I have had with this phone are its standby times. The battery continues to drop charge at an alarming rate even while idle. And when in use, the drop is far more drastic.

USB-C QuickCharge 3.0 is a very useful feature but unfortunately, the Middle Eastern variant of the phone does not support wireless charging

Expect to get anywhere between four and five hours of screen-on time on a typical working day. This may include video consumption, browsing and social media activities over mixed Wi-Fi and cellular coverage. The phone though does come with QuickCharge 3.0, which is plenty fast for a quick juice up averaging close to 50 per cent in 30 minutes. But oddly, only the US variant of the G7 ThinQ supports wireless charging.

Final verdict

When talking of the LG G7 ThinQ, the term ‘average’ comes to mind quite often. The phone is unique in some ways but none of these are truly stand-out features. I think LG’s approach with its flagship has been haphazard and disorganised. While not the most compelling phone for a new user, the G7 ThinQ serves as an incremental upgrade over last year’s G6. There are some impressive things about the phone but none to make this a compelling buy over any 2018 flagship and that may be because it is a little late to the party. Other companies have already had their flagships in the market for a few months now, whereas LG is just getting started.

Availability wise, the phone is said to have benn in market since June. However, it has not made a big impact yet. While local pricing is hard to find, the phone will set you back $750 (Dh2,754) in the US.