LG G6 Hands-on: An imperfect step up

lg g6

Igor Bonifacic

Going hands-on with the LG G6 feels a lot like seeing a high school acquaintance the summer after grade nine. They’re nothing like you remember them, in large part because they left behind what made them unique to fit in and conform.

In the case of LG, the company’s decision to retreat from the features that made the G5 unique is understandable. LG’s 2016 flagship was not a success by any metric. However, to stretch an already thin analogy, a lot of the changes here are superficial and don’t necessarily address the shortcomings that made the G5 a less than stellar device.

But let’s start with the positives. The G6 is the first smartphone to support both Dolby Vision and HDR10. Forget for a moment all the talk about this smartphone’s ‘FullVision’ display, LG’s decision to manufacture a smartphone that supports HDR, in both its current and competing variants, is the most significant and welcome change to come to the company’s flagship smartphone series.

LG G6 vs. G5

In a word, the G6’s IPS screen is beautiful. Colours are faithfully and stunningly reproduced. My colleague Rose Behar placed her Pixel next to the G6, and after comparing the two devices, it was difficult to look at Google’s flagship in the same light.

However, like the S7 edge’s curved display functionality, I didn’t find the software functionality LG built to take advantage of the G6’s 18:9 display particularly useful. For instance, it’s great that Android Nougat’s split-screen multi-tasking feature works best when paired with the G6’s 18:9 screen, but I never found that feature useful on a smartphone. Thankfully, most of these features can be safely ignored.

Bezels begone

LG G6 side shot of bezel

That said, I did appreciate that the G6 manages to add a larger screen, with barely there side bezels, without changing its footprint significantly.

Even with its larger screen, the G6 is virtually the same size as its predecessor. However, build quality, while improved in comparison to the G5, still feels like a step behind what Samsung has been putting out over the past year.

The two colours the device will be available in Canada, Ice Platinum and Astro Black, didn’t stick out to me as particularly aesthetically pleasing. Moreover, I found both finishes quickly became smudged with fingerprints after only limited use.

Disappointing camera performance

LG G6 camera

It’s when I came to the G6’s camera that the experience fell apart for me.

LG spent a lot of time of talking up the G6’s improved software-related camera features like the new ‘Square Camera Mode,’ which allows users to take advantage of the phone’s 18:9 display to snap and review photos simultaneously, but in the areas where the company could have made meaningful improvements to camera performance, the G6’s camera felt more like a lateral move than a significant upgrade.

In terms of actual hardware refinements, the most noteworthy change here is that LG reworked the G5’s dual camera array to include two 13-megapixel sensors instead of one 16-megapixel sensor and one 8-megapixel sensor. Given that most will use the G6’s wide-angle camera to capture sweeping landscapes and architecture, the extra megapixels will make for more detailed photos. It’s a sensible choice, if nothing else.

LG G6 on table

However, when it came to autofocus and noise performance, as well as sharpness, the G6 didn’t feel like a major improvement over the G5.

Granted, we were asked to snap photos in a dark and moody restaurant. In this situation, the G6 performed about as well as one can expect. Auto-focus performance was abysmal, with the phone spending several long seconds attempting to acquire a lock on a desired subject. When I finally managed to snap a picture, the resulting image was grainy and washed out.

Center sharpness was excellent, but there was a noticeable drop-off in image quality towards the corners of an image. Moreover, every single photo I snapped came out grainy, with significant luminance noise apparent throughout.

Cleaner Android skin

lg g6 on table

One area LG has made significant strides is in its overall software package. The company’s UX 6.0 Android skin is still mostly unattractive, but there are bright spots. With Android Nougat, LG’s engineers have given UX 6.0’s notification shade and settings menu some much-needed attention. Both look better and are easier to use.

Still, there are some curious choices. For example, the G6 will ship with Google Assistant pre-installed. However, Google Now is not accessible by swiping to the left most part of the home screen.

LG fingerprint back

Overall, I think the G6 is a significant improvement over its predecessor, but it still feels like LG is playing catch-up to the competition even as it surpasses it in certain regards. Granted, I only had limited time with the phone, but it did not feel like the complete package one expects from a modern flagship.

One additional thing to note is that the Canadian variant of the G6 will not come with a 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC. It will, however, support both Qi and PMA wireless charging. In Canada, the base model comes with 32GB of storage, not 64 GB.

LG will release the G6 in Canada later this year. The company has not finalized details relating to pricing and carrier availability.

Second take: Design upgrades with last year’s processor

Patrick O’Rourke 

Following last year’s disappointing, modular, G5, it makes sense that LG has opted for a back to basics approach with the G6. The company seems to have the goal of releasing a device that checks all the correct boxes. While we only spent a brief amount of time with the phone, my early impressions of the device are positive, save for a few issues.

Build wise the G6 is a sleek looking and feeling smartphone. It’s rear, however, is glossy, which, for anyone fond of clean looking, smudge free smartphones, could be an issue. On the plus side, the G6 is IP68 water resistant now that it features a full unibody. Fans of the G5’s removable battery, however, will be disappointed.

Unlike the G5, the G6 feels like a complete device thanks to its rounded corners and beveled edges. I’m also a fan of its 16:9 aspect ratio, making the phone’s 5.7-inch display feel smaller than it actually is, though I do question how many apps will be optimized to take advantage of the screen size. It’s also great to see that LG has opted to support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the two high dynamic range formats currently battling it out for colour rich dominance.

side of LG G6

When I get a hands on a review unit of the G6, I hope to test the phone’s camera thoroughly. It’s great that the wide-angle lens in the G6’s dual-lens shooter now features 13-megapixels, just like the G6’s regular camera, but I’m disappointed by how slowly both lenses focused, especially under low-light conditions.

It’s also a significant issue that the G6 doesn’t feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 and instead is opting for the 821. LG blames supply issues and its manufacturing timeline, but the lack of the 835 makes the G6 feel like a glossy, high-end device, hindered by last year’s processor.

This issue is compounded by the fact that the S8, as well as a number of other smartphones that will be directly competing with the G6, are set to feature Qualcomm’s latest processor.

Photography by Igor Bonifacic and Patrick O’Rourke. Videography by Patrick O’Rourke. Video editing by Zach Gilbert. 

Comments

  • Dimitri

    This is a for sure pass. Camera disappointment and some others are saying that the battery is a disappointment as well. No wonder why LG can not get it right. All they care about is selling a device but not actually listening to its fans. No one wants Dolby 10 vision on a phone as many won’t even care or take advantage of it unless u a reviewer or one of those show offs. LG track of battery issues with the G4 and software issues with the G5 ( random shut offs, apps freezing, laggy) isn’t something that will make many go back to LG.

    • Jon Duke

      People are saying the battery is a disappointment before anyone ever even got their hands on a demo unit? All people got is time with the phone at mwc. That’s it. Reserve your judgement for when actual reviews come out.

    • Dimitri

      That may be true but already the camera is a flop as per the small review Mobilesyrup did already. So i am pretty sure the battery will be soon the same but who knows . We shall see.

    • Jon Duke

      That’s fair. We will see indeed.

    • Onarwhal

      well the unit they used at MWC is still “prototype” units and not full review units meaning the software is not complete. they didn’t mention that in their article.

    • Jon Duke

      I know. I try to stay impartial because on this site, whenever I say anything, someone contradicts me. But you and I are on the same page.

    • Walter Melon

      My G3 is now in a boot loop situation, my wife’s too. Less than 2 years with these phones, it’s a big disappointment. Faith in LG slipping…..

    • cantbanthisguy

      “…software issues with the G5 ( random shut offs, apps freezing, laggy)”

      Umm, when? I’ve had the g5 for a while now and there has been next to no issues other than the auto brightnesss sticking every once and a while.

      I find the it very fast and very smooth, especially since the Nougat update.

    • Dimitri

      Search on Google and XDA forums to find out the issues that the G5 have had. Also if u read a few posts on here, some are claiming the same. Just because you haven’t had any issues, doesn’t mean everyone else won’t :). Everyone has different issues with their devices.

    • cantbanthisguy

      Haven’t read any posts here with the g5 having a boot loop issue. Just the g4 and g3. I’m sure many of the boot loop issues for people on xda are much of there own doing by rooting and flashing. I had boot loop issues with my ooooold Nexus S when I was doing that as well.

  • Mitchell Leitman

    “Freshman year”? Is this a Canadian website? I’ve never heard of grade 9 refered to like that in the land of Mobile Syrup!

    • Igor Bonifacic

      Noted and fixed 🙂

    • Mitchell Leitman

      Not necessary. But thanks. Just trying to avoid yanqui lingo on this bastion of Canuck tech writing!

    • lol…..

  • Jonah Emery

    Tempting but LG has an atrocious record for upgrading Android in Canada.

    • cantbanthisguy

      G5 was one of, if not the first phone to get updated to Nougat in Canada.

    • Jonah Emery

      True, but I look at their long term trend. And in Canada particularly its been pretty bad. I will need to see a couple flagships regularly updated to believe the trend has been broken.

  • Ali F.

    That round screen edge remind me of my HP Palm Pre 3 (WebOS). I am sure, they borrowed it from it.

  • TP

    I have been a long time fan of LG. Underdog, but great camera, major manufacturer, more affordable than Samsung GS..this time it is a big disappointment. I would just rather pay a bit more and get a GS8.

    • Garrett Cooper

      This is my thought. I had a G2 and it was a wonderful device for it’s time. I’m in the market for a new phone and hate Samsung, my Sony just got water damage which has me bitter, and the Pixel is still full price after a number of months. But if I’m buying a device for a couple of years, I’d rather bet the best specs I can, which will likely be the S8 if the leaks are accurate.

  • MrQ

    I have a feeling G6 will sell well. It gets a lot of things right.
    Regular people don’t know SD821 from 835. They will look at the design, build etc and this is where G6 shines

    • Dimitri

      Many said the same thing about the G5 yet LG didn’t support module parts, issues with software and issues with battery from the G4. Those users won’t go back to LG unless LG fixed all that up. The camera got a disappointment from most reviewers.

    • MrQ

      G5 was bound to flop with the stupid module system

    • Dimitri

      LG went for it as they thought it would be great. While yes the module would be great, they never supported it with other module parts. So that right there screwed them over.

    • simbob

      I think that the camera mod was the only module available in Canada. Completely useless.

    • Dimitri

      Agreed. It wasn’t worth buying the phone or marketing as a module device if only the battery was available for the module. Useless.

    • Can’t Fix Stupid

      They did make good so far on fixing the boot loops on the G4 but that was within and close to the warranty period. Remains to be seen if they will still fix it say a year out of warranty.

      Also the big elephant in the room, and it appears likely that the G4 won’t get Nougat…so they are back to their old lack of support tricks.

      The positive (oddly) is due to the question marks over lack of support, their devices end up firesaled and cheap after 6 months and even cheaper in the used market. You will see the G5 selling used for about the price of the S6. Hence I’ve had the G2 then the G4 and right now don’t see any reason to upgrade but if I do, I’ll pick up a G6 sub $400 used in 2018.

  • simbob

    The G6 will do fine, most people don’t do VR, most people don’t use apps, most people game on 2d , etc…
    Price and look is more important than raw power. MobileSyrup stated loudly how the “flagship” market wad dead and we were in the midranger era. the slow evolution of mobiles cpu caused bu the ridiculous “we need a new cpu every 12 months at all cost” is killing the appeal of raw power. A lot of people are still satisfied with the G3…

  • OgtheDim

    “a lot like seeing a high school acquaintance the summer after grade nine.
    They’re nothing like you remember them, in large part because they left
    behind what made them unique to fit in and conform.”

    Somebody still really bummed because Tyesha got popular?

  • cantbanthisguy

    In your comparison, you stated the g5 is on Android 6 when I’m pretty sure all of them have been updated to Android 7 now.

    • Ridge

      can confirm.

    • Victor Creed

      Probably referring to Native (launch) OS

  • jay

    for me the winner for now is Sony. It will sell well in Europe and Asia. Not sure why Sony has a hard time in North America.

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  • Garrett Cooper

    @disqus_G6kxuv29pw:disqus How did the battery life compare on the S7 to Z5? I want a Pixel, but I could see S7 contract prices at $0 very soon which is enticing if the S8 isn’t that much better to justify the price.

    Also, the Z5 has pretty stock Android, vs the S7 w/ TouchWiz. Haven’t used an S series since the S4, how’s the performance, smoothness, lag, speed to open apps, etc in comparison to say the Z5?

    Thanks!

    • h2oflyer

      For me everything was better especially the slightly smaller in hand size and much better camera. I put the S7 in a Griffin Survivor Journey case rated for 6 ft drop to concrete. Have had a couple of 3 ft drops to kitchen tiles with no problem.

      Fantastic brighter amoled screen that really works in super bright sunlight. The auto brightness actually works compared to the Z5…Correct brightness all the time with battery saving.

      The CDN Exynos version runs cooler and has longer lasting battery with an avg. 5 + hrs SOT for me, about an hour longer than the Z5. With light use I go up to 6-7 hrs SOT.

      After 4 Xperias it took a bit to get used to the system and the reversed capacitive buttons, but all is good now.

      Performance is crisp and snappy with no lag even when I run ad blockers.

      Water resistance is still good. Every time I visit my grandson he insists I stick the S7 under the kitchen tap so he can tell his buds the S7 is really waterproof.

      Go for it at $0… I got mine last June from Rogers at $199 less $200 trade in and haven’t looked back.

    • Garrett Cooper

      Excellent info, thanks a lot for the detailed response. I hate buying old tech, but I may go this route depending on deals and pricing.

      Have you used a Pixel by chance? When my Z5 first died, I called Bell as the Pixel was first on my list, then the S7, but they wanted too much on both so I bought an HTC M8 of kijiji for the interim. The M8 is fine, but a touch slower than my old Z5 which becomes annoying, and I really miss the fingerprint reader as typing in my unlock code is incredibly annoying.

    • h2oflyer

      Haven’t tried the Pixel. No desire to. The fingerprint reader on the S7 is better than the one on the Z5, more surface area on the button or better software… don’t know. I’ve got thin old poor fingerprints and it works on the S7. When the fingerprint reader starts acting up I delete the prints and put in new ones. Works great.

      If you can hang on a while, wait to see what the battery performance is like on the S8 with the new more power efficient Exynos 8895. I would only be interested if the battery performance is significantly improved. If so it means waiting until the fall when the price should come down. That’s my plan.

    • h2oflyer

      Update on the Pixel….. I did manage to take a bunch of pics with the Pixel and my S7 at the Bell store in the mall. Sharpness and detail were the same on both but the S7 pics were punchier and had better colour saturation.

  • FearlessOneSix

    Hoping band 66 works on this. Just saw size comparison to my G5 and its same size but with bigger screen!

  • vertigoreality

    I have an LG G5 and its the best phone ever thanks to the sickest camera ever that never gets enough attention. I only use the wide angle lens and there is no other phone out there that compares. I had a chance to switch to a Pixel which is a much better phone except one thing… the lens. I’m totally addicted to the wide angle lens. I think on the G6 they decreased the wideness from 135 degrees to 125 maybe but still there is nothing like it out there. I’d buy a Pixel though if it had a wide lens. The camera quality of the G5 is amazing… I cant imagine this one is worse.

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  • TheCuddlyKoala

    Another blackberry wannabe.

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