If media matters most then there’s no one better in the business right now than LG - the G8 ThinQ is now your go-to playback powerhouse
On the surface, the LG G8 ThinQ looks nearly identical to last year’s G7 ThinQ, but the resemblance can be misleading. Almost everything about the G8 ThinQ is new, from the redesigned, fully flat build, to the new Crystal OLED display and even the vein-reading TOF camera on front. The G8 ThinQ shows an LG that’s still making very big investments in innovative technologies and is working to set itself apart from the pack with several features no one else is using in a single flagship.
Disclaimer: At Android Headlines, we now review all phones from the “good” and the “bad” perspectives. We’ve designed our reviews to help readers get a clearer perspective on what makes a phone worth buying or avoiding without the little details getting lost. The “good” review focuses on the positives for the LG G8 ThinQ, while you’ll be able to find all the negative details in our “bad” review.
Last year’s LG G7 ThinQ was the first major device to launch with the ThinQ branding, but other than a name change there was little to get excited about. Sure, the G7 ThinQ looked sleeker and more sophisticated than the G6 did, but much of the rest of the phone felt like a work in progress. This year’s phone looks nearly identical from a glance, but a closer inspection reveals a significant number of enhancements and changes on LG’s part, all for the better.
The LG G8 ThinQ is thicker and heavier than last year’s G7 ThinQ, but that’s not a bad thing by any means. Last year, we saw a thickness increase due to the design of the “Boombox speaker,” and this year the thickness increase is directly related to a battery size increase. At 3,500mAh, this battery is exactly 500mAh larger than the one on the G7 ThinQ, and you’ll feel it in everyday use.
Battery life is not class-leading, but it's rarer than ever to have to top-up the battery after even a heavy day of use. Standby time is rather fantastic. On light usage days (less than 2 hours of screen on time) it typically took more than half a day to get under the 80% battery remaining mark. Battery life continued to improve over the review period (just over one week) and steadily grew to be impressive in its own right.
Most days ended with around 40% battery left with regular use (3-4 hours SoT).
LG offers fast charging out of the box, 18W fast charging to be precise, via Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 standard. This will net a full charge in about an hour and a half when empty, or a 50% charge in just under half an hour, and it also supports 10W fast wireless charging as well. The G8 ThinQ also supports QuickCharge 4.0, but will need a separately purchased power adapter for this faster charging functionality.
LG made a smart decision when it made the device a little thicker, not just because of the battery size increase, but because it also used the opportunity to finally remove that pesky camera hump. All that’s left is a smooth, clean design that feels amazing to hold, particularly given that the polished metal sides feel identical to the fingerprint-resistant coating on front and back.
Aligning perfectly with this ultra-high quality feel are the vibration motors, which have been further tweaked since the V40. LG already had the best vibration motors in the business, and somehow the ones in the G8 ThinQ feel even better than ever, owing in part to the enhanced haptic feedback within Android 9 Pie. There’s a lot to be said about good vibration motors and how they can enhance even the experience of a sub-par phone, much less an overall good one.
The last touch on the hardware is, undoubtedly, the warranty itself. It’s little secret that LG has had problems with hardware reliability in the past, and to assuage the fears of buyers, includes a full 2-year warranty with every G8 ThinQ sold (as well as the last several years of LG phones). Consumer trust in a brand is a very important thing, and we applaud LG for taking the extra step in this area.
The Upper Hand in Authentication
While the G8 ThinQ still features a notch in the design of its display, there’s a solid reasoning for including such a thing: a Time-of-Flight, or TOF camera. TOF cameras have risen in popularity significantly since their consumer introduction on phones last Fall, and for very good reason. A TOF camera is able to recognize depth, or 3D information, without the need for additional cameras or aides.
This replaces the IR cameras and dot projectors on phones with proper 3D facial recognition without making it easier to fool the camera or create a less secure environment. Plainly stated, the 3D facial recognition on the G8 ThinQ is class-leading and is able to unlock by just looking at your face, even from an angle.
Face unlock isn’t a new concept by any means, having been in the Android OS since Ice Cream Sandwich’s debut at the end of 2011, but this biometric unlocking method has been terribly insecure nearly that entire time no matter what manufacturer attempts to implement it. LG’s use of a TOF camera on front means a proper 3D-mapped version of your face is used for authentication rather than a simple 2D image from a camera.
The TOF camera is also able to recognize veins in hands, adding in a truly unique way to unlock your phone. Hand unlock works fine in practice, and although it takes a bit of finagling to get it work properly, it’s at least a reasonable alternative to in-glass fingerprint scanners at the present time.
Hand unlock works best when the phone is sitting on a surface, such as a counter or desk, and is designed to let you unlock the phone without having to pick it up.
In this scenario, the G8 ThinQ excels wildly.
I found it easy to hover my hand over the device about 4 inches when just checking a notification or chat while typing on my computer at my desk, or for getting the next step in a recipe while cooking. These scenarios are exactly the times I need such a feature, and I found it to work exactly as I had hoped.
Last year’s G7 used a different type of LCD panel to get brighter than ever, but this year’s OLED display looks more high-quality than ever and delivers a picture experience like no G-series phone has ever had.
LG has implemented a Google Home Hub-esque feature that changes the display's color balance to match ambient lighting, making your display warmer or cooler to match the environment you’re in. This gives an impressive realistic quality to the display that adapts to your surroundings and genuinely enhances the image quality in a way other displays don’t.
A Prism of Audio
In addition to just looking better, this new Crystal OLED, as LG calls it, also produces sound right from the panel itself. That means that sound is aimed right at the place that’s already looking at the display; your face. This marks the first time LG has ever had front-facing speakers on an LG-branded flagship device and subsequently one of the best audio experiences you’ll find on any phone.
It’s not just about providing sound aimed at your face, it’s also about providing fuller sound by using the Boombox speaker in conjunction with sound-on-display. Sound now resonates out of the back of the device, something that works particularly well when the phone is placed on a surface, as well as out of the front and even the single speaker on the bottom of the device.
Having sound come from nearly every angle you hold the phone is simply fantastic and means you’re going to get a good experience no matter how you hold it or where you place it. The DTS:X virtual surround sound only enhances this and provides a virtual utopia of sound from the device alone.
Couple this with the absolute best DACs on the market and you’ll find that this is the best audio experience on any device when taking the full package into account. It’s amazing just how much better LG’s 3.5mm audio output is than everyone else’s on the market, and the nuances you’ll hear in your music will likely astound even the least picky person.
The LG G8 ThinQ also includes plenty of other nuanced audio features too, like a far-field microphone that can hear better in noisy environments and up to 16ft (~5m) away, making it ideal for using Google Assistant anywhere. It’s also got Receiver as a Mic (RAM) technology for advanced noise cancellation on phone calls or recording video. This does an excellent job of blocking out wind when recording video, for example.
User-Centric Software Design
While LG has been one of the slowest manufacturers to get their Android 9 Pie update out to market, the G8 ThinQ thankfully launches with this update. Android 9 Pie remains one of the most controversial updates in Android history thanks to some huge stylistic changes to the UI, and most manufacturers have sought to modify Google’s design to some extent. LG has taken this to more of an extreme than many OEMs, but not quite to the level of Samsung’s OneUI.
What we’re left with is an amalgam of LG and Google’s stylings, mostly for the better, and without most of Android 9 Pie’s negative design choices. Quick toggles have been updated to represent the style change in Pie, and themes all still work with the new visual style of Pie as well, including the snazzy new animations.
What’s more is that LG still provides tons of free themes in addition to their paid ones, offering this option to folks looking to theme their phone without laying down additional cash, while Samsung has moved to a paid-only model of theming.
In fact, LG’s new Seamless wallpapers are the epitome of anti-Samsung in that they now provide even better functionality than we saw from Samsung’s now-defunct Infinity Wallpapers. These provide a three-tier wallpaper that themes the always-on-display, the lockscreen, and then transitions seamlessly onto the homescreen with a snazzy animation. It seems that LG is collecting the good ideas Samsung foolishly has thrown away and is slowly implementing them in a better manner.
The notch can be properly hidden this time around and even themed with one of the four preset color choices. Previously, only LG apps accepted this themed notch on the G7 and V40 running Android 8 Oreo.
Out of the box navigation is almost identical to Android 8 Oreo’s design, including the software navigation bar at the bottom with 3-button controls (back, home, overview). Overview has received a slight visual change to fit in with Android 9 Pie’s rounded corners, fitting the physical round corners on the phone as well. This style of navigation remains the fastest way to navigate between apps on the phone and is thankfully the default choice.
Users who want to try out the alternative style of navigation, forced on users in stock Android 9 Pie, can opt to change to “gesture” navigation within settings. This option changes not only the buttons themselves to the “pill” design, but also changes how Overview and multi-app navigation works as well. While I abhor this particular style of UI navigation, particularly for its detrimental effects on juggling multiple apps at a time, LG’s actual offering of choice is what shines here.
Not only this but LG actually has an app drawer available on all screens, which is the one positive thing I can point out for Android’s new-style navigation options. Double swiping up (or single tall swipe) from the navigation pill pulls up an app drawer from any screen, giving easy, quick access to any app no matter where you’re at on the phone. This is a huge plus since the large tile design on Android 9 Pie isn’t conducive to multitasking.
LG’s fixes for Google’s poor design decisions don’t end there either. LG added a dedicated split-screen button on supported app tiles for quick one-button multi-window. You’ll also find that the top portion of each app sports the proper app color, making it easier to quickly identify each app when scrolling through the carousel of apps in Overview.
Plenty of other more nuanced solutions that Android is missing include the ability to quickly draw on a screenshot or other image via Capture+, a pre-installed system tool that fills a much-needed gap. Also included in this repertoire is the slide-out floating bar, which has been around since the V30 and continues to be an excellent way to instantly launch your 5 favorite apps, make a quick call to 5 favorite contacts, or even capture what’s on the screen in a GIF.
Full Creative Camera Control
The G8 ThinQ continues the trend of LG’s steady camera software improvement. A tweaked interface design puts customization and ease of use first, and a new night mode and portrait video mode round out the already super robust set of features.
What might be the single biggest positive change is the inclusion of a record and shutter button in every single mode. You’ll never have to switch modes just to record a video or take a photo, as every main mode on the phone provides the option to do either of these tasks with a single button press.
LG has also added a way for users to customize which modes they want within a single button press, making that row of modes at the bottom of the screen fully customizable. They also provide a superior one-handed experience by providing a “more” button in the mode list above the shutter button, which displays a grid of all available modes on a single screen.
This single pane of glass design makes it easier to quickly find the right mode and switch without having to scroll through all of them every single time.
You can also start a recording or take a picture instantly from any mode that supports both actions thanks to the inclusion of dedicated buttons for each action. This furthers the “single pane of glass” approach by making important elements available on the screen without requiring users to switch modes just to achieve these basic tasks.
It’s brilliant design in a world where most companies continue to make their software look and operate just as an iPhone without trying to fix the obvious negative design aspects that such design brings.
Manual photo and video modes continue to be the absolute best in the industry, with more control over the image than any other OEM provides. LG remains the only OEM to provide any kind of real manual video recording controls including the full range of shutter speed and ISO settings in addition to manual focus, exposure and white balance settings in real-time.
Even if you’re not a professional who knows how things like ISO or shutter speed affect a scene, LG’s continued integration with the Graphy service means you don’t necessarily need to understand how these work right off the bat. Rather, Graphy’s deep integration into the manual camera experience provides several presets for different scene and lighting types and explains why each setting helps in these scenarios.
Additional user-created presets can also be downloaded via the Graphy marketplace for free, all within the camera app’s manual mode.
LG’s cinema filters and cinezoom modes also make it easy to shoot videos that look more professional with no work at all. Filters are organized by easy to understand labels and moods, while cinezoom provides a way to digitally zoom into a portion of the video via a smooth animation controlled by a simple slider.
LG’s photo processing has improved since the V40 ThinQ launched in the Fall, which ushered in a big change to LG’s processing algorithms. Dynamic range is better than ever and details are improved in lower light when the Night View mode is used.
The ultra-wide angle camera continues to be an invaluable part of LG’s formula, even though its unique nature is diminished now that Huawei and Samsung also put these cameras on their latest flagship phones.
The front-facing camera is better than ever, featuring the largest sensor LG has ever put on the front of a smartphone. This, coupled with the TOF camera, make the best portrait mode shots on any phone.
Part of the improvement is the sensor, which produces more detail than ever. The other half of the equation is the TOF camera, which can detect 3D space and more accurately blurs the edges of foreground objects than other phones. This creates dramatic portrait shots without the overly heavy processing that makes photos look unnatural, as happens on many other smartphones.
Take a look at the full camera gallery at Flickr.com.
Creatives and Audiophiles Will Love It
There’s no doubt that LG has doubled-down on its focus towards folks who use their device to create media and experiences, as well as those who enjoy consuming media and content at the utmost quality. LG’s haptic motors continue to deliver the best experience among flagship-tier smartphones, and the overall hardware build and design further enhance the feeling of a top-quality smartphone.
The Crystal Sound OLED both delivers the best picture quality we’ve ever seen on an LG G-Series smartphone, as well as the best on-device speakers we’ve seen on any LG smartphone to date. The Android 9 Pie-based LG UX 8.0 brings in lots of great new design while still providing users with lots of choice in navigation and themes.
Then comes the camera experience, which is the best G-Series camera to date in several ways. It’s the best front-facing experience on any LG phone, and the addition of a few new useful modes and a tweaked software design make this a simple, fast and intuitive everyday camera experience.
Bottom line? This is the best G-Series phone we’ve ever seen from LG, and one that features a significant amount of innovation from the company, as well as a continued dedication to delivering quality without compromise in media playback.
The LG G8 ThinQ is now available to order from a number of carriers and retailers. To find the best price for you, check out our LG G8 ThinQ price roundup.