LG Velvet Review: Pressing Restart

LG Velvet Review featured AM AH 1
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The LG Velvet earns some style points with its design "restart" and even more points with its much lower price, compared to the competition.

LG Velvet
$599
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Big display
  • Battery life
  • Beautiful design
  • Dual screen is more useful
  • Great price
Cons
  • 60Hz Display
  • Fingerprint sensor is slow
  • No face unlock option
  • Camera underperforms

LG sent us a review unit of the European variant of the Velvet to use in the US. This review was done without a SIM card in the device, since European phones don’t typically work on US carrier networks. So when it comes to the battery life, take that with a grain of salt.

At the time of writing this review, the Velvet is on Android 10, with the June 1, 2020 security patch.

The LG Velvet marks a departure from the company's old design, and introduces an entirely new design language, and a new set of selling points for LG.

LG had always been in the spec game, putting out smartphones with the best specs. It was first to do QHD on a smartphone, it was one of the first to do a 3000mAh capacity battery in a smartphone, and so on. But with the LG Velvet, the company is looking to focus less on specs and more on features, usability and the design of the phone. And that in-turn, knocks the price down a bit.

The LG Velvet is available in Europe now for around €649, it is coming to the US this summer for $599. Making it a whole lot cheaper than most other smartphones available in the US.

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The best looking LG smartphone in years

LG has changed up its design before, but it was mostly still a variation of what it started back with the Optimus G2 many years ago. It moved from plastic to leather, to aluminum and then to glass. But the design mostly looked the same. And it wasn't all that interesting. Especially when you had some pretty incredibly designed phones from Samsung and OnePlus in the US, as well as Xiaomi, Huawei, HONOR, Vivo and others in other markets.

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But with the Velvet, LG went to the drawing board and started from scratch. Creating a phone that looks absolutely stunning.

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The Velvet is also the first truly curved phone that the company has created. And it's about time.

Velvet has a curved backside and curved display, that melt into this metal chassis. And it looks incredible. The back is very clean, on our gray model here, the LG logo is towards the bottom and in black. So it doesn't really stand out. There is a teardrop style camera on the left side of the phone. With the biggest camera at the top, and they get smaller from there, going down to the flash. Only one camera has a bump, which is the main sensor at the very top. And it's no where near as big as what Samsung has been doing lately. So when you have it on a table, it doesn't wobble when you're typing on it.

It's this attention to detail that many feel LG has lacked in recent years. But it is available here on the Velvet.

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The front of the phone doesn't immediately scream "premium", though, since there is a tear drop notch for the front-facing camera too.

Most of the time, I don't spend a lot of time on the design of a phone, because the majority people slap it in a case. But the Velvet is different. It is a phone that you're going to want to show off.

The Snapdragon 765 is fast enough

The Snapdragon 765 is a step down from the Snapdragon 865 that you'll find in almost every smartphone released this year. But that doesn't mean it's bad, not by any means.

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It is slower, though I will admit, it's not noticeably slower. I've been using it side-by-side with the OnePlus 8 Pro which sports a Snapdragon 865 and I haven't noticed a huge drop in speed. But one thing you will notice, is with the battery life. It'll be better as it is not powering a more power-hungry chipset.

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For LG, by using a less powerful Snapdragon 765, they are able to sell this phone for less. Hence why this is under $800, while other Snapdragon 865 smartphones are over $999 or more (except for the OnePlus 8 series).

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For most users, the Snapdragon 765 and 6GB of RAM is going to be more than enough. Would we like a faster processor and more RAM? Of course. But for everyday tasks, it gets the job done. If you are one that does a lot of gaming on your smartphone, though, you may not be happy with the performance here.

Battery life is great

As mentioned above, the Snapdragon 765 will allow for better battery life. And we got some great numbers out of our unit here. But as we mentioned in the disclaimer, the LG Velvet was used for this review without a SIM card in it, since this is the European model being used in the US. So the battery life numbers down below are a bit skewed.

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However, you should be able to get around six hours of on screen time out of this phone without any problems. We could get close to eight hours on a charge, but again that's without LTE or 5G being used.

It's a 4300mAh capacity battery, so it's not huge, but it is big enough to get the job done.

This display is not ready for 2020

LG is one of the only smartphone makers that has yet to jump on the high refresh rate train so far. The LG V60 ThinQ 5G that it released earlier this year was a 60Hz panel, but it had that huge 5000mAh capacity battery that made battery life almost comical. And now the Velvet has a 6.8-inch FHD+ display that is also still 60Hz.

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For most people, that won't be a big deal, but if you're coming from a 90Hz or 120Hz phone, you are going to notice the difference – like we have.

It's a good looking display, since it's an OLED and LG definitely knows OLED. And even at 2460×1080, it is plenty sharp. However, having that higher refresh rate would really be nice here.

The notch for the camera doesn't really get in the way either. Though, at this point, we are all pretty used to the notch or hole punch on phones anyways.

Basically, the TL;DR here is that this is a good display, but not a great display. Our only major complaint is that it is still 60Hz.

LG software is finally not a pain to use

If you go back and look at our previous reviews of LG phones, you'll notice that the software is always a pain point for us. And we're not alone. This is an issue with just about everyone that reviews an LG device.

It looks like LG finally heard us though, as the Velvet has some new software, and as we've found in our review, it's not terrible.

The Google Feed is now built into the launcher. Which makes you almost want to use the stock launcher. But LG still can't figure out how to keep the app drawer sorting alphabetical or by your own customized sorting. Any time you download an app, it automatically adds it to the last page of the drawer. Instead of where it belongs alphabetically. So you need to sort it again every time you download a new app. It's an issue that LG has had for years, and likely won't be fixed anytime soon.

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Now, this is not the full overhaul that we kind of wish LG would do – and is long overdue at this point – but there are some changes here that make the software a joy to use.

LG UX 9.1 absolutely flies on this hardware, which is not a big surprise, considering the Snapdragon 765G is a 2.4GHz chipset. That's definitely no slouch. And LG has been working at making the software a lot more lightweight in recent years. Making it smoother on lesser hardware too.

But, the elephant is still in the room. And that's updates. LG isn't great with updates, as we've mentioned in other reviews, but hopefully it'll be different with the Velvet. LG doesn't typically send out updates to its phones. Many of its phones have not been updated to Android 10 and it's been out for over a year already. We are hopeful that LG has turned over a new leaf when it comes to software updates though, after the restart it did on the design for the Velvet.

Dual display continues to improve, but not perfect

LG Velvet does come with the dual display attachment. Something that LG has been pushing since the LG V50 ThinQ it released last year. LG has continued to refine the experience, and getting more apps on-board to work with the dual display definitely does help. But it's still not perfect.

For the most part, the dual display is great for multi-tasking. Being able to watch a video on one screen and then text or browse the web on the other is insanely useful. But it's not something I use all of the time.

It's also really great for Google Maps, and Gmail. Both of which can spread out across the two screens. Though the hinge gets in the way, making it not look as elegant as it could. But for the most part, it's pretty useful.

I wouldn't recommend buying the LG Velvet for the dual display though, after this review. And that's because it's not a great selling point. The better selling point is definitely the price, as well as 5G and even the design.

Cameras are somewhat disappointing

LG has had a pretty good history with cameras in recent years, but the Velvet's cameras are somewhat disappoint. But it seems like its the post-processing here that is at fault. The primary camera – which is a 48-megapixel sensor – does a lot of over-sharpening. Which just leaves us with some pretty bad looking photos.

And in portrait mode, the colors are just way off. On top of that it doesn't really pick out the subject in the foreground all that well. Which is even worse, when you consider the fact that there is a depth sensor in this triple-camera setup. And it is basically useless, since it isn't doing depth correctly.

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The ultra-wide sensor isn't too bad. It actually performs better than the main sensor in some instances.

Now, this can be easily fixed with software updates. But as we've seen in the past, LG isn't great with software updates. It may send them out, it may not. Fingers crossed that it is able to send out some updates that will adjust the post-processing of the camera. And get rid of the over-sharpening, fix the portrait mode problems and such.

The camera is usable, but there are better options out there for the same price.

Should I buy the LG Velvet?

At $599, the LG Velvet is a very compelling smartphone in the US market. There's not a lot of phones in the sub-$600 price range right now, so there's less competition for LG. And even less in that price range that offer 5G. Not to mention the fact that this is one of the best looking smartphones LG has put out in years – literally.

LG Velvet offers a big, beautiful display, as well as great battery life, 5G connectivity and a decent camera setup, as we've found in this review. It checks a lot of the boxes, including the price. So yes, if you want a 5G smartphone, then the Velvet is worth buying.

It's coming to AT&T first, and then it'll come to T-Mobile and Verizon later this summer.