Think of the LG V20 as the result of combining last year’s unique V10 with design cues from the newer G5 flagship. In short, you get a 5.7-inch metal Androidphone with two displays, two rear cameras, and a host of new features for audiophiles and photographers. You also get the first phone to come loaded with Android 7.0 Nougat. We got a chance to spend some time with an early build of the phablet.
Full Metal Jacket
The V20 has a premium build (available in gray, pink, or silver) that’s not only nice to look at, but is made of the same kind of aluminum used in airplanes. It can’t fly, but the phone is MIL-STD-810G transit drop compliant, meaning it can withstand drops onto hard surfaces. It’s not waterproof, but LG claims the material is 24 percent stronger than the traditional polycarbonate you’ll find on the outside of many smartphones.
The size of the phone hasn’t changed much from the original, but it’s lighter. The V20 measures 6.3 by 3.1 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.2 ounces, as compared with the 6.3-by-3.1-by-0.3-inch, 6.8-ounce V10. That makes it a bit less cumbersome to hold, but it’s still pretty difficult to use with just one hand.
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The V20 has a removable battery, but it’s not like the slide-out design of the G5 or the snap-off style of the V10. Instead, there’s a battery cover release key on the right side of the phone that lets you pop off the back panel to gain access to the 3,200mAh cell inside. You’ll also see a SIM card slot and a microSD card slot in there, the latter of which can handle cards up to 2TB (though so far we’ve only seen cards as large as 256GB).
As for other buttons and ports, you’ll find a volume rocker on the left, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker, and USB-C charging port on the bottom. The back is home to a combined home button and fingerprint scanner.
Two Screens Are Better Than One
The most notable feature of the V20 is its secondary display, which you can find in the top right corner above the primary display. The small second screen functions the same as it did on the V10, providing you with the time, date, notifications, and quick access to apps, tools, and camera controls (when the camera app is open). While its functionality hasn’t changed much, LG has made one huge improvement: the brightness and contrast have been increased so you have no issue seeing it, which was one of our gripes with the V10.
The primary display is a 5.7-inch, 2,560-by-1,440 IPS panel. It looks bright and rich in person, with more distinct whites and blues than the AMOLED Samsung Galaxy S7, which has deeper blacks. Viewing angles are also great, so the choice between IPS and AMOLED is really more a matter of personal preference than anything else.
Aimed at Audiophiles
Watch out, HTC 10. The V20 has not one, not two, but four digital-to-analog converters (DACs) inside. According to LG, quad DACs improve sound quality by reducing distortion and white noise by 50 percent. Audiophiles will be further pleased by 75-stage fine volume and L/R Balance controls, as well as support for lossless music formats like AIFF, ALAC, DSD, and FLAC.
In addition to playback, there’s an HD audio recorder built-in, capable of capturing 24-bit/192KHz FLAC. There’s also a Music Studio mode that lets you make your own songs.
For video, the V20’s mic is capable of recording up to 132 decibels, rather than the 120 decibels most phones manage. Video audio is also recorded in a lossless format.
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Like the G5, the V20 has two rear-facing camera sensors. One is a standard 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, while the other is an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens that lets you take 135-degree shots of your surroundings. Testing the feature out, it seems to be unchanged from the G5—there’s still a fisheye effect, but it’s fun to see how much more of the room you can capture with the wide-angle lens. The 5-megapixel front-facing camera, meanwhile, has a 120-degree wide-angle mode.
LG promises faster and more reliable images by incorporating Phase Detection for moving objects and Contrast for micro-focus controls. These join the existing laser autofocus, which helps find focus in low-light settings.
Video recording has been given a boost as well with Steady Record 2.0, which helps capture smoother 1080p and 4K footage using the rear camera. The V20 uses its gyroscope to improve electronic image stabilization. Image Stream Analysis adjusts objects to appear in the same position between frames, which should help minimize the effects of an unsteady hand.
Hardware, Software, and Availability
In terms of hardware, the V20 has everything you’d expect from a top-tier phone. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, and 64GB of internal storage. We didn’t get a chance to run benchmark tests on it, but it should fly.
This is also the first phone to launch runningAndroid 7.0 Nougat, though it comes with LG’s heavy UI layer on top. The icons, notification shade, and settings menu have all undergone some changes, and there’s no app drawer. That won’t please Android purists, but hey, at least you’re guaranteed to get Nougat.