The LG Velvet may have been one of the most talked-about phones at its debut last year, but it's now the victim of LG's decision to exit the smartphone business. That's a shame, as this $699 phone had the kind of specs that made it a true alternative to some of the best Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S20.
Samsung's Galaxy S series dominates the Android world, as the go-to phone to get when you want something that delivers premium features. And while last year's Galaxy S20 release impressed, its starting price of $999 left some people wondering if there's not a lower-priced alternative they can turn that still delivers high-end capabilities.
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How well did the LG do filling that void? Having reviewed the phone, we came away impressed by some features, like its design and display. In other areas, LG's phone falls short as our LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 face-off reveals.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Price and availability
Even with LG no longer building phones, you'll still find the LG Velvet at some carriers. AT&T sells the phone for $599, though you can get it for $10 a month over 36 months when you sign up for a qualified unlimited plan. Verizon's version of the LG Velvet costs $699, though that phone works with the carrier's faster Ultra Wideband-based 5G network. The phone costs $5 a month on a 24-month installment plan.
You might hesitate about buying a phone from a company that's given up on smartphones, but LG has promised support for Android 12.
No matter what version of the LG Velvet you get, it's less than the Galaxy S20, even after that phone has dropped from its $999 debut price with the arrival of the Galaxy S21 earlier this year. In some locales, you can find the S20 for around what you pay for an LG Velvet, though some places continue to charge the original price. Galaxy S20 deals potentially lowering the cost of your phone.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Design and display
LG put a lot of effort into coming up with a distinctive design for the LG Velvet, and it's this area where the phone is best equipped to take on the Galaxy S20.
The LG Velvet features what LG calls a 3D Arc Design with curved display edges designed to make the phone easier to grip. On the back of the phone, you'll find the rear cameras assembled in a vertical array with the largest main lens on top and the other lenses following in descending order — something LG bills as a "raindrop effect." It's certainly a striking contrast to the Galaxy S20 and its square camera array in the upper left corner of the phone, and fans of headphone jacks will appreciate that the LG Velvet has one and Samsung’s flagship does not.
The LG Velvet comes in four colors — Aurora White, Aurora Green, Aurora Gray and Illusion Sunset. It's a more eye-catching array than the more conventional Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue and Cloud Pink options Samsung uses for the S20.
Not that the Galaxy S20 is a slouch in the design department — while the S20 looks a lot like the Galaxy S10 that came before it, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The S20 takes that existing design and refines it, with a smaller camera cutout that's now featured in the top center of the display. The edges aren't as rounded as before, which cuts down on the chance of accidental touches of the display when all you're trying to do is hold the phone.
The LG Velvet is noticeably bigger than the 5.9 x 3 x 0.31-inch Galaxy S20. At 6.6 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches, the LG Velvet is even taller than the Galaxy S20 Plus. Of course, that's to accommodate the Velvet's larger 6.8-inch OLED display, which is bigger than both the S20’s (6.2 inches) and S20 Plus’ (6.7 inches).
Resolution is sharper on the Galaxy S20's screen, which features a Quad HD+ resolution of 3200 x 1400. That compares to 2460 x 1080 on the LG Velvet's FullVision display. The S20 can also support a 120Hz refresh rate (although not at full resolution), while the LG Velvet has a more conventional refresh rate. That means scrolling will be smoother on the Galaxy S20's display.
Still the LG Velvet's display is pretty sharp with a Delta-E color accuracy rating of 0.30 to the S20's 0.37. (Numbers closer to zero are more accurate.) As bright as the Velvet is at 567 nits, the S20 is much brighter at 857 nits.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Cameras
The LG Velvet has its work cut out for it to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S20 on the photo front. Samsung makes some of the best camera phones around, and while the Galaxy S20 doesn't surpass contemporary phones like the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it certainly produces some very compelling photos. In contrast, the LG Velvet's cameras didn't really impress in our testing, especially in low light.
Given the fact the LG Velvet's days are numbered as an available phone, we'll skip a formal camera face-off and just look at how the hardware measures up.The Galaxy S20 features a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens that serves as the main shooter. That's augmented by a 64MP telephoto lens and 12MP ultra wide-angle shooter. The lenses are bigger than they were on 2019's Galaxy S10, which lets in more light and produces brighter, sharper images.
We were particularly impressed by the telephoto lens on the Galaxy S20, as it delivers a 3x lossless zoom that can really bring out the detail of what you're shooting. You can even zoom in 30x digitally, though we wouldn't advise that unless you've got a tripod handy to mitigate shaky shots.
There's no telephoto lens on the LG Velvet. Instead, the triple rear camera array includes a 5MP depth sensor for improved portrait shots. That joins a 48MP wide lens and a 8MP ultra wide shooter. The main lens uses pixel binning to combine four pixels together for better low-light performance.
When it launched the Velvet in Korea, LG talked up the video capabilities with features like image stabilization, ASMR recording and a bokeh voice feature that hones in on whoever's talking when there's background noise. Even there, the LG Velvet faces some stiff competition from the Galaxy S20, which can record 8K video at 24 frames per second.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Performance
This isn't much of a contest. The LG Velvet features a Snapdragon 765 processor, and while that's a capable system-on-chip, it's far from the most powerful offering in Qualcomm's mobile lineup. Qualcomm's top-of-the-line chipset when the Galaxy S20 shipped was the Snapdragon 865, and that's what Samsung used in its phone.
As a result, the Galaxy S20 has produced benchmark results that were among the best we saw for Android phones in the spring of 2020 when we ran our tests. On Geekbench 5, the Galaxy S20 turned in a multicore score of 3,147, which is miles ahead of what phones running on last year's Snapdragon 855 produced. The LG Velvet scored 1,927 on that same test.
The Galaxy S20 also produced a good-for-an-Android-phone result in our real-world test where we have phones transcode a 4K video to 1080p using Adobe Premiere Rush. Samsung's phone finished that task in 1 minute and 15 seconds. At 2 minutes, 25 seconds, the LG Velvet took more than a minute longer.
The LG Velvet can match the Galaxy S20 in one other performance area — 5G connectivity. The Snapdragon 765 has a built-in 5G modem, so it can connect to the same 5G networks as the Galaxy S20 does.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Battery
You can squeeze more battery life from LG's newest phone, probably because LG included a larger power pack in the Velvet. The LG Velvet's 4,300 mAh battery is a little bit larger than the 4,000 mAh battery inside the Samsung Galaxy S20.
The S20's battery didn't really impress us when we ran our battery test on the phone. In that test, we have phones continuously surf the web over a cellular connection until they run out of power. The Galaxy S20 lasted 9 hours and 31 minutes, which is just below average for a smartphone.
The LG Velvet, on the other hand, beat the average, with a time of 10 hours and 29 minutes. That's not going to land LG's phone on the best phone battery life list, but it will mean that the Velvet outlasts the pricier S20.
We tested AT&T's version of the LG Velvet, which shipped with a 16.2W charger. That got a drained Velvet to 24% after 30 minutes of charging. The S20's 25-watt charger is faster, reaching 53% after half-an-hour.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Outlook
In a sense, the LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 face-off is a moot point, with LG dropping phones from its product offerings, and Samsung releasing newer models, both for its flagships and its midrange handsets. Still, if you have to choose between the two phones, the LG Velvet is a compelling alternative thanks to its impressive design and better battery life.
The S20 tops the LG Velvet for performance and mobile photography — two key factors to be sure when you're considering which phone to buy. But the LG Velvet showed off LG's risk-taking flair, which we'll miss now that the former phone maker has move on.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.