LG G7 ThinQ Hands-on: Every Feature Imaginable, But Nothing Special

  • The new LG G7 ThinQ is the company's answer to the Galaxy S9. Pricing has not been announced, but pre-orders start May 24.
  • It sports a super bright 6.1-inch display with a notch that you can customize, as well as a very loud speaker.
  • The AI-powered, dual-lens camera can recognize what you're shooting and optimize the settings automatically.

LG's G7 ThinQ is a flagship Android device that has practically every trendy smartphone feature packed inside. Want a massive, edge-to-edge display? Check. What about an iPhone X-style notch? You got it. A dual-lens camera with artificial intelligence? Sure, why not. A dedicated button for a voice-activated assistant that can perform tasks on command? No problem. The G7 ThinQ has it all.

LG pushed back the launch of the G7 from its usual Mobile World Congress debut to avoid going to head to head with Samsung's scene-stealing Galaxy S9. It's a strategy that could pay off. The G7 combines the looks of the iPhone X with the smart camera and processing power of the Galaxy S9. At a lower price than both those flagships, the G7 could tempt some buyers.

After months of rumors, LG just took the wraps off the G7 ThinQ. We went hands-on with the device to see if it can succeed where the G6 failed to catch on and give the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 a run for their money.

LG G7 ThinQ Specs

Price

TBA

Display

6.1 inches

Rear Camera

16-MP (f/1.6) main lens and 16-MP (f/1.9) wide-angle lens

Front Camera

8-MP (f/1.9)

CPU

Snapdragon 845

RAM

4GB

Storage

64GB

microSD

Yes, up to 2TB

Battery

3,000 mAh

Colors

Platinum Gray, Aurora Black, Moroccan Blue, Raspberry Rose

Size

6.03 x 2.83 x 0.31 inches

Weight

5.71 ounces

Design: Well, this looks familiar

The G7 ThinQ isn't the first Android flagship to lean into Apple's iPhone X design and fully embrace the controversial notch. But LG realizes that the notch, which dips into the otherwise-bezel-free display to hide the front-facing camera and speaker, is polarizing. The company wants the G7 to appeal to iPhone X fans and haters alike, so LG is making the notch optional.

The notch, or what LG calls the "second screen," can be hidden with a menu bar that you can customize in the Settings app. The bar doesn't have to be basic black, either; you can cover up the notch with a colorful gradient bar that fades to black in the center. I didn't love the look of the colorful menu bars, but many people will appreciate the option to cover the notch with a black bezel.

LG decided to double down on the G6's 5.7-inch FullView display, which featured an 18:9 aspect ratio optimized for watching TV shows and movies, giving the G7 a massive, 6.1-inch display. The new flagship has slimmer bezels than the G6 did, even with the notch hidden in a menu bar, and with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and 3120 x 1440 resolution, this phone seems tailor-made for streaming video.

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LG says the G7's display is the brightest of any smartphone ever, with the ability to hit peak brightness of 1,000 nits outdoors thanks to a dedicated white pixel in the LCD panel. Normally, turning the brightness all the way up drains your phone's battery life, so we don't recommend it. But LG says the G7's display is power-efficient and consumes 35 percent less battery than the G6's display. The screen did seem awfully bright indoors when we were using it to shoot photos and watch videos on YouTube, but we weren't able to test it with a light meter or compare it to other flagship devices. Stay tuned for our review with a detailed comparison.

Camera: Smarter, better, faster

LG introduced an artificially intelligent smartphone camera with the V30S ThinQ, which we saw at Mobile World Congress but is only now available to preorder in the U.S. What set the V30S apart was its image-recognition capabilities, which automatically fine-tune your camera settings depending on what you're shooting. LG recently added those capabilities to the V30 via a software update, and now they're in the G7, too.

The G7's camera can recognize 18 categories, including people, pets, flowers, landscapes, sunsets, sunrises and, of course, food, and then optimizes the contrast, saturation and color to best capture the scene. The image recognition is almost instant; when I pointed the phone at a jar filled with lemons, the word "fruit" popped up on the display within a second. When I aimed the lens at the New York skyline, the phone knew I was trying to capture sky, buildings and landscape.

LG says the G7 doesn't send your photo data to the cloud. The AI photo analysis happens on-device. The company plans to take user feedback and tweak the AI features in future software updates.

The G7 improves upon the G6 with two 16-megapixel lenses versus the G6's 13MP camera system. Like the G6, one of the G7's lenses is wide-angle for capturing more detail in the frame. But LG made the G7's camera more capable of shooting in low-light scenarios thanks what the company calls "pixel binning," which combines four pixels into one super-pixel to quadruple low-light sensitivity. LG says the G7 can shoot photos and videos that are four times brighter than what the G6 can produce. Bright mode is automatically enabled in super-low-light settings. In dim environments, this mode is not automatic; instead, the bright mode icon will blink to alert you that it might be a good idea to enable the setting.

We tested the G7 in a dark room with the door cracked slightly to let in a tiny sliver of light. We used the phone to shoot still images of brightly colored flowers, finding that the automatic bright mode illuminates the subject of the photo without blowing out the image with flash or producing a noise-filled photo. We'll test this feature in more real-world scenarios for our review and compare it to the S9's low-light photo features. But capturing high-quality photos in low light is a pain point that the G7 may be able to solve once and for all.

The G7 also offers portrait mode in both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras, with the ability to adjust the focus of the image afterward. The 8MP selfie lens can recognize and bring into focus up to five people in the frame with portrait mode enabled, but it failed to impress us in our hands-on time. I tried capturing my colleague Adam and me outdoors; sometimes, the camera recognized that Adam was in the frame, and sometimes it didn't. We were testing a version of the G7 that wasn't quite ready to ship, so we'll try this feature again with a shipping version.

Smarter assistant, louder sound

The G7's standout features are its display and camera, but LG is also sweetening the deal with improved sound and voice recognition. The device's super-far-field voice recognition will make it easier to use Google Assistant, which you can now trigger with a dedicated hardware button. (Similar to what you find with the Bixby button on Samsung's phones, you can't program LG's button to perform other tasks.)

LG also worked with Google to add G7-specific commands to Google Assistant's repertoire. Some of the custom commands include "Open camera with AI cam," "Take a photo with low-light mode," "Take a photo with food mode" and "Take a photo with portrait mode." It's clear that LG is emphasizing the G7's smart camera.

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The G7 also has a new boom-box speaker with 32-bit hi-fi quad DAC for clearer sound that minimizes distortion. If you use wired headphones or Bluetooth speakers, you can take advantage of the device's DTS-X virtual surround sound, which makes it seem like you're surrounded by seven speakers. The G7 definitely vibrates with the pulse of the song you're playing. I blasted Beyonce's "Formation" to get the full effect, and it nearly cleared 100 on a decibel meter.

But unless you're a New York City commuter who enjoys entertaining your fellow passengers on the subway with your playlist (please, please, never do this), I can't imagine anyone would want a boom-box speaker inside their phone. If you plan to use your G7 to provide the soundtrack for your parties, you might want to invest in Bluetooth speaker instead.

Price and Availability

LG is leaving it up to its carrier partners to announce the G7's price and the date when you can buy the phone. We'll add that information when we have it.

Outlook

The G7 ThinQ is clearly taking aim at the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 with a full slate of premium features. LG is throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, as evidenced by the dual-lens, AI-powered camera that can take ultrabright low-light photos and super-wide-angle shots and apply Portrait Mode to any image after the fact. The G7 is doing a lot, to say the least.

The display is compelling, whether you love the notch or plan to banish it as soon as you power up the G7. Doing so is one of the first options you see when you set up the device. And the G7 will launch with Android Oreo and be upgradeable to Android P, so you'll be one of the first to get the latest Android features when that new OS arrives later this year.

But other smartphone makers who are putting out amazing AI cameras and nearly bezel-less displays haven't been able to take down Apple or Samsung (see Huawei's Mate 10 Pro). It's unclear if LG can woo buyers away from other flagships, but with the G7 ThinQ, the company is certainly trying.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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  • Brad_53
    Not an S9 killer with that notch up top.