LG has always been a great company on the smartphone side of the tech fence, but recent years have betrayed a proclivity for over-innovating, trying too hard or flat-out falling short on quality assurance before green-lighting new flagships in the G series. There was speculation earlier in the year that the South Korean manufacturer would kill off the series altogether, but it turned out that they were merely rethinking how the brand would stand out. Rather than take the fall-flat strategy that put HTC out of the picture many moons ago, LG has reasserted its footing as a prominent tastemaker in the smartphone arena with its ThinQ reinvention of the V and G lines.
Here, we're going to glimpse over the offerings of the LG G7 ThinQ ("think-cue") and get straight to the point of what all the buzz is about. We'll give you a hint: It's different but the same, yet it's a welcome addition to the lineup of 2018's flagships even if it doesn't necessarily bring anything brand new and utterly revolutionary. With that said, let's inspect what's under the hood with this pocket-sized beast as well as what to be wary of if you decide to pick it up.
- Exceptional DAC
- Crisp mono speaker that doesn't mute when covered and booms "10 times as loud" as the competition
- Yes, there's a headphone jack, and yes, the notch can be hidden
- Top-of-the-line 6.1-inch LCD screen that can be manually pumped to 1,000 nits as the user pleases
- The usual flagship-level hardware in addition to the rest
LG did a cool thing here. Nowadays, "innovation" seems to be largely enfulcrumated over AI implementation, wireless charging and software features, but most manufacturers ignore the basic hardware issues that we unfortunately take for granted in every smartphone. We know, for example, that phones generally have terrible speakers and don't shine so well in direct sunlight. LG tackled both of these issues in addition to a shocking one: MIL-STD-810G compliance, which is a military durability standard that gauges resistance to not only water and dust but also temperature, shock and vibration. Basically, it's loud, bright and tanky.
The speaker isn't just a blaring garble of unintelligible audio either. A powerful DAC combined with a single, uber-powerful speaker causes everything from radio and music to videos and more to boom through your home with clarity. In fact, at max volume, you couldn't hold a conversation over the blast; users have to walk the next room over to chat in elevated volumes. LG indicated that a mono speaker was more sensible in the G7 ThinQ because it was better to focus all of the quality into an immutable offering than divide and butcher the circuitry for two speakers that would be weaker and less clear. Apparently, they were onto something.
Finally, if you're addicted to AMOLED, set your Samsung down for a second and hear us out here. In much the way that AMOLED has risen to match LCD in color accuracy and brightness, LCD has managed to match AMOLED on saturation and contrast ratios — at least for the most part. Generally speaking, OLED will always be OLED and LCD will always be LCD, but this isn't an entry-level TFT-laden display here; this is a top-notch iteration of IPS LCD technology implemented in a cutting-edge handset. Gone are the days of waiting for your device to kick into ultra-bright mode in direct sunlight: The G7 ThinQ lets you do that manually.
- Even if it can be covered, there's still a notch, and this imparts the sense that some screen real estate is needlessly wasted
- Reliance on AI features is a little heavy-handed
- Amidst addressing the typical weaknesses of today's flagship smartphones, LG forgot about the battery
While LG is out finding its niche, it's left a handful of vulnerabilities in its wake. We can't blame LG for not quite perfecting the formula on the first try, but we can point out that rote commitment to notches and AI assistance has become rather tiresome for the savvy lot. Yes, the G7 ThinQ depends heavily on its AI in everything from the camera to the general daily driving of app-hopping, web-searching and media consumption. This, we regret, might be gimmicky at best for most users and aggravating at worst.
The other issue is the battery. Now, it's not bad at all: 3,000mAh is pretty average, and the device as a whole is rather efficient despite the potent speaker and screen array. Nonetheless, we wish they would've considered a larger juicer, or better yet, a way to reintroduce removable batteries while maintaining the IP68. We're not sure if this is a worthy complaint, but in terms of the G7 ThinQ's inability to disrupt other flagships, we think it would have been a bold selling point for LG in a market full of sealed unibody chassis.
The Verdict: Forward-ThinQing and Well Worth It
While you're missing out on the 2160p@60fps recording that other SD845-toting flagships are donning, it's far from deal-breaking and well worth mentioning that the screen is actually higher than standard 1440p, putting it at a ludicrously dense 563ppi — a hair better than the Galaxy S9+. Nonetheless, the G7 ThinQ marks a turning point in LG's history as a smartphone manufacturer, and if there's one thing that every brand is learning, niches are best. Of course, the niches don't always have to be useful — take the notch niche for example — but as the saying goes, "Get in where you fit in."
Looking ahead, LG is discussing the possibility of a 2160p 4K display on the G8 ThinQ, the usefulness of which is disputable but a welcome foray into the concept of ultra-dense mobile displays. Sony did it first to a limited degree with the Xperia Z5 Premium back in 2015 when chipsets weren't quite as "potank", and we hope that the advancements to ARM computing architecture since then will promise a smoother and more efficient implementation of such resolutions if LG settles on this route. Still, don't look forward to it too ambitiously as it's not likely to make a noticeable difference on displays smaller than 7 inches.