The first LG V-series, V10, appeared in 2015 and got many consumers interested due to its second screen and rugged design, which includes water resistance and drop-proof. The new V20 launched late last year shed the claim to be element-proof, but added some likeable LG G5 features and used tough materials to withstand drops and shocks.
Design and Build
First of all, the rear casing is made of aircraft-grade AL6013 aluminum. It is thin but extremely tough and cannot be casually bent, allowing the casing to be thin and strong. There is no coating on the aluminum, so you feel the raw metal cool. The top and bottom of the phone is made of silicone polycarbonate (Si-PC), a material commonly used in crash helmets, which is what makes the V20 shock resistant and does not ding easily like metal, yet it feels solid and not plasticky. In the event of any accidental drops, the rear casing may pop out, an expected behaviour in order to absorb some of the shock.
The V20 gets the bragging rights as the first Android smartphone that runs on Nougat (Android 7.0) out of the box, though this advantage quickly becomes insignificant with more smartphones getting the firmware update, including the G5 and the Moto Z. Another uncommon feature is that V20 can support dual SIM and micro SD card at the same time, while most phones come with a hybrid SIM-SD slot.
Another significant aspect of the V20 is that B&O has lent its brand to the smartphone model, boasting its audio capabilities. While the G5 requires the separate purchase of the Hi-Fi Plus module, the V20 has the 24-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC built-in. The V20 provides the option of using either the normal audio processor or the Hi-Fi Quad DAC, by simply enabling from the pull down notification shortcut icons. The Hi-Fi DAC delivers improved audio resolution with more detailed treble output and added spatial response.
The premium audio processor is not limited to playback. Both video and audio recording are now capable of 24-bit format. The HD Audio Recorder app lets you set sampling rate from 44.1KHz to 192KHz, in 16-bit or 24-bit depth, saved in 3GP, WAV or FLAC format. On top of that, I can adjust gain, enable limiter, and filter low frequencies below 150Hz.
Based on my test, the audio recorder can achieve quality that is unheard of (no pun intended) on smartphones. Stereo imaging is excellent and immerses me into the recording. When the gain is at -20dB and other audio filters off, the microphone is able to withstand loud audio levels and capture low-frequency tones, while the highs are also clean and undistorted. In this setting, no problem when recording in noisy environments like disco pubs, stadiums, or rock concerts. Most smartphone mics would only be able to capture the highs while the lows would be neglected. For voice-only recording, adjust the gain, set LCF (low cut filter) to 150Hz so that the lower frequencies like ambient noises are removed for better conversational recording.
Similarly, when using the “Manual Video” recording option, I can enable 24-bit Hi-Fi Audio or adjust audio filters to control the outcome, resulting in more professional-sounding, less distorted audio for video recordings. The use of 24-bit Hi-Fi Audio should be used when creating premium content and not for social sharing, because not all the platforms, for instance Instagram, supports 24-bit audio, and will make the audio channel sound jibberish.
What Does 24-bit Audio Mean?
A higher bit-rate in audio is similar to a higher pixel count in photo images. It is always better to record or capture in higher resolution, but ultimately, one might not need all the data unless the intention is to edit and transform the recording. Recording in higher bit does not necessarily mean better quality, because it all depends on the source. For photography, it is the sensor. For audio, it is the microphone. While the LG V20 microphone sounds impressive, it is still incomparable to professional mics. So, if you were to plug in quality mics to record on the V20, the result should be nothing short of super.
B&O Play Earphones
The bundled B&O earphones are not characteristically special, but I admit I am being critical here since it is a pair of B&O earphone. The bass is not extended, there is slight boost in mid-treble giving the lead tracks a broader sound. They are tuned for good treble-based music, with wide and airy sound staging. The LG V20 s powerful DAC also means the earphones is designed to show off the highs.
The V20 speaker offers nothing unique. Audio quality delivered is clear though lacking in lower frequencies.
Having used the LG G5 for an extended period of time, many thanks to LG Singapore, the V20 feels similar to G5 with the UX, dual camera, overall shape and form, plus the unique second screen which inspires other upcoming phone models from the competitors. V20 continues to have infrared sensor and support universal remote control settings. Since there is no modular attachment, the V20 feels more rigid and durable thanks to the above-mentioned material use. The removable 3200 mAh battery is a notch larger than G5, though the battery life is not significantly extended. The V20 lacks granular management of apps and the battery usage, so occasionally I feel excessive battery drain with increased body temperature.
The Android 7.0 supports multi-window but there are very limited apps that work in this mode, to my disappointment. The calculator app was also absent from the Qslide App drawer, where apps can run on a floating window.
The usefulness of the Second screen can be improved. Currently, the screen is rather small, and notifications appear too brief before it disappears. There are limited number of shortcut apps to be added to the second screen.
The dual camera remains my favourite among all the smartphones I review. Granted, the Huawei Mate 9 camera delivers more pleasing images with its aggressive exposure controls and wide aperture trickery. But the ultra-wide 135-degree angle camera is something that cannot be post-processed, unlike exposure levels or bokeh.
During my review with multiple smartphones, I find myself using the V20 more to capture photojournals, while the Mate 9 is ideal for close objects. The exposure level for the V20 is geared towards the conservative, and I get underexposed images if there are high contrast areas.
In addition, the V20 front camera is also wider (120 degrees) so that I can include more background views and people in selfies. Like the rear camera, the front camera can choose between wide angle and normal angle, though it uses the same camera.
Multi-view Camera Mode
The multi-view camera mode is already a feature in G5, where it makes use of all 3 camera lenses to record a multi-view video recording at the same time. With the V20, it allows 4 views, the fourth being the cropped front camera view. On top of that, if you have the LG 360 CAM, the camera can also be chosen as one of the views for recording. I thought that was rather amazing.
Where the G5 may have failed to gain consumer interest, the V20 makes it up. Moving from G5 to V20 feels more like an upgrade, with better build quality, premium audio processor, dual camera setup, second screen, B&O earphones. As a musician, a photographer, and a social media enthusiast, the V20 offers all the features that are close to my heart. Retailing at S$998, it comes in Silver and Titan, plus a new colour, Pink!
Valentine’s Day Contest
Want to win an LG V20 Pink Edition this Valentine’s? Don’t miss this chance.
Here’s how to win the LG V20:
Step 1: Like “LG Mobile Singapore” Page.
Step 2: Share the contest post on your Facebook profile page.
Step 3: Tag your significant other / friend under the ‘comment’ portion of the original contest post, and leave a special message for them!
Step 4: Ask your friends to like your comment. The contestant with the most likes will win!
Contest ends February 15, 2017, 12pm. Terms and conditions apply. http://bit.ly/2jI6BQP
- Better built compared to LG G5
- Ultra wide-angle camera remains my favourite feature among smartphones
- Premium audio processor for video and audio recording
- Multi-view camera mode also supports connecting to LG 360 CAM
- Second screen
- Video editing supports altering speeds for 2 segments from x1/4 to x4 speeds.
- Infrared port
- Relatively poor battery performance given such a powerful smartphone, though battery is swappable which easily extends the usage.
- Overall UI less responsive than competitors like Huawei Mate 9
Official product website: http://www.lg.com/sg/mobile-phones/lg-V20