LG has, for a long time, been my go-to brand whenever I’m pinged for smartphone recommendations for power users. With a good track record of quality smartphone designs and software performance, LG’s G-and V-series phones have been serious contenders against top competitors like Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Pixel and Samsung’s Galaxy S phones.
The last amongst the top smartphone manufacturers to launch their flagship device, the LG G7+ ThinQ, however, was launched to an overwhelming note of apathy on my part. Although I have been a long-standing believer in LG’s mobile line-up, the feature set of the latest G7+ ThinQ was uninspiring at best. Virtually everything on board the G7+ ThinQ could be found on board other phones, it seemed.
In addition, LG had brought BTS, a Korean pop music group, on board for the campaign, which to me was an indication of how few real features there were to advertise.
Worst was the notch: the ticket that let it join the swathes of ‘copycat’ android phones that had a notch to replicate the success of the iPhone X.
With all my deep, deep reservations, I placidly agreed when LG Singapore offered a review unit of the LG G7+ ThinQ.
And I was surprised. It wasn’t just any decent performer as any of its predecessors have been. The LG G7+ ThinQ is a completely new experience, with well-implemented software and hardware features.
Unboxing and First Impressions
The LG G7+ ThinQ comes in three colours: Platinum Grey, Aurora Black and Moroccan Blue. I received the unit in blue and was astounded by its beauty. A dark aquamarine, its reflective surface and glass surface combined to give a scintillating effect on the back of the phone when light of different intensities reflect at different angles.
On this phone, LG has opted to provide a side-mounted wake button on its right edge, which meant the phone was easily be operated without lifting the body to press a rear-mounted button which was the case on previous models.
This is rather useful for a desk-bound office rat like myself, but still required users to undergo the troublesome process of entering pawing at the screen to complete the screen lock. LG’s knock code feature had been a good workaround anyway and had already been implemented on the previous LG devices I owned.
There are two separate volume buttons (in the place of a rocker) on the left edge, with one more button below used to launch the Google Assistant. On the bottom edge, we find the 3.5mm port, USB-C charging port and the speaker grilles for a single channel.
Smartphone design in recent years has been pretty standard, and the LG G7+ ThinQ was well-built in almost every way.
However, I had a major quibble with the Google Assistant hardware button that was located below the volume buttons about halfway along the left edge of the device. I found myself accidentally launching the Assistant while trying to get sufficient purchase on the power button on the opposing side.
At times, it seemed to launch from simply picking the device up. This was rather annoying since it meant that the phone displayed the assistant upon unlocking, instead of my last used application or home screen.
I don’t get it at all: pressing the Assistant button with the phone locked will prompt you to unlock the device. Sure, all in the name of security. But if the phone is unlocked, wouldn’t you be able to long-press the home navigation button to launch the Google Assistant anyway?
Yes, you’re able to turn off the button completely (you can remap it), but then it seems even more silly to carry around a phone with a dedicated button… that does nothing.
I also had a slight niggle with how the dual camera array was placed right above the fingerprint sensor, which – regular readers might know – causes smudgy pictures when you carelessly smear greasy fingers over the front element of the assembly.
The notch, an eyesore to some, could be easily mitigated by blacking out the pixels on either side of it within the phone’s settings.
I’m not sure if anyone has said it, but the LG G7+ ThinQ has the best haptic experience on any smartphone, period. Yes, that includes Apple’s iPhone in all its Taptic glory.
Tapping away at the keyboard gave unobtrusive, responsive pops of sensation, and swiping away notifications in the notifications shade gave a slight but affirmative nudge. Even the feedback from using the sliders in the camera Cine Video app was a polished experience, feeling like an analogue jog wheel on an actual camera.
It’s hard to convey it in words, but the experience is something else – it was so unobtrusive to the point that I only noticed how natural it was when a friend pointed it out to me.
Functions that actually function
Once captivated by LG’s top-notch camera performance, unique Hi-Fi DAC, robust MIL-STD build, and one-of-a-kind second screen, it is easy to see why I was initially taken aback by the feature set on the LG G7+ ThinQ (or lack thereof).
Rather unimpressed by LG’s demonstration of the Boombox speaker during their product demonstration at the launch event, I had completely forgotten about it. Well, that was until I played a song on the phone’s speaker and set it down on the kitchen counter before I started preparing a meal.
I spun around, thinking I had accidentally connected to a rogue Bluetooth speaker, but there it was, innocuously sitting between my sandwich and mug.
With a resonance chamber within, the entire back of the phone functions as a huge speaker driver that produces a larger, full-bodied sound. Despite this, there’s only a single mono speaker on the phone that muffles easily especially when playing games in landscape orientation.
I’d say that this is one of the more innovative ways I’ve seen brands tackle the seemingly insurmountable issue of delivering quality speaker performance with the tiny proportions on a smartphone.
The second feature I had written off so smugly was the ultra-bright display. Initially aghast that this SGD1,198 flagship was sporting an LCD display, I swallowed my apprehension when I stepped out of my house into the blazing Singaporean afternoon sun.
The display was able to pump out 1,000 nits of brightness by tapping on the brightness icon, which maximised the display brightness to outshine the harshest glare from the sunny outdoors.
Packing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor and 4GB of RAM, the phone is clearly designed for the harshest of usage cases when it comes to software.
Heavy gaming for hours on end made the phone heat up significantly, but I did not notice any throttling. However, the comparatively small 3000mAh battery did not last long, which meant plugging in the charger, which in turn made the phone rather unpleasant to hold.
With Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 on board, it also meant that I was able to get topped up pretty quickly, especially when the battery is running dry.
A unique gaming mode is easily accessed and gives users the ability to block notifications, adjust the resolution and frame rate, all without leaving the game screen.
Plenty of other features made me feel that the LG G7 was a very polished product both outside and in.
An icon in the notifications shade allows you to conveniently choose the audio device to output to, and connecting my Bluetooth earbuds adds a button next to it that allows you to change its settings. Within the camera app, sliding up and down the shutter button controls the zoom.
ThinQ? ThankQ, I guess.
The LG G7+ ThinQ is the first smartphone that LG has implemented its proprietary ThinQ Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform on from its first iteration.
The LG V35 ThinQ and the LG V30S ThinQ were secondary iterations of the same phone that had added LG’s ThinQ AI technology.
However, thankfully, LG did not force it upon us users. The Assistant button notably summons the Google Assistant, much unlike how Samsung’s phones have had a dedicated Bixby button built-in, much to the chagrin of its many users.
On the device, ThinQ has only been implemented on the camera module, where users have a choice of selecting AI mode upon launching the camera application.
Its decision to put Google’s AI platform at the forefront of the device does not stop at its hardware button. The camera app also gives users the option to launch Google Lens, which provides on-the-spot subject recognition and promises to deliver business-ready solutions.
Camera: Pretty Good, But not the best
The LG G7+ ThinQ builds on the legacy of its predecessor by delivering an excellent photography suite. Images were crisp in a variety of conditions, colour rendition was very satisfactory.
Booting up the ThinQ AI camera option, the camera was able to deliver more enticing and vivid results.
Usage in dark areas prompts you to select the Super Bright Camera mode, which bins information from four adjacent pixels to increase the brightness of the scene. Images in this mode take a pretty big hit in resolution, but the scene is pretty bright, though Samsung’s equivalent on the Galaxy S9 works noticeably better.
A dedicated food photography application bumps up the saturation (a little too much for my taste) but gives users an on-screen slider for easy colour adjustments for the different lighting conditions of the eatery they find themselves in.
Video has been the unchallenged domain of LG’s flagship line-up, and the G7+ ThinQ fits right in. Users have the option of shooting in UHD+3840×2160 files, and manually control the exposure, white balance and focus distance within the application. Focus peaking is provided, a useful feature for video makers of all types.
The G7+ ThinQ also has an option to shoot in Cine Video mode, which gives users the ability to apply a wide choice of film grades directly on the output file while shooting, circumventing the need to apply LUTs or filters in post-production.
In this mode, cinematic camera motion is possible with Point Zoom, which allows users to slowly and smoothly zoom in and out at three speeds from a preselected point in the scene.
The imaging performance on the G7+ ThinQ is on par with the best smartphones in the market right now, although I had a few minor issues.
The dual rear shooters offer a much more useful combination of a standard lens, along with an ultra-wide angle lens. Apart from spectator events, there’s little other reason to want a telephoto shooter in your pocket.
However, the ultra wide-angle lens suffers from severe distortion, noticeable especially group photos and scenes with straight lines (like buildings). No big deal – keep your subject in the centre.
I would have preferred a similar set up on the rear of a normal and wide angle lens like LG had done on the LG V10. This gives an ultra wide-angle perspective when it is most needed: taking embarrassing selfies in a room with too many relatives you barely know.
Should I get the LG G7+ ThinQ?
The LG G7+ ThinQ isn’t a cheap phone by a long shot. Its price of SGD1,198 puts it in direct competition with some of the best phones in its category.
Especially for a flagship device, the G7+ ThinQ suffers in terms of battery capacity and camera performance especially when zoomed. Also, it isn’t the best in any of our main categories, but it sure does come pretty close.
Despite my innate appreciation for the brand, I have to include a big caveat emptor with regard to reliability: I had two consecutive flagship V-series phone processors completely fail on me, causing me to lose gigabytes of personal data.
But as consolation, the replacement process was efficient and as painless as can be, and spoke volumes about the service standards of LG, especially in Singapore.
If you’re looking for an all-rounder performer, and appreciate the nifty hardware tricks LG has managed to pull off on the LG G7+ ThinQ, and are unbothered by the price and battery life, this phone is for you.