LG G7 ThinQ review

Update: Our in-depth LG G7 ThinQ review testing phase is now finished, and we have the price for it on key US and UK carriers. Here's our full take on the new LG smartphone.

The G7 ThinQ – LG's best phone in years – touts a Super Bright LCD that's viewable in direct sunlight, which is ironic because the rest of it has a hard time standing out.

It's a reasonable, but not significant upgrade over last year’s LG G6, with a larger 6.1-inch all-screen display, AI-enhanced cameras, a loud ‘Boombox Speaker’, a faster chipset, and Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo software out of the box.

You may not immediately be wowed by any of this. The LG G7 doesn’t have a curved OLED screen like the Samsung Galaxy S9, the triple-lens rear camera of the Huawei P20 Pro, or the undeniable value of the OnePlus 6. And despite its controversial notch cutout at the top, it doesn’t have Apple’s fancy 3D TrueDepth camera, as seen on the iPhone X.

LG is emphasizing that this is a smart, not flashy, phone. As the 'ThinQ' part of the name suggests, the company is determined to push AI onto all of its smart devices no matter how awkward the moniker sounds. The execution on this new ThinQ phone is, thankfully, a little more practical than the nomenclature.

Watch our hands-on LG G7 ThinQ video below to see the phone in action

There’s a dedicated AI button on the left side of the phone, and LG isn’t forcing its own virtual assistant homebrew into your daily life like Samsung does with Bixby. No, this button leads to the familiar Google Assistant, and uses far-field voice recognition to better understand commands. In short, it's better than the Bixby button.

Its dual-lens AI camera emphasizes ThinQ, too, with its ability to categorize subjects and automatically tune its settings to snap better photos via machine learning. It can also recognize low-light situations, and employ Super Bright Mode to make photos and video four times as bright as on the G6, albeit – at a reduced resolution.

The LG ThinQ a more normal-looking, risk adverse phone from LG. It’s pleasing, but not at all surprising.

We tested LG G7 for several weeks, and noticed an uptick in photo quality next to the G6, just like we saw on the LG V30S ThinQ, the first LG phone with its AI camera and Bright Mode. It's not better than the Google Pixel 2, Google Pixel 2 XL, or Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus – most due to LG's smaller camera sensor size – but it's still a step up for LG, and this is one of the only phones with a wide-angle camera. 

The wide-angle rear camera was able to capture more of what we saw in front of us, and LG’s robust cinematic video tools make it easier to record 4K video with a lot of style. On the front of the G7, LG finally upgraded its front-facing camera to 8MP. That's where we see the biggest improvement among the cameras, if only because LG has been holding back with a 5MP on previous handsets.

Google Lens appears with two taps of the new AI button

Machine learning is just one way to aid in capturing superior photos, but like the megapixel count, what matters more are how the pictures look after everything is processed. We have a full gallery of photos later in the review.

The LG G7 wins on completeness, even if it doesn't have many standout features. It doesn't take big chances on design or battery life, but it looks stylish in most colors and lasts long enough with all-day longevity. 

It's biggest weakness is the price, specifically in the US, next to its competitors that are do things a little bit better in almost every department. Depending on where you live, it's either a good deal for a phone without much pizzazz (like in the UK), or overpriced and will have you counting down the days to the inevitable LG V40 (like in the US). LG G7 is this year's smartphone sleeper hit no matter where you live.

Price and release date

  • Release date: May 31 (UK), June 1 (US), June 7 (Australia)
  • US price: $749 from T-Mobile, Verizon; $792 on Sprint
  • UK price: £619, according to O2
  • AU price: AU$ $1,099 via JB Hi-Fi and Mobileciti 

The LG G7 ThinQ was announced on May 2, and it's making its way to its first buyers on May 31 in the UK, June 1 in the US, and Australia on June 7. That's the official release date timing. Pre-orders happening by Friday, May 25 in these regions.

It'll come to most US carriers on June 1: Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. But not AT&T, which is promising an exclusive LG phone in the next few months (likely the rumored LG V35), skipping over the LG G7 entirely.

We’re still waiting for the official price and release date information.

We now know the LG G7 price at most carriers, and it's more expensive than we had hoped: $749 in the US through Verizon and T-Mobile, with the latter selling the Raspberry Rose color exclusively. Verizon, meanwhile, is slashing the price by $100 if you buy it on a device payment plan ($31.25 a month for 24 months) – essentially making it $650, and 100% more confusing. Let's go 110% more confusing and cite that Sprint will have it for even more: $792. Ouch.

It's £619 in the UK through O2, which is exclusively selling the Moroccan Blue color. That makes it significantly cheaper (by £80) than the Samsung Galaxy S9 launch price in the UK, even though the LG G7 is more expensive than the S9 in the US.

It's AU$1,099 in Australia at stores JB Hi-Fi and Mobileciti, where from now until June 30 you can get a free LG ThinQ Speaker valued at AU$299. That's cheaper than the S9, and it comes with a freebie.

Where you are in the world really determines whether or not the G7 is a good value.

Super Bright LCD and glass design

  • 6.1-inch Super Bright LCD display makes it easier to see your phone screen outdoors
  • Notch design makes way for status icon-filled ‘New Second Screen’ 
  • Sleep/wake button moved to the side, fingerprint sensor remains on back
  • Glass back, 3.5mm headphone and IP69 water-resistance 

The LG G7's design puts an emphasis on its 6.1-inch LCD screen, which takes up nearly the entire front of the device, save for a notch at the top and a small chin bezel at the bottom. Its clean-looking unibody glass and all-screen aesthetic are a big upgrade over the fractured metal LG G5 look two years ago, even if this means you have to forgo a replaceable battery.

The notch left and right sides can be hidden in black or accentuated with various colors and gradients. Either way, it’s extra screen space for status icons, the time and the battery life percentage.

LG calls the top screen space to the left and right of the notch its ‘New Second Screen’ – it’s not. At least not like it was on the LG V10 and LG V20 second screen which showed detailed notifications. This is simply where the time, battery life percentage, and small notification icons live.

The notch is also LG’s way of expanding the screen to a 19.5:9 aspect ratio – there’s a smidgen more space to fit all of those status icons. And, hey, if you don’t like the controversial notch look, you can always ‘hide' it by masking the screen corners. Or, if you really want to highlight this Apple-esque design trait, you can change up the color and even add gradients (the middle notch will always be black, though). 

Sure, you can see the blacked-out LCD sides surrounding the notch, but only  with a discriminating eye in certain light. The LCD also carriers an always-on display, despite the fact that this is more of an OLED-benefiting technology.

Why LCD? LG likes to boast that its entire display can get very bright – maxing out at 1,000 nits. This makes it ideal for outdoor use when a normal smartphone peaks at 500 or maybe 600 nits. LG calls this its Super Bright Display, and says it's 30% more energy efficient in this mode versus the LG G6 screen.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus (top) vs LG G7 ThinQ (bottom) in direct sunlight. The G7, in this test, looked brighter.

The Super Bright Display mode lasts for three minutes, a cap meant to save your battery and not overheat the device. That was just enough time to read messages our phone screen while walking outdoors in direct sunlight in our preliminary testing. 

The problem is that the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus we were carrying also showed a peak brightness of more than 1,000 nits. It’s one of the few phones that can do this besides the G7, but it’s also LG’s chief smartphone rival. It some cases, the G7 looked brighter without distorting the images on-screen, but not always.

The LG G7 ThinQ has an easy-to-reach fingerprint sensor on back, just below a vertically stacked dual-lens rear camera. Only this sensor pad doesn’t click in to double as a sleep/wake button, like on other recent LG devices. LG’s design team has returned the power to the right side of the phone – where it belongs – after much feedback. They've clearly gotten our letters.

Remember when LG used to put both the sleep/wake button and volume buttons on the back of its phones, circa LG G4? Yes, it provided cleaner sides, and it was easier to grasp the device without accidentally pressing these buttons, but the design always felt too unconventional. The LG G7 feels like a mainstream, immediately familiar smartphone, and that’s pleasing.

The sleep/wake button returns to the right side of the phone. The fingerprint sensor remains on the back, but doesn’t click in.

There is one extra button, too: the new dedicated AI button that sits on left side of the metal frame. More than a few times, we mispressed this Google Assistant shortcut, mistaking it for the volume down key on the left side. It’s the same problem we have with Samsung’s Bixby button. Luckily, you can turn off LG’s AI button, and the company is contemplating letting users remap it to another action in the future.

LG’s AI button is better than Samsung’s, however. A single press launches Google Assistant, a double press launches you straight into Google Lens, and a long press on the key takes you straight into voice commands with Assistant. It’s a far more intuitive system than Samsung’s, and one we can see ourselves using.

The LG G7 comes in a bunch of colors: Raspberry Rose, New Moroccan Blue, New Aurora Black, and New Platinum Gray. 

The LG G7 has a clean, albeit plainer look than the curved Samsung Galaxy S9 and Apple’s completely chin-less all-screen OLED. You can opt for a variety of colors to spice things up: Raspberry Rose, New Moroccan Blue, New Aurora Black, and New Platinum Gray. Not all LG G7 colors will be available in all countries. In the US, you'll find Raspberry Rose on T-Mobile. New Moroccan Blue is exclusive to the UK via O2.

AI-powered cameras

  • Dual-lens 16MP rear camera, one with an ultra-wide field of view
  • AI software tries to understand subject and adapts the settings
  • Super Bright Camera offers 4x the brightness at a quarter the resolution
  • 8MP front-facing camera vastly improvemed over past LG phones

LG G7 ThinQ brings impressive specs to its camera hardware and combines it with AI software in an effort to actually understand what’s in front of you. The machine learning tech categorizes subjects into 19 different shooting modes, tweaking colors and brightness along the way.

The dual-lens camera setup allows for normal photos with a better aperture and ultra-wide photos.

Launching the AI camera software triggers a flurry of guesses as to what the subject is: person, animal, food, etc. It gets even more granular with these details, trying to guess specific product names and animal species, for example. 

Sometimes it’s right and adjusts the camera settings accordingly; sometimes it’s way off and a bit comical. It’s hard not to laugh when the AI camera guesses that your meat-filled sandwich is a poodle. At least we hope it was wrong.

The Super Bright Camera is more precise, automatically detecting low-light situations and amping up the brightness by four times compared to conventional pictures, and even twice as bright as the LG V30S ThinQ ‘Bright Mode’. 

The trade-off here is that photos are going to be 4MP, and 4K UHD video is cut down to 1080p. The Huawei P20 Pro does something similar with its 40MP camera, outputting 10MP photos. (See the math? Always divide the photo or video resolution by four.) 

Photos are brighter in those mode, but certainly muddier. You won't regret the 4MP pictures over shadow-filled dark photos, but you won't be wowed. You'll simply learn how important proper lighting is, and be left with the thought "I should have taken this photo in daylight".

Tricks like AI-powered subject detection, Google Lens (pictured), and Super Bright Camera mode keep LG in the best camera phone title hunt.

The 16MP dual-lens camera – with an impressively fast f/1.6 normal lens and a f/1.9 wide-angle lens – uses a pair of Sony IMX 351 camera sensors measuring 1/3.1 inches. This is smaller than the average camera sensor of a flagship phone (The S9 camera has a 1/2.55-inch sensor and the Pixel 2 has a 1/2.6-inch sensor). 

LG says it doesn’t need larger sensors to achieve impressive results. But our side-by-side tests beg to differ. LG has a really great camera. It's just not as good as its chief competitors. At fault is the thinner design and lack of a significant camera bump on back. It came down to a battle between LG's design team and camera team. In the end, the design team won with an elegant, smoother look to the phone, but everyone else lost with photos that are poorer than they had to be.

Here's what we like about the LG camera that no other recommended phone can do right now: take wide-angle photos. We're able to capture more of what’s in front of us thanks to the 107-degree field of view (FoV) of the second rear lens; a typical camera lens has a field of view of 71 degrees. We only wish this wider camera also had the optical image stabilization that is on the main camera.

The 107-degree FoV is tighter than the G6's 125-degree FoV, but we noticed less fisheye distortion around the edges (there's naturally some, but only noticeable to a camera-trained eye). Because of the expanded framing, the LG G7, in the right lighting conditions, will actually get some of the most pleasing photo compositions out of all of the phones we tested. The Pixel 2 and others have smaller fields of view, requiring you to back up to get everything in the shot.

We also tested the LG G7's portrait mode thanks to the normal and wide-angle lens combo. The software-blurring effect was able to properly blur most everything in the background, though it did have trouble between hair and the background. That's typical of smartphone camera. More novel, the LG G7’s portrait mode doesn’t crop in on the normal frame because of this dual-lens array. This has been helpful when framing up bokeh-rich portrait photos.

Guac-off. Who has better guacamole? The TechRadar office has decided: it ended in a very SWF tie (and a selfie).

The 8MP front-facing camera is vastly improved over prior LG phones. You won't be able to go back to the 5MP mess that the company held onto for a generation too long. Its f/1.9 and 90-degree field of a view provide a crisp enough and adequately wide enough selfie shooter.

It uses a new sensor, the Hynix SF846, instead of the usual Sony sensor. Colors and skin tones appear accurate, though the lack of Super Bright Mode on the front-facing camera means you need ample light. When there is enough light, the detail is on par with what we got out of Samsung Galaxy S9 front-facing camera.

Video is another small highlight if you haven't played with the LG V30 before. It's able record 4K – this time with HDR video capture for absorbing more color – and uses LG's cinematic tools. 

Its was fun testing the G7's ability to slowly and smoothly zoom into any part of the screen, not just the center in a jerky motion like on every other phone. Super Bright Mode is present, here, too, if you're okay with 1080p. You'll also find video can record at 240fps in 720p for slow motion. It's not the super slow mo that we've liked on newer Samsung and Sony phones, but the videos look okay here in HD.

Boombox speaker

  • Loud Boombox speaker provides deep bass
  • DTS:X 3D Sound and 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC

The G7 ThinQ includes what LG calls a Boombox speaker, and it’s plenty loud. It uses the entire phone to pump out rich bass, and it reverbs for an even more powerful sound when resting on a table or, even better, a hollow wooden box or guitar. 

No, it's not as powerful as a Bluetooth speaker, but there was a noticeable difference when it was sat next to the Samsung Galaxy S9 playing the same song in our tests. The resonance chamber, which spans the entire handset, isn't something we'll use everyday, but in a pinch without a Bluetooth speaker, it can serve a purpose. 

Lay the phone against a hallow wooden box and you’ll hear much louder sound from the reverberating speaker.

The phone is also filled with some of the best audio specs, including DTS:X 3D Sound through any wired headphones, and a 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC with 50% reduced noise. You’re going to be able to hear the difference if you’re an audiophile.

The one problem we see is the G7 has a single bottom-firing speaker, so it’s too easy to cover up the speaker grille when holding the phone and watching YouTube videos in landscape mode. Again, this is another design decision that was meant to keep the phone svelte, when we'd much rather have additional functionality.

Specs and software

  • Flagship-level Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage
  • 6GB of RAM + 128GB of storage variant availability is a mystery 
  • Android 8.0 Oreo with LG software skin and Smart Bulletin

With the LG G7 ThinQ, LG isn’t making the same mistake it made with the G6, which launched with the Snapdragon 821 chipset at the same time other phones were being outfitted with the Snapdragon 835. If a company is going to launch a flagship, it needs the latest flagship-level specs.

The LG G7 fast enough for most people

That’s why LG G7 is powered by this year’s flagship smartphone chip, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845, and it’s coupled with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot for expandable storage. All of this means the LG G7 is fast enough to compete in 2018. 

It's just shy of the fastest performers, too, and only because many phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, are packing in 6GB of RAM. It'll be plenty fast for most people. There is a version of the LG G7 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, but LG hasn’t said where that’s destined to launch. It's not coming to the US, at least not yet, but it could act as a future LG G7+ down the line.

The LG G7 also has the latest operating system update, care of Android Oreo. The actual software doesn’t appear to be all that different from previous LG phones, down to the leftmost menu being dedicated to the familiar LG’s Smart Bulletin interface.

The biggest software perk has yet to be realized: LG promises that it'll be better at rolling out software updates. The G7 isn't part of the special Android P beta, but we're hopeful it won't take almost a year to get this new version of Google's operating system when it does launch. There are some exciting changes for Android P.

Battery life

  • 3,000mAh battery is smaller than the V30 3,300mAh capacity
  • We still got all-day battery life, but nothing more than that
  • QuickCharge 3.0 wired charging as well as wireless charging

The G7 ThinQ has a 3,000mAh battery capacity, which is smaller than the LG V30’s 3,300mAh battery size. This is a compromise to maintain the phone’s dimensions, according to LG, even though the new phone it’s slightly thicker than the V30. 

The good news? We still managed to get all-day battery life, with advanced software tricks making up for the diminished capacity. But we didn't get anything more than that in a single day with normal use (for us) and power saver mode on by bedtime.

Lab tests confirmed that the LG G7 battery life is on par with other phones at the 3,000mAh size. We ran a 90-minute looped HD video at full charge and, by the end, we were down to 84% battery life. The S9 Plus, with a larger 3,500mAh battery but a tad bigger 6.2-inch screen, dropped down to 87%.

The G7 uses USB-C and officially supports QuickCharge 3.0 and wireless charging. Unofficially, it supports QuickCharge 4.0 – if you can find a charger out there.

With the QuickCharge 3.0 charger included in the box, the G7 was one of the fastest to recharge in our test. Although things started out slow at 12% in 15 minutes and 37% in 30 minutes, we reached a 100% charge in just 100 minutes. Wireless charging is supported, but was noticeably slower, as expected.

Verdict

The LG G7 ThinQ is a completely unsurprising, risk-averse smartphone, returning the power button to the side where it belongs and giving us another all-screen display, enveloped by a typical glass body. It even rides the popular notch trend that’s prevalent among almost all new Android phones right now.

The LG G7 ThinQ gets bright, ideal for direct sunlight. But it doesn’t have too many hallmark features. It’s good at the basics.

Its 6.1-inch display gets extremely bright, and its single speaker is plenty loud. The rest of the big highlights are left up to AI software, most notably the 16MP dual-lens rear and 8MP front-facing camera. Here, the G7 is competitive, even if it's shy of best camera phone quality and its machine learning prowess isn’t completely convincing. It's the wide-angle photos LG should trumpet, not software tricks.

And that’s it. The G7 doesn’t take any big chances – it’s not curved, doesn’t feature a leather back, and doesn’t attempt to move all of the buttons from the side to the back of the phone like we saw with the LG G4. There’s no hot-swappable battery or modular technology here either, as in the LG G5. And this is LG’s third flagship with an all-screen display – that’s not new anymore one year after the LG G6. 

And yet, it may be LG’s best flagship smartphone in years if all you care about are the basics, and if it’s priced right in your region. At launch, in key countries like the US, this isn't the case; you can buy Samsung's newest flagship for slightly cheaper and get better results and a flashier device. 

The LG G7 is ready for its close-up where it's a good value in the world, but where it's more expensive than it should be, it's ready to blend into the background.

Who's it for?

Someone who wants a top smartphone that's good at the basics and isn't flashy. It has a premium build, useful wide-angle camera, and powerful single speaker. These are enough to recommend the LG G7, if you can get it for an affordable price.

LG's smartphones have typically undercut Samsung on price. But in the US, it's more costly than it should be. Bargain hunters who wait out a price drop are suitable for this one, too.

Should I buy it?

Yes, if you're looking for one of the best non-Samsung smartphones and can find an LG G7 deal. At launch, early adopters, especially in the US, should be wary of almost immediate price drops. Verizon is even offering $100 off its 24-month payment plan, giving the G7 a temporally cheaper price. That incentive makes this phone much more tempting, and where LG should have been priced it from the start. If you can find it for a good price, you won't regret it.

Samsung Galaxy S9

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a flashier phone from LG's South Korean rival. Its curved display, Super Bright-rivaling bright screen and superb cameras make it an easy choice if you're an Android user who wants the best phone on sale right now.

The LG G7 does the basics well, but is overshadowed by Samsung's photo quality and its price, at least in the US.

iPhone X

The iPhone X  has some tech that you won't find in LG's new flagship phone. The 3D True Depth camera powering Face ID fares better than LG's clone of the hardware. It also has a chin-less all-screen OLED display vs LG's LCD that has a bottom chin. And then Apple's software and App Store, which are better in many cases.

Of course, you're going to have to be okay with spending a lot more money. Apple's iPhone X is more expensive than the LG G7 (even in the US), and there's no fingerprint sensor on this one.

Matt Swider
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