LG V30S ThinQ

The LG V30S ThinQ is the smartphone mistake that LG can’t afford to make. As a follow-up to the competent LG V30 released in 2017, this new Android phone serves little purpose beyond confusing people with a different name, yet few other changes. Oh, and serving as a launch pad for AI Cam and QLens, its new AI-centric initiatives found in the camera app.

You’ll find the internal storage has gotten a boost from 64GB to 128GB by default, and that its RAM is now pushed up to 6GB – a consolatory addition since it’s missing out on the Snapdragon 845 chipset that’s in the Samsung Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ2 and likely most Android flagship phones to follow in 2018.

Bizarrely, the minor hardware differences are the only things setting it apart from last year’s standard V30 model. LG shared at MWC 2018 that the aforementioned smart camera features will be making their way to older V30 phones. With that much being known, there’s not a whole lot of steam behind this release, unless barely incremental tweaks to the hardware is enough to get you excited.

That’s not to say, out of this context, that V30S ThinQ isn’t an awesome phone. There’s a tremendous foundation on which it was built. Its new smart AI features are functional and when they work, they’re fairly impressive, though your mileage may vary based on your reliance on automation. The big problem here is that getting along without them, and opting for the now-cheaper LG V30, will work just fine, especially since these features are said to be in process of being ported over.

LG V30S ThinQ release date and price

Looking to pick up one of the new LG V30S ThinQ phones? We’ve asked LG when they’ll hit store shelves, both virtual and at physical brick-and-mortar locations around the globe.

At the time of writing, US availability has not been announced, and the release date for other regions hasn’t been nailed down either. 

In terms of price, don’t expect anything cheap. The V30 launched at $809 unlocked in US, £799, AU$1,199 (for the V30+, the only option available in Australia.) 

The V30S ThinQ is available in South Korea at around 820,000 Won, floating over one million Won at carrier locations. This launch price is similar to that of the V30. We currently don’t have pricing nailed down for the US, or other regions, but we expect it to be similar to LG’s V30. Of course, we’ll adjust our numbers once we hear for certain.

LG’s latest comes in at a strange time for phones, after the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 debuted north of $1,000, and equally fetching options like the Google Pixel 2, OnePlus 5T, Essential Phone, and even the Samsung Galaxy S9 cost far less. Even if it launches at the same price as last year’s V30, it’s still a tough sell.

Design

  • Looks exactly like the V30
  • Functional design, but some change would have been nice

Piece for piece, the LG V30S ThinQ’s design is just like that of the V30. Good news, the almost all-glass look with the glossy steel frame still looks incredible in 2018. Sure, the Google Pixel 2 XL might have borrowed more than one of its visual elements, what’s here is still a unique creation that feels just as good, if not better, in the hand than many of today’s popular flagship phones.

Thanks to its 18:9 aspect ratio, the V30S ThinQ feels smaller in the hand than you might imagine, packing in a surprisingly roomy six-inch P-OLED display that powers a 2,880 x 1,440 resolution that’s HDR-ready, suitable for watching movies or playing virtual reality games in Google Daydream.

For the uninitiated, we’ll run down the general layout of LG’s ever-so-slightly revised smartphone. Given that the back feels similar to the front, it’s actually quite easy to grab it incorrectly. But once you have your bearings, you’ll note that the volume buttons are located on the phone’s left side, while the SIM and microSD slot occupies the trim along its right side.

Looking for the power button? The rear-facing fingerprint sensor on the back presses in to toggle the screen on and off. Other features include the USB-C charging port and speaker, both of which are on the bottom of the phone. Yep, a bottom-firing speaker means that the LG V30S ThinQ is one of the few flagship phones that without stereo speakers.

Some might not consider a 3.5mm headphone jack worth its own breakout mention, but LG really goes to the next level with this legacy feature. Not only is it present, but under the hood/bonnet/what have you, the company has once again employed a Quad DAC to amplify your music, movies and games. It wholly justifies the audio jack, then some. We’ll dig into it more later on in the review.

Interface and reliability

  • Android Oreo comes pre-installed
  • LG's interface is cleaner than we saw in Nougat

Of the few ways that the LG V30S ThinQ bests last year’s model is with the included software. The V30 is currently in the midst of earning its better-late-than-never Android Oreo update, but it seems to be running just fine on the V30S ThinQ.

While not the latest update – it comes with vanilla Oreo, version 8.0, not 8.1 – it features all of the bells and whistles, like picture-in-picture support for YouTube, Hangouts and Google Maps to name a few, and notification dots to keep you abreast of things happening on your phone. But alas, it’s releasing just as people are getting excited about Android P.

We’re using a global version of the V30S ThinQ and as such, it provided a few optional Korean apps upon setup. Though, when (or if) this phone releases widely, those won’t be surfaced in your region.

This difference aside, this device comes with LG’s latest in-house user interface and with it, a handful of refinements. The menus are streamlined, and within each section, you’ll find more touches of personalization – always a welcomed thing to notice. 

Music, movies and games

  • Quad DAC and 3.5mm jack continue to be wonderful
  • Single bottom-firing speaker is a disappointment

LG’s V-series smartphones have been multimedia acrobats, excelling in all areas relating to keeping yourself entertained. The V30S ThinQ is no exception, but it’s hardly better than the LG V30 from 2017. 

On the music side of things, you’re getting unparalleled support with both a 3.5mm headphone jack backed by a Quad DAC and Bluetooth for wireless headphones and speakers. Touching more on the Quad DAC, LG’s phone has an audiophile hardware implant that boosts the sound quality of your content, even if it’s lossy music files from Spotify or YouTube. 

Even better if you have a set of capable headphones, your favorite games, movies and music are going to sound awesome. If you want to read more about this feature, check out our LG V30 review where we dive more deeply into it.

As mentioned before, the 18:9 aspect ratio employed on the six-inch display makes it far taller than it is wide, making it easy to wrap your hand around. It also makes it ideal if you’re itching for a cinematic experience while watching a flick or playing games.

Better than previous LCD-powered LG efforts thanks to the OLED technology put to work, this screen is plenty bright and shows off its HDR prowess with a delicate handling of colors and black levels.

Because the V30S ThinQ boasts 6GB of RAM over the V30’s 4GB of RAM, we’ll see this phone being better proofed against whatever the future holds in hardware-intensive applications and games. And, this model comes with 128GB by default, so in addition to its microSD slot, you’ll have a hard time maxing out the storage here.

Specs and performance

  • Shipping with last year's hardware in a Snapdragon 845-powered market
  • Still plenty capable of running demanding apps
  • RAM boost benefits are mostly unseen at this point

The LG V30S ThinQ is suited up for a battle against the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2, and on paper, it doesn’t have the advantage.

Launching in the year of the Snapdragon 845, LG’s latest is long in the tooth before it even hits store shelves. Though, is it really that far behind the rest of the world’s most best Android phones? Not as far as you might think.

Qualcomm’s latest chipset provides a boost in power over the 835, no doubt. The Snapdragon 845 benchmarks we gathered prove it. If you’re someone who clamors for the fastest tech out there, you may want to look elsewhere. But in the grand scheme of things, the Snapdragon 835 is still really good. After all, it’s just a year old.

If you want 60fps (frames per second) gaming, you’ll get it on the V30S ThinQ. Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition runs smoothly even with graphical settings cranked up to the maximum level. Android Oreo’s picture-in-picture mode works like a charm with YouTube, even while pushing through intense gaming moments.

The battery is another area where things haven’t changed for the V30S. It features the same non-removable 3,300mAh capacity, only enhanced this time around by the added efficiency brought along in Android Oreo. Google claimed to enhance its Doze mode to be better at optimizing battery life for the times when the phone is with you, not just when it’s set on the night table while you sleep.

All said, we’re looking at similarly satisfactory results coming from LG’s revised phone. It had no problem lasting through the day for us, even pushing through to a second day, depending of course on what we got up to. That said, watching YouTube and playing through games simultaneously on the big six-inch screen causes the battery to plummet.

When it comes to charging the V30S ThinQ from a dead state, we achieved similar results to the V30. In 15 minutes shy of two hours, it was filled completely, though it would have been usable with the charge yielded from just a half hour plugged in.

After putting it through our 90-minute battery drain test, we’re pleased to see that it only dropped to 95% from a full charge. This improves on the 87% charge remaining on the V30 when we tested it in 2017. It’s likely that Android Oreo is helping to boost efficiency here.

As we did with the V30, we malign the shift away from removable batteries. This had been a signature feature in the first two entries, the LG V10 and LG V20, though given its waterproofing, sealing it in is understandable.

Camera

LG’s camera setup has aged well, at least on paper, but we come away from testing the V30S ThinQ feeling the same way with its general performance: disappointed.

That’s a real shame, as this phone comes absolutely loaded with camera features – many of which you can’t find elsewhere. And this doesn’t even include the new AI Cam or QLens features, though truth be told, those don’t really add a whole lot to the experience.

When it comes to software, LG’s camera app is among the best. The user interface, which lets you switch between the 5MP selfie cam and rear-facing duo of 16MP + 13MP lenses with a simple swipe, still feels great. The look of it has been modernized here, too, likely improved alongside the jump up to Android Oreo.

LG V30S ThinQ camera samples

Google Pixel 2 XL samples (for comparison)

If you’re someone who leans heavily on their smartphone to capture memories, you might want to think twice before investing in the V30S ThinQ. Sure, it’s capable of good shots, but smartphone photography has really moved leaps and bounds since the V30 released. You’d be remiss not to consider the Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone X, or other options in our list of best camera smartphones.

Focusing on what’s new in the V30S ThinQ (all of which has been confirmed to later arrive on the V30), let’s take a look at AI Cam and QLens. Both options sit cozily near the shutter button in the camera app. If you give QLens a tap, the software will look for an item to scan, which it can find a match for on Amazon or Pinterest. It works fairly well in our experience, though your mileage may vary. You can scan QR codes with this function, too.

AI Cam is the more interesting of the two additions, putting the same ol’ tech to work in a new way. When you tap it, the AI begins to ramble off guesses as to what you’re looking at. It’s not for personal affirmation of “yes, I’m looking at a car”, but actually handy because it finds the right color balance and exposure levels depending on what you’re looking at – that is, when it works. It’s the ultimate auto mode, though it sometimes take a few guesses to get the scene just right. And sometimes it just gets things horribly wrong.

One addition that we’re unsure will make it to the V30 is the new Bright Mode found in the camera app. The camera can get a read on the lighting in your environment, and either boost the aperture or reduce it. Both the V30 and V30S ThinQ boast an f/1.6 aperture, though we noticed much better results from the newer device. Who’s to say if the V30 will match it, but chances are good since the hardware is the same.

The LG V30S ThinQ is a mixed message, to say the least. It’s possible that this phone is acting to set the stage for the LG G7, what with its smart camera additions. But if so, it’s almost as if LG is hoping that you’ll buy a whole new phone to beta test it.

But since LG has shared that the V30S ThinQ’s marquee features are coming to the 2017 V30, what’s the purpose for its existence? Barring a few hardware differences, it’s no different – not different enough for the V-series that prides itself of change and innovations. 

Who's this for?

Those who don't currently own the LG V30 and are interested in a phone that is jam-packed with features. LG's third V-series phone is a work that has aged nicely, even in possibly the most cutthroat year in the market.

The V30S ThinQ improves on the formula in small increments, all found under the glass, that make this phone technically better even if the improvements aren't always perceptible. 

Should you buy it?

Unless money is of no concern to you, then no. 

Despite its improvements to its hardware and software, it's releasing at a time when phones with better specs, or ones that simply outperform it in tasks like photography, are becoming more widely available, and often at a lower cost than LG typically charges.

If you're an LG loyalist, you'll find much to enjoy here, but if you're insistent on buying into last year's Snapdragon 835 chipset, you won't be missing out on much by snagging the likely-to-be-cheaper LG V30 instead.

More to that point, aside from having Android Oreo ahead of some V30 phones, the V30S ThinQ's fancy AI camera features are said to be timed exclusives, coming to the V30 in time.

Simply put, the V30S ThinQ isn’t the best way to spend your money. So long as it exists in the same world as the Google Pixel 2 (a far better camera), the Samsung Galaxy S9 (a faster, more efficient chipset), or even the Essential Phone (more or less matches the spec at a far cheaper price), your cash is better spent on a smartphone that truly is an upgrade, not just one in name.

First reviewed: March 2018

Not convinced this phone is for you? Check out these instead:

LG V30

The most obvious competitor is LG's V30, which is still one of the best Android phones that you can invest in. When we reviewed it, we were impressed – and still are – with its full suite of features, including a headphone jack, Quad DAC, waterproofing, Google Daydream compatibility…the list goes on.

You can find every one of its good assets present in the V30S ThinQ, though LG is short on reasons as to why its latest is a smart purchase over last year's still-excellent V30. As such, so are we. The V30 is the better buy, since it, too, is lacking in current spec like the Snapdragon 845. So, why pay more?

Samsung Galaxy S9

Currently, it's the flagship with the most, well, everything. No other brand comes closer to LG's keen ability to pack phones with features than Samsung. The S9 is the company's best phone yet, amping up its photography in a big way. 

Adding its fancy Snapdragon 845 into the mix along with legacy features like a headphone jack, and you'll see that the V30S ThinQ has had most of its thunder stripped away.

Google Pixel 2 XL

Rumored to be a chip off the LG V30 block, the Google Pixel 2 XL rocks a similar look on its front and is stocked with similar hardware, too, running a Snapdragon 835 and 4GB of RAM.

The V30S ThinQ outruns the Pixel 2 XL in some major ways, like with its headphone jack, wireless charging, and its plethora of camera features. But it's no match against the Pixel 2 XL's photography prowess, which is industry leading.

Both can be had for around the same price, so the decision comes down to which features mean the most to your day-to-day use.

Essential Phone

If you're hungry for features, the V30S ThinQ blows the Essential Phone clearly out of the way. MicroSD support lets you extend the storage and the 3.5mm headphone jack with Quad DAC make LG's latest more of a media-friendly device.

In defense of the Essential Phone, it's markedly cheaper at as low as $449 in the US, complete with Android Oreo 8.1, the same Snapdragon 835 chipset and 4GB RAM count, a futuristic notch (if that's your thing), and a solid 128GB of internal storage out of the box. The decision between these two should just come down to how much you're willing to spend on a phone.

Cameron Faulkner
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