All images: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo
For the last couple years, fall has signalled the release of LG's V-series phones — the kind of big, kind of funky phones that usually feel less like an attempt to put together a handset that people would actually want to buy, and more like an attempt to see how far LG could push itself.
In 2015, the V10 featured a weird, but resilient (and removable) silicone back and a handy second screen. Then in 2016, the V20 doubled down on LG's double vision with a new dual-rear camera while maintaining its removable battery and secondary display. But for 2017, LG has traded the V-series' quirkiness and personality along with its signature features in the process of making a glass-backed handset aimed at the masses. The result is something that for better or worse looks and feels a lot like a Galaxy S8+.
The V30's IP-68 water resistance is good down to 5 feet for 30 minutes, so a little splash isn't anything to worry about.
Things aren't all doom and gloom though, as the V30 has managed to retain and enhance certain aspects of the phone, such as its 32-bit quad DAC (digital to analogue converter) Hi-FI, which delivers one of the best headphone listening experiences you can get on a phone. You can even customise your sound profile using LG's digital audio filters and presets, so you can replicate the warm, rounded accents of vinyl or the clean, sharp sound of digitally mastered music — all depending on what you prefer.
The V30's rear camera module consists of a primary 16-MP f/1.6 sensor and a 13-MP f/1.9 sensor with a wide angle lens.
But the real magic comes from the V30's 16-megapixel main rear camera, which sports an aperture of f/1.6, wider than anything else on the market right now. That means the V30 can collect more light in dark environments. More light means lower ISOs, which results in sharper and less grainy low-light pictures. Suffice to say, in the small amount of time I've had to shoot pics with the V30 in the dark, I've been more than impressed.
That's a lot of photo and video modes. And like the V20 before it, the V30 has some of the best manual camera controls on any phone.
Then, you add in all the work LG has done on the video side, and you get one of the most well rounded and comprehensive mobile recording devices around. The amount of modes and settings the V30 provides are actually kind of mind-boggling. The new Cine Effect tool lets you apply colour treatments to your clips, like the exaggerated orange and blue hues of a summer blockbuster or the brown sepia notes you'd see in a historical drama. LG also includes a point zoom tool so you can select a specific location in your video, and smoothly zoom in just like a pro with a big shoulder mounted camera. The V30 even has three mics that adjust themselves automatically in an effort to capture sound in challenging environments like a concert or sports event.
Fear not, the V30 still has a dedicated headphone jack, it's just on the top of the phone instead of the bottom.
And as expected of a flagship phone, the V30 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage with microSD card expandability and IP-68 water-resistance. LG has even transitioned from LCD to a P-OLED screen, so colours looks even more vibrant. In fact, the main difference between the V30 and the S8+, aside from the V30's slightly smaller 15cm display QHD+ screen (versus the 15cm display on the S8+), is that the V30's rear fingerprint sensor is located squarely in the middle of the phone.
That little floating menu bar is all that remains of the V-series' second screen.
The V30 also comes running Android Nougat 7.1 out of the box, although LG says it's already working on updating the phone with Oreo. That said, I hope LG adds a little bit more to its Android skin, because even though its relatively clean and bloat free, not having an app drawer installed by default is pretty annoying. Instead, LG teamed up with Google to add special touch controls exclusive to V30's navigation bar. These include a button to pull down the notification shade, the Capture+ button for taking screenshots and making GIFs, and the Q-slide button which gives you faster access to a select number of LG apps like Contacts and the File Manager. These additions seem neat, but don't actually do that much to change the way you actually use the phone.
I'm not going to say the V30 is a bad looking phone, but it's almost too sleek for its own good.
But if I had the choice, I'd trade a lot of these superfluous extras back for a bit of the old V-series' charm and personality. Hardware-wise the V30 is without a doubt LG's best phone to date, it just isn't as unique.
The one last thing that remains to be seen is pricing. If the V30 can stay near $US650 ($818) and away from the Note 8's sky-high $US930 ($1,170) price tag, this phone could be a great alternative for people who want a premium big screen device but don't care about the Samsung Note 8's styluses and unnecessary digital assistants. The V30 is due out later this fall.