Hands on: LG V20 review

LG's twisted creation is back, with even more features this time around

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The LG V20 somehow makes having two screens and three cameras look good. In addition, LG has made a number of small improvements and enhancements over the V10 that should make this one to keep an eye on.

For

  • Removable battery
  • Comes with B&O headphones
  • Android Nougat pre-installed

Against

  • No app drawer by default
  • Low utility of second screen

Update: We've spent some more quality time with the LG V20 preview unit. As such, you'll find that this hands-on is more fleshed out than before, with new photos and thoughts based on the few days that we've lived with the phone.

While we're confident in our impressions, we're holding back our final verdict and score until we can ensure that we've gotten a fair look at the retail-ready unit.

Original hands-on review follows below.

The LG V20's greatest claim to fame is that it probably has whichever feature it is you're looking for - and some that you didn't know you wanted until now.

After all, like its predecessor, the LG V10, it's a total Frankenstein of a smartphone. Around its body, you'll find two screens, three cameras and an abundance of other awesome hardware features that you likely won't find elsewhere.

It still offers the drop-friendly qualities of its predecessor, but ditches the divisive design in favor of a more refined look. Its signature second screen is back, too, with more options for customization than before.

For those looking for a capable Android smartphone, the V20 sits comfortably in the league of some other powerful options out there, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and even the iPhone 7 Plus.

LG V20

But outright comparing LG's latest to more traditional smartphones is a bit unfair. After all, the V20 offers things that these phones, and many others, do not. Where else can you get a Nougat phone with a removable battery, four DACs, multiple wide-angle camera lenses and two displays - oh, and a 3.5mm port?

LG has yet to announce a price for the V20, so we'll come to a decision on whether this device's numerous features are worth the cost at a later date. But if the value comes together as well as the V20 has, this could be one of 2016's most inventive and compelling smartphones - even if not all that much has changed on the inside from last year's V10.

Price and release date

We were surprised that LG didn't mention the price of the V20 during its launch event. But, it told TechRadar that pricing information will be made public in the coming weeks.

Looking back to the US-exclusive LG V10, it sold for $700, which converts to about £600/AU$1,100. While relatively on-par with the pricing of its competitors, it'd be in LG's best interest - especially considering the reportedly disappointing LG G5 sales figures - to not only gear the V20 up for a global release, but also to make it more affordable. LG needs a hit this year, and at the right price, this could be it.

We expect the LG V20 to be available on numerous carriers if you're looking for a subsidized option. But, like the V10, an unlocked version is likely to be released that works with both CDMA and GSM signals out of the box.

Design

  • The military-grade build is back and looking better than ever
  • LG has made a whole lotta screen feel compact
  • Wow, there's a 3.5mm headphones jack

From a distance, the LG V20 doesn't look all too different from the vast selection of flagship-quality Android smartphones out there. But, as you know, it's the minute details that work to set a product apart from the rest. And this phone has a lot of them.

LG V20

First off, the phone's measurements come in at 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.7mm, and it weighs about 177 grams, which makes it a slimmer, lighter phone than the V10. Compared to Note 7, the V20 is just a tad thinner, but weighs roughly 10 grams more.

The V20 boasts a military-grade build and is made up of a removable aluminum back panel that yields a smooth look and feel (that's right: swappable batteries).

Like Sony's Xperia X, LG has once again combined the fingerprint sensor and power button into one. Just hold a finger up to the sensor to activate it. It might take a little getting used to, but the sensor/button combo is responsive, tactile to press and works just like Apple's TouchID-enabled Home button - except it's on the back of the phone.

LG V20

As far as color options go, the V20 comes in titan, silver (as seen in this review) and pink options. And just because LG got rid of the V10's textured back doesn't mean it's any less resilient to drops. The top and bottom areas of the phone are made of silicon polycarbonate, a tough material that LG is confident can take more than a few blows. But does it? We're going to perform a drop test once the rest of our testing with the preview unit has concluded.

You won't find much on the phone's top, other than two microphones that capture 24 bit rate audio at 48kHz - a mighty impressive feature for a smartphone and a testament to its knack for audiophilia.

On its bottom, you'll find this year's hottest commodity on a smartphone, the 3.5mm headphone jack, featured alongside a USB-C charge port, microphone and bottom-firing speaker. Lastly, its volume buttons sit slightly recessed into its left side and are distinguishable enough to feel without having to hunt for them.

LG V20

At first glance, the LG V20's screen is just as stunning to face head-on as the one found in the V10. That's because its 5.7-inch Gorilla Glass 4-covered screen is still pushing a 2,560 x 1,400 (QHD) resolution, and stretches up to 5.9-inches of diagonal real estate once you add on the 2.1-inch-wide second screen.

The display has an advertised pixel density of 515 pixel per inch (ppi,) though our testing revealed it to be 513. Obviously not a huge difference, and one that could be due to our testing on a preview unit.

Why didn't LG opt for Gorilla Glass 5, as seen in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7? No reason in particular was given, but LG stated that it made it a little thicker than normal to ensure its durability, and perhaps to compensate for disappointment.

LG V20

The chin area of the bezel is just about the same size as it was in the V10, though more of it is glass this time, which offers nothing in the way of capacitive button hardware - just an LG logo. If anything, it aids in making the V20 look a bit more mature.

About that second screen

In case you're unfamiliar, the LG V20 and its predecessor are in a class of their own: phones that have two screens. The main display operates as you'd expect, but the always-on second screen is reserved for notifications, quickly launching into your favorite apps, and showing extra bits of information, like the time and date. You can also toggle quick settings here, like turning on the flashlight, and customize the default signature to show a personal note, like a mantra or a reminder.

LG V20

Improvements over the second sliver of screen found in the V10 are minor, but welcomed, and include brighter visibility at 68 nits (up from 35), as well as support for longer, scrolling marquee signatures. The V10 topped out at 14 horizontally-scrolling characters, but you can do 24 here. That's the difference between "Please buy gro" and "Please buy groceries! :)"

Being the first phone with Android Nougat pre-installed, the multi-window feature is the perfect compliment to the second screen. Now, you'll be able to get even more work tasks done without an on-screen interruption, or enjoy a full-screened game without notifications getting in the way of the heads-up display.

LG V20

Whatever the case, the second screen seems like a gimmick, and your mileage may vary, but it's truly handy to have a dedicated place to view essential info without popping out of an app, or even turning on the phone, for that matter.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.