Hands on: Hands on LG G8S ThinQ review

A subtly adapted G8 flagship aimed at undercutting rivals

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Early Verdict

The LG G8S ThinQ is a competent flagship smartphone, but when a superior sibling in the LG G8 exists with a better screen, slicker design and new speaker technology you can't help but look past the G8S.

For

  • Powerful cameras
  • Premium design
  • Headphone jack and QuadDac

Against

  • Only a Full HD display
  • Hand ID a work in progress
  • Air gestures not convincing

The LG G8S ThinQ is the subtly adapted, cheaper version of the South Korean firm's new flagship Android phone - the LG G8 ThinQ - both of which were launched at MWC 2019.

LG has chosen the odd route of creating a slightly lesser version of its handset to provide it with more flexibility in markets around the world. Some countries will get the G8, others the LG G8S, depending on which device the firm believes best suits a particular market.

LG has confirmed to TechRadar that the LG G8S will be available in the UK, which means the G8 won't be going there.

We've been hands on with the G8S, but for a more detailed run down of some of its key features, such as Hand ID and the cameras, check out our hands on LG G8 review.

LG G8S price and release date

There's no firm LG G8S ThinQ release, and LG wasn't able to say more than maybe May or June, but it all seems to be very up in the air at the moment.

The same goes for the LG G8S price, but we have been told that it will be less than flagship phones from the major players, so we fully expect it to undercut the likes of the iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy S10.

What we do know however, is you'll only have the choice of either the G8S or G8, as LG isn't planning on stocking both devices in any market. One confirmed country getting the LG G8S is the UK, and we'll update this article with pricing and more availability when it becomes clear.

LG G8S ThinQ review

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Design and display

The LG G8S ThinQ has a premium look and feel, with a glass front and back with a metal frame in the middle.

It sits nicely in the hand, doesn't feel too overpowering and is well weighted, with an easy to reach power/lock key on the right of the handset.

On the left there are two volume keys sitting above a third button which, when pressed, launches you into Google Assistant. You can't remap the button to launch a different app or function, but you can disable it if you wish. 

On the base of the LG G8S ThinQ you'll find a centralized USB-C port alongside a headphone jack - allowing you to easily plug in headphones, which is becoming a rarity in flagship smartphones these days.

One difference the G8S ThinQ has versus the G8 is a rear camera bump. Where the main flagship has a flush camera setup, on the G8 ThinQ the there is small ridge which house the three cameras.

The G8S ThinQ is also slightly wider as well, which means while it's still a premium device, it's not quite as stylish as the G8. It does have an IP68 water and dust resistant, which means it should be able to survive being dropped in water up to 1 meter for half an hour.

LG G8S ThinQ review

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There's a fingerprint scanner below the rear cameras, and this is just one of several unlock options that come with the G8S ThinQ.

Other unlock options includes face recognition, voice recognition, pin/password/pattern and LG's new technology for its G8 series - Hand ID.

Hand ID lets you hold your palm about 20cm away from the screen, and the LG G8S ThinQ will scan your hand (and the veins in it) to confirm your identity.

It uses a ToF (time of flight) sensor on the front of the phone which is able to scan and read the unique pattern of your veins, and thanks to infra-red support the camera is able to see more detail than the human eye. 

This makes it much more difficult to spoof, although during our demo it didn't always work perfectly. This technology is still under development though, and the hope is it'll be more reliable when the G8S ThinQ goes on sale.

It was easy to register our hand. All we had to do was hold our palm above the phone and slowly move it towards the screen, allowing the G8S ThinQ to read and scan. Repeating the process and our hand was registered.

The speed of recognition and unlock using Hand ID isn't slow, but it's not as quick as the fingerprint scanner on the back or facial recognition. This makes the feature feel a little more gimmicky, but the system will become more accurate the more you use it.

This should hopefully speed up unlock time and increase accuracy over the handset's lifetime.

LG G8S ThinQ review

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Turning our attention to the display, and the LG G8S ThinQ packs a 6.21-inch Full HD glass OLED panel.

It has an 18.7:9 aspect ration and sizable notch at the top which houses the selfie snapper and ToF sensor.

We found the screen to be bright, clear and colorful, but it's disappointing to see a downgrade in resolution over the G8 (which has a QHD display). 

The LG G8S ThinQ is still a flagship smartphone, and will likely still command a relatively high price tag, so it feels like we've been cheated a little.

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Camera

There are three rear cameras on the LG G8S ThinQ with a standard 12MP lens joined by a 13MP super wide-angle, 136 degree field of view camera and a 12MP telephoto lens.

The three cameras give you three different field of views, allowing you to get closer (with the telephoto lens) or further away (with the super wide-angle lens) from your subject.

The super wide-angle mode has an additional trick. With 136 degrees field of view you'll find the edge of your snaps will be distorted with a fish-eye lens effect which can make images look a little strange. LG has a way around this though.

Within the camera app you can opt to switch the field of view to a still rather wide 107 degrees, which produces images without the distortion at the edges.

Another nice trick on the G8S ThinQ is video portrait mode, allowing you to blur the background of subjects in video as well as stills. It's an impressive feature and can garner some striking results, but we'll need to test it fully in our review process to find out just how well it performs.

On the front of the LG G8S ThinQ you'll find an 8MP f/1.7 lens capturing 1.22 micro-sized pixels. There's no wide-angle camera here, leaving you with an 80 degree field of view, but you do set the photo and video portrait mode as well thanks to the help of the Time of Flight sensor. 

LG G8S ThinQ review

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Specs and performance

Inside, the LG G8S ThinQ comes with a Snapdragon 855 chipset and 6GB of RAM, which ensures Android feels fast and fluid under finger. During our brief time with the handset apps loaded quickly and we were able to navigate around the phone with ease.

There's 128GB of storage included too, giving most people plenty of space. The LG G8S ThinQ battery is actually 50mAh bigger than the one found in the G8, coming in at 3,550mAh. 

Another new feature LG has introduced with its G8 series is Air Motion, allowing you to control your handset without even needing to touch it.

It uses the same, front facing ToF sensor as Hand ID, and detects your hand hovering above the display. From here you can pull down a quick launch app menu with two apps (which you can preset).

Motioning either left or right with your hand allows you to select an app, such as Spotify. Depending on the app, you may get access to further controls such as play and pause (again selected by flicking your hand left or tight) and volume, which is control by twisting your hand as if you were adjusting a dial.

It works, and a visualization on screen shows you the G8S ThinQ is able to track the individual motion of each of your fingers, but it's not particularly consistent or accurate.

You need to be holding your hand at a certain position and distance from the screen for it work, and your actions need to be clear and not rushed for the phone to register them.

It's fun to play with, but it's still easier and quicker to perform the same actions by tapping the screen, which most of the time you're able to do.

Early verdict

The LG G8S ThinQ is a competent flagship smartphone, but we can't help but feel a little let down by it considering the the LG G8 exists with a better screen, slicker design and new speaker technology.

What more, you won't have the choice between the two. If the G8S ThinQ arrives in your country, the liklihood is the G8 won't be there as well.

At lot rests on the price of the LG G8S ThinQ. If the cost can be kept at a level which sees it rival the likes of the OnePlus 6T, Pocophone F1 and Honor View 20 it will be a highly attractive option.

However it may well be closer in price to the iPhone XR and Samsung Galaxy S10e, handsets which will give it a real run for its money.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.    

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.