LG V30S ThinQ vs LG V30: here’s what we think so far

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There’s nothing wrong with iterative upgrades to smartphones, especially to ones we like as much as the LG V30. But to say that the jump from last year’s flagship, which was one of 2017’s best Android phones, to the LG V30S ThinQ is an iteration on the hit formula is quite the overstatement. Barring startlingly few differences, it’s the same phone with a worse name.

Either way, we’re taking a close look at the LG V30S Plus ThinQ (the 256GB variant) to see if it’s worth your attention over the still-competent LG V30, which will likely drop in price as a result of the new phone’s release around the globe.

We’ve spent some time with both phones to see if and how the experience differs in terms of general day-to-day performance, whether the cameras have changed or improved in an appreciable way, and really whatever else we discover along the way.

Camera comparison

LG is drawing attention to the V30S Plus ThinQ’s cameras, which, let it be noted, are utilizing the exact same hardware found in last year’s phone. Need proof? Barring a few photos improved by the V30S ThinQ's AI Cam mode, and a few outliers where the V30 fared better, these look mostly the same.

What’s changed is in the camera software. LG is employing AI smarts in a new mode called AI Cam that, when activated, detects what’s in the viewfinder to automatically determine the subject. While it consistently landed on the correct type of object in view, the feature tosses up words that indicate what AI Cam is guessing at before it arrives on its final answer. The words “fish”, “salt basin”, “beer” regularly popped up in landscape shots, which while hilarious, is a little disconcerting since it’s this device’s marquee feature.

As stated, it has a high success rate, and it’s well implemented and quick to make new guesses if it hasn’t found anything to focus on. This is the kind of thing that will improve as time moves on, but is it essential to current V30 owners, or curious prospective buyers? Definitely not.

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"Close-up, building exterior, salt basin, bath" What?

"Close-up, building exterior, salt basin, bath" What?
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"Architecture, people in the background, travel, building" Some safe, but correct guesses.

"Architecture, people in the background, travel, building" Some safe, but correct guesses.
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"ready to eat, food, close-up" Accurate, I suppose!

"ready to eat, food, close-up" Accurate, I suppose!

There are two other changes. The QLens option sits next to AI Cam, and when tapped, this new camera mode lets you scan QR codes, or search for items on Amazon or Pinterest. It works very well in our limited experience and if you’re the sort of person who wants to search for the best prices on items that you come across in reality, you’ll likely find this to be useful.

Lastly, a new featured called Bright Mode, automatically detects dark environments and kicks up the exposure to illuminate what would otherwise be a murky landscape. By using the same hardware found in the V30, the V30S ThinQ seems to simply extends the shutter speed to let more light in per shot. You boost the likelihood for a blurry shot, but if things keep still, it will illuminate it just fine.

This is one area where the V30S is able to get some better results.

Here are a few examples of that in action.

Performance differences

When it comes to hardware changes from the V30 to the V30S ThinQ, you’ll only find differences in the memory department. Moving up from the 64GB found in the standard V30 and 128GB featured in the V30 Plus, the V30S features 128GB by default, while the new V30S Plus makes the jump to 256GB of internal storage. All feature a microSD slot, but the amount of onboard memory differs, and yes, it’s all very confusing.

Staying on topic with memory, RAM is something else that’s been adjusted. Moving up from 4GB of RAM put to work in the V30 and V30 Plus, both the V30S and V30S Plus boast 6GB of RAM.

One step forward with the memory, but it’s one step, well, in neither direction with the chipset, as LG has stayed with the Snapdragon 835 while the rest of the competition blazes onward with the Snapdragon 845.

Taking count of the V30S’ improvements, we’re not really seeing that extra oomph being put to task just yet. 2017’s V30 was able to handle everything we threw at it with ease, so we can only assume that the V30S will be even more future-proofed. Conversely, phones built with Qualcomm’s latest chipset aren’t showing many advantages over the 835 in real-world use, other than the 4K HDR video recording feature put to use in some 845-equipped phones like the Sony Xperia XZ2. Perhaps the LG G7 will boast that feature.

Software

The LG V30 was one of the first phones out to come with Android Nougat. Though it’s been a laggard on Android Oreo, the V30S hasn’t had any issue making the leap.

You’ll find Android Oreo 8.0, which isn’t even the latest 8.1 update we’ve seen launching on many devices, but even so, you’ll have picture-in-picture mode at your disposal, along with notification dots and other minor visual touches. Even so, the experience looks and feels mostly the same.

Faster booting speeds, one of the highlight features that Oreo enabled in select phones, like Essential Phone, Google Pixel and others, is oddly missing here. It boots at the same (still reasonably quick) speed, which honestly is a bit of a disappointment.

Early takeaway

The LG V30S ThinQ and the LG V30 are the more or less same phone, it’s as simple as that. For some time, it seems like the V30S ThinQ will have the upper hand in terms of its smart camera capabilities. And of course, its dominance (at least in the realm of LG phones) will sustain in terms of its internal storage and RAM count. That is, until the rumored LG G7 launches later this year, or until LG releases the V30S's camera software for the standard V30 model.

We’re at work on the final review, so stay tuned if you want to see even more comparison to LG’s 2017 V30. But if you want to save money, opting for the old instead of the new doesn't seem like a bad ideal at all.