The V20 is the latest phablet offering from LG, an upgrade over last year’s V10. It comes with high quality audio features, a great pair of dual cameras, lots of customizations and runs Android 7.0, Nougat. If you’re looking for a decent alternative to the Note 7, look no further than the V20.
The LG V20 is a big and sturdy phablet with a boring metal design. It’s hard to find the V20’s all metal unibody attractive, but heads will turn to look at its unique front and back setup.
The front of the V20 boasts two screens and a camera. A small earpiece above the screens doubles as a decent speaker during calls.
On the bottom, you’ll find a speaker for music, 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C charging port. The sides have three buttons: volume rockers on the left and a battery cover release on the lower right. Under the battery cover lies a removable battery, SIM and microSD card slot.
The back is home to dual cameras and LG’s fingerprint sensor, which doubles as a power button. An AT&T and V20 logo dot the back of the phone for a lackluster finish.
The V20’s main screen is big (5.7-inch), crisp (2560 x 1440), and very bright! Media look detailed and sharp. I can see the results of Instagram’s horrible compression algorithms all to well. The screen also achieves amazing outdoor visibility in direct sunlight.
The only imperfection in the V20’s screen is the blue tint that plagues whites. The screen’s colder temperature is noticeable next to other android phones. Whether this is good or bad depends on how you like your whites. LG provides a “comfort view” setting to reduce blue light, but it’s not a perfect or permanent solution.
Above the main screen is a smaller screen that shows the date and time, but can also show rows of shortcuts and a signature with a swipe. You can control what shows on the second screen when the main screen is on or off. New notifications also appear here, and open or expand when tapped. Notifications for downloads show useful stats like percentage of completion and a progress bar for convenience.
Only a handful of apps, contacts and settings can be selected or dragged and dropped to the second screen. I don’t use the this screen often because it takes too much effort to reach with one hand. However, I like how it tries to compliment rather than reinvent user experience.
If you don’t like the second screen, it can be disabled or set it to turn off at certain times.
One of the V20’s biggest selling points is high quality audio recording. LG claims the V20 can record audio on par with studio quality recordings!
The V20 has three microphones and dedicated recording app to record high quality interviews, concerts or notes without distortion. It can also record over background tracks or create chords using multiple recordings of your voice.
The V20 produces audio recordings good enough to create a podcast or capture ideas. It doesn’t beat a studio, but it delivers better audio quality and features than most competitors.
These mics also deliver great audio quality during calls. The V20 is one of the best phones I’ve used as an actual phone in years!
The V20’s tiny bottom speaker sounds loud enough in a room with a little noise. However, with a pair of high-end headphones you can use the V20’s Hi-Fi Quad DAC for optimized audio. Having high quality audio files to listen to wouldn’t hurt either.
You won’t notice a difference with the average headphones. This is for headphones that need more power than most, which is supposed to translate into a better listening experience.
Fortunately, the audio experience is fine even with a pair of regular headphones.
When the screen is off, double tapping the volume down button immediately launches the camera app. If the screen is on, a camera shortcut on the second screen is the next fastest option.
The camera app loads the 16MP standard lens and snaps pictures immediately. However, sometimes it needs another second to focus correctly.
There are two modes of operation for photos and videos: auto and manual. Auto mode is self-explanatory and geared towards the casual shooter. If you want the best pictures and videos from the V20, use manual mode.
In manual mode, you can adjust white balance, focus, ISO, exposure and shutter speed settings. With videos you can also use the Hi-Fi audio recorder seeing to optimize sound recording – a feature you won’t find on other flagship phones.
A tracking focus setting helps keep moving subjects in focus, while Steady record minimizes shakes.
There’s also options for adjusting picture and video resolution and frame rate in addition to saving RAW images and taking photos by saying keywords like “cheese or “LG”.
Annoyingly, there’s no option to disable the shutter sound.
The V20 has a 16MP and 8MP, wide-angle, back camera and a 5MP wide-angle front camera.
Pictures taken using the front camera don’t look as good as those from last year’s Nexus 6P or this year’s Google Pixel. In fact, faces look downright cartoonish.
No matter which lens you use on the back the results will look good. However, the results from the standard lens tend to look sharper and more detailed. Both back cameras are fast at focusing on subjects, especially while recording video. You can even switch between each camera while recording video.
When zoomed out, pictures look a little too sharp, but otherwise great with natural colors. When zoomed in, pictures lose detail and look fuzzy. Over exposure is another problem that plagues pictures from both back cameras. These issues are worsened in lower lighting conditions – a sore spot for the V20’s cameras.
The best way to minimize these issues and consistently get great pictures is to set the camera app to manual mode. As you make adjustments, you can see how the changes will impact your final result in real-time. This way, you get what you really want.
Video quality from the V20’s standard camera is excellent. On the highest settings, it absolutely excels at creating great looking videos that are YouTube ready.
I don’t make videos, but I do find myself looking for a reason to record videos with the V20. The results are just that good.
The LG V20 ships with Android 7.0 (Nougat) running LG’s custom skin, UX 5.0. It’s not the latest version of Android (7.1.1) loaded on Google’s Pixels, but it’s ahead of phones still running Android 6.0.
The custom skin looks like an inverted version of “stock” android. There’s a lot of a customization settings to get the look and feel you want. Whether you’re pro or anti app drawer, prefer list or tab view of settings, or like to customize your navigation bar and quick settings, the V20 has a setting for just about everything.
There’s also a fair amount of carrier bloatware (8 AT&T apps). However, some of LG’s apps, like Quick Remote, FM Radio, Calendar, Tasks and QuickMemo+, are useful enough to keep around.
There are gimmicky, but fun features like the signature wallpaper made from the first letter of signatures on the second screen. Pinching out on the homescreen hides everything except your wallpaper and status bar. You can add a smart bulletin homescreen for quick access to calendar events, smart settings and Quick Remote. The V20 also supports 360 wallpapers.
There are three themes preloaded on the V20, but they’re mediocre. More themes are available via LG’s Smart World app – which isn’t preloaded on the V20.
Swiping across the navigation bar takes you into MiniView, which makes the V20 much easier to use with one hand. You can also customize the navigation bar with various button combinations.
With the KnockOn setting enable, double tapping the homescreen or status bar becomes a quick way to turn the screen on and off. You can even use a Knock Code to unlock the V20 by knocking or tapping on certain areas of the lockscreen.
Android newbies might find the endless sea of options overwhelming. Power users will enjoy having so many options baked-in.
The LG V20 checks all the flagship phone spec boxes: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32 & 64GB storage options
The V20 flies through day-to-day tasks with ease. It’s responsive, especially when using the fingerprint reader or “knock” gestures to turn the screen on and off. Apps load quickly and there’s very little lag when switching apps.
When it comes to raw power, the V20 won’t outperform Google’s Pixel, which scores higher in benchmarking apps and is faster at switching apps. While playing Need for Speed on the V20– which doesn’t have the best graphic quality – a lot more aliasing showed up on cars compared to the Pixel.
Thankfully for LG, the difference isn’t a deal breaker. The V20 holds its own against competitors and handles day-to-day activities with grace.
The V20s 3200mAh battery makes it through a full work day (9-6pm) at 50% brightness levels, 3-4 hours of Instagramming, tweeting, news checking, video watching, photo editing, email checking and 2-3 hours of calls. I usually have around 20-30% battery left by bedtime.
If you plan to use the V20 high quality recording features, I highly recommend investing in a spare battery. These features can burn through the battery with little effort.
On the plus side, the battery charges from 5% to 85% in an hour thanks to Quick Charge 3.0. However, an additional 30 minutes is needed to complete the charge.
The LG V20 is aimed at creators and lovers of music with lots of its high quality recording features. The last phone to match the V20’s capabilities was Nokia’s Lumia 1520.
The V20 performs well and powers through a full day with a little battery life to spare. It’s running Android Nougat and offers a sea of customization options. The camera isn’t perfect, but you can get great shots out of it with a little effort and patience.
The V20’s looks, raw performance and image quality may not surpass some competitors, but it still performs at high levels. It’s just too expensive to not be the best overall.
The difference in performance is minor. However, with a price tag as high as $850, the difference in performance doesn’t make sense. You can get just as much or more bang for less bucks in other phones.