LG G8 ThinQ first impressions review
Here are our early impressions of LG's next G-series phone, the LG G8 ThinQ.
LG has brought us an update to its G series nearly every year around Mobile World Congress, and this year it's bringing two models of the LG G8 ThinQ.
The main LG G8 ThinQ will be the company's premium model with a higher resolution screen and higher spec audio equipment inside. Here in Australia, we'll see the lower specification LG G8s ThinQ launch in the middle of 2019, and that's what we've been able to briefly test.
Each G-series phone has seen an experiment of some sort, and in 2019 LG is adding the Z Camera – a time-of-flight sensor the company is wisely just referring to as a "3D camera" – to the front of the phone.
We haven't had long enough with the LG G8s to comprehensively test it out, so these are just our early thoughts on LG's latest flagship handset.
LG G8 ThinQ: On the plus side
- Improved build quality. The G8s with its smooth curves and glass back feels like the most un-LG phone we've held. It genuinely feels great in the hand and it truly impresses with its build quality. This doesn't feel like an LG phone, and that's arguably a good change.
- Z Camera. LG's time-of-flight sensor provides a genuinely secure face-unlock, or if you prefer, vein sensing to detect your unique vein pattern in your hand.
- AirMotion Gesture control. The Z Camera allows the phone to detect and respond to movements and gestures in 3D space – this is called AirMotion. You can wave your hand over it to unlock the screen, turn a virtual dial to adjust volume, and more.
Multiple lens choice. The G8 packs three rear camera sensors (standard, wide and zoom) although it doesn't perform the same as other manufacturers' triple-camera set-ups. The G8 doesn't stitch the data from multiple sensors together – you need to choose which sensor you want to use to take each shot. Unlike Huawei's Mate 20, the wide-angle lens shows quite a bit of barrel distortion or fisheye effect, too. Here's some sample shots, bearing in mind that we're shooting on the lower-spec LG G8s ThinQ on early camera software.
- Plenty of power. The G8s has the latest Snapdragon 855 processor, paired with 6GB of RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of onboard storage. That should see it sit well against competitor handsets, most of which will share the same essential internal components.
LG G8 ThinQ: On the minus side
- Gestures might be a gimmick. You're either going to use them every day, or never. At least it doesn't specifically add to the cost of the phone.
- Cut-down specs. The premium version of LG's phone isn't officially coming to Australia. We get a lower resolution screen, lower spec cameras and no quad audio DAC.
- Poor record with timely updates. The G8s will be running Android 9.0 Pie, but LG doesn't have a good track record on providing security and software updates.
- A long wait. The G8s is going to launch around the middle of the year. We might well be distracted by other shiny things in the meantime.
LG G8 ThinQ: Early outlook
We are long past the time when a new LG phone was a sure thing, and the LG G8 has a lot to prove.
LG doesn't seem to have found a gimmick it wants to stick with for the G Series phones, though. In years gone by we've had add-on modules and leather cases, and it's hard not to think of the Z Camera as just the latest in this line.
Still, at least the Z Camera brings some useful features beyond the gestures: it recognises vein patterns, so you can securely unlock your phone only when you wave a hand over the front, and it lets the Z Camera perform super accurate facial recognition. LG says only 1 in a billion people share vein patterns.
There's a final elephant in the room that needs addressing – LG has a patchy history when it comes to software updates for its phones. Google is mandating that Android partners provide more timely updates, so we're hoping that LG does better on this front in the future.