LG's V50 ThinQ's dual screen makes it stand out, but like 5G it's not without its issues.
Of all the first generation of 5G phones we're seeing in Australia, the LG V50 ThinQ is easily the most innovative. Sure, Oppo has its shark-fin pop up camera on the Oppo Reno 5G, but that's small beer next to the inclusion of a secondary screen that comes bundled with every LG V50 ThinQ.
It's an inclusion that gives the LG V50 ThinQ a new selling proposition while we wait for true "foldable" phones to hit the market. 5G phones are still a luxury buy for anyone, but this is LG's best flagship in years.
Basic V50 ThinQ isn't all that sexy a phone.
Rear mounted fingerprint sensor feels old school.
Dual screen case provides easy protection.
Case is big and bulky in comparison to other 5G phones.
The design story of the LG V50 ThinQ is one that you absolutely have to split into two parts. That's because the phone itself is sold in some markets as a standalone. By itself, the LG V50 has a pretty unremarkable design.
If you've seen any previous LG V series phone, you'll be familiar with the look. It features a 6.4 inch 1,440 x 3,120 pixel display with a prominent rectangular notch at the top. LG is once again using its own P-OLED displays with the LG V50 ThinQ, although with much less of the blue tint issue we've seen with previous P-OLED displays, thankfully.
Where many of its competitors are opting for in-display fingerprint readers, LG is keeping it old school with a rear-mounted fingerprint reader located underneath the rear camera lenses. In-display would have been nice, but the fingerprint reader is certainly functional.
All of the lenses sit underneath the back of the phone, so there's no camera bump. That gives it a nice smooth feel, although it does also mean it rather easily slides around on a desk or in your pocket by itself.
By itself, or in comparison to the Oppo Reno 5G or Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the LG V50 ThinQ can't help but feel a little bland.
By itself, or in comparison to the Oppo Reno 5G or Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the LG V50 ThinQ can't help but feel a little bland.
That's only half the story, however. Here in Australia, the LG V50 ThinQ will only be sold with the dual screen accessory bundled with it.
We've seen plenty of flip cases for phones to protect them, but LG's take has been to take this to another level by making the interior of the "flip" a screen in its own right. When the LG V50 ThinQ is placed in the Dual screen, you've got the option to power it up and run it, in effect, as its own Android phone.
It's a neat inclusion, although it does rather obviously add a fair bit of bulk to the LG V50 ThinQ if you use it all the time. It's great for protecting the LG V50 ThinQ as well.
One minor niggle here is that it places the side volume controls under the hinge, where they can be a little tricky to reach.
One slightly larger issue here is that depending on your choice of application and how it addresses onscreen controls, reaching them for single handed use can be tricky, if not downright impossible. There's a learning curve to how you use the V50 ThinQ that may not appeal to users who prefer a simple life of application use in the style they already know.
Better low light performance than we've seen from LG in years.
Good, but not market-leading camera output.
In recent years, I'd describe LG's camera output as adequate, but not exciting.
That's not what you want in a flagship smartphone, where camera technology is such a key component.
The LG V50 ThinQ features a 16MP super-wide lens, 12MP telephoto lens and a 12MP standard lens at the rear. That's a decent recipe for a smartphone in 2019, but again on paper, it couldn't help but feel that LG was merely playing catchup to competitors such as Samsung or Huawei.
Thankfully, using the LG V50 ThinQ as a camera reveals detail I've not seen in an LG phone for some years. It's a genuinely pleasant camera to use, and one with very good output. Transition between the wide, regular and telephoto lenses is swift, and both regular and low light performance is solid.
Again, your experience shooting with the LG V50 ThinQ will differ markedly if you opt to shoot with the dual screen attached. It's feasible to prop the whole phone up using the dual screen as an ad-hoc stand. However, you only really get one shooting angle this way unless you hold the primary display at an angle. Again, the volume button placement is an issue if you like using them as a shutter button, because they're on the wrong side for that to be feasible in dual screen mode.
One nice aspect for dual screen shooting is that if you tap to review a shot, it comes up on the secondary display, leaving the camera live for further shooting with just a tap on the display.
The lens choice does let you frame to pick your surroundings. Here's a telephoto shot of Sydney's Darling Harbour taken with the LG V50 ThinQ:
The same framing with its standard lens:
And then again with the wide angle lens:
You get the usual run of LG improvements within the camera app, including Studio, Portrait, AI Cam and video modes. You can use the camera app on either of the LG V50 ThinQ's dual screens, although not both at once for shooting.
Dual screen can work, but you have to make your own fun.
The LG V50 ThinQ might look a little ordinary from the outside, but you remember what your mother always told you about external appearances, right?
LG packs the LG V50 ThinQ with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, expandable via MicroSD. It's an Android 9 phone with LG's own generally light launcher on top.
At a performance level, the LG V50 ThinQ compares very favourably to other flagship Android devices. Here's how it compares using Geekbench 4's CPU test:
There's really very little in benchmark terms between all 3 current 5G phones, and that translates out into application performance as well.
There's more of a gulf in 3D benchmarks. Here's the LG V50 ThinQ's performance tested using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme benchmark:
Then there's the dual screen accessory. Drop the LG V50 ThinQ into it, and you'll get a small movable pop-up button to control that secondary screen. You can switch primary and secondary screens, or turn off either display if you wish, but it's in running multiple apps that the Dual Screen has plenty of potential – and a few pitfalls.
It's a question of how well a given app actually supports running on that secondary screen with LG's software. It's great for functions like running video on one screen while you browse your social media, or having multiple browser windows open simultaneously.
But not every app will behave properly when running in dual screen mode.
not every app will behave properly when running in dual screen mode.
You can't slide content across both displays – not that this would look very good – and it's very much a story of coming up with use cases that make sense of the dual screen display.
I've certainly found it handy to have social media running on the dual display while browsing the web on the other, or indeed for having two browser instances running simultaneously. It's a case of making your own fun, and it feels like LG could perhaps have gone further in creating a really unique use case for dual screens.
The other selling point for the LG V50 ThinQ is that it's one of 3 5G-capable phones to launch in Australia. Telstra is the only network offering mobile 5G right now, and the V50 ThinQ is a Telstra exclusive.
It's still early days in the 5G story, with very limited network availability and, as it turns out, limited speeds as well. In early testing with all available 5G devices across multiple locations, here's how the LG V50 ThinQ compared:
The LG V50 ThinQ sells in a single 128GB storage variant in Australia, which feels rather low for a flagship phone in 2019. You can at least easily boost this with MicroSD expansion, something that's notably absent on the competing Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
LG packs in a 4,000mAh battery into the LG V50 ThinQ, but that's only within the primary phone itself. The dual screen accessory doesn't add any battery capacity at all.
By itself, the LG V50 ThinQ compares quite well with its 5G contemporaries, as well as against most other Android flagships. Here's how it stacks up using Geekbench 4's Battery test:
The Oppo Reno outpaces the LG quite neatly if battery life is your primary concern, but the LG bests Samsung's more expensive Galaxy S10 5G.
It's a different story once you start using that dual screen. To test this, I fired it up and left it running while scheduling another Geekbench 4 Battery test:
Now, that's very much a worst case scenario type of figure, because you're not likely to run both screens at once all the time. In more anecdotal testing, that primary 4,000mAh power pack was enough to get through a full day's usage, primarily on 4G networks, including periods where the V50 ThinQ did double duty as a hotspot for my laptop.
The story for 5G networks may be quite different, but there simply aren't enough points of 5G access to properly assess that. The few times I was within 5G regions, I was heavily speed testing and drawing the battery down heavily as a result. That's not going to be what you do with the phone in day to day use, even when 5G becomes more commonplace.
Charging is via USB C or Qi wireless charging. Impressively, popping the LG V50 ThinQ into the dual screen case doesn't block out its Qi charging capability, although you may have to lean it in interesting ways to get it to fit if you leave the dual screen open while wirelessly charging.
Dual screen puts it ahead of the folding game, but for how long?
Easily the best phone LG's produced in years.
5G still isn't a core reason to buy.
5G so far isn't selling itself as a primary reason to pick up any of the first crop of 5G capable phones unless you're quite manic about future-proofing your phone purchases.
LG has improved on its track record for flagships in significant ways with the LG V50 ThinQ. App performance and battery life tracks right up there with the best you can buy, and the camera is likewise very capable in most shooting circumstances. The dual screen is the flagship feature, and were LG to only offer the V50 ThinQ standalone (as it does in some markets) it would be a solid but unspectacular offering.
You've got to work out what you're going to use that dual screen for. It's not quite as capable as what we've seen in early samples of fully foldable devices, but then again you can't actually buy those as yet, and the pricing there will be way higher anyway.
Alex Kidman is the tech and telco editor at Finder. He's been a technology writer with experience spanning more than 20 years, writing and editing at Gizmodo, CNET, PC Magazine, Kotaku and many more. Alex has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New England and a serious passion for retro gaming.
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