The quick take
The LG V10 is a bigger, beefier LG G4 with more camera features, a Second Screen and two front-facing cameras for dual-angle selfies. And it's not a bad phone by any stretch of the imagination. But it's really big, and really beefy.
- Faster, with more RAM
- 32-bit audio with DAC
- Now has a fingerprint scanner
- Excellent camera, now with manual video mode
- Fun selfie additions
- It's a really big phone
- And among the heaviest we've used
- LG's software still isn't great
- Launching with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
- Did we mention it's big?
LG V10 full review
It's been quite some time since we've seen LG wade into the oversized phone market — that is, the "phablet" category that has since morphed into the mainstream phone size. A couple years ago we had the likes of the Galaxy Note from Samsung, and LG's response, the G Pro. LG's answer only lasted two models, though — with the sequel never even making it to the United States.
The V10 is the start of a new 'creators' series of LG phones — whatever that means.
That was a good year and a half ago — a lifetime (and then some) in terms of mobile electronics. LG has returned to the oversized market in late 2015 with a new line, the V series, to complement the G series. And the first in this new line is the V10.
LG's stance is pretty simple. The G4 (and the G5 to come after it) is the more mainstream phone, for those who want to consume material. The V10 is for those who are serious about creating it. That might sound a little off-putting to those who have been enjoying the G4 for months now — it's been among our favorite Android phones of the year and hardly is what we'd consider a slouch in the content creation department. So it'll be interesting to see which features remain exclusive to the V line, and which features also make an appearance in the G series.
But the differences between the V10 and G4 are readily apparent. It's bigger. It's got more features. And, yes, it's got a second screen, which is one of those things that we see manufacturers try every now and then, usually without much success. So will LG fare any better?
Let's find out. This is our full LG V10 review.
- 5.7-inch Quad HD main display
- 2560 x 1440 resolution
- IPS Quantum display
- 160x1040 Second Screen
- 16MP rear camera
- ƒ/1.8 lens, OIS 2.0
- Dual 5MP (80/120 degrees) front-facing cameras
- 3000mAh battery
- User removable
- Quick Charge 2.0
- Hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
- 4x1.82GHz cores + 2x1.82GHz cores
- LTE-A Cat. 6
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB internal storage
- microSD expansion slot
About this review
We're writing this review after a week of use with a Korean model of the V10. That is, it's the SK Telecom version (LG-F600S). And that means a couple things. First is that it's loaded with Korea-specific software that we'll never see in the U.S. (And that's mostly in Korean anyway — and I don't read Korean.) It's running Android 5.1.1 (Build LMY47V), which should be on par with what we get from the U.S. carriers, however.
The bigger difference is that this phone isn't banded for the U.S. So while we were able to see some LTE data on both AT&T and T-Mobile, things were bouncing around all over the place. And that wreaks havoc on battery life. So we'll update with more on that once we've got U.S. versions in hand.
We also had the V10 connected to a Moto 360 (2015) for the entirety of our testing time, which made the LG Watch Urbane very jealous.
Addition: US version
We've had a chance to use the T-Mobile branded version of the V10 for about a week. We've used it across the full spectrum of T-Mobile's network, from edge to LTE and everywhere in-between. The V10 performed admirably.
The V10 was able to find a solid T-Mobile signal in places where there was one to be found, and stayed latched on. Network speeds were as expected, with no weird slow downs or spotty coverage compared to other T-Mobile phones in the same areas. Wifi calling and HD calling worked beautifully, with clear audio on both sides and seamless integration.
The battery life was better than expected. During day-to-day use — a little web browsing, a lot of email, texts, calls and games — sent me to bed with plenty of juice left. I would recommend that you charge the V10 every night, but with the right management you could probably get two days between charges.
GPS, Wifi and Bluetooth worked as expected (read: no issues) and pairing with an LG G Watch went fine, and had no appreciable effect on battery life.
You'll notice that US versions are going to come with a bit of software bloat. Some of this can be disabled or uninstalled, while some of it can't. Everything you see above comes standard on the T-Mobile version.
In the end, our 64GB version had about 49GB free, with just over 2GB worth of pre-installed apps. Of course, you can insert a microSD card to expand your storage as you see fit.
LG V10 hands-on video
Fingerprints, second screens and dual-selfies
LG V10 hardware
In case you missed it, this is a really big smartphone.
It's fair to say that the V10 is a larger G4. Because it is. And it's quite a bit larger in all respects. It looks bigger — having been upsized from a 5.5-inch display to a 5.7-inch beast. And it absolutely feels bigger — because, well, it is.
In fact, the overall feel — that in-the-hand thing we love to lean on — perhaps is the biggest differentiator here. It's not that the G4 is a tiny phone by any stretch, but the V10 is nearly a full centimeter taller, and the edges are thicker. That gives the phone a decidedly larger look and feel, period. Toss in that it's about 24 percent heavier than the G4 — my scale's showing 195 grams for the V10 — and this thing's the second-heaviest phone I've ever used. (The heaviest was the HTC One Max.)
Put it this way: Every night I tickle my 5-year-old daughter's hand as she goes to sleep, with a couple songs off the Frozen soundtrack playing through whatever phone is on me at the time. The V10 is the first phone that has actually made my arm a little sore by the end of "Let it Go." (The second one, with Demi Lovato, if you must know.)
Part of what's making this phone so heavy is the steel frame that's part of the we-dare-you-to-drop-it construction of the V10. The back is done in what LG calls "Dura Skin" — which sounds more like a prophylactic than a silicone back, but whatever. It's a stiff, textured rubber that doesn't feel horrible and gives the phone some grip. And it's a nice contrast to the slick metal sides — called Dura Guard — both in look and feel. (And the phone's nicely balanced, so there's that, too.)
Dura Skin and Dura Guard — just fancy names for steel and rubber.
And despite being a good bit larger, the rear buttons of the V10 — done in the same volume-up/power/volume down vertical as we've come to know and love from LG — are easily within reach, even for my undersized hands. That's even more important now that LG's added a fingerprint scanner to the power button.
I've got a couple issues with that button setup this time around, however. First — and it's possible that this is a hardware discrepancy limited to my unit — is that there's a little bit of lateral travel in the button. The G4 power and volume buttons were made up of two moving pieces, with the power button seated inside the volume rocker, and both pieces are rock-solid. In the V10, the singular button slides up and down and side to side ever so slightly. It's not a huge deal, but it's noticeable.
My other gripe is with the implementation of the fingerprint sensor itself. It's easy enough to set up. If you've ever used one before with Android, you know what you're getting into. You first set up a PIN or password on the phone — just in case you lose a finger or something — and then you can enroll a fingerprint to serve as the unlocking mechanism. The setup guide is quick and clear, and I probably manage to unlock the phone on the first try about 90 percent of the time.
The fingerprint scanner is good, but it can't wake the phone.
The V10 is like previous phones with fingerprint scanners in that you actually have to wake it before using your finger to unlock it. That is, unlike the new Nexus phones, you can't just stick your finger on the scanner and have it wake and unlock simultaneously.
The problem arises when I'm pulling the phone from my pocket. While the V10 has an always-on Second Screen (more on that in a minute), it's not actually always on. The Second Screen shuts off when the V10 is in your pocket, which makes sense. But when I'm pulling the phone out of my pocket I'm able to get my finger in place and press the power button before the Second Screen wakes. And if you do that ... nothing happens. (You can replicate this by sticking a finger over the sensor window next to the earpiece. The Second Screen will shut off, and you can't wake the phone until the Second Screen wakes.)
I might be a little extra-sensitive to this having been bouncing from the Galaxy Note 5 to the Nexus 5X and the HTC One A9 and the V10 — but just be aware that this is a thing. The fingerprint scanner works really well — and you can use it to lock the Gallery and QMemo+ apps as well — it's just that waking the phone isn't as seamless as what you get with the new Nexus phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
LG V10 Second Screen & Selfies
LG is trying what several others have tried before — a secondary screen. Whether the V10's Second Screen (that's the official name) will work for you very much depends on how you like to use your phone. And there are a couple ways to look at the Second Screen.
The first is that it's an always-on (OK, again, nearly always-on) display. Time, date, battery and weather are always at the ready in the top right corner of the screen. And that's handy. And the notifications that you're used to seeing stretched across the top of the screen end up there as well, and you get used to it eventually, though it is a little weird no longer looking at the left edge of the phone for the first word of a notification. Music controls are handy there, as are shortcuts for contacts. I've not used the app shortcuts at all, however — it's just faster for me to hit the multitasking button or hop back to the home screen than it is to hit that screen with my free hand.
A relatively minor but also noticeable difference in this sort of always-on screen is that we're dealing with an LCD display here, and not AMOLED. If I wake up in the middle of the night — which old guys like me are prone to do — I definitely notice the light bleed. Instead of just the pixels being displayed being lit up, the rear of the screen is doing the work. This is a 2 a.m. problem and not really something you'll notice during the day, though.
When the phone is sleeping you get date, time and weather, music controls and a few quick settings.
If the Second Screen just isn't for you, you can turn it off in the settings menu. (And wind up with a huge black bezel above the display.) You also can choose to not have the Second Screen light up when the main screen is off. Dealer's choice.
The Second Screen is nicely implemented, but I just didn't find it all that useful.
Would I buy the V10 just for the Second Screen? Probably not. But it's an interesting and mostly innocuous feature to have.
Finally there's the matter of the two front-facing cameras. Don't overthink them. One shoots at 80 degrees, the other at a much wider 120 degrees. We've got examples in the camera section of this review, but it's just a fun way to take different-looking selfies. (From a more sociological point of view, LG is hoping the wide-angle shots will help put an end to the scourge that is the selfie stick. We're not holding our breath, however.)
So, the short version: The LG V10 basically is a larger LG G4. It's one of the heaviest phones we've used as well. But LG still does well to keep things as svelte as possible. The steel frame and rubber back (seriously, we're not saying "Dura Guard" and "Dura Skin" anymore than is absolutely necessary) make for a rigid phone, and should protect against drops, which is all the rage these days.
Same ol' LG
LG V10 software
LG software is ... still LG software. Great features, but the overall UI still needs work.
There's really not a whole lot to say about the software on the V10 that we haven't said before about the G4. Not much has changed in that department, save for the new features exclusive to the V10.
That the phone is running Android 5.1.1 (and the distinction over Android 5.1.0 is an important one) is a bit of a cause for consternation. On one hand Android 6.0 Marshmallow is only a few weeks old at this point, and the V10 has plenty of custom code in it that requires testing.
But on the other hand, we're tired of singing this same tune year after year, with phones released right as new code is coming out — as if nobody knew the timing of Google's major releases. In any event, LG says it hopes to get Marshmallow onto the V10 by the end of the year, or in early January at the outside. We'll keep our fingers crossed but not hold our breath.
Otherwise, we're looking at LG's ever-improving-but-still-overbearing user interface, full of things that you either love or never use. A number of the headaches from the G4 remain. You can't set the phone to mute using the volume buttons, for instance. (Even Google has acknowledged that was a bad idea.) LG's quick settings menu still uses way too much screen space, but at least you can still get rid of the brightness and volume sliders. Things like that. Hopefully some of that will be addressed with the Android 6.0 update. And a reminder here that we've using a Korean model, so there's a ton of custom carrier stuff on our review unit that would make even Verizon envious.
LG V10 cameras
The LG G4 has had one of our favorite cameras of 2015 — darn near arguably the best. And a good bit of that reason has to do with the ease of the automatic modes, and the additional control you get if you switch to manual mode and shoot RAW.
The V10 — remember, the gist of this new series revolves around content creation — goes a step or two further this time around. We've got manual control over video. We've got cool video stitching. We've got dual-selfie cameras.
Let's take a look.
Just like with still pictures you've got full control over the things like exposure and focus and white balance. But the really neat trick this time around are the addition options for frame rate. Manual video mode lets you shoot in the more traditional 30 or 60 frames per second — but you also can switch to a more cinematic 24 frames per second. (There also are options for 1- and 2-fps time lapse videos there as well.)
There are a ton of things to play around with here, and you'll want to mix and match to see what works best for you. (Shooting in 24 or 30 fps, for example, also gets you optical image stabilization.) Also be sure to keep an eye on that Second Screen — the extra real estate means more room for buttons, and you get a cool little zoom wheel when you're shooting video, for smoother transitions.
Do you have to use any of this? Nah. But it's a lot of fun to play around with, and it'll help give your videos a unique look and feel. You'll just need to take a little more time composing things, is all. For quick shooting, just use manual mode.
Manufacturers for years have played around with ways to make it easier for you to come away with edited video that goes beyond single-take shooting. HTC maybe was the first to make this a prime-time feature with Zoe, which would shoot a few seconds of video (with jpg byproducts) and combine it with traditional video and still images for a cohesive highlight video.
The V10 does things a little different with its Snap Movie mode. It's more linear — you shoot in the order you want things to appear — and you tap for a 3-second video, or hold for longer, for a total of up to 60 seconds. And it works really well. You can delete any clips that aren't that good, but, again, you can't rearrange them. Once you're happy with it, you save the video. LG's also got filters and background music you can add. (So, yeah. Kinda like a manual Zoe and Highlights video.)
My biggest disappointment with this was that none of the clips is saved individually — it's all compiled into the finished video. Maybe I'm just conflating things with the Zoes of old — especially being able to extra still frames from the moving shots was great — but I can't help but feel something's missing here, even though Snap View is a simple way to create a video with multiple cuts. Also — be mindful of when it starts and stops recording. You can tell I didn't quite get the timing right.
Dual selfies and multi-view
Another feature you don't need to overthink is the dual-selfie cameras on the front of the V10. One shoots at an 80-degree angle (think closer-up), and the other is a wider 120 degrees. There are a couple of obvious buttons that toggle between the two, with a cool animated transition when you're switching.
But it's the new multi-view mode (available from the "Modes" button when you're using either the front or rear camera) that's more fun, as it flips through the rear and both front lenses, giving you a three-shot (or two, or four — you have choices) picture with a different look and feel. The important part is that it's really easy to use. They're also available for video as part of Snap View.
We've sort of glossed over traditional uses for the V10 camera — taking pictures — because aside form the features above this is the same platform as the LG G4. And that is to say it's been damned impressive — right up there with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 as my favorite smartphone camera this year.
Again, this essentially the camera from the LG G4 when it comes to shooting still images. And we're absolutely OK with that.
One more cool addition from LG is a quicker way to share a picture you just took, by way of a little shortcuts menu in the camera app itself. It's a little slow to wake up after you take a picture, but look for it it next to the gallery shortcut.
It doesn't save you that much in the way of times or taps — it just means you don't have to go into the gallery to your picture and then hit the share button and then choose which app to kick the pic too. It's just a nice little touch, and it's nicely implemented.
I'm not normally one to buy in to tech specs when it comes to audio — and to be clear we're talking about what's coming out the 3.5 mm headphone jack and not the speaker. There are so many variables at work. The quality of the source recording. The method by which you're playing it back (streaming or locally). Bit rate. Headphones. Earbuds. Whether your ears are shot in the first place from way too many nights in front of a half-stack turned to 11 chugging through Metallica covers in high school and beyond, heads banging in unison, sweat stinking up your drummer's non-air-conditioned shed.
Whether you can spot the differences (and whether they actually mean anything to you) ... well, that's on you. But that's not to say that there aren't difference between phones. There most certainly are. And side by side with the LG G4 and Nexus 5X, I can hear a difference in the V10 audio. Highs aren't muddied. Everything seems a bit brighter.
And that's before I turn on the 32-bit DAC option in settings and listen to a FLAC file in LG's music app, which hooks into the improved audio options. (Google Play Music, on the other hand, doesn't.)
Is that a reason to buy the V10? Maybe. But it's something to demand in all high-end phones, really. I heard the difference. And I liked it.
There also are a few neat audio options in the manual video mode. You can choose whether you want more sound to come from the rear or front of the phone, you can boost (or lower) the gain, and you can apply a wind noise filter.
Odds and ends
- Lest we forget, the speaker on the V10 is kinda disappointing. It's not quite as loud as I expected, and it tends to sound a bit overdriven.
- No problems with GPS or Wifi (maybe that's finally been fixed?) or Bluetooth or anything on the V10. Works as advertised.
- Android Auto works out of the box.
- As does Android Wear.
- LG's keyboard app is OK, but I still went with a third-party option.
- We'll update with better storage numbers when we have a U.S. version of the phone in hand — I've got around 43GB available internally between all of LG's stuff (again, this has extra Korea software) and all of my stuff.
- I've had no issues with overheating of times in which I thought the processor was struggling to get things done.
- I'd forgotten that you can take pictures with the phone when you're holding it horizontally and wearing sunglasses. At least not if you want to see what's on the screen. (Well, with my sunglasses, that is.)
The bottom Line
I've warned a few times in this review against overthinking things. The V10 isn't an overly complicated phone. It's essentially a beefed up LG G4, both in its physicality, and to a lesser extent what's under the hood (with the extra gigabyte of RAM).
G4 lovers know why this is a great phone — and will want the extra software options.
In a week of testing the phone's performed as I'd have expected — and I've yet to see any of the software slowdowns that plagued the G4 in its early days. (Whether that's due to updated software or the extra RAM or just the ghosts that tend to inhabit these devices, I dunno.) Again, battery life (and any real concerns about heat; of which I've had none with this Korean model) will have to wait for a U.S. version of the phone to reach us.
But the whole "V10 is for content creators" line just sort of rubs me the wrong way. Is it because the phone's bigger? Or just because it has extra camera features that, while fun, sort of feel like they very well could be in the G4, should LG want that to happen.
And the Second Screen, while a bit distracting when it comes to notifications, allows for some interesting additions to LG's app layouts — but I wouldn't go so far as to say it revolutionizes the overall experience or anything. It's just sort of there. Is that what content creators were lacking in the G4? Not really. It's a just a different feature, really.
Ignoring that whole thing about who this phone is for, though, and what you walk away with is a very solid, very impressive phone.
Should you buy it? Sure, but ...
Just like with the LG G4, there's not one standout reason to avoid the V10. That is, so long if you're OK with a really big phone — about the size of the Motorola Nexus 6, only 10 grams heavier — and if you're OK with LG's software and whatever the U.S. carriers end up doing to it.
Really, this phone is about the size and the extra features. The camera tricks are cool. But if you just need a really good everyday smartphone and camera? The G4 might serve you better and be easier on your wrists.