First unveiled in South Korea in October last year, LG’s V40 ThinQ smartphone has finally reached Hong Kong.
The unusually long delay, however, due to the additional dual sim feature in the Hong Kong version (says the company), means many of the specs are now outdated – especially the processor.
There is still a lot to like about this video-centric phone, though, especially if you’re a content creator.
Let’s take a closer look.
Design and hardware
The V40 is a bit of a mixed bag in this department. Weighing just 169g and only 7.6mm thick, it’s the lightest and thinnest recent flagship around, and the overall construction feels sturdy and premium.
The 6.4-inch OLED display is vibrant and, with its 1440 x 3120 resolution, has one of the most pixel-dense displays in smartphones right now. Few, though, will be able to tell the difference between this and a slightly less hi-res display.
What is noticeable is that the screen curves slightly on the edges, blending into the aluminium sides seamlessly so that it’s smooth to the touch. This is a construction technique that’s usually only found in top-tier phones from the big three brands (Apple, Samsung and Huawei), as even the best phones from Xiaomi and OnePlus have a slightly sharp edge where the screen and sides meet.
There are other useful hardware bits, such as a dedicated physical button for triggering Google Assistant, and a headphone jack that’s connected to a Hi-Fi DAC (digital-to-analogue) converter. Audio output via earphones definitely sounds fuller coming out of the V40 than an iPhone.
The main selling point of the phone is the five-camera set-up featuring two selfie cameras and a triple-lens module on the back. Each lens offers a distinct focal length (either wide-angle, normal or telephoto zoom) so there’s a real use case for each – unlike some devices whose secondary lenses don’t seem to do much of anything.
But while the whole package is well-built and fits comfortably in the hand, the design is rather bland overall. It doesn’t help that the device has a rather large notch that cuts into the top of the display. This was more forgivable last year, but recently we have seen other Androids find clever ways around wasting so much screen space.
The guts of the phone are also, as mentioned, outdated. The V40 is powered by a Snapdragon 845 processor and has 6GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage and a 3,300mAh battery. While these specs are more than enough for most consumers, the state of the ultra-competitive smartphone space means that, objectively, they’re on the low side.
Phones with Snapdragon 855 processors will start shipping next month, while we already have dozens of phones on the market with more RAM, more storage and larger battery capacity.
Software and features
Even back in October, I was disappointed with the V40 for running Android 8.1 when Huawei and Xiaomi managed to get us the newer Android 9.0 in the same month. That LG still hasn’t updated the software in the second month of 2019 is borderline inexcusable. There are several Android 9.0 features I’ve grown to love, including “smart rotate” and swiping navigations, that are missing here.
To LG’s credit, it updates its own software skin regularly, and it’s jam-packed with features. For example, its “Always-On Display” – a small part of the screen remains lit up with useful information even when not in use – is the best in the business. It shows not just the time and battery information, but all notifications and short cut buttons to launch apps or control music playback.
The camera app is also stuffed with more features than other phones. The device offers manual controls – the ability to control ISO, shutter speed or focus points – not just for still photography but also for when recording videos.
A new feature lets users create cinemagraphs (a video or GIF that resembles a still photo but with a part of the frame moving) on the fly. I’ve snapped dozens of cinemagraphs over the past few weeks and they’ve always attracted curiosity on Instagram.
Performance and battery life
The V40 performs basic smartphone functions like web surfing, making calls or jumping from app to app perfectly fine. Although some phones now offer up to an insane 12GB of RAM, the 6GB here keeps relevant apps responsive and fast to load, showing that LG’s RAM management is on point.
Unfortunately, the device’s battery life is not good. On a weekend I’d leave the house by 11am, and the battery would dip below 15 per cent by 8pm. A portable battery is a must for those who plan on using this phone out and about all day.
The main reason to get this phone is for the cameras, and for the most part the V40 delivers. Still photos are sharp and vibrant whether you’re shooting with the main lens, telephoto zoom or wide-angle lens. The latter is particularly useful when shooting architecture or sweeping landscapes.
Since Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro has the same camera array, it’s natural to compare the two. There’s not much sense comparing daytime shots, as any camera worth its salt can capture sharp and detailed images on a nice day out.
Shooting at night or in dimly lit spots is the true test. Here, the Mate 20 Pro usually beats the V40, producing images with more light, better balance and less noise. That’s for the main lens.
Interestingly, the results almost flip when shooting with the wide-angle lens, as the V40’s images are brighter and more detailed.
In video recording, the V40 shines. It can shoot videos with both electrical and optical stabilisation at resolutions all the way up to 4K/30fps. The footage is, in my opinion, the smoothest and most stable across all Android phones – though the iPhone XS is still the best video recorder. The V40 can also shoot up to 4K/60fps, which Huawei phones still can’t do, and offers more control over video shooting than any other phone.
So overall, the phone’s cameras, while good for still photography, fall short of the current king – the Huawei Mate 20 Pro – but as a video camera it is the best in the Android range.
In a vacuum, the V40 is a good smartphone, and if you own one, you’ll have few complaints other than the below-par battery life.
But when looking at it in the context of the market, it is a victim of timing and competition. The three-month delay to hit Hong Kong really hurt its appeal in my opinion. The Snapdragon 845 has been replaced by a successor, Huawei and Samsung have also introduced wide-angle lenses on their phones, and OnePlus and Vivo are selling phones with 8GB or 10GB of RAM at a lower price.
However, if video recording is important to you – let’s say you’re an aspiring Instagram influencer or YouTube vlogger – then the V40 may be worth considering because of the host of video recording options. But otherwise, at HK$5,998, it’s a tough recommendation in February 2019.
Dimensions: 158.8 x 75.7mm x 7.6mm
Display: 6.4-inch 1,440 x 3,120 OLED panel
OS version reviewed: Android 8.1 with LG UX 7.1 on top
Processor: Snapdragon 845
Main cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.5 main lens + 12-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto lens + 16-megapixel f/1.9 wide-angle lens
Front cameras: 8-megapixel standard + 5-megapixel wide-angle lens
Memory: 6GB RAM, 128GB ROM