The Good The sturdily designed LG V10 gives users more camera control with manual modes for both photos and video, a fingerprint sensor, two front-facing cameras for wider selfie shots, expandable memory and a removable battery.
The Bad The handset is pricey, its secondary display doesn’t offer any essential necessities and its manual camera features require some time to learn.
The Bottom Line The feature-packed V10 is LG’s best smartphone yet — just be prepared to pay a premium for its selfie- and photo-friendly extras.
If you find the secondary display useful and photo features compelling, the V10 is an excellent phone, and it doesn’t cost as much as the other high-end, large-screen dual-display Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+. But if you’re like me and don’t absolutely need all the V10’s bells and whistles, there are cheaper flagships available, such as the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition, the Google Nexus 6P and even LG’s own G4, which has similar core features as the V10, but cost about $100 less.
In the US, the V10 will be available on T-Mobile starting October 28 for $600 without a contract. However, you can pay with $25 monthly payments over 25 months as well. On November 6, AT&T customers will be able to purchase the device for $700 with no contract, or $250 with a two-year agreement. Verizon will also sell the handset, though no pricing or date have been released yet.
Outside the US, LG plans to launch the phone in Asia including China, Latin America and the Middle East.
Design and build
- 6.3 by 3.12 by 0.34 inches (159.6 by 79.36 by 8.6mm)
- 6.77 ounces (192 grams)
The V10 has stainless steel rails running down its left and right edges and metallic accents around the camera and front-facing audio grille, making it one of the most premium-looking handsets LG has designed to date. It comes in five colors, and I got my hands on modern beige. This isn’t my favorite of the five (the color reminds me of hospital walls), but the device’s overall aesthetic is pleasing.
The phone feels pretty weighty in the hand, but it actually looks like it would be heavier than it really feels. Given its big-screen size, not everyone’s going to dig the V10. It didn’t fit comfortably in my front jean pockets (or back pocket, while we’re at it) and unless you have a large enough grip, maneuvering it with one hand will be difficult. (To help out with this problem though, LG has “Mini View,” which shrinks and pushes the screen’s interface to the bottom left or right corners).
- 5.7-inch main display with 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution
- 513 ppi pixel density
- 2.1-inch secondary display with 160×1,040-pixel resolution
- 502 pixels per inch
Let’s start with the primary, 5.7-inch display. Featuring a 1,440p resolution, the screen is sharp and vibrant. Images and text are crisp and clear, colors are vivid and deep. I had no problems viewing the bright display outdoors in direct sunlight. It has a wide viewing angle, so it doesn’t wash out when viewing it from off-angles, and it’s sensitive and responsive to touch control.
However, it’s the second display that makes the handset unique. This narrow strip is customizable and has six shortcut menus to swipe through. The first is a general greeting where you can write your name or a personal message. The second strip holds five of your recent apps. Next are five of your favorite apps that you can choose and arrange. Following that is the music player controls with back, pause, play, buttons. The next swipe brings up five of your favorite contacts. Tap on a contact and icons pop up to either call or text them. The last page is for your calendar, which displays any upcoming events.
The display isn’t, as rumors speculated previously, a scrolling ticker for notifications. Notifications do pop up on this narrow strip once they come in, but after that, you can check if you have any missed calls or text messages in the same location as they’re usually located — to the left of the time (which is below the secondary display), or in the pull-down Notifications shade.
In addition, unlike the curved secondary displays on the S6 Edge+, it honestly doesn’t look as novel. It’s also stationary and is always shown (unless you choose to turn it off completely). There are some occasions, however, when it does disappear, like when a game or a full-screen video is opened. When the camera or QuickMemo+ is open, these shortcuts also change into their respective controls. But this is essentially different than the dynamic functions on the S6 Edge+. The controls seen on its curved edge display hide away when not in use, and you can move it to either the left or right edges. And when it tucks away, the size of the main screen has more real estate as well. Though the immobility of the V10’s secondary display isn’t a deal breaker, the S6 Edge+ provided users with a few more options.
Software and other features
- Google Android 5.1.1 Lollipop mobile operating system
- LG’s custom user interface, UX 4.0
- LG apps include LG Health and QuickMemo+
- Rear fingerprint sensor
Since the G3 smartphone launched in summer 2014, people have been anticipating LG integrating a fingerprint reader into one of its premium handsets. But as Apple and Samsung continued to add the feature to iPhones and Galaxy devices, LG had yet to add fingerprint recognition.
Until the V10, that is. Folded into the rear power button, the sensor can scan up to four fingerprints. Users can use the sensor to unlock the lock screen as well as access hidden notes written in the QuickMemo+ app and pictures locked away in the photo gallery. It can also be used as a security measure for payments on Android Pay. The feature is easy to set up and fingerprint recognition is quick. I barely had to wait a beat before my fingerprint registered and unlocked content.
As for the handset’s included apps, keep in mind that the review unit I reviewed is for the Korean market and includes tons of Korean-language apps. Depending on your carrier, you’ll get different preloaded apps. You’ll also get apps from Google, such as Gmail, the Chrome Web browser, Maps, Google Now (which is also launchable by sliding upwards from the center home softkey), the Play Store and more.
LG threw in lots of its own signature software features as well. LG Smart Bulletin dedicates an entire home screen page to widgets of certain apps, including the music player, your Calendar, the LG Health fitness tracker and more. QuickMemo+ is a notes app that you use to jot down notes or doodles. Dual Window (which is nestled in Settings) splits your screen in two so you can use two apps simultaneously. LG’s staple KnockOn and KnockCode features enable you to wake up or unlock the device with various tapping gestures while the display is asleep.
Cameras and video
- 16-megapixel rear-facing camera
- Two 5-megapixel front-facing cameras
- Can record 2,160p (rear) and 1,080p video (front)
- Camera features include multi-view and Snap
Photo quality for the rear camera was great. I shot in Auto mode and images looked sharp with true-to-life colors and even lighting. Touch focusing was fast and I was particularly impressed with night time shooting. Even with the low light, the camera was able to capture images clearly, though there was some expected amount of grain and digital noise. For more about photo quality, check out the pictures below. And be sure to click on each image to see them at their full resolutions.
Video quality was also excellent. Both moving and still objects were sharp and nearby and distant audio recorded well. The camera adjusted quickly to different focus lengths and lighting situations and colors were accurate.
Manual video mode has the same aforementioned meters, as well as an extra setting to adjust audio. You can control what direction (the front or back of the V10) that you want to record your audio from, adjust the decibel levels of the audio, and turn on or off the filter that reduces wind noise. In addition, there’s also a sound level meter that’s displayed on the upper left corner. The camera has optical image stabilization, which reduces blur in the case of an unsteady hand, and can record videos at one, two, 24 or 30 frames per second. You can adjust video quality by choosing a low, medium or high bitrate level.
If you want to shoot photos casually without digging through manual options, there’s also a simplified auto mode. Here you can turn on high dynamic range and panoramic shooting and record slow-mo and time-lapse videos. There’s also a multi-view option that creates photo or video collages using up to three cameras (there’s the rear camera, and either one or both front-facing cameras).
Personally, I appreciate having these manual options. Yes, I did need to sit down and go through these tools, but it enabled me to learn and become familiar with the same kind of tools seen in a high-end camera, without having to actually purchase one. And if I don’t feel like tinkering with these tools, I can always switch to the easier Auto mode, which is what I used most often anyway. As for the manual video mode, however, I didn’t use it very much. As someone who occasionally shoots 30-second clips of concerts or family barbeques, I never had the desire to wield more control over my video settings.
If you’re a director-in-the-making or want more control over your images and videos, you’ll definitely get more use from the V10’s camera. But for everyone else, the V10 can be overkill. For those who are satisfied with the standard cameraphone features, you’ll probably rarely use these manual modes and likely be in Auto mode most of the time — especially for those times when you just need to pull out your cameraphone for a quick snap.
Two front-facing cameras, twice the options
This device is unusual because it has two front-facing cameras. One includes the standard 80-degree angle lens, while the other has a 120-degree wide angle lens, which captures more space within a frame. This is beneficial when you want to include more people or background space in your selfies. Though I don’t take a lot of selfies, I’m a “groupie”-taker with my friends from time to time. Having a wider front lens means I didn’t have to try as hard to fit more people in my photo and when I’m alone, I was able to capture more of the scenic environment in back of me.
- 1.8GHz six-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
- 64GB of internal storage (with up to 2TB of expandable memory)
- 4GB of RAM
- Removable 3,000mAh battery
The phone’s six-core processor can power daily and necessary tasks without any lag or stutter. Launching apps, calling up the keyboard and returning to the home page are done quickly and nearly instantaneous (for instance, it only takes a mere 1.16 seconds to open the camera app). Powering off and restarting the device takes about 30 seconds. Other tasks like unlocking the lock screen with a fingerprint and playing graphics-intensive games were executed nimbly as well. And for the latter, images and graphics were rendered crisp and smoothly with high frame rates.
Compared to its competitors, the handset scored the lowest benchmark scores across the board. Leading the pack was the Galaxy S6 Edge+ with its Exynos 7420 processor, followed by the Nexus 6P and its more advanced Snapdragon 810 processor. Rounding the group out was the Moto X Pure, which has the same 808 processor as the V10, and finally the V10 itself. But even though it was last, its scores weren’t wildly far off from the other three phones. Benchmark-enthusiasts may takes these numbers to heart, but my day-to-day experience with the V10 has been swift and smooth.
Call quality and data speeds
- LTE Advanced, category 6
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
The unit I received is an unlocked global device and I used an AT&T SIM card (a US network that operates on the GSM standard) to test the handset’s call quality and data speeds in CNET’s San Francisco offices. Keep in mind, however, that because the phone isn’t optimized for any US, UK or Australian carrier, the things I observed and the numbers I gathered may be slightly different from a V10 that’s directly bound for your market.
In general, a call made to a landline was solid. My calling partner sounded clear without any noticeable buzzing or static. Audio didn’t clip in and out and volume levels were appropriate — max volume was especially loud. Audio speaker was good too. Though my partner’s voice sounded sharper and thinner, I could still understand what he was saying and I could hold the device away at arm’s length and still hear him well.
Though the handset I have is compatible with LTE Advanced technology, I measured 4G LTE data speeds since that’s what is available in my area. Speeds were relatively fast — according to Ookla’s speedtest app, the average download and upload rate was 12.32 and 14.77Mbps, respectively. It took about 2 seconds for it to display CNET’s mobile site and 3 seconds to load the entire desktop version. The 44.68MB game Temple Run 2 downloaded and installed in 58 seconds on average, and a one-time download of the 1.7GB movie “Gravity” in high-definition finished in 21 minutes and 50 seconds.
As always with data tests, speeds differ widely depending on several factors such as location and time of day. What I observed here is just a minuscule sample and may not be what you experience in your location.
LG V10 (unlocked on AT&T) average data speeds
|4G LTE download rate||12.32Mbps|
|4G LTE upload rate||14.77Mbps|
|CNET mobile site load||2 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||3 seconds|
|Temple Run 2 app download (44.68MB)||58 seconds|
|“Gravity” movie download (496MB)||21 minutes and 50 seconds|
The phone has a removable battery has a satisfactory usage time. Anecdotally, it lasted throughout the work day with mild usage and didn’t require a charge. During our lab tests for continuous video playback, it averaged 10 hours and 32 minutes. That’s shorter than both the 15 hours the 3,000mAh battery on the Galaxy Note 5 lasted (which has the same battery and nearly identical hardware as the Galaxy S6 Edge+) and the 11.5 hours the 3,450mAh battery lasted on the Nexus 6P. However, it’s more enduring than the 3,000mAh battery inside the X Pure Edition, which lasted 8 hours and 46 minutes for the same test.
Because the battery features Quick Charge 2.0 technology from Qualcomm, the included charger reups the battery in a short amount of time — from completely drained to 100 percent in about an hour and 10 minutes.
With the V10, LG went all out with its new family of premium phones, decking the device out with two cameras, two displays and a fingerprint scanner. While the fingerprint reader is useful for security and authorizing purchases on Android Pay, the usefulness of the two cameras and screens land more on the “nice to have” side of the spectrum rather than the “have to have” side.
And while the manual photo and video controls work well, they appeal to a select group of users. If you’re keen on having more control over your camera, the tools are a boon. But if you’re like most average smartphone users including me, the Auto controls will be enough to satisfy your everyday video needs.
This is particularly important when considering the V10’s steep price, which ranges from $600 to $700 unlocked (or about £392-457 and AU$833-973, converted). If the V10’s goodies aren’t essential for you — meaning you don’t need a wider view for your selfies or another screen to access your favorite apps and contacts — it’s best to go with something cheaper.