You know when something is just right? Nothing out of the ordinary but exactly what you need at a particular moment?
Be it an iced cold soda on a hot summer’s day or a comforting bowl of ramen on a cold winter’s night, there are certain things which plainly and simply, just hit the spot.
That’s exactly how I feel about the new LG G6, a smartphone that won’t necessarily blow your socks off, but is just right in an appealing kind of way.
It almost doesn’t make sense. Smartphones after all are expected to wow and excite with never before seen features. But in the case of the G6, going back to basics was all that it needed to be considered among the best phones of the year.
I first held the G6 in Barcelona last February, the first major phone launch of 2017. At the G6’s coming out party, LG hyped the phone’s near-borderless display, its unconventional 18:9 aspect ratio that gives it a screen that’s taller than usual, and how all of this put together makes it a big-display phone that fit in the hand.
But for me, what stands out is its new design, one of the pain points on last year’s G5.
In 2016, LG bet big on a new modular smartphone concept that let you snap off the bottom of G5 and then attach accessories that gave the phone extra features. It was a brave and ambitious move meant to give LG a leg up over its rivals, and in principle it was a good idea. Unfortunately, implementation was poor, and even more troubling, the G5 suffered from subpar build quality.
But all that is forgiven in the G6.
The phone feels solid and sturdy, looks great, and is in every way premium. I wouldn’t call it sexy or curvy and it is a bit on the thick side, but there’s a certain security that comes with a heftier phone. Its rounded corners and slightly tapered edges give it some softness and better ergonomics.
The phone is now made of glass on both its front and back with a metal frame holding it all together. The platinum model has a more metallic finish to it, while the black and white models are more glossy.
With this redesign, LG has finally thrown in the towel for removable batteries, a feature that almost everyone but LG had abandoned up until last year. In its place, the G6 gets water and dust resistance — a must-have on any top-of-the-line phone sold in 2017.
Big phone that fits in your hand
While the G6 is by no means a small phone, LG has managed to fit in a 5.7-inch display into a phone that’s both shorter and narrower than the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus.
Because the display is taller, you can fit more things in vertically, be it more text on a website, more video thumbnails on YouTube, or a row of recent images on the camera app.
Of course, not all apps are optimized to take advantage of this just yet. Games for example have a black bar on both sides, as do videos. LG gives you the option to, with the tap of a button, adjust a game or movie’s resolution to fill the entire screen, but in most cases some cropping may occur. This is the case of technology taking the charge; content will have to follow suit.
Whichever type of content you’re consuming, however, the G6 has a beautiful display. The slim bezels are great. And at least for me, the rounded corners, while imperfectly curved and rather unusual, are a nice touch.
Battery and charging
During my week of heavy use, the G6’s 3300mAh battery lasted a good 10 hours on a single charge with about four and a half hours of screen-on time. That’s good enough to last you through an entire work day and then some.
The phone also supports fast charging. It starts slow but gets to 100 percent in about one hour and 50 minutes using the bundled charger. However, if you’re the type who needs a quick, last-minute top up before you run out the door, the G6 only manages to get to 30 percent in half an hour.
If you’re in the US, your G6 also supports wireless charging, which is great if you’re at a Starbucks so you can charge while you get caffeinated.
Great audio for Asia
If you’re not in the US, you don’t get wireless charging. But if you’re an audiophile, you might love the G6’s Asian flavor. The Asian LG G6 has Quad DAC — a digital-to-analogue converter that makes it so you can listen to high-res audio files without the need for separate hardware.
The bottom-firing speakers are pretty decent and loud. I won’t say they’re the loudest or best sounding speakers, but I have no complaints.
When it comes to smartphone cameras, there are currently two camps: single-camera shooters and the trendy new dual-camera bunch. The LG G6 belongs to the latter, although its implementation is slightly different.
On the G6, the second camera is a wide-angle lens. Having traveled with both the G6 and its predecessor the G5, I’ve found this option very useful. But I prefer to have the ability to zoom in on a subject.
That said, 13-megapixel photos on the G6 are great. I have no complaints shooting both during the day and at night. On top of that, as we’ve come to expect from its predecessors, you get manual mode. So if you don’t like the way Auto mode looks, you can dive in and change things like white balance or exposure.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about its 5-megapixel selfie camera. Either I’ve been spoiled by selfie phones in the midrange price point, or the G6 falls short. Selfies taken during the day are heavily processed, and those taken at night are barely usable.
Specs and software
The one thing that reviewers will point out is LG’s choice of the Snapdragon 821 processor from last year. While the techie in me always wants the latest and greatest hardware… in the real world, and for most users, last year’s top-of-the-line processor is more than enough. It helps that there’s 4GB of memory and expandable storage to make operation as buttery smooth as possible.
The G6 runs Android Nougat out of the box and the experience is as handsomely reserved as its redesign. The interface feels cleaner, most likely because of its use of consistent-looking square icons.
There are some nice LG touches too, like being able to knock on my display to turn it on, and a new square camera app targeted at Instagram users.
Google Assistant is also built in and the G6 is the first non-Google smartphone to come with it.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
Last year, LG took a huge gamble on the modular smartphone, commendable but one that unfortunately didn’t pay off.
But now that they’ve gone back to the basics, they’ve built their best phone ever.
Measured solely on its own merits, the LG G6 is without a doubt a worthy smartphone. One that deserves the GadgetMatch seal of approval. It is a phone you should definitely consider, up there with the best of 2017.
But is this $650 phone your GadgetMatch?
Because the G6 doesn’t exist in a bubble, it’s impossible not to compare it with the list of great phones to which it belongs.
Let’s take a look at that list…
Starting with the $650 Pixel whose cons are its meh looks. Assuming that performance was pretty even stevens, I’d get the G6 for its premium design and water resistance. And the Pixel for its superior camera and stock Android experience.
For a little bit more, you can get the $720 Galaxy S8, perhaps the most feature-rich Android phone in the market today. It’s got an iris scanner and one of the best smartphone cameras to boot. The S8 makes the G6 look boring. But not everyone likes those curves. And for those looking for a more traditional flat, and not to mention cheaper alternative, go LG.
And there’s the $650 iPhone 7. If you’re an iOS user, the G6 offers no significant reason to switch. Unless you’re tempted by Android and want a big screen, but not the size of the iPhone 7 Plus.
Remember when Samsung ditched plastic and found its groove with the S6 Edge? It took them two years to refine that concept and come up with the S8, which many consider the best Android phone ever built.
We hope the same thing happens to LG. Now that they’ve gone back to basics and built an all around great phone, they can build on that, and push innovation further.
I’m excited to see what happens next, because if just good enough is enough to compete with the best, just imagine when they’re pushing boundaries again.