Reviews

LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen review: 2020’s most underrated phone

Zero gimmicks, plenty of practical features

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Two months ago LG unveiled its third phone to come with the Dual Screen case. With foldable smartphones sold at a premium and Android flagship smartphones retailing for over US$1000, the V60 ThinQ has become a compelling choice, now more than ever.

The phone’s full name is LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen, but for the sake of brevity I will refer to it as the V60 from here on out.

Outdated but solid looks

The V60 comes in a rather large package. It’s one of the biggest phones we’ve had the opportunity of reviewing this year. Its size is not for everyone and I personally prefer smaller form factors.

Since it’s not pretending to be a pocketable phone made for one-handed use, I found that my behavior and habits when it comes to using a smartphone changed with the V60. I no longer hold my phone in one hand when I go out for a supermarket run and instead keep it in my tote. I found myself being less glued to the screen — no longer mindlessly scrolling Instagram and Twitter — and only picking the phone up when I do need to use it.

Size and heft aside, the phone looks and feels premium with its glass and metal build, chamfered edges, and light gold accents around the camera and around the phone. They are subtle but make a world of difference.

The phone also comes in Classy White, with silver accents.

Volume buttons and Google Assistant button are found on the left, while the power button is on the right. I had the Google Assistant button turned off from day one since I don’t use voice assistants but I really wish that this was remappable to something else.

I did turn on the option to open the camera by double pressing either the power or volume down button. I also turned on the option to launch Screen off memo by double pressing the volume up button. This way when I’m making coffee in the morning and find out I’m out of milk, I can quickly take note of it without getting distracted by the notifications on my phone yet.

There are four microphones, double the number than on its predecessors. Having four microphones allows you to record natural ambient sound from various directions. There is also a new feature called Voice Bokeh, that minimizes background noise and boosts the user’s voice. There’s also ASMR mode in case anyone finds that useful.

At the bottom there are speaker grilles, USB-C port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack! Just when you think brands don’t care, LG actually listens or at least they insist that it’s a feature that’s always going to be there.

While we’re on the subject, just like its predecessors the V60 still has Quad DAC support. This means you can enjoy high-quality sound closer to the original. It’s a shame our unit does not come bundled with headphones. I remember getting a pair of Bang and Olufsen headphones from LG flagships before.

“This has the most impressive battery life of a phone that I’ve ever used.”

When you turn the phone around, you’ll see that the phone looks nothing like a 2020 flagship smartphone. When you think of the best phones other brands have on offer this year, what they all have in common is a great emphasis on immersive displays that curve on the edges. Some even fold or unfold to become bigger devices.

For LG’s top of the line smartphone, that’s not the case. It doesn’t have a smooth refresh rate that every Android flagship we’ve reviewed so far has.

Even though it looks a bit dated and not eyecatching, I don’t mind the flat display, bezels, and the notch. None of those take away from the experience. It’s still a solid phone with a good display, just not the best one out there.

“More importantly, LG opted to let go of those rather gimmicky features so that it can keep the one feature that every other manufacturer seems to have compromised on this year: price.”

If Apple bringing back the iPhone 8 chassis in 2020 is any indication, not everyone needs a phone with new looks and the latest and greatest display technology can offer.

The Dual Screen I never knew I needed

Despite the display and design being ordinary by today’s standards, what sets it apart from competition is the Dual Screen case. If you’ve seen our videos on the V50 and G8X last year, you’d know that we are fans of the idea.

The huge 6.8-inch Full HD+ OLED display doubles when you use the Dual Screen case. You also get a third 2.1-inch Cover Display that shows the time and notifications. When you’re getting a call, it would show up here as well.

The back is more rugged than previous iterations. Its ridges reminds me of a Rimowa luggage.

Just like on a foldable phone where you get a phone that expands to a tablet for things like multitasking, there are many practical use cases for the Dual Screen. I enjoyed using it for every possible scenario and see myself using this form factor in the long term.

I typed more than half of this review on Google Docs while the phone is in what I’d like to call laptop mode. LG’s Smart Keyboard converts the phone into a mini laptop — when you move a document to the second screen by swiping three fingers, the keyboard shows up on the main display automatically as soon as you tap edit.

It’s obviously not an ideal or long term work setup. I made so many typos and probably took longer to write than I would have on a laptop.

When we first tried this on the V50 last year I thought it was just a cute novelty. Now, I think of it as a practical backup for when my laptop is about to die and I don’t have access to an outlet to charge. It’s also a good alternative when I’m flying economy and the tray table is too small for my 13-inch Mac — for when travel becomes possible again.

Of course you can always do all of this typing without the dual screen but I especially love that I can easily access the formatting tools that I use heavily when writing scripts.

Since the V60 screen is larger, typing also feels a bit more comfortable compared to the V50 and G8X. It would be a lot more comfortable if the keyboard was extended a bit more horizontally since there’s actually plenty of space on the edges.

If Microsoft Office is what you use, the Dual Screen supports that too. Creating Excel sheets is manageable and it allows you to open documents simultaneously, which is especially helpful when you want to make cross references.

Oh and because all of us are in quarantine, there is something for those who are having virtual meetings that will appreciate. You can use the V60 for your zoom meetings or happy hours like you would a laptop, while still being able to take some notes on the second screen if necessary.

One of my favorite features is one that’s also built-in on the LG Smart Keyboard. When browsing Instagram and Twitter, or reading an article on one screen, I can easily send a screenshot using another chat app on the other screen, without it every being stored on the phone.

I can always do this without the case, by taking a regular screenshot, switching between two apps, then attaching the screenshot but with it built-in, screenshots will cease from taking up space in my gallery and instead will go directly to their intended recipient. This feature is especially helpful since I am guilty of taking a lot of screenshots that always end up as clutter in my gallery.

There is also pen support for the V60 and the dual screen. Any Wacom AES pens will work for a more traditional note taking or document signing experience. This makes the V60 the only “foldable” to have pen support.

But enough about work and productivity, that’s not all I use my phone for.

For people like me, nothing beats holding and turning pages on an actual book. Since we’re in isolation and bookstores are closed, the Dual Screen is the closest thing I can get to that experience. Document reader app Librera can mimic that by splitting two pages on each screen.

When you open an e-book, use book mode and switch to two pages. You also need Wide Mode for LG, a third party app that you can get on the Google Playstore. This way you can have the view of two pages on both screens just like you would on a real book. More than anything, this is what I see myself using the V60 for the most.

The case also makes watching Netflix a lot more convenient. I can just prop it up like I would a laptop or put it in tent mode so I don’t have to hold it when I’m in bed. I do this as well when I’m catching Governor Cuomo’s daily briefings while having coffee in the morning.

When I’m cooking in the kitchen and following a certain recipe, I can have both the video and the website open at the same time.

I am the most casual of gamers, if I could even be considered one. For the purposes of reviewing the V60, however, I downloaded a lot of games so I can try Game Mode. This gives me a virtual joystick that I can customize whichever way I want to depending on the game I’m playing.

I used it on one of my childhood favorites, Street Fighter, and reached the fourth and final free stage — something I could never do without the virtual joystick.

With a little bit of tinkering, I was also able to replicate the Nintendo DS experience on the V60. With third party apps Drastic DS and Wide Mode, I was able to play games like the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Pokemon Diamond, and New Super Mario Bros.

Selfie monitor is perfect for Instagram boyfriends and girlfriends. Being single and in isolation, this is not something I was able to take full advantage of at the moment but I see myself using this when taking photos of my friends when we can travel again one day.

There’s also reflective mode, which changes the color tone of the second screen from white to warm. It acts as an additional light source when your selfies are a little too dark, which I’m sure SuperSaf will appreciate. 😝

Three lenses, zero gimmicks

Speaking of selfies and photos, the V60 has three rear cameras: A 64MP wide angle lens, a 13MP ultra wide angle lens, and a time of flight sensor. Up front is a 10MP selfie camera.

Now you’re probably thinking, where’s the zoom lens?  Newsflash: unlike other Android flagships that have insane zoom capabilities, LG didn’t include a dedicated lens for it. Instead, when you zoom in, the V60 crops the 64MP image into a 16MP one.

Here’s what it looks like at 1x, 2x, 5x, and 10x.

Some of you would argue that ultra wide angle is more useful than an optical zoom lens so if you’re on the other side of that argument, you should look elsewhere; the V60 is not for you.

Otherwise the V60 takes great photos during the day outdoors and indoors.

I am a fan of the V60’s color reproduction. Oranges and reds on other smartphones tend to be oversaturated, but the V60 photos look as natural as possible and closer to real life.

The ultra wide angle camera, which LG first put on the G5 a few years ago, takes excellent photos as well.

At night the V60 also takes pretty good shots, especially when you switch to Night View, LG’s version of night mode.

Just note that when you take photos at night with the case on, it will create these line streaks from lights.

The front-facing camera also takes decent selfies as long as you have ample lighting.

Impressive battery life

The LG V60 comes with a huge 5000 mAh battery. That’s necessary because the secondary display actually draws power from it when it’s in use. When the phone’s battery is below 15% you won’t be able to use the dual screen anymore.

Battery life of course varies depending on usage; some apps just consume more juice than others. With the dual screen attached the V60 lasts an entire day of heavy use or about 9 hours of screen on time. That’s an hour of Netflix, Instagram, and Words with Friends 2, half an hour of YouTube, browsing, and reading Becoming using Librera, 2 hours of writing this review on Google Docs, and more.

Without the dual screen case, the 5000 mAh battery lasts more than 2 days — one time I got a whopping 12 hours of screen on time.

When it finally conked out, the bundled charger takes less than two hours to fully charge the 5000 mAh battery. The phone also supports Qi wireless charging and it works even with the case on. It’s just not as fast as those we’ve seen on the Mi 10 Pro and the OnePlus 8 Pro.

Needless to say, this has the most impressive battery life of a phone that I’ve ever used.

Disappointing biometrics

On a quick and more negative note, my biggest gripe about the V60 is its slow and unreliable in-display fingerprint scanner. This is also the only biometric security option available on the phone.

Is the LG V60 ThinQ your GadgetMatch?

First, let me get this out of the way: to my knowledge no other flagship smartphone has a 3.5mm headphone jack and Quad DAC support. So audiophiles, if those are important to you, the LG V60 is your GadgetMatch.

For everyone else, consider what’s important to you and your needs. LG did not included features that a lot of 2020 flagships are prioritizing like the edge to edge curved display, high refresh rate, and out of this world zoom camera capabilities.

The Korean company did, however, keep the things that other folks find to be essential: a big battery, the headphone jack, an ultrawide angle lens, water and dust resistance, and wireless charging.

More importantly, LG opted to let go of those rather gimmicky features so that it can keep the one feature that every other manufacturer seems to have compromised on this year: price.

You can get the LG V60 at US$ 799.99 from T-Mobile and US$ 899.99 if you want the Dual Screen case included. The T-Mobile version of the phone is optimized for Sub-6 5G networks, while Verizon offers the version optimized for mmWave networks which have faster speeds starting at US$ 949.99.

Do you need two screens? Nope. All of us can do virtually any mobile computing task on one slab of glass. You can do almost anything on the V60 too even without the case.

The add-on experience — the option to add a secondary screen, use your wired headphones, as well as a third party stylus — plus its top of the line specs, are things that you will not get from any other phone.

What you’re buying when you get the LG V60, is the choice to take your multitasking, productivity, and entertainment to another level whenever you want to.

Reviews

POCO X5 Pro 5G review: Must-have mid-ranger?

Business as usual for POCO

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POCO X5 Pro 5G

Standing out in a crowded mid-range segment has become increasingly difficult in 2023. It isn’t enough to hit home runs; to stand out, you need to hit grand slams. To be a game-changer, a smartphone needs to be a generational talent. 

It’s difficult to be painted as generational, especially because mid-rangers, by nature, face compromises that force manufacturers to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible. A mid-ranger truly needs to be special, so it can be undeniable rather than undesirable.

The POCO X5 Pro 5G is the Chinese brand’s latest attempt at bringing a game-changing smartphone to the ultra competitive segment. They’re branding the X5 Pro 5G as ‘The secret to win’, a device that will help students and young professionals succeed with whatever challenges they’re facing. 

It’s one thing to make a hefty promise, but it’s another thing to walk the talk. Does the POCO X5 Pro 5G stand and deliver, or is it just another self-proclaimed game-changer exposed as a wannabe flagship killer? 

Design: Puts the MID in midrange

 

Remember when I said that manufacturers tend to skimp on certain parts of a smartphone to keep its price as low as possible? Right out of the box, even without holding the phone, you already know where POCO decided to make its necessary sacrifices. 

Allow me to describe this design with a Gen Z word made popular by Long Island’s very best in professional wrestling: mid. The X5 Pro 5G’s design, is quite frankly, mid. It doesn’t stand out in the mid-range segment, nor, does it even impress for any unique personality quirks. You’d prefer to purchase a unique case for this so you wouldn’t hesitate to bring this out during parties.

Durability: A phone that will last through an Iron Man Match

POCO X5 Pro 5G

First impressions matter, but they aren’t everything. While the X5 Pro 5G isn’t for those looking for love at first sight, its choice of materials will leave you impressed in the long run.

This phone simply works. It clearly isn’t the prettiest phone, but pretty doesn’t always mean substantial. Plastic is still the most practical material for a smartphone, and POCO’s choice of plastics for the X5 Pro 5G hit the mark. It’s so durable, in fact, you could confidently use the phone without a case even when walking around the streets of Metro Manila. 

The X5 Pro 5G’s battery performance enriches its durability. During the review period, I had the opportunity of using the phone not only as my main daily driver, but also as my primary hotspot source during remote work situations. Even for extremely heavy users, this is a phone that can last you through the day. In rare cases when you’ll need to charge in the middle of the day, the X5 Pro 5G comes with a 67W charger out of the box (yes, they still have chargers out of the box! Big W here by POCO). 

Performance: Will have you feeling like a generational talent 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

Most manufacturers hope to position their mid-rangers as bang-for-you-buck devices that can bring flagship-level technology. It’s a hefty promise. Most brands tend to miss the mark, one way or another. 

Coming from a flagship daily driver, I was already expecting a drop in performance when the X5 Pro 5G came in. Right out of the box, to my surprise, it didn’t feel like there was any drop in overall performance. Even a week after, the X5 Pro 5G’s maintained the smoothness it came with from Day 1. POCO did not miss the mark.

The 120 Hz refresh rate certainly helped accentuate that feeling of smoothness, especially when going through daily social media scrolling. But even when testing with a relatively high-intensive game such as DB Legends, the X5 Pro 5G and its Snapdragon 778G processor went through the gauntlet with relative ease. Relative to other mid-range phones, that’s generational. 

Camera: Consistently colorful 

POCO X5 Pro 5G

There’s a common misconception that when you have more cameras, the better shots you’ll get. Having multiple cameras isn’t enough; choosing the right lenses and having software that processes shots properly matters even more. 

I’m happy to say that at the very least, POCO was able to choose the right lenses for its multi-camera setup. Supporting its 108MP wide camera is an 8MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP macro camera. Other manufacturers have missed the mark by taking out the ultra-wide, but thankfully, POCO did not make that mistake. 

The ultra-wide lens performs relatively well too. The difference in quality between the main lens and the ultra-wide isn’t as drastic as you’d expect. It captures detail very well, and HDR is on point too. 

Users concerned about their social media image don’t have to worry. Its ultra-wide lens is good enough for your much-coveted Gen Z selfies. 

Performance outdoors is definitely better. There’s a noticeable drop in quality when taking indoor shots, but its nothing too criminal. 

Night mode on the X5 Pro 5G was decent too. On this shot of my very good friend’s jersey, it captured the details well, although there’s noticeable grain in the background. 

In terms of processing, the X5 Pro 5G comes out with consistently colorful shots, which is to be expected at this point. It ups the saturation to intense levels, and shadows can be overblown at times. It’s nothing too concerning, just something to consider before posting your photos on the ‘gram.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

POC X5 Pro 5G

With an SRP of PhP 16,999, the POCO X5 Pro 5G presents itself with an intriguing list of features. At first glance it won’t impress, but its value as a smartphone is all about what’s under the hood. It’s a powerful device that gets the job done. Whether you’re a busy workaholic, a student who’s trying to survive through modern hybrid setups, or a gamer who wants to pick up endless W’s, the POCO X5 Pro 5G is a great choice to have if you’re looking for a weapon that will bring you victory in whatever battles you’ll face. 

The POCO X5 Pro 5G may just be better than you, and you’ll know it. Its design is mid, but everything else, you wouldn’t hesitate to call generational.

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Computers

Apple M2 Mac mini Review

More Affordable, More Powerful

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Apple silently revealed the 2023 M2 Mac mini to the world.

Back in 2005, the Mac mini G4 was the cheapest Mac you can buy for US$ 499.

Almost 18 years after, the Mac mini still is the cheapest Mac at just US$ 599.

That’s still a lot of savings versus buying a US$ 1299 iMac.

The biggest difference? The newest Mac mini runs two of the most powerful chips right now — the M2 and M2 Pro.

But is it actually the right Mac for you?

Watch our Apple M2 Mac mini review now!

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Gaming

Forspoken review: Outspoken with little to speak of

Wait for a sale

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Forspoken

It doesn’t take a lot to create a decent roleplaying game. All you need is a fish-out-of-water character, a vast open map, and a seemingly endless list of objectives. Though it has all three, Forspoken struggles to keep up with its pretenses as a Western roleplaying game.

First, the good

Credit to where it’s due, Forspoken is a fun game for the first few sections. Exploring the incredibly huge map with magical parkour is enjoyable. Eclipsed only by Elden Ring’s Torrent, magic parkour is one of the most innovative ways to quickly traverse large distances, especially after learning more advanced techniques.

Likewise, fighting balanced enemies with limited powers provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes in Athia. Neither the player nor the first enemies feel overpowered.

Unfortunately, the game’s novelty quickly evaporates after you figure out that you have to repeat the same motions dozens upon dozens of times. Forspoken’s map is much larger than it ever should have been. Though abundant in number, every point of interest is separated by large distances, some platforming challenges, and a battle sequence. The greater map is empty. Do this over and over, and the game gets stale quick. With adequate rewards, this shouldn’t be a problem, but Forspoken also suffers from a communication issue.

A communication issue

For most roleplaying games, completing an objective on the map usually nets palpable rewards for the player: a significant experience boost, new skills, new gear, or a bag of loot. An open-world game necessitates a lot of exploring. Even if a game is repetitive, earning substantial rewards is satisfying, at least. Forspoken does not have this — not in an easily discernible way, at least.

Treasure chests, which account for most of the points of interest on the map, reward players with a litany of crafting materials. Most of which will go unused because the game doesn’t easily tell players how to use them. After a dozen hours of collecting materials, I had a wealthy cache of each ingredient to make practically anything. Even then, I had little idea where each one went.

The map’s major rewards — new cloaks, new nail arts, and experience — also do little to explain how Frey improves with each completed objective. Clearing out an enemy camp, for example, rewards players with +1 magic. The game does not tell you how much damage that conveys. Certainly, after completing a few of these, Frey feels stronger, but it’s not easy to see how much stronger, especially when most enemies are bullet sponges with absurd health pools anyway.

Plus, these don’t even scratch the surface of objectives wherein the main reward is literally just a lore dump you have to read from a menu.

Forspoken

Difficulty shouldn’t always mean more enemies

Another issue with clearing out Athia’s large map is how Forspoken handles difficulty. Though there are options to adjust difficulty, the game relies on a limited bag of tricks to make it more difficult for players: increasing enemy health and quantity. In moderation, relying on this strategy works. However, Forspoken does this to an obnoxious level.

Prepare to fight five mini-bosses in one encounter for a lore entry. What compounds this issue more is an insane enemy health pool which causes encounters to last a lot longer than they should. One mini-boss encounter took me 15 minutes, even with appropriately leveled gear and the right spells.

Because of the sheer number of enemies, an encounter can stun-lock Frey for an absurd amount of time. The player can hardly prevent this since it relies on chance. Despite offering a wide array of moves, the risk of knockbacks shoehorn players into a slow run-and-gun tactic (which might not even play into an enemy’s weaknesses), instead of using each ability to the max.

On paper, Forspoken’s combat offers a fluid way to take down enemies by seamlessly switching between spells and moving through the battlefield with magic parkour. Unfortunately, an imbalance in enemy strategies bogs the game down in prolonged sequences that often reward players with only middling boosts.

Forspoken

A lack of optimization

For a game released on modern hardware, Forspoken took a while to launch. The game was delayed a few times. Given how delays often work, you’d think that it would release in a fairly optimized state. It’s not.

Though I haven’t hit major game-breaking bugs, there were a number of performance dips throughout the game. Even on performance-focused settings, framerates dropped to a standstill when there were high particle effects on screen. Frey constantly clipped through the terrain and found herself stuck on finnicky edges (which sometimes required reloading from previous saves).

The game is also dragged down by numerous cutscenes. Though not a bug per se, it’s not a great sign of optimization that the game has to pause for a cutscene just to show enemies arriving. For a game featuring fluid movement and combat, Forspoken often takes players out of the action by pausing for unnecessary cutscenes.

Forspoken

Better on sale

Overall, Forspoken is persistently flawed. However, amid the game’s shortcomings, the title still has an exciting combat and movement system. Plus, if you disregard the tedious open world, Forspoken’s linear story, featuring the wide range of abilities, are enjoyable. My interest always bounces back after beating one of the game’s main bosses.

Still, it’s hard to call Forspoken a game worthy of its AAA price tag. It might be better to wait for a discount.

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