LG V50 ThinQ 5G review: Hands-on With the OG LG 5G

LG has usually staggered its flagship phone releases, with different models hitting stores six months or so apart each year. Last year the company began moving to a more flexible schedule though, and this year it’s just thrown caution to the wind and decided to release two flagships simultaneously: the G8 ThinQ and the V50 ThinQ 5G.

That means we’re getting the V50 ThinQ just months after the company released the V40 ThinQ, but it’s for good reason: LG has shifted its schedule to get the V50 out in time for the release of 5G.

We got to spend a bit of time playing around with the new phone before the launch at Mobile World Congress, and here’s what we think so far.

Price and availability

This is where we basically don’t know anything. LG hasn’t announced pricing or a release window for the phone, and hasn’t even confirmed for certain that it will release in the UK – though it’s definitely coming to the US.

The precise release date may vary by region depending on 5G availability. As for price, since the V40 launched at over $900 – and the 5G modem is likely to drive the price up here – expect this to sit somewhere north of $1000 when it arrives. Remember that you’ll also likely have to pay extra for your 5G data plan, so the V50 could be a seriously expensive choice.

If you want to spend even more, there’ll also be an optional extra accessory: the Dual Screen, a V50-exclusive that adds on a second display, hinged so that you can fold it over at any angle. As with the phone itself, we don’t know how much this will cost, but LG has hinted that the phone and dual screen together should still be more affordable than rival foldable devices.

The OG LG 5G

The V50 ThinQ is LG’s first ever 5G device – and going forward every ‘V’ series device will be 5G-compatible, while the ‘G’ series sticks with 4G.

At the simplest level, 5G means faster data speeds, likely to have the biggest effect in streaming video and the like. And not just downloads either – uploads will be improved, something LG is so confident about that it’s built YouTube livestreaming functionality directly into the native camera app.

There are downsides too though. The Snapdragon X50 modem powering the 5G capabilities is a little larger than normal, and the extra power drain means a bigger battery is required, both of which combine to make the V50 actually thicker than last year’s V40 – though at 8.3mm, it’s still far from chunky.

Speaking of that bigger battery, it’s a whopping 4,000mAh, but LG is only predicting a battery life of 1.2 days. That’s probably enough for most at first, but after a year or so of use it’s hard to imagine the V50 will still be lasting a full day, so battery life will be a big concern for early adopters.

Feeling familiar

As for the rest of the phone, it feels fairly familiar, but that’s no bad thing – the V40 was LG’s best phone yet, so we can’t complain too much about more of the same.

From the front it looks like nothing’s really changed from the V40 – there’s the same notch, thin bezels round the 6.4in OLED display, and dual selfie cameras. Even the dimensions are almost identical, aside from the extra thickness (and corresponding 10g or so of weight).

Other features are familiar too: IP68 water resistance, rear fingerprint scanner, face unlock, and LG’s ‘Boombox Speaker’ mode – now improved by the addition of a stereo speaker setup. There’s still a headphone jack (hooray!) and a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC to make sure your audio is always at the top of its game.

Cameras are basically the same too: once again you get regular, wide-angle, and 2x optical zoom lenses on the rear, and other than some minor tweaks these are essentially the same shooters as last year’s phone.

There are at least all the requisite upgrades internally: the latest Snapdragon 855 processor and 128GB storage by default, with 6GB RAM to back it up. It’ll also run Android Pie 9.0 out of the box.

All of this is essentially welcome, if unexciting, leaving the V50 ThinQ feeling quite a lot like a V40 with a 5G modem slapped in. There’s arguably good reason for that though: LG has focussed its innovation not on the phone itself, but on the strangest smartphone accessory we’ve seen in years.

Move over Nintendo

Meet the LG Dual Screen, cutting edge tech that’s coming out a scant 15 years after Nintendo did essentially the same thing with its DS game console.

The Dual Screen is a (strictly optional) accessory for the V50 that consists of a hinged case with a 6.2in OLED display on one side, and a slot for the V50 itself on the other, turning it into a bi-screened device that’s eerily reminiscent of Nintendo’s handheld line.

The second screen can rotate the full 360 degrees, closing into a clamshell or flipping all the way over to give you screens on the front and back. It’s essentially the same sort of experience that the likes of Samsung and Huawei are offering with their new foldables, but in this case it’s an optional add-on that LG says should end up costing a lot less – though final pricing is still yet to be announced.

Use cases range from the obvious – using the second screen to show someone the camera output while you’re taking a photo – to the more creative: flooding the second screen with bright white to help light your face better for selfies.

LG has even created a dedicated GamePad app which lets you turn one screen into a touchscreen controller while you use the other for playing games, further solidifying the sense that this is basically a Nintendo DS mod for your phone.

Early verdict

Taken on its own, the V50 ThinQ is basically just a 5G V40 with a processor upgrade. That means both good and bad: faster internet speeds and new features, balanced out by a thicker body and likely reduced battery life.

Still, we loved the V40, and so the V50 could be a winner as long as LG can keep the price manageable – though it probably can’t do anything about the rates carriers are likely to charge for 5G plans.

Then there’s the Dual Screen. This is, to be blunt, a gimmick, and a fairly silly one at that. But it’s also a surprisingly novel way to bring the foldable experience to a (hopefully) lower price point, and we can’t help but commend that. You’ll probably never buy it – and we’re not even convinced it’ll come to the UK or US at all – but we love that LG is mad enough to make it.

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