LG Velvet review: sleek, not smooth

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I’ve used most of LG’s flagship telephones over the previous few years. Enjoyed utilizing them, even. But heck if I might decide them out of a lineup. LG has pursued an aggressively bland design language adopted in near-identical vogue by just about all of its current telephones. The G7, the V40, the G8, the V50, and so forth are all superb gadgets on paper, however they’re solely distinguishable in the event you can bear in mind their particular display screen sizes and digicam layouts — and even then it’s a problem.

Whatever the explanation for this, it’s not working. LG is hanging onto its distant third place within the US, and it’s a non-entity in lots of different main markets.

And so now we have now the Velvet, a telephone that sees LG take utterly the alternative strategy to its typical thought of a flagship telephone, abandoning the long-running G-series altogether. It’s an try for the corporate to be taken severely as a design chief, because it was within the days of the enduring Chocolate slider within the mid aughts. (LG even managed to restrain itself from together with “ThinQ” within the title.) The Velvet is a mid-range telephone with mid-range pricing however unmistakably high-end match and end.

After utilizing it for per week, I can say that the Velvet really doesn’t look or really feel like all LG telephone so far, or some other 5G telephone on the market. The query is what was sacrificed to attain this.

I might usually begin a telephone evaluation by speaking about its industrial design. It’s not all that usually that I exploit telephones the place the selection of processor has a cloth affect on its person expertise. In this case, although, LG’s resolution to go together with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 (and the marginally quicker 765G within the US) informs virtually every little thing in regards to the machine.

Just about each flagship Android telephone you’ll examine this yr will use a Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip at its core. It’s the quickest chip accessible to Android machine producers. But the issue with the 865 is that not solely does it not have an built-in 5G modem, Qualcomm mandates that it’s paired with a separate 5G modem, which takes up bodily area and consumes extra energy. The upshot is that 4G flagship Android telephones successfully now not exist, and 2020 5G telephones are typically fairly thick and heavy.

The 765 isn’t as {powerful} a chip because the 865, but it surely does include an built-in 5G modem, permitting for a extra environment friendly design. LG’s guess is that by sacrificing just a little little bit of top-end efficiency, you’ll get a sleeker telephone that’ll nonetheless work effectively with new 5G networks.

The first time you decide up the Velvet, you’ll perceive that LG actually did go all-in on that guess. This is by far essentially the most engaging telephone that LG has made in a few years — possibly ever. It’s fantastically crafted from prime to backside, with a powerful sense of stability in its curves and features. Next to most different 2020 Android flagships, its 7.9mm-thick body looks like one thing from the longer term. (Or from the current previous of just some years in the past, when many Android telephones had been pushing the bounds of skinny designs.)

The LG Velvet’s “raindrop” cameras.

I recognize, although, that this may increasingly not present up all that effectively in pictures, significantly since LG despatched us this boring “Aurora Gray” fingerprint-magnet model. This is the form of telephone you must maintain in your hand to grasp the attraction of. The symmetrically curved glass on the back and front isn’t strictly new, for instance, but it surely provides to the feeling of thinness. While I might not essentially say LG is breaking new floor right here, it’s refreshing within the context of right now’s high-end telephones.

This continues to be very a lot an enormous telephone, nonetheless, so don’t go anticipating the modest specs to permit for a breakthrough in portability. The Velvet has a 6.8-inch 1080p curved OLED display screen with a selfie digicam notch and slim bezels on the highest and backside; the highest edge is just a little thicker than what you’ll discover on different telephones, but it surely balances out the “chin” on the underside.

Although the display screen itself seems to be nice, it has a few points. It solely runs at 60Hz, which places it out of step with principally each different premium Android telephone this yr. I additionally discovered that the in-screen fingerprint sensor was sluggish and unreliable in comparison with what I’ve routinely used on cheaper Chinese telephones for years now, usually requiring a second or third press to authenticate.

The Velvet’s display screen isn’t class-leading, then, however that’s simpler to forgive when you could have two of them directly. Depending in your market, the Velvet ships with a brand new model of the Dual Screen accent that LG has been experimenting with on its previous couple of flagships. This one is a bit more refined than earlier than, although it’s nonetheless unavoidably cumbersome, and the smaller digicam cutout on the again makes it more durable to take away than ever. I do contemplate it a powerful promoting level for energy customers, although — it’s an effective way to multitask, even when I wouldn’t go away it on the telephone on a regular basis.

The LG Velvet in its Dual Screen case.

Speaking of the cameras, the minimalist “raindrop” design was a much-vaunted a part of LG’s pre-launch hype for the Velvet. There’s one huge digicam lens on the prime, then two smaller lenses and a flash under that evoke dripping water. It does look cool and it’s refreshing to not have an enormous digicam bump, however all issues thought of I believe I’d somewhat have a greater digicam setup.

While the Velvet’s 48-megapixel most important digicam that turns in respectable pictures more often than not, it usually suffers from over-sharpening and it isn’t aggressive in low gentle. Here are a couple of comparisons with the iPhone 11, which is likely one of the higher cameras on this value section.

LG Velvet (left), iPhone 11 (proper)

The Velvet ekes out just a little extra pixel stage element within the flowers, however the colours are very flat. In actual life, these flowers positively appeared extra just like the bluish shades captured by the iPhone.

LG Velvet (left), iPhone 11 (proper)

Here are a few evening mode pictures. This was a very darkish alleyway, so from one standpoint the Velvet shot is more true to life. The iPhone, nonetheless, captures each extra colour and element regardless of the longer publicity, which 9 instances out of ten is what I’m going to need.

The 8-megapixel ultrawide, in the meantime, is disappointing contemplating that LG was the primary main telephone maker to ship one all the best way again on 2016’s G5. It’ll do the job when you have sufficient gentle, however the pictures are dim and lack element. It’s worse than the ultrawide on the iPhone 11, which itself is nowhere close to nearly as good as rivals just like the Huawei P40 Pro.

LG Velvet (left), iPhone 11 (proper)

The iPhone does blow out the solar just a little right here, however its publicity is mostly rather more pleasing and it captures much more element. The Velvet picture seems to be like a watercolor portray in the event you zoom in even just a little.

That third lens within the “raindrop” structure is a 5-megapixel “depth sensor” to help with synthetic bokeh, although I’m not totally positive what distinction it made — if any. Other telephones are able to doing this with single lenses, and if LG actually wished so as to add a 3rd for this goal I really feel prefer it would possibly as effectively have been a telephoto.

The Velvet’s cameras aren’t horrible, however they’re not nice. The picture high quality feels incongruous with the telephone’s construct high quality. You’re firmly in mid-range territory right here.

That brings me to the Velvet’s Snapdragon 765 processor which, as I discussed earlier than, is the entire purpose this telephone is the best way it’s. In common use, I don’t suppose it represents a lot of a compromise. Apps load shortly, internet pages render as anticipated, video games run superb, and so forth. But the Velvet nonetheless in some way feels sluggish, whether or not it’s the 60Hz show or the stuttery scrolling in sure apps. I don’t know if it’s the chip itself or LG’s software program, but it surely doesn’t match as much as different 2020 flagship Android telephones.

The Velvet does, nonetheless, wring wonderful battery life out of the 765. Despite its skinny body, there’s a 4,300mAh cell in right here, and it’s been greater than sufficient for me to make it via the day — I wouldn’t have too many qualms about pushing it for 2. (Granted, I haven’t been leaving the home all that a lot.)

There is one closing piece of dangerous information I’ve to report: the Velvet is LG’s first premium telephone in current reminiscence to not ship with a Quad DAC for high-quality headphone efficiency. It does nonetheless have a headphone jack, at the least, however you gained’t get that further enhance. While I’m not a hardcore audiophile, I can actually hear the distinction once I change the Quad DAC on with different LG telephones, so I’m just a little unhappy to see it lacking right here. At least the haptics are nonetheless good.

The LG Velvet’s Dual Screen case when closed, revealing the opposite display screen.

The LG Velvet is an uncommon telephone that doesn’t actually have any direct rivals; it’s a beautiful mid-range machine in a world of okay-looking ultra-powerful flagships. If you don’t care about display screen refresh charges and digicam efficiency as a lot as you do slick seems to be and a light-weight design (or a cumbersome dual-screen case), it might effectively be for you, significantly if 5G can also be a precedence.

For everybody else, although, it could be a troublesome promote. We don’t have closing US pricing introduced but, however I believe it’ll be exhausting to advocate if it is available in at greater than $600 with the Dual Screen. For comparability, final yr’s G8X had flagship specs however a boring design and no 5G; it offered for $699 with a chunkier model of the second-screen case. LG says the pricing might be decrease than the Korean model’s ~$750, however finally it’ll be set by carriers.

I like LG’s strategy with the Velvet. It’s genuinely making an attempt one thing totally different after years of creating area of interest flagships, and it is a robust first try at a hanging new design. Unfortunately, it falls quick in a few key areas, and I believe most individuals will most likely have the ability to discover higher choices. But between the Velvet and studies of much more experimental type components, I can at the least say I’m intrigued by LG’s telephone design once more.