You would be forgiven for overlooking LG’s V40 ThinQ, the South Korean firm’s answer to the Samsung Note series.
The V40’s cause was not helped by a poorly timed release date. It debuted in early October last year, shortly before the Google Pixel 3 was announced and about a week after the latest Apple iPhone reached the hands of consumers.
Thus, even the novelty of being the first smartphone to sport five cameras – three at the back and two at the front – was quickly drowned out by the hype of competing devices.
Furthermore, even if you had been paying attention, you would not have been able to buy the V40 here last year. It became available in Singapore only at the end of last month.
These issues aside, the V40 is a very good phone.
For starters, its Oled screen is excellent with lively colours and sufficient brightness to use outdoors under the sun. It is a 1,440p screen that offers more pixels than the more common 1080p version.
Like premium flagship phones from Huawei and Samsung, the V40 supports high-dynamic range (HDR) videos from streaming services like YouTube and Netflix.
The display has the screen notch favoured by most phones last year. It can be hidden by enabling a setting.
This notch and the phone’s conventional design – rounded corners and a glass back – make the V40 rather difficult to pick out from a line-up of last year’s smartphones.
To my surprise, the V40 is light for an all-glass smartphone. The matt glass back on my Carmine Red review set is also pleasingly resistant to fingerprint smudges. But it is slippery – perhaps more so than some other phones.
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (Quad-core 2.8GHz, quad-core 1.7GHz)
DISPLAY: 6.4-inch, Oled, 3,120 x 1,440 pixels, 538 ppi pixel density
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 8.1
MEMORY: 128GB (microSD expandable to 2TB), 6GB RAM
REAR CAMERAS: 12MP (f/1.5), 16MP wide-angle (f/1.9), 12MP telephoto camera (f/2.4)
FRONT CAMERA: 8MP (f/1.9), 5MP wide-angle (f/2.2)
BATTERY: Non-removable 3,300mAh battery
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
BATTERY LIFE: 3.5/5
Samsung’s recent flagship devices have a dedicated hardware button to activate the company’s Bixby virtual assistant. The V40 boasts a similar feature, though in its case, it summons the Google Assistant which, in my book, is more helpful than Bixby.
The V40 has all the features of a flagship smartphone, such as wireless charging and IP68 certification for water- and dust-resistance. In addition, it retains its predecessor’s 3.5mm audio jack and the 32-bit quad digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) for good quality audio.
Of course, its headline feature is its five cameras.
The three-camera unit at the back consists of a primary 12-megapixel (MP) camera supplemented by a telephoto lens camera and a wide-angle lens camera.
You can switch easily among these three cameras in the app by tapping an icon. If you cannot decide, a rather gimmicky Triple Shot feature shoots the same scene using all three cameras one after another. The app then stitches the three images together to create a short video.
The camera app has a couple of other tricks. Cine Shot is a twist on the moving photo feature like Apple’s Live Photo or Samsung’s Motion Photo.
The difference is instead of having a short video, you mark out the specific portion of the photo you want to animate, while the rest of the image remains static. Thus, you can have a photo of a subject waving while other objects or people in the scene are frozen in place.
Another camera trick lets you use an alternate photo as a backdrop for your self-portrait.
For instance, the app can extract a picture of you and merge it neatly with a photo of a tourist hotspot to give the impression you were actually there.
For the most part, the cameras produce pleasant-looking photos that show a good dynamic range. There are occasional hiccups in the processing where blotches show up when you zoom in on the photo, but overall, the V40’s cameras offer solid performance.
They fare decently in low light too. Photos have acceptable noise and appear to have been brightened up. But some of these low-light shots appear to have a greenish tinge.
The portrait-mode shots I take with the front camera-unit are free from unpleasant bokeh artefacts – probably because there are two cameras at work.
My face and upper body are kept perfectly in focus while the background behind me is blurred. The amount of blur can be adjusted before taking the photo.
I do have some minor grouses about the V40. Firstly, its fingerprint sensor feels a tad slow to unlock the phone compared with other recent models I have tested.
The phone runs on Android 8.1, which feels dated when many phones, including cheaper models, already come with Android 9.0. Even Samsung has upgraded its Galaxy S9 series to Android 9.0.
LG has cleaned up the home screen by organising its pre-loaded, proprietary apps into folders. But I prefer if some of these apps have been removed in the first place.
Its battery stamina, too, is average at best because of its modest 3,300mAh battery. You probably have to charge it every day. In the video-loop battery test, the V40 lasted 10 hours and 20 minutes, which is around five hours fewer than the uptime achieved by the Samsung Galaxy Note9.
Timing is everything and with Samsung poised to launch the Galaxy S10 in a couple of weeks with a new design and a faster processor, the V40 is a tough sell.
But LG has priced it at a competitive $1,098 and, if you buy it before Feb 22, you can receive a complimentary LG W7 smartwatch (worth $598) for free.
Verdict: LG’s five-camera smartphone offers solid performance and high-end features at a competitive price. But its battery life could be better.