LG V30 Review: Setting The Record Straight For A Great Smartphone

LG V30 Software And Camera Performance

LG's UX 6.0+ mostly stays out of your way, with some small tweaks and hooks for key features like its Floating Bar and Always On Display, the latter of which as been incorporated into the Android OS in many devices as of late. Floating Bar is a replacement, however, for the LG V20's Second Screen. Since in the V30 doesn't have a top utility screen strip like the previous gen, LG developed the Floating Bar to provide similar functionality. 

LG V30 Home Screen With Floating Bar Settings Shortcuts

Now we're not sure about you, but this is the way we setup our Home screen in general. All critical, frequently-used apps are located here for quick one-tap access. So the Floating Bar brings in a few other utilities that are customizable like Screen Capture, Music Player, Quick Contacts, Calendar Appointments and more. You can slide out the Floating Bar by tapping its arrow from the right or left side edge of the LG V30's display. Whether or not it's useful is your call. Frankly we didn't find ourselves using it all that much and would just pull down the Android quick settings tray from the top of the display, to access a few things beyond the app shortcuts we'd place on a Home screen. 

LG V30 Settings Quad HiFi DAC

That said, LG's light styling over Android Nougat is crisp and well organized. What is very useful is the V30's Hi-Fi Quad DAC. You might brush it off as gimmickry at first glance, but we assure you it is not. The feature is enabled or disabled via a software control switch in the settings control panel (above). Powered by an ESS ES9218 quad DAC, or Digital to Analog Converter, the dynamic range with this feature enabled is appreciable. There’s a better spatialization effect with the setting enabled, but really everything just sounds more open. You’ll need a quality set of headphones or buds, and quality recorded source material to appreciate it fully, but there’s no question, this isn’t just a gimmick and it really makes a significant difference in audio fidelity. There are number of presets to play with for sound as well as filtering effects depending on how you might like things setup from an equalization standpoint. It only works when headphones are plugged in, but once you dial it in the way you prefer things to sound, you'll just leave it enabled for good and enjoy better audio fidelity. 

LG V30 Camera Software And Performance

Another area that LG has totally amped its game for the V30, software and feature-wise, is its camera package. 

Shot Modes LG V30 Advanced Camera Settings LG V30
LG V30 Shot Modes And Settings
Graphy LG V30 CineVideo Settings LG V30
LG V30 Graphy And Cinevideo Stills And Video Processing

In addition to having dual cameras with a standard view and wide angle shooter on the back, the V30 has a still camera mode called Graphy. Think of Graphy as pre-dialed Manual mode setups for still shots, with ISO, white balance, shutter speed etc. all pre-configured based on various scene types. Graphy shot setting profiles from professional photographers are cataloged in a database and stored on the V30. You can also download more shot profiles with the Graphy app from the Google Play store as well and tweak settings, if need be, before taking a shot. Think of Graphy as a quick and easy way to help dial things in closer in manual mode. If Auto mode isn't cutting it and flat Manual mode is too complex for your shot composition, fire up Graphy and let it help dial you in based on a similar shot scene from a pro photographer.

LG also incorporated a similar feature for video called Cine Effect (bottom right shot above), which the company calls the "mood setter." There are 15 presets like Romantic Comedy, Summer Blockbuster, Melodrama, Noir, and others. You can also adjust the intensity of the effects and even add a vignette, which brings a dark fade around your shot for additional dramatic effect . LG claims the color styles applied in Cine Effect "were developed in collaboration with post-production coloration experts." In practice, this feature seems sort of fluffy but actually, you can produce some pretty cool effects on video that might make for some very slick looking footage and memories. 

Point Zoom LG V30
LG V30 Point Zoom Is True Phone Camera Innovation
LG V30 Point Zoom In Action

Then there's the V30's Point Zoom feature and it's probably the most practical and useful new feature we've seen come to a smartphone camera yet. Pinch and Zoom has been available in smartphones for years now but it's always janky, never smooth and just zooms in on the entire frame digitally. The LG Point Zoom feature throws standard pinch and zoom or slider zoom phone camera navigation out the window and adds a very useful tool. With Point Zoom enabled, which is accessed in the V30's Cine Mode for video shooting, you can just tap a spot on the display while recording video, and a zoom slider is activated. When you pull down on the slider, the digital zoom in the camera then zooms in on the exact area you're targeting. You can also zoom back out with the same smooth, fluid motion you see above. It's quick, easy, very smooth and works really well. Bravo LG. Love it. The V30's Steady Recording digital image stabilization helps as you zoom in as well, though it's perhaps not quite as steady as the Pixel 2's Fused Video Stabilization that combines both optical and digital image stabilization.

LG V30 Vs Google Pixel 2 XL And Samsung Galaxy S8+

LG V30 Yogi HDR Auto Pixel 2 Yogi HDR
LG V30 - Auto HDR (Left) - Google Pixel 2 XL - Auto HDR (Right)
Galaxy S8 Yogi HDR Auto
Samsung Galaxy S8+ AutoHDR
LG V30 Arch Angel Shot Pixel 2 Arch Angel Shot
LG V30 (Left) - Google Pixel 2 XL (Right)

In terms of still image performance, we pit the LG V30 against two tough competitors above, Google's Pixel 2 XL and the Samsung Galaxy S8+. We've only downsized the shots from their native 16:9 high resolutions to 1080p, though images are untouched otherwise, with minimal compression. We'll let your eyes be the judge but our humble opinion is the LG V30 does an excellent job in indoor, lower-light shots, with less grain due to its more sensitive f1.6 aperture lens. Beyond that, the Google Pixel 2's shots seem to be a little washed out, the Galaxy S8+ a little over-saturated, while the LG V30 seems slightly over-sharpened in spots (Yogi on the stairs).  All cameras here do an excellent job but if you were to ask us to pick, we'd the the V30 takes it. Your call though.  

Dogs LG V30 Auto Dogs LG V30 Graphy
LG V30 Auto Shot (Left) - Graphy Settings (Right)
Fall Folliage LG V30 HDR with Ray Fall Folliage LG V30 HDR Wide Angle
Wide Angle And Standard Aspect

knick knacks LG V30 Baseball Shot LG V30
Flow Pot LG V30 LG V30 Hanging Flowers
LG V30 Random Shots

Outdoor shots with the V30 show excellent Auto HDR responsiveness and the ability to grab some pretty fantastic scenery. We will say at times we felt like we wanted to dial back the exposure a bit with the V30's f1.6 aperture lens blowing things out once in a while (white candlestick on the table above) but that's easily compensated for in the Manual settings of the V30. Other than that, in mixed light shots, like the shady area we took the baseball shot in, the LG V30's Crystal Clear Glass Lens delivers in spades. That Babe Ruth baseball pops like a deep shot home run.  

On the video side of things, the V30 delivers decent image stabilization, though sometimes jittery auto-focus. Sound recording is excellent, however. Again, we'll let you pour over the pixels and judge for yourself but in straight Auto mode, the V30 grabs quality footage but perhaps with just a tiny bit of auto-focus twitch in certain conditions. Conversely, 4K 30fps shooting looks pretty great. 

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