LG G6: An alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S8?
Display, Audio & Software features
The G6's 5.7-inch QHD display has a 2,880 × 1,440 pixels resolution (564ppi) with an 18:9 ratio. This equates to 2:1, which means two perfect squares fit next to each other on it, something LG takes advantage of in its software features (more on this on the next page).
It's worth noting that, like the Samsung S8, the unusual aspect ratio means that the 5.7-inch display isn't actually as large as a traditional 5.7-inch display with a 16:9 ratio. In fact, if you open a website and put the G6 side-by-side with a 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 7 Plus will display more text than the G6 - of course, the iPhone 7 also has a much larger form factor. Speaking of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and the LG G6, we asked some non-editorial colleagues which phone has a bigger display just from a visual perspective. Check out what they have to say:
Measuring the dimensions of the G6's display confirms this: its 130 x 65 mm screen results in a total screen area of 845mm² (which, interestingly, is exactly the same screen area as Samsung's 5.8-inch 18.5:9 S8), whereas the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017), which has a traditional 16:9 5.7-inch display, has dimensions of 126 x 71 mm, resulting in a larger screen size of 894.6mm² (check the below image). It's still a big screen experience, just not as big as you may have anticipated based on that "5.7-inch" spec.
As with the S8, the unusual screen ratio also poses a problem with app and content compatibility. Most apps and the majority of content is made for 16:9 ratio, so you often have to deal with content that is either cropped at the sides, or has black bars at the edges. Most games in particular, play with black bars at the side, so you don't get to use all of the G6's screen space.
There is some 21:9 content out there that looks fantastic on the G6, but even that isn't perfect, with black boxes at the top and bottom. This problem may only be temporary anyway, as Google has recently started encouraging developers to support a widescreen aspect ratio on their apps.
One of the things that differentiates LG and Samsung's displays is the HDR format each supports. Samsung is Mobile HDR Premium-certified, while LG is currently the only phone supporting Dolby's enhanced Dolby Vision HDR, as well as the older HDR 10 format. Dolby says that its HDR gives even better color reproduction due to using frame-by-frame metadata to ensure that the display is always showing you the best results. It's compatible with all of the mobile HDR content on Netflix and Amazon Prime, but you won't see any benefit from regular non-certified content.
The display itself is excellent, with vivid colors and crisp text. Contrast isn't quite as good as the Super AMOLED panel used on the S8, but it's still fairly good, and one of the better LCD panels we've seen. Additionally, while the G5's display was a little dim, the G6 is much brighter, going up to 600 nits when you're in auto brightness mode and in bright lighting (like direct sunlight). It's worth noting that manually adjusting the screen brightness won't let you go quite as bright. Like last year's G5, it's an always-on display, which means you'll be able to see the time, your remaining battery life, and any notifications, whenever the home screen is off. You can read more about it from our older G5 review as it's mostly similar. This convenience does come at the cost of slightly reduced battery life, but you can always turn it off.
LG is one of the few brands that really focuses on audio quality. We saw this with the V20 with its excellent Sabre ES9218 Quad DAC, and thankfully, LG is once again using a Sabre 32-bit Quad DAC in the G6. This time, it's the Sabre ES9218+ variant. Like the original ES9218, this DAC also features a parallel sub-DAC configuration to improve noise performance and reduce total harmonic distortion.
Despite using variants of the same Sabre DAC, there were some slight but noticeable differences between the G6 and V20. Overall sound quality is very good on both models, with a wide sound stage and clean separation between instruments and vocals. The V20's bass is noticeably stronger though, while the G6 has more emphasis on the highs. We tested both models using the same Audio-Technica ATH-M50s headphones using 24-bit FLAC files. Like the V20, the G6 supports nearly every file format out there, including ultra high-end DSD512 32-bit files.
It's worth noting that while the G6 supports audio through both the 3.5mm jack and the phone's USB Type-C connection, the Quad DAC is only compatible with the 3.5mm connection. If you have a pair of USB Type-C headphones, or you're using wireless Bluetooth headphones, your audio quality will depend entirely on the quality of the DAC inside those devices.
Like the V20, the G6 can also record high-end 24-bit, 192kHz FLAC audio through LG's HD Recorder app. Note though that it only has two Acoustic Overload Point microphones compared to the V20's three, which means it's not as good at positional audio. Nevertheless, it's still pretty good and the app offers an abundance of configurable options for music and instrumental recordings.
As for the phone's own speaker, LG hasn't paid it nearly as much attention, with the G6 sporting just a single downward-firing unit at the bottom of the phone. It's actually not too bad, with a reasonable amount of volume and decent bass, but you're still much better off plugging in pretty much any pair of headphones.
The G6 runs on Android 7.0 Nougat with LG's UX 6.0 UI installed on top of it. Compared to stock Android, LG hasn't changed too much, with some minor tweaks to the notification shade, and Settings menu, and there's also an option to disable the app tray and spread apps across multiple home screens instead, similar to what Xiaomi, Huawei and many other Chinese smartphone brands do.
You can also get theme packs to match the color scheme of your G6 with backgrounds, wallpapers, and icons from the LG SmartWorld app.
LG has also included some of its own features in UX 6.0. Multi window makes good use of the G6's 18:9 ratio screen for multi-tasking by letting you view two apps side-by-side, each in its own perfect square. Just activate it by long pressing the Android Menu key and selecting the apps you want to view. Having said that, a disappointingly large number of apps, including many of LG's own, did not work with Multi window.
LG also pre-installs quite a few of its own apps, most of which we've seen in previous LG phones, including its own Image Gallery app, LG Health, a File Manager, Calendar app, Music app, and an FM radio app (yes it still supports traditional FM radio functionality). For the most part you're better off just continuing to use Google's version (or your own preferred alternative), although one advantage of LG's version is that most of their apps make use of the 18:9 aspect ratio, and fill up the whole display.
The G6 is also one of the first smartphones (other than Google's own Pixel phones) to support Google Assistant. Long press on the home button bring it up.