LG G8 ThinQ review: LG’s flagship phone just can’t catch a break – CNET

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You have to hand it to LG for trying. While LG was launching its LG G8 ThinQ flagship phone, its biggest rival Samsung announced five (!) Galaxy phones, including a 5G-enabled model and the headline-stealing Galaxy Fold. But the biggest threat to the G8 isn't next-gen data speeds or fancy folding displays. It's the price. Of all the new Galaxy phones, the more affordable Galaxy S10E is the phone LG needs to lure potential buyers away from.

And lure it must. Though the company overall is profiting, its mobile division posted a $172 million loss in the second quarter of 2018. And while smartphone sales are down globally, things are especially difficult for LG. Its last couple of flagship phones didn't take off, and it still must compete against bigger companies like Samsung, Huawei and Apple too. (See our lineup of 2019's best phones here.)

The G8 in and of itself is a great phone. Priced higher than any previous G-series flagship before it, between $820 and $850 depending on the carrier, it's available on April 11. (UK and Australian availability and prices have yet to be announced, but $850 is about £650 or AU$1,200.) It has a slim, sleek design, it's water-resistant and it still has a headphone jack, which is perfect for die-hards unwilling to let go of their wired headphones.

LG G8's bokeh for video needs some work

The G8 takes solid, sharp photos with vibrant colors. Although its photos are comparable to the Galaxy S10E's, there are some differences. The Galaxy S10E's wide-angle camera has a wider field of view, and takes sharper images. Colors on the G8 are a bit deeper and warmer though, which I prefer. Finally, the Galaxy S10E renders portraits a bit more expertly. The falloff between the foreground and background is smoother on Samsung's phone, especially when it comes to resolving small patches around strands of hair, for example.

Portrait mode: LG G8 (left) and Galaxy S10E (right).


Lynn La/CNET

Wide-angle shot: LG G8 (left) and Galaxy S10E (right).


Lynn La/CNET

The LG G8 also has a low-light setting called Night View. Though Night View does brighten up the exposure, some photos turned out similar to the Galaxy S10E, which has automatic low-light settings built into the camera, but not a standalone low-light mode. The Pixel 3's ($699 at Walmart) dedicated Night Sight mode, however, is superior to both these other features.

Low-light with dedicated night modes: LG G8 (left) and Pixel 3 (right).


Lynn La/CNET

LG also added a bokeh video recording that mimics the depth-of-field effect of a full-frame camera. The feature still needs to be ironed out; it's nowhere as smooth as what you'd get from an SLR camera. The blur looks artificial and the effect between the foreground and background can be patchy and inconsistent, especially if your subject moves around. (And since people usually don't stand stock still during video, you'll see the patchiness appear more often than not.) But for those who already love the blurry background effect for still portrait pictures, this lends some of that same artsy and dramatic look to videos.

Even against a gloomy backdrop, colors pop against the rich green grass.


Lynn La/CNET

In this closeup shot, the berries and fruits are sharp and colors are vibrant.


Lynn La/CNET

Details of individual leaves and pebbles are sharp and in focus.


Lynn La/CNET

LG G8's Hand ID is kind of neat, but I rarely used it

The phone's front-facing camera includes a new IR sensor and transmitter for 3D mapping and motion captioning purposes. This enables the G8 to use 3D mapping for face unlock, similar to the iPhone's Face ID feature. And because last year's G7 ($650 at Amazon) only used 2D facial recognition, face unlock on the G8 is supposed to be more secure (though not secure enough to use for mobile payments). I was able to use it in a dimly lit room without a problem.

The G8 also allows you to unlock the phone by having it scan the veins in your hand. To use the Hand ID feature, you hover your hand over the camera to unlock it. Hand ID builds into another feature called Air Motion that also lets you navigate the phone without physically touching it. For example, by pinching my fingers and thumbs together (as if making a bird's beak) and pointing it downward over the phone's camera, I could swipe left and right to launch certain apps, pause or play media and even adjust the volume by miming a twist of a jog dial.

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