LG G8X ThinQ Smartphone Review | IGN

LG’s G8X ThinQ may sound like an update to the LG G8, but it has substantial enough changes that it could well have been named the LG G9. It’s a flagship smartphone with performance to match, a big display, and a $699 price (though AT&T is currently charging $779 and Sprint wants $749). For now, LG also includes the special Dual Screen case, which doubles the amount of screen space. It’s an interesting (though not unique) way to stand out from the crowded Android market, but let’s see how well the LG G8X ThinQ manages.

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Design and Features

The LG G8X has some visual similarities to its predecessor. A metal frame wraps around the edges of the phone while glass covers the front and back. The rear piece of glass is curved at the edges, jutting out above the metal frame—a good reason to have a case. Altogether the phone feels like a sturdy device.

The bottom of the phone houses a USB-C port with Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 capability and a laudable 3.5mm headphone jack backed by a powerful Quad DAC that gets music to really kick. I played some tunes via headphones with the Quad DAC enabled from Islands’ Should I Remain Here at Sea album and watched Scott Pilgrim, and all the sound had impact. DTS:X 3D Surround audio also upgrades the audio experience while watching movies and can have a fun effect for some music. It’s a pleasure to see LG’s ongoing encouragement of high-quality audio experiences.

There’s a dual-SIM tray inside, with an option for a microSD card—so you can decide between a second SIM and microSD card to expand the phone’s generous 128GB of internal storage.

There are two cameras on the rear, and they’re completely embedded under the glass— no camera bump here—but LG moved the rear fingerprint sensor of the old LG G8 to the front, embedding it under the LG G8X’s display. The effect is cool, but it’s been done before (by Samsung, OnePlus, and others), and the result is a slower scanner

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LG has also ditched all the extra sensors that enabled touch-free Air Motion controls on the LG G8. A small notch carves out a space at the top of the LG G8X’s display for the front-facing camera. The pure black backgrounds offered by the display definitely help hide the notch, but when apps re-color the status bar, it’s plainly visible.

The LG G8X’s brilliant OLED display, at 6.4 inches diagonally, is bigger than its predecessor’s, the iPhone 11’s, and very nearly as big as the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s. It offers plenty of room for streaming content and gaming. It got bright enough for me to see while walking down the street in direct sunlight, and dim enough for me to comfortably view in a dark room. Aside from the notch cutting in, the display looks fantastic. Somewhat chunky bezels flank it on all sides, though. That doesn’t lend a super modern look to the phone, but does leave room for a comfortable grip without covering up the screen.

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But, that’s all just the experience with the phone itself. A lot changes when the LG Dual Screen case is attached, which turns the device into something of a messy meld of a square tablet, Nintendo 3DS, and pocket PC. It gains considerable bulk in every dimension. The LG G8X slots into the case, plugging into a USB-C connector in the bottom. The case covers the back of the phone in a leather-like plastic, but leaves a large cutout for the cameras. The bottom of the case has cutouts for the speaker grille and 3.5mm jack, but some headphone plugs may be too wide to fit into the cutout. For charging, LG created a nifty magnetic adapter, but the magnet isn’t strong enough to dependably hold the charging cable against the adapter in all positions.

The mirror-like front of the Dual Screen attracted fingerprints like I’ve never seen before. It hides a third display beneath that mirror-cover—a simple black and white notification panel that displays the time, date, battery and three app notification icons. It’s usable, but the pixels are plainly visible.

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The case has a 360-degree hinge, but it creates a considerable gap between the two displays and raises the second screen above the phone’s display so the whole device can’t sit flat. The hinge is firm enough to hold the second screen in place at any angle, but not enough to support the phone if you hold the whole device by the second screen.

Inside, the case houses a display identical to phone’s. Same measurements, same resolution, same OLED, and annoyingly the same camera notch (minus the camera). The Dual Screen offers a second home screen, and multi-tasking with fullscreen apps. It also enables things like a full-size QWERTY keyboard in landscape or a virtual gamepad to use with full-screen apps on the other screen.

The Dual Screen display doesn’t come perfectly calibrated to the primary display. My unit was a touch dimmer than the main display, but there’s an option to calibrate its level manually so that it will match. Oddly, many display settings (like grayscale, and inverted color) don’t affect the second display. And using the Dual Screen disables Comfort view altogether.

The Dual Screen wavers between nifty, handy, and obtrusive. When I’m not actively using the second screen, it mostly gets in the way of using the main portion of the phone. Running two apps side-by-side, the Dual Screen presents more information, but makes it difficult to type on either screen because of the awkwardness of essentially holding two phones at once. But, the Dual Screen has more readily apparent utility in a landscape orientation when I’m gaming with a virtual gamepad or using it as a second viewfinder for the camera.

As a free add-on, the Dual Screen case is a nice addition. But, if LG doesn’t keep offering it for free, I didn’t find enough utility for it to be a worthwhile purchase.

Software

An immediate downside of the LG G8X is Android 9 Pie, which originally launched in 2018. That’s a weak point for a phone released while Android 10 is already available.

LG’s custom UX 9.0 isn’t an improvement to the software experience either. It keeps around the old vertical stack of apps when checking the app history for those who prefer the less-detailed but quicker view of recent apps. The default setting also places all apps on the home screen, making for a crowded and disorganized home screen, though the app drawer can be enabled in settings.

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LG has tweaked the main settings menu to group different settings in cards. Presumably, this would mean the settings should have some logical grouping, but I haven’t been able to make sense of why Apps & Notifications is grouped with Battery rather than with Display and Sound, which are grouped with Lock screen & security. For a phone with an OLED display, the software sorely lacks a dark theme. A dark theme is effectively available, but only when Night mode is on – which deactivates during daytime hours. I have to smack my head and ask, “why?”

The Dual Screen software isn’t at all straightforward either. I often struggled to find what I was looking for – even things that should be simple like mirroring the main display. A small button floats on the main screen when the Dual Screen is attached, but not all of the controls show up there. Controls like “Swap Screens” and “Show main on Dual Screen” have nearly the same effect. Other controls are limited to certain apps, but it’s inconsistent whether they’ll appear in the Dual Screen menu or somewhere within the app.

For instance, I wanted to make both displays show the camera viewfinder. I figured I could mirror the display, but the option wasn’t anywhere to be found in the Dual Screen controls. Eventually I found a toggle for mirroring the display in the Camera app. The button to launch the virtual Gamepad hides itself near the main navigation buttons, while the ability to share a Dual Screen screenshot is buried in the LG Keyboard. All of this makes the Dual Screen controls feel utterly slipshod.

Gaming and Performance

The LG G8X packs a Snapdragon 855 chipset with 6GB of RAM to power a high performance mobile experience, and the 4,000mAh battery does well to last all day, even with a bit of Dual Screen action. Launching apps and switching between them is perfectly responsive, though the camera still takes a moment to turn on. The second screen causes some hiccups, as the phone struggles to figure out how to reorient or switch content between displays. But, it’s otherwise a zippy device.

Gaming on the LG G8X with the Dual Screen is where the phone starts to stand out. I jumped into some Call of Duty Mobile on the LG G8X, and the game ran smoothly from the get go. That was with graphics settings dialed up to Very High and ragdolls and anti-aliasing activated. The game was consistent even using both displays to enable a virtual gamepad.

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Some games will work right away with one of LG’s pre-made gamepad layouts, letting you keep one display dedicated to the game visuals while controlling all the action with inputs on the second screen.

For Call of Duty Mobile, I had to create a custom gamepad, but it only took a couple minutes and the result was highly effective. I had one “analog stick” for movement, a second for basic aim, and a third specifically for firing while aiming down my sights. The one thing that felt like it was missing was trigger buttons, something Asus actually thought to include on its similar ROG Phone, which also has a dual-display option. Even so, I still found it a more compelling way to game on mobile than with a single display that’s half obscured by my thumbs.

Camera

The LG G8X ThinQ pairs a 12MP main camera with a 13MP Super Wide Angle camera offering a 136-degree field of view on the rear. The front-facing camera shoots up to 32MP.

It’s a pleasure to see both rear cameras shooting similar pictures. They present different views, but otherwise balance color and lighting in a similar way, though the two sensors diverge slightly on color in low-light environments. Switching cameras mostly feels like switching lenses as there’s parity in the image quality. And it’s high quality at that.

Both cameras manage to pick up a lot of detail in shots, with fine fur and tree bark showing just how well they perform. They successfully balance light in tricky environments, making most of the scene easily visible when I was at a dark bar with a spattering of bright lights (with the exception of the dazzling LEDs shining directly from one performer’s glasses).

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The crisp detail in both rear cameras makes the Super Wide Angle camera a valuable tool to have on the LG G8X, as I was able to get more into every shot. However, optical zoom is sorely missed. That said, for some light zooming, a 2x digital zoom managed to capture a sharper, less noisy image than the 2x optical zoom on my OnePlus 5.

The selfie camera keeps up the quality, though I noticed that holding the phone at an angle can distort the image – several of my selfies gave me an overly large forehead or jaw. The front camera also does surprisingly well in low-light environments, and the Dual Screen can contribute some extra glow to light up selfies.

For video shooting, there’s a Steady Cam feature. It crops some of the image, but is effective at keeping hand-held video smooth, so it feels worth leaving on. That’s especially true since the 4K/60fps recording would otherwise highlight shake camera movements.

That said, LG’s camera software still has some way to go to improve settings. Various features can be hard to find, and almost all settings are specific to each shooting mode. So if I want to change camera resolution, I have to do it while using the main camera. To change video resolution, I have to be in video mode. That ends up burying features like HDR10 recording, which is only available in the settings for Manual Video mode. And some settings are blocked by others, as is the case of HDR10 when trying to shoot at 4K60fps. Unsurprisingly, the Dual Screen finds as many ways to be useless as it does to be useful (like the fact it turns off entirely when in manual camera mode).

Purchasing Guide

The LG G8X ThinQ is available for $779 from AT&T, $749 from Sprint or $709 unlocked from Amazon.
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