LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen hands-on review: Double the fun
“The LG G8X ThinQ is still quirky, but the improvements mean it's now a serious multi-tasking machine with a fun gaming side, too.”
- Improved design over first-generation Dual Screen case
- Genuine multi-tasking benefits
- Fun for gaming
- New UI is much improved
- Niche appeal
- With the case on, it's heavy and quite thick
- Understated phone design won't appeal to everyone
Let’s get something straight right away: Don’t call the LG G8X ThinQ a folding smartphone, as it’s not a wildly expensive, hyper-futuristic phone like the Samsung Galaxy Fold or the Huawei Mate X. Actually, we don’t want to call it a dual-screen phone either, as technically it has three screens. What is it, then?
The G8X ThinQ Dual Screen is almost like a modern take on a PDA, in that it’s for serious multi-tasking and getting things done. Except it’s also much, much more useful and fun than one of those clunky old relics.
If you’re getting some deja-vu from the G8X ThinQ, it’s because LG announced a dual-screen case for the LG V50 ThinQ back at Mobile World Congress earlier this year. This is the second generation version, with crucial tweaks that make it much more compelling, and a product that LG now plans to sell globally. The V50 ThinQ Dual Screen model sold well in South Korea — an impressive 500,000 units, LG told me — but it definitely had its quirks. What has LG done to solve them here?
First, the two screens are now the same size, so it balances out the design. Second, the hinge rotates the second screen all the way around the phone, which affords more flexibility. Third, there’s a small screen on the outside of the case. Fourth, it has a USB Type-C connection linking the screens together instead of Bluetooth, which means less delay between the two screens. And finally, it’s lighter, tougher, and more compact.
It’s important to understand the G8X ThinQ is two separate products sold as a bundle.
The phone fits inside the Dual Screen case which adds the second screen, and the overall design has been suitably refined. It’s relatively slim at 15mm, but the complete package is quite heavy. It’s not built for one-handed use either, as it tends to lean over to one side with the case open. Using it like this is not really the point though. Because the case is detachable, you simply don’t take it with you when it’s unlikely to be used. Only 30% of owners with the first version have it constantly attached, according to LG’s data.
The two OLED screens are now the same size, 6.4-inches a piece, and have the same specification. The model I saw was a prototype, and the second screen had a different plastic-like finish over the top, but this will change to match the main phone screen on the final model. While the first version used Bluetooth to link between case and phone, the second generation model abandons this for a USB Type-C connection, and the difference is profound.
Gone is the lag that blighted the first one. Swapping between screens was instant, during my short test. At first it was difficult to work out how to shift content to the other screen. There is a button on the main screen to do it, but it didn’t always seem to show up. Eventually, after some frustration and confusion, I was shown a gesture that made things much easier. A three-fingered swipe is all that’s needed to flick content from one screen to the other, and it’s so seamless you’d never know the two screens aren’t one.
Only 30% of owners with the first version have it constantly attached, according to LG’s data.
But before this came some frustration. Working out how to use all the different functions — there are many, from a custom gamepad to taking screen grabs — is complicated and not always logical. There’s a learning curve attached, so it’s a good idea to take some time to understand the functions if you’re going to shell out for the optional dual-screen case.
Multi-tasking, gaming, and more
The G8X is the first phone to have gamma adjustments, which makes darker scenes in video and games brighter than on other screens. I didn’t have the chance to try this in my demo, but some example videos (taken from the often insanely dim Game of Thrones, naturally) showed considerable promise.
The gaming features are interesting, too. Holding the G8X ThinQ like a Nintendo 3DS is comfortable, and because the viewing angle of the case can be altered, it’s versatile. The lower screen has a variety of configurable buttons that are mapped to the game’s controls, without the need for the developer to include specific support for the Dual Screen case. The phone was responsive — aided by the Snapdragon 855 processor inside, no doubt — plus the physical connection between the two screens cut out any problems with latency and lag.
What else? LG has packed in a raft of different dual-screen features. You can run two different apps alongside each other, take screenshots from one screen using a button on the keyboard and then attach it to your messaging app on the other, and in Chrome the browser window can be spread over both screens in landscape for a large viewing area. The case also works with the camera so the subject can see the framing of the shot on the outside screen, and the second screen turns white to brighten selfies; the camera app can sit alongside another app of your choice, too. You can even configure the second screen to launch a particular app when you open it.
As I was first hearing about all these features, I wanted to try each one out. Using them afterwards was rewarding and fun. LG understands it has a challenging product, in that it’s offering something unique and not everyone will understand how to get the best from it straight away, but it’s going out of its way to make sure there is plenty to do with it.
How about the new screen on the outside of the case? The prototype G8X ThinQ I saw had a hyper-reflective mirror-finish cover, with a 2.1-inch OLED screen set underneath it, and it was almost impossible to see. I saw my reflection, rather than any information. LG told me the finish would not be quite so mirrored on the final version, which hopefully remains true. The display can’t be customized, so it shows the time and notification icons just like an always-on display, but you do need to push the power button to wake it up.
An ASMR-enabling smartphone
I like how strong the G8X ThinQ feels, and also the new 360-degree hinge. The case is reassuringly solid — the phone and case meet military standards of toughness — and I wouldn’t automatically assume it would break in the event of a short drop. Open the case and the resistance in the hinge is well-judged, plus it’s strong enough to stand up, tent-like, to watch a video.
The Air Motion gestures on the G8 that we disliked so much have not been added on the G8X, which is a relief. Instead of all the 3D-capturing components on the front, the notch is now smaller, and looks like a teardrop. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any other quirky features. The G8X ThinQ has an ASMR mode (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), where the high-power microphones have been tuned to pick up even the quietest sounds, so you can stroke rabbits and squeeze slime through your fingers to your heart’s content, and effectively capture the audio ready for YouTube. Bizarre.
You can stroke rabbits and squeeze slime through your fingers to your heart’s content.
On the software front, I’m impressed with LG UX 9.0, a revised version of LG’s user interface over Android 9.0 Pie. The design is more modern than before, with less clutter and more open space in the settings menu and in standard LG apps. There is a system-wide dark mode, and the fonts have been changed for an up-to-date style. It was slick, smooth, and simple.
I only had a chance to snap a few pictures with the rear camera. The main lens has 12-megapixels and the wide-angle lens has 13 megapixels. The camera app is the same as the one on the G8, and operated without a problem. The photos look colorful and attractive on the phone’s screen. The front camera is more serious in terms of specification, with an f/1.4, 32-megapixel sensor. Why? It uses pixel binning to increase the size of the pixel and let in more light. The selfies I took looked good, but as I was in a bright environment, it was difficult to see any difference at this time.
While the gaming aspect is intriguing, and the multi-tasking will appeal to some, the G8X ThinQ is still a niche phone, and so is the dual-screen accessory. By selling this model globally, LG said it’s making an effort to regain some of the premium market share it has lost over the last few years. But premium devices need wide appeal, and the G8X ThinQ doesn’t have that. It’s in the same vein as gaming phones from Asus and Razer as well as keyboard phones like the BlackBerry KeyTwo.
There will be people who see the value, but it’s unlikely to be brought up in the same conversation as the OnePlus 7 Pro or Galaxy S10. Arguably though, anyone considering the regular Galaxy Note 10 should take a look at the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen, as the second screen could increase workflow in an equally meaningful way as the Note 10’s stylus. It’s as quirky and capable as we expect from LG, and the refined Dual Screen case makes it far more interesting than the first attempt with the V50 ThinQ.
LG hasn’t shared availability or pricing just yet, but we’ll update this story as soon as we hear it.
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