LG V30S ThinQ hands-on review

LG's V30S ThinQ fails to add meaningful value to an already great phone

The LG V30S ThinQ is a confusing and rather disappointing revision to an already excellent smartphone, which didn't really need updating at all.
The LG V30S ThinQ is a confusing and rather disappointing revision to an already excellent smartphone, which didn't really need updating at all.
The LG V30S ThinQ is a confusing and rather disappointing revision to an already excellent smartphone, which didn't really need updating at all.

Highs

  • Still the same V30
  • New colors are striking
  • Bright Mode can be effective

Lows

  • AI Cam is too slow
  • Limited appeal over V30

Have you recently purchased an LG V30? You may be frustrated to learn LG has released an updated model called the LG V30S ThinQ. Have you wasted your money, and now own an outdated device? The good news is that you haven’t. The V30S ThinQ looks identical to the V30, and only has a handful of technical alterations, plus some software changes that you may, or may not, be that worried about.

The V30S ThinQ is an enigma. It’s not the new G Series smartphone many may have expected to arrive at Mobile World Congress, and it’s not an existing device revision on the same scale as the OnePlus 5T over the OnePlus 5. The V30S ThinQ has 6GB of RAM and you can choose between 128GB or 256GB of storage space. The older LG V30 has 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB storage. Aside from this, everything else specification-wise is identical.

Artificial intelligence

What’s the reason for updating the V30? Because the artificial intelligence bandwagon is about to depart, and LG wants to be onboard. This has translated into two primary new features in the camera software, the integration of LG’s ThinQ smart home control system, a visual search engine called QLens, and a Korea-only voice control system called QVoice. Aside from QVoice, there’s a strong chance these new AI features will come to the old V30 too, so you may not miss out at all, although the decision on when and if they’re coming hasn’t been finalized yet.

The first AI feature is Bright Mode, which enhances low-light photography by increasing the “brightness” of photos taken in dark environments by two times. It does this by enlarging the pixels, but lowering the megapixel count. It’s decreased from 16-megapixels to 4-megapixels for Bright Mode pictures. Think that sounds like a bad deal? Surprisingly it’s not. We took photos in a dimly lit bar and the Bright Mode image was considerably more detailed than the standard picture, just not as pixel dense. If it was a picture we were taking to share on social media, we’d pick the photo using Bright Mode, which makes it worthwhile. We also like that this is an optional feature. It activates automatically, but can be quickly switched off if you don’t want it.

It’s nowhere near as polished and instantly usable as Huawei’s AI camera.

But while effective sometimes, it didn’t do much sometimes, and differences between the a Bright Mode picture and a normal picture were impossible to spot. This downward slide in AI feature quality continues with AI Cam, LG’s other AI feature. This operates somewhat like Huawei’s AI-driven scene and object recognition system on the Mate 10 Pro, which adjusts camera settings based on what the camera “sees.”

Switch to AI Cam on the V30S and point it in the general direction of something, and a bizarre word cloud starts to appear. Words like Fashionable, Beer, Architecture, Hand, One Person, and Technology manifest on the screen, sometimes unrelated to what’s in front of it, eventually prompting the camera to select a mode. We pointed it at a tea cup, and after flashing up various words for a while, it selected Food mode. There are eight categories right now, with more to be added in the future.

This is on-board machine learning, without the help of a dedicated AI processor, although the majority of the processing is still carried out on the phone rather than in the cloud. It’s also not LG’s own technology, it’s from a company called EyeEM, and has been tweaked by LG following installation on the V30S, including changes to make the software more power efficient. Due to AI Cam’s reluctance to actually change modes in a timely manner, it’s nowhere near as polished and instantly usable as Huawei’s AI camera. The changes it makes are optional though, and you can turn off the selected mode if you prefer.

LG V30s Hands on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

QLens is a visual search engine and translation tool, which integrates with Amazon and Pinterest for product search and identification. We didn’t have network connection (it was a Korean model) when we tested the V30S so were unable to check how this worked. Finally, ThinQ allows you to control LG smart home products using Google Assistant. Again, we haven’t tried this because no LG connected devices were available at the time.

New colors

LG will introduce the V30S ThinQ in two new colors — moroccan blue and platinum grey. These are variations on existing V30 colors, and the blue in particular looks fantastic, with a greenish hue appearing through the deeper blue color. The platinum grey is also darker than the V30 version. Prices will be announced locally upon release, and the V30S ThinQ will launch first in South Korea in March. It won’t necessarily replace the V30 everywhere, but may do in some markets. If we don’t sound sure, it’s because LG itself isn’t sure at the moment.

The LG V30S ThinQ is a confusing phone. It adds very little to an already capable phone, and the features it does add — that work effectively, at least — should really have been included on the V30 when it was first announced, less than six months ago. They’re not a reason for LG to update the phone, let alone a reason for you to update your V30 to it. Another flagship LG phone is coming later this year, and we’re hoping it’s considerably more focused than the V30S ThinQ.

Mobile

You forgot all about these 5 phones of 2018. Prepare to forget them again

The best phones of the year are memorable, exciting, and ones we all want to buy. But what about the others? We're not talking about bad phones, we're talking about forgettable phones -- ones that aren't even bad enough to be remembered.
Mobile

LG G7 owners experiencing dreaded bootloop will have to wait a few days for fix

If you’ve picked up LG’s flagship and it’s not behaving itself, then you might find a solution here. We’ve rounded up the most common LG G7 ThinQ problems and tracked down workarounds and possible fixes.
Mobile

Android 9.0 updates to stretch into 2019 — will your phone get a slice of Pie?

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Product Review

The competition was fierce, and this is the best TV of 2018

With stellar picture quality, excellent ease of use, and rich features, the LG C8 OLED is the best TV you can buy in 2018, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for you. Check out our review to learn more.
Home Theater

Boy dies after being electrocuted through his headphones

A 16-year-old Malaysian boy appears to be the latest victim in a growing list of people who have been electrocuted by their smartphones via their headphones. It's believed that a faulty charging cable is the culprit.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Business

Chinese court upholds Qualcomm's complaint that Apple infringed on two patents

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Deals

Sign up for Verizon Fios Triple Play and get a free Amazon Echo, Prime for a year

Verizon is now offering its Fios Gigabit Connection Custom TV and Phone service with Amazon Prime tossed in. While valid, you can sign up for the company’s Triple Play package, which includes all three Fios services, for $80 per month.
Deals

19 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great stocking stuffer ideas), we've rounded up 19 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth…
Mobile

Apple iPad Pro 11 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: Which top-tier tablet reigns supreme?

If you're in the market for a new tablet and you want something that can double up as a laptop in a pinch, then you owe it to yourself to check out the 11-inch Apple iPad Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. We compare the two here.
Social Media

GIF almost anywhere with Giphy’s new keyboard and sticker maker

We all love GIFs, but not every app supports them. Fortunately, the new Giphy' keyboard brings GIFs to any iOS app that supports multimedia. The update also comes with a new tool for creating animated stickers.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Deals

Need a last-minute gift? Get an iPhone Wireless Charger for under $20

Whether you're looking for stocking stuffers or gift ideas, these deals from Mophie, Anker, and Yootech can get you a wireless charging pad for cheap. Don't settle for wired charging if you don't have to.
Mobile

The OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition comes with 10GB of RAM, and supercar style

OnePlus has partnered with McLaren F1, creating the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition. With 10GB of RAM and all the usual top-level hardware, this new flagship killer comes with some new design touches.