LG V35 ThinQ review

The LG V35 ThinQ is a good phone that’s hampered by a high price tag

Were it not for its $900 price tag, the LG V35 ThinQ would be a near perfect smartphone.
Were it not for its $900 price tag, the LG V35 ThinQ would be a near perfect smartphone.
Were it not for its $900 price tag, the LG V35 ThinQ would be a near perfect smartphone.

Highs

  • Gorgeous display
  • Unique wide-angle lens
  • Headphone jack
  • Day-long battery life
  • Strong performance

Lows

  • Lots of bloatware
  • Camera performance is mediocre in low-light
  • Expensive

It’s impossible to tell the LG V35 ThinQ smartphone apart from its 2017 predecessor, the LG V30.  Visually, they are identical, but internally there are a few differences. It borrows quite a few components from the relatively-new LG G7 ThinQ, allowing the V35 ThinQ to stay fresh as an option for people who want an LG phone without a notch. If you’re waiting for the next big LG smartphone, then you’ll want to wait another month for the LG V40 — but the V35 ThinQ shouldn’t be overlooked. Here’s why.

Familiar design

Like Apple and Samsung, LG has found a design aesthetic that works, and it’s sticking to it (at least for now). The LG V35 ThinQ, like the V30 before it, has a clean and simple look. There are skimpy bezels surrounding the screen on the front, and the whole body is wrapped in glass with a aluminum frame in between. We reviewed the Aurora Black model, which is a little understated, but there’s also a beautiful Platinum Gray edition available through AT&T and Amazon.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

On the back is the dual-camera sensor above a circular fingerprint sensor. The sensor doubles as a power button, which is something LG is moving away from as seen in the LG G7 ThinQ. It’s likely LG will get rid of it when the V40 comes around. The button takes some getting used to — we weren’t fans at first — but it grew on us after a few days.

Even after a year of seeing the same look from the V30, it’s a smart-looking phone.

The left side of the phone houses the volume rocker buttons, and a USB Type-C charging port is at the bottom edge next to the speaker. A headphone jack sits at the top; Samsung and LG are among the few big-name smartphone brands keeping the headphone jack alive, which we’re thankful for as it makes plugging and playing music quicker and faster with the traditional 3.5mm headphone cable, rather than dealing with Bluetooth earbuds that need charging.

The V35 feels comfortable in the hand. It’s not too wide to be cumbersome, nor is it so light it feels cheap. Our only complaint is the edges of the aluminum frame, which can feel a little sharp at times.

The V35 doesn’t reinvent smartphone design — we’ll hopefully leave than for the upcoming V40 — but even after a year of seeing the same look from the V30, it’s a smart-looking phone.

Great OLED display

Simply put, the screen on the V35 ThinQ is stunning. The phone features a 6-inch edge-to-edge OLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The display is bright and sharp with a 2,880 x 1,440 display resolution (538 pixels per inch). Colors are well saturated, and blacks are deep, with excellent viewing angles.

lg v35 thinq fingerprint sensor
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We do have one qualm: The nearly bezel-less design means it’s quite easy to touch the edges of the display. On several occasions, we found ourselves inadvertently pausing or fast forwarding videos when watching Netflix or YouTube. We had to hold the phone a specific way to avoid touching active parts of the screen.

Fantastic performance

The biggest difference between the V30 and the V35 is with the processor. The latter uses the newer Snapdragon 845 chip from Qualcomm, which is superior over the Snapdragon 835 processor found on the V30. You also get more RAM with the V35 — up to 6GB, which is more than the 4GB found on the older phone.

From multitasking to streaming video on Netflix and Hulu, the V35 handled all of our tasks with ease.

We’ve yet to encounter any performance problems. From multitasking to streaming video on Netflix and Hulu, the V35 handled all of our tasks with ease. It even managed to handle graphics-intensive games like Final Fantasy XV and PUBG Mobile like a champ.

Here are a few benchmarks for reference:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 260,943
  • Geekbench CPU: 2,436 single core; 8,489 multi-core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 3,211 (Vulkan)

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus scores a little higher, but the V35 is in the upper echelons of performance, surpassing many other devices. Don’t take benchmark tests at face value, but do be assured when we say you won’t have performance troubles with this phone.

As for storage, there is 64GB on board with about 47GB that’s usable. Luckily, if you need more space there’s a MicroSD card slot on the phone that will allow you to expand space up to a massive 2TB.

Strong daylight camera, weak in low light

LG has taken the exact same camera setup found on the LG G7 ThinQ, and applied it to the V35. Because of this, we’ve encountered the same pros and cons.

It’s a dual-camera system on the rear with two 16-megapixel sensors. The primary lens has a f/1.6 aperture with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) for video. The secondary camera is a wide-angle lens with a 107-degree field of view, along with a f/1.9 aperture.

The primary lens produces excellent photos in good lighting conditions, with accurate colors and strong details. The wide-angle lens adds versatility, allowing you to get some fantastic shots that would not be possible on other smartphones without using third-party lenses. There’s a slight drop in detail with this lens, though, and it’s far more noticeable when the lighting is not great.

Left: wide-angle on, right: wide-angle off

Low-light photos can be a mixed bag. We found the V35 often nails color accuracy, but there is often a lot of noise or a significant drop in detail, making photos look like a painting. To try and help, LG has added a mode called Super Bright Camera, which combines four pixels into one super pixel to take in more light. The result is a smaller resolution photo, but ideally it would be better exposed. In reality, Super Bright Camera feels like it makes things worse: Our photos had significantly more noise and appeared washed out when compared to photos taken with the feature turned off. You also need very steady hands to make sure the photo isn’t blurry.

Left: Super Bright on, Right: Super Bright off

The Samsung Galaxy S9 can take excellent low-light photos without the need to downgrade the image resolution, and we should expect the same from LG.

A.I. Cam — another feature we’ve seen on the G7 ThinQ — is also here. It’s a special camera mode that uses artificial intelligence to recognize scenes (like a sunset), which can then optimize the camera to take the best photograph. We found it slow and lacking in its results, often delivering over-saturated images that we wouldn’t want to share. We’ve found this to be the case with most scene recognition software.

In reality, Super Bright Camera feels like it makes things worse.

The front-facing 8-megapixel camera does a solid job with selfies, but it’s the Portrait Mode that continues to surprise us with its results. The V35 manages to pick out edges around a subject relatively well, and the blur it adds behind is strong and realistic.

Since this is a V-series LG phone — it stands for video — you’ll find the same video features LG debuted on the V30, such as Point Zoom, where you can tap on an area and zoom in via a slider. There are also the same 16 color-grading presets to tweak the mood of your videos. There’s good stabilization built in, making this a solid choice for videography.

The V35 has a solid camera setup, but we feel as though it still can’t quite compete with the likes of the Note 9, Pixel 2, P20 Pro, and the iPhone X.

Excellent for Audiophiles

For years LG has made audio a priority in its smartphones, and the LG V35 ThinQ is no exception. In addition to a headphone jack and stereo speakers, the V35 ThinQ also includes a few baked in software features.

There’s both DTS:X support and a Hi-Fi Quad DAC. DTS:X adds 3D surround sound when paired with external headphones, while the Hi-Fi Quad DAC adds fuller sound overall. We tried out both features and did notice a remarkable improvement in audio, though we found enabling the Quad DAC to be more useful on a daily basis. We do miss the Boombox speaker from the LG G7, but the stereo speakers here do the job.

We have a guide on how to get the most out of the LG G7 ThinQ’s audio capabilities, and you can follow it to get the best out of the V35 as well.

Android 8.0 Oreo with lots of bloatware

The V35 ThinQ ships with Android 8.0, with the LG UX skin layered over. It’s a bit of a surprise that LG didn’t ship the phone with Android 8.1, however you can definitely expect to see an update to Android 9.0 Pie at some point in the future.

LG’s custom skin is manageable. We do like some included features such as the Floating Bar that allows you to hide the traditional Android navigation bar, but LG also duplicates about a half dozen apps that are already baked into Android.

We tested the AT&T version of the V35, which  comes with plenty of bloatware. You’ll find AT&T’s usual assortment of apps it puts on Android phones along with games and other apps you likely will never use. Luckily, most of the apps can be uninstalled or disabled so you can clean your phone up relatively easily.

While we didn’t get our hands on the Amazon Prime Exclusive Phones edition of the V35, it should carry the regular assortment of apps including Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Alexa, Amazon Drive, Prime Photos, Prime Now, Prime Video, Amazon Kindle, Audible, and Goodreads.

All day battery

There’s a 3,300 mAh battery on the LG V35 ThinQ, which is no different from last year’s V30. During our review period, we were able to power through a full day of heavy usage on the V35 ThinQ with about 35 percent battery life remaining.  We expect you could eek out a day and a half with more conservative usage or tweaking the settings in the battery saver section.

We expect you could eek out a day and a half with more conservative usage.

Should you find yourself running low on battery however, the V35 ThinQ supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0. And while not as fast, the V35 also supports wireless charging via the Qi standard.

Prce, availability, and warranty information

The LG V35 is available from a variety of carriers and retailers including Project Fi, Best Buy, B&H, and AT&T. Prices mostly start at $900, but Amazon is selling the phone under its Prime Exclusive Phones banner, which means you can buy the V35 for $700.

The V35 comes with a standard one-year warranty that covers any hardware defects. The warranty doesn’t cover usual wear and tear or accidental drops. You can get a second year of of coverage through the LG Second Year Promise. Simply sign up on LG’s website within 90 days of purchase to activate the extended warranty.

Our Take

The LG V35 ThinQ is a good phone that can keep up with the competition in almost every way, but its camera is slightly behind.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. The Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus are great alternatives. They have nearly identical specs to the LG V35, but the cameras are exponentially better.  You should also give the LG G7 a shot. It has similar specs, but the Super Bright Display makes the screen easier to read in daylight, and we like the Boombox speakers. It’s also cheaper.

While all three of these phones feature the best specs on the market, you may want to wait a few weeks. Both Apple and Google are expected to release their flagships in the next few months that will almost certainly offer upgraded specs and features, and LG is also expected to unveil the LG V40 in October.

How long will it last?

Since the LG V35 sports a Gorilla Glass 5 sandwich body, our biggest concern is shattering the phone with an accidental drop. If you get a good case though, the phone should be able to handle a fair amount of abuse. You won’t need to worry about accidentally spills and dunks though, since the V35 has an IP68 rating. We expect the LG V35 should last you three to four years.

And while the LG V35 ships with Android 8.0, you should expect to see an update to Android 9.0 Pie at some point in the future. In the past LG has been slow to update its handsets, however the company recently opened its Software Upgrade Center in South Korea and committed to rolling out quick software updates for its phones in the future.

Should you buy it?

Yes, but only if you can buy it for $700 or less — like through Amazon — and only if you really need a phone right now. This phone is not worth the $900 price tag, and with the V40 on the way, you may as well wait to see if there will be further price drops on the V35.

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