LG V35 ThinQ hands-on review

LG's V35 mashes spankin' new hardware with a recycled design

The LG V35 packs fast hardware, but borrows its design and camera from other LG phones.
The LG V35 packs fast hardware, but borrows its design and camera from other LG phones.
The LG V35 packs fast hardware, but borrows its design and camera from other LG phones.

Highs

  • Beautiful OLED display
  • Sleek design
  • Handy wide-angle camera
  • Speedy software

Lows

  • A.I. Cam isn’t useful
  • Has older version of Gorilla Glass
  • Only on AT&T and Project Fi

Love last year’s LG V30? Apparently, LG does, because it’s rereleasing the phone with updated specifications. The LG V35 ThinQ looks exactly the same as LG’s 2017 V-series flagship, but its internals are akin to the recently announced LG G7 ThinQ. If you’re not a fan of the notch design on the G7, the V35 may be up your alley. It may be a little tough to purchase at the moment, however, because the phone is only available on AT&T and Google’s Project Fi network.

You may not recall, but LG also released the V30S ThinQ earlier this year at Mobile World Congress. Releasing so many phones within months is confusing, and there aren’t many differences between them. Still, just because the V35 is like its predecessors doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it.

Sleek design, sharp display

Like the V30, the LG V35 looks great. The back is a tad more cluttered now with the “V35 ThinQ” branding, but it still looks clean and minimal. The dual-camera setup sits horizontally at the top, and there’s an easy-to-access fingerprint sensor below. The fingerprint sensor still doubles as the power button, unlike the LG G7, which has a separate button on the right edge of the phone.

Julian Chokkattu

Oddly enough, LG has downgraded the strength of the glass on the back and the front, opting for Gorilla Glass 4 instead of using Gorilla Glass 5 like it did with the V30. You can still wirelessly charge the phone with a compatible Qi charger.

Around front, you’ll notice there’s no notch or cutout at the top of the phone, unlike the G7. The notch, which houses a front-facing camera and earpiece, is a point of contention on many other phones, with some calling it a design flaw. We’ve become used to phones with notches, so they’re not a big problem for us, but we’re happy to see there isn’t one on the V35. Instead, it has ultra-slim edges surrounding the display, which helps the phone maintain a contemporary and sleek look.

The screen looked vibrant and sharp, with deep blacks that made colors pop.

The V35 has a 6-inch screen with 2880 x 1440 pixel resolution (538 pixels per inch) and an 18:9 aspect ratio. It’s OLED, like the V30, and supports HDR10 content. In our brief time with the phone, the screen looked vibrant and sharp, with deep blacks that made colors pop. It was tough to see outdoors, however, making us miss the Super Bright Screen mode featured on the LG G7.

A volume rocker sits on the left side of the aluminum frame, and there’s a USB Type-C charging port on the bottom, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack (with a Quad DAC) at the top. The whole body is IP68 water-resistant, which means the V35 can survive a dunk in the pool.

The V35 feels incredibly light, and the curved edges make it more comfortable in-hand. It can be tough to reach the top of the screen due to the phone’s 6-inch size, even for someone with large hands, and the all-glass design makes it a little slippery. You’ll want to make sure to buy a case. While it looks attractive, the phone doesn’t feel as premium as an iPhone or a Samsung phone because of its lightweight nature.

Various colors of V35 will be available, but the black model (pictured here) is the only one we’ve confirmed with LG so far. We were more than happy with the design of the V30, and we’re just as happy with the V35. It’s not fresh, since we’ve already seen it before, but it remains a classy device.

Speedy performance, same battery and software

What makes the V35 stand out from the V30S ThinQ and the V30 is its internal specifications. The latter two are by no means slow, but the V35 is powered by the new Snapdragon 845 processor, which gives it an edge in speed. It also has 6GB of RAM, 2GB more than the V30. That should help future-proof the phone even further, and it should offer smoother multitasking.

lg v35 thinq review hands on xxl
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Swiping through the Android 8.0 Oreo operating system was fluid, and apps launched swiftly. The phone, just like its current competition, will have no problem running almost anything you throw at it.

There’s only a 64GB version right now, but the V35 has a MicroSD card slot that lets you add up to 2TB more storage if needed. It also has a 3,300mAh battery — just like the V30 — which means you should expect around a day and a half of battery life.

The phone, just like its current competition, will have no problem running almost anything you throw at it.

We didn’t find many software differences between the LG V30, the G7, and the V35 — they now all run Android 8.0 Oreo, or LG UX 7.0. There are plenty of options to tweak the user interface, though LG UX still doesn’t look as good as skins on other Android phones.

One software feature that’s unique to the recent V-series phones is the Floating Bar, which lets you hide the traditional Android navigation bar. Its presence on the screen is mostly hidden, and it’s a handy way of navigating the OS while saving some space.

There’s face unlock, support for Google Daydream VR, and special Google Assistant commands specifically built for the V35, but not much that makes the phone stand out.

Same cameras as the LG G7

The LG V35 has the exact same camera setup as the LG G7, which is slightly different from what was on the LG V30. There are two 16-megapixel cameras on the rear, one with an f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilization, and the wide-angle lens with a f/1.9 aperture.

The camera is quick to react when pressing the shutter button, and the photos we took with the V35 looked good. The wide-angle mode adds some versatility to the camera, though detail quickly starts to drop off with this lens when you look closely. We found low-light photos a weakness of the G7, and we expect nothing different from the V35.

The main addition, and the reason for the ThinQ branding, is the A.I. Cam.

The Super Bright Camera mode should help with low-light — it’s the same feature that’s in the V30S and the G7 — though it promises better low-light pictures at the cost of resolution. There’s also a Portrait Mode, when you want to add a bokeh effect — or blur — behind a subject. The Portrait Mode, as we said with the G7, is surprisingly capable, though we’ll need to do a little more testing to confirm.

The main addition, and the reason for the ThinQ branding, is the A.I. Cam. This separate camera mode can identify 19 different scenes (such as sunset, pet, or flower), and the software alters the photo to make it look better. That includes tweaking the saturation and changing the exposure. It can even recommend using the wider-angle camera for better framing. In our experience with the G7, we didn’t find this mode to be that useful. It often made photos look oversaturated.

Julian Chokkattu

The V35 retains a focus on video quality, and you’ll find the Point Zoom feature in Cine Video mode, which lets you slowly zoom into a subject you tap for a cinematic look. There’s also the same 16 color-grading presets that were available on the V30 to tweak the mood of your videos. The front-facing camera is now 8-megapixels, as opposed to the 5-megapixel camera on the V30.

You’ll also find Google Lens built into the camera app, which comes after Google announced the feature would be built into third-party cameras on several Android phones.

We don’t expect the V35’s camera to blow anyone away. It’s a capable camera that can produce some fantastic photos, but it falls short of the competition in low-light conditions.

Price and availability

The LG V35 ThinQ will be offered exclusively on AT&T and Project Fi.  Both AT&T and Project Fi are selling the LG V35 ThinQ for $900, but AT&T does offer a device payment plan by which you can pay $30 a month over 30 months.

Keep in mind, we’ve already heard rumblings of the LG V40 to come out later this year. We’re not sure what to expect from the fall flagship smartphone yet, but it should at least have a different design from the V35 and introduce some new features. It’s tough to say the V35 is worth buying — it’s $100 more than the V30’s launch price — but we’ll have to use it more to see how it stacks up against the competition.