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LG V40 ThinQ Redux: Once too expensive, now amazing value
LG packed heaps of quality features into the V40 ThinQ but unfortunately, we couldn’t recommend it back in 2018 due to its hefty price tag and poor battery life. 18 months later at least one of those things has changed. At around $350 new and sub-$300 on the used market, the V40 ThinQ sounds like one heck of a deal on paper.
For that money, you’re getting five cameras, a QHD+ OLED display, a Quad DAC-equipped headphone port, 10W wireless charging, and a still-sprightly SoC. With this in mind, along with the recent release of LG’s latest release — the V60 ThinQ — I wanted to look back at a phone to see what’s changed and whether it’s still worth buying in 2020.
This is the LG V40 ThinQ Redux.
LG V40 ThinQ: The background
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the V40 — let’s drop the silly ThinQ moniker — the phone launched in October 2018 and packed the Snapdragon 845, 6GB RAM, and 64GB of storage. The hardware was pretty average for a flagship at the time, and it launched with Android 8.1 Oreo. The 3,300mAh battery was also pretty small compared to the Galaxy Note 9’s 4000mAh cell, which was the V40’s direct competitor.
The device was known for its tremendous feature list that lacked refinement and felt undeveloped. It’s pretty much the same story in 2020, with the V60 ThinQ following the same mantra of ‘pack it with features, focus on audio, and buck trends,’ albeit with a far more palatable price tag of just $799 compared to the V40’s $949 price at launch.
Continue reading: 10 things the LG V60 ThinQ does well, and 5 things it doesn’t
How does it hold up?
The price problem has now been resolved with the V40 on the used market sitting below the $300 mark. That’s around a quarter of the original price tag which sets expectations way lower than what you’d have for a modern, four-figure phone.
Used copies sit at a quarter the price of the original MSRP.
The area that has seen the least improvement — the battery life — is the one thing that turns me off the V40. I used the smartphone for a couple of days as a secondary phone without any Bluetooth connections and it even struggled to get me to the end of the day in that role. That doesn’t fill me with confidence that the phone would get a power user through the day without a top-up. It at least supports 18W fast charging and 10W wireless charging though.
As for the rest of the user experience, I’m confident that many people would be happy with the V40 today. The rear capacitive fingerprint reader is refreshingly rapid, the gaming experience is more than adequate and not far off the latest flagships.
The 6.4-inch OLED is sharp and vibrant, though it doesn’t have the silky speed of the more recent high refresh rate panels. The phone is also shockingly light for its size. I was fully expecting to pick up a dense slab of metal and glass, when in fact the V40 is a more of a feathery phone. Additionally, the smooth frosted glass back feels modern and fresh, allowing for that 10W wireless charging.
The Quad DAC-equipped 3.5mm headphone port is a rarity in 2020, and having it on the V40 was a dream. Not only was I able to hook up my DT990 Pro’s with no drama, but LG let me match the EQ to my liking too, which made the whole experience that much better. For the most part, I’ve moved onto wireless options for mobile, but this little trip down memory lane was a pleasant one.
Continue reading: 3 reasons to buy wired headphones in 2020
As with most older smartphones, the V40 does feature some aged quirks. The most obvious of which being a chunky display notch. It doesn’t impair usage in the slightest, but it is a potential eyesore.
The use of USB 2.0 leads to slow transfer times on the V40, which is something that will only affect the people that transfer files to and from their smartphone (like me). What’s going to become more obvious over time is the use of UFS 2.1 as opposed to the far quicker UFS 3.0 standard that current smartphones use. The phone doesn’t feel slow by any means, but going into the future, the lack of speedy storage will become apparent, especially in comparison to the later smartphones.
I ran a few 3D games, namely Real Racing 3, Project Offroad 2, and Fortnite to test the gaming experience, and I can happily report that the V40 is still a competent gaming phone. The same goes for general usage day-to-day. I didn’t get any crashes or freezes with my time with the device, and my main three apps were Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube. The device now runs Android 9 with an announced Android 10 software update reportedly coming in Q2 2020.
And those cameras?
The cameras are, on paper, very current. All three focal lengths we’ve become accustomed to on the back — main, ultra-wide, and telephoto — are present and correct, and we even have two different focal lengths on the front, too. The issue never seemed to be with the hardware, but rather with the software processing. It seems to have improved since the launch of the phone, but only marginally.
In anything other than great lighting the images look soft with a lot of noise reduction being applied in dimly-lit areas. This often results in images looking more like oil paintings than photographs. However, there seems to be a decent amount of dynamic range. It was very bright on the day that I took these photos and the shaded leaves are easily distinguishable from the sunny sky.
There’s also a nice natural background blur from the main camera with its f/1.5 aperture. This means that you don’t need to use the portrait mode to get some background separation. Photos look colorful, if a little too much so due to the saturation bumping that LG is doing in the software.
The selfies from both the ultra-wide and standard front-facing cameras are respectable. There’s plenty of sharpness, colors are true to life, and the selfie portrait photos look good thanks to the dual-camera array. There is a distinct lack of dynamic range, even with HDR on, this is seen mostly in the shots of me in the garden with the sky in the background. These were taken on an overcast day yet the V40 still struggled to keep everything correctly exposed.
The V40’s camera system in 2020 is a mix of bad and brilliant. There’s no denying that the versatility is here, but the lack of refinement in the software processing still lets it down. It’s not awful by any means, it’s just not got that raw quality that something like a Pixel 3a or iPhone SE would give you.
Continue reading: The best camera phones you can get
V40 ThinQ in 2020: The verdict
Compared to other flagships of around the same age, the LG V40 is not quite as powerful as the OnePlus 6T, nor does it have as good a screen as the Galaxy Note 9, and it won’t get updates for as long as the iPhone Xs. What it does have is a fantastic feature list in a package that represents great value for money — as long as battery life isn’t a priority for you.