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LG V50 ThinQ hands-on: A safe bet on 5G

LG just announced its very first 5G phone, the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, and we're going hands-on!

Published onFebruary 24, 2019

LG V50 5G logo closeup

Samsung, Xiaomi, and others are announcing phones with 5G support at MWC 2019. Not to be outdone, LG has also announced a 5G-capable phone, though it may not be what you expect.

The LG V50 ThinQ 5G is here, and it’s launching on Sprint sometime this year. Read on to find out what you can expect from LG’s first 5G phone.

Worthy of a new name?

lg v50 held in hand

Despite the “V50” moniker, the V50 ThinQ isn’t actually a huge step up from its predecessor (aside from the 5G compatibility). It’s essentially the same chassis as 2018’s LG V40 ThinQ. It has an aluminum frame, sandwiched between two glass panels on the front and back. It’s nothing special, but like the V40 it feels as premium and sturdy as ever.

A power button sits on the right side, while the physical Google Assistant button sits on the left side below the volume buttons. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom, and yes, the headphone jack remains.

Don’t miss: The full list of LG V50 specs

Camera quality was a big area where we thought the LG V40 could have been improved, so it’s unfortunate the V50 has the exact same triple-camera setup as its predecessor. There’s a 16MP super-wide lens, paired with a 12MP standard lens, and 12MP telephoto. It’s much too early to comment on camera quality, though — we had very limited time with the device during our briefing.

One positive change on the design front: there’s no camera hump whatsoever on the back. It’s a small thing, but actually quite refreshing.

LG V50 ThinQ 5G home screen

Around front, you’ll find the same 6.4-inch POLED display that we saw on last year’s model. Again, it’s hard to comment on display quality this early. LG tried telling us the V50 ThinQ has “the best OLED” out there, but the company didn’t have claims to back this up during the presentation.

The dual-camera setup on the front sits inside the notch on the top of the display. It’s the same 8MP standard/5MP wide-angle pairing that we saw on the V40.

LG’s V-series phones have always featured top-of-the-line specs, and the V50 is no different. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 chipset. If this phone is anything like the 855-touting Xiaomi Mi 9, performance shouldn’t be an issue in the slightest. It also has 6GB of RAM, as well as a beefy 4,000mAh battery.

After using the device for a few minutes, I can’t say it’s worthy of the V50 name. A more appropriate name would be the LG V40 Plus ThinQ 5G, though I’m hoping I’ll never have to write that out ever again.

The benefits of 5G

LG V50 5G logo

The hardware may not be anything to write home about, but we still need to talk about 5G support. The LG V50 ThinQ is launching on Sprint’s 5G network this year, which is supposed to roll out before the end of the first half of 2019. We’re hoping the V50 becomes available right away, though LG is remaining quiet about pricing and availability at the moment.

You can read all about Sprint’s 5G network right here.

LG says it’s also working with Verizon on a V50 variant that will be compatible with Verizon’s mmWave. T-Mobile and AT&T might carry the device down the line too, but we have no exact details on that.

So what are the benefits of being 5G capable? Aside from being able to run on Sprint’s 2.5GHz spectrum, support for 5G enables the V50 ThinQ to utilize LG’s new Dual Screen accessory. Essentially, this is a 6.2-inch OLED display baked into a sturdy folio case, which connects to the V50 ThinQ via pogo pins. The screen can be used independently in a variety of use cases, like acting as a virtual Bluetooth gaming controller or pulling up an IMDB page while you’re watching Netflix.

LG V50 ThinQ 5G dual display case 2

In the demo, LG simply connected the V50 to the Dual Display, and a virtual button showed up on the screen. Tapping that button either turns on the second display or lets you switch content between the two screens. Of course, this allows for side-by-side multitasking, so you can have a different app open on both screens at the same time.

We have no idea how this will affect battery life. The Dual Display accessory is powered by the V50’s built-in 4,000mAh cell, so we’d imagine a long gaming session with both screens would be quite the battery drain.

We were only able to get our hands on a pre-production Dual Display unit, so what you see in the video may be subject to change before it goes on sale. Speaking of going on sale, we have no idea when the Dual Display accessory will be available for purchase. Unfortunately it won’t be making its way to the U.S., so early adopters will have to import one if they’re interested.

If you’re concerned about the V50 running too hot while gaming, don’t be. The phone is equipped with a new Vapor Chamber heat-dissipation system that should be more effective at keeping internal temperatures low.

Unforeseen problems

lg v50 on table

Overall, I’m a little concerned with LG’s strategy here. It’s easy to see LG is playing it safe with its first 5G phone. The company even told us it remained modest on the new features because the company “wanted [5G] to run on a stable platform,” meaning it didn’t want to introduce too many battery-hungry features.

The problem is, the LG V40 received lukewarm reviews from many technology websites, including Android Authority. I’m not sure if support for a Dual Display accessory and 5G will necessarily change that, but we’ll of course have to withhold judgement until we review the LG V50 in full. In the meantime, be sure to check out our other LG coverage below, and stay up to date on all the biggest MWC 2019 announcements right here.

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