Note: This article was first published on 8th December 2017.
The LG V30+ is one of the last flagship smartphones to be released for the year, so was it worth the wait? On paper at least, the V30+ has practically everything you would want in a 2017 smartphone: a bezel-less design, a 6-inch OLED QHD display, a dual rear-camera setup, IP68 build, wireless charging, MicroSD expandable storage, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4G LTE Cat16 compatibility, and yes, it's one of the last smartphones remaining with a headphone jack - and it's a good one too, thanks to a built-in audiophile-level Quad DAC. If that's not enough, LG has also given the V30+ a sleek new modern design, and added a load of professional-level video recording options. All of this for just S$1,098. So is the V30+ the phone to beat this holiday season? Let's find out.
N.B. If you're wondering what the difference is between the V30 and the V30+, the V30+ comes with 128GB internal storage, while the V30 (not available locally) only has 64GB. That's the only difference.
The V30+'s predecessors, the V10 and V20, were both great phones, but they weren't the most attractive devices out there, with a rugged design and a focus on power and performance over looks (the V10's design was seemingly inspired by a power tool). That's changed though with the V30+ and it's great to see LG finally giving its best phone a beautiful body to match.
Like most 2017 flagships, the V30+ has an aluminum frame with a glass rear. It's a stunning mix of metal and glass with curves in all the right places. And, okay sure, it actually looks quite a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S8 (without the curved display) but I'm glad LG went for a simple, if derivative, design this time, rather than try something weird and unique again (leather-backed LG G4 anyone?). The V30+ is light too, weighing in at just 158g, which makes it one of the lightest flagship smartphones this year. LG has managed to make the V30+ IP68 dust and water resistant, which means it can survive under 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes, and amazingly it also retains the MIL-810G rating against shocks and drops of previous V series phones, despite the V30+'s more luxurious design.
The V30+ is available in four colors: Aurora Black, Cloud Silver, Moroccan Blue, and Lavender Violet, all of which are available in Singapore. Our review unit (and my favorite of the bunch) is Moroccan Blue. By the way, if you're wondering what Morocco has to do with the color blue, its probably a reference to the city of Chefchaouen, whose buildings are famously painted almost entirely in blue.
The V30+ uses the same 6-inch QHD 2,880 x 1,440 pixels resolution (~538 ppi) pOLED display panel as the Google Pixel 2 XL. Looking at the screen straight on, at high brightness it's actually quite nice, with good color reproduction and strong contrast. But if you've read my review of the Pixel 2 XL, you'll know my issues with that screen and the V30+ suffers from many of the same problems.
My biggest issue with the V30+ display is that the screen always looks grainy and a bit dirty, although its only really obvious at low brightness settings. Like the Pixel 2 XL, there's also a noticeable blue color shift when viewing the display off-angle. Now, to be fair, you can learn to live with these issues, and under most usage cases where you'll be using the display at a high brightness setting and looking at the screen head on, it looks fine, but it's disappointing when other phones, even those with LCD displays, don't have any of these problems.
Like most of the other bezel-less phones released this year, the V30+ has a super-tall 18:9 aspect ratio screen, which means calling the display 6-inch is a bit misleading. If you play 16:9 content on the V30+ you'll have black bars at either side, and the actual content will look the same as if you had a 5.5-inch display. The display is Dolby Vision and HDR 10 compatible, which means you'll be able to watch HDR content on Netflix, Amazon and YouTube.
The on-board audio from the V30's single downward-firing speaker is fairly average, with a tinny quality and no bass to speak of - there's also some noticeable distortion at high volumes, so you're much better off plugging in a good pair of headphones.
Like the V10 and V20, the V30+ features a built-in audiophile DAC, which is activated when you plug in a pair of wired headphones. This time around, LG is using ESS Technology’s SABRE ES9218P 32-bit Quad HiFi DAC, which seems to be identical in spec to the older SABRE ES9218 found in the LG V20, which includes 2.0Vrms output, 130 dB SNR and -114 dB Total Harmonic Distortion, and support for up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM and DSD256 file formats. Honestly, I'm not sure what, if anything, the 'P' designation changes, as I can't find any differences in the spec sheet.
Audio software options have been expanded on the V30+. If you head into the Hi-Fi DAC settings menu, there's the usual volume control, and left and right balance, and there's also a new set of sound EQ options. There are four presets - enhanced, detailed, live and bass - which LG claims are optimally designed based on popular tones and characteristics studies by its engineers. Unfortunately, there's no way to configure these presets, and there's no option for customizing your own EQ settings.
LG has always been good at keeping up with audiophile file formats, and the V30+ is the first smartphone to support the MQA (Master Quality Audio) format. MQA is a high quality file format that boasts a better compression ratio for high-res audio than FLAC, but without the data loss associated with lossy file types like MP3. Instead, MQA repackages high frequency audio data into superfluous bits of data inherent in hi-res audio files.