It’s IFA 2019, and that can only mean one thing: Gadgets abound for an entire week straight. LG, as it’s apt to do, introduced an incrementally refined phone in the LG G8X (the successor to the LG G8). But the accessory the Seoul company unveiled alongside it is arguably more interesting: an updated version of its snap-on Dual Screen product that improves upon the original in several respects.
Pricing has yet to be announced for the G8X and revamped Dual Screen, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more details. LG anticipates both will ship in Q4.
LG G8X ThinQ
The G8X is a bit taller than the G8 by height (at 159.3 millimeters compared with 151.9 millimeters) and heavier (192 grams versus 167 grams), but it’s identical in width (71.8 millimeters) and thickness (8.4 millimeters). Moreover, it’s equally durable. Like the G8, its scratch-resistant body is IP68-certified to resist water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of five feet, and it’s rated MIL-STD-810G, meaning it’s been drop-tested from about shoulder height on rough surfaces.
Unfortunately, like the G8 and LG V50, the rear cover has a cheap-feeling hollowness that’s characteristic of LG’s Boombox Speaker tech, which uses the inner space between the rear cover and loudspeaker as a resonance chamber.
To the right of the abovementioned speaker is a sleep/wake button and SIM card slot, and to the left is a bifurcated volume button and Google Assistant key.
Flip the G8X over and you’ll come to the screen, the top sliver of which houses a notch. As with LG’s previous G series and V series phones, it’s optionally concealed by what LG calls New Second Screen, which changes the color of the notification shade to match the black bezel. It’s here you’ll also find Crystal Sound, tiny actuators that vibrate the surface of the phone’s shielding to produce sound. In tandem with a bottom-firing Boombox Speaker, LG claims they’re capable of delivering audio with “improved clarity” and better balance (1.2W per speaker) compared with stereo solutions on rival smartphones.
To its credit, LG packed in a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad digital-to-audio converter (DAC) that taps an amplifier and algorithms to enhance the sound quality of videos, songs, and podcasts. The G8X additionally supports DTS:X 3D Surround Sound technology, which emulates a 7.1-channel system with or without earphones; sound presets and left/right balance; Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) for high-quality, lossy audio compression from supported apps like Tidal and Deezer; and Qualcomm’s AptX and AptX HD tech for low-latency streaming over Bluetooth.
When you’re not listening to the G8X, you’ll likely be staring at its 6.4-inch, 19.5:9 aspect ratio screen. It’s 0.3 inches larger than the OLED panel in the G8 and has a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels and a maximum brightness of around 600 nits.
That won’t smash records, and it’s a step down in some respects from the G7’s MLCD+ 3,120 x 1,440 screen, which could reach 700 nits at peak brightness or up to 1,000 nits for three minutes at a time. But on the plus side, the G8X’s display has an AI engine that can automatically switch between color profiles depending on what’s being displayed on-screen. Alternatively, it affords you the choice of several modes — Eco (an energy-saving mode), Cinema, Sports, Game, Photos, Web, and Expert — and control over sliders (Settings > Display > Screen color) that tweak the color temperature, RGB levels, and gamma.
The G8X supports high dynamic range (HDR) videos, TV shows, and movies, which boast improved brightness, wider color gamuts, and better contrast than their non-HDR counterparts. The flavor here is HDR10, which covers 100% of DCI-P3 and Rec 2020 color spaces — the standard for digital cinema projectors and most 4K Ultra HD televisions and computer monitors — for a total of 1.07 billion colors (1,024 shades of each primary color).
Worth noting is LG’s decision to ditch the G8X’s time-of-flight sensor, which could be used for biometric authentication. The company instead opted for a fingerprint sensor embedded beneath the display.
Like its predecessor, the G8X has two rear cameras, which seems an almost anachronistic choice when three-camera phones like the Galaxy Note10 have become the norm. For better or worse, LG seems inclined to reserve triple sensors for its V series.
The G8X’s 13-megapixel wide-angle sensor (with an f/2.4 aperture, 1-micrometer sensor size, and 136-degree field of view) complements a 12-megapixel sensor (f/1.4 aperture, 1.4-micrometer sensor size, and 78-degree field of view). And on the front of the G8X, there’s a 32-megapixel camera (f/1.9 aperture, 0.8-micrometer sensor size, 79-degree field of view), an upgrade from the G8’s 12-megapixel selfie camera.
When it comes to video, the G8X can record up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (or up to 1,080p at 240 frames per second) stabilized with electronic image stabilization.
As ever, LG has packed the G8X’s camera app full of “intelligent” features like AI Composition, which recognizes up to three people and adjusts the focus accordingly, and Night View, which combines up to 10 pictures into one image to reduce noise. Also on tap is Spotlight, which allows you to add lighting from different angles; Auto Shot, which leverages face detection to automatically take selfies; and Video Portrait, which uses depth- and distance-analyzing “Dual FOV” technology to fine-tune bokeh (the effect that blurs the background while keeping the foreground in focus).
That’s only the tip of the photography iceberg. The G8X’s Reflector Mode aims to ensure clear and sharp portraits even in dark environments by exposing lighting color controls, while AI Action Shot recognizes subjects and compensates for movement with a shutter speed of 1/480 of a second to keep them in focus. As for the self-explanatory 4K Time Lapse, it allows you to create time lapse videos in 4K. And the G8X’s Steady Cam provides enhanced image stability that LG claims is superior to the bulk electronic image stabilization solutions on the market.
Oh, and there’s a mode that automatically tunes up the microphone for ASMR recordings. Ain’t that something?
Fielding the G8X’s workloads is the same system-on-chip (SoC) inside the Samsung Galaxy S10 series: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855. That’s a substantial upgrade from the G7’s Snapdragon 845, and LG’s new flagship makes the most of it.
The 7-nanometer eight-core chip is up to 45% faster overall thanks to a 64-bit Arm Cortex design based on Qualcomm’s in-house Kryo 485 processor. (LG paired the SoC with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the latter of which is expandable up to 2TB via microSD.) Four cores handle the heavy lifting — one prime core clocked in at 2.84GHz and three efficiency cores at 2.42GHz — while four efficiency cores running at 1.8GHz juggle less demanding tasks. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 855’s GPU — the Adreno 640 — delivers up to 20% faster graphics performance than the Snapdragon 845’s Adreno 630 and supports APIs like Vulkan 1.1 and custom algorithms designed to reduce dropped frames by over 90%.
The battery life should be no less disappointing. The G8X’s 4,000mAh power pack — up from the G8’s 3,500mAh — lasts a quoted “full day” on a charge with mixed usage. When the battery meter does tick to zero, the G8X charges quickly thanks to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0, which delivers up to 50% in 15 minutes, or you can charge wirelessly via Qi.
If you’ve laid hands on the G8 or V50, it won’t take long for you to realize that the G8X’s software is nearly a carbon copy.
LG’s skin atop Android isn’t as overbearing as it used to be, and it’s been revamped with a cleaner design and refreshed icons. For example, tabs within the phone dialer — Dial, Call logs, and Contacts — have migrated to the bottom of the display so that they’re easier to reach with one hand, and subheaders have been bolded to draw more attention to key menus.
Boombox Show, which shows strobes and screen visuals that match the rhythm of playing music, is sort of neat. So is LG’s Game Tools, an overlay with shortcuts for snapping screenshots, scaling apps, disabling alerts during games, hiding home touch buttons, and adjusting the resolution and frame rate.
Google’s object-recognizing Google Lens is always a tap away from the top-level menu in the G8X’s camera app, and it recognizes a long and growing list of things. In addition to phone numbers, dates, addresses, furniture, celebrities, clothing, books, movies, music albums, video games, landmarks, points of interest, and notable buildings, Lens can scan barcodes and QR codes; add events to calendars; import contact information from business cards; extract network names and passwords from Wi-Fi labels; and recognize beverages such as wine and coffee. And recent updates have enabled it to do even more, like copy and paste text from printouts, business cards, and brochures and match clothes and “home decor items” with results from around the web.
For queries of a less visual nature, there’s the Google Assistant. Like the V50 and G8, the G8X has a dedicated key that launches the assistant from anywhere, including the lock screen (a double tap launches Google Lens). LG worked closely with Google on more than 20 custom commands for ThinQ devices including the V50, like “OK Google, take a picture on a wide angle” and “OK Google, open camera on Cine Video.”
The LG Dual Screen was pitched at Mobile World Congress 2019 as a literal extension of the LG V50. The clamshell case added a display that acted more or less like an external monitor, conferring additional screen real estate without the irremovable bulk of a built-in solution. It worked well enough in practice, but it was frustratingly limited — one of several shortcomings we touched on in our recent review. Fortunately, LG appears to have taken the criticism to heart.
The new and improved Dual Screen — which measures 165.96 x 84.63 x 14.99 millimeters, weighs 134 grams, and sports a Full HD 19.5:9 OLED (2,340 x 1,080 pixels, 403 pixels per inch) display — folds back on itself 360 degrees around to overlay the G8X’s rear cover. That’s one better than its predecessor, whose hinges couldn’t tilt beyond 180 degrees. Perhaps better still, the G8X-compatible variant of the Dual Screen has a 1.2-inch monochrome screen embedded in the top front panel, which by default displays the time, date, battery charge, notifications, and other contextually relevant information.
Unlike the previous-gen Dual Screen, which relied on a combination of POGO pins and wireless for data transfer and power delivery, this latest model connects to its host smartphone via USB-C. That confers the advantage of greater bandwidth, which in turn sets the stage for true extended screen functionality. It’s an experimental feature, but the new Dual Screen can extend apps like Google Chrome in either landscape or portrait, an experience that sort of evokes the ZTE Axon M and Kyocera Echo.
Perhaps anticipating the critique, LG said it’s working carefully to ensure that the Dual Screen’s panel matches the color temperature and tone of the G8X’s display. That’s encouraging — we noted in our review that the Dual Screen skewed to the cooler end of the spectrum, in contrast to the LG V50 screen’s warmer profile.
Other nifty touches with the refreshed Dual Screen include a volume adjustment tool that enables you to mute an app on one screen while increasing the volume of apps on the opposite screen, and a camera viewfinder feature that’s designed to make it easier to preview a photo before it’s captured. A three-finger swipe gesture is all it takes now to swap an app from one display over to another, and a dedicated button in the G8X’s keyboard snaps a screenshot of whatever content’s on the Dual Screen, which it converts to an image optimized for messaging.
Speaking of the keyboard, apps that take advantage of LG’s Dual Screen development tools can more easily relegate it to screen-opposite content (e.g., videos, emails, and documents) in landscape orientation, in order to make it less cumbersome to use. Apps also now take better advantage of the Dual Screen’s real estate. For instance, a new gamepad creation tool within Game Launcher lets you select whichever virtual buttons, joysticks, and shoulder buttons you choose and resize them as you see fit. The gallery app displays thumbnails on the left and the corresponding full-screen photos on the right. And Whale, a third-party web browser on Android, has been optimized for the G8X and Dual Screen.
As before, a dedicated Dual Screen settings screen provides access to granular controls, including a brightness slider for the secondary panel and a wallpaper selector. It’s also where you’re able to specify which app (if any) opens whenever the secondary screen switches on.