The LG V50 ThinQ ($1,152) joins a small number of phones to feature 5G connectivity. It’s a solid device in every way, from its flagship-level specs to its gorgeous display, but the addition of a 5G modem comes with a hefty price tag. Unless you’re an early adopter who doesn’t want to wait for the improved Snapdragon X55 modem later this year (not to mention more 5G coverage), you’re better off opting for the less expensive Google Pixel 3 or Samsung Galaxy S10.
Design Display, and Durability
To mistake the LGV50 for the V40 or even the V30 is forgivable. For the most part, LG has maintained much of its V-series design aesthetic in its latest flagship. On the front of the phone you’ll find a 6.4-inch OLED display with minimal bezels and a small notch for the speaker and cameras. It measures 6.25 by 2.98 by 0.44 inches (HWD) and comes in at 6.46 ounces. It’s a little heavier than other flagships, but by no means difficult to hold for extended periods of time.
Flip the V50 over and you’ll find an all-glass case with a horizontal camera array. Above the camera stack is a yellow 5G logo that glows when the phone is in use, and below is a fingerprint sensor that’s quick to respond but can be hard to reach with small hands. There are also silver LG logos that sit in the center and bottom of the phone.
The top of the V50 is bare, while the bottom is home to a speaker, headphone jack, and USB-C charging port. On the left side you’ll find volume buttons and a convenience button that is programmed to open Google Assistant by default. While the convenience button is easy to identify, the volume buttons are a bit small and close together. On the right edge you’ll find the power button.
The OLED display has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Screen resolution comes in at 3,120 by 1,330, for 538 pixels per inch. In our display tests, the V50 had excellent, but slightly cool, color accuracy. Luckily LG allows you to make customizations to screen temperature in the settings menu if you prefer a warmer look. Brightness is good at 335 nits, though you might have a little difficulty seeing the display in direct sunlight.
Although the V50 is constructed primarily of glass, it’s still a pretty durable phone. The front is made of Gorilla Glass 5, while the back uses Gorilla Glass 6. It’s a good mix that gives the screen a little more rigidity to prevent scratches and the back more durability for drops.
In addition to strengthened glass, the V50 also has an IP68 rating for water and dust protection. And it’s MIL-STD-810G tested, meaning it should withstand shock from accidental drops. It’s still an all-glass phone, however, so you’ll want to invest in a good protective case.
Network, Call, and Audio Quality
The LG V50 is locked to Sprint, with 5G only supported on Sprint’s network. That said, it supports LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/40/46/66/71, which covers every carrier except AT&T. The addition of band 71 is particularly interesting since it would provide Sprint customers better coverage in rural areas should the Sprint/T-Mobile merger be approved.
Call quality on the V50 is excellent. Test calls were crystal clear on Sprint’s network and voice cancellation worked perfectly. In downtown Manhattan, upload speeds were superb at 94Mbps, but download speeds lagged behind at 15Mbps. We were unable to test 5G on the phone as it had not launched in New York during our tests, but we plan to update this review when it does. For an early look at Sprint’s 5G network, check out our test results in Dallas.
The V50 supports Wi-Fi on the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz bands, and there’s NFC for mobile payments. Bluetooth 5.0 is on board for wireless audio and wearable connectivity.
Audio quality is also impressive on the LG V50. The phone features dual speakers with DTS:X 3D Surround Sound to provide an immersive experience for gaming and streaming multimedia. At 93dB, it’s loud enough to fill a room and sounds good both in your hands and on a table. Overall sound is clean with a hint of bass, but real audiophiles will appreciate the headphone jack and Hi-Fi Quad DAC. Put simply, it’s one of the best-sounding phones on the market, surpassing other flagships like the Apple iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy S10 by a healthy margin.
Hardware and Performance
The LG V50 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor along with 6GB of RAM. Storage comes in at 128GB, of which 103GB is available out of the box. If you like to store lots of images or video on your phone, you’ll be happy to know the V50 has a microSD slot that allows you to add up to an additional 2TB of storage.
Overall performance is excellent. Apps open instantly and we had no problem multitasking with more than a dozen apps open simultaneously. The V50 is also a solid gaming phone, with no lag or skipped frames in over an hour of Asphalt 8 gameplay. In fact, the phone has a feature called Game Tools that lets you take screenshots, disable alerts and even take a break from your game.
Compared with other flagships, the V50 performed admirably in our benchmark tests. On PCMark 2.0, a suite of tests that emulates everyday tasks, the V50 scored 8,727. That’s slightly slower than the Galaxy S10 (9,547), but it’s not something you’re going to notice in daily use.
The V50 is powered by a 4,000mAh battery. In our battery drain test, which streams video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, it lasted 8 hours and 52 minutes. That’s a couple of hours behind the Galaxy S10 (10 hours, 54 minutes), though you should be able to get a full day of power with conservative use. The V50 supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, as well as wireless charging via the Qi standard.
Although LG isn’t as well-known for its smartphone cameras as the Google, Huawei, or Samsung, the V50 delivers solid imaging performance in all lighting scenarios. The phone features a triple camera stack including a 12MP lens with a wide f/1.5 aperture, a 12MP telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture, and a 16MP super-wide angle lens with a 107-degree field of view and f/1.9 aperture. The dual front-facing sensors come in at 8MP and 5MP.
In addition to a selection of rear lenses for just about any scenario, the V50 also features AI Cam to make adjustments to the camera based on different lighting and scene scenarios. In bright light, images are crisp, with excellent foreground and background detail.
Low-light photos with the V50 are good, even if they can’t compare with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Like Google’s flagship, the V50 also has a dedicated night mode. For the most part it works well, though we did notice some minor background detail loss in test shots, as well as some oversaturation in some images. The issues are minor, but if you take lots of low-light images and want the absolute best quality, you’ll want to use a Pixel 3.
The front of the V50 has standard and wide-angle lenses. Both performed well in our daylight test photos: subjects were clearly defined, color accuracy was on point, and background details were sharp. Portrait mode with the front-facing lenses is also solid on the V50, selecting foreground subjects accurately and creating a natural bokeh.
Low-light test images using the front cameras were good, however noise managed to creep in on a few shots and dynamic range was absent from nearly all of our photos. It still manages to perform better than most smartphones in low light, even if it can’t keep up with the Galaxy S10 or the Pixel 3.
The V50 ships with Android Pie 9.0 with LG UX 8.0. While most handset manufacturers have moved to pared-down software layers, LG continues to use a heavy hand. In addition to basic things like unique app icons, it makes drastic changes to the settings menu, notifications, and the quick settings menu.
One of our biggest complaints with the V50 is the amount of bloatware it comes with. Since we only tested the Sprint version, we can’t comment on what you’ll find on other models, but it’s a fairly safe bet to assume at least some amount of bloatware will be included on the phone. Our test unit had nearly two extraneous apps installed; fortunately, most of them can be uninstalled.
And while the LG V50 features the latest version of Android, don’t expect to get the update to Android Q soon after it comes out, as LG has been slow to push OS updates in the past. Last year LG announced a new initiative and software center in South Korea to speed updates to its handsets, but so far it doesn’t seem to be very effective. If you want fast updates, your best bet is the Pixel 3.
LG consistently delivers solid hardware, and the V50 ThinQ is no exception. It has plenty of power, a solid display, and looks sharp. That said, it’s very expensive for a first-generation 5G handset that only offers connectivity on a single spectrum band. Right now we recommend waiting until 5G matures a bit before buying in. Until then, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is a much less expensive option that features a cleaner UI and faster software updates. And if you’re looking for the best camera and the fastest OS updates available, the Google Pixel 3 is hard to beat.