LG G8S ThinQ (2019) Australian review

Talk To The Hand

LG G8S ThinQ
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Flagship features
  • 3D Face Unlock

Cons

  • Underwhelming camera
  • Hand ID & Air Motion

Bottom Line

Wait a few months, shave off a couple hundred dollars and the LG G8S ThinQ starts to look pretty good. Then, again, the same could probably be said for most of LG's smartphones nowadays.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 1,200.00 (AUD)

Should I buy the LG G8S ThinQ?

At $1200, the price-tag is a little steep but - if history is any indication - the LG G8S ThinQ probably won’t command that RRP for too long. And, when it does eventually shed a few hundred dollar bills off its recommended retail price, I suspect this device might just find an audience.

It’s not the kind of high-end smartphone you’ll want to rush out and buy right this second but if you like the idea of buying an Android smartphone that’s got all the bells and whistles but isn’t asking you to sign up into a whole connected ecosystem (but is asking you to sign up for Telstra), I can see the LG G8S ThinQ fitting into your life.

It can’t match the gravitas or capabilities of fare like the Huawei P30 Pro (review) or the Galaxy Note 10+ but it gets just enough right that, when the price drops, there’s a kind of customer out there who will probably have a decent enough time with this phone. 

For some people, that’s going to be way too many terms and conditions attached to something that is ultimately inferior to what Samsung, Google and others are offering. For others though, it might be exactly what they’re after - at least, once the price depreciates.

Price when reviewed

In Australia, the LG G8s ThinQ comes with a recommended retail price of AU$1200. 

LG G8S ThinQ (2019) full review

In previous years, LG’s best devices have managed to keep pace with the Samsung Galaxy S10s of the flagship smartphone world. However, this year, it honestly feels like they’re falling a little bit behind. 

Sure, under the hood, the LG G8s comes equipped with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 SoC, 6GB, 128GB of on-board storage, IP68 water resistance, dual stereo speakers, wireless charging, USB-C fast-charging plus NFC connectivity and support for memory expansion via MicroSD.

However, all that stuff is kinda standard at this point. It’s what you expect from a phone like this one and, in that regard, the LG G8S ThinQ is far from exceptional - except in that it’s got a headphone jack. 

If we go beyond the list of things that all modern flagship Android smartphones should offer, the only things that you’re getting here that you aren’t from most of the other options are, a Google Assistant button, proper 3D face unlock and a bunch of gesture-based features that you’re going to struggle to make work, let alone make useful. 

The LG G8S ThinQ isn’t a disaster in the same way that the V50 ThinQ (review here) is but it does present compelling evidence that LG just aren’t interested in or capable of competing with the modern top-of-the-line flagships on any front beyond specs and pricing. Still, I feel like there's a customer out there for this product, just waiting for the price to fall.

Price

In Australia, you can buy the LG G8S ThinQ outright at the following:

The LG G8S ThinQ is available on any postpaid mobile plans through Telstra. Check out the widget below for more.

Design - Look, Feel, Features and Camera

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

If anything should be said about it, the LG G8S ThinQ is a device that chooses its battles. For the most part, it’s content to do as LG so often does and follow in the footsteps of other more popular handsets. 

Now, this is the part where I have to qualify that bold lack of originality doesn’t quite equate to the LG G8S ThinQ being a bad phone because I don’t think that the LG G8S ThinQ is “bad” per-say. However, it does leave it bereft of any real charm or an easy-to-follow argument as to why you should buy it over the alternatives. 

LG’s new G8S ThinQ is neither distinguished nor saddled by the dual-screen form-factor found in the pricier LG V50 ThinQ. It also lacks the 5G connectivity. For more on 5G connectivity, check out our guide here.

Still, if we’re talking specs, the LG G8S ThinQ comes equipped with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of on-board storage, USB-C fast-charging plus NFC connectivity and support for memory expansion via MicroSD. 

It’s even got a headphone jack, making LG one of the last-remaining holdouts in the flagship Android smartphone space to consider the legacy port worth including. 

Beyond that particular wrinkle, however, there’s not much here to distinguish the LG G8S ThinQ from the many other glass sandwiches out there. It’s got a wider, wedge-style notch perched at the top of the device’s 6.2-inch OLED display and a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side - but that’s kinda it. 

Even by the standards of the excessively-iterative smartphone industry, it feels like LG have barely tried - and it’s not like they don’t have room to improve. The LG G8S ThinQ doesn’t feel cheap but there’s a gulf between this and the luxury-grade feel-factor you get out of stuff like the iPhone XS (review here) and the more recent Galaxy devices.

Credit: LG

If you’ve used a flagship phone made in the last few years, the LG G8S ThinQ might come across as familiar but rarely exceptional. That’s disappointing. There was a time where didn’t just manage to keep pace with rivals like Samsung. There was a time where they even kept them on their toes. 

Unfortunately, these days, it almost feels like they’re falling behind - even on overtly-homogeneous fronts like spec configuration. 6GB of RAM isn’t nothing but where other brands seem to be pushing towards double-digits, LG seem to be standing in place. 

In line with the last few LG flagships, the LG G8S ThinQ features Qi wireless charging, IP68 water resistance and dual stereo speakers. However, running against the grain of the current crop, there’s no in-screen fingerprint sensor located underneath the screen. You’re stuck with the same rear-mounted sensor found in the last few LG phones, which is located right below the G8S ThinQ’s rear-mounted triple-lens camera.

Of course, before we touch on the five camera setup found on the LG G8S ThinQ, it’s worth taking a minute to tackle the ToF (time-of-flight) sensor-based features that LG are bringing to the table with the LG G8s. 

Credit: LG

First of all, the ToF depth-sensor on the front of the device allows it to offer a more sophisticated and secure form of face unlock that feels & functions very similar to the iPhone’s FaceID. LG wouldn’t give us any sort of specific details on how it compares to things like the 3D face unlock found in the Mate 20 Pro (review here) or Oppo Find X but we found it easy to setup and easy to rely on. 

The LG G8s also brings with a new way to unlock your device. Move over iris recognition and say hello to palm recognition. 

Unfortunately, I struggled to get this feature to work in action. It was simple enough to set up but almost every time I attempted to unlock the LG G8S ThinQ by waving my hand over the device, it failed to comply. 

It’s much the same situation with LG’s new Air Gestures. Basically, the idea here - which is going to sound familiar to those waiting for the arrival of the Google Pixel 4 - is that you can control your device with a wave of your hand. You can activate air gesture by moving your hand over the device’s screen and then pull to the left or the right in order to skip forward or backwards through a playlist. 

Credit: LG

It’s a neat idea but much like almost every iteration of this kind of Minority Report-inspired control mechanism, it’s a solution for a problem that’s arguably already solved by the existence of hands-free voice assistants like Google Assistant. The functionality is frustratingly limited and consistently unreliable. 

After a solid week and a half of messing around with it, I could only get it to work once or twice. I have better things to do with my time, and so do you.

At one point, I even had it misread my face as my palm - bringing new meaning to the phrase "talk to the hand". 

The back of the LG G8S ThinQ features a triple-lens camera configuration that’s built around a 12-megapixel (f/1.8) standard lens, 13-megapixel wide angle (f/2.4) lens and 12-megapixel telephoto (f/2.6). The hardware and software here is largely inherited from the LG V40 and V50, so it’s no surprise that the picture quality lands around the same mark.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In action, the LG G8S ThinQ’s delivered reasonably crisp daylight shots and snappy bokeh photographs but it distinctly struggled when it came to low-light. Compared to even the night mode on some of Huawei and Oppo’s mid-tier devices, shots using LG’s equivalent settings are rarely good enough to be considered usable.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Still, it does tick a few boxes. The LG G8S ThinQ’s triple-lens camera kit lets you play around with wide-angles, take decently sharp bokeh shots, zoom in on details and simulate studio lighting on portrait shots. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

I found that food shots in particular turned out pretty well for the most part but, outside of this, it tended to take a lot of trial and error to get shots that I was happy with using the LG G8S' camera setup.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

It also comes with all the neat videography-focused modes nad shortcuts found in the LG V-series plus a few new tricks like triple-shot and story shot. The latter here allows you to take a portrait shot using the front-facing camera and then instantly photoshop that portrait into a more cinematic shot taken using the rear camera. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Unfortunately, as is the case across much of the G8S ThinQ’s technical capabilities, there’s little exceptional to be found here and plenty of limitations to run up against.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The LG G8S ThinQ is stuck in the era of 2x zoom and the camera app itself was often laggy, which sometimes caused me to miss critical shots. At one point, the camera app completely broke - leaving me unable to take photos until after a restart.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

For the most part, the LG G8S ThinQ's five-camera kit is pretty competent but it fumbles almost all of the little things and, honestly, there’s not a lot separating the results it delivers and what you’ll get out of something that costs half as much. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Performance - Specs, Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life

Specs

  • Processor:  Snapdragon 855

  • Operating System: Android 9

  • RAM: 6GB

  • Storage: 128GB

  • MicroSD slot: Yes

  • SIM: Nano SIM Card

  • Battery: 3500mAh

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11ac), 4G, Bluetooth 5, NFC

  • Rear Camera: 12-megapixel (f/1.8) + 13-megapixel wide angle (f/2.4) + 12-megapixel telephoto (f/2.6) 

  • Front-Facing Camera: 8-megapixels (f/1.8) + ToF sensor

  • Dimensions: 155.3 x 76.6 x 8 mm

  • Weight: 181 g

Software

Credit: LG

LG’s track record for skinning Android isn’t unimpeachable but, at least in recent history, they’ve veered closer to tolerable than either terrible or terrific. That continues to be the case here. The icons and menus have a rounded, spongey quality to them - which might not be everyone’s jam - but there’s plenty of polish and a lot of room to tinker with things if you like. 

Honestly, it feels like LG’s take on Android spends half its time trying to be as close to the stock experience as possible and the other half of the time trying to offer up the whole package a la Samsung or Apple. It’s fundamentally dysfunctional and it needs to decide one way or another. 

Out of the box, there are two gallery apps. There’s only one calendar app. There are two contacts apps. There’s none of the Digital Wellbeing stuff that Google introduced in Android Pie. You do still get the new navigation pill though, which I'm always a fan of.

The software experience offered up by the LG G8S ThinQ is smooth and responsive enough in spite of its many messy habits. 

Benchmarks

When it came to the benchmarks, the LG G8S ThinQ told a really interesting story. On one hand, it performed more or less in line with comparable Snapdragon-powered flagships like the Oppo Reno 5G (review here). On the other, it never really led the pack either. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

That being said, the G8s does illustrate just how close mid-tier fare like the Samsung A70 (review) is coming to matching flagship-grade stuff like the G8S ThinQ. 

Battery Life

Much like the camera, design and specs, the battery life offered by the LG G8S ThinQ is about what you expect. It’s not bad but it performed more-or-less entirely as you might predict. You’ll get a good day or so of battery life out of this phone - but it’s not competing with the likes of Oppo and Huawei when it comes to battery life. 

Most of the time, I’d wrap up our usual 9-to-5 work day on about 30% charge remaining. You could get through a pretty long night with it but if you’re mainlining episodes of Veronica Mars on the train every afternoon, you’re probably going to obliterate the battery on this thing.

The LG G8s supports fast-charging via USB Type-C and Qi wireless charging. For more on wireless charging, check out our guide here.

The Bottom Line

See, the thing that I keep coming back to with the LG G8S ThinQ is that it very much feels like a flagship smartphone for those who want bells and whistles but don't necessarily want to pay that much more for all the bells & whistles.

If - for whatever reason - you’re uninterested in the ecosystem that the Galaxy S10 or Note 10 buys you a first class ticket for, the LG G8s does a great job of including almost everything you’d want from a flagship device. Gimmicks aside, you won’t get much more (or less) out of it than that. 

Regardless, if that AU$1200 price-tag gives you pause, stay calm. It should. However, if history is any indication, the LG G8S ThinQ is probably gonna be discounted sooner rather than later. Wait a few months, shave off a couple hundred dollars and the LG G8S ThinQ starts to look pretty good.

Then, again, the same could probably be said for most of LG's smartphones nowadays.

Credit: LG

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