LG V50 ThinQ 5G review: A dual-display 5G flagship Review

5G is now slowly rolling out across the UK. At the time of writing, the V50 ThinQ 5G is LG’s only 5G handset, and is available in the UK on EE from £64 a month plus £50 for the phone. I don’t currently have 5G in my south-west London neighbourhood, but the handset functions fine on 4G and connects to 5G when it finds an EE signal. If you’re keen to adopt 5G right now, there are several phones to choose from. What makes the LG V50 ThinQ 5G unique is its second screen: but does this add real value, or just add bulk and weight, and compromise battery life?

Not content with bringing 5G to its stable, LG has added a second screen to the V50 ThinQ 5G, which users can add and detach as required. While handset makers such as Samsung and Huawei seek to perfect foldable screens, LG has taken a sideways look at the idea and gone dual screen instead. Microsoft’s Surface Duo, due in late 2020, takes a similar approach.

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The V50 ThinQ 5G has a 6.4-inch OLED main screen with 3120 by 1440 (538ppi) resolution, and a second add-on 6.2-inch OLED with 2,160 by 1,080 resolution (390ppi). It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipset with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD).


Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

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With the second screen attached, the V50 ThinQ can adopt modes such as clamshell and ‘tent’.


Images: LG

The second screen fits onto the main handset as one half of a hinged phone cover. Three small connectors on the back of the handset act as the data and power link to the second screen. The hinge on the case is strong enough to hold the second screen at an angle, clamshell-style, or even to support the phone in ‘tent’ mode.

The cover protects much of the phone’s back leaving a large cutout for the triple-camera setup and fingerprint scanner. There’s also a cutout for the phone’s power switch on the right edge, and a large cutout on the bottom edge for the phone’s 3.5mm headset jack, USB-C connector and speaker. On the cover’s hinged long edge there are three buttons, for volume control and access to the Google Assistant, that match up with and activate the same buttons on the handset itself. The front of the second screen/cover is extremely shiny, matching the back of the handset. 

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The second screen/cover has a large cut-out to accommodate the handset’s triple rear cameras and fingerprint reader.


Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The cover is easy enough to fit, but slightly tricky to remove. I found it necessary to exert quite a lot of force, using the large cutout for the cameras and fingerprint sensor to gain purchase. It also adds to the handset’s overall bulk and size: on its own, the V50 ThinQ 5G measures 76.1mm wide by 159mm deep by 8.3mm thick and weighs 173g; with the second screen in place it measures 83.4mm by 161.4mm by 15.54mm and 304g.

The two screens have different specifications. The main handset screen is a 6.4-inch OLED panel with 3,120 by 1,440 (538ppi) resolution and a fairly wide front-camera notch. The second screen is a Full HD (2,160 x 1,080 pixels, 390ppi) OLED panel. These differences may look significant, but I didn’t find them so in use: the only time I made a conscious decision to opt for the handset screen over the secondary one was when viewing video and reading large amounts of text; the rest of the time I was happy to use both screens as equal partners.

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LG offers a few special second-screen features. Dual video allows you to see yourself in one screen and the caller in another, for example. You can also turn the second screen into a gaming controller. Games will need to specifically support this feature, but I can see how, where supported, it’s preferable to having controls inside the gaming screen.

While you’re working with two screens there is a small pop-out menu that allows you to quickly do things like switch screens and disable dual-screen operation. 

Dual screens aside, this handset’s design should be familiar to anyone with experience of the LG V40 ThinQ, although the cameras are now flush to the backplate rather than on a slight bump. Internally there are quite a few changes to bring the handset up to date.

The handset is a solid slab of black glass and metal. The backplate is extremely reflective and very slippery. I had the usual problems of this phone sliding off my chair onto the (thankfully carpeted) floor many times. Its MIL-STD-810G rating may come in handy, and the phone is also IP68 rated for dust and water resistance. The single speaker on the bottom edge is disappointing given the dual screens. It puts out minimal bass, and I’d expect better from a handset bigging up its visuals and gaming capabilities. 

The V50 ThinQ 5G has five cameras in total — two at the front and three at the back. The main front camera has an 8MP sensor and an f/1.9 lens, and there’s a second 5MP sensor with an f/2.2 wide-angle lens. At the back there’s a 12MP sensor with an f/1.5 lens and 2x optical zoom, a 16MP sensor with an f/1.9 wide-angle lens, and a 12MP sensor with an f/2.4 telephoto lens. My test shots were perfectly acceptable, but nothing out of the ordinary — even with the multitude of lenses.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

The LG V50 ThinQ 5G comes with 128GB of internal storage of which 25GB is used out of the box, leaving 103GB for personal use. You can add external storage via MicroSD, whose slot sits alongside the Nano SIM card slot.

The handset is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor, with 6GB of RAM. It turned in average Geekbench 5 CPU scores of 740 (single core) and 2741 (multi core). In the GPU Compute benchmark the scores were 2222 (OpenCL) and 1890 (Vulkan). The Geekbench browser lets you put these CPU, OpenCL and Vulkan scores into context. 

The 4,000mAh battery has to work hard supporting two screens and powering 5G (when you can get a signal). I ran the PC Mark standard battery drain test twice. With a single screen, the battery lasted for 12 hours and 39 minutes, but the second screen brought this down to 5 hours and 9 minutes. The PC Mark test stops when the battery gets to 20 percent, so running it fully down would eke out a little more time.

The handset supports Charge 3.0, which will provide 50% of charge in 35 minutes, and that means quick bursts of battery power might be possible during the day. While the handset is charging a large ‘5G’ symbol lights up, on the back of the chassis, pulsing red while charging and green when charge is complete. This is visible in the cutout hole of the second screen case, and can be annoying in low light conditions.

Conclusions 

While other manufacturers struggle with folding screen designs, LG has taken a different approach to adding screen area to a handset. A second screen does make for a bulkier, heavier handset, and it challenges the battery, but these trade-offs are to be expected. 5G support will give this phone a degree of future proofing. Five cameras (two front, three back) deliver good enough photos, but there’s nothing exceptional on offer here. Second screen aside, the LG V50 ThinQ 5G is a good, but not great, flagship-class handset. It’s the second screen that will make or break your purchasing decision.

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