The LG V20 is Verizon’s best phone of 2016

The LG V10, released in late 2015, was a monster of a phone. It was a big device with dual cameras and screens on the front and geared for content creators. I’ve been eagerly awaiting its successor, the V20, to see how it improved on the V10. My friends at Verizon recently let me use one for a few weeks, and I was able to confirm what I suspected. My LG V20 review found it to be my favorite phone of 2016.

LG V20 hardware

LG V20 and box

The V20 is one of the largest phones available. At 5.7″, it’s the largest phone currently available from Verizon, along with the V10 and Stylo 2 V which also have 5.7″ displays. The V20’s screen is a beautiful IPS display, which I prefer to the AMOLED panels offered by other manufacturers.

The 4 GB of memory and Snapdragon 820 processor mean that the phone is among the fastest ever released. Currently, only the Google Pixel has a better processor, and I personally didn’t notice a difference in performance using them side by side.

In addition to the large primary screen, there’s a second screen that sits just above the main display. This always-on screen can be configured to show time and notifications, media controls, recent apps, quick contacts, app shortcuts or upcoming plans.

Volume rocker on left, headphone jack and USB Type-C port on bottom

The headphone jack, USB Type-C port and speaker are all on the bottom of the phone. Unfortunately, in a departure from last year’s designs of the G4 and V10, LG has moved the volume buttons to the left side of the phone. The power button with a fast and accurate fingerprint sensor is still conveniently on the back, but I found the volume buttons to be inconvenient to use when holding the phone with my right hand.

One of my favorite features of the LG V20 is the removable back that exposes a removable battery and the SD card slot. The phone comes with 64 GB of internal storage, which should be enough for most people. Support for an SD card means there’s not really a way to run out of space.

My favorite part of the V20 is removable battery and SD card slot

The sound quality of the V20 is stunning. Playback is enhanced with what LG calls the Hi-Fi Quad DAC, or digital audio converter, that provides amazing sound quality for wired connections. While I nearly always use Bluetooth, I did enjoy comparing the sound quality of the V20 to the Nexus 6 with a set of Sony MDR-7506 headphones. The V20 was not only louder, but it was cleaner and clearer with improved frequency response all over the spectrum.

In addition to the best audio playback I’ve ever heard from a phone, the V20 boasts improved recording abilities. It ships with the HD Audio Recorder app which is the best audio recording app I’ve ever seen. It can record to 24-bit FLAC at 96 kHz, and allows the user to adjust gain, add a low cut filter and control the limiter.

Software

The phone comes with LG UX 5.0+, which displays all apps on the home screens by default. A tweak to the settings will restore the app drawer to restore sanity, but it’s best to install a third-party launcher like Action Launcher 3 or the Google Now Launcher. The LG default keyboard works, but isn’t as clean as the Google Keyboard.

Always-on second screen

The best use for the second screen is for notifications. Normally, notifications on Android pop up and interfere with whatever app is in use at the time. The V20’s second screen shows these notifications, leaving the primary screen dedicated to the app that’s in use at the time.

Another nice software feature is the ability to scale the content of the screen. The beautiful 2560 x 1440 Quad HD screen can be set to show a lot of small content or a lesser amount of larger content. The default setting didn’t show enough content on the screen for my taste, and I was thankful it was easy to change to take advantage of the large, high resolution screen.

Battery and power management

Back of LG V20 features power button with fingerprint reader

The V20 is one of the only recently released phones that has a removable battery. I was slightly disappointed by the battery life on the V20. I reviewed the V20 immediately after testing the Pixel XL, which I found to have phenomenal battery life considering the size of battery it had. The V20 is okay, and certainly as good as any other Verizon phones released in 2016 with the exception of the Pixel XL, but I wasn’t able to get anywhere near a full day out of it, even when at my desk. It supports Quick Charge, so recharging it with a cable during the day didn’t take too long, but it’s still not as convenient as only having to charge a phone at night.

Disappointingly, unlike the G4 and V10, the V20 doesn’t support wireless charging with the addition of a special back cover. However, it appears ZeroLemon will be selling a battery upgrade for the V20, replacing the 3,200 mAh battery with a 10,000 mAh brick. A battery this big would mean I would only have to plug the V20 in at night, eliminating the need to recharge it to get through the day.

Camera

Saving the best for last, the V20’s cornerstone feature is the camera configuration. The back features a 16 MP camera with laser autofocus and optical image stabilization that I found to be just as good as the camera on the Pixel XL. It also has a wide-angle lens on the back, which is amazingly convenient. This was the deal-making feature on the LG G5 that caused me to immediately order one for my wife, and it’s one of several features that will cause me to pick the V20 over the Pixel XL for my next phone.

Not content with the winning camera configuration on the back, LG also uses a wide-angle camera on the front to make it easier to capture selfies of multiple people or capture more of the background environment. They’ve simply done everything right when it comes to cameras on the V20.

As you can see in the example below, the V20 easily bests the LG Stylo 2 V and the Motorola Nexus 6.

Compared to Google’s Pixel XL, the V20’s camera runs neck and neck, in my opinion.

While the video stabilization isn’t as freakishly good as that which is found on the Pixel XL, it’s still really, really good. Here’s a 4K video I took of a tractor for an auction. Make sure to bump the quality to 4K to see the high quality of the video camera on the V20.

Summary

The LG V20 ticks all the boxes. It’s like a Swiss Army knife – they threw in nearly every feature that I want in a phone.

  • Large 5.7″ IPS screen
  • Removable battery
  • Excellent primary camera
  • Additional wide-angle camera on back
  • Wide-angle front-facing camera
  • Large 64 GB built-in storage
  • SD card for external storage
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • Power button on the back
  • Headphone jack on the bottom

The even threw in a couple of features I didn’t know that I wanted in a phone, but now that I’ve seen them, I love them.

  • Second screen
  • Hi-Fi Quad DAC audio system

There are a few features missing, though.

  • Wireless charging not supported
  • Volume buttons are on the left side
  • Google Assistant not yet available on phones other than Pixel

I’m really going to miss this phone when I mail it back to Verizon. It’s the best all-around phone I’ve ever used. If you’re a fan of large phones and want the best specs and most features anyone has ever crammed into a smart phone, the LG V20 is the perfect device.

The LG V20 is currently available for $672 from Verizon.

LG V20 picture gallery

As always, here is a selection of example pictures I took over the last couple of weeks while carrying the V20 as my primary phone.

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Aaron Traffas, CAI, ATS, CES

twitter.com/traffas | aarontraffas.com | aarontraffasband.com

Aaron Traffas, CAI, AMM, CES, is an auctioneer from Medicine Lodge, Kansas. He is currently community evangelist for Purple Wave in Manhattan, Kansas. Aaron serves as the current president elect for the Kansas Auctioneers Association and in the past has served on the National Auctioneers Association Education Institute Board of Trustees. He is a past instructor at CAI and co-wrote and instructed the ATS designation course from NAA. He currently instructs the Internet Auction Methods course offered by the NAA. During the summer, Aaron operates a farm in south central Kansas. Aaron is an active singer and songwriter and the Aaron Traffas Band's latest release, Enter: The Wind, can be found at iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.