LG Velvet Review: Hands on – LG’s Android reinvention?

LG has had a tough time recently trying to distinguish its handsets from the ever-increasing best Android phone crowd. Its previous attempts have been far from bad – I liked the LG V60 ThinQ quite a lot – but they’ve lacked a certain spark.

With the LG Velvet, the Korean brand is trying something different – at least when it comes to the design. This isn’t bulky or industrial like the V60 line, quite the opposite.

From the smooth finish to the curved sides and the near-flush camera sensors that almost drip down the rear this is an eye-catching phone that looks so much better than LG’s recent attempts. I’m not going to say it’s totally unique as there are a lot of phones using this overall design, but that doesn’t take anything away from LG.

The other notable difference is the price. This is LG attempting a flagship mid-range phone that packs many top features without costing around the £1000 price other high-end models cost these days. This is going right up against the Moto Edge and OnePlus 8 and it’s a price range that’s going to become increasingly important as people hit back against rising phone prices. There’s no UK price confirmed as of yet though, even if it does look like a release is coming.

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Like those other ‘premium’ mid-rangers, the LG Velvet doesn’t skimp on internals. Though I do wish a couple of areas were given a little more love.

Powering the phone is the very capable Snapdragon 765G chipset. This is the same chip as you’ll find in the Moto Edge and if performance here is anything like it is there then expect the Velvet to handle anything you throw at it with ease. It’s a 5G (sub-6, rather than mmWave) device too and it’s great to see this next-gen connectivity continuing to come to more affordable phones. RAM varies by region in either in 6 or 8GB variants and there’s a set 128GB internal storage.

You’ll also find support for both fast wireless Qi charging and the phone has an IP68 rating. Both of these are often missed out on phones at this price range and you won’t find either on the OnePlus 8.

However, it is the screen where it seems like the Velvet falls down most against some of its rivals. And that’s not because the panel is bad, because it certainly isn’t, but it lacks some of the newer tech you’ll find in the Moto Edge, OnePlus 8 and Xiaomi Mi 10. Unlike those phones, the LG Velvet lacks a 90Hz refresh rate meaning the display isn’t as smooth and responsive. Still, the OLED panel is bright, runs to the edges with just a small cutout for the camera and looks sharp enough thanks to the FHD+ resolution. You’ll find support for HDR content in YouTube and Netflix too.

There are a few things that I will have to spend longer testing before I come to my full verdict on. The battery, for instance, seems fairly large at 4300mAh and so far it has been getting me through the day without issue. That may change though and the charging here is certainly a lot slower than some of the competition that can go from 0-100% in around an hour.

I will also need more time to judge the camera. Early signs are positive though and some of the traits I enjoyed from the V60 (nice, realistic colours and excellent pro mode) are present and correct here.

The camera array consists of a main 48-megapixel sensor that can shoot 4K video at 30fps, a secondary 5MP depth sensor (never convinced about how useful these are) and a welcome 8MP ultrawide. I am happy to see LG hasn’t added the near-useless macro camera.

Snaps are bright and colourful, with great details from that pixel-packed main sensor. The ultrawide is a bit smoother than the higher-priced rivals but that’s common with phones around this price and it’s to be expected. Around the front there’s a 16MP selfie camera that also works for face unlock if you’d rather not use the in-display fingerprint scanner.

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LG might have worked on the hardware a lot for the Velvet, but the software feels a little less polished. LG’s UX has long been one of the worst and it feels lacking when compared to Samsung’s One UI. The icons are childish and the heavy use of strong translucency effects feel very old-fashioned. If LG is stringently against just following Sony and Motorola and using the default Android look (just with some extra added apps) then this needs a proper overhaul.

At least the software has some good features. The system-wide search works very well and the Google Now pane sits on the left-most homescreen.

LG Velvet – Early Verdict

LG’s new design language works very well here and this looks a lot better than LG’s last few efforts. There’s a lot to like with the camera array, spec and feature list too, even if the software lacks polish. 

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LG Velvet Review: Hands on – LG’s Android reinvention?

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