If you're thinking about buying LG's latest flagship smartphone, the LG G8X ThinQ, don't think about its secondary screen.
At least don't think about it as an integral part of the phone. It's a nice accessory, one you essentially get for free (the bundle which includes the smartphone and the dual screen can be had for $700 or a lot less, depending on whether you like carrier contracts), but it's hardly essential.I've spent a week with the LG G8X, and I was pleasantly surprised with how many times I found its secondary screen useful - playing music in YouTube in one screen while doing something else in the other was a pretty great feature, for example. But the case that hosts that extra screen makes the phone a lot bigger and heavier, and it was almost always a nuisance.About that screen
Perhaps the best way to describe the experience of using the LG G8X in dual screen mode would be to say that every positive is canceled by a negative.The software that handles the secondary screen is fairly clever, but it's also buggy. Both screens are OLED and quite nice, but the unnecessary notch on the secondary screen drove me mad. The secondary screen's hinge rotates nearly 360 degrees, allowing for some cool ways to use the phone (see photo below) but alas, the software refused to co-operate - the image on the secondary screen does not always flip when you turn it all the way around.You'd expect the image to flip in situations like these, but it doesn't.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEThe third screen (yes, there's a third, small screen on the case's front side) displays basic info like time, date and battery, but it's not really always on and it doesn't wake with taps (you need to move the phone for it to wake up). You get the idea - for every "wow" there's a "but."Not a foldable, but it still has its uses
The LG G8X is an obvious answer to the foldable phones trend. And yet, it's not a foldable phone - it does provide similar functionality but in a far less sexy and elegant way.You could say that the G8X is a half-assed attempt to replicate real folding phones, like the Galaxy Fold. Or you could say that LG was smart enough to realize folding phones are a passing fad (the verdict is still out on that one), and decided to create something similar without spending a ton on research and development. I'm leaning towards the latter, but I need to reiterate once more: The LG G8X is infinitely less cool than the Galaxy Fold. The Fold becomes a tablet when unfolded; the G8X has an enormous gap between the two screens, making it the world's suckiest tablet. But then again, the G8X is also far, far cheaper.There were many situations where I found the dual screen useful, but it made the phone heavy and unwieldy.Image: Stan Schroeder/MashableSometimes, though, the dual screen combo is better than a single, large display. Let me give you some examples where I found the secondary display useful:
- Taking a photo and immediately getting a preview on the secondary screen, while being able to take another photo on the main screen.
- YouTube music in one screen, other stuff in the other.
- Using the other display as a controller in some games.
- Copying and pasting stuff into an email.
- Watching a video in one screen while browsing in the other.
There are more examples like this. I get the feeling that a certain type of user - one that does a lot of real work on a phone, or an avid gamer, perhaps - will love this versatility. But, again, you do have to put up with the fact that your phone will be heavier, bigger and ugly with that dual screen attached.A perfectly normal phone
The main thing to remember about the G8X is that, once you remove the extra screen, it's a pretty good smartphone.It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip and comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of memory (expandable via microSD cards). It has a 6.4-inch OLED screen with a tiny, waterdrop notch and 2,340x1,080 pixel resolution (the secondary screen is identical to the first one, down to the notch). There are only two cameras on the back, a 12-megapixel main sensor and a 13-megapixel ultrawide sensor. The selfie camera has a 32-megapixel sensor. Like all LG flagships, the G8X has a 3.5-mm headphone jack, a quad DAC and stereo speakers. The battery is a 4,000mAh cell with quick 21W charging. Finally, the G8X is dust and water resistant up to IP68 specifications, as well as MIL-STD-810G standard compliant.The whole package. It fits in your pocket, barely.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLE
The G8X is everything you'd expect from a new LG phone - it's up there with the best phones in terms of specs but it never really exceeds expectations. This is even visible in the phone's looks: The G8X only comes in black and has a totally forgettable design. It's worth noting that battery life, which has been an issue for some earlier LG phones, has been significantly improved. The battery lasted for well over a day during my testing.A so-so cameraThe battery life being fine and performance being on par with every other Snapdragon 855 phone out there, one thing worth taking a closer look at is the camera. It's ... not great.The LG G8X ThinQ only has two rear cameras - a fairly low number by today's standards.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEIn daylight, I took some photos which looked impressive on the phone's screen. But after taking a closer look, you'll see a lot of artificial sharpening that gives the photos an unwanted watercolor effect.Zoom in, and the details look plasticky.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEIn low light, the camera is decent, even without turning on the "Night View" mode which is buried in the settings. The photos are pretty bright with fairly accurate colors, but not particularly sharp.This was taken in a very dark shed, and I was pleasantly surprised with the result.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEThe ultra-wide camera is near-useless in anything less than broad daylight, though that's the case with most smartphones. And in well-lit conditions, it suffers from the same issues as the main camera, while producing slightly blurrier photos. You'll mostly use it for group photos.In this (rare) example, I've gotten a better photo with the ultra-wide than the main sensor. The colors are a bit cold, and check out how artificial those clouds look.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEAs for the 32-megapixel selfie camera, all those megapixels won't help the fact that photos often turn out blurry, especially in low light. And forget about bokeh, because it sucks.The LG G8X ThinQ's portrait mode will randomly blur things it shouldn't be blurring.Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable Other minor grievancesOne thing that truly annoyed me about this phone was the (lack of) authentication options. Without a front-facing 3D sensor, the phone has no face unlocking capabilities, and the fingerprint scanner sometimes refuses to co-operate. It failed five times in a row for no apparent reason. In comparison, a Vivo NEX 3 I'm currently reviewing has a fingerprint scanner that works every time and is incredibly fast (I can't say much about its security, though).Also, the G8X has a standard USB-C adapter. But put it into its case and charging it requires a proprietary dongle which I lost immediately. That's G8X life for you: You win one, you lose one.Good for the priceYes, there's a third screen. It's alright, but it's not always on and it doesn't react to taps.Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLEThe LG G8X is an odd beast but I suggest you look at the price first. It's $699 and can go down to $300 if you sign up for a 30-month AT&T contract. That's pretty great for a brand new Snapdragon 855 smartphone, even without the fancy accessories.As for the secondary screen goes, don't spend money of it, but it you can get it for free (current promotions give it away with the phone), then it's pretty great. It'll serve you well in certain scenarios, and when it doesn't, just pull the phone out and toss the case aside.