LG Velvet 5G : LG Mobile's Stunning LG Velvet With Triple Rear Cameras, 5G Support Starts Rolling out Worldwide, Likely To Arrive In India On October 4
The LG Velvet launched on May 7, runs Android 10 and is powered by a 4300mAh non-removable battery. The LG Velvet supports wireless charging, as well as proprietary fast charging.
- Relatively affordable 5G
- Beautiful design
- Excellent audio quality with 3.5mm headphone jack
- Gorgeous screen
- Disappointing low-light camera performance
- Top network speeds slower than some competing phones
Once the reliable third-place smartphone company in the US, LG has struggled to find its feet in recent years. The company hasn't gotten much credit for the innovations it's brought in, like wide-angle cameras and high-quality audio, and it's received a lot of side-eye for oddball features like a veer into modularity with the LG G5 and, more recently, its dual-screen case strategy. The midrange LG Velvet for AT&T is something of a return to basics, offering 5G for a relatively affordable $599.99, as well as a move to a far more liquid look—wide, flat, tapered, and shimmery. But once again, LG finds its list prices a bit undercut by competing phones. The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G costs $499, and the Google Pixel 4a is $349. The value equation changes with carriers' constant promotions, so it's worth taking a close look before buying.
Design and Display
As promised, the Velvet is a new design language for LG. It's bigger, more tapered, and it feels more modern than the G series, with its three cameras and flash in a vertical series of circles down the shimmery gray or silver back panel. (We also got to see a green model, shown below, that isn't sold through US carriers. The silver version attracts fingerprints much more than the green or gray ones.) The front glass is severely curved at the edges, coming to pinched sides, but the bottom still has room for a 3.5mm headphone jack. The whole approach is a little Samsung, a little Sony. It's also waterproof, which is a nice improvement over some other phones in this price range.The gorgeous, shimmery back panel is one of the Velvet's selling points
The 6.8-inch, 2,460-by-1,080 screen is gorgeous. The screen is very bright—it even has an extra-brightness option which is super bright—but it only has a 60Hz refresh rate, which nowadays gives the whole phone's user interface a very midrange feel to it. It's totally fine, but the UI and scrolling on phones like the OnePlus 8 and the Moto Edge feel smoother in part because of their higher refresh rates.
LG plays around with the screen's amped-up colors by throwing a lot of translucency into the UI, so your experience with the Velvet feels like it involves a lot of shifting clouds of color; it's all very pretty. The in-display fingerprint sensor works well. I wasn't frustrated by it, and I like how you get a nice big touch target on the lock screen.The phone works with a dual-screen case that lets you do two things at once
The phone works with LG's dual-screen case, and LG sent me one with the Velvet. The case protects the phone and offers an entire second screen, to the left of the main screen, that you can multitask applications on. It's kind of clumsy. As my colleague Steven Winkelman said in his LG V60 review: "The Second Display Case is great in theory, but after using it on the V60 and the G8X, it’s hard to see its utility. It makes the phone much bulkier, and seriously takes a toll on battery life. And if you’re annoyed with the crease in folding phones, it’s a near guarantee you’ll never get used to seeing a giant bezel in the middle of apps in Wide View mode."The dual-screen case also lets you sit the phone on a table to watch videos
The Velvet also works with an active stylus, like the Samsung Galaxy Note series does, but one wasn't included with my review unit so I couldn't test that function. The phone doesn't include a place to store the stylus, unlike the Galaxy Note.
Software and Networking
LG's Android 10 skin has some very non-Google aspects to it. It defaults to having no app drawer or visible control buttons; all the apps are spread across your home screens and you navigate with gestures. Losing the control buttons gives you more screen real estate, but I have trouble remembering the gestures. That said, this is Android, so you can change settings or install a new launcher if you like.
AT&T adds a ton of bloatware. My review unit has 31 preinstalled apps (for a total of 28GB in the system partition) that aren't from Google or LG, including a Game of Thrones game, the Walmart app, Bleacher Report, and a bunch of other, random stuff. Some of them are deletable, some of them aren't, and it's not the ones you might predict. For instance, you can delete HBO MAX (an AT&T streaming service) and the two slot machine games it installs, but you can't delete DC Universe (a different AT&T streaming service) or the Game of Thrones game. The phone also keeps throwing you nudgy alerts to install more AT&T apps, which isn't cool.There's lots of bloatware
Network-wise, it's best to ignore the 5G aspect of this phone. Both the Velvet and the Samsung Galaxy A71 run into a performance limit on AT&T's network. (The Galaxy A51 would too, but it isn't available on AT&T.) Their Snapdragon 765 chipsets support three separate channels of spectrum as opposed to the five that the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and other flagship phones support.
This isn't a deal breaker. The Velvet supports VoLTE, HD calling, and Wi-Fi calling, and it gets good signal in weak signal conditions, which is what people really care about. But it's not going to break any records for network speed, and the reasons why are interesting.
AT&T has a complicated, fragmented 4G LTE network. Here in New York, it can use up to five channels of spectrum at once. In my tests, the Galaxy S20 Ultra combined four channels for 40MHz of airwaves and speeds up to about 130Mbps. I saw similar speeds on the Apple iPhone SE. (The Galaxy S20 Ultra has a field test mode where I can see exactly what spectrum it's using; the iPhone doesn't.) Speeds on the Velvet were more like 70-80Mbps in the same locations.
Looking into its service mode, I found that the Velvet was frequently only using two channels of spectrum when four were available. At one point, the Velvet did report four channels, so this isn't a hardware problem. But in various locations where the Galaxy S20 Ultra would attach to four channels, the Velvet would often only choose one or two. I suspect that the Galaxy A71 will end up the same way.
Having 5G available didn't help. AT&T's low-band 5G channel in New York is actually narrower than the 4G channel it replaces, so 5G results (while they're technically 5G, in that they use the 5G New Radio encoding method) aren't consistently faster than 4G results.
All this goes to say that the AT&T 5G on the Velvet, as well as on the Galaxy A71 and Moto Edge, isn't any kind of real factor right now. And while the Velvet may not give you 100Mbps, it'll give you the 10Mbps you need to live your day-to-day life.
In terms of other networking technologies, the phone has Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC, but it doesn't appear to have Wi-Fi 6.The headphone jack on the bottom lets you keep using your old wired earbuds
Audio and Photo
LG has always had a niche in high-quality audio, and the Velvet lives up to that legacy. For one thing, this phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack. You can't assume that on phones any longer; the Samsung Galaxy A71 has one, but the OnePlus 8 doesn't. The Velvet doesn't appear to have the distinct quad DAC that older LG phones have, but sound through the headphone jack is rich and gorgeous.
I was impressed by the High-Quality Bluetooth option, which lets you toggle the Apt-X Lossless codec to trade between super-high-quality audio and better error correction. The video camera mode, meanwhile, has the now-trendy audio zoom, which focuses in on conversations when you zoom your camera in. The full audio package really satisfies.
For photos, the phone has a 48MP main camera that mostly takes 12MP photos, but can simulate a 2x zoom; an 8MP ultra-wide camera; a 16MP front-facing camera; and a 5MP depth sensor for bokeh and the like. Colors in the shots I took feel super punchy, similar to the Velvet's glowing OLED screen.
I haven't been able to compare the Velvet side by side to similarly priced 5G phones firsthand, but the images here seem to be in the same class level as the Samsung Galaxy A71 and the Moto Edge. They don't quite measure up to more expensive phones. Most importantly, though, I don't think they're going to measure up to the $349 Google Pixel 4a, which has the Pixel 4's amazing low-light camera. While the Pixel only has a single rear camera, as opposed to the Velvet's four, the Pixel's low-light prowess is on par with the best flagships.
I took photos with the Velvet outside on a blazingly sunny day, and they're wonderfully sharp. But that's never a real test for decent mobile phone cameras these days; it's table stakes.There's nothing wrong with shots taken outdoorsThis zoomed-in image shows how the LG Velvet (left) has less shadow detail and more trouble with compression than the OnePlus 8 Pro (right)The LG Velvet (left) doesn't measure up to the OnePlus 8 Pro (right) in low light
Look closer at indoor shots, and they don't measure up to the finest cameras on the market. I compared the Velvet primarily with a OnePlus 8 Pro. At 2x zoom with moderate indoor light, the Velvet's pictures are significantly noisier than the OnePlus shots. The Velvet's 0.5x wide-angle is a little softer than the OnePlus' 0.6x. And the OnePlus night mode, powered by a beefier AI engine on its Snapdragon 865 processor, is much better than the Velvet's.The Velvet is heavily tapered on the sides, coming to a near point
Processor and Performance
The Velvet is the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 phone I've tested. It joins the Samsung Galaxy A71 and Moto Edge, which are also Snapdragon 765-based phones in the US. The Pixel 4a uses a slower Snapdragon 730. The 765 is billed as a midrange-to-high-end chip, not a flagship, and it delivers what's promised, no more.
I got 8061 on the PCMark Work benchmark, as well as 583 single-core and 1876 multi-core on the Geekbench benchmark. This outpaces the Motorola Razr with its Snapdragon 710, but doesn't measure up to phones with Snapdragon 855 and 865 chips. In daily usage, I mostly felt the difference in the camera UI and features. The phone seems a little slower to snap HDR shots than the 865-based OnePlus 8 Pro, as well as slightly slower to switch between its 1x, 2x, and 0.5x lens modes. LG's Android skin also appears to have dragged the phone down a little compared to the Moto Edge, which scored 8408.
The Velvet got 19fps on the GFXBench Car Chase Offscreen benchmark and 86fps on the T-Rex Offscreen benchmark, which doesn't measure up even to last year's 855 chip (29fps and 115fps on the LG V50). That said, it's far better than the Snapdragon 710 in the Motorola Razr (13fps and 66fps).
Battery life is good. I got ten and a half hours of video playback with the screen on full brightness, although I could tell that the phone spent a good half of that in a low-power mode, so you'll get less battery life if you're gaming. The Moto Edge has longer battery life, at 12 hours and 11 minutes of video streaming.
The second-screen attachment also draws a significant amount of power. With the dual-screen case attached, screen-on time while playing a video went down to 5 hours, 57 minutes. The phone then ran for another 45 minutes in single-screen mode.
The Velvet supports both wireless charging and fast charging, and charged just fine when I placed it on a Qi charging cradle. That sets it apart from the Galaxy A71, Pixel 4a, and Moto Edge, none of which have wireless charging.Compared with the LG G7 (left), the Velvet (right) is an entirely new look
It Comes Down to Price
Pricing is everything when judging this phone. The Velvet lists for $599.99, but as of this writing, AT&T is offering it for $300 on an installment plan. That makes it cheaper than the $349 Pixel 4a. AT&T is also offering the Galaxy A71 5G for the same price.
The 5G factor doesn't matter here. The Velvet is waterproof, supports wireless charging, and has the fun option for that second-screen case. The Pixel 4a has a somewhat better camera and no bloatware. The A71 5G probably has a camera that's in the middle of the two, but it isn't waterproof and doesn't have wireless charging. The Moto Edge costs $499 at some retailers right now and has a 90Hz screen and slightly longer battery life, but it isn't as durable.
At $300, the Velvet is a steal. Deciding between it and the Pixel 4a will come down to your assessment of the Pixel 4a's amazing low-light camera versus the Velvet's bigger screen, faster processor, waterproofing, and nicer design.
Going up against iPhones, it's a tougher call. AT&T currently offers the iPhone SE for $150 and the iPhone 11 for $300. They have fewer camera options than the Velvet, and smaller screens, but they have better top network performance, no bloatware, and they're super reliable and easy to use. The choice there will likely come down to whether you prefer iOS to Android. No matter which OS you choose, we're still seeing great phone options drop under $500 on sale, and that's good news for everyone.
LG Velvet 5G Specs
|Operating System||Android 10|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G|
|Dimensions||6.58 by 2.92 by 0.31 inches|
|Screen Size||6.8 inches|
|Screen Resolution||2460-by-1080 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||48MP, 8MP; 16MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||10 hours, 30 minutes|
Source : PCmag with CNIN inputs