LG Velvet review: Fake it till you make it
- Water resistance & wireless charging
- No camera bump
- Bloat-y software
- Camera doesn't quite cut it
While the middling camera and bloated software don’t do it many favors, the LG Velvet is still a decent option.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
Should You Buy The LG Velvet?
LG’s Velvet tries to reinvent the brand and carve out a new niche for itself among a rapidly changing mid-tier. It’s a phone that feels more expensive than it is and while it doesn’t fully realise the lofty ambitions listed above, it succeeds in selling you on the idea that there’s room for another kind of smartphone out there.
It's not perfect but the more time I spent with the LG Velvet, the more intrigued I became with what it represents.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, the LG Velvet is priced at an RRP of AU$899. The device will be available from late July through JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys.
LG Velvet (2020) full review
Design - Look, Feel, Features and Camera
In terms of look and feel, the LG Velvet is nothing new. It puts a spin on the usual glass sandwich design found in most modern smartphones this side of $600 nowadays but it’s a familiar sort of twist on the formula all the same.
The front of the device boasts slanted glass edges and a center-oriented teardrop notch. The backside of the Velvet is glossy and mostly-featureless aside from the ‘raindrop’ camera lurking on the top-left corner of the thing. For more on smartphone notches, click here.
As opposed to the competition, LG have also opted to flatten the hardware here. Despite the three-lens setup, the Velvet's so-called 'raindrop' camera design only features a single (and slight) camera bump on the back. As someone who has grown used to chunky camera bumps on modern smartphones, this made the Velvet something of a refreshing change of pace.
The form-factor here is slim enough, tall enough and downright rectangular. The Velvet doesn’t feel quite as aesthetically striking or ergonomic as Oppo’s Find X2 Neo but it feels more than nice enough for the asking price - which places it above mid-tier mavens like the new iPhone SE but well below the asking price of full-blown flagships like the Galaxy S20.
The bottom-most edge of the LG Velvet touts not only the standard USB Type-C port used for charging but also a headphone jack. Given that this thing seems to be LG’s defacto flagship in the absence of a V60, that means the Velvet somewhat unique in that it’s one of the only phones out there that includes both the legacy port and premium features like water resistance and wireless charging. The same can’t be said for what Apple, Samsung and Oppo are selling.
That being said, the reliance on a notch and in-display fingerprint sensor does feel out of place here. A version of this device that includes proper 3D face unlock biometrics is one that instantly becomes much easier to recommend over the other options in the space.
Still, technicalities aside, the LG Velvet is equipped with a Snapdragon 765G processor, a 6.8-inch FHD+ OLED display, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There's a triple-lens camera on the back plus a few details you don't usually find under $1000, such as wireless charging, an in-display fingerprint sensor, 5G connectivity and IP68 water resistance.
The Velvet is billed as an upper mid-tier phone with premium perks and a focus on everyday content creation. To that end, LG have kitted the camera app on the device out with a number of nifty features, such as Voice Bokeh, support for Wacom styli, 4K timelapses and - as mentioned in the header - a dedicated ASMR mode.
This bevy of bespoke software bonuses is paired up with a triple-lens camera configuration that's built around a 48-megapixel main lens, an 8-megapixel ultrawide lens and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. There's also a 16-megapixel front-facing camera.
Unfortunately, this spec sheet doesn’t really translate into anything beyond what you’d expect.
Credit where it’s due, LG did innovate with the introduction of ultrawide lenses earlier than most other smartphone brands did but they’ve struggled to really find the next thing since then and in the face the high-end zoom capabilities of the fare like the S20 Ultra or the computational photography of the Google Pixel, they’ve struggled to keep up. If you really are looking to make your next smartphone the engine that powers your content creation efforts, you're probably going to be better served by spending that little bit more on one of those devices than the LG Velvet.
The LG Velvet tries to change many aspects of the narrative that’s been up around the brand over the last few years but, for all the software features, the hardware limits what can be done here. It takes nice photos for a smartphone but never crosses the line into territory divorced from that caveat.
Performance - Specs, Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Operating System: Android 10 + LG UX 9
MicroSD slot: Yes
Headphone Jack: Yes
Fingerprint sensor: Yes, in-display
Battery: 4300 mAh battery
Connectivity: 5G + 4G + Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 5.1 + NFC
Rear Camera: 48-megapixel (f/1.8) wide + 8-megapixel (f/2.2) ultrawide + 5-megapixel (f/2.4)
Front-Facing Camera: 16-megapixel (f/1.9)
Dimensions: 167.2 x 74.1 x 7.9 mm
Weight: 180 g
These days, we only really include a software section in our smartphone reviews where it’s necessary and in this case that sentiment translates into bad news.
While the camera app on the LG Velvet finds a good balance between making the new modes intuitive without cluttering up the interface, the default home screen experience is stuffed with bloatware and unnecessary apps from the get go. Given how minimalist and skim I’ve found LG’s Android skins in the past, this ended up feeling a blemish on an otherwise solid smartphone experience.
PCMark (Work 2.0): 7797
3DMark SlingShot Extreme (OpenGL): 3312
3DMark SlingShot Extreme (Vulkan): 3104
GeekBench (Single-Core): 594
GeekBench (Multi-Core): 1865
GeekBench (Compute): 1245
For the most part, the LG Velvet delivered the goods when it came to battery. I’m still mostly working from home these days but I’d usually manage a full day of usage easily and found I could often stretch that into a second without too much trouble.
Burned out via streamed video on Youtube, it took the LG Velvet 20 hours and 6 minutes to go from 100% to zero. Compared to the other options playing in the same price-range, that's a great result.
The LG Velvet also supports wireless charging via compatible Qi hardware.
The Bottom Line
With the success of the early G-Series handsets further and further behind them, LG’s flagship smartphones seemed to get more and more formulaic with each passing year. The results became equally as predictable. They’d come out a month or two after Samsung launched their latest salvo, packing a lot of the same tech but lagging when it comes to design.
The LG Velvet tries to rectify those missteps and place the brand on a new path. After a week or so with it, I’m not quite convinced it delivers fully on those aspirations but it feels like it's a handset with its heart in the right place.
While the middling camera and bloated software don’t do it many favors, the LG Velvet is still a decent option for those who want something a little closer to a typical flagship than even the bolstered mid-tier can provide.
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