Gunning For Audio Supremacy

LG V20.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
LG V20.
My Reading Room

The LG V20 boasts a tough aluminum and silicone polycarbonate build and is MIL-STD810G certified, which means it can withstand repeated drops and shocks, and continue functioning. The back has a centrally located fingerprint scanner/ home button, while on top, there’s an IR blaster and one of three microphones that assist the V20 in pinpointing audio. On the bottom, you’ll find a USB Type-C port, a second microphone, a headphone jack and a downward-firing speaker. On the left, you’ll find two volume buttons, while on the right, there’s a button that looks like a camera shutter but is actually used to release the rear cover to access the removable battery, microSD card slot and dual nano SIM card slots.

The camera setup on the rear of the phone is basically the same one we saw on the G5, pairing a 16-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8, 75-degree field of view lens alongside an 8-megapixel sensor with an f/2.4 wide-angle 135-degree field of view lens. Like the G5, you get a hybrid autofocus system that combines laser, phase-detect and contrast autofocus. You also get optical image stabilization, but only on the 16-megapixel camera.

The V20 has an always-on secondary display
that shows the time, date and battery.
The V20 has an always-on secondary display that shows the time, date and battery.

The V20 also offers in-depth manual photo and video modes for comprehensive control over its settings, including white balance, focus, ISO and shutter speed. Both photo and video modes include continuous tracking focus, and the video mode also sports an improved Steady Record 2.0 feature that combines OIS and EIS for ultra-stable video. Audio recording for videos is also suitably impressive, with audio recorded in lossless LPCM (24-bit, 48kHz) format, which is the same format used by professional camcorders.

Like its predecessor, the V10, the V20 has two displays: a main 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440 QHD IPS Quantum Display panel (513ppi) and a secondary 2.1-inch 160 x 1,040 pixels resolution (513ppi) IPS Quantum Display panel that sits above it. The secondary display is brighter than last year’s but generally has the same functionality. It’s an always-on display for time, date and battery status when the main display is off . It’s also where your notifications will pop up. As for the main display, it’s very bright, with vivid colors and crisp detail.

The V20 is the first smartphone to feature a new ESS ES9218 SABRE HiFi 32-bit stereo Quad DAC, which has a parallel sub-DAC configuration to improve noise performance and reduce total harmonic distortion. According to ESS, the chip boasts theoretical maximums of 130SNR, 124dB DNR and -112dB THD+N, although real world performance is likely not going to be quite as good. In layman’s terms, this basically means higher quality audio with less distortion and noise, and better dynamic range than competitive offerings. The ES9218 also features a dedicated headphone amp with a high 2Vrms output, which makes it capable of driving professional high impedance headphones.

On the back of the V20 is a dual camera setup
pairing a normal lens with a wide angle one.
On the back of the V20 is a dual camera setup pairing a normal lens with a wide angle one.
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 7.0 Nougat with  LG UX 5.0+.
PROCESSOR Qualcomm Snapdragon 820.
DISPLAY 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (518 ppi) IPS Quantum Display LCD.
CAMERA 16-megapixel, f/1.8, 75-degree fov and 8-megapixel, f/2.4, 135-degree fov.
DIMENSIONS 159.7 x 78.1 x 7.6mm.
WEIGHT 174g.


A premium phablet with ambitious features that set it apart from competitors; a boon for audiophiles and content creators.

The V20 supports nearly every audio file format, including ultra high-end DSD512 32-bit files. Listening to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool on lossless 24-bit FLAC files through some Audio-Technica ATH-M50s on the V20 was a superb experience.The V20 also comes supplied with a pair of B&O Play in-ear earphones worth $198. The earphones pair nicely with the V20; with plenty of bass and relatively clean, sparkly highs.

The V20 isn’t just capable of playing high-end audio, it can record it too thanks to three High Acoustic Overload Point microphones that can handle inputs up to a deafening 132dB. The V20’s HD Audio Recorder app offers an abundance of options for music and instrumental recordings. It can also output 24-bit, 192kHz FLAC files, which LG claims will match professional studio recordings, thanks to the use of a background noise filter and a limiter to pick out sounds at a set distance. CONCLUSION Inside the V20 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU, the same SoC found inside the G5. While the 820 is speedy and powerful, it’s nearing the end of its life cycle and has already been surpassed by Qualcomm’s newer 821 processor, and as such the V20’s benchmarks weren’t that impressive.

Powering the phone is a 3,200mAh capacity battery, slightly bigger than the 3,000mAh unit inside the V10. Despite this, there wasn’t much of an improvement in battery life, with the V20 lasting only seven hours and 19 minutes in our video looping battery benchmark. There’s no wireless charging on the V20, but it does support Quick Charge 3.0, which gets it back to around 60 percent charge in 30 minutes.