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The dual-screen LG G8X ThinQ is like an SNL parody of the Galaxy Fold

While all eyes are on Samsung and its next-gen Galaxy Fold that transforms from a 4.6-inch phone to a 7.3-inch tablet, LG has its own idea of what a folding phone should be. And it’s almost charming in its immaturity.

Instead of a revolutionary display that bends, the LG G8X merely adds a second screen via a snap-on case. It’s kind of like hooking up a second monitor to a laptop—if you wanted a monitor that gets in the way of using the laptop. When attached, the second display adds bulk and weight, and the gap between the displays makes it hard to type on the main screen and nearly impossible to type on the secondary one, and blocks the volume keys. The Dual Display concept is similar to the ZTE Axon but portends to be less successful.

Otherwise, the LG G8X is very similar to the G8 it seemingly replaces, with a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The 6.4-inch OLED screen is slightly bigger than the G8’s 6.1-inch display, but it’s Full HD rather and Quad HD. It also has a bigger battery (4,000mAh vs. 3,500mAh), an in-display fingerprint sensor, and a headphone jack. And perhaps most importantly, it ditches the G8’s time-of-flight sensor-enabled gimmicks for a standard 32MP selfie cam.

lg v50 dual screen Michael Simon/IDG

The LG V50, shown here with its snap-on case, delivers a similar concept to the G8X.

The main camera brings a dual lens that pairs a 12MP main lens with a 16MP ultra wide one, and it brings a few new AI-powered ThinQ features, including AI Action Shot, that automatically boost the shutter speed when fast-moving subjects move into the frame, and ASMR mode, which adds sensitivity to the microphone in case you want to make one of those weird whispery videos with your phone.

Have two displays will travel

But all anyone will want to talk about is the G8X Dual Display. While LG previously sold a snap-on case for the V50 in Korea, the Dual Display for the G8X has been improved. This time around, it connects via USB rather than pogo pins, and adds a second 6.4-inch display with its own camera-less notch to match the look of the primary display. It’s basically like holding two G8X’s together and using them at once.

Functionality, of course, is a little better than that, but not much. Some of LG’s apps are optimized for the second screen, so you can open things on the opposite screen, but for the most part, you’re going to be using separate apps side by side with little to no communication between them. You can swap screens with a tap but there’s no dragging and dropping between them. You can set an app to launch when the second screen is open, but you can’t make work spaces that automatically put two apps side by side.

lg v50 two apps Michael Simon/IDG

You can work on one app and watch another with the Dual Display attached, just as seen here on LG’s V50.

But there are some cool potential uses. Some games allow you to use the secondary display as a D-Pad controller, while other apps allow you to type on one display in landscape mode while viewing your content on the other screen. But those use cases are few are far between. I suppose it’s possible that hundreds of developers will buy into LG’s dual-screen concept, but it seems unlikely, especially since actual folding screens are more likely to become a thing we use.

We don’t know how much the G8X is going to cost. LG priced the G8 at $850, and assuming the Dual Display costs at least $150, it could top a grand, which is going to be a tough sell against phones like the Galaxy S10+, Note 10+, and upcoming iPhone 11. And without robust sales, LG is going to have a very hard time convincing developers to retook their apps to support it.

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LG G8X ThinQ review: Finally, a second screen that’s actually kind of useful

On its own, the LG G8X is a wholly unremarkable phone. It won’t break speed tests or turn heads, or blow you away with nighttime shots. It doesn’t even have the time-of-flight gesture tricks that the G8 has. But none of those things should matter to anyone buying an LG G8X.

lg g8x back case Christopher Hebert/IDG

The back of the Dual Screen case has a big window for the camera.

That’s because the reason for the G8X’s existence isn’t really the phone itself. It’s an accessory, a case to be precise. LG calls it the Dual Screen, and it actually accomplishes what LG phones have been trying to do for years: add a second screen so you can be more productive. On the V10 it was an inset strip above the main display, on the V30 it was a floating bar, and on the G7 it was the area around the notch. On the G8X, it’s a literal second screen that attaches to the phone via USB-C and looks like you’re holding two G8X’s side by side.

However, while my first reaction to the LG G8X Dual Screen was heavy on the eye rolls, as I spent more time with it, I actually kind of grew to like it. It has its problems—weight and thickness chief among them—and it’s probably not kind of of phone you’ll want to use as your primary device. Under the right circumstances, however, it’s as useful as a multiple-monitor PC setup. And like the Galaxy Fold or the Microsoft Surface Duo, it makes me excited for the future.

Specs aren’t the story

In an age when every phone is trying to one-up its competitors with bigger screens, extra cameras, and mounds of memory, the LG G8X is a wallflower. Its excellent processor and very nice display merely keep up with the crowd of Android phones already shipping, even when compared to the G8 that launched in the spring. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S10 and OnePlus 7T have more RAM, bigger batteries, and better displays:

G8X ThinQ

  • Dimensions: 159.3 x 75.8 x 8.4mm
  • Display: 6.4-inch OLED FHD+ (2340 x 1080)
  • Processor: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Front camera: 32MP, f/1.9
  • Rear camera: 12MP, f/1.8, OIS + 13MP, f/2.4 ultra wide

G8 ThinQ

  • Dimensions: 151.9 x 71.8 x 8.4mm
  • Display: 6.1-inch OLED Quad HD (3120×1440)
  • Processor: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Rear camera: 16MP Wide, f/1.9 + 12MP, f/1.5
  • Front camera: 8MP, f/1.7
  • Battery: 3,500mAh

Even the design is kinda blah, with the usual notch, forehead, chin, and bezels, along with a glass-and-aluminum construction. Like the G8, the rear camera is fitted under the glass, which is silky-smooth to the touch. But its headphone jack and excellent audio continue to be among LG phones’ best qualities.

lg g8x notches Christopher Hebert/IDG

Yes, that’s a second notch on the Dual Screen. No. there’s no camera inside it.

There’s no fingerprint sensor on the rear or time-of-flight sensor for 3D face unlock, so LG has turned to an optical in-display fingerprint sensor for secure unlocking and authentication. It’s pretty finicky, and on average it took 3-4 tries before it unlocked. But even when it worked, the process feels slower than with other phones due to LG’s weird procedure: When you put your thumb over the sensor, the entire front screen turns black to help the sensor read your fingerprint. So instead of a smooth animation, you get a jarring screen flash which makes the whole process feel choppier than it should.

lg g8x photo compare2 Michael Simon/IDG

With night mode turned on, the G8X (left) kept the brightness to a minimum, while the G8 (center) overexposed the light. However, the Pixel 4 even captured the condensation on the bollard.

The G8X takes perfectly fine photos, but nothing that’s going to challenge the iPhones and Pixels of the world. The ultra-wide lens captures an impressive 136-degree field of view, but there’s some distortion at the edges. Night mode basically ups the exposure without any of the nuance you get with the Pixel 4 or the iPhone 11. While the app performance is a little stuttery—particularly when switching modes—the shutter is snappy, and the manual controls are excellent.

lg g8x photo compare1 Michael Simon/IDG

The LG G8X (left) captured the colors and the definition in this scene better than the G8 did (center), but the Pixel 4 (right) was the only one to handle the snow crystal and other fine details.

All said, your pictures will be very good, but not Pixel good. The ThinQ AI stuff that takes place behind the scenes does a relatively fine job with sussing out the scene and making the proper adjustments in auto mode, but as you can see in the comparison photos above, the Pixel 4 is far more advanced.

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