The LG Velvet can be a surprising smartphone, primarily for how it looks, yet it also retains a little too much familiarity in how it works.

The Velvet isn’t a flagship device, though doesn’t come super cheap, either. What makes it stand out is the fact it looks so different from what the company has come out with recently. Its beauty easily surpasses LG’s previous efforts the last few years, but its appeal is supposed to be more than skin deep.

As a mid-range handset, there’s real appeal in going this route over an expensive flagship. But there’s also an enduring sense of what this phone could be with some tweaks. If you’re willing to put the work in, you could make this device more personalized.


LG Velvet Specs

Display: 6.8-inch 2460 x 1080 P-OLED display 20:5:9 aspect ratio with 395 pixels per inch
OS: Android 10
Processor: 2.4GHz + 2.2GHz Snapdragon 765G 64-bit octa-core processor
Memory: 6GB RAM, 128GB (microSD card slot expandable up to 2TB)
Camera: 48-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel ultrawide, 5-megapixel depth, 16-megapixel front-facing
Video: 4K video recording
Battery: 4300mAh
Connections: 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, A-GPS, NFC, USB-C, Fingerprint sensor
Dimensions: 6.58 x 2.92 x 0.31 inches
Weight: 180 grams
Comes in aurora grey and illusion sunset


A design suitable for Velvet

When I showed the Velvet to people, they were impressed by how it looked. And they were equally surprised that LG made it. After not really wowing anyone from a design standpoint for the last few years, this phone is something of a statement for the company.

The “Illusion Sunset” back is so eye-catching, it’s visible from half a room away under decent lighting. It’s not just a magnet for light, generally, it also reflects it. Naturally, a glossy back will do that anyway, but tilting this phone any which way also changes the dominant colour. It’s slick, and a welcome change from LG.

It’s met on the other side by an equally vibrant 6.8-inch P-OLED display that is among the best I’ve seen on an LG handset. I’m not crazy about it being curved, as I would’ve preferred flat, but I can’t deny its beauty. I also would’ve liked a faster refresh rate than 60Hz, too. Unfortunately, you won’t get 90 or 120Hz here to increase how fluid it is to navigate the interface. The front-facing camera sits at the top as part of a reasonably small notch. Other design elements follow LG’s previous models. The power button on the right, volume and voice assistant button on the left, USB-C and headphone jack at the bottom.

Despite its mid-range focus, the Velvet does have decent components inside, like 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. You can expand that further to 2TB through the microSD card slot, if you like. The Snapdragon processor is pretty efficient, and it pays dividends on battery life, rounding out a pretty good device on paper.

Software familiarity

I’ve long pleaded with LG to change the software on its phones. It’s neither attractive nor intuitive enough for my liking. If you feel the same way, you may already be turning away from this device, but you have some recourse. You could always use another launcher, like Nova Launcher or Evie, to spruce things up. You could also use a different onscreen keyboard.

That’s not to say it’s all bad, as LG did make some adjustments to improve the look and feel. I found the notification system was a bit better this time, and the Settings menu a little more streamlined. Mind you, these are also mostly carryovers from the company’s most recent devices, like the V60 and G8X.

In the same vein, the Velvet also works with a Dual Screen attachment, except it doesn’t come with the phone. LG chose to bundle them in other markets, but not in Canada. With the attachment, you get a second 6.8-inch display to utilize. The screens even support stylus input, though I’ve not seen a specific pen for that from LG.

All that being said, I did feel this was LG’s chance to reimagine its software. I mean, you’ve already taken a new approach on the outside, so why not do the same inside? It feels too familiar and stunted, as it is, especially when compared to what others have. Something closer to stock Android, like in the Pixel phones, would be nice.

The fingerprint sensor could’ve also used an extra kick for consistency. I often had to do it twice or more on the Velvet to get past the lockscreen. When other phones do it better, it’s one of those usability facets you quickly notice.

Velvet performance and expectations

You might think performance suffers because of the mid-range chipset, but I actually found the Velvet to be really consistent. The Snapdragon 765 is likely to grow in popularity as a CPU of choice, simply because of its efficiency. The phone can feel fast, which is great for the everyday things you probably do on your phone.

I had no real problem streaming music, watching video, surfing the web or playing casual games. The Velvet held up well with all those tasks, even if I was multitasking between them. There will be specific points where things slow down just enough to notice. Take photos with HDR on, or through Manual mode, and you’ll see it. Same with launching certain apps, or looking at the most recent apps you’ve opened. I also noticed it when processing images in Adobe Lightroom.

None of it was all that surprising. For me, a mid-range phone that stays consistent and performs above expectations—even a little bit—is noteworthy. The Velvet is very much in that camp.

One area it truly excels in is audio performance. LG is one of the best at this for smartphones, and while this phone is missing its excellent Quad DAC, there’s plenty to like.

Go to Settings>Sound>Sound quality and effects and toggle on 3D Sound Engine for a more spatial sound when watching movies and TV shows, or listening to music. Bluetooth audio also sounds great, thanks to great codec support. For media playback, the Velvet is one of the best phones you can get for the price.

Camera

I was skeptical about how the Velvet would function as a mobile camera, and I was right to be. Five years ago, LG was one of my favourites for mobile photos, but the magic at that time isn’t quite there now. Yes, this is a mid-range phone, and it’s important to measure expectations, which is why this camera needs some pointers.

Overall, image quality is fine, albeit in line with conditions around you. Shoot outside in daylight and you won’t find much to fault in the resulting shot. Colours and contrast are nice, producing lively images. Tweak the exposure slider slightly and you may end up with really good composition.

Low-light and night shots, however, are a mixed bag. Night view mode does its best, and assuming you have at least some light to work with, you may get something decent. For longer exposures, I always recommend Manual mode, except you can’t adjust the ISO, so you’re a little handcuffed in how much you can control light sensitivity.

Video is very much the same, though you can zoom in and focus audio recording to capture a person’s voice, even if there’s background noise.

Battery

If you’re using the Velvet on its own (without the Dual Screen), you should have no problem getting through a full day. The 4300mAh battery is a bit small for a phone this size, but the processor’s efficiency does help hold things steady. It is relative, though, because multitasking does take its toll.

The phone does support wireless charging, so you’ve got that convenience at your disposal. The included 18W charger and cable will get you up and running fairly quickly, but if you’re looking to completely fill up, it does take longer. I saw about a two-hour period, where a good 45 minutes was to just get from 80-100 percent.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to find a mid-range phone as stylish as the Velvet. It stands out for the right reasons visually, which is nice, so it comes down to the performance. It won’t shoot photos as well as the Google Pixel 4a, nor last as long per charge as the Samsung Galaxy A71, but it is good value for what you pay.

The LG Velvet is available now at bestbuy.ca in aurora grey and illusion sunset.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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