The LG G8X ThinQ is the South Korean brand’s latest high-end smartphone and was launched at IFA in September. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 top-of-the-line chipset and features a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with FullHD+ resolution, 6GB RAM and an under-display fingerprint reader.
On the camera side of things the new model relies on similar hardware as previous LG devices but has to make do without the dedicated tele lens that could be found on the G8 ThinQ. The X-model’s dual-camera setup combines a primary camera using a 12MP 1/2.55″ sensor and F1.8 27mm equivalent lens with an ultra-wide camera that offers a 13MP resolution, F2.4 aperture and 16mm equivalent field of view. The primary camera also features OIS and PDAF.
The device’s standout feature is an attachable dual-screen case, though. It allows you to double the overall screen size and resolution, similar to other recent dual-screen devices, such as the Huawei Mate X or Samsung Galaxy Fold.
We’ve had the chance to use the LG G8X ThinQ with Dual-Screen accessory for a few weeks now. Read on to find out what the Dual Screen has to offer for mobile photographers.
The Dual Screen accessory
The G8X ThinQ’s dual-screen solution is different from other dual-screen devices in that the secondary screen can be removed when not needed. This means you have a very visible border between the two displays, but you can also leave the secondary display at home when not needed – which is a good thing as it adds quite a bit of bulk and weight.
The secondary display is embedded into a case that the G8X can be inserted in, and connects to via its USB-C port. This means you need an accessory dongle for connecting a USB-cable when the Dual Screen is attached. This is not a major issue but, like any small accessory item, the dongle is quite easily lost if you’re not careful. The G8X is capable of wireless charging as well, though.
There’s no need to open the case to check the time or to see if you have any new notifications
The Dual Screen case does not have its own battery and instead draws power from the phone’s. LG claims the Dual Screen increases power consumption, depending on use, by between 20 and 30 percent, which is line with our experience.
The secondary display itself is the same P-OLED type, size and resolution as the primary one and we also found the color rendering to be identical. The hinges of the case allow for 360-degree movement, and at the front there’s a 2.1″ monochrome OLED cover display that shows app notifications as well as time and date. This means there’s no need to open the case to check the time or to see if you have any new notifications.
The rear portion of the case comes with a cutout, allowing you to use the phone’s camera while it’s in the case.
Once the Dual Screen is connected a control button appears on the right edge of the main display. A tap opens up the controls which let you swap the content of the two screens or turn the secondary display off.
The Dual Screen has its own app drawer and you can place app shortcuts and widgets on it in exactly the same way as the main display. In the Dual Screen settings you can adjust brightness of the secondary display (or set it to be the same as the main screen), turn off the cover display and Dual Screen control button, and set an app to open when the Dual Screen is turned on among other options.
Multi-tasking is the Dual Screen’s main purpose. For example, you can watch a video on one display while writing and sending a message on the other, or use Google Maps for navigation at a holiday destination while browsing a travel app.
Mirror Mode in the Camera app
App support for the Dual Screen is currently still quite limited but fortunately the LG Camera is one of the few apps that makes use of the secondary screen. With the Dual Screen attached you can turn on Mirror Mode. As the name suggests, it mirrors the camera’s preview image on the secondary display.
Combined with the ability to angle the latter any way you like, this feature can be really handy when shooting overhead or at low height, just like a tilting display on a regular camera. You can also use the secondary screen like a waist-level viewfinder which is particularly helpful for holding the device in a stable fashion when recording video.
It’s worth noting though that the mirrored display only comes with a shutter/video button. For all other controls you’ll still have to go back to the main screen. You can however swap the display content using the Dual Screen controls.
Wide-view expands an app across both screens, offering an overall display size of 12.8 inches. This can be great for reading websites, viewing images and watching video but in many cases, especially when consuming multi-media content, the 15mm combined bezel between the two screens somewhat limits the experience.
The fact that the feature currently only works with websites viewed in the Chrome browser is another downside. Still, Wide Mode can be useful for viewing websites in desktop mode or on those occasions when additional real estate increases usability, for example when viewing and navigating a map.
In Extended View mode an app is divided into two screens. Unfortunately this feature is currently only supported by two apps – the LG Gallery and the Naver Whale browser – but LG says it is expecting support to be expanded to additional apps in the future.
In the Gallery app you can tap on the Dual Screen button to expand the view. This allows you to browse thumbnails on one screen and open the full image on the other. You can zoom into the full image as well as share or delete it in this viewing mode. However, if you want to add a memo or edit, you’ll have to go back to the main screen, so the Dual Screen’s added value is somewhat limited in this instance.
LG’s Naver Whale is a web browser and allows you to view websites in Wide Mode, just like Chrome. However, it also lets you open links on the secondary screen by double-tapping them. This can be useful when browsing shopping websites for example, when you don’t have to jump back and forth between your list of search results and product pages. You simply keep the list open on one screen and open product pages on the other.
In a similar manner, when browsing Instagram or equivalent sites you can keep a user’s profile page open on the main screen and open individual posts on the secondary display. All this has to happen in the browser, though.
Virtual Game Pad and Keyboard
This Dual Screen use case is arguably the one that LG has implemented best so far. The Dual Screen can be used to display a virtual gaming pad. Android recognizes the app as connected bluetooth hardware which makes it compatible with any game that supports this kind of hardware. The pad is also customizable.
We’re no gamers but after a few trial runs on Asphalt 9 it’s fair to say the pad works quite well. A hardware pad is arguably a better option, but this virtual implementation isn’t far off.
The LG keyboard offers a very similar function. You can display a soft-keyboard on the main screen while having the app you are writing in, for example Gmail or Instagram, open on the secondary screen. The keys are larger than they’d be on a usual split-screen style keyboard and allow for more comfortable typing. We would not recommend it for writing your next novel but shorter pieces of text are absolutely manageable in this setup.
LG is a smartphone manufacturer who does not shy away from risky development decisions. Some years ago the company introduced a modular system with its G5 model which was very innovative but ultimately proved commercially unsuccessful. It was also among the first to introduce ultra-wide angle cameras to smartphone photography which today are pretty much ubiquitous.
The Dual Screen follows in this tradition but at the current stage it’s still too soon to say if it will go the way of the G5 modules or become a success like the ultra-wide camera. It’s fair to say that for the latter to happen more apps will probably need to support the secondary screen.
The most useful feature for photographers is Mirror Mode in the camera app which helps when shooting at awkward angles
Right now it provides the most obvious benefits to those users who like to multi-task, letting you work in two apps at the same time. The ability to consume content across two screens or separate app controls from the main screen are great but unfortunately only work with a very limited number of apps. Currently, the most useful feature for photographers is Mirror Mode in the camera app which helps when shooting at awkward angles.
For everybody else, and especially those who write a lot on their smartphones, the virtual keyboard on its own might be an argument to purchase a G8X ThinQ with Dual Screen. If that doesn’t quite convince you yet it’s probably a good idea to wait and see if the Dual Screen will get more support from app developers.