Home / iPhone / LG V40 ThinQ vs. Galaxy Note 9 vs. iPhone XS Max – CNET

LG V40 ThinQ vs. Galaxy Note 9 vs. iPhone XS Max – CNET

With the LG V40 ThinQ, LG, too often shunned as a me-too phone-maker, steps up against Apple’s iPhone XS Max and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 with its supersize phone for 2018. 

In a mobile climate in which big, premium phones joust for your dollars, while being squeezed from below by cheaper-but-good phone-makers like OnePlus, LG has struggled to stand out. But with five (five!) camera lenses total, the V40 absolutely does. Arresting your eyeballs are three lenses on the back (Huawei’s P20 Pro made that craveable earlier this year) and two on the front. The V40 has a large, bright screen, a cutting-edge processor, waterproofing, wireless charging and stereo speakers. 

But Samsung and Apple cast a long shadow, and their marquee large-screen phones are also playing for keeps. While we’ve now reviewed the LG V40, Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone XS Max, we have more testing to do before we pit them against each other. For now, here’s how the specs line up. Scroll to the end for a full specs comparison chart.

Screen size and clarity

Does this surprise you? The iPhone XS Max has the largest screen of the three, with a 6.5-inch display. The V40 and Galaxy Note 9 come in at 6.4 inches apiece. But it’s the LG V40 that has the highest pixel density, edging the other two. We’ll scrutinize all three in a number of lighting conditions, but they’re all excellent for watching videos, reading stories and keeping up with social networks.

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3 rear cameras vs. 2

Our mega camera comparisons are still to come — they take gargantuan effort, but are worth waiting for. What we can tell you is that the LG V40 is muscle-bound with camera options and tools. For example, you can take a photo from each rear camera at the same time to either use individually or to stitch together.

There are AI camera settings, like on the Note 9 and Huawei P20 Pro, that change your settings when it senses one of 18 scenes (e.g. pets, blue sky). Like the iPhone XS Max, you can take dramatic photos with digital lighting effects.

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Count them: 1, 2, 3 rear cameras.


Josh Miller/CNET

Most importantly, the LG V40 takes excellent photos. While each phone has its strengths, there’s no doubt that the V40 earns its place in the upper echelons of camera photography. 

However, there’s still some question if all these lenses are really necessary for producing terrific shots or mostly window dressing to impress buyers and set LG and others apart. We’re holding out to see what Google’s upcoming Pixel 3 can do with (likely) one lens on the back, compared to LG’s trio. 

LG V40 is comparatively slim on storage space

Even just a few years ago, a 64-gigabyte repository of storage was pretty standard. Now, times have changed. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 offers you 128GB to start with, or you can pay more for 512GB. That doesn’t even include the 512GB of external storage you can add with a microSD card.

Apple, meanwhile, gives the iPhone XS Max three storage options: 64GB, 256GB and 512GB, with no expandable storage. So although LG’s V40 ThinQ does let you expand up to 2 terabytes (in theory; 512GB cards top out the market right now), the total falls behind Samsung’s largest capacity. The V40 does have more total capacity than the iPhone XS Max, when you include microSD storage.

Total storage capacity: LG V40 vs. Note 9, iPhone XS Max

LG V40 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max
Highest on-board storage capacity 64GB 512GB 512GB
Expandable storage capacity 512GB 512GB N/A
Total possible storage 576GB 1TB 512GB

Read also: iPhone XS vs. Galaxy Note 9: What a $1,000 phone buys you

Battery life

Comparing battery run-time on a single charge is tricky because there are so many factors at play. Battery life isn’t determined by just the size of the battery (the capacity, measured in milliamp hours, or mAh). There’s also an interplay between the processor, how efficient the phone’s base level software is in managing resources, and, of course, what you’re doing with the phone. 

The LG V40’s battery has a smaller capacity than the Note 9, and so far battery life looks like it’s shorter. However, in real-world usage, LG’s flagship phone is more than capable of taking you through your normal day.

Battery life testing

LG V40 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max
Battery capacity 3,300 mAh 4,000 mAh N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min. longer than iPhone X
Battery drain result 14 hours, 24 minutes (tests ongoing) 19 hours, 20 minutes Tests ongoing
Real-world testing Easily lasts from 6 a.m. to late night with moderate use Easily lasts from 6 a.m. to late night with moderate use About an hour more than the iPhone XS, but you’ll want to charge it after half a day of heavy use

Apple won’t supply specific battery capacity, and instead provides vague, relative descriptions. For example, the iPhone XS Max is said to last 90 minutes longer on a single charge than the iPhone X. Our iPhone XS and XS Max battery tests are still ongoing, so we’ll have more data in the near future. Here’s CNET’s video drain test protocol, which we weigh in addition to real-world observation.

Extra features

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The LG V40 takes dramatic portrait selfies through those two cameras up front.


Josh Miller/CNET

All three phones have wireless charging and waterproofing, so the main differences come down to camera performance and their individual claims to fame.

The Galaxy Note 9 has its S Pen stylus (which now also works as a remote), the V40 its five cameras and the iPhone XS Max its FaceID, Memoji animations and portrait lighting mode. The value of these extras comes down to personal preference. 

For example, if you’re enchanted by photography, the iPhone’s portrait lighting or V40’s camera software might attract you more. If you’re a power user who likes the tactile use of a stylus, then the Galaxy Note 9 has no rival.

Extra phone features

LG V40 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max
Water-resistant X X X
Wireless charging X X X
Stereo speakers X X X
Secure face unlock No (Android’s face unlock isn’t secure enough for mobile payments) X (Iris scanning) X (Face ID)
Total number of cameras 5 3 3
Portrait mode X X X
Portrait lighting No No X
AI camera mode X X No
Stylus No X No
3D emoji feature X (Animated emoji) X (AR Emoji) X (Animoji, Memoji)

Price and value

The LG V40 ThinQ is the least expensive big phone of the bunch in absolute terms, but depending on which carrier you buy it with, the savings may not amount to much. In the US, it sells from $900 to $980 (it’s yet to be announced for the UK or Australia). For a little more, you could get a phone with a stylus or longer battery life (the Galaxy Note 9), or access to Apple’s customer service at its retail stores (iPhone XS Max).

There’s also the question of storage. For the maximum capacity, the Galaxy Note 9 gives you the best deal of the three, though if you’re trying to get to 512GB, you’ll save money buying an LG V40 and making up the difference with a microSD card.

For the best deal, keep an eye on seasonal promotions. That may very well shift the balance for you one way or another when buying any phone.

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The best phone deals hinge on seasonal promotions.


Sarah Tew/CNET

But what about the Pixel 3 XL?

Cool it, itchy fingers. Before you plonk down your money, wait to see what the Pixel 3 and 3XL will bring. 

Google’s Oct. 9 event in New York is just days away and the Pixel line has a strong reputation for excellent photography (out of two total cameras), smoothness and cheaper-than-Apple price. 

So tuck this information away, and bring it back out again after the Pixel 3XL lands, likely in mid-October.

LG V40 ThinQ vs Galaxy Note 9 vs iPhone XS Max

LG V40 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max
Display size, resolution 6.4-inch OLED; 3,120×1,440 pixels 6.4-inch Super AMOLED; 2,960×1,440 pixels 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688×1,242 pixels
Pixel density 537ppi 516ppi 458 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6.25×2.97x 0.3 in. 6.37×3.01×0.35 in. 6.2×3.0x.3 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 158.8×75.4×7.6 mm 161.9×76.4×8.8 mm 157.5×77.4×7.7 mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 6 oz.; 169g 7.1 oz.; 201g 7.3 oz.; 208g
Mobile software Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo iOS 12
Camera 12-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (wide) and 12-megapixel (telephoto) Dual 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto) Dual 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel (standard), 5-megapixel (wide) 8-megapixel 7-megapixel with Face ID
Video capture 4K 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Samsung Exynos 9810 Apple A12 Bionic
Storage 64GB 128GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
RAM 6GB 6GB, 8GB N/A
Expandable storage Up to 2TB 512GB None
Battery 3,300 mAh 4,000 mAh N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min. longer than iPhone X
Fingerprint sensor Back Back None (Face ID)
Connector USB-C USB-C Lightning
Headphone jack Yes Yes No
Special features Water resistant (IP68), wireless charging, DTS:X 3D Surround, Quad DAC, AI-enhanced camera, Cine Shot Water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; S-Pen with Bluetooth connectivity; Iris and facial scanning Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and eSIM); wireless charging; Face ID, Animoji
Price off-contract (USD) $900-$980 (varies by carrier) $1,000 (128GB), $1,250 (512GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)
Price (GBP) TBA £899 (128GB), £1,099 (512GB) £1,099 (64GB), £1,249 (256GB), £1,449 (512GB)
Price (AUD) TBA AU$1499 (128GB), AU$1,799 (512GB) AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB)

Originally published Oct. 3.
Update, Oct. 4: Added more details.

Read now: LG V40’s 5 cameras give you tons of photography options

Read alsoSprint says its 5G phone with LG will look ‘distinct’ from other devices


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