LG X Screen review (hands-on): The dual-screen phone that won’t cost as much as you’d think

Samsung had the best press conference, but LG had the best product. The LG G5 literally wowed the crowds at MWC and redefined what you can expect from a high-end smartphone. Its launch put its other new smartphones (announced during the week preceding MWC) with the X Cam and X Screen phones lying almost forgotten in the corner of LG’s brightly-coloured booth.

LG X Screen review (hands-on): The dual-screen phone that won't cost as much as you'd think
They’re worth paying attention to, though, in particular, the LG X Screen. It’s a very interesting phone, not least because it has two screens. I’ll run through the specifications quickly before delving into the headline feature because it’s worth explaining it in detail.
LG X Screen rear

LG X Screen review: Specifications

The LG X Screen has a 4.93in, 720 x 1,280 pixel screen backed up by a secondary 1.76in 520 x 80 panel immediately above it. It’s powered by an as-yet unnamed 1.2GHz quad-core processor and comes with 16GB of storage (expandable via microSD card) and 2GB of RAM. It runs on Android 6 Marshmallow and also comes equipped with a 2,300mAh battery. It’s all very mid-range, and it feels it, too.

The phone is extremely light for its size (no official weight figures are available), which adds to a feeling of cheapness. It’s thin at 7.1mm. Its plastic body isn’t the most attractive chassis I’ve seen, but LG continuously stresses this is a phone for buyers on a budget. The performance felt a little bit sluggish when I tried it out, with app switching taking a couple of seconds and firing up the camera taking longer than I’d like.

LG X Screen review: Twin peeks

The LG G5’s standout features are, however, those two screens. The main screen is perfectly acceptable, with reasonable colours and a reasonably bright backlight. Its low resolution is more noticeable because of its large size, but it’s adequate. The second screen doesn’t fill the full width of the phone, cutting off where the front-facing camera is. This means there’s not a lot of space for anything to go on it.

LG X Screen hero

The second screen is predominantly used for app shortcuts and is persistent even when you’re browsing or gaming full screen, which makes switching to other apps very easy. Any app can be dragged from the home screen into this area and dragged off again if you want to remove it.

There’s only room for four app shortcuts, but swipe across it and you’ll be able to access a selection of other shortcut screens. One panel is dedicated to settings shortcuts such as sound, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the LED flash, but it’s all rather inconsistently designed, with LG’s symbols for apps and shortcuts looking a little unrefined and cartoonish. There’s also a shortcut for screen clipping, which immediately takes a screenshot of whatever you’re looking at, and allows you to doodle on top of it. Quite how useful this will be in practice remains to be seen.

The second screen can also be set to stay on with the phone in standby. This sounds great in theory, but in reality its appeal is limited. Because the screen is LED backlit and the phone needs to conserve as much power as possible, the second screen is set to minimum brightness in this mode, and in anything brighter than mild indoor lighting, it’s almost impossible to read. I had to shield it with my hand to get a proper look under the bright lights of LG’s booth.

It’s still useful, though. If you keep your phone on your desk at work, you’ll be able to see when you have a notification without having to reach for it. You could also use it as a bedside clock. What I’m really interested in, though, is how much the second screen affects battery life. I suspect it will have a small impact, but if you charge your phone once a day you probably won’t notice.

The LG X Screen is a very interesting concept and it could find a big following if the price is right. I wouldn’t call it a deal-clincher, though: if performance, battery life and the camera aren’t up to scratch, no amount of clever engineering will save its bacon.

Also read: LG G5 review (hands-on) – the best smartphone of MWC 2016

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