The LG V20 was the first phone to launch with Android 7.0 Nougat (even before the Pixels), but the Huawei Mate 9 wasn't far behind. Both companies left their mark on Nougat, but did not go overboard - the interface feels like Android with just enough maker features to assert a brand identity.
Both phones support themes, which are the easiest way to customize the look of the UI. Huawei's EMUI 5.0 has a Magazine lockscreen, meaning the wallpapers are a constant slideshow. There's an iOS-style menu with shortcuts at the bottom of the screen.
The fingerprint readers are used to secure the lockscreen as well as content. The LG V20 can only lock away files in the Gallery and QuickMemo+ apps, but on the Mate 9 you can encrypt any file with Private space and set up App Twins (great for apps that lack multi-account support).
Both companies have decided to hide the app drawer by default but they give you an option - you are a couple of clicks away from a traditional homescreen. The notification areas have brightness sliders with an Auto toggle. LG has also put in Screen and File sharing buttons here, while Huawei has kept it clean.
Since Nougat, Android has native support to block annoying notifications and filter out the low-priority ones.
Multi-window is now a stock feature in Android and it helps both phones make the best of their large screens. LG maintains QSlide, a multitasking alternative that puts apps in small floating windows, but only a handful of LG apps support this.
The LG V20 leverages its secondary screen to give you one tap access to recent apps. In some LG apps, this screen shows additional controls - e.g. playback controls in the video player, shooting modes in the camera.
Huawei didn't add any multitasking provisions beyond Nougat's Quick switch feature - double tap the app switcher to do switch to the previously used app (think alt+tab).
Android has native support for preventing apps from using background data. This saves data obviously, but can also improve battery life - without connectivity, the app goes to sleep and has no reason to wake up. Still, Huawei offers some extra tools to control an app’s power usage. This may be outside a casual user’s wheelhouse, but power users will be all over that.
LG’s gallery has extensive support for cloud storage (the music player supports the same services too!). The other media players do too.
Huawei's gallery meanwhile is simpler and the music player lacks any attention-grabbing features (though we kind of liked the lyrics everywhere option - in the player, in the notification area even on the homescreen).
Like the music player, the sound recorder on the LG V20 is designed to make the most out of the hardware (and show it off, of course). You can record lossless sound (WAV or FLAC) and you get manual control over Gain, Low cut filter and a Limiter. Again, the three mics on the phone are good for up to 132dB - a proper rock concert - and those manual controls help you keep distortion in check.
Both phones have IR blasters on top and come with capable apps to control home equipment. We quite like the option to create an all-controlling franken-remote.
Winner: Huawei Mate 9 (by a hair). Many of the new features on both phones are actually Android 7.0 Nougat features, but Huawei has some extra add-ons that provide value without being obtrusive (like the App Twins feature). The faster fingerprint reader (which gets more use thanks to Private space) was another consideration.
However, outside of setting menus, the LG V20 app package feels richer - quality apps that will be hard to replace with what’s in the Play Store, so no bloat. That’s nice, but we felt it fell short of achieving a tie.
The Huawei Mate 9 has stereo speakers, but that requires some explaining. This only works in landscape mode as the earpiece kicks in as the second speaker (the main speaker is on the bottom). The earpiece is quieter, but it's enough to create some nice stereo separation. The sound is nice and clean, even at high volume. And we do mean HIGH - the Mate 9 scored a rare Excellent mark!
Just keep in mind that when you switch between landscape and portrait mode there's a gap in audio.
The LG V20 has a single bottom-firing loudspeaker, which earned it a Good mark. There's no distortion, but the volume is not even across frequencies - vocals are much more quiet than high-frequency sounds.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Ringing ||Overall score|
Winner: Huawei Mate 9. Huawei found a way to offer stereo sound even though the phone isn't specifically built for it - and it's LOUD! We hope other makers take note.
The LG music player supports lossless audio (both FLAC and ALAC) up to 24-bit 192kHz. You can toggle the quad-DACs on and off to hear the difference as well as play with the equalizer. There’s a preset for LG’s own QuadBeat headset, but not for the B&O one that came with the V20.
The LG V20 and Huawei Mate 9 were closely matched in terms of clarity. They were perfect with an active external amplifier, while headphones caused moderate damage to their stereo quality, but no issues elsewhere.
The V20 had a clear advantage in terms of loudness though and that spanned both test cases. While the Mate 9 was just above average, the LG flagship was excellent and among the louder we’ve seen. .
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|LG V20||+0.01, -0.03||-93.0||93.1||0.0036||0.0075||-93.7|
|LG V20 (headphones attached)||+0.04, -0.09||-92.4||92.4||0.051||0.105||-57.5|
Winner: LG V20 - the clarity is on par, but the higher loudness wins this round for LG.