LG G5 Review

Maybe the future isn't here just yet

We’re not even halfway through 2016, but so far it’s shaping up to be an absolutely killer year for smartphones. The Galaxy S7 family has impressed just about everyone, but right on its tail, LG has their new LG G5. This device takes a new approach to LG’s flagship, but did they succeed? I’m sure by now you’ve read dozens of negative reviews on this device, as have I, but personally, I think people have been a bit harsh on it. Let’s dig in.

Specs

  • Qualcomm®Snapdragon™ 820 Processor
  • 5.3-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440 / 554ppi)
  • 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • 32GB Storage (microSD up to 2TB)
  • Rear: Standard 16MP, Wide 8MP / Front: 8MP
  • 2,800mAh (removable)
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Hardware & Build Quality

At the announcement of the device, LG made it clear that this was their first all metal smartphone, as we believed them. When the G5 started landed at reviewers doorsteps however, there were a lot of people complaining that it didn’t feel like metal and some even set out to prove that it was plastic, which in a sense it sort of is. Here’s the TL;DR, yes, the LG G5 is made out of metal, but there’s also plastic involved, especially on the back. Here you’ll find a thick plastic coating over the metal which metallic paint over it. This houses all of the antennas to give the phone the clean look that it has.

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But moving that issue aside, the LG G5 does feel good in the hand. The rounded metal fits in the hand nicely and provides a decent amount of grip. My one big complaint would probably be the edge around the sides which is a bit too sharp for my tastes.



The build quality also leaves room to improve, especially where the modules connect. Regardless of which one is attached, you’ll always have a small gap which is just enough to drive your OCD (whether you have it or not) off the charts.

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Modularity

LG’s biggest selling point on the LG G5 is the modular design. With a tap and a pull you can easily access the removable battery and a connector. From there you can easily swap the connector for a new module which provides extra functionality. The concept is ridiculously cool, but it fails to deliver.

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First of all, there’s technically only one module available, the CAM Plus. This module adds hardware camera controls to the device along with an embedded 1,200 mAh battery which can be used for giving your phone a little extra juice. In exchange for that however, you give up any cases your were hoping to use as well as the thin design of the phone. That said, I really enjoyed the CAM Plus. It adds a lot to the shooting experience on the G5, but more on that later.

Furthermore, other modules are region restricted. The B&O HiFi module that was supposed to release for the G5 is nowhere to be seen for US customers, a real shame for audiophiles. LG hasn’t even announced more modules, although they keep pushing the fact that they’re working on more.

Modularity is a great concept for a smartphone and LG had a really good idea for it, but the attempt feels extremely rushed. Between the lack of modules, the fact that any modules you do use will only be good until the next device comes along, and the fact that the phone has to be fully rebooted every time you swap, it just isn’t ready for primetime. The company really would’ve done better going with a standard design for the LG G5 and saving the modular design for later in the year on their next “V” series release.

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The Buttons

Alright, I’m going to rant here for a minute. LG, what were you thinking? Since 2013, you’ve been using rear-mounted buttons on your phones and it’s something I look forward to every single time. It just makes so much sense, but for some reason you changed that on the LG G5. But no, you couldn’t make up your mind could you? So you put the volume keys along the side, and left the power button on the back. What!? It just makes no sense. Make up your mind LG, be like everyone else or don’t, you can’t have it both ways.

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Fingerprint Sensor

Speaking of the buttons, let’s talk about that rear mounted fingerprint sensor. It works pretty darn well, it’s easy to setup, and overall it’s just a pleasure to use. There’s really not much to complain about.

Display

Up on front of the LG G5 you’ll find the 5.3” IPS display with a resolution of 2560×1440. Unlike the G4 and G3 before it, the G5 cuts the display size down from 5.5”. As a fan of larger phones, I wasn’t in favor of this change, but after using the phone for a couple of weeks I got used to the size and really enjoyed it. The display itself however is solid. You’ll get good colors and viewing angles, but the real Achilles heel on this display is the brightness. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. I had trouble using the phone outdoors even on the maximum brightness, but indoors I never had any issues at all.

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Software & Performance

As far as software goes, the LG G5 packs Android Marshmallow out of the box with LG’s UX 5.0 on top. Things look pretty decent in this latest iteration of LG’s UI, but I personally found that I had preferred their previous version just a tad more.

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the room though, yes, the LG G5 does not have an app drawer out of the box. That means you’ll have everything on your homescreen at all times, with only a grid and folders available for organization. Does it work? Yes. Will you live using it? Yes. Will you enjoy it? Probably not. Here’s the deal, an Android homescreen with no app drawer is totally fine, it just gets cluttered very easily and makes things harder to find. LG claims they made the change to make things simpler, but I disagree. Having an app drawer makes any phone much easier to use since you always know where to go to find the app you’re looking for, regardless of if it’s on your homescreen or not. At the end of the day however, you can always get the app drawer back by picking up a new launcher from the Google Play Store.

In terms of day-to-day performance, the LG G5 kills it. The combination of the Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM flies in most tasks, leaving no room for any lag. It was very rare that this device had any hang ups for me which was great to see. Games also fly by with little to no dropped frames on normal settings.

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Battery Life & Charging

The LG G5 packs a 2,800 mAh battery and overall it’s just OK. I wouldn’t call the battery life impressive, but I also wouldn’t call it disappointing. I get about 2-3 hours of screen on time on the G5 over the course of about 15 hours, which is acceptable. Heavier use will obviously result in shorter usage times, but really I can’t complain.

To recharge you’ll be using the new USB C port, an addition that made sense in a phone like this. Just like on other USB C devices, we’re still in the early days, so accessories are still being released and not as prevalent as microUSB. That said, the ecosystem has grown tremendously since the release of Google’s Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, the first major releases with USB C.

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You’ll also find Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 on this device, and here there’s a bit of controversy. Qualcomm says the standard can be modified to be fully compatible with USB C, but LG has not confirmed that they’ve done that. So we have no idea if the device is truly compatible with the standard or not. That said, charging speeds were ridiculously fast with the included charger.

Camera

On the back of the LG G5 you’ll find a dual-camera system. Based on past examples of this, I wouldn’t blame you from not getting excited about that, but thankfully, LG has absolutely nailed their implementation of dual-cameras.

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The primary camera is a 16MP sensor which is more or less the same sensor found in the LG G4. That’s not a bad thing, it means that this is still one of the best cameras available on the market today. Shots taken with this camera are absolutely stunning and the addition of manual controls is still welcome today, even though the automatic mode is still great. I wouldn’t say this camera is quite as good in low light as something like the Galaxy S7 or Nexus 6P, but it still does a fantastic job. Video is also solid, but I don’t like the fact that LG removed the manual controls that were found on the LG V10.

All of that said, there are tons of great smartphone cameras available today. To separate themselves from the pack a bit, LG has included a secondary camera with a wide-angle lens. The 8MP shooter takes solid images, but with a 135-degree field of view, you can capture more than you can on just about any other smartphone. It’s an awesome addition that I absolutely love, and it’s also the first dual-camera setup that has ever proved useful in my opinion.

LG G5 Sample Photos

The Little Things

Audio

  • The speaker on the LG G5 is downward facing which is most certainly better than what was on the LG G4, but it’s also a solid little speaker. Audio sounds good, volume gets respectably loud, and I really don’t have any big complaints.

Curved Glass

  • One thing to note about the G5’s design is the curved glass on the top of the device. At the very top it slides down and for whatever reason, I absolutely loved this. It looks a bit weird, but it feels so smooth when you’re pulling down the notification shade. Other than that though, I don’t think it serves any other purpose.

Final Thoughts

At the time of this review, the LG G5 has been out for a few weeks. So far there hasn’t been a single positive review, and sadly, I have to join the party. The LG G5 is a decent smartphone and has a lot of good attributes, but at the end of the day I simply cannot tell you that you should go buy this device. Competitors phones such as the Galaxy S7 and the newer HTC 10 both have many more highlights, and for the price, I can’t think of a real reason why the G5 would be better, except maybe for the removable battery. Even then, I don’t think it justifies all the downsides.

If you get the G5 on a deal, a really good deal, then by all means go for it. However if you’re using a payment plan or paying full retail, then I’d spring for something like the Galaxy S7 as I feel you’ll be far more satisfied overall with it.