With so many smartphones being launched every other day, we have often lamented the fact that they lack in innovation. This is true especially in the flagship segment, where it’s a given that devices will rock top-of-the-line specs. There’s little to differentiate between mobile devices nowadays, except for their pricing or value-for-money factor. Amidst this rather sad state of the mobile industry, the LG G5 comes across as a breath of fresh air and it has caught our attention ever since we laid our eyes on it at this year’s MWC. As noted in our first impressions, the G5 is loaded to the brim with innovative features, and spec nerds needn’t worry, as it matches up to other high-end handsets with its innards.
But is it the best smartphone your money can buy? With its arch-rivals, the Samsung Galaxy S7 duo already getting rave reviews from critics and consumers alike, the G5 is in for an uphill battle. So what exactly does it brings to the arena? Let’s find out in our review.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1440 x 2560 pixels|
|CPU||Quad core, 2.1 GHz + Quad core, 1.5 GHz, Snapdragon 820|
|Internal memory||32 GB|
|External memory||Up to 2 TB|
|Capacity||2800 mAH, Li-ion|
|Talktime||Up to 19 Hours (2G)|
|Standby Time||Up to 240 Hours (2G)|
|Primary camera||16 MP|
|Secondary camera||8 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
Design: greater than the sum of its parts
Dimensions: 149.4 x 73.9 x 8.6 mm
Weight: 159 grams
While most phone makers follow a uniform design language for their devices, LG has been constantly changing (read improving) the aesthetics of its flagship ‘G’ series. The Korean giant had been holding back until now to go the all-metal way for its flagships. But that changes with the G5, as the smartphone is crafted entirely from metal.
Looking at the fascia, the LG G5 has minimal design attributes with the screen taking the centre-stage. Like its predecessors, the G5 offers rounded corners and sports a narrow bezel around its display panel with an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 70 percent. What makes the mobile distinctive is its curved top panel above the display, which is home to the secondary snapper, an earpiece and a couple of sensors. Below the panel, you’ll find the LG logo and there are no hardware buttons for navigation. They are available virtually as part of the software interface.
Another major change in the G5, in comparison to its previous avatars is the fact that the volume rocker isn’t available at the back. While LG pioneered the power toggle flanked by the volume buttons at the rear of the G2, its latest flagship sports the keys to increase or decrease the volume towards the left edge. Further below, the left side has a button, whose purpose we’ll get down to it in a while. The right spine hides an ejectable tray, which can accept two nano-SIMs or a nano-SIM and a microSD card.
Up top lies the 3.5mm audio socket along with a noise-cancellation mic and an IR blaster, while at the base, there’s USB-Type C port, speakers, and the primary microphone.
At the back of the LG G5, what will catch your attention is a strip in the middle which has not one but two camera sensors, along with the LED flash and Laser autofocus module in the middle. The strip juts out slightly and thus makes the phone a bit wobbly when it’s placed on a flat surface. Below it, you’ll find the power switch. Unlike the G3 (review) and G4 (first impressions), the button is now in a circular shape and it also serves another purpose – fingerprint authentication. Sadly, the button is very feeble and seems that it might break anytime. Towards the bottom, there’s G5’s branding.
Our review unit was in a silver hue, which also adds to G5’s premiumness. You can also purchase the device in gold or grey options. However, it’s one thing that the phone looks premium and the other, if it feels the same – and that’s where LG’s offering fails to impress us.
It sports a metal body, but that doesn’t offer a great in-hand feel, as the quality of the metal feels sub-par. In fact, we would go as far as to say that it’s predecessor, the G4 seemed much better with its leather back and metallic frame.
The LG G5 maintains a sleek profile, thanks to its waist measuring 7.7mm. It’s not as lightweight as most devices out there and tips the scale at 159g. But you’d be able to use it single-handedly since LG has shrunk down the display. Unlike the phablet-sized G4, which had a 5.5-inch display, the G5 features a more manageable 5.3-inch screen.
While Google’s Project Ara has been raising our hopes of a future where upgrading a phone would be as simple as swapping the required modules, LG has become the world’s first smartphone vendor to offer a modular design. Although we should mention, it’s not entirely modular, since only the base is removable, which only allows you to extend some capabilities of the LG G5. Removing the base is very easy though, as all you need to do is to press a button which is placed on the right edge, and the portion pops out.
This design also has an additional advantage – along with the base, you can remove the battery too. This is the only smartphone that offers such capability even though it’s built out of metal and we’re sure that this will please power users.
Now you may ask what would you be able to do by removing the base? Well, LG has an entire ecosystem of accessories for the same, which are aptly dubbed ‘Friends’. If you are a shutterbug, you can opt for the Cam Plus, which turns the G5 into a proper camera, offering better grip and dedicated controls for shooting pictures or videos, and zooming in on the subject. It also comes with a 1,200mAh battery, and thus adds to the available battery of the handset. Audio purists would love the Hi-Fi Play, which is a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and is built in partnership with renowned audio company B&O (Bang and Olufsen). It offers 32-bit audio playback along with and an additional 3.5mm socket. There are some other devices LG has launched for the G5, like the 360 camera and earphones, but they aren’t actually modular.
A niggle we have with LG’s modular implementation is that the G5 switches off every time you remove the base, since the battery also gets detached. We believe the brand could have offered something like a reserve battery, which would have made the addition of modules hot-swappable and an instantaneous process.
LG gets full marks for its ingenious design language of the G5, which also offers semi-modularity. However, it lacks a certain class that we see on other smartphones in the top-tier segment.
Display: 2K is twice as good
Size: 5.3 Inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 554 ppi
With the G3, the Korean company was among the first few manufacturers to jump on the 2k bandwagon. The LG G5 also keeps things the same with a rich 2k resolution, although the sharpness is slightly better thanks to the smaller display of 5.3-inches, which results in a pixel density of 554ppi. The IPS panel also offers good colour saturation and wide viewing angles. The brightness levels are also decent, although we did find it to be a tad low for our liking, especially in outdoor conditions. It was slightly difficult to make out the text under harsh sunlight.
LG debuted the always-on display with the V10 (first impressions), which flaunted a secondary display. With the G5 however, the brand has managed to incorporate the feature on the main display itself. As the name suggests, the display is always awake to tell you the time as well as missed notifications. LG’s implementation is certainly better than the always-on display on the Samsung Galaxy S7 duo, because you are also able to see missed notifications directly on app icons (limited to four apps).
Protecting the display against scratches and minor knocks is a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 4.
Software: Marshmallow candy, coated with a Chinese flavour
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 6.0, Marshmallow
Unlike most Android skins, LG’s UI is known to only add a coat of visual changes in terms of icons along with some useful additions on top of Android. With the G5 however, the company is following in the footsteps of Chinese companies with its skin simply dubbed LG UX 5.0. While earlier, LG’s devices offered a dedicated app drawer, now the homescreen doubles up as an app launcher too. Of course, the LG G5 ships with the latest iteration of Android, i.e. 6.0 Marshmallow.
Talking about the basics, you won’t find anything surprising as such. The lock screen lets you access the voice command, phone app or the camera directly, while the notification drawer has the quick toggles on top, with notifications below.
While we are on the fence about LG’s decision to not offer the app menu, there’s a workaround option by switching to EasyHome, although it results in bigger text. You can also install the LG Home & App drawer app from LG SmartWorld to get the usual interface. The SmartWorld app also lets you download themes and wallpapers for the handset.
The UI also offers a dedicated homescreen towards the left, monikered as Smart Bulletin. It provides an at-a-glance view of your step count, calendar schedule, music playback controls, etc.
The brand must be applauded for keeping the preinstalled apps to a minimum on the device. There’s Facebook, Evernote, and Instagram along with some useful titles from LG. Management acts as a one-stop app for options to enhance battery life, optimise the phone with Smart Doctor, and check the status of memory or RAM among other things. LG QuickRemote lets you control home appliances with the available IR blaster, whereas LG Health tracks your steps actively along with activities such as running or cycling. If you’ve purchased accessories for the G5, you can control them via the LG Friends Manager app. We also liked the option to re-install apps you’ve uninstalled, since the phone keeps them in memory for up to 24 hours.
LG was the first brand to offer double-tap-to-unlock functionality, which has now become a must-have for most smartphones. But what’s interesting is that it has also managed to offer the double-tap-to-lock feature, which is really handy, since it’s not always ideal to reach for the power toggle at the rear of the G5. In the locked state, the phone also lets you make use of the volume keys. Pressing the volume up key twice opens the Capture+ app to quickly jot down notes, while you can access the camera app by double-pressing the volume down button.
The UI also offers Smart settings, which lets you define the sound profile, and the state of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi depending where you are. Whenever you are at home for instance, you can set the sound profile to loud, connect to the Wi-Fi network automatically, etc. Similarly, whenever you plug in your earphones, the LG G5 can open an app chosen by you, instantly.
While talking about the interface, we must highlight LG’s default keyboard app. More often than not, we always replace the Google keyboard app with SwiftKey irrespective of the phone we’re reviewing, but with the G5, we didn’t feel the need to do that since the available keyboard is really accurate and supports swipe-to-type as well. The keyboard also intelligently suggests emojis for the text you’ve typed. You can also tweak the layout of navigation buttons and choose between a white or black background.
The fingerprint module on the LG G5 can store up to five fingerprints, and it’s quite fast, but not as quick as some other devices we’ve come across recently. Thanks to its 360-degree authentication, the scanner is accurate and you can unlock the phone by keeping your fingers on the button or by pressing it. You can also use the fingerprint-based security to lock content in the gallery and QuickMemo+ app.
Overall, the LG UX has some nifty features but feels a little inconsistent, and reminds us of yesteryear’s TouchWiz UI from Samsung.
Camera: widening your horizons
Primary camera: 16 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 8 MP
Without a doubt, Samsung smartphones reign when it comes to photography in the Android arena. However, one brand that manages to keep up with the Chaebol is its counterpart LG. The previous flagships from LG have impressed us, and the G5 takes it up a notch. What’s more interesting is that LG isn’t following the herd since most high-end offerings nowadays are reducing the megapixels in a bid to offer better image quality. Instead, the LG G5 offers not one, but two cameras at the back – one with 16-megapixels resolution with a wide aperture of f/1.8 and the secondary shooter rated at 8MP. But unlike many other implementations of dual sensors, the G5 gives you the ability to get the wide-angle view of 135 degrees with a single click. The phone also brings forth useful features such as laser autofocus, LED flash and optical image stabilisation.
The camera interface on the LG G5 would please novices and shutterbugs alike. It’s filled to the brim with a wide range of options. Kept in the landscape orientation, you can switch between clicking photos or videos, preview images or return to the homescreen with options towards the right. The left side offers you the ability to access various modes, switch to the front camera, toggle flash or access settings. There are a number of modes available such as Multi-view, which make use of the all three camera sensors or Popout, which utilises the rear cameras to offer some cool effects. Of course, you get a Manual mode that lets you play with ISO, exposure levels, shutter speed and more to get the desired output, along with allowing saving images in the RAW format.
The LG G5 impresses us with its camera quality across situations. Long shots have a good amount of detail along with accurate colour reproduction, and so do the close up images, which look even better with the depth-of-field effect. The HDR mode also does its job well and low-light shots aren’t as noisy. All this is expected from a top-end smartphone, and that’s why the wide-angle view sets it apart from the competition. You can instantly fit a larger scenery in the same frame, without affecting the quality. Although, if we were to nitpick, at full size, the wide-angle images show some signs of pixelation in comparison to pictures taken with the main snapper.
We have already taken a comprehensive look at the camera performance of the LG G5, but here are some samples for your viewing pleasure.
The front 8-megapixel camera will be loved by selfie addicts. The images are sharp and vibrant as well. If you’re shooting in poor lighting, the screen flash feature comes handy. We also liked the fact that you can open the camera app by pressing the volume rocker twice, even when the LG G5 is locked.
In terms of videos as well the LG G5 won’t disappoint you. It lets you capture videos in UHD resolution, along with slow-mo and timelapse videos. The slow-mo videos can be captured at 60 fps, which results in a smoother output.
All in all, the LG G5 is among the best smartphone cameras available in the market and the dual cameras can also offer amazing results, when used wisely. However, it’s not able to match up to Samsung’s latest, the Galaxy S7 duo (camera review).
Performance: zip, zap, zoom
CPU: Quad core, 2.1 GHz + Quad core, 1.5 GHz, Snapdragon 820
GPU: Adreno 530
RAM: 4 GB
Memory: 32 GB + Up to 2 TB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM
LG has always packed Qualcomm’s top-tier processor in its flagships so much so that the G Flex 2 (first impressions) was the first device to use the Snapdragon 810. However, due to the heating fiasco in SD810, the Korean giant had to use Snapdragon 808 in the G4 instead of the flagship 810 silicon from the chipmaker. But with the G5, the company has employed Qualcomm’s most powerful SoC, the Snapdragon 820. In fact, when it was unveiled at MWC in February, it was among the first few phones to come with this processor, which offers four custom-built Kryo cores based on 64-bit architecture. The processor offers two high-power cores tuned at 2.15GHz, while the low-power cores run at 1.6GHz. The CPU is accompanied by the Adreno 530 GPU for rendering graphics. The hardware makes sure that the LG G5 flies through anything thrown at it. There was nary an instance where we felt that it wasn’t able to handle heavy apps or games. We played Injustice: Gods Among us and Modern Combat 5: Blackout for hours, and it didn’t break into sweat even once.
Multitasking on the LG G5 is buttery smooth as well, thanks to 4 gigs of RAM. Even with multiple apps opened, it usually hs around a gigabyte to spare. The Snapdragon 820 also manages heat dissipation efficiently, with the phone only getting warm at the upper portion of the rear. The good thing is that this happens only when you push the phone to its limits with heavy gaming or 4K video recording.
The phone comes with 32GB of flash memory on board, out of which around 23.2GB is available to you. It should be sufficient for installing apps or storing your multimedia files, but if not, you can slide in a microSD card of up to 2TB to extend the storage. However, it’s worth noting that the LG G5 doesn’t support Marshmallow’s Adoptable Storage, which lets the OS treat the microSD card as internal storage.
The LG G5 supports two SIM cards, with the secondary slot being of hybrid type. It has also got you covered when it comes to other connectivity options, with Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, IR blaster, and GPS on offer.
With its high-def display, watching movies or playing games is a delightful affair on the G5. However, the speaker output isn’t that loud, and the fact that they are placed at the base results in an even poorer experience, since your hands are placed naturally on them, when the mobile is held in the horizontal position.
Battery: good, but could be better
Capacity: 2800 mAH, Li-ion
Talktime: Up to 19 Hours (2G)
Standby Time: Up to 240 Hours (2G)
Time and again, we have stated that specs are just a number, and that notion is strengthened further with the battery life of the LG G5. On paper, the 2,800mAh capacity seems a tad low considering today’s standards and the 2k display it has to power up. However, in real life, the battery should get you through your entire working day. Even with the Wi-Fi hotspot or GPS turned on, and gaming for a considerable time, the phone had some juice left towards the evening. On an average, we got screen-on time between three and a half to four hours, which is decent for the battery capacity. The phone excelled in our battery loop test as well, since it was able to run an HD video on loop for roughly 13 hours and 30 minutes, with both the brightness and volume set at 50 percent and only cellular connectivity turned on.
But sadly for the G5, the competition, including the S7 duo and HTC 10, offer much better battery life. On the plus side though, you have the option to swap out the battery. But be warned that sliding out the battery from the base requires a lot of effort and patience since more often than not, you fear that you might break it. You can also enable Battery Saver to extend the battery life. Although that doesn’t seem to do much apart from turning off the Always-on display. There’s Game optimizer mode too, which puts less strain on the battery while gaming.
Since the LG G5 is equipped with the Snapdragon 820, it also features Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology. But it’s odd that the bundled adapter supports only the Quick Charge 2.0 standard. The handset also lacks wireless charging capability. Even then, charging is quite fast as the device can juice up from zero to 100 percent in approximately 90 minutes.
In today’s market, you can get affordable flagships such as the recently-launched OnePlus 3 (review | FAQs) or LeEco Le Max 2 (first impressions) at almost half the price of the G5, which offer a beefy 6 gigs of RAM. However, the Korean titan has ensured that the hardware powering the show on the G5 is just one part of the story. LG’s latest flagship justifies its price tag by packing in interesting innovations – a semi-modular design, dual camera sensors along with catering to power users with features like removable battery, while keeping the sticker price of Rs 52,990, which is similar to other premium flagships.
That said, it’s one thing to offer innovation, and another to make it work flawlessly – and that’s where the G5 starts faltering. It might be the first smartphone globally to feature a semi-modular design, but that’s not how modularity was supposed to be when it was teased a couple of years back. The idea of modularity – which Google’s Project Ara is also envisioning – is to be able to swap components from the device for new ones. For example, adding a better camera module in place of the default one. But that’s not possible with LG’s top-end offering. You can only extend its capabilities with the Cam Plus module or Hi-Fi Plus module, for turning the phone into a camera or an audio-centric device. Plus, there’s an additional cost involved, since you have to pay Rs 6,990 for the Cam Plus. LG is yet to reveal the pricing of the Hi-Fi Plus.
There are some other accessories as well under LG’s Friends programme – the 360 CAM, 360 VR, and a Tone Platinum Bluetooth headset. However, they aren’t modular as such. The brand has promised to offer more modular devices with its Playground initiative, and in our opinion, that can certainly make the LG G5 more lucrative. It’s more prudent since Lenovo-owned Motorola recently took covers off its Moto Z flagships that also come with snap-on functionality dubbed Moto Mods. While one can argue that its implementation isn’t exactly modular, some of the accessories showcased by the company seem quite useful. Plus Lenovo has opened the platform for developers for launching compatible mods.
Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate LG for its efforts, but they aren’t very practical. And, if those are removed from the equation, then Samsung’s Galaxy S7 duo scores higher on almost all counts – beautiful design, slightly better display (thanks to the AMOLED panels), superior cameras (due to the dual-pixels technology) and better battery life, along with waterproof capabilities. You also get to choose between the Galaxy S7 (review), which is compact, or the Galaxy S7 edge (review), which is a phablet and ups the style quotient with its dual edges. Completing the holy trinity of Android flagships for 2016 is HTC 10 (review), which is a great smartphone as well, although we’d probably pick the G5 over it.
In sum, the LG G5 is a special smartphone in the Android space, but it’s very difficult to recommend it over Samsung’s latest pair of flagships. But if you are among those who want to stand out from the crowd, then you can’t go wrong with it.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Metal body with semi-modular design
- Gorgeous high-res display
- Powerful hardware
- Impressive snappers
- User-replaceable battery
- Flimsy build
- Modular accessories are pricey
Photos by Raj Rout