LG G5 Review: Excellent Camera, Modular Design

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  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Service, Warranty & Support
      • 7
      • Ease of Use
      • 7
      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Value
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.20
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Modular design innovative
    • Fantastic camera set and software
    • Exceptionally fast performance
  • Cons

    • Dated look
    • Poor display brightness
    • Large display rim

Quick Take

The LG G5 has the performance to match the best of the best, along with a unique modular design and excellent rear camera. It's not as slick as other Android smartphones, but it should appeal to those that want something a little different.


LG changed its game plan with the G5, emphasizing design practicality and innovation over aesthetics and finishing touches. This is best represented in the LG G5’s Magic Slot that makes this a partially modular Android smartphone by expanding it functionality with external accessories. Compared with the HTC 10, and new Samsung S7 handsets, the LG G5 is not the most attractive device. But that Magic Slot makes it one of the most interesting handsets on the market.

The LG G5 has a dated look, but modular design.

The LG G5 has a dated look, but modular design.

Thankfully, LG didn’t ditch everything from its previous G smartphones, including the G4’s excellent rear camera. The G5 actually has two of them: the same 16-megapixel camera we loved on the V10 model, along with a wide-angle 8-megapixel camera that’s just a notch below in terms of photo quality.

As if that weren’t enough, this device also sports the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB of RAM, Android OS 6.0.1 (Marshmallow) and a replaceable 2800 mAh battery.

LG is betting that features and specs matter more than looks when it comes to the G5. But is it any good?

Build & Design

We have never written this about a G-series smartphone, but the G5, at least a first glance, is bland. It has average dimensions and weight for a 5.3-inch phone (5.88 x 2.91 x 0.30 inches, 5.61 ounces), a metal unibody, and regular button placement (an unwelcome departure from the LG trademark of back-mounted buttons).

The LG G5 has a Gorilla Glass 4 front.

The LG G5 has a Gorilla Glass 4 front.

The G5’s front surface is covered with Gorilla Glass 4, from the top all the way down to the Magic Slot. The glass is slightly rounded near the upper side edges, which is unique only to the G5 (rounded glass on the edges is common and sometimes called “2.5D”). The curvature serves no purpose apart from aesthetic concerns. Although the relatively sharp front and side edges suggest multiple pieces, the entire body is crafted out of a single piece of metal (apart from the removable module, of course). This makes the LG G5 feel like a credible device. This is the only unibody smartphone with an interchangeable battery.

In addition to the LG logo on the removable module, the front side also includes the front camera, speaker, notification LEDs, and several sensors. The back side includes the dual rear camera, which protrudes from the back surface into a bump that also holds the LED flash and “laser” autofocus sensor (infrared to be precise). The fingerprint reader is situated under the camera, which doubles as the power button.

The phone’s lower side includes the USB-C slot, primary microphone and speaker perforations, while the upper houses the secondary microphone for ambient noise reduction, the 3.5mm audio jack, and infrared transmitter. The right side holds the nanoSIM and microSD card slot, while the volume control keys are situated on the left side. The Magic Slot release key also sits here, and it works immaculately. When pressed, the module pops out slightly, enabling the user to easily pull it off. Reattaching it only requires a simple press until it audibly clicks. The Magic Slot is just as well-built as the phone around it.

The LG G5 has a large camera bump.

The LG G5 has a large camera bump.

A single USB Type-C input handles charging.

A single USB Type-C input handles charging.

Display

With its 5.3-inch IPS QHD display (1440 x 2560 pixels), the LG G5 has a high density of 554 pixels per inch. Image sharpness is exquisite and the contrast is praise worthy. Looking just at the pure black and white tones, the screen matches AMOLEDs found on other devices.

Too bad it has poor maximum brightness. Perhaps this is why LG included an “Assertive Display” algorithm intended for viewing the device in direct sunlight. It’s an adaptive display technology found on other devices with similar chipsets. It works well enough, and it keeps glare from overwhelming the G5 display.

We’ll praise the G5 for color interpretation. Colors are exceptionally well saturated and accurately interpreted, albeit with a slight emphasis on pastel tones. Most people will find this pleasant for everyday use, but those who prefer more intense color and surreal image quality will be disappointed that LG did not enable the option to manually adjust the color settings. That aside, the G5’s colors are some of the best on the market, if not the best.

Like the V10, the LG G5 has the Always On option. Unlike the V10, which uses its additional display panel, the G5 actively displays the time and date smack in the middle of the display when the phone is on stand-by. Just like the case was with previous iterations of the G series, a double tap awakens the phone.

The display isn’t entirely praiseworthy, though. The display bezel is very large and the G5 does not have physical Android keys to occupy the space (they are on-screen capacitive keys). This is the tradeoff for a modular design.

Performance

The LG G5 has Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 820 chipset with a quad-core Kyro processor (2 x 2.15 GHz and 2 x 1.6 GHz), Adreno 530 graphics and 4 GB of RAM. This combination offers exceptional fluidity during use and make it the fastest phone or at least one of the three fastest phones on the market, as of this writing. In testing, the device did not overheat with long use, even when playing graphically demanding games and video content, over both 4G and Wi-Fi.

On the Geekbench 3 benchmark, the LG G5 scored 2322 on the single-core test and 5354 on the multi-core test. This is in line with the other early 2016 Android flagships.

Overall, the LG G5 is runs well and should prove reliable, which allay fears of G Flex and G4 owners struck with the infamous bootloop that bricked the smartphones.

Battery Life

The LG G5 ships with a 2800mAh battery. The Camera Plus module (which includes a photo grip) includes a 4000mAh battery. Nevertheless, the basic battery is good enough, besting the V10 and G4 output by 10%. We were able to stream full HD video for 8 hours and 5 minutes on a single charge, which matches most of the flagships from 2015. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge lasted 10 hours and 48 minutes, which is outstanding.

The LG G5 supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 protocol, which replenished the battery up to 80 percent in 30 minutes in our tests. Of course, you can always squeeze out more juice by turning off the Always On display feature. LG officially claims Always On uses less than 1 percent of battery capacity per hour, but we showed about a 15% difference during our informal battery tests.

Camera

LG G5 dual cameras

LG G5 dual cameras

If the modular design doesn’t pull you into the G5, the camera will. Two cameras, in fact. One is the same 16-megapixel we loved in the LG V10, which comes with F/1-8 and a field of view at 75 degrees. The second camera has 8 megapixels, F/2.4, but an exceptionally wide angle with a field of view at 135 degrees. LG has managed to secure very clever and creative collaboration between the two cameras with its decent camera software. The smartphone switches between the two cameras depending on the zoom level, and also allows users to manually choose certain shots.

This combo enables various effects. Pop-out Picture enables simultaneous shooting of both rear cameras with one image representing the background and the other the foreground. An effect is then applied to the background (blur, fisheye, vignette), and effects can be combined. Multi-View makes it possible for both, or even all three cameras, to simultaneously record videos or shoot photographs. It is also possible to choose a layout on which the images are then arranged.

Both back-facing cameras are equipped with a laser autofocus (infrared, to be precise) and 3-axis optical stabilization, while the 16-megapixel camera offers fantastic results. Image detail is abundant, even in poor lighting. The cameras offer highly precise exposure, color saturation, and excellent sharpness. It’s certainly one of the best smartphone cameras on the market, perhaps only second to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

The 8-megapixel camera does not offer the same level of detail, or poor lighting performance. But it’s very practical for daily wide-angle recordings. The captured angle width is very impressive, perfect for panoramas. And users will need to make sure that the shot does not include their fingers as well.

Video recordings taken with the rear cameras are some of the best ones taken with a phone. Full HD and 4K are available at 30fps, with a high level of visible details. The same goes for the 8-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0, which is among the top front-facing cameras on the market and can record Full HD video clips at 30fps.

Sample Photos

sample-wideangle

8-megapixel wide-angle lens

sample-regular

16-megapixel, regular lens

Pop Out sample

Pop Out sample

Conclusion

The LG G5 is one of the most powerful smartphones on the market. Its camera and innovative modular design are appealing, as is its powerful and stable chipset.

It’s not the most attractive phone in the world, though. In fact, it looks like a flagship from years past, when style was not a primary concern. But some may see this as a geekish touch worthy of its innovative feature set.

The only remaining question is whether LG continues to push the modular design with new and exciting accessories. As it stands, the LG G5 is an excellent smartphone. With new accessories expanding functionality, it will be that much better.

Pros:

  • Modular design innovative
  • Fantastic camera set and software
  • Exceptionally fast performance

Cons:

  • Dated look
  • Poor display brightness
  • Large display rim


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