- Great camera
- Good screen
- Always on screen shows notifications
- Modular phone
- Plastic coating on the metal
- Weak WiFi
- Lack of modules for the magic slot
In recent years LG has been Samsung’s main competition in the premium smart phone arena. LG has been criticized for their build materials though, and this time decided to answer back. With not only a metal body but a replaceable battery. A feat not easy to pull off, as well as innovating with dual cameras, an always on screen, and a modular interface. Still was all of that enough to push their G5 to the top?
This is LG’s latest flagship with that exciting magic slot built into the bottom. LG has finally decided to build a phone with an all metal body. Well, almost all metal because there is a plastic coating on the outside. Pretty much negating the switch to a metal body entirely. While I personally have never had anything against plastic phones. If you’re going to make it metal then I think you should see and feel the metal. One benefit is they were able to hide those unsightly antenna lines though. The phone is very slick so be careful, and you’ll probably want a case to add some grip.
The screen is a 5.3 inch Quad HD LCD and it’s a good looking panel. The blacks are really quite dark and the screen is very sharp. I do wish the colors were a bit more deep and saturated like the V10 though.
On the back is the dual camera setup with the laser auto focus and flash. I really find the design to be quite odd to tell the truth. It has nothing to do with the dual camera, but just the way the camera bump was implemented. As well as including a bump for the fingerprint scanner, that also houses the power button. As thin as the phone is I wish they would have just made it a little thicker and made everything flush.
On the right side you have nothing but the nano SIM tray with microSD card slot. That supports cards up to 256GB. While on the left is the volume rocker and the button for ejecting the magic slot.
Along the top is the headphone jack, infrared blaster, and microphone. While on the bottom is the USB-C port, microphone, and speaker. The speaker is OK and it gets loud enough, but like all side mounted speakers it can get muffled by your hand when in landscape.
I’m disappointed with the WiFi radios on the LG G5. I was regularly able to get the 5GHz band to drop holding it in landscape. As well as losing signal outside in the yard on the 2.4GHz band. Where other phones have no issue at all.
The magic slot has been one of the most exciting features of this phone. It’s promise of a more modular phone experience. Allowing you to buy addons and expand or upgrade your phone is so promising. While I’ve not been able to try any. I also haven’t seen any that really excite me either. Currently you can only buy the camera grip for the G5 in the US, so there isn’t much of a selection.
The LG G5 is running Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 with some changes to make it their own. I’ve never been a fan of the style of LG’s skin on Android and the G5 doesn’t change that. It’s gotten even worse. Not only have they made the theme for the quick toggles and menu uglier. Now they’ve dropped the app drawer for an iOS like launcher, with all of your icons on the home screen.
LG was supposed to offer an alternative launcher with an app drawer inside of their SmartWorld app store. Which was not on the phone and I had to side load. Initially when I tried to install the other launcher SmartWorld would do nothing but crash. Later after an update to SmartWorld the launcher had been removed. Thankfully launchers are easy to switch on Android, but LG gets a big fail from me on attempting to offer a viable alternative.
The always on screen is probably one of the biggest software features they added. It’s really quite a feat with an LCD screen. Since LCDs aren’t like AMOLED screens that only light up the pixels being used. The G5 doesn’t offer as many options as you’ll get for the S7 models but it will at least show you your notifications. That is a big improvement over Samsung’s current always on display.
LG also has a nice built in remote app to help you take advantage of their IR blaster. With this you’ll always have a remote with you.
They include double tap to wake which is a feature I always love, and turns into a necessity here. As the power button is merged with the fingerprint scanner, and if you try to view the lock screen by pressing it. Most likely you’re going to unlock the phone, and bypass the lock screen. They also still allow you to customize the navigation keys color and order. Plus include some extra buttons like the drop down button for the notification shade.
Another issue I came across was after putting the G5 into do not disturb mode. It had priority notifications turned on for Gmail and Hangouts. This made it override do not disturb and woke me up the first night I used the phone. I had to manually toggle them off in the settings. This kind of defeats the purpose of do not disturb.
Performance was good for me on the G5 and it should match any of the other flagships out at the moment. Seeing how like them the G5 is also running a Snapdragon 820 SoC and is packed with 4GB of RAM. I had no issues playing games or switching apps in my usage.
The G5 features a 75 degree 16MP f/1.8 camera paired with a super wide 135 degree 8MP f/2.4 aperture camera. These dual cameras work together to give you a seamless experience. Allowing you to capture beyond the 120 degrees our eyes can see.
LG has had some fantastic cameras the past few years. The G5 continues that legacy, and making it even better is their best in class camera app. They offer different shooting options such as auto or full manual. LG offers the best implementation I’ve ever seen for manual controls. It also supports the Camera2 API allowing you to take raw images with their app or others. At the top is the button to switch between the two back cameras. Allowing you to choose how wide you want your field of view to be.
There are also different modes which take advantage of the two cameras on the back like the Popout effect, or even all three of them using Multi-view. Not only that but both of them work with video recording as well. However you can only take around three seconds of video per camera in Multi-view, and not all at once. Still it’s pretty cool how they utilize all three of the cameras, even for video.
Speaking of video the G5 has options for slow motion, 720p, 1080p, or 4K recording. As well as allowing you to use the super wide angle camera for your videos.
The photos themselves are very good. The exposures are usually well balanced, but sometimes a little on the bright side. The color is generally accurate however I did see a few images that could have used a little tweaking. Occasionally I found the sharpening to be a little aggressive but only viewed at 100 percent. Overall between the app and the camera itself this is a fantastic shooter for 2016, and one of the best cameras I’ve used. Plus I give LG a lot of credit by making their highest resolution at 16:9 instead of 4:3. This way your photos fill the screen instead of giving you two big black bars on either side of your photos.
For your selfies the G5 has an 8MP f/2 aperture front facing camera. It includes a flash feature as well as beauty filter.
Battery life has always been a complaint for me with LG phones. The G5 uses a small 2800mAh battery and always on screen. So I was really quite surprised when battery life turned out to be average. When I had expected it to be below average. I was seeing around three and a half to four hours screen on time in my usage. Still I’d rather have seen a larger battery and better battery life, but it was an improvement over past LG phones I’ve used.
In the end I think LG deserves an award for the most innovative phone of the year. While the magic slot isn’t really that useful at the moment. It’s still great to see manufacturers taking a chance and innovating. That being said besides having a fantastic camera app, camera, and better always on screen experience. There seem to be too many little annoyances or missteps here. Sure the G5 is a decent phone, but in 2016 a decent phone isn’t quite enough. The G5 isn’t a bad phone by any means, but compared to the competition it comes up a little lacking.