MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone
Is the LG G5 the most exciting smartphone of 2016? Maybe not, but you've got to give them points for design and innovation.
Pros
  • Slim and stylish
  • About as powerful as it gets
  • Always on display
Cons
  • Modularity is still inconvenient
  • Undersaturated display
8Overall Score

Something that I’ve commented on a few times is how the smartphone industry feels like it has reached a certain level of stagnation. We get incremental improvements in the number of pixels on the screen and the number of cores in the processor, but we’re largely left with the same flat slab to satiate our desire to crush candies and snap chats. The LG G5 aspires to be something of a game changer in this regard, slipping off its bottom to entice you to invite more friends. Is it successful?

It’s Pronounced “Modular”

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

Far and away, the feature that LG wants you to notice on the G5 is its modularity. The bottom segment below the touchscreen can slide out, with battery attached, so that you can snap in a modular accessory. There’s one to improve your music-listening experience and another for your picture-taking. I’m sure there will be more to follow. It seems nifty, but I’m not sure it’s all that practical.

Because the battery gets removed too, you do have to power down the phone before you can swap in an accessory. Contrast that with the “Moto Mods” snap-in mechanism used on the new Moto Z. If nothing else, the LG G5 has introduced this possibility into the mainstream consciousness, further paving the way for future products like Google’s Project Ara.

Check out my unboxing video for a closer look at what you get included in the package, as well as a brief demonstration of how you remove the bottom portion of the LG G5 to swap in the optional modules.

First Impressions: Design and Performance

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

The overall design language of the LG G5 aligns with all the most recent trends. It’s slim at just 7.7mm of thickness, it boasts a full metal body for a premium look, and it’s got rounded edges for a more comfortable look. The 3D Arc Glass is particularly compelling, offering a gentle curve near the top of the screen. This is all a marked improvement over the G4 that came before it, giving the G5 a certain air of sophistication.

The placement of the power button with integrated fingerprint reader on the back is equally convenient and intuitive, just like on the company’s Nexus 5X. This is also different from the old LG design where the power button would be placed between the volume buttons; those have now been moved to the side of the phone, just like almost everyone else. And if you’re wondering about the antenna bands, they’re actually hiding underneath a layer of paint and primer on the otherwise metal back.

You will be left wanting for nothing in terms of performance. The G5 is a powerhouse with its Snapdragon 820, Adreno 530 graphics and 4GB of RAM. It’ll handle anything you throw at it. The 2800 mAh battery is sizable and I could easily push through a standard work day without reaching for the USB-C charging cable. I did find the 5.3-inch Quad HD (1440 x 2560 pixels) IPS LCD to be underwhelming, though, not looking as punchy, as bright or as saturated as I prefer. It’s almost muted. The blacks are very black though, which is nice.

The Always-On Display

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

One of the more unique features found on the LG G5 (though it’s also on the Galaxy S7 from Samsung) is the always-on display. As promised, this had a negligible impact on battery life and while not quite as flexible as some people may have hoped, it’s still useful.

How many times over the course of a day do you wake your phone to check the time or to see if you have any notifications? By having a minimalist “always on” ticker, that problem is almost eliminated. Understandably, the “always on” aspect is relatively dim but I didn’t have too much trouble reading it under most circumstances. Checking the time is no problem. The notifications are far less specific. You only the icon (like Facebook or Gmail) with no further details unless you wake the phone. Even so, I still like the idea, particularly when I just have the phone sitting on my desk at work.

The Usefulness of Two Rear Cameras

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

This is not the first time that LG has experimented with have a dual camera design on a smartphone. Remember the Optimus 3D for 2012? It had dual 5MP cameras so you can capture 3D photos (and 3D photos) that can then be viewed on the stereoscopic 3D display. It was a gimmick then that didn’t really catch on.

The approach this time around is entirely different and, as it turns out, far less of a gimmick. You don’t get twin shooters on the back. Instead, there’s a main 16MP camera with a standard 75-degree (or so) field of vision, plus a secondary 8MP camera with a much wider 135-degree field of view. What results is your choice of switching between perspectives without moving your feet.

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

Here’s an example I shot at the local McDonald’s. The blue-tinged portion outlined in red is what I could see through the main 16MP camera, whereas the full picture is what I could see through the wide-angle 8MP camera. The difference is striking. You will find that the wide-angle camera creates a distinct fisheye effect and you get all sorts of geometric distortion, but that’s also a big part of its appeal.

The image quality is markedly better with the main camera in terms of detail, sharpness and contrast. It’s great how the camera app allows for a manual mode where you can tweak the individual settings. You can even save the RAW files if you want to process the images further. What’s odd is while I can adjust the aspect ratio of photos (16:9, 4:3 or 1:1), I can’t change the megapixel count. Similarly, when shooting video, you can choose between 4K UHD, FHD or 720p, but not the bitrate.

Several more image samples are up on Flickr for your review, as well as a 4K video sample on YouTube. You can see just how saturated and vibrant the pictures get in bright sunlight, as well as a couple more demonstrations of the advantage of the wider angle view.

LG G5 Benchmarks: Geekbench, AnTuTu, 3DMark, PCMark

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

It’s not going to surprise anyone that a high-end flagship device like the LG G5 is going to rank right near the top when it comes to benchmark scores. In Geekbench 3, it earned scores of 2308 and 5426 in the single-core and multi-core segments, respectively, placing it substantially higher than last year’s Galaxy S6 and OnePlus 2.

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

The story continues with the rest of the benchmark suite too, raking in a near off-the-chart score of 138344 in AnTuTu v6.1.4. In the PCMark Work performance benchmark and the 3DMark Sling Shot test, the LG G5 earned scores of 5628 and 2499, respectively. To put that in perspective, the very powerful ZTE Axon Pro got scores of 3371 and 1114 in those same tests.

MEGATechie Fly Like a G6 or MEGATechie Still Sliding Up Short?

MEGATech Reviews: LG G5 Android Smartphone

There’s a lot to like about this phone. The design, while not completely swimming against the current, is a vast improvement over previous generations. It feels premium in the hands with an almost soft-touch finish on its metal unibody. The dual cameras make for some fun creative possibilities and the new LG UX 5.0 offers some great customizations like changing (and adding) the navigation soft keys along the bottom or double-pressing the volume down button to quick launch the camera.

I’ve come to like the idea of the always on display, though I wished it were more robust in what it can show. The display, which is largely a matter of personal preference, wasn’t as bright or as vibrant as I would have liked either. And while the modular nature is supposed to be this phone’s biggest differentiating feature, the actual mechanism isn’t terribly convenient.

At the end of the day, the LG G5 is easily just as good as any other premium Android flagship you’re going to find. It might not have wireless charging or waterproof protection like its main Korean cousin, but it’s got a slick look, ample performance, and your choice of “Friends” to snap into the bottom. The LG G5 is available in Canada through Bell and Rogers Wireless, both of which are offering the phone at $200 on a 2-year plan or $800 outright.


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