Solid hardware, but the modular slot is a complete dud
Having used the LG G5 for a little while now, I think some of the heavy criticism that was thrown at the device when it first launch is partly unfounded. There are some aspects to the G5 that are disappointing and worthy of critique, but in general, LG’s flagship for 2016 is a decent enough smartphone with some compelling features.
The new camera system is perhaps the best of the G5’s unique features. The main 16-megapixel camera is just as good as it was on the G4, producing great photos in strong lighting and surprisingly decent photos in low light. The secondary wide-angle camera is something you won’t find on other devices, and it definitely comes in handy for shooting landscapes by capturing far more of any given scene. Unlike some gimmicky camera features, I actually found myself using both cameras frequently, which speaks volumes about its usefulness.
On the other hand, I was unimpressed with the G5’s modular slot. Removable batteries are a niche feature enjoyed by just a tiny percentage of users, and by making the G5 accommodate such a battery and its extra cladding, battery life has been negatively impacted. I’d far rather have seen LG include a fixed battery of a larger capacity.
The extra modules that can be attached to the G5 are poor and don’t make great use of this phone’s modularity. The camera grip is bulky and adds very little to the camera experience, while the audio DAC could have been integrated into the phone from the outset. I have my doubts that LG will produce any other modules for the G5 too, because I can’t see the demand or a market for niche add-ons, so come the LG G6 I suspect this feature will be canned entirely.
Aside from the modular slot, the design of the G5 is hot and cold. The plastic coated metal body is not nearly as nice from a visual or textural standpoint as I was expecting. However, the G5 has been cleverly sculpted to fit incredibly well in your hand: this phone is very comfortable to hold, and the 5.3-inch display is a perfect mix between usability and screen real estate. The subtle curves to the glass panel on the front are a nice touch too, making this design a clear upgrade on the LG G4.
The 1440p display LG has included with the G5 is the company’s best yet. Brightness and viewing angles are fantastic, making the handset easy to view outdoors, and the contrast ratio is fantastic for an LCD. LG has taken the Samsung approach to color tuning, leaving this display oversaturated and inaccurate, which is certainly disappointing but not a huge concern for most users. The always-on display is integrated much better than what Samsung provides with the Galaxy S7, though, particularly in terms of notification support.
There is nothing to complain about from a performance standpoint. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 is extremely fast, both from a GPU and CPU perspective, and the internal 32 GB of storage is speedy as well. People upgrading from two-year-old Snapdragon 801 devices should expect a decent boost in app loading speed, graphics performance, and overall system responsiveness.
Some of the other hardware features that the G5 includes are good too. I always like seeing phones with USB Type-C, and the G5 is no exception. MicroSD expansion, Quick Charge 3.0, and an IR blaster are welcome features, as is the responsive and accurate fingerprint reader on the device’s rear. I also appreciate how many LTE bands LG has included in the G5, which should make this handset suitable for use in any country.
The software included with the G5 needs some work. LG’s skin is sloppy in parts from a design perspective, and I straight up hate the inclusion of duplicated apps and a handful of bloatware. I liked the huge amount of customizability that LG provides, and some included features are handy (though mostly unoriginal), but it’s not really enough to offset sloppy execution in a high-end product.
Despite a poor Android 6.0 skin, there is enough to like about the LG G5 to class it as a ‘good’ smartphone. My main issue with the device, though, is that I can’t really recommend it over the Galaxy S7 when both handsets command the same price tag. When competition is so strong, sometimes being ‘good’ just doesn’t cut it.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 includes a better, faster camera; longer battery life; a much more polished, water resistant design; similar hardware features, including a microSD card slot and fingerprint sensor; and very similar performance. The only real standouts to the G5 are the wide angle camera and removable battery, and in my opinion, these inclusions just aren’t enough to swing things in LG’s favor.
Pros: Excellent range of hardware, including a fast Snapdragon 820, great 1440p display, fingerprint sensor, microSD card slot, and USB-C. Comfortable, ergonomic design. Dual camera system is versatile and takes fantastic photos.
Cons: The modular slot is a complete dud, providing no compelling additional features. LG’s ‘metal’ body is underwhelming. Software lacks the polish a high-end phone deserves. Disappointing battery life.