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LG G5 review: Reinventing the smartphone?

By Liu Hongzuo - 16 Apr 2016
Launch SRP: S$988

Overview, Design & Handling, Display & Audio

Note: This review was first published on 8th April 2016, 4pm.
Update (8th April 2016, 6:04pm): LG has informed us about changes to the App Drawer layout and promotional bundles.


Overview

The LG G5 succeeds the LG G4 in an unorthodox manner. It stole the show at MWC 2016 with its modular design and metal unibody build, and being one of the first flagship smartphones to tout the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC, coupled with 4GB RAM. Beyond that, the phone has a removable 2,800mAh battery, two rear cameras with one boasting the ability to snap 135-degree wide angle photos, and an Always-On Display that only uses just 0.8% of the battery every hour.

At first glance, the LG G5 sounds like a reinvention of flagship phones with its mix of novel features and powerful performance underneath. But is reinvention always a good thing?

LG G reinvented
  LG G5 LG V10 LG G4
  LG G5 LG V10 LG G4
Operating system
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • LG UX 4.0 based on Android 5.1 Lollipop
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core (dual-core 2.15GHz Kyro & dual-core 1.59GHz Kyro), 14nm process
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (quad-core 1.44 GHz & dual-core 1.82 GHz)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 with X10 LTE
Built-in Memory
  • 4GB RAM (LPDDR4)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.3-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (554ppi) / IPS
  • Always-on Display
  • 5.7-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (515ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 2,560 x 1,440 pixels / IPS
Camera
  • Rear (Standard): 16-megapixel with f/1.8, optical image stabilization, laser autofocus
  • Rear (Wide): 8-megapixel with f/2.4, laser autofocus, 135-degree Field Of View
  • Front: 8-megapixel with f/2.0
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with f/1.8, optical image stabilization and laser autofocus
  • Front: dual 5-megapixel
  • Rear: 16-megapixel with f/1.8, optical image stabilization and laser autofocus
  • Front: 8-megapixel
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, A-GPS, GLONASS, LTE/3G/2G
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, A-GPS, GLONASS, CAT 6 LTE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, A-GPS, GLONASS, CAT 6 LTE
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage (UFS)
  • 2TB (MicroSD)
  • 64GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 2TB
  • 32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 2TB
Battery
  • 2,800mAh
  • Removable
  • 3,000mAh
  • 3,000mAh
Dimensions
  • 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm
  • 159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6 mm
  • 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3~9.8mm
Weight
  • 159g
  • 192g
  • 155g

 

Design & Handling

The LG G5 looks thoroughly premium - the surface of the phone comes in an alluring metallic-looking sheen, and its 5.3-inch display is a gently curved 3D Arc Glass that looks and feels inviting. The rear looks equally elegant with its clean and mostly smooth appearance.

However, the two rear cameras that sit horizontally across the upper side of the phone feel slightly inconsistent with the overall look. The black panel surrounding the two camera modules breaks the design flow of the Home Button’s silver rims, as well as the subtle silver Shiny Cut Edge that frames the phone's borders. The raised bumps around the Home Button and rear cameras look out of place on a premium looking device, too. However, the mild oversight doesn’t deter the LG G5 from looking classy - you’ll mostly be facing the screen anyway.

Fingerprint scanner on the back. Volume buttons have shifted, and what's going on with those humps?

Ardent LG flagship phone users who have followed the phone since the LG G2 will quickly notice that LG's signature rear buttons are gone, and the volume buttons have now shifted to the left side of the body. According to LG, the decision to move the volume buttons was because of the LG G5’s modular design; if the volume buttons remained centered on the phone’s back, putting extra pressure by pressing would affect the removable battery.

The Shiny Edge cut is quite a nice touch on the LG G5.

The materials used on the LG G5’s body were a contentious point just before its official retail launch. LG claimed that the flagship smartphone comes encased in a sleek aluminum body, with the antenna integrated without interfering the “seamless look of the metal unibody”. Android Authority’s destructive teardown revealed that the phone’s internal chassis is indeed made from aluminum, but it was armored by a plastic-like substance under the coat of paint.

In response to the teardown, LG issued an official statement explaining the materials used in building the LG G5. The phone uses a proprietary aluminum alloy (called LM201), and the frame is die-casted to create the shape and look of the phone. Sitting directly on the LM201 aluminum alloy body is the insulated antenna, followed by a layer of primer. Primer is a resin-based undercoat that is required for the premium-looking paint (which contains tiny metal particles) to stick to the LG G5’s body. A lack of primer would make the paint come off the device in large flakes, and primer also prevents oxidization of the aluminum body. Synthetic resin is primarily used in making plastic products, which helps to explain why the LG G5 feels slightly plastic-ky to the touch, despite its premium build quality.

USB Type-C port is onboard.

Technically, LG is correct in saying that the LG G5 comes with a metal unibody construction. LG’s official statements did not state that our bare hands should come into contact with the LG G5’s metal construct; instead, they emphasized that the phone has a “seamless look of the metal unibody”, not how it should feel. So.

Two nano-SIM cards configuration is available, although you can also choose to put a microSD in the second slot instead.

Metal woes aside, the LG G5 is comfortable to the grip with the combination of its light body and manageable 5.3-inch form factor. The Shiny Cut edge that borders the LG G5 isn’t just for aesthetics either, as it provides a tangible grip by making the phone’s edge feel more tactile when you grip the phone with the display facing down. The phone fits well in the hand, be it in use or when our fingertips rest on the edge of the device.

Volume buttons moved to the side of the LG G5.

On a whole, the effort spent in upholding its high quality construction is quite impressive for a phone aimed at the lifestyle-oriented crowd. The raised housing for the Home Button and rear cameras may look out of place, but that’s because the phone does indeed have a dominant premium vibe that makes the design’s shortcomings stand out a little more.
 

Display & Audio

The G5 uses a 5.3-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2,560 x 1,440 pixels resolution at 554ppi). Display quality is rather lovely, and its colors make the G5 look absolutely flattering, even if they are not as vibrant as some of the AMOLED displays on other phones. The Quad HD display stands out for its sharpness, too. While the blacks aren’t as deep as the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge's, it also doesn’t have that warm color temperature tinge that haunted the rival phones. There’s little doubt about the quality that comes with LG’s displays.

Additionally, the LG G5 comes equipped with Qualcomm's aptX HD, an enhanced audio codec by Qualcomm that supports 24-bit sound over Bluetooth connection. This unique audio codec has a higher bit-rate than the traditional 16-bit aptX codec, but aptX HD only works if you pair it with an audio device that supports the format. One such headset belongs to one of the LG Friends - the LG Tone Platinum.

As for the built-in speakers, the LG G5 seemed a little bloated in the lower to mid-range frequencies, but it’s bright and clear where it mattered. We have no issues with its speakers, since most phones make them out to be purely functional.

8.0
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 7.5
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Powerful Snapdragon 820 processor
Gorgeous QHD display
Removable battery
Lightweight
Useful cameras
The Bad
Limited modular attachments
Modular type design not hot-swappable
Lackluster battery performance
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