When it comes to the top end of the market, flagships are more alike than they are different. Of course, the devil is in the details, theyíre what separates the has and the has beens.
I mean, they all come with 5-ish inch quad-HD displays, SoC powered by the latest ARM cores, 3 or 4GB of RAM, that sort of thing.
So what is different about the G5? For starters, LG is touting the G5 as a modular phone. The bottom part can be removed so that you can attach other accessories.
It also has 2 rear cameras, no, theyíre not for fake Bokeh or 3D or even black and white. The 2nd camera has a super wide-angle lens on it which, in the right hands, makes for some dramatic photos.
Hmm, modular with a super-wide camera? It could just be what the doctor ordered for an shaking up a slightly stale flagship market.
What about the Samsung Galaxy S7?
There are 2 GS7 models to consider but theyíre similar enough, Iíll just discuss both at the same time.
The GS7 has a nicer screen, longer battery life and feels more solid in your hand. The camera also focuses much quicker and takes better pictures.
The G5 has a removable battery which is more convenient, and a second rear camera with a super-wide angle lens which really opens up a lot of possibilities.
One wild card is that while the GS7ís metal and glass body feel classier, I think the G5 is an easier phone to use.
What about the HTC 10?
The LG G5 has a removable battery, a brighter screen, a second rear-facing camera with an extremely wide angle and a much more powerful speaker.
The HTC 10 counters with a phone that feels much, much fancier in the hand, a better rear-facing camera and better sounding speakers.
Between the 2, itís a tough choice. While I like the 10ís better sounding speakers, I think the G5ís more powerful speaker makes it a more practical choice. Theyíre so loud, you can even use it for mapping in the car with the windows down on the highway.
As for imaging, I think the 10ís rear camera is clearly better, in that it takes cleaner pictures. However, the G5ís second wide angle camera opens up a lot of interesting possibilities. Here, Iíd say itís a draw. I wouldnít use the G5ís wide angle camera that often but Iíd use it occasionally.
Then again, the 10ís stabilized front-facing camera is a unique feature.
The G5ís display is much brighter than the 10ís. There is a difference between it and the HTC when youíre outdoors in direct sunlight.
The G5ís wildcard over the HTC is its removable battery. Whether if youíre a power user and need to carry an extra battery or if you plan on keeping it and just want to replace it quickly and cheaply down the road, a removable battery is a plus.
If you donít mind using your phone as a remote, the LG G5 has a built-in infrared blaster which is useful since not everything can be controlled via WiFi.
Oh, I also find that the on-screen menu buttons also make the G5 a little easier to use.
What about the Huawei Nexus 6P?
You get a larger screen with the 6P that looks a little nicer than the G5 though itís not quite as bright.
The 6Pís speakers sound better and the camera takes better still photos. The metal body is also nicer to hold than the G5ís plastic body.
LG counters with a removable battery, a faster SoC with more RAM and a MicroSD slot. While the ďmainĒ rear camera isnít as good as the 6Pís, the wide-angle second camera adds a lot of versatility.
- 5.3Ē LCD display
- 2560x1440 resolution
- 4GB RAM
- 32GB storage
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
- 16 and 8MP rear facing cameras
- 16MP camera has optical image stabilization
- Front camera
- 2800mAh battery
- BT 4.0
- Android 6
- Fingerprint reader
- LTE bands:
- 145.9 x 71.9 x 9mm
LG is making a big deal about the G5ís ability to accept attachments. The bottom of the phone can be removed. Just press a button on the left side and then pull the bottom off. This also means you can swap the battery out.
One of the great things about the previous LG flagship, the G4 was that it came with a user removable battery. Most competitors used batteries which were sealed in the device. Theyíre fine for the first year or so but theyíre a bit of a nuisance when itís time to replace them. Instead of just pulling a cover open and swapping it out, youíll need to pay someone to replace it unless you have the skills to deal with all the glue thatís typically used. It can get ugly very quickly.
However, instead of using a removable back like the G4, the G5 has a bottom which pops off. Itís been a long time since Iíve used a phone like this.
The battery clips onto the bottom.
You can wiggle it side to side to remove the battery from the bottom.
LG is making a big deal about the G5ís ability to accept attachments via the bottom. It took me a while to get my head around this. Hereís how I see it, buy the G5 because you want a removeable battery. Donít buy it because you think youíre going to buy all the accessories and are going to use it.
I mean the idea of a modular phone sounds interesting but consider this; the G5 has to be turned off to attach one of these accessories.
I mean in aside from a case, screen protector or case with a battery built-in, buying any accessories that will probably only work on your phone and none others is a terrible idea unless you get them for free. Then again, chances are youíll be able to buy the G5ís accessories dirt cheap on eBay, Woot or something like that someday so if you plan on keeping it for a while you can look out for this.
Having a removable bottom causes something interesting; when thereís a bright light behind the phone you can actually see through the phone. Itís not necessarily a bad thing but it doesnít inspire confidence.
Okay, enough about the modular aspect of the G5. When the bottom is off you can see that the G5ís back is a thick piece of plastic. I donít have any problems with plastic personally but itís not going to feel as solid as the HTC 10 or GS7. Itís not to say that the G5 is a flimsy phone, in fact I like the fact that itís not as ďhardĒ as the other 2 phones. The rounded sides make it more pleasant to hold.
LG has relocated the volume buttons to the side. I kind of wish they also moved the rear mounted power button back there too.
The volume buttons donít stick out enough and feel cheap though they do have a pretty audible click.
The rear mounted power button also doubles as a fingerprint reader. While the power button is clickable, you can get the G5 to turn on and unlock simply by placing your finger on the reader.
LG has a bit of history with a rear mounted power button but I think itís time to move it back to the side and to just make the reader, a reader instead of a clickable power button/reader. The fact that itís clickable makes it slightly less intuitive to use.
The MicroSD/NanoSIM sled is located on the right side. It doesnít quite sit flush on my G5 which is a bit of a disappointment since the sleds on my GS7 and HTC 10 fit perfectly.
Thereís a USB Type-C connector at the bottom.
There's an infrared blaster located on top. I think the G5 is the only 2016 flagship that has this feature. It allows the G5 to operate as a universal remote so you can control your TV/Stereo/etc.
You get a 5.3Ē 2560x1440 display. Just to compare, the GS7 and GS7 Edge have 5.1 and 5.5Ē displays, the HTC 10 has a 5.2 while the Nexus 6P has a 5.7Ē.
LG calls it a IPS Quantum display. Relax, itís not actually a quantum dot display, itís just a regular IPS LCD.
Itís a very bright display with decent blacks for a LCD display.
Iím a bit concerned about the viewing angles as there is the display loses a significant amount of light when viewed off-angle.
Initially, I thought the display had oversaturated colors but after looking into it, itís actually the camera which is capturing images with oversaturated color. The display itself has a decent color.
You get 2 cameras on the back. Phones with 2 cameras on the back are nothing new but the G5ís offers a different twist; instead of being used for 3D or for fake bokeh (faux-keh), the second camera has a super-wide angle lens on it.
So on the back you get a 16 megapixel ďmainĒ camera with optical image stabilization and a normal-ish 30mm (approx) lens along with a 8 megapixel camera with a wide approx 16mm lens.
Digging deeper, the 16 megapixel camera is the same youíll find on last yearís LG G4 (and some Samsung Galaxy S6).
If you look up close it doesnít capture quite as much detail and higher noise levels require stronger noise reduction. It also has an annoying habit of trying to capture every picture like it was fully lit, even when there isnít much light. I also donít like how it oversaturated colors so that everything is vivid to the point it looks unnatural at times.
Iím not crazy about the camera software either as itís kind of all over the place.
As is becoming standard, there is also a manual mode with the following options:
- White balance
- Manual Focus
- Shutter speed
- Exposure Lock
So itís not quite as capable as the camera on the HTC 10 and Samsung GS7. That said itís still a pretty decent camera.
The G5ís wild card is the second wide angle camera. LG claims it has a 135 degree field of capture. To my eye, itís similar to a 16mm lens on a full frame camera so itís really, super wide. If it were any wider I donít think it would be possible to hold the G5 without it capturing your finger.
It has its own 8 megapixel sensor, which I suspect is one youíd find on a mid-range Android phone. It lacks autofocus (I think) and optical image stabilization.
Iím okay with it not having autofocus because the wide angle means youíre not going to be taking too many close ups with it. I am a little disappointed about the lack of stabilization though as the wide angle makes for some interesting videos.
You can toggle between the 2 cameras via shortcuts on the camera app. You can also switch between them using the digital zoom.
Iíll be honest, I thought the wide angle camera was a gimmick but I found myself using it a lot more than I thought I would. Itís great for taking pictures of your house, inside a car or any confined spaces. Itís also really interesting if youíre taking landscape photos.
My first instinct is to go with the phone with the best camera but actually the G5ís secondary camera works well enough that Iím willing to give up a little quality on the primary camera to get it.
By default the G5ís launcher doesnít have an app drawer - itís just a bunch of home screens. Iím guessing theyíre trying to appeal to iPhone and Huawei users. Anyways you can turn the app drawer back on in the settings (settings -> Display -> Home Screen -> Select Home -> Home & App drawer).
Thereís lots of little tweaks; you can adjust the height of the keyboard, customize the order of the menu buttons,
You get Android 6.0.1 with the G5. If youíre wondering how diligent with Android updates theyíre usually very good for the first year. After that, updates slow down and after 2 years, I wouldnít expect too much.
Qualcommís previous flagship, the 810 ran a little hot under the collar. It was enough of a concern that LG had to use the less powerful 808 in last yearís flagship, the G4.
Since then, the 810 has been superseded by the Snapdragon 820 which promises to be both more powerful yet simultaneously run cooler.
The 820 delivers on both counts, itís more powerful and it runs cool enough to run at its maximum performance for longer.
That said, the G5 can get pretty warm if you push it for an extended period of time.
I ran GL Benchmarkís graphics tests. You can choose to run just one at a time or run them all consecutively. I noticed that some scores are noticeably higher if you donít run them consecutively which suggests the HTC 10 (and LG G5) are throttling something due to heat. The idea is running them consecutively doesnít give the HTC time to cool off between tests.
Overall, the G5 offers a substantial jump over the G4 and makes it competitive with its peers.
As a Phone:
The earpiece and speakerphone maximum volume are average.
RF performance is above average.
You get a 2800mAh battery which feels a tiny bit small considering the competition all have larger batteries - 3000mAh on the HTC 10 and GS7 and 3600mAh on the GS7 Edge.
Hereís how it did on my Netflix test (50% brightness, 1hr of Netflix via WiFi in my office, maximum volume, power saver settings on default):
Given the large, bright screen the G5 did okay in the test.
Thereís a USB Type-C port on the bottom. For most, Type-C is a nuisance because chances are, you donít have any other Type-C devices which means youíll need to buy more Type-C cables.
Still, Type-C is becoming more and more common, so youíll encounter it at some point even if you skip the G5.
Type-C allows the G5 to power other devices without the need for an OTG type cable which means youíll see some interesting Type-C accessories. For example, the HTC 10 has optional noise cancelling headphones which draw power from the phone so you they donít need a dedicated battery. This allows them to be more compact plus you donít need to worry about keeping them charged or carrying around extra batteries.
However, while I see Type-C as the future, MicroUSB is likely to stick around for a few more years. MicroUSB has been around for quite a while now so many accessories will continue to come with them simply because using a MicroUSB connector will be the more affordable option.
Thereís a speaker at the bottom. Itís very powerful with decent range but it hasnít been tuned as much as the GS7 and HTC 10. That means the treble is a bit excessive at times though it does have a respectable amount of bass. LG also applies excessive amounts of reverb. These make it sound a bit sloppy compared to the HTC 10 and Samsung GS7.
There is 32GB of built-in storage. If thatís not enough, you can add a MicroSD.
In the end, the LG G5 is a slightly different take on the flagship than the rest of the market. The removable battery is a rarity in the high end and the extra wide angle camera is good enough that itís actually useful.
Itís also a bit more affordable than the HTC 10 and GS7.
While it lacks the GS7ís water resistance and gigantic battery and the HTC 10ís solid metal body, the G5ís dual camera design make it interesting enough that itís my pick of the 3.
4.5 Howies out of 5.
- Dual rear cameras
- Wide angle camera is cool
- Removable battery
- Bright display
- Easy to use
- Powerful speaker
- Plastic body feels a bit cheap
- Main camera isn't as good as other 2016 flagships
- Second camera lacks image stabilization