LG G5 Review

Introduction


What makes a great flagship smartphone? You'd think that in a multi-billion industry, the answer would vary wildly, and for a good reason—it's a gigantic market serving the needs of hundreds of millions of people annually. But it doesn't, at least not lately.

Does that mean that we're getting high-ends that are barely any better than their predecessors stuffed down our throat? No, that's probably unfair. But it's been a while since we've had one of those few and far between, but highly prized, moments where our collective jaw drops, and we just know. We know that this is something special, new, and exciting. Something we really want to get behind.

With the G5, LG is undeniably shooting for just that. It wants to excite. It wants to entertain. It wants to change things up. And it wants to be unique. And there's a two-pronged approach to that: the G5 features a modular design, meaning you can exchange 'modules', or “Friends” as LG calls them, to get added functionality such as a specialized camera grip for a more convenient photography experience, or a high-fidelity DAC for improved audio. There are also toys that hook up to your device, such as an RC robot ball, and a hand-held, 360° camera. And then there's the unique camera configuration on the back of the G5, with two sensors—one wide, and the other even wider.

LG Friends - LG G5 Review

LG Friends

LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
Life's Good When You Play, LG says, and we doubt anyone would disagree. But in order to get to play with the G5 and its Friends, people will first have to dole out some serious cash to get one, and there are plenty of other companies vying for their attention (and monies). After all, at the end of the day, sans snap purchases, buying a flagship _phone_ entails at least some consideration on the part of consumers, and so playfulness is just the icing on top. So it's time to see if the foundation underneath is solid enough to warrant the buy.

In the box:

  • LG G5
  • Start Guide leaflet
  • microUSB Type-C to USB cable
  • 1.8A FastCharge wall charger
  • SIM ejector tool

Design

Plastic is out, metal is in? Not exactly.

For the last three years, LG has had a very clear design philosophy when it comes to its flagship line—and the ones beneath it, which were influenced by it. It's what the company referred to as 'arc' design, or just barely rounded rectangles with a slightly arching top and bottom, and particulars such as rear-mounted power and volume keys, along with removable back plates from the G3 onward. With the G5, however, LG is closing that chapter of its design story and moving on.

Most will agree that the LG G5 is unlike any of its G-series predecessors. It's more aggressively rounded at the sides, smaller, thinner, and while the volume keys have been re-positioned to the left side, it's honestly quirkier than ever. The top of the phone, for example, is slightly (and somewhat inexplicably) flexed backwards, while a circular power key doubles up as a fingerprint scanner on the back, alike to the Nexus 5X. Seemingly more important in a world increasingly dominated by metal high-ends, however, LG finally joins the club and is ditching plastic—even if adorned with leather—in favor of cool aluminum. But it doesn't feel like metal, because the aluminum in the body is covered by a significant layer of primer.

By far the most peculiar part about the G5 is, of course, the modular bottom, which can be ejected with a press of a button on the lower left. The removal process itself is well thought-out, though once the module is out, we're always afraid that we're about to snap the 2,800mAh battery in half when trying to detach it from the base, due to the amount of force required. We were kind of hoping that this would be limited to the early production samples we got to try out, but the final unit is no different. Still, given how rarely you'll have to deal with this, it's probably not that big of a deal—just a bit disappointing, given LG's insistence (or hope?) on buyers getting these.

All said, does the G5 fill in the G4's leather shoes? We'd argue it does, and subtles touches such as the fine chrome lining of the frame sure help with that. So we dig the vibe of the phone, though the matte back is, naturally, on the slippery side. Meanwhile, the aforementioned chrome edge also digs into the hand a little bit. In the end, we applaud the minimalist approach this time around, but we also can't pretend that we're head over heels in love with the G5's styling either. It's kind of an acquired taste.

 

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20. The LG Friends modules

The LG Friends modules

21. The LG CAM Plus

The LG CAM Plus

22. The LG CAM Plus

The LG CAM Plus

23. The LG CAM Plus

The LG CAM Plus

24. The LG CAM Plus

The LG CAM Plus

25. The LG CAM Plus

The LG CAM Plus

26. The LG CAM Plus

The LG CAM Plus

27. The LG CAM Plus

The LG CAM Plus

28. The Hi-Fi Plus module

The Hi-Fi Plus module

29. The Hi-Fi Plus module

The Hi-Fi Plus module

30. The Hi-Fi Plus module

The Hi-Fi Plus module

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LG 360 CAM

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Front view | Side view
LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7
5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s

LG G4
LG G4
5.86 x 3 x 0.39 inches
148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

LG G4



LG G5 Review

Display

A smaller display, but the same Quad HD resolution of old.

LG was the first to jump onto the Quad HD bandwagon, but thankfully, it has seen no reason to chase even more resolution with the G5. The 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution of old is what we're dealing with, though all that visual excess is now less evident than ever before, with the company going for a smaller, 5.3-inch display—a departure from the 5.5-inch panels of its last two flagships. To protect the screen, LG is making use of what it calls a 3D Arc Glass, which is really just a the company's way to market a Corning Gorilla Glass 4.

Like in the past, LG is banking on colors that “pop” with the G5, meaning significant deviations from the globally accepted sRGB standard. As was the case with our pre-production model, the G5's display is very cold (or bluish), because the display is lacking in red, leading to a color temperature of 7820K, which is a let down. Average gamma, at 2.14, is decent, but erratic in its behavior in that very bright portions of any image will be further brightened up artificially. These factors combined lead to a rather disappointing conclusion: color fidelity has a way to go.

On the bright side, and literally? The LG G5's display can get crazy bright in extreme environments, managing over 800 nits on the top end. It's also able to go decently low for the night owls among us, with a bottom of 4 nits.

LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
Last, but certainly not least, the IPS LCD display of the G5 has been cleverly engineered as to allow it to jump on what is starting to feel like the next bandwagon: Always On Display. This new feature means that the _phone_ will always display the time and date, along with any incoming notifications—even ones from third parties. Customization is limited to just adding a personal message, which is a bit unfortunate, as is the fact that the content is rather hard to read from even a moderate angle—especially when there's light from lamps or the sun bouncing off of the display.

LG's pitch is that because we wake up our devices so many times a day to check the time and what we've missed notifications-wise, the net result from Always On Display would be positive, with lower battery drain and better user experience. However, we're actually on the fence as to whether this is a truly useful feature, as even though it displays notification icons from third-party apps (unlike the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge), you still will be waking up the screen to find out what they say.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6852
(Excellent)
2.07
1.26
(Excellent)
2.09
(Good)
LG G4 454
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1930
(Excellent)
8031
(Poor)
2.24
4.36
(Average)
7.28
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 55.2%
50%
unmeasurable
5.2%
0%
254%
109.1%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
LG G4 86.8%
50%
90.3%
5.4%
0.9%
7.3%
28.6%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

LG G5 Review

Introduction


What makes a great flagship smartphone? You'd think that in a multi-billion industry, the answer would vary wildly, and for a good reason—it's a gigantic market serving the needs of hundreds of millions of people annually. But it doesn't, at least not lately.

Does that mean that we're getting high-ends that are barely any better than their predecessors stuffed down our throat? No, that's probably unfair. But it's been a while since we've had one of those few and far between, but highly prized, moments where our collective jaw drops, and we just know. We know that this is something special, new, and exciting. Something we really want to get behind.

With the G5, LG is undeniably shooting for just that. It wants to excite. It wants to entertain. It wants to change things up. And it wants to be unique. And there's a two-pronged approach to that: the G5 features a modular design, meaning you can exchange 'modules', or “Friends” as LG calls them, to get added functionality such as a specialized camera grip for a more convenient photography experience, or a high-fidelity DAC for improved audio. There are also toys that hook up to your device, such as an RC robot ball, and a hand-held, 360° camera. And then there's the unique camera configuration on the back of the G5, with two sensors—one wide, and the other even wider.

LG Friends - LG G5 Review

LG Friends

LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
Life's Good When You Play, LG says, and we doubt anyone would disagree. But in order to get to play with the G5 and its Friends, people will first have to dole out some serious cash to get one, and there are plenty of other companies vying for their attention (and monies). After all, at the end of the day, sans snap purchases, buying a flagship phone entails at least some consideration on the part of consumers, and so playfulness is just the icing on top. So it's time to see if the foundation underneath is solid enough to warrant the buy.

In the box:

  • LG G5
  • Start Guide leaflet
  • microUSB Type-C to USB cable
  • 1.8A FastCharge wall charger
  • SIM ejector tool

Design

Plastic is out, metal is in? Not exactly.

For the last three years, LG has had a very clear design philosophy when it comes to its flagship line—and the ones beneath it, which were influenced by it. It's what the company referred to as 'arc' design, or just barely rounded rectangles with a slightly arching top and bottom, and particulars such as rear-mounted power and volume keys, along with removable back plates from the G3 onward. With the G5, however, LG is closing that chapter of its design story and moving on.

Most will agree that the LG G5 is unlike any of its G-series predecessors. It's more aggressively rounded at the sides, smaller, thinner, and while the volume keys have been re-positioned to the left side, it's honestly quirkier than ever. The top of the phone, for example, is slightly (and somewhat inexplicably) flexed backwards, while a circular power key doubles up as a fingerprint scanner on the back, alike to the Nexus 5X. Seemingly more important in a world increasingly dominated by metal high-ends, however, LG finally joins the club and is ditching plastic—even if adorned with leather—in favor of cool aluminum. But it doesn't feel like metal, because the aluminum in the body is covered by a significant layer of primer.

By far the most peculiar part about the G5 is, of course, the modular bottom, which can be ejected with a press of a button on the lower left. The removal process itself is well thought-out, though once the module is out, we're always afraid that we're about to snap the 2,800mAh battery in half when trying to detach it from the base, due to the amount of force required. We were kind of hoping that this would be limited to the early production samples we got to try out, but the final unit is no different. Still, given how rarely you'll have to deal with this, it's probably not that big of a deal—just a bit disappointing, given LG's insistence (or hope?) on buyers getting these.

All said, does the G5 fill in the G4's leather shoes? We'd argue it does, and subtles touches such as the fine chrome lining of the frame sure help with that. So we dig the vibe of the phone, though the matte back is, naturally, on the slippery side. Meanwhile, the aforementioned chrome edge also digs into the hand a little bit. In the end, we applaud the minimalist approach this time around, but we also can't pretend that we're head over heels in love with the G5's styling either. It's kind of an acquired taste.


Front view | Side view
LG G5
LG G5
5.88 x 2.91 x 0.29 inches
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm
5.61 oz (159 g)

LG G5

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7
5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

Apple iPhone 6s
Apple iPhone 6s
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Apple iPhone 6s

LG G4
LG G4
5.86 x 3 x 0.39 inches
148.9 x 76.1 x 9.8 mm
5.47 oz (155 g)

LG G4



LG G5 Review

Display

A smaller display, but the same Quad HD resolution of old.

LG was the first to jump onto the Quad HD bandwagon, but thankfully, it has seen no reason to chase even more resolution with the G5. The 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution of old is what we're dealing with, though all that visual excess is now less evident than ever before, with the company going for a smaller, 5.3-inch display—a departure from the 5.5-inch panels of its last two flagships. To protect the screen, LG is making use of what it calls a 3D Arc Glass, which is really just a the company's way to market a Corning Gorilla Glass 4.

Like in the past, LG is banking on colors that “pop” with the G5, meaning significant deviations from the globally accepted sRGB standard. As was the case with our pre-production model, the G5's display is very cold (or bluish), because the display is lacking in red, leading to a color temperature of 7820K, which is a let down. Average gamma, at 2.14, is decent, but erratic in its behavior in that very bright portions of any image will be further brightened up artificially. These factors combined lead to a rather disappointing conclusion: color fidelity has a way to go.

On the bright side, and literally? The LG G5's display can get crazy bright in extreme environments, managing over 800 nits on the top end. It's also able to go decently low for the night owls among us, with a bottom of 4 nits.

LG G5 Review
LG G5 Review
Last, but certainly not least, the IPS LCD display of the G5 has been cleverly engineered as to allow it to jump on what is starting to feel like the next bandwagon: Always On Display. This new feature means that the phone will always display the time and date, along with any incoming notifications—even ones from third parties. Customization is limited to just adding a personal message, which is a bit unfortunate, as is the fact that the content is rather hard to read from even a moderate angle—especially when there's light from lamps or the sun bouncing off of the display.

LG's pitch is that because we wake up our devices so many times a day to check the time and what we've missed notifications-wise, the net result from Always On Display would be positive, with lower battery drain and better user experience. However, we're actually on the fence as to whether this is a truly useful feature, as even though it displays notification icons from third-party apps (unlike the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge), you still will be waking up the screen to find out what they say.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
LG G5 816
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2220
(Excellent)
7816
(Average)
2.14
4.34
(Average)
8.43
(Poor)
Apple iPhone 6s 554
(Excellent)
6
(Good)
1:1593
(Excellent)
7056
(Good)
2.21
1.47
(Excellent)
3.23
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6852
(Excellent)
2.07
1.26
(Excellent)
2.09
(Good)
LG G4 454
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
1:1930
(Excellent)
8031
(Poor)
2.24
4.36
(Average)
7.28
(Average)
View all

The numbers below represent the amount of deviation in the respective property, observed when a display is viewed from a 45-degree angle as opposed to direct viewing.

Maximum brightness Lower is better Minimum brightness Lower is better Contrast Lower is better Color temperature Lower is better Gamma Lower is better Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 55.2%
50%
unmeasurable
5.2%
0%
254%
109.1%
Apple iPhone 6s 82.9%
83.3%
79.8%
5.1%
10.9%
56.5%
53.9%
LG G5 86%
87.5%
89%
4.7%
16.8%
8.5%
14%
LG G4 86.8%
50%
90.3%
5.4%
0.9%
7.3%
28.6%
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

This measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all

Interface 

Finally! LG dumps the 'rainbow' approach to UI styling and settles on something more minimalist and palatable.

With the LG G4 having recently moved to the latest, Android 6 Marshmallow base, most would expect a similar-looking UI with the G5, which runs on the same build. Thankfully, that's not the case, and we say thankfully, because we've never been big fans of the styling with older LG devices.

With the G5, however, we're starting to see some positive change, with fewer eye-catchy colors, and a mostly black and white theme. Honestly, after so many years of outright cartoonish designs, we're finally happy to see a more dignified, mature approach to LG's UI.

Styling is far from the only thing that's changed, however. For example, the app drawer is gone for good, meaning all your apps will be plastered over your homescreen à la iOS, and a staple such as Dual window (run two apps side-by-side) has been retired with the G5, likely because of the smaller screen. The LG Health app has also been updated, and has received a visual and functional overhaul. Perhaps more importantly, however, G5 users will be treated to 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years.

Fingerprint scanner


Finally, this the first G-series flagship to integrate a fingerprint scanner (and can we get a Hallelujah!) with the rear-mounted power button, and we're happy to say that it's mostly reliable. You don't have to wake the screen first in order to authenticate, and can hide sensitive photos and notes behind it. On the downside, we're growing more and more dismissive of scanners located at the back, as they're just not that comfortable when you consider how often your phone will be lying on a table.

Phone


When it comes to basic phone functionality, the LG G5 sticks to the basics established by the G4. Save for a slight visual update, the app is identical to what we had with its predecessor, though there's no longer a dedicated 'Favorites' tab. We tend to use it so that's a pity.

Messaging


The core Messaging app on the G5 is pretty basic, but we doubt you'd want it any other way. The standard package, including spam filters, pre-made quick replies, and scheduled dispatch, is therefore available. The only extra here worth talking about are the themes available, which let you customize the look of the background and the shape and design of message bubbles.

Calendar


The Calendar app on the G5 is actually quite powerful, especially for a built-in solution. Sure, the basics such as the ability to change the view to Agenda, Month, or Week are there, and that's not exciting, but the Event Pocket feature sure is. 

Event Pocket essentially hooks up to apps outside of the Calendar, such as Facebook and the built-in Tasks app, and lets you easily add upcoming events or pending chores to your weekly agenda through a simple drag-and-drop. And if you're feeling adventurous, you can use the location service and get points of interest suggestions based on your area.

System performance 

Finally, all is well!

LG's track record with the type of silicon it ends up putting in its flagships isn't splendid by any means. With the G3, that meant an otherwise competent Snapdragon 801 having to address the many, many pixels of its Quad HD screen, while the G4 was confined to the more powerful, but still second-best Snapdragon 808, and all that it entails.

With the G5, however, LG is ready to start clean, and is making use of the top-shelf quad-core Snapdragon 820. Qualcomm promises that the 64-bit, custom Kryo cores in the new chip are twice as powerful as the ones found in the 810, and the Adreno 530 GPU brings some 40% improvements in graphics performance. Add 4GB of last-gen LPDDR4 RAM, and the package is seemingly complete, at least on paper.

Thankfully, in our experience, these numbers add up to a meaningful improvement in user input speeds and general responsiveness. Honestly, while we won't go as far as to claim that the LG G4 was exactly sluggish, it did hiccup here and there and lost its pacing more often than a trained and exacting eye has a tolerance for. So we're pretty happy to see the G5 running lean and mean, with smooth and timely execution of essential operations. 

Finally, the G5 continues LG's legacy of always thinking about the power users in the crowd, and offers expandable storage through microSD. On top of the base, 32GB storage, pretty much everyone buying into the new flagship ought to have sufficient room to breathe, whether trigger-happy, or just way into mobile gaming.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 136695
LG G5 134074
Apple iPhone 6s 59075
LG G4 50330
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 3632
LG G5 3515
LG G4 2369
Vellamo Browser
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 5339
LG G5 4498
LG G4 3948
JetStream
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 62.049
LG G5 52.218
Apple iPhone 6s 118.91
LG G4 36.229
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 53
LG G5 54.33
Apple iPhone 6s 59.1
LG G4 25
GFXBench Manhattan on-screen
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 29
LG G5 17
Apple iPhone 6s 56.1
LG G4 9.4
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 1943
LG G5 1913
Apple iPhone 6s 2139
LG G4 1549
Geekbench 3 single-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 2327
LG G5 2344
Apple iPhone 6s 2539
LG G4 1112
Geekbench 3 multi-core
Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 5455
LG G5 5442
Apple iPhone 6s 4421
LG G4 3559
View all


Internet and connectivity

USB Type-C is a double-edged sword. We love the convenience, but keep ending up without a compatible charging cable.

LG G5 Review
Browsing on the LG G5 means dealing with Google's Chrome unless you're set on an alternative browser, but that's good news. Historically, we've been content with Chrome's capabilities and its seamless integration with desktop Chrome clients for shared history and such. In terms of performance, however, it does feel like the G5 is having a harder time than we'd expect as far as navigational operations such as zooming and panning are concerned. These are choppy and sluggish to execute, and not what we were expecting out of the G5 given its smooth operation otherwise. Weird.

On the connectivity front, the G5 is rock solid. There's dual-band Wi-Fi, support for the newer Bluetooth 4.2 standard, NFC, reversible USB Type-C, and even an infrared blaster—a scarce commodity these days. Do keep in mind that if you're planning on upgrading from an older G-series flagship, you'll need a nano-SIM card.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, the G5 doesn't arrive alone on the scene. Its colorful entourage of separately-purchasable accessories includes a smart, remote-controlled rolling ball with a camera, an integrated laser to entertain your cat, and even a speaker. A hand-held camera that is capable of taking 360-degree, panoramic photos is also on its way to the market, not to mention a virtual reality headset.

Camera

Great performer outside, but struggles indoors. Aces nighttime shooting.

If you've ever played around with the dual, front-facing camera config of the LG V10, you'll know what to expect from the G5's equally offbeat duo setup at the back. Put simply, the camera software of the phone lets you switch between the two sensors with a single tap, the idea being that you'd use the two cameras for different compositions. So there's the main, 1/2.6” 16-megapixel camera, with rather smallish, 1.12μm pixels, but wide, f/1.8 lens and optical stabilization—the same package available with the G4. But in addition, you're getting an extra, 8-megapixel unit with extremely wide field of view—135°, or more than that of the human eye.

LG CAM Plus module - LG G5 Review
LG CAM Plus module - LG G5 Review

LG CAM Plus module

But why go to all the trouble? Well, once you have the G5 in your hands, you'll know. In short, the secondary sensor allows you to capture scenes that you'd otherwise have to resort to panoramas for. Being so wide, the sensor doesn't deliver perfect stills, as there's noticeable, fisheye-like distortion towards the edges, but not so much as to make us hate the mode. The very opposite, actually—we sure appreciate the creative freedom made available through the wide-angled camera, not to mention the opportunity to easily fit otherwise impossible scenes into the frame. But we'd be going too far if we made it out to be a legitimate selling point. From where we're standing, it's not.

Up front, we're still dealing with an 8-megapixel selfie snapper, which we'd bet is unchanged from the G4 hardware-wise, just like the main snapper at the back.

If you consider yourself a photography buff, you might want to consider the LG CAM Plus accessory, which is a bulky (but mostly comfortable) physical attachment that fits into the modular bottom of the phone. It carries its own, 1,200mAh cell, and offers physical controls and jog dials, making the process of taking a photo or video a bit easier.

On the software side, the camera interface of the G5 differs slightly from what was offered with the G4 and V10. For starters, the iconography has been changed so that all switches and such are only outlines, giving the impression of simplicity. Don't judge this particular book by its cover, however, for the G5 is a very competent cameraphone, with a comprehensive manual mode for when you want to get pissy about camera variables. On top of that, special shooting modes like Snap (Vine-like video capture mode where you can pause/start for up to a minute) and Popout (layers a shot from the main camera on top of a slightly transparent background from the wide-angled one) add some intrigue to the experience.



Onto image quality, it's as if we're reviewing the LG G4, which is normal given the identical sensor. In short, this translates to excellent daytime, outdoor results, with leading color fidelity and none of the overly zealous sharpening that Samsung is notorious for. We've got very well-defined details, though the the softness can be problematic in some scenarios where foliage is thick—twigs and leaves become almost indistinguishable on tree crowns.

After this rather commendable showing, we were let down by the G5's take on indoor scenes where light isn't as abundant. The sensor has trouble setting the proper white balance (image #34), resulting in shots that are either too warm or have artificial color casts (image #32), and the overbearing noise reduction, while resulting in very pleasant grain, does also mean that fine details are dirty and verge on washy (image #33). Despite this, it's still a very competent shooter indoors, just not as consistent as we'd like.

Finally, nighttime shots are just splendid for a smartphone camera, and will offer a run to any rival device, including Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The camera's optical stabilization allows it to go for long shutters, meaning more light is allowed to enter the sensor, with the end result being bright composition even when considering really low-light scenarios. So much so, in fact, that at night, you sometimes get stills that are even brighter than in reality. We're no fans of this effect, but it's sure to impress the average person, and is overall preferable to having insufficient light hitting the sensor.

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Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S7 1.5
1.6
315
281
Apple iPhone 6s 1.7
1.9
485
293
LG G5 2.2
2.7
505
480
LG G4 2.7
3.9
357
311
View all

Finally, the G5 delivers in video. There's support for up to 4K UHD video capture, along with slow-motion video, and time-lapse. Also available are a number of film filters that actually look promising for budding videographers, but they also beg the question why LG ditched the manual video mode from the V10. Whatever the reason, in all, we're not exactly getting worked up over this.

In terms of quality, we're very pleased. Color reproduction is on point and footage is as smooth as you'd expect. Noise occasionally gets problematic, and it's unclear what's causing the seemingly random spikes, so we're guessing it's software related. It's worth pointing out that you can switch between the narrow and wide camera sensors as you're recording video, but the transition is accompanied by a noticeable skip in footage that is unpleasant.



Multimedia

Loudspeaker has definitely been improved.

The built-in Gallery of the LG G5 remains as potent as ever, and even builds on top of what the version available with the G4 brought to the table. There's now a special view allowing you to sort your creations by shooting mode, so you can easily find your specials if you need them for some reason. Like before, photo editing is relayed to the Google Photos app, which is a good thing seeing how powerful it has grown.

As for the video player, it's now stronger than ever, with an impressively comprehensive editing mode that lets you trim, speed up or slow down footage, or add artistic visual filters and even some pre-loaded music. For a built-in app, that's quite the feat.

LG Hi-Fi Plus module - LG G5 Review
LG Hi-Fi Plus module - LG G5 Review

LG Hi-Fi Plus module

Onto audio, the loudspeaker on the bottom is pretty powerful, despite clocking just 73dB in our testing. Overall, it's an improvement over its predecessor, as even a listen in passing is enough to discover that the issue with the 'boxy' sound coming out of the G4's speaker is alleviated.

Speaking of audio, the LG Hi-Fi Plus module is worth mentioning. Created by Bang & Olufsen, this add-on comes in a black matte and adds character to the G5. More importantly, however, it has its own, higher-quality DAC which allows the user to enjoy audiophile-grade high-resolution audio through its 3.5mm output, provided they actually have such content. Almost all streaming services right now offer compressed, standard-quality audio that won't benefit from the DAC module's capabilities.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 0.986
LG G4 0.764
Samsung Galaxy S7 0.704
Samsung Galaxy S6 0.54
LG G5 0.29
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 69.6
LG G4 79
Samsung Galaxy S7 72.7
Samsung Galaxy S6 73.7
LG G5 73
View all

Call quality

Decepticons, assemble!

LG G5 Review
It's true, smartphones have grown into much, much more than just simple devices for voice calls, but it's also true that that doesn't mean telephony has suddenly become unimportant. Which is why we care about call quality with all our devices.

In the case of the LG G5, we can't say we're impressed, though we won't go as far as to claim we had a disappointing experience. As always, your mileage may vary depending on variables such as your network, reception, and location, but in our experience the G5 proved better than average, but not excellent.

On the positive side, call volume is very good on both ends, and people's voices are recognizable even if one were to blindly picking up calls. On the downside, there's a lack of depth—or life—to these voices, which retain some of the tonal information you'd expect, but verge on robotic. Thankfully, the earpiece is large enough to ensure that even as you shuffle the G5's position relative to your ear, you're still getting good volume.

Battery life


When it comes to battery life, LG hasn't had the best track record with its flagship G line, at least in the post-LG G2 era. The G3 offered middling performance in this regard, and the G4 wasn't much better.

LG G5 Review
On paper, the LG G5 fails to impress, with a removable, but only kind of large, 2,800mAh juicer. As with most other specs, battery capacity can be misleading, but that's not the case according to our custom battery life test. The G5 managed to keep up for 5 hours and 51 minutes, which is a small regression from the 6 hours and 6 minutes achieved by its predecessor, which had a larger battery. In our time with the phone, we've found that it can handle a day of usage, but expect everyday charging to be a must for a peace of mind.

Onto standardized figures, the LG G5 outdoes its predecessors, the G4 and G3, but only by a bit. Talk time is rated at 20 hours on a 3G network, while standby time sits at 15.8 days on a 2G GSM network. That's along the lines of a 5% improvement over its precursors.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 8h 15 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S7 6h 37 min (Average)
LG G4 6h 6 min (Average)
LG G5 5h 51 min (Average)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6s 150
Samsung Galaxy S7 88
LG G4 127
LG G5 76
View all

Conclusion


At the end of the review process, we're feeling kind of empty in that we can't quite place our finger on what it is that isn't feeling exactly right with the G5. Objectively, it's a competent flagship and even a decent improvement over its predecessor in some ways, but it feels like it's just way too round in character. There are no sharp edges, nothing that jumps out, no area where the G5 is, or at least appears to be, significantly better than what the competition has to offer.

The above comment, of course, should be understood in the context of us just looking at the G5 as a standalone product. If you throw in the Friends accessories into the equation, it'd be hard to argue that LG's latest and greatest lacks charisma. Even then, however, we feel as if it's the accessories as standalone products that deserve credit, not the other way around, especially since you'll be able to use them with other devices.

To offset the negative vibe of these two paragraphs, we'll say that the G5 is likable, just not for everybody. We like the new direction LG is taking with design—both on the hardware and software front—and the modules concept will likely appeal to power users and hopefully grow in the future. As was the case with the LG G4, the camera is overall very good, and the secondary, wide-angled sensor does add some intrigue, though don't expect to make use of it regularly. Despite this, we're still drawing the line at a short distance behind competing devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Apple iPhone 6s.

Software version of the tested unit: Android version: 6.0.1; Build number: MMB29M


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