LG G5 Review
LG, the South Korean giant, has finally unveiled its latest flagship, the G5, in the country today. The handset that was first announced at MWC this year in late February has been the most talked about a smartphone from LG yet. The primary reason being that it is being touted as the world’s first semi-modular smartphone from any company, well that might be true or not, if we dig a history of concept smartphones. But this is not concept phone, so yes, this, in fact, is the first fully functional semi-modular phone from the company. With this bold take on smartphone design, the company certainly have the attention of many industry experts on how this modular thing would play out and become a beacon of transitioning into a modular technology lifestyle.
Well, enough talk about the company and where the modular smartphones are headed. For now, we will stick to the specifics of device that was launched today, the G5. The company launched this handset for a pricing of Rs 52,990, which has been available for pre-order on Flipkart days ahead of the today’s launch. What company might hope to achieve by that is they want its fans to wait no more.
Note that currently an only 32GB variant of the model is available and in only three colors, which are Titan, Gold, and Silver. We have with us the Silver variant and honestly we love the color. Moreover, it is the signature color that brand has been actively promoting with Jason Statham being the brand ambassador in the United States. Below, we find out if this venturesome approach that LG took with G5 proves right or not.
Until last year, LG has been the only manufacturer among the brands like Samsung, HTC, and Sony to offer leather back plastic body (except frame, which was aluminum) flagship device. So, it’s a big step for the South Korean brand, as this time around it’s a unibody metal body design on the LG premium flagship, which was in demand for quite a time now. While many manufacturers tucked away the battery pack for good, to be no removed, this brand thought to introduce something very bold and maybe revolutionary at some stage.
We are talking about the semi-modular design that LG G5 sports, it might be the weirdest design I may have seen in the past couple of years. Moreover, it sports such heavy specifications that it’s hard to believe that LG made it work for real. It gets more interesting as I actually removed the secure vault, which has obviously shifted its place from back to the bottom. This is LG’s novel solution to offer a removable battery facility on a unibody design, as the company is determined to offer that feature despite a metal unibody design.
You see it’s not exactly a unibody phone, not at least in a conventional way. The below portion can be separated from the screen after you push a small button, which sits flush to the left, thus, preventing any accidental release. When I first tried to separate those two parts, battery and chin section, well, it definitely caused some anxiety thinking that AM I breaking this thing or what! Well, thankfully it didn’t break, since it requires a fair amount of prying force to separate them, one would think that they are breaking the phone. The two hooks on the battery are made of plastic, which looks the pieces together.
Note that the chin section is aluminum, well the most part, except the area that includes LG logo, which is plastic. It’s hard to convince that this plastic attachment scheme won’t wear out over the time, because at the looks of it, it may. Even if it does, the battery should be firmly held, although, it might get trickier to remove and insert the battery then.
LG G5’s design is defined by how easy it has made to swap the battery even with an aluminum unibody design. There are concerns about the reliability of this design, but considering it is a mass-produced and cost sensitive product, the company does a fine job of controlling the seam between the two pieces. This design also enables the interesting possibilities with modularity being the key word here. That’s where LG G5’s Friends comes into play.
You can use CAM Plus to make your smartphone feel more like a point & shoot camera as it gives you a grip with dedicated shutter button and video recording buttons, as well as a digital wheel to control the digital zoom. Additionally, there is a 1200mAh capacity battery on that module. The second module is for audiophiles, it’s called LG Hi-Fi Plus and comes with B&O Play, in short it includes 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC that supports 32-bit 384KHz HD Audio playback.
Talking the form factor in terms of compactness and comfortability, the G5 address the sharper corner flaw that was present on the G4. The new flagship has a larger radius, which makes them more comfortable to hold. With corners being rounder, it makes easier for your finger to reach more of the screen, although, it still not possible to reach to the top without adjusting the grip. That’s why easily the device still needs two hands sometimes. With many brands inclined towards using 2.5D glass on the front, LG opts for 3D Arc Glass that adds a larger curve on the top edge. I didn’t realize how comfortable it was until I made my first phone call from the device, it’s a utility of the large curve that makes it very comfortable to hold the device against your ear. It’s a really appreciated part of the design.
Moving on with ports placement talk, the 3.5mm audio jack has been moved from bottom of the G4 to the top of the G5. You’ll also see an IR Blaster, which is potentially removed from the Samsung Galaxy S7 (a controversial move), sits with a noise canceling microphone on the G5 top edge. There is a USB Type-C port centered on the bottom edge accompanied by the secondary microphone and a mono speaker. The side of the device is rounded and tapered, thus improving the grip compared to the rounded sides on the iPhone 6S. Apart from the flush-mounted button on the bottom of the left edge, you can see the single piece volume rocker. Since the volume rocker is nearly flushed as well; it will be difficult to press the button accidentally.
There are no controls on the right edge; all you’ll find is the combo tray for the Nano SIM and microSD card. Coming to the back part, unlike G4, which have a curved back, the G5’s back is flat making it much easier to use while resting on a desk. Though, one can easily notice that back edges are slightly curvy, just like the competition Galaxy S7 Edge, which ultimately improves the in-hand feel. The most noteworthy feature on the back is the raised pill-shaped camera; it doesn’t leave a large bump (not large compared to Nexus 6P). There is an LED Flash, color spectrum sensor and laser autofocus module sitting between the two different camera lenses. Talking about the circle you see just below the camera setup is the biometric sensor cum home button, pulling double duty. Slightly raised similar to the camera setup makes it easy to locate, it has a solid click to it once you push the button. Note that camera button and power button on the back has a generous radius and they blend quite fine, thus, contributing to the smooth and rounded appearance of the G5.
There is a more obvious and but less groundbreaking change happened on the G5, the display on the latest flagship is at 5.3-inch now, which is down from 5.5-inch size on the G4. It trims down the 2.2mm off the width, which is one of the reasons that reaching your thumb on the opposite edge of the screen is easier. Though, the new device is taller because of the larger upper bezel. It is interesting to note that G5’s front area is larger than Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.
We all are aware of the fact that LG was among first few brands to bring the 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution display on their flagship model. It all started with G3, with strength to strength, the LG display has grown into a stunning piece of technology that we see on the G5 today. Even though there is not much changed on the surface, it can be stated that LG G5 has the best display yet. The company hasn’t made a switch of 4K; it remains at QuadHD, and we are happy with that. The display on the G5 is a IPS panel rather than the AMOLED panels we see these days on the Samsung and Nexus handsets.
I would say that display is ridiculously sharp and far more true to life, even softer than the Galaxy S7. I have been using the S7 as my daily driver for quite a time now, but after switching to G5, the difference is easily noticeable. Though, for some, it might not necessarily mean a positive thing, as it all comes to personal taste, as some prefer accurate colors over vibrancy. The viewing angles are spot on as you can see almost every detail from any angles. Moreover, talking about the sunlight legibility, it is quite good as well.
Though, you have to take care of brightness level to see correctly. The brand has improved a lot in terms of the brightness of their screen. The highest level it goes to is 900 nits, while browsing under sunlight you would need to put it at the highest level. For regular viewing, the 50% level is fine, or you could also opt for auto brightness, but that is hardly accurate on any Android device, and it’s not so different here. The G5’s black level is solid; it is the area where many IPS displays fail to deliver on the promise, but not this one. Though, note that they are not as deep, but are suitably inky like on Galaxy S7. What more is that the LG display has a great contrast ratio.
Now let’s talk about the cat in the field; Always On Display mode. Just like the Samsung Galaxy S7, Always On Display feature you can see an “always-on” mode on the LG G5 as well. There is a one big difference that sets these two features on the Samsung and LG handsets. It’s the fact that G5 can show even the third-party apps notifications like WhatsApp and Gmail while S7 is stuck with notifications from system apps only. Well, that sums up, LG is a clear winner, and that is what I like about this handset, being friendlier with other services and still offering better battery consumption optimization than what Samsung could offer. But do make a note that with no AMOLED panel, LG’s display is less customizable, and it lights up every pixel rather than just the clock. Thus, making it far more noticeable and distracting in low light.
The software is a big part of what any smartphone can offer and from what we experienced after using the device for couple days was that software on the LG G5 is a little hit and a miss. The interface includes the latest version of Android, i.e. 6.0.1 Marshmallow. And yes, there are all fabulous features that Google added towards the end of last year is present here. But like most of the Android phones these days, it is heavily skinned. The biggest change that you’ll see on the LG UX 5.0 is that there is no app drawer. As LG announced earlier, they have really ditched the one thing that was standard on the Android.
Well, there are many users who are particular about this app drawer situation, and they might not like, but I don’t have any problem with it. For me, it’s a step forward by LG. So, not a deal breaker. This just giving some weighs to the rumors that Android N final build may offer an option to enable or disable the app drawer. While this functionality is not new as it’s present on many customized Android OS, but offering this feature on stock Android would change things at big levels, as most of the devices ships with stock UI.
Why can the software experience prove to be a deal breaker here? Well, even the brands like Samsung has learned that filling up their handsets with bloatware doesn’t help at all, it just annoys users. While Samsung has learned that lesson and implement on its recent premium flagship handsets, LG seems to have failed its users in terms of less messy software experience. There is some serious amount of pre-loaded apps you’ll see on the G5. On top of that, there is no app drawer.
Now just imagine the situation of the home screens. Alongside the Google’s stock apps like Maps, Drive, Photos, Gmail and much more, you’ll see LG’s default apps for music, email, app store (LG World), backup, remote call and tons of other LG apps. You’ll also see apps like Evernote, Instagram, and Facebook. Most folks out there use these apps so it shouldn’t be a big deal, but, I don’t like these services forced on me. And if the apps are pre-installed on the device, then they cannot usually be uninstalled, unless you know how to root your device. Contemplating that I didn’t felt a need to using any of these pre-installed apps proves that they are not particularly resourceful.
Hardware & Performance
The internals on this phone would be familiar to anyone who has seen this year’s flagship phones. The G5 sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, which uses Quad-core Kryo CPU setup, accompanied by Adreno 530 GPU, as well as a 4GB of RAM. In terms of internal storage it has got only one option, i.e. 32GB. It is pretty much similar to what Samsung and HTC offer on S7 and HTC 10 smartphone. With this high-powered internals what comes along? Well, powerful performance for sure. You can browse, scroll through menus, open different apps, switch between them, and do all other things that you usually do on your phone. All that would be mostly smooth and lag free.
Generally speaking, it has the power to do anything quite smoothly, but once in a while every system gets jarred, and you’ll see them grind to halt. There were few such instances happened while using G5 as a daily driver. After few days, you expect more performance even though it is sufficient.
Taking about the gaming, well, Games run as intended, whether you’re playing a heavy graphic intense game or far simpler, it all plays out swiftly, without any break. Moreover, there is no stuttering when playing videos of 1440p resolution on YouTube. There is heating, which is easily picked up as soon as play game for like 15 minutes straight, although, it’s nothing serious. With a unique design, there were concerns that whether it has been optimized for heating or not, well, the company has done a commendable job, but it still heats up to a considerable degree. Just to put things in perspective, we did the benchmark tests with apps like Antutu and Vellamo. Now the Antutu revealed a score of 124192, which is close to 126816 score of the Galaxy S7. Though, note that the Samsung handset score we compared sports an Exynos 8890, but not the Snapdragon 820.
Moving on with Vellamo app, it breaks performance in three points; Multicore, Metal, and Browser. For Multicore, it scored 3465, whereas Metal test revealed 3413 and the Chrome Browser test showed 4330 score. These all are on par with the scores of other flagship devices. Except for the browser test, Samsung flagship scored 6227, whereas the LG handset is stuck in a 4K range. Though, if you take real life usage, which mostly matters, well, it was a good experience. The browsing is just friendly on this handset, Zoom-in and Zoom-out operations work great.
Coming to the fingerprint sensor, unlike any other brands LG has managed to be quite impressive on this part. Despite the fact that I don’t prefer this biometric sensor on the rear side, I end up liking the user experience on this handset. And why was that? It’s simple! I don’t have to press a button to make it detect the fingerprints, as soon as I put my finger that I added, it will unlock the device without any delay. Whereas despite putting a fingerprint sensor on the front (which is an ideal place for me), the physical button on Samsung Galaxy S7 needs to be pressed first then it will detect the fingerprint. What a waste of good opportunity, Samsung! Overall, I would say I’m quite satisfied with the fingerprint experience on this handset.
LG has proved us in the past couple of years that company is truly capable of offering groundbreaking camera phones, which not only uses the latest innovation but also yields best results. Many would argue that last year’s model, the G4, and V10 form LG were some of the best camera phones on the market. This year company seems to be following the same path as it may the best camera phone for this year as well. It may be the modular system that would earn G5 its applause, but for me, it’s the secondary wide-angle sensor that sits along the main sensor. Offering a GoPro-esque like footage, which is a 135-degree field of view, if you didn’t know, that is in fact more than what human eye is capable of seeing. Whereas comparing it to the other smartphone, their cameras offer a 75-degree view. That is almost double the field of view from any average smartphone camera.
As far as the specifics are considered, the rear module has a dual sensor setup, the regular module comes with a 16-megapixel resolution, while the wide-angle sensor has an 8-megapixel resolution. Talking first about the wide-angle sensor, it doesn’t produce quite sharp images as does the main camera due to lack of pixels, but let me ensure you that the picture sit produces looks cool and genuinely quite different. It is a great module for taking the landscape shots, and one should avoid taking close up shots with this module.
The main camera here is like any flagship camera these days offers, a 16: 9 ratio capturer, although, the important point is that it’s brilliant. The color in the output looks natural, good white balance as well as exposure level in auto mode. You can switch to 4:3 ratio for the main module, but I prefer the bigger ratio as it captured more background in one shot. Intricate details are picked up quite well by the rear main module.
Talking about the focusing, it is quite good, all thanks to the laser autofocus setup. Though it doesn’t do well in low light, it struggles for focus points when there is a lack of light source, taking a couple of go at it to get it right. But do make a note that low-light shots, in general, are quite well, with an aperture of f/1.8, why won’t they be, right! Moreover, there is an Optical Image Stabilization support as well, so you get better pictures produced with the combination of laser autofocus and large aperture. The pictures look bright, good colors and mostly no blur in low light. If you’re concerned that switching between each sensor is not fast, well, don’t be, because it is quite easy and fast, as focusing doesn’t take up much time.
The camera app is pretty intuitive and has a lot of modes that one would barely use. Such as you can take captures by saying “Kimchi” (Fermented Vegetable Korean Dish), or make palm with your hand, or maybe use the shutter to take captures. There are lots of modes; you can shoot in RAW mode, take HDR captures, or use Pro mode to change ISO/Exposure/White Balance. I would recommend you to use it in HDR Auto mode; because that’s the best mode it has to offer.
The most important factor, you can quickly open the camera app into the shooting mode, just double tap the volume down button on the rear side, it isn’t as quick as double tapping home button on Samsung Galaxy S7, but it’s quite fast. The video recording using the rear module is pretty crispy and smooth as it can record up to 4K/UHD video content. But do make a note that if you’re planning to shoot long videos with this smartphone camera, well, get ready to experience heating, because it tends to heat up a lot during those long video shoots. The selfie module has an 8-megapixel resolution, and it has a wide lens as well. So, expect to cram a lot of people in that one selfie at the dinner table without needing a selfie stick.
The battery life on the LG G5 is good. Yes, you read that right! For all your concern sporting a 2800mAh capacity battery fueling a powerhouse processor, 2K Display would take a toll or not. Well, all thanks to the software optimization done by the LG, it has managed to last a day with around 10% battery remaining when the day ends. It’s not quite good or bad, but still rather satisfying.
The battery capacity on this premium flagship isn’t the largest among its competition, for instance, Samsung Galaxy S7 sports a 3000mAh capacity battery and has a smaller display as well. But the fact that LG handset offers removable battery you can throw in a spare into your bag and replace when you need it urgently if the juice is running low. The standby time on this handset is pretty impressive, because on average we saw only 4% drop. Note that it has a Quick Charge 3.0 support, whereas the Galaxy S7 is stuck with Quick Charge 2.0. But unfortunately, LG doesn’t supply a charger that supports 3.0, whereas it provides only a 2.0 support Type-C charger. Regardless of the situation, the battery powers up pretty quickly, like about 60% in an hour, while the remaining in less than half hour. Once you have used quick charging supported handset, it’s hard to switch back to non-fast charging handsets.
The connectivity is one of the most important aspects of the device, and we have been using the device for quite a time now, which gave us time to test the connectivity features on this latest LG handset. Talking about first about the 4G LTE support, we have been using 4G SIM on this smartphone, as far as data speed goes, it is on par with other handsets in the same range. Note we have used the same SIM card that we have used in testing other flagship handsets in this price range. The device support dual SIM, both should be Nano SIM cards. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, USB Type-C and OTG compatible.
Now the most important question; Should I buy the LG G5? Well, the LG G5 is a really good smartphone, although, when comparison to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and even with HTC 10, it doesn’t overall feels to be an impressive match. Apart from the same components like fabulous screen, high-end internals and a camera that tries to do something unique. And there is also a modular prospect to the G5, which is mostly exciting. However, let me tell you that G5 feels a cheaper phone like it’s a fusion between Project Ara and a Unibody Metal Smartphone. That’s not the best explanation, but considering the software experience as well, which is the less attractive side of this handset, the handset isn’t perfect to be a disruptor even with its promising modular design.