I’ve been using the LG G5 as a daily driver for a month now. I’ve got much to say about LG’s latest flagship, and I must admit that writing this review isn’t as easy as reviewing other smartphones. Do not expect this as a quick review or some sort, but a full, definitive and sometimes brutal consumer testimony.
Design and Looks
The LG G5 looks like an ordinary single slab of metal on the get go. No matter what color you get -- silver, gold or pink -- the device’s design draws inspiration from the LG G4 and the LG V10. This, however, isn’t an ordinary single slab of metal. It is, in fact, composed of 2 interlocking pieces of metal: one that houses the sound module, speakers, battery and charging port; and another one where all the necessary parts are installed.
Below is a photo we got from iFixit, which shows the phone’s innards.The design enables the device to be modular. The main bed, which contains the essential hardware, can take in new and available modules by LG. I will speak more of its being ‘modular’ later. The removable module, when attached, is a little wobbly. When the main bed is detached, you will notice that the post manufacturing finish is a little rough, which I find a little disappointing. The thin chrome design that wraps around its side bezel easily chips off too. These design flaws take out the “premiumness” of the phone, in my opinion.
LG decided to move the volume rockers to the left side of the LG G5. This time, the switches are accessible whether it’s facing down or up -- a glaring change from its previous iterations. Its sleep/wake button, which doubles as a fingerprint scanner, is left alone at the back of the device. Above it are dual cameras with the following specs:
- 16mp (f1.8 aperture)
- 8mp super wide-angle (f2.4 aperture)
Meanwhile, its secondary camera (8mp f2.0 aperture) is located at the upper left side of its 5.3-inch QHD display.
Without question, LG G5’s screen is best we’ve seen on a smartphone. Apart from its being very responsive, it displays clear and accurate colors of subjects and contents. Its screen protection technology is a little older than current flagships (Gorilla Glass 4), but we’re certain that it can carry out its job really well. Kudos to LG for consistently coming up with smartphones with superior display performance.
Check out the macro photos we took of the screen for your reference. We also took a macro shot of the Zenfone 3’s screen for comparison purposes.
Much as I want to talk about overall performance, I thought that it’s best to drill it even further by discussing how it fared in terms of gaming, productivity, multimedia and sound. Since gaming has been our default performance benchmark, I’ll start off with how the LG G5 performed when it comes to mobile gaming.
The LG G5 is a beast. Snapdragon 820 is no slouch when it comes to gaming. I made my LG G5 a gaming powerhouse, and spent quite a lot of hours playing my favorite games on the device such as Minecraft Story Mode, NBA 2K16, Nonstop, Card Wars, Mobius Final Fantasy, DJ Max Technica Q, Lara Croft Go, Pokemon Go and Terraria.
I also played mobile VR games on the device like InCell VR, Cmoar Roller Coaster and Lamper VR; and as expected, I was able play these games without any issues at all.
When things get slow, I can easily close apps running in the background via the opened-apps tab, This may be accessed by tapping the opened-apps soft key just beside the home soft key.
Since the device doesn’t have capacitive keys, its soft keys sometimes get in the way when playing full screen games. A quick restart of the game sometimes fixes this issue.
As my daily driver, I made sure that all the essential work and productivity applications are installed on the LG G5. I was able to use Microsoft Office apps, Google Analytics, WordPress, Dropbox, Linode, JuiceSSH, Xender and even PIA VPN without issues.
I also supercharged my LG G5 by installing Blackberry Hub+ Services, which allowed me to manage multiple email accounts and Calendars. This may be an unpopular choice, but it proved to be very useful for me.
As its core software already supports multiple users, it is possible to add users and share the LG G5 with other people. Each user can have their own applications and content installed and kept accordingly.
If you’ve got multiple Cloud accounts, you can use them in Gallery, Music and even via File Manager. All you have to do is sign-in your accounts via its Cloud menu. Supported accounts include Google Drive, Box.net, Dropbox and OneDrive.
LG also managed to embed on the LG G5’s software ‘Smart Settings’, which may be likened to Sony’s Smart Connect. When a particular action is triggered (‘At Home’, ‘Away from Home’, ‘When earphones are plugged in’ and ‘When Bluetooth device is connected’), an automated response will activate. Unfortunately, there is no option to auto-open an app when the phone detects that you’re at home or you’re away from home. Such is only applicable when you plug-in an earphone or when you connect a Bluetooth. For users who drive, don’t expect the LG G5 to open Waze when it detects that you’re away from home. I suggest that you download ‘Drivemode’ via PlayStore.
Multimedia and Sound Performance
The LG G5 is a jewel when it comes to multimedia.
Hands down, the LG G5 has the best and the loudest speaker on a smartphone I have ever used. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to let you experience this but I highly recommend that you try it out at LG concept stores.
The sound from its speaker, which is located at the bottom of the phone, fires downward when held vertically. My only gripe here is when I’m playing a mobile game designed to be played in landscape mode, my palm is right on its speaker. This is also the case when you use the Bang and Olufsen module as its speaker is placed on the same spot.
LG positions the device to be modular in nature. While there are aesthetic and post-manufacturing issues, it is surprising that LG tried and somehow made it work on the LG G5. Somehow.
Its concept of ‘LG G5 and Friends’ is hugely celebrated, but unfortunately struggled when it comes to execution. 4 months after its launch, it is still difficult to officially buy an LG G5 module. In fact, I had to buy an LG 360 Cam in Taiwan, LG G5 Camera Module and LG G5 Charging Kit from a gray-unit seller in the Philippines.
Forget about it being ‘modular’ and focus on its other awesome feature -- Camera. Its dual main cameras are superior in many aspects. Its 16-megapixel main camera has aperture levels (f1.8). It is perfect when taking photos in low light, and when the situation doesn’t call for a camera with wider angle.
When taking landscape photos, it is when its other main camera comes in very handy. While it is only 8-megapixel and has small aperture (f2.4), it can take photos up to 135-degree angle.
If you’re into taking videos, the dual cameras support OIS so you should be able to take insanely steady videos at 30fps up to 4K resolution. Unfortunately, its stock camera application does not support Full HD/60fps or UHD/30fps. The only way to take videos with the aforementioned resolutions and FPS is via the ported LG V10 Video Cam app, which you may download on this link. The ported LG V10 app works except when you manually set ISO while recording a video.
Taking selfies is equally cool as well. Its 8mp front camera has f2.0 aperture, and can take videos up to 1080p at 30fps.
Its 2800mAh battery performed good, but it isn’t the best around. On average, the LG G5 can be useful for 9 long hours at mid to high usage. I got myself an LG Cam module with additional 1200mAh. This is very helpful for me (especially during blogging coverages), but it’s still best if you’re carrying around an extra battery. Fortunately, this can easily be done as its battery is hot swappable.
I have to salute LG for paving the way to modular Android smartphones. LG, in my opinion, did not start a new ecosytem however; it enabled a microcosm that will allow the company to play around and see if this modular strategy works.
LG has proven itself to make a device that is superior in many aspects. The LG G5 is great for gaming, taking photos and videos, productivity multimedia. While the device has some post-manufacturing and sales execution issues, it made the smartphone race a little more exciting.