- Questionable future LG Friends support
- Lack of module options
- Questionable durability on phone finish
- Average battery life
LG is known for offering a unique take on mobile phone design. They’ve proven with each release that they’re not afraid to try something new and the LG G5 is no exception. With its modular design, LG touts that you can add features or upgrade your phone to suit the way you plan to use it.
But does this bold idea pan out? Reviews on this flagship device are rolling out and we’ve dug deep into them all to let you know what the experts around the web are saying. Let’s get started!
The LG G5 includes a lot of first--some for mobile phones in general and others for LG. One of the good ones is the switch to a metal unibody design. Unlike previous phones in the G-series, you won’t find a bunch of bold curves or shiny plastic bits.
The Verge spent some time with the G5 and called its design, “Restrained in all the ways that LG usually isn’t.” Most reviews applauded the phone for it’s comfortable one-hand use, with Android Authority declaring, I personally think the 5.3-inch form factor is perfect for a smartphone and LG may have uncovered the perfect size.”
Unfortunately, it seems that the coating LG chose for the phone’s body isn’t winning many fans in the review crowd. Their primer and metallic paint approach left many questioning if the phone was metal at all. Android Central had issues with cracking and chipping on the finish and many reviews noted easy scuffing and scratching. Greenbot wrote, “I would have preferred a more durable finish, and maybe that’s something LG can improve in next year’s G6.”
Heading around to the front of the phone, you’ll find a 5.3-inch IPS display running at 1440-by-2560 pixels. Fortunately, reviews for the display were much better than the body of the phone. Android Authority used the phone for a week and found, ”The G5’s display is certainly impressive and offers great color reproduction and vibrant colors, that aren’t oversaturated.“
One issue where opinions differed was on the lighting. Some reviews noted light bleeding issues while others specifically mentioned no problems at all. This might be an issue of pre-production or first run phones.
To keep all those pixels moving, LG went with the latest Snapdragon 820 processor. This is same processor most of 2016’s flagships are using and, as per usual, performance reviews are outstanding. Greenbot noted, “The G5 doesn’t stutter or lag during real-world use.”
Android Authority put it through a full set of benchmark tests and real-world use scenarios and ruled, “From buttery smooth animations, to rapid multitasking and gaming like a pro, the G5 is definitely more than capable at handling whatever you throw at it.” Many reviews also pointed out that the heat concerns from the Snapdragon 810 are not apparent in the new 820 processor, even when placed inside a metal phone.
With 4-gigabytes of RAM, the phone offers some future proofing and added responsiveness for heavy multitaskers. The phone also offers 32GB of internal storage--enough for many users. Should you need more space, LG has kept microSD card support in the mix with support for cards with capacities up to 2-terabytes.
While the handset runs Android Marshmallow 6.0.1, you won’t find the Adoptable Storage feature enabled. This means you won’t be able to tap into all of 2TB of external storage for app storage. However, that still provides plenty of room for a healthy stash of movies, music or tv shows!
With the typical specs out of the way, reviews start delving into some of the unique aspects of the G5. One of the first things noticeable when you flip the G5 over is that there are two cameras on the back. LG included a 16MP main camera with optical image stabilization as well as an 8MP wide-angle lens for additional photo options. And don’t worry selfie-fans, there’s still an 8MP front-facing camera as well.
Reviews for all three cameras are overwhelming positive. The Verge notes, “LG’s camera system is one of the very few that I trust in all circumstances, delivering sharpness, detail, and speed that only Apple and Samsung are currently able to compete with.” Gizmodo adds, “The wide-angle camera really does add quite a bit of creative freedom to smartphone photography—particularly when zooming simply isn’t an option.”
The multiple lenses offer options you simply can’t find on other phones. The phone also allows exporting images in RAW format for professional level tweaking. Other features include an in-depth set of manual settings and the ability to shoot 4K video.
This also brings us to the first of the LG “Friends.” These modular additions add features to the LG G5. You just push a button near the bottom of the phone, releasing the lower portion of the handset along with the battery. Snap the battery off the stock mount and onto your LG Friend module and slide it back in.
Overall, the reviews on this are mixed. On the visual front, many reviews noted that the friend modules didn’t quite sit flush with the screen on the phone. On the functional part, some reviews questioned what the friends modules really offered. The way the pieces interact also worried some reviewers. Gizmodo noted that, “[swapping modules required] more brute force than you’d expect. ‘At least it’s still under warranty’ shouldn’t be going through your head when you’re trying to use a smartphone’s biggest selling point.” Engadget said, “I'm curious about how long these things will last before some poor piece of plastic snaps.”
At the time of writing, there are two modules available--only of one of which is available outside the UK. The Camera Grip offers physical camera controls and an extra 1,200mAh battery for extended shooting sessions. The Hi-Fi Plus with Bang & Olufsen Play is a digital-to-analog audio converter that can work with any USB-C enabled sound source. It’s also only available in limited regions.
Fortunately, if you’re not in the UK, reviews indicate that the single speaker on the phone is quite good. Engadget notes, “the G5 is a more capable audio machine out of the box than you might expect.”
The Camera Grip received mediocre reviews due to the lack of indicators on the zoom wheel, uncomfortable button placement and a generally uncomfortable grip.
Powering all this feature-swapping madness, you’ll find a 2,800mAh battery. Reviews on battery life are also mixed. While TechRadar noted, With moderate to heavy usage I found the G5 wouldn't get past early evening before dying. I regularly had to give it a top up before leaving the office if I wanted the G5 to see it through until bedtime.” Many reviews had no problem making it throughout the day--but only just.
Fortunately, with a removeable battery, power users can swap out a spare on particularly busy days. If you need a quick top off, the phone features Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 feature, allowing you to reach roughly 50% battery charge in only 30 minutes. Reviews noted that not only is charging quick, but there’s no issues with heat either.
Other features include Bluetooth 4.2, an IR emitter and NFC.
Overall, the verdicts from many reviews were bittersweet. It seems most reviews felt that LG spent too much time cramming in features and not enough time polishing their presentation. Not to mention that the biggest selling point--the modular add-ons--only offer two options at release. Gizmodo notes, “It’s hard to convince people to buy a product based on what it might eventually be able to do, but that’s the number one selling point the LG G5 currently has going for it: potential.“ The Verge echoes this sentiment, saying, “I applaud LG for bringing modular phones into the mainstream limelight. I only wish the company's execution was as great as its courage and imagination.”