Sunday, May 8, 2016

LG G5 Review - What's good and what's not!

For a while I've wanted to try the LG G5. I didn't fully trust what reviewers were saying, and I for one was always one to form my own opinion. The LG G5 had a lot of negative publicity since its initial release in the US. This is now a month later and we are no longer talking about just a US release, we're talking about a GLOBAL release. This device has been pushed back a few times while waiting for it here in Spain. I was afraid of getting the same device that I saw on the internet of the first batch with all its horrible issues - luckily I didn't have 90% of the issues and this is a fantastic phone, but it's not perfect, especially considering the price tag. Let's get right into it then!

Let's get to it!


  • 5.3" with on screen buttons QHD screen
  • Rear mounted power and finger sensor
  • Side mounted volume rocker vs the rear mounted ones found on the LG G2, G3, G4 and V10.
  • Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4GB of Ram
  • 1 rear mounted 16mpx standard camera
  • 1 rear mounted 8 mpx ultra wide angle camera
  • 1 front mounted 8 mpx front facing camera
  • Removable battery at 2,800 mah capacity
  • Micro SD card expandability slot, up to 200 gb for when that becomes available.
  • 32gb of internal storage

Build quality

Build quality This device has a decent build quality -- now, is it worth the 600-700 euro price tag? That's for you to decide. I am also reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and that is a very premium device that, ironically, has had a few price slashes and costs less than the G5! But for all intents purposes this device isn't built badly, but it certainly doesn't feel like a premium device due to the choice of materials - while holding the G5 in the hand it feels … not metal, because the metal is covered, and not plastic because it's not plastic either - it's a primer.

I liked the LG G4 which was a mix of leather and plastic, the LG G5 takes a radical change from the previous year, at least in materials and design. This year, while the LG G5 maintains a removable battery and expandable storage, it does so while mixing it up a bunch. It's modular this year. (A lot of people weren't so sure about if it was going to be a good idea, and only time will tell. As of right now there are only 2 modules available and depending on the country you're in you might only have access to one. But we'll get into the modules a little bit later.)

The sides of the device are made of a metal, as is the body of the phone - but it's not like a traditional metal phone like the iPhone or an HTC device. It truly is a metallic device that has been covered with a layer of primer and then coated with another layer of paint and chips of metal. LG has come on the record to talk about the materials after having this video go viral:

LG goes on the record and explains everything that can be found on this link.

So, is it well built? Yes. Is it a premium device in regards to its build quality? No. Not at all. I'm very surprised they went in this direction, to be honest.

The sides of the device do dig a little bit in your hand, it's not smooth. It doesn't hurt of course, but if you've ever played with... well, any other mobile device, this is the complete opposite of any device in terms of build quality. Even the SIM tray doesn't sit flush into the sides.

When you run your finger up and down the sim tray adapter it feels like you can file your nails down, or even your skin if you needed to. This doesn't really bother me, but it certainly doesn't feel, and here's that special word once again, premium. The same is true about the lip where the magic slot comes out. The entire lip is easily raised or lowered every time you run your finger down it. It's like quality control didn't exist for these devices, or that they pushed them out as fast as possible to get it to the market. I personally don't mind since I usually have a case on my devices, but always for review periods I use them without anything! In this generation of devices there were two exceptions:

This device, the LG G5 - mostly due to the fact that I don't want to FEEL the imperfections

You can see the lip on the original device I got.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge - due to the fact that it's made mostly of glass on the front and back and if it were to fall my heart would stop just a little bit.

UPDATE: I returned my LG G5 for a new one that came from a newer batch, which took 2  weeks to get out to me, and all the hardware issues with the bubbles of paint, misalignment of the magic slot, recessed SIM card tray and the harsh edges have been fixed. I'm very happy with the build quality now. But this doesn't change the materials they have used  and I'm still worried about long term durability of it with our without a case - some other people have mentioned that while using a case that really sticks to the G5, when removing the case it sometimes pulls some of the paint. Ouch. Hopefully this will not happen.

In all honesty, I don’t know why LG used this primer on such an expensive device, I can see the price dropping relatively quickly, and in the 2 weeks it had been out, at least here in Spain, the price has already dropped from 700 euros to 639 euros to 560 euros.  That's a 20% drop in 2 weeks. Now this feels like a more correct price for the device we have now - super specifications but lackluster R&D into the materials.

The modules

At the time of this review there are only two modules that are available for purchase. The B&O audio DAC, which seems nice, but for the price of the G5 on preorder here in Europe, this 150€ addon should have been included (seeing that the V10 has a very similarly spec'd DAC built in).

There is also a camera grip that varies in price radically depending on where you find it. This camera grip adds some functionality to the device:
  • It adds a grip to be able to better hold the phone as if it were a camera.
  • It adds a few buttons: a dual stage camera shooter button which also focuses.
  • A dedicated video record button
  • Zoom dial to zoom in and out of the cameras (also, it allows you to switch cameras from the 8 to the 16 and vice versa without having to stop the camera application or recording if that is the case).
  • An instant launch button to go directly to the camera.
  • A 1,200 mAH battery which only charges for a minute or so after you press the button and as long as you are using the camera grip it'll continue to either charge your battery, or if your battery is already full, keep the battery full and make the phone draw its power from the grip thereby leaving the phone's internal battery fully charged.

The gripe I have about these modules is that you have to remove the battery and shut down every single time you want change. Imagine you want to go out of your hotel with your friend and or family, you'll either have to leave the grip on thereby making the device larger permanently, or shut down the phone, and eject the current module and swap the battery to the camera grip module and then plug it back in and wait for the device to turn back on. You could also lose one of these modules while exchanging it by leaving it in your bag or have it drop.

Is it a great idea? Sure! But was it the best implementation? Maybe LG was holding back for the LG G6 for a rather stellar build quality and mechanism. Only time will tell. Until then, it seems gimmicky but it could be very useful if you have the money to throw.

The display

The display on this device is beautiful. It's colorful and saturated, it's incredibly sharp and detailed, and bright in most situations. While I was doing the camera portion of the review, which is a little bit lower, I didn't have trouble seeing any of the shots, but I did have trouble with how bright it was on automatic while I was in a darker environment while shooting something that wasn't in such a dark environment such as taking a picture of sunset - the sun is in front of you and darkness behind. But then again, it wasn't that big of an issue.

The display's glass is thick enough. Having seen that video, you could imagine that the glass was so thin that you could make the LCD ripple - and this is not true in the slightest. The screen is perfect, the thickness is just fine, and there were no issues while using it.

Another issue that most people liked to talk about was light bleed. This is something normal with most LCD displays when you have the brightness cranked up and the background a darker color, like black. In my case I did have VERY little light bleed.  It is hardly noticeable and totally fine.

The screen to body ratio was actually lowered this year, which might be normal since this is a first generation device (although, technically, it is a 5th).  But the screen was reduced to 5.3" from the 5.5" that was on the G4 the previous year. At least they kept the same screen resolution. In all honesty, the screen does feel smaller and noticeable in use in compared to the G4, or even the Galaxy S7 Edge with its "infinity" display that bends, giving you the illusion that you're actually holding the display, rather than the phone itself. I personally like the dimensions of the G5, so this isn't an issue for me, but I have always been an advocate for larger-screened phones. Regardless, this screen is beautiful, bright, vibrant, and incredibly sharp!

The always on display is a feature that I turned off. I believe it drains far too much battery. LG announced that it drains 0.8% per hour, so let's round it: 1% an hour. That's 24% of your battery in 1 day. So, if you don't touch your phone in 1 day, you'll pick it up with, at the highest, 76% battery the next day. This is ONLY the display and we're assuming that every other function uses 0 (which isn't true, we're talking about CPU, radios, processes, email and messages and phone calls).

The Camera

Two reviews- the one word review and the long review:

The one word review: SUPERB.

The longer version: This is by far the most important aspect of a phone for me nowadays. Since I had my LG G4 I haven't carried a point and shoot camera anywhere. The quality will never be the same, but these phones nowadays have such a great cameras that you can replace your standard camera with your mobile phones.

Let's get specific: This device shoots some BEAUTIFUL shots. I'm of course talking about the primary rear 16mpx camera. In combination to the 16mpx f/1.8 standard camera, which in itself is an improvement over the LG G4 and V10 in terms of quality, rendering and lighting, there is also an ultra-wide angled 8mpx camera. The secondary camera isn't even close to the quality of the 16 in terms of quality (of course) nor does it take good low light images - but damn these shots are very fun!

The shots are generally speaking focused, color representation is on the warmer side but are much more realistic than the Galaxy S7 Edge which I have been using for the past 3 weeks. I have no doubt that if you don't like the build quality of the G5, the modularity, or any other aspect: the camera will be the thing that wins you over. I have yet to find a device on the market that can truly compete with the camera UI, features and quality. 

In regards to speed: it's very fast to focus, and it gives you a very satisfying sensation when you do lock onto your subject when you tap on the screen to focus on something. There is only 1 other phone that is faster than the G5, and that is the Samsung Galaxy S7.

In terms of quality, a lot of people would like to compare it to the Samsung. In reality, these two devices are very very good. I would generally give the upper hand to the G5 in terms of low light, quality of the image, color representation and manual mode. If photography (and not video) is important to you, then the G5 is your best bet. I did find that while recording in UHD the OIS was a little bit too wobbly for my tastes. Also, the bitrate is very good but there are devices on the market that record in a higher bitrate. Slow motion was good, but there are, once again, other devices out there that offer more options in terms in FPS.

Let's take a look at some sample shots.

It's very difficult to say something negative about the camera. It does a very good job. BUT if you were to twist my arm about the LG G5's camera, I'd have to say that sometimes the pictures aren't detailed enough and it actually looks like the shots were painted with brush strokes which actually looks nice. Focus speeds are very good, but not as good as some other newer technologies, especially in video recording, but they are very very good. Also, the ability to focus and know that you have focused correctly with either a red or green square is something that Samsung still hasn't caught on to - So a big point in favor of the slower yet more accurate focusing mechanism for LG.

Video recording is improved from last year's LG G4, but it still wobbles and gives a jello effect.

If you'd like to see some comparative shots check out these links

Audio quality

Audio quality on this phone is very good, loud and clear compared to most other phones on the market. This year the LG G5 has a bottom-firing loud speaker, which in my opinion can either be a fantastic idea or a terrible one depending on each person. The benefit of the bottom facing speaker rather than the rear facing speaker like on most devices is that sound isn't muffled while placed on the table. The bad thing about it is that when you're holding it, and depending on how you hold it, the sound can be muted by your own palm while playing a game, watching a video or just holding it in general.

The one real issue I had with this module is that it rumbles at higher levels all the while feeling a bit cheap and hollow on the inside. But once again, generally speaking, it sounds better than the competition. I'd rather have the higher and better sounding quality and have a little rattle vs having a device that is tinny at higher volumes or even lower volume.

Wifi Speed

I have a very good internet connection and a fairly decent router. The LG G5 gets SUPERB data speeds, especially when referring to downloads. Uploads are nothing special, but also they are not slow either.


This is a great phone with fantastic specifications. It provides superb performance and that's on par with what a device nowadays should be in 2016 - lag is a thing of the past. It even out performs the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with the Exynos processor inside. The things that really worry me are the doubts about build quality and durability. If this device were to fall, it would surely get nicked and the paint layer would get chipped. Also, from what I've seen others talk about, the glass over the screen is quite thin and could shatter more easily than other devices like the iPhone or Samsung S7 and S7 Edge. Battery life isn't the greatest, but being able to use QC 3.0 (faster than 2.0, naturally) is a plus. There is also the added benefit of being able to exchange your battery whenever you'd like - still though there is nothing like not needing to charge your device in the middle of the day.

The modules are a little gimmicky but could be useful to those who. I also have my reservations about seeing how this module system will hold up in 6 months. There have been several websites complain about build quality after a few weeks of usage and how the paint would chip around this end area around the modules (probably from playing around with the modules so often for their reviews, but regardless this shouldn't be an issue only a few weeks).

The device is a solid shooter with the camera. I was a huge fan of the LG G4 camera and I am a very big fan of the LG G5 camera. Who is the device really aimed at? If the Samsung devices are aimed at more fashion forward people, I'd guess the G5 is aimed more at the technological people who want to tinker and be able to swap out batteries and geek out! There is even a wide angle lens built into the camera! How awesome is that!?

+Speed of the device
+Wifi speeds
+Camera qulity
+Size and fit in hand (after having the second unit)
+Modularity could be an awesome future
+Vibrant and crisp display
+Removable battery
+Quick Charge 3.0, faster than 2.0
+Expandable storage

-Battery life isn't that great
-Lack of Wireless charging if that's important to you, but it isn't to me since it's ALWAYS slower than just plugging it in and creates more heat. This is in the negative section because it's always something bad when the company removes a feature that people generally like
-Display in the sun is lackluster

-Durability in the following months is up in the air.

+- Always on Display - while a great feature, it chews through the battery 25% a day with NO OTHER functionality going on. This is both bad and good, for those who use it a lot, it's great. For those of us who don't, it's a battery drain. Point though for being able to turn it off! +