LG G5 Review
Recently I had delivery of an LG G5 Android 6.0.1 smartphone from Vodafone, as I wanted to check-out the 4K capabilities of the handset to record footage from my Hisense TV.
For the most part, regardless of its strengths and weaknesses the LG G5 has one of the best camera’s I’ve used in a smartphone to-date.
Housed in a Metal finish, which is somewhat puzzling given the fact it feels more plastic than metal, the LG G5 offers a mixed bag on the design and build quality front.
However coming from an iPhone background the first thing you need to adjust to is the power button which is positioned around the back of the handset.
I seemed to spend most of the first few days with the LG pressing the bottom or sides of the screen as muscle memory took over and I had to train myself to using the back button position of the LG.
On a positive note the power button does act as a touch id sensor and assigning one of my left hand digits to the task of unlocking the phone does actually work instantly, as soon as I pick up the device. This is because you don’t really need any finger pressure to activate the unlock process and so as soon as the handset is brought towards my face to start using it the device has already unlocked and ready to go.
At the back of the phone you will also notice two camera lenses and this is because the LG G5 has an 8MP 135 degree field of view wide angle lens and a standard 16MP sensor. Of course you drop some visual quality using the wide angle lens, but it offers some GoPro inspired photos and videos which is a superb addition to have on a smartphone at this price point.
Of course the main party piece of the LG G5 is with its modular design and what I mean by this is the bottom of the handset can come away from the chassis so you can interchange it with other components.
From what I can remember so far there is a 32-bit audio DAC module (LG Hi-Fi Plus with B&O PLAY) for boosting the sound quality and a camera grip module for adjusting zoom and for taking shots with a physical shutter button.
Sadly I never got chance to try these modules out but they don’t sound cheap at £69 for the camera grip and £149 for the speaker module. Then again for me a key benefit of the module design is that you can at least hot swap the 2800 mAh battery which is a rarity these days.
However removing the dongle is a little fiddly in that you need to press a button first and this is embedded to the left side of the casing. The latter does not immediately eject the module either, so you need to keep the button pressed down and use your fingers to help pry the module open.
This could explain why the module does not always sit flush to the casing and why dirt can get trapped under the supplied screen protector; which seems to be added to the phone already.
Removing the battery also requires you to grip the module and pull at the battery before it releases with a cracking sound. It’s nothing to worry about as the mechanism is designed like this but the process of changing the battery will obviously put more strain on this mechanism if you change the battery frequently.
Something you may have to do as well, because the battery life is not the best in all honesty.
Also because of the module system there is a slight lip where the case meets the base of the module, so if you rub your finger across the back you can feel your finger catching it.
Towards the left side you also have some recessed volume controls and these are a little too sensitive at times, more so with the camera as I kept catching them when using the camera app and this seems to trigger the shutter button, so I’ve been getting random photos as a result!
Surprisingly though give some of the design twerks the handset still feels comfortable to hold, as the 5.3” IPS screen is not overly large in comparison to its competitors.
The smooth curved edges and finish is also less slippery than I had expected. You also have a slight curvature to the front part of the phone which offsets the front-facing 1080p camera.
While at the right side of the phone you will find a port cover which requires a safety pin to eject (a tool is supplied in the box -ed), but this houses both the Nano-sim and the microSD card slot under the one roof so to speak. As a result when needing to access the latter it will disable your sim until it’s put back in, which is not ideal.
At least you can expand up to 256GB of additional storage which is great as this will boost the default 32GB nicely.
Finally at the very top of the handset you have a 3.5mm headphone jack (to support the included headphones) and at the base you have a large speaker grill with a USB-Type C connector.
LG have got rid of the standard microUSB slot here, so it’s yet another cable you have to jostle with! However the design of the USB cable is like the lightning port connector of the iPhone, so for example you can place this into the port using either side of the cable.
Incidentally in the box you also get a nice compact USB mains charger to go with it, which is just as well because the charger is going to be needed a lot!
LG Interface Customisation
Another aspect of the security I forgot to mention is that the phone can be locked with a pin number and then you can set it so it requires the pin number to be inputted as the phone boots. A bit like a motherboard's BIOS sequence.
Thus before you even get into the OS you will require the pin to gain access. I sort of like this process as it allows extra security and the boot time is not hampered too much by its inclusion.
When you finally get to the OS itself you may have another surprise, more so if you are an Android user expecting to see the traditional app drawer.
On the LG G5 the default Home screen is actually an iPhone inspired one in that the home page holds all the app icons and you can swipe between the screens like you would on an iPhone. Of course you do have folders as well and yet I know some people will find the screen can get cluttered using this process.
Thankfully there is no need to worry as LG have provided you with 2 additional Home screens to choose from, one of these is downloadable.
With the extra choices you can either utilise the app drawer once again or use a hybrid, with the app draw icon being available on the right most screen.
In fact most of the LG G5’s interface is customisable, including the swipe motion, the keyboard, the lock screen and also there is a profile system available so you can log in with different Google accounts if needs be.
I personally like the settings options on the whole, I think the choice of fonts, the black text on a white background and the tab system at the top, makes it extremely easy to choose options and to customise your device.
You don’t really get much in the way of bloatware either, not from Vodafone or LG, but for the apps you can’t remove there is a hide function to hide those apps.
Additionally you can customise the home buttons at the base of the phone. which are on-screen variants as opposed to physical. So you can add a screen capture icon for example into the mix.
Incidentally the screen offers a 1440P resolution which is 1440 x 2160px. This extra resolution provides that crispness to the icons, but the included screen projector does impact slightly on vibrancy.
Even with a full backlight it is not as vibrant as AMOLED screen, but it’s not bad either! Yet the auto brightness is possibly more aggressive on this handset in an attempt to help with the batterylife which does take a hit due to the screen resolution and also the power under the bonnet!
In fact this device features a Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820 chipset with a Quad-core (2x2.15 GHz Kryo & 2x1.6 GHz Kryo) CPU and an Adreno 530 GPU.
On top of this it also has a mighty 4GB of RAM and in some ways it needs it because I utilised an app on the LG that allows you to monitor the storage and memory usage of the phone. Without any apps running in the background at least 1.76GB of memory was being used and this does not take into account the memory reserved for the system. So it certainly needs the added girth given that when other apps are open this total drops further.
On the plus side multi-tasking is quick and you can use the recently opened apps draw to switch between running apps with ease!
So absolutely no problems with performance as such, as the benchmark results show below that the device outperformed the iPhone 6 on several tests.
While I keep mentioning the battery life I will talk about this shortly, but the device does have several battery saving modes, one of which is a Game optimisation option. Enabling this will reduce the resolution and performance of the device in order to help conserve battery life. You can of course disable this feature, which I did and it’s this that can lead to a large drop in battery life for gaming.
Sadly gaming is what I was doing a lot of because the experience is superb! The screen resolution is top notch and the audio output is loud, so it provides a great experience on the gaming front.
The only thing I did not like was my natural hand placement covered the speaker grill which dumbs down the effect; which is possibly why the speaker is so loud to compensate for this. Of course the way around it is to rotate the device so the speaker grill goes to the top of the handset, thus my palm does not impede it, but you just have to remember to do this.
My only gripe with the speaker is that while it is loud it does come at the sacrifice of the Base and Treble balance, which is a bit all over the place. Though in fairness I still found it enjoyable when watching streamed content from YouTube, Flixter Video and Google Play Movies.
With one of the films I watched (Gravity) I was also happy with the Blacks that the LG produces. While they were not jet black they were not muddy either, so the IPS screen is certainly good and it also worked well outdoors...