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LG G5 review: A great phone in its day, but don’t buy one in 2019

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £500
inc VAT (SIM-free)

The most ambitious phone of recent years, LG's G5 is an incredible handset that finally stands shoulder to shoulder with Samsung's S7


  • Excellent modular design
  • Fantastic rear-facing camera
  • Stunning IPS display


  • Slightly dull display
  • Poor battery life without the battery module

Should you make the LG G5 your next phone? I can’t think of a reason to in 2019, frankly.

The LG G5 was first released in 2016, and it was pretty good back then. Yes, the modular nature of it was a little half-baked, but it did at least work, even if LG didn’t really follow up with any modules. That’s the first problem: it’s USP was pretty much dead on arrival.

But more than that, it’s just not really up to speed any more. While it may outperform the very cheapest new handsets of 2019, most mid-rangers will have it squarely beat, and they’re also more likely to get updates to Android, as well.

But what if you’re dead sold on the idea of a modular phone? Well, LG has long given up that dream, and in fact there’s only one manufacturer keeping it alive: Motorola. Last year’s Moto Z3 Play kept the dream alive, and still uses the same modules as previous generations, meaning there’s plenty to choose from. Otherwise, it’s a pretty average phone with a relatively high price tag.

If you don’t care about a modular smartphone, then there’s plenty of decent options out there. Consult our best smartphones guide and see which floats your boat. But it’s unlikely to be the LG G5 in 2019.

Katherine’s original 2016 review continues below

It was always said that having a modular phone would be impossible – especially one that appeals to a mainstream audience, by a large manufacturer. Let alone one that could integrate a full metal unibody and an interchangeable battery.

How has LG achieved such a feat of technical wizardry? The key lies in a small button on the left-hand side of the handset. Press this, and you’ll quickly notice that the whole lower section of the phone beneath the main display has just become a little looser, revealing the ingenious masterstroke of the G5’s design. For unlike other flagship smartphones you’ll see, the LG G5 is an altogether different kind of handset – it’s modular.

LG G5 removable battery

LG G5 review: Modular design

It’s by no means the first smartphone to incorporate interchangeable modules into its design – Google’s Project Ara has that particular honour – but it’s still the first modular phone from a major manufacturer that you can actually buy and use like a normal handset.

This brings a number of advantages to the G5, as it not only means you can adapt it at will to suit the task at hand, giving it more longevity than other, more regular smartphones on the market. Okay, so it’s not waterproof like the S7, but it should still survive the odd rain shower if you get caught unawares.

Admittedly, whether you’ll actually want to carry around extra modules is another matter entirely. What’s more, there are currently only two modules available for the G5, and it doesn’t look like LG’s going to be following them up with more anytime soon. There’s the £80 Cam Plus, a camera grip that adds physical buttons and a zoom wheel, and the £150 Hi-Fi Plus, a Bang & Olufsen-made portable Hi-Fi DAC with a built-in amplifier that supports 32-bit 384KHz high-definition audio and B&O Play, but that’s it.

LG G5 Cam Plus

Either way, £150 is quite a lot to pay for Hi-Res audio support – especially when the HTC 10 comes with it as standard – and even the camera grip seems disproportionately expensive for what it is. While ostensibly giving you a greater amount of grip for taking pictures, as well as physical shutter, video record and zoom buttons, the Cam Plus isn’t nearly chunky enough to make it more comfortable when holding in landscape. It also doesn’t help that it has quite a slipper inner edge, making it feel slightly hazardous for one-handed use.

It’s certainly nothing like the Moto Z and Moto Z Play’s Hasselblad True Zoom module, which adds a proper grip as well as a 10x optical zoom on Motorola’s new flagships, but then the Cam Plus is also significantly cheaper. However, having tried both modules out, I’d rather pay more for the Moto Z’s Hasselblad extension than make do with the rather disappointing Cam Plus.

The Hi-Fi Plus probably has a wider appeal than the Cam Plus, particularly if you use your phone as your main music player, but it’s still quite expensive. It adds a palpable boost to the overall soundscape, widening the range of sounds you hear as well as giving the bass a bit more oomph, but unless you have a library full of high-res audio tracks, the difference it makes to ordinary music isn’t going to be quite so noticeable. Yes, it sounds better, but I wouldn’t pay £150 for the privilege.

LG G5 modules

LG also says you can use the Hi-Fi Plus module as a separate standalone unit with other Android, iOS, Window and Mac devices, but this proved nigh-on impossible to set up. Rather than install its own drivers automatically, you have to find them yourself on LG’s website – with no guidance whatsoever. They’re not even clearly labelled. Instead, you’ll need to find the drivers for a product called AFD-1200 in the mobile accessories section of its software and firmware page. It’s hardly the seamless experience you’d expect from such an expensive little do-dad, and it rather limits its overall appeal.

However, despite the G5’s dedicated modules being a bit of a flop, the phone’s main advantage comes from being able to replace the battery. When popping off the bottom and snapping another one into place is so easy, the ability to slot in an extra battery is arguably one of the biggest reasons why you’d go for a G5 over its rivals. Yes, the S7 and S7 Edge might have stonking battery lives without the need for additional batteries, but for those who like the added security of having essentially another smartphone’s worth of power in their back pocket, and the opportunity to give their battery a completely fresh start when the old one starts to get a little old, the G5 starts to look like a pretty convincing alternative.

LG G5 review: Battery Life

In our continuous video playback test, for instance, the G5’s 2,800mah battery lasted 11h 10m when we set the screen brightness to our standard measurement of 170cd/m2. While not fantastic compared to the 17h 48m I got from the S7 – which, to be fair, has a larger 3,000mAh battery – anyone with another G5 battery module at their disposal could theoretically extend that to 22h 20m, providing more than enough juice to get you through the day and long into the next.

LG G5 battery parts

It’s also exceedingly quick to charge. In testing, I got a 30% charge in just 15 minutes, and it only took 30 minutes to reach 50%, making it incredibly easy to top up during the day. At least, it is provided you remember to bring the bundled USB-C cable with you, as LG’s opted for a USB-C port on the G5 rather than a regular Micro USB. Still, at least it comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box unlike LG’s Nexus 5X, which only came with a USB-C to USB-C cable. With a USB-C to A cable, this means you can still use it with existing USB plugs as well as connect it to your PC or laptop to easily transfer files and photos.

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LG G5 review: Performance

The modular design isn’t the only interesting thing about the G5, though, as it’s also the first smartphone I’ve seen that comes with Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 820 chip. Unlike the octa-core 2.0GHz Snapdragon 810, which powered almost every major smartphone in 2015, the Snapdragon 820 is a quad-core chip with a maximum clock speed of 2.2GHz. More cores don’t necessarily mean better performance, though, as the G5 proved to be significantly faster in our benchmark tests.

Paired with 4GB of RAM, the G5 scored an impressive 2,325 in Geekbench 3’s single-core test and a massive 5,422 in the multi-core test. The latter isn’t quite as high as the S7’s score of 6,437, but the G5’s single-core score is almost 200 points faster, showing it can beat the S7 at some tasks.

The Snapdragon 820’s GPU also provides a big step up in graphics performance. In GFX Bench GL’s offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test, for instance, the G5 produced 2,844 frames, which translates to a super smooth 46fps. This is significantly higher than both the S7 and S7 Edge, which only managed around 37fps in the same test. In practice, it handled complex games like Hearthstone beautifully.

LG G5 battery slot

The same goes for web browsing. With a Peacekeeper score of 1,514, the G5 handled media and ad-heavy web pages with ease. At times, there were still a few signs of initial stutter while pages were loading, but otherwise, we were able to browse the web without any speed hitches whatsoever.

LG G5 review: Display

The G5 does more than match the S7‘s performance, too, as its 5.3in, 2,560×1,440 Quantum IPS display also has a built-in always-on feature. It’s similar to what I’ve seen from Motorola in the past, as the G5’s always-on display can show the time, date and notification icons.

You can’t interact with those notification icons, sadly, but the G5 does have the added benefit of showing this information all the time instead of just when you pick it up or wave your hand over the screen like Motorola’s Moto X handsets. Even better, LG says it will only drain 0.8% of the phone’s battery every hour, too, so it shouldn’t have too much of an impact on battery life over the course of the day.

The screen itself looks superb thanks to LG’s Quantum IPS panel. First introduced on the LG G4 last year, Quantum IPS uses a slightly different liquid crystal structure to normal IPS panels, which LG says is meant to enhance brightness and the screen’s overall colour accuracy.

LG G5 Always on Display

Indeed, the G5’s sRGB gamut coverage of 97.1% meant that images looked stunning, as colours were both rich and vibrant without looking too oversaturated. Its black levels are also super low for an IPS display, measuring just 0.19cd/m2. Combine this with an excellent contrast ratio of 1,621:1, and the G5 definitely has one of the best IPS displays you can currently buy.

The only slight niggle I have with the G5’s display is its overall brightness levels, as our colour calibrator recorded a maximum brightness of just 354.05cd/m2. This is pretty below average for an IPS screen, and is more akin to what I’d expect to see from an AMOLED panel, such as those found on the Galaxy S7.

It’s still bright enough to use outside, but direct sunlight can prove a little tricky. Luckily, LG’s planned around this by introducing a brand-new Daylight mode on the G5, which really pumps up the brightness when you take it outside. I simulated this by shining a torch in front of the light sensor, and it (albeit briefly) jumped right up to 717cd/m2.

This is by far the brightest reading I’ve ever seen on a smartphone, although the speed with which it dropped back down again suggests that it might not be able to sustain this level of brightness for very long. Still, it’s good to know it’s there as a temporary backup.

LG G5 review: Camera

LG’s made some pretty great smartphone cameras in the past, but the G5 goes one step further by having two sensors instead of one. Again, dual cameras isn’t a new idea, but the G5 uses them to great effect, particularly when it has optical image stabilisation at its disposal. One is a large 16-megapixel sensor, and the other is a wide-angle 135 degree 8-megapixel sensor.

LG G5 rear cameras

With the wide angle sensor enabled, which is activated with a simple tap of the triple tree icon at the top of the camera app’s UI, it’s surprising just how much more you can fit in the frame. You not only get a lot more height and width, making it a great fit for wide-sweeping landscapes and large crowds of people, but it can also create quite a distinct fish-eye effect, something that more artistic types will no doubt have a lot of fun with. It works with third-party apps like Twitter, too, as you can simply use the in-app toggle button to cycle through the G5’s three different sensors (standard, wide and front).

Admittedly, the quality of my 8-megapixel test shots wasn’t great. Colours were accurate and it coped well with capturing a decent amount of sky and cloud detail without making darker objects too dingy, but the whole image was often a bit soft and lacking in detail.

LG G5 camera test wide angle comparison^ Using the 16-megapixel sensor (above), images can feel a little cramped, but switch to the wide angle 8-megapixel sensor (below) and you can cram a lot more into each photo

LG G5 camera test wide angle

The 16-megapixel camera, on the other hand, was excellent. Detail levels were extremely high across the frame, and only the tops of passing clouds were overexposed – putting it slightly ahead of the S7 in this respect. Admittedly, images were perhaps a little dark in places when shooting in bright sunshine, but things improved immeasurably when I switched on HDR mode, as this produced wonderfully exposed images with plenty of bright, rich colours as well as lots of contrast and shadow detail.

LG G5 camera test^ Photos could be a tad dark in bright sunshine, but detail levels are still very high

LG G5 camera test HDR mode^ With HDR mode enabled, the G5’s camera really comes into its own, producing bright, vivid shots with excellent contrast

Indoor shots were arguably even better, as it not only captured loads of fine texture detail in our still life arrangement, but noise was kept to an absolute minimum as well. In low light, there was plenty of contrast on show, and colours arguably looked more natural and neutral than the photos I took on the S7.

The S7 was a fraction sharper in places, perhaps helped by its ever-so-slightly faster shutter speed of 1/25 seconds compared to the G5’s 1/24 seconds, but the G5’s snapper is still a highly accomplished camera that certainly won’t disappoint anyone who comes to use it.

LG G5 camera test indoors^ Indoors, the G5 can produce excellent shots, even in low lighting conditions

That’s not all, either, as the LG’s Pro camera mode also makes a return here. This lets you adjust the white balance, focus points, exposure compensation, ISO values, shutter speed, and shoot in RAW as well as JPG on both cameras. There’s also a handful of additional modes which make use of all three of the G5’s cameras – letting you take collage shots as well as pop-out pictures with a different image in the centre of the frame. There’s also Snap Video mode, which lets you record short clips and assemble them into a 60-second film, as well as slow-mo and time-lapse options.

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Of course, shooting in RAW and taking lots of videos will quickly use up the G5’s 32GB of default storage, but luckily there’s a microSD slot on hand that can take cards up to a whopping 2TB in theory, though you can only buy cards up to 200GB at present. Either way, even the heaviest of media creators should be well-catered for on this front.

LG G5 review: G5 Friends

If all that wasn’t enough, the G5 will also be compatible with several ‘companion’ devices as well. Again, I haven’t had a chance to test the G5 with all of these just yet, but the first ‘Friend’ that will be available is the LG 360 Cam, which connects to the G5 for shooting 360-degree video. It looks rather like the Ricoh Theta, and its two 13-megapixel lenses can shoot up to 2K video and record in 5.1 surround sound. Even better, you can upload your footage to Google StreetView and have it stored at its original resolution for free. Also read our full LG 360 Cam review for further details.

There’s also LG’s 360 VR headset, which connects to the phone via USB-C and uses the phone’s Snapdragon 820 processor to produce a rudimentary virtual reality headset. The phone acts as a kind of controller for the headset, allowing you to swipe, tap and scroll through its interface, but you can also use the OK and Back buttons on top of the headset to move between its menus as well.

LG 360 VR

Not that there’s any content there to currently move between, though, as the 360 VR headset has all of two compatible apps at the moment and even these only have a handful of low-quality 360-degree videos available. Even worse, the quality of its VR experience is also vomit-inducingly bad, as the tiny lenses are so terrible and out of focus that it blurs everything beyond recognition the moment you move your eyes away from the centre.

They’re very fiddly to adjust, too, as you have to manually remove its rubbery light guard in order to get to the lenses. These can be moved from side to side and turned to increase the level of focus, but trying to do this while wearing the headset to check your results is almost impossible. It’s uncomfortable to wear, too, as the nose piece digs into your face and the headband feels very tight on the side of your face. As far as mobile VR headsets go, Samsung’s Gear VR definitely doesn’t have anything to worry about here.

Other companion devices include a pair of LG’s Tone Platinum Bluetooth headphones, a smart controller accessory for controlling drones straight from your G5, and a set of B&O H3 headphones for more high-res listening. However, the one that really caught my eye at MWC was the LG Rolling Bot. This BB-8 style ball camera can roll across the floor, capturing images and videos with its built-in IP camera. It connects to the G5 via Wi-Fi, and LG says it can even be used as a home security system, a pet care companion (it even has a laser to help entertain your pets from afar) or remote control for compatible smart home appliances.

LG G5 review: Android 6.0 and LG UX 5.0

Note: Since writing the review, the LG G5 can now be upgraded to v7.0 Nougat.

The only slightly worrying thing about the G5’s is LG’s new UX 5.0 interface. At first, it doesn’t look too dissimilar from LG’s UX 4.0 on the G4, but it doesn’t take long to notice that it’s lacking one key feature – the app tray. According to LG, this is so users can have everything they need right there on the home screen, but to me, it rather smacks of Huawei’s dreaded Emotion UI.

LG G5 Android UI

Indeed, the design of LG’s app icons isn’t too far removed from Huawei’s simple, flat, rounded lozenges, but at least LG doesn’t mess with the appearance of third party apps to the same degree as Huawei, as these still look like exactly like they should instead of being crammed into the same horrible lozenge shapes as Huawei’s first-party apps.

You can easily bring the app tray back, but at the moment you have to settle for LG’s Easy Home-style interface in order to do so. This has larger app icons and a bigger font than the traditional Home layout, but you can, at least, change the font to something more subtle using the Display settings. Another option is to download the LG Home 4.0 launcher from the LG SmartWorld app, which retains the LG feel of the phone while restoring the app store.

Thankfully, LG’s announced that it will be rolling out a free software update for the G5 over the next few weeks that adds the app tray back in to the phone’s main home screen. Cue a hundred sighs of relief. To download the update, go to the Home Screen setting in the main Display options and select the newly-created ‘Home and App drawer’ option. Once it’s downloaded, you can then install it and set it to appear as your main home screen.

LG G5 Home and App Drawer screenshot

Otherwise, the rest of LG’s UX 5.0 interface is pretty inoffensive. While not my favourite version of Android Marshmallow, the settings menu still has a sensible layout, and the notification tray has a great range of customisable shortcut buttons. I particularly like how the brightness bar actually slides down the percentage scale when you switch it to auto as well. It’s just a shame you can’t also have the app tray when using the traditional Home layout.

LG G5 review: Verdict

UI flaws aside, there’s no denying that the G5 is an incredibly ambitious device from LG, and it’s by far the most unique smartphone I’ve ever tested. Initially, I had my doubts over whether departing from the G4’s handsome leather looks was a wise move, but the G5’s surprisingly attractive when you get up close, and its smooth metallic coating feels great in the hand. The grey model I had for review might not look quite as shiny or flashy as either of Samsung’s handsets, but at least the G5’s matt finish means it doesn’t pick up any dirty fingerprints, which is a welcome relief after the grubby Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.

Of course, some might find the G5’s looks a little dull compared to Samsung’s handsets and the HTC 10, but LG’s handset delivers where it counts, as it not only has a fantastically flexible camera, but its speed and raw processing power make it just as capable, if not better, than its Samsung rivals. It’s also got a beautiful display and its interchangeable batteries give it a big advantage over its sealed competitors.

Right now, the G5 has just as much right to sit alongside the S7 and S7 Edge. The G5 offers fantastic value and provide a good option over the S7, particularly when the cost is practically neck-and-neck.

You can expect similar levels of performance across both phones and there’s little to divide their displays. As a result, which phone you go for will ultimately come down to a matter of personal preference. For most, the convenience of a long battery life on the S7 will trump the replaceable battery of the G5. However, the latter is a good bet in the long term as the HTC 10 and S7’s sealed batteries will inevitably fade, plus I love the wide-angle camera and superior gaming performance. All that makes the LG G5 just as much of a Best Buy as its Samsung counterpart.

ProcessorQuad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Screen size5.3in
Screen resolution2,560×1,440
Screen typeIPS Quantum
Front camera8 megapixels
Rear camera16 + 8 megapixels
Storage (free)32GB (23.5GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 6.0.1
Battery size2,800mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£500
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £32-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)£460
Part codeLG-H850

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LG G5 review: A great phone in its day
Mobile phones

The most ambitious phone of recent years, LG's G5 is an incredible handset that finally stands shoulder to shoulder with Samsung's S7

£500 inc VAT (SIM-free)