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

Alan Martin Katharine Byrne
7 Jan 2019
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
LG G5
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

Pros 
Excellent modular design
Fantastic rear-facing camera
Stunning IPS display
Cons 
Slightly dull display
Poor battery life without the battery module
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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.

READ NEXT: Best smartphones 2017

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. Continues on Page 2

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