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

Alan Martin Katharine Byrne
7 Jan 2019
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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

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 resolution2,560x1,440
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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