Introduction


Ever South Korea's number two, LG has always been the underdog, ever walking in the shadow of its much larger, cross-town rival Samsung. But it has been putting the left in front of the right, and the right in front of the left, never despairing. It's a tech story of resilience, determination, and unbridled ambition.

Does LG deserve its fate as the runner-up? Perhaps. But it sure is trying its very best to shake Samsung's throne, achieving its ends not through brute force, but sheer ingenuity—the same ingenuity that brought us devices like the LG G2, the G4, and more recently, the V10. And now, with the G5, LG is cementing its position as that quirky phone maker that always seeks to surprise and even entertain.

For example, the LG G5 is the only phone that will literally drop trou for you, exposing its nether regions. This modular design is where the 'entertain' part kicks in, for the removable bottom can accommodate different accessories, such as a specialized camera grip for a more convenient photography experience, or a high-fidelity external audio device for improved sound quality. There are other oddities with the phone too, such as a dual camera setup that is unlike anything else on the market. Add to that the equally quirky LG “Friends”—accessories such as a smart rolling ball robot and a hand-held, 360° camera—and you've got one heck of a colorful entourage.

But at the end of the day, playfulness is the icing on top, and that top needs a solid foundation to warrant a purchase in an increasingly competitive market. We've got a pre-production LG G5 allowing us to take our first stab at that foundation, and get a clue as to how rigid it is.

Design

Plastic is out, metal is in: the G5 opens a new chapter in LG's design history.

For the last three years, LG has had a very clear design philosophy when it comes to its flagship line—and the ones beneath it, which were influenced by it. It's what the company referred to as 'arc' design, or rounded rectangles with a slightly arching top and bottom, and particulars such as rear-mounted power and volume keys, and removable back plates from the G3 onward. With the G5, however, LG is closing that page of its design history and moving on.

Most will agree that the LG G5 is unlike any of its G-series predecessors. It's more aggressively rounded at the sides, smaller, thinner, and while the volume keys have been re-positioned to the left side, it's honestly quirkier than ever. The top of the phone, for example, is slightly flexed backwards, while a circular power key doubles up as a fingerprint scanner on the back, alike to the Nexus 5X. Most importantly, in a world increasingly dominated by metal high-ends, LG finally joins the club and is ditching plastic—even if adorned with leather—in favor of cool aluminum.

By far the most peculiar part about the G5 is, of course, the modular bottom, which can be ejected with a press of a button on the lower left. The removal process itself is well thought-out, though once the module is out, we're always afraid that we're about to snap the 2,800mAh battery in half when trying to detach it from the base, due to the amount of force required. This being an early production unit, we're kind of hoping that final G5s hitting the street won't have that problem, though if we're being honest, you won't have to deal with this often anyway.

All said, does the G5 fill in the G4's leather shoes? We'd argue it does, and as cliched as it may sound, the metal make and the subtle chrome lining of the frame sure help with that. So we dig the vibe of the phone, though the matte back is, naturally, on the slippery side. Meanwhile, the aforementioned chrome edge also digs into the hand a little bit. In the end, we applaud the minimalist approach this time around, but at the same time, we can't pretend that we're head over heels in love with the G5's styling either. It's kind of an acquired taste.



Display

A smaller display, but the same Quad HD resolution of old.

LG was the first to jump onto the Quad HD bandwagon, but thankfully, it has seen no reason to chase even more resolution with the G5. The 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution of old is what we're dealing with, though all that visual excess is now less evident than ever before, with the company going for a more manageable, 5.3-inch display—in contrast to the 5.5-inch panels of its last two flagships. To protect the screen, LG is making use of what it calls a 3D Arc Glass, which we surmise is a custom cover, and not a third-party solution such as Corning's Gorilla Glass.

This being a pre-production unit and all, we're refraining from running our scientific measurements, though we do hope that the screen of the final unit isn't as cold—or bluish-looking—as this. That said, at least in terms of visibility, the screen is bright enough to be made out even under direct sunlight, and can drop its brightness to decently low levels for the night owls among us.

Last, but certainly not least, the IPS LCD display of the G5 has been cleverly engineered as to allow it to jump on what is starting to feel like the next bandwagon: Always On Display. This new feature means that the phone will always display the time and date, along with any incoming notifications—even ones from third parties. Customization is limited to just adding a personal message, which is a bit unfortunate, as is the fact that the content is rather hard to read from even a moderate angle—especially when there's light from lamps or the sun bouncing off of the display. Still, we feel this is a useful feature, and hopefully one that will be a net positive in terms of battery life in the long run.

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