The LG G5 Impresses with Brilliant Modular Design and VR Headset: Hands On

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LG’s latest Android flagship is a show stopper. With a clean effortless aesthetic, strong specs and a brilliant modular design the LG G5 is the complete package. What’s even better is that LG can continue to add new functionality and features via the modular design. Having revealed a cornucopia of new accessories alongside the handset, it’s clear that LG is serious about supporting the G5 with new peripherals, and the team at NotebookReview can’t wait to see LG comes up with next.

Premium Feel

The LG G5 is a modular Android smartphone.

The LG G5 is a modular Android smartphone.

We can’t resist the urge to start talking about the way the LG G5 looks and feels given all of the insane changes coming to LG’s newest flagship. But sometimes it’s the simplest things that can have the biggest impact. LG has moved away from some its more unique elements to opt for a more traditional metallic unibody design. While some may miss the leather back of the LG G4 (I personally don’t), the G5 unquestionably feels like a high-end device.

Measuring 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm with a 5.3-inch display, the LG G5 fits comfortably in hand, making it easy to hold and navigate. The beveled glass on the face of the phone flows cleanly into the body. There are no disruptive lines or noticeable breaks, save for where LG has implemented its new modular design component. Similar to the Nexus 6P, the LG G5 has a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone just below its dual-mounted cameras. As with the 6P, the LG G5’s scanner also doubles as a power button when compressed. Users will also have a full selection of colors to choose from as the LG G5 will be made available in Silver, Titan, Gold and Pink. All of this results in a full metal body design looks smooth, simplistic and elegant.

The Power of Modular Design

Thanks to the modular design, the LG G5 has a removable battery.

Thanks to the modular design, the LG G5 has a removable battery.

Despite looking like a traditional high-end flagship, the LG G5 is anything but. One aspect that truly sets the LG G5 apart from other flagships on the market is its new modular design. The bottom portion of the phone’s body can be removed to access things such as the phone’s battery (which is removable) and card slots.

While that in itself is great, it’s the additional modular add-ons or “friends” as LG is calling them, that really excite us about this phone. Adding in additional components may sound overly complicated, but everything snapped in quickly and it only took a few seconds to attach or remove, during our time with the “friends” on display at Mobile World Congress.

The first plug-in module that LG showed off was the LG Camera Plus, which acts as an external camera grip, making it easier to take photographs with your phone. Additionally the plugin also comes equipped extra battery power, expanding the battery from 2,800mAh to 4,000mAh.

The LG Hi-Fi Plus is an audio-focused "friend."

The LG Hi-Fi Plus is an audio-focused “friend.”

The camera accessory comes complete with a physical shutter button, a dedicated video recording button, an LED indicator and zoom device. This add-on isn’t necessarily game-changing, as you’re still using the same cameras embedded in the device, but it certainly improves the overall use, making it easier to hold and use the phone as a camera and helping to expand its battery life by 6 to 8 hours, according LG.

LG also showed off the LG Hi-Fi Plus, an external 32-bit DAC and amplifier combo unit, which was developed in collaboration with Bang & Olufsen. While this modular unit doesn’t change the physical dimensions of the device, it does upscale the audio (from any app producing sound)  and ships with a pair of H3 Bang and Olufsen earphones.  

The partnership with Bang & Olufsen is potentially the first of many, as LG has opened its modular component to third party developers, meaning that it’s likely that consumers can expect similarly branded modules over the next few months.

Always-On Display

The LG G5 has an always-on display.

The LG G5 has an always-on display.

The LG G5’s display is actually a bit smaller than its predecessor at 5.3-inches, but manages to offer the same QHD (2,560 x 1,440) for a pixel density of 554ppi. The screen looks great and held up really well under the heavy lights on the Mobile World Congress showroom floor. However, the most impressive feature of the display is its always-on functionality. Similar to Samsung’s newly announced Galaxy S7, the LG G5 will be able to constantly illuminate a small part of the screen, making it possible to check the time or receive updates without powering on the full display.

The Power to Back it Up

In addition to its clean aesthetic and flexible modular design, the LG G5 packs quite a punch. We only had a few minutes with the handset, but it performed incredibly well. Applications loaded instantly and navigation was smooth without a hitch. That doesn’t really come as a surprise though, consider the LG G5 is powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 820 SoC, with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage with up to 2TB of microSD storage. The device runs on Android 6.0 and the default battery is 2,800 mAh. The device also sports of pair of new cameras. One has a 75 degree Field of View (FoV) and a 16MP sensor, while the other has a 135 degree FoV and a 8MP sensor. The cameras can be used independently, toggled between on the fly or used simultaneously.

Complete with VR

The LG 360 VR is a slim mobile VR headset.

The LG 360 VR is a slim mobile VR headset.

The LG 360 VR headset also caught our attention. Unlike other mobile VR solutions such as Samsung Gear VR, the LG 360 VR headset is a fully separate head-mounted display. The headset is tethered via a USB-Type C cable, where it feeds the data directly to two 1.88-inch 960 x 720 displays. The display offer easy turn-style calibration so that users can adjust them perfectly to their sight. Despite having a difference design from the Gear VR, the experience is actually somewhat similar. Users can navigate by turning their head or using the directional buttons located along the top right of the visor. The headset has been developed in partnership with Google, meaning that YouTube 360 and other Google Cardboard apps work right out of the gate.

The LG 360 VR is also comfortable to wear.

The LG 360 VR is also comfortable to wear.

The biggest selling point for the independent design is size and weight. Because the LG 360 VR doesn’t have to hold a smartphone, it’s a lot slimmer and more stylized than the Gear VR. At only 100 grams it’s actually quite comfortable to wear.

We’re blown away by the LG G5. With a clean aesthetic, brilliant modular design and powerful specs, it delivers a complete package. The one thing that may be a bit worrying is the slightly smaller battery. The always-on display feature should help to augment battery-life provided users turn to it instead of powering on the device, but we’re still skeptical. The good news is that the battery is removable, so a beefier battery “friend” is all it takes to fix the issue.

Unfortunately LG has yet to set an official G5 release date, or provide specific pricing details.


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