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LG G5 review: LG's appetite for risk is admirable, but doesn't pay off

Jon Phillips | April 14, 2016
With an improved battery swapping system, the LG G5 isn't a bad phone, per se. But various other features probably looked better in the R&D lab than they do in real life.

lg g5 back panel cameras 
Here’s a good look at the G5’s dual cameras and rather tiny fingerprint sensor. Also note the almost glowing luster of the case edge. Credit: Dan Masaoka

In the new G5, LG finally improves its system for battery swaps, and introduces a mostly all-metal body in the process. As LG explains, the phone’s body is made from “microdized” aluminum—a die-cast aluminum shell covered in primer, which is then covered by a metal pigment. Our pre-production unit (which I cover extensively here) came in pink, and has a bit more glowing luster than the silver version I tested for this final review. But both the pink and silver bodies look and feel more high-end than the plastic-backed G4 I reviewed in 2015.

Just be aware that the microdized surface will scuff and and scratch under abuse. I would have preferred a more durable finish, and maybe that’s something LG can improve in next year’s G6.

A better approach to battery swapping

The company’s materials choice notwithstanding, I think LG has finally landed on a good compromise for its battery-swapping scheme.

In the new system, you power down the phone, press a button on the side of the body, wiggle out the “chin” that serves as an end-cap for the chassis, and then slide out the cartridge that holds the G5’s 2800 mAh battery. From here, you unseat the battery by sort of “breaking” it off the chin. It feels like a violent motion that will damage the chin’s seating point, but I tested the procedure ad nauseum, and the materials appear to hold up. I have confidence in the new swapping system, overall.

lg g5 inserting battery 2 
It requires a rather violent snap to remove the battery from its chin. Credit: Dan Masaoka

At first glance, the chin doesn’t look horribly incongruous with the chassis to which it connects, especially when you’re looking at the front of the phone. However, if you look at the back of the phone, you’ll see a prominent seam between the two pieces—it immediately telegraphs that you’ll never be dunking the G5 in water.

If you go one step further, and hold up the G5 to a bright light and look very closely, you’ll see that there are slight gaps between the chin and the unibody. I can imagine some loose clothing threads—or, in my case, dog hairs—getting snagged in these crevices. I think the real-world impact of the gaps is marginal, but simply from a philosophical design perspective, this is the kind of thing that would have gotten an Apple designer fired during the Steve Jobs era.


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