This year has been nothing short of amazing in terms of the smartphone releases. From Samsung to Apple and everyone in between, the companies behind the phones have come out swinging, with each one hoping to claim the throne of best smartphone of 2016.
Virtual Reality is a very hot market right now. There are the well-known, top-of-the-line models like the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift and Playstation VR. Below that, there are simpler phone-based VR systems such as the Samsung Gear VR headset and Google Cardboard. Below that is the dirt, and then below that are the worms inside the dirt. Finally below that, we find the LG 360 VR.
This thing is a waste of time and money. That’s the simplest and nicest way of putting it. The LG 360 VR is overpriced, it’s poorly designed, it’s uncomfortable, and what’s more of a shame is that it’s tied in with a really decent phone, the LG G5, as that’s the only phone it’s currently able to be used on. It’s an unimpressive attempt at what could otherwise be a great addition to the VR family.
Where do I even start with this thing? How about the videos I was watching in the LG 360 VR headset. I’m a sucker for fly over shots of places like mountains and deserts, so I went to one of those videos first. It looked pretty good at first, but the second I moved my head the problems started. The video began to lag, stutter, and finally drop in quality. It looked like some sort of jpeg compression had popped up in my vision. I figured it might be this particular video, so I chose one of a roller coaster point-of-view. Once again, video issues reared their ugly faces and left me with a sour experience.
The videos mentioned above would have also looked much better if the LG 360 VR headset wasn’t so small. This is an issue because it allows outside light to leak in and interfere with the immersion. Imagine trying to ride a virtual roller coaster and in your periphery you can see other, real people walking around. It completely ruins the experience. The compact size also makes the headset really uncomfortable. It began to irritate my face and ears after only 20 minutes of use, so I would not recommend prolonged usage.
I really don’t have much more to say about this device. It’s just…bad. It feels like a lower end VR piece like the Google Cardboard. It can handle still 360° images well, but when it comes to anything more, it completely falls off a cliff. Had it been cheaper, it might have been worth it. As it is, don’t waste your time with the LG 360 VR.
It’s time to pop back into the world of high-end flagship phones, and this review will discuss the LG G5. This is a damn good phone that holds its own against this year’s tough competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10. The solid camera and impressive hardware more than make up for its lackluster modular feature, but the latter is a good starting point that I hope to see improved upon in future releases.
LG opted for a full-metal body design on the G5, compared to the G4, which was plastic. This might have something to do with the modular feature, but nonetheless gives the phone an impressive look and makes it very durable. I actually thought it was plastic at first due to the finish LG used on the metal , as it doesn’t quite feel like most of the other metal phones out there. The button placement on the phone does bother me, with the lock switch finding its home on the back of the phone just underneath the camera lens and the volume located on the side. The buttons should all be in one spot, like on the side, and I hope LG considers that for their next phone.
The phone’s display also continues the LG trend of being impressive and pioneering for new phone tech. It’s definitely the best I’ve seen from the LG line, and boasts an incredible 2,560 by 1,440 resolution on a 5.3 inch screen. While the G5 doesn’t utilize 4k display, quad-HD works just fine for the LG. The phone also makes use of the always-on display feature seen on phones like the S7, allowing you to see the time and notifications at all times. Although it uses less battery power than the S7, it’s significantly more defined when it lights up which makes it much more distracting.
On the back of the phone, we find the true stars of the show, in this reviewer’s opinion. We find not one, but two camera sensors: the always-impressive 16 MP main camera, as well as an 8 MP wide-angle sensor with a 135° field-of-view. If you’re a fan of landscape shots, you’re going to love the latter camera, and although the pictures aren’t as sharp as the main camera, they will still turn some heads. With the main camera you can expect very detailed 16:9 photos with the help of the auto-laser focus and optical image stabilization. Video capture on the G5 is also stunning, and can capture scenes at up to 2160p, albeit at 30fps. It’s going to be a tough year to determine the best phone camera out there, but LG is likely on the short list for the top spot.
Now, the modular feature of the phone, while a little underwhelming, is still an interesting concept and definitely a path LG should continue to travel down and research. They call it their “Friends” system and it currently has two categories: modular and non-modular. Modular are pieces of equipment that swap on to the phone, and I’ll go over that in a second, and non-modular, which are separate from the phone like the 360 VR headset. An example of a module would be the LG G5 CAM PLUS, which apparently gives your phone’s camera a more professional feel with the addition of physical keys to focus, record, and zoom. These modules are not essential, but I can see the appeal and as I said earlier this concept should definitely be looked into further. Take for example Google’s Project Ara, which essentially allows a person to build their own phone through modular devices. If LG was so inclined, they could use the G5 as groundwork to enter into this market possibly within the next year or two.
The LG G5 is a great phone, but compared to the other impressive phones so far in 2016, it feels pretty underwhelming. All the goodies from the other phones are there: the amazing camera, the sleek and durable design, a good battery, and an innovative feature that not many others have dived into yet. LG are on the right track with modules, but we will need to wait to see if they can capitalize on them and produce an ever better phone sometime in the future.