The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 served as a significant design departure for the Galaxy line, with the “phablet” embracing less than flagship specs in favor of increased stylus functionality and camera quality. This year at MWC, LG has released the polarizing G5, which boasts a modular capability that allows users to swap out not only batteries but also take advantage of unique hardware features like an advanced camera module or improved speakers. Given that both of these devices have adopted an approach that favors adaptability over raw power, we thought it would be interesting to see how they stack up in spite of the generational divide.
Design-wise, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 knocks the concept of “premium feel” out of the park. It continued the tradition of the Galaxy S flagships of 2015 by bringing a metal and glass construction to the table. The smartphone’s casing essentially two glass panels bound with a metallic frame.
The LG G5, on the other hand, sports an entirely metal chassis that trumps the trope that metal bodies can’t have removable batteries. The device has received some criticism regarding its aesthetic which, while not yawn-inducing, isn’t particularly striking. With the G5, LG seems to have embraced a philosophy of function over form, but at least the lack of a back glass plating means it won’t be getting as fingerprint smudged as the Note 5.
Some were puzzled when the LG G5 was initially unveiled because the device takes a step backwards in terms of display size. While both the G3 and the G4 rocked 5.5-inch screen, the G5 has been trimmed back to 5.3 inches. Nevertheless, we’re still looking at an IPS Quantum Display with a resolution of 25600 x 1440 and a pixel density of 554 ppi. It is an LCD display, which some would have rather seen as an AMOLED, but it’s very nice nonetheless.
The Galaxy Note 5, on the other hand, boasts a simply massive5.7-inch Super AMOLED display that also has a resolution of 2560 x 1440. Naturally, the pixel density is slightly less at 518 ppi, but the colors are crisp and video playback is sharp. Some may be turned off by this phablet’s size, but the real decision to make between these two is whether your prefer AMOLED over LCD.
Hardware is the category that both of these phones have banked on the hardest. Naturally, the LG G5’s brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor blows the Note 5’s octa-core Exynos 7420 out of the water, but both of these high-end devices are still lightning fast with snappy interfaces. Both devices have 4GB of RAM and look to be strong multitaskers, but the real eye-catchers aren’t necessarily in what these smartphones have under the hood.
Both have fingerprint scanners, with the Note 5’s located on the front and G5’s tucked into the back center and serving as the power button as well. These scanners are both very responsive, but we’ll need a little more time with the G5 before we make a judgement on this one.
The Note 5 was designed with the S-Pen in mind and sought to be the ideal phone for stylus users. The S-Pen tucks neatly away into the bottom of the device and snaps flush with the body. It’s ready at a moment’s notice to jot down notes or sketches or to take advantage of the Note 5’s S-Pen specific software like Screen Write and Smart Select, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The LG G5, however, has an entirely different angle. This device wants to bring modularity back to the forefront of the Android ecosystem. The bottom of the G5 can be removed, and the battery comes right out with it. That means if you’re not satisfied with the 2,800mAh battery, you can swap it out for one you like better. With the Note 5, you’re stuck with the 3,000mAh battery for good.
However, battery swapping isn’t the only trick the LG G5 has up its sleeve. Using the same removeable piece, you can attach a variety of modules, or ‘Friends’ as they’re called, to the smartphone. The CAM Plus, for instance, adds not only extra battery life to the device, but it also brings you physical camera buttons that photographers are going to love. Alternatively, the Hi-Fi Plus module serves as a dedicated amplifier and has a 32-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter, effectively transforming your phone into a micro boombox. Right now there aren’t very many ‘Friends’ on the market, but LG is opening up their design to third party manufacturers, so we’re sure to see some creative new modules come out for the G5 later this year.
Once again, LG is pushing the envelope in terms of hardware by including an additional camera on the rear of the device. The 8MP wide-angle lens compliments the primary 16MP lens, and the stock camera software makes swapping between them a snap. The Note 5 also boasts a 16 MP rear camera, and although shots come out lush and gorgeous on it’s giant screen, the stock camera app is a little bit clunky. Nevertheless, this can easily be fixed by grabbing a third party camera app like Camera FV-5.
It’s difficult for us to make too much of a comparison between the G5 and the Note 5 in terms of camera experience because we’ve only had our hands on the G5 for a few days. However, even if the images come out comparable, that additional camera sensor and the possibility of grabbing a CAM Plus module for physical camera buttons means that the G5 will likely eke out the win.
Right now, most Galaxy Note 5 users are still running Lollipop, but Samsung has started rolling out Marshmallow to the device just this month. Since the LG G5 runs Marshmallow right out of the box, it definitely has a serious edge in terms of OS – yet another advantage of it being a newer generation smartphone. Both of these devices run relatively vanilla-feeling versions of Android. The G5 clearly benefits from LG’s recent efforts to make the interface feel more streamlined. The G5 ditches the Q Slide and dual window from LG’s software overlay, and the settings menu seems much better organized.
In a perhaps controversial move, the G5 also gets rid of the app drawer. This is a move shared by Samsung this year, as both the Galaxy S7 and the S7 edge give the user the option to do away with it as well. The design choice seems to be in anticipation of Google formally removing the app drawer in Android N, but if you’re a big fan of the organization control that the app drawer provides, the you might want to stick with the Galaxy Note 5.
The magic that the Note 5 pulls off software-wise is the version of TouchWiz it’s running, which strips away a handful of features to focus more heavily on what the S-Pen can do. Smart Select, Screen Write, and memo creation all become second nature after just a few days of use. The Screen-Off Memo functionality means having the Note 5 on your person is like always having a pen and pad of paper handy. Moreover, notes and doodles can be pinned to the homescreen. The S-Pen used to feel like a nice perk, but the software and screen size of this device truly turned the stylus into an indispensable tool.
Conclusion so far
It’s hard to make a hard call between these two devices with so little time with the LG G5. Since both of these devices are somewhat specialized, which one is right for you hinges on what you want to use your device for. If you’re a photography nut, it looks like the LG G5 is the clear winner for you. However, if you’re a constant note-taker and memo scribbler, the Note 5 leaves the LG G5 in the dust. If you want bleeding edge hardware, then you would have to go with the G5 since the Note 5 is a generation behind and even made some hardware compromises to focus more on the S-Pen.
We’ll be comparing these devices more thoroughly once we’ve had some more time with the G5, so stay tuned to Android Authority to see where we ultimately land. In the meantime, what’s your pick between these two devices? Thrilled by the modularity LG is playing with, or does Samsung’s flexible phablet more appealing? Let us know your call in the comments!