Which powerhouse phone should you buy? Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs. LG G5

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Samsung took the wraps off the Galaxy Note 7, the latest handset to grace its long-running Note series, in early August, but sadly, it has been the focus of a massive recall. Now, replacement units have been catching fire and that’s forced Samsung to temporarily halt production. Samsung officially declared an end to the Note 7 in early October.

“For the benefit of consumers’ safety, we stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7 and have consequently decided to stop production,” Samsung told Digital Trends in a statement.

If you have a Galaxy Note 7, please return it immediately to the place where you purchased it. You are entitled to a full refund or an exchange for a replacement device of equal value, as per the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall. Please see our full guide on how to return your Note 7 here. The guide also includes recommendations of which device to buy instead. One of the options at many carriers is the LG G5.

Below is our original comparison article.

Specs

LG G5

LG G5 Thumber

Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7 THumber

Size 5.88 x 2.91 x 0.30 inches 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm (6.04 x 2.91 x 0.31 in)
Weight 5.61 ounces (159g) 5.96 ounces (169g)
Screen 5.3 IPS LCD Dual-edge, 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED
Resolution 2,560 x 1,440 pixels 2,560 × 1,440 pixels
OS Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Storage 32GB 64GB
MicroSD card slot No Yes, up to 256GB
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm MSM8996, Snapdragon 820 (U.S. Models),
Exynos 8890 Octa (International Models)
RAM 4GB 4GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, LTE-A Wi-Fi, GSM, 4G LTE, HSPA
Camera 16 MP primary, 8 MP secondary Front 5MP, Rear 12MP
Video 2160p@30fps primary, 1080p@30fps secondary 2,160p 4K UHD
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Iris scanner No Yes
Misc. “Friends” mods S Pen
Water resistant No Yes
Battery Removable Li-Ion 2800 mAh battery Non-removable Li-Po 3,500mAh battery
Charger USB Type-C USB Type-C
Quick charging Yes Yes
Wireless charging No Yes, Qi and PMA
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Silver, titan, gold, pink Black, white, gold, silver
Availability AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
DT review 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Galaxy Note 7 and LG G5 may have debuted months apart, but both pack nearly identical hardware. They share a processor, Qualcomm’s quad-core 820 chip, and feature the same 4GB of RAM.

The two are practical twins in terms of sensors, too. Both the G5 and Note 7 sport fingerprint modules — the Note 7’s on the home button and the G5’s on its rear panel, beneath the camera module — and both feature USB Type-C connectors. That’s significant: USB Type-C, a multipurpose port that’s just beginning to appear in earnest on smartphones, laptops, and desktops, packs an extraordinary amount of potential. On supported hardware, it’s capable of bidirectional power and data transfer — that is to say, it can supply power to or receive files from a device connected to it — and can theoretically carry high-definition audio.

The G5 and Note 7 have other silicon in common, too, including a gyroscope sensor, accelerometer, proximity sensor, compass, and barometer. And both feature dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. But that’s where the similarities end.

The Note 7 has a larger battery than the G5 — 3,500mAh versus the G5’s 2,800mAh — which should translate to a tangible longevity advantage. In our battery tests of the G5, we found it often struggled to last all day when checking social media, browsing the web, and snapping photos. On the other hand, the Galaxy Note 7 easily made it through a day’s use and then some.

Both the G5 and Note 7’s battery pack also support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 standard, which means that, on paper, they’re capable of charging from zero to 80 percent in about 35 minutes. But the Note 7 can pull a card trick that the G5 can’t: it can charge wirelessly via the Qi standard or Samsung’s proprietary tech. The G5, thanks to its solid aluminum unibody, cannot.

Storage space is yet another point in the Note 7’s favor. The Note 7 sports a generous 64GB of internal storage, while the G5 slots in line with the rest of the Android crowd with 32GB. Both, however, have similar expandable storage options, which allow you to bring the capacity up to 256GB via a MicroSD card. This round is more or less a tie.

Winner: Tie

Mods vs. Iris Sensor and S Pen

The G5’s “Friends,” or modular add-ons that augment the handset in useful (and sometimes bizarre) ways are the G5’s something extra.  You can swap out the G5’s battery pack for a fully charged module on the go, for example, if you have the pocket room. There’s LG’s CAM Plus ($70), too, an external camera replete with a grip, a supplementary 1,200mAh battery, and analog controls. And then there’s the Hi-Fi Plus ($150+), an external Bang & Olufsen speaker that sports a 32-bit audio processor. The G5’s mods are neat, but not too terribly useful. They’re expensive, and popping them in and out is a bit of a hassle because doing so restarts your phone. None of them felt like must-haves.

The Note 7 may lack mods and Friends, but it’s got its own bag of tricks. Foremost is an iris scanner, a front-facing sensor that records your eye’s unique shape and color pattern for authentication purposes. For now, it serves as a means of quickly unlocking your phone, but Samsung plans to expand its usage dramatically in the coming months. It’ll soon allow developers to tap into Samsung Pass — its new software security platform for iris tech — for a variety of uses, including payments. The initial list of partners includes Bank of America, Citibank, and U.S. Bank.

LG G5 Friends

Our impressions of the iris scanner are mostly positive, but the sensor isn’t without limitations. It may have trouble recognizing your iris if you’re wearing glasses or contacts, for instance, or if you’ve had recent eye surgery. And its relative utility ultimately depends on your personal preferences. If you can’t stand scanning your fingerprint to unlock your phone and authenticate payments, your choice is essentially made, as the iris scanner is a lot more convenient. But if you’re not convinced iris scanners are the way of the future, it’s harder to justify.

Beyond the iris scanner, the Note 7 packs another feature absent on the G5 — the Note series’ signature S Pen. The new stylus is a tad more compact and ergonomic than last year’s model, and features double the pressure sensitivity of most styli. But the S Pen, like the iris scanner, isn’t universally appealing. If you love taking notes with a pen or you draw all the time, you’ll love the new S Pen. It is an amazing stylus that’s great for creatives, but its usefulness depends on your needs.

Finally, the Note 7 supports Samsung Pay, the company’s mobile payments platform. That in and of itself isn’t noteworthy, though. The G5 can perform contactless payments at supported terminals — same as the Note — but Samsung’s hardware is capable of just a bit more. Thanks to support for magnetic secure transmission, or MST, the Note 7 can wirelessly emulate a card swipe at legacy terminals. Put simply, you can tap to pay at registers that don’t technically support Android Pay or Android Pay. It’s hardly a dealbreaker — having to swipe a card the old fashioned way isn’t the end of the world, after all — but it’s a bit closer to the dream of a wallet-less world.

The Note 7’s bells and whistles are more useful than the G5’s mods, so it gets the win in this set.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7

Design and Durability

The Note 7 and LG G5 couldn’t be further apart, aesthetically speaking.

Digital Trends’ Andy Boxall described the G5 as “understated” in his review, and that’s spot on. The handset has a subtle curve around the edges, giving it a polished if perhaps a tad homogenous, appearance. Impressively, though, save for a seam on the rear near the bottom of its body, the G5 is without obvious lines of demarcation, screw holes, or antenna housing. The exterior is unibody in every sense of the word, which is an incredible feat considering it’s made entirely out of aluminum.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
The Galaxy Note 7 isn’t any less refined. Its form factor — a curved screen atop a glass-and-metal body — in some ways evokes the S7 Edge’s design, but the Note 7 is a sleeker. Much like the G5, there isn’t a sharp edge to be found on its wafer-thin, symmetrical aluminum frame, and its unadorned front and rear panels only serve to elevate its high-class minimalism. It is, simply put, a stunner of a flagship smartphone.

On paper, both the G5 and Note 7 should stand up to wear and tear, but the Note 7 might do so a bit better. The G5 features Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4 transparent sheathing, a generation behind the Note 7’s Gorilla Glass 5. And the G5, likely due to its modular design, lacks protection against dust and water. The Note 7, on the other hand, is IP68 certified. That doesn’t mean the G5 won’t survive the occasional dip or a concrete dive, but the Note 7 should, in theory, hold up to harsher abuse.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7

Display

There’s rarely an obvious winner between flagship smartphone displays, but the Note 7’s display is an exception to that rule.  It qualifies as one of the top smartphone screens on the market — research firm DisplayMate found that the Note 7’s color reproduction, contrast ratio, and brightness ranked among best it has ever tested.

The Note 7’s screen bests the G5’s in other areas, too. The resolutions of the two displays are the same — 2,560 x 1,440 — but the Note 7’s is a bit larger at 5.7 inches. And the Note 7’s display technology, AMOLED, is capable of displaying deeper blacks than its competitors’ IPS LCD.

That’s not to say the G5’s display is completely without merit. Thanks to its smaller size, its pixels are crammed more tightly together than those on the Note 7  — 557 pixels per inch on the G5 versus 554 pixels per inch on the Note 7. Day to day, though, it’s a difference that’s likely to be imperceptible to all but the most eagle-eyed of users.

Winner: Galaxy Note 7

Camera

The displays aren’t the only radical difference between the G5 and the Note 7. The G5’s rear-facing module features a 16-megapixel camera with an f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, LED flash, and laser autofocus. It also sports a secondary, companion sensor that provides an expanded 135-degree wide-angle view. They’re used independently of each other, though the G5’s camera software allows you to mesh the two together, if ever you so choose.

Both sensors perform quite well. Digital Trends’ Andy Boxall found low light performance to be “superb,” even in auto mode. The wide-angle lens is the clear standout, however, and shines in scenes that call for an unfettered view of surroundings — i.e. sprawling cityscapes, for example, and wide-open vistas.

LG G5 camera
The Galaxy Note 7’s camera boasta a rear-facing sensor of 12-megapixels, but its f/1.7 aperture is superior. It also features a unique, super-fast autofocus technology that Samsung calls “dual-pixel.” This tech also ensures a larger pixel size, so the Note 7 takes outstanding photos in low light. It’s the best camera experience on any smartphone save the iPhone 6S Plus. The G5 isn’t far behind, though.

When it comes to front-facing shots, however, the G5 may take the cake. Its 8-megapixel, f/2.0 front-facing camera is of the wide-angle variety, and it performed exceptionally well in our tests. What impressed us most was its consistency — we could almost count on beautiful selfie after selfie. The Note 7’s 5-megapixel, f/1.7 shooter is also good, but not quite as stellar. In the end, this one’s a tie.

Winner: Tie

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