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Nexus 6P vs. LG G5: Different takes on aluminum

Google and Huawei teamed up to release the most high-end Nexus device yet with the Nexus 6P. It has a slick metal frame, rear-facing fingerprint sensor, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The newly released G5 is similar in a lot of ways. It too has a metal frame, rear-facing fingerprint sensor, and Marshmallow. Things are a lot different when you look more closely, though. The Nexus 6P lacks any modular features, and LG has taken the modular aspect more seriously than ever with the G5. So, how do these phones stack up? Let’s find out.

Both of these phones make use of aluminum in the constructions, but you’ll notice a distinct difference when you pick them up. The Nexus 6P feels like a solid aluminum phone should feel. It has a very clean design with chamfered edges and a somewhat unusual Gorilla Glass window at the top of the back panel for the antennas. It’s also extremely thin at just 7.3mm.

The LG G5 has a different aesthetic. It’s more rounded, and the aluminum frame doesn’t feel like metal. This was a bit of  PR disaster for LG when the G5 came out. There’s a thick layer of primer on top of the aluminum that makes it feel more plasticky than the Nexus 6P. It’s not bad, but I don’t think it has the same premium feel as an unpainted metal phone. That said, the G5 is more comfortable to hold as it’s a little smaller and the rounded edges provide more grippable area.

The G5 has a single bottom-firing speaker, though it does get fairly loud. The Nexus 6P has front-facing stereo speakers. So, if having great audio is important to you, the 6P is worlds better.

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Around back the G5 and Nexus 6P both have a fingerprint sensor placed conveniently for your index finger. The 6P’s sensor continues to be the best one on any Android phone with amazing speed and accuracy. The G5’s sensor is all right, but it misreads often compared to the 6P. The G5’s fingerprint sensor is also a power button, but it’s a little looser than I’d expect from a flagship phone. The 6P can also be woken up with the fingerprint sensor, but it has a separate power button on the side, as setup I think I prefer.

The Nexus 6P is a unibody phone, so the battery doesn’t come out. With the G5, the chin on the bottom comes off and the battery slides out for easy swapping. This chin can also be replaced with modules like the camera grip. However, these are expensive, and the camera grip is the only one available in the US. The chin also doesn’t sit entirely flush on the G5. The modules could be interesting, but right now it’s a miss for LG. The 6P simply feels like a better-built aluminum phone.

The G5 is a smaller phone than the Nexus 6P with a 5.3-inch 1440p LCD versus the 6P’s 5.7-inch Super AMOLED. Because we’re talking about an LCD, the G5 lacks the extremely vivid colors of the 6P, but it’s not prone to burn-in as AMOLED panels still are. The G5’s panel has good viewing angles and surprisingly high brightness. The colors are quite accurate as well.

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The Nexus 6P was using the most recent version of Samsung’s AMOLED technology until the GS7 came out (it’s the same 1440p panel as you get in the Note 5). That means very accurate, though somewhat overly vibrant colors. It also gets extremely bright outside and the viewing angles are perfect. The Nexus 6P also has an sRGB mode that makes the colors extremely accurate without the oversaturated look of most AMOLEDs.

The G5 does have a nice display for an LCD, but that technology is increasingly outclassed when compared with AMOLEDs. Its main selling point is that it’s smaller and more manageable than the 6P’s AMOLED. You can actually reach most of the G5’s screen one-handed.

The Nexus 6P has a 12.3MP sensor with large 1.55µm pixels and a f/2.0 aperture. That means it takes great low-light shots, and there’s laser-assisted autofocus to make sure you capture your subject. This is still one of the best cameras available on an Android phone. The laser autofocus is snappy too. I’d say its only real shortcoming is that image capture in low-light situations takes longer than some other phones. The results are usually quite good. If you want to dig into the options, you’ll also find that Google’s camera app is missing a lot of advanced features.

G5 cam

The LG G5, on the other hand, has a fantastic camera app with a full manual mode, RAW output, and more. This is paired with a 16MP main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and laser autofocus. That counters shakiness for a clearer image. The 6P has stabilization, but it’s electronic and not as good. The G5 also captures images much faster than the 6P, but its low-light performance isn’t quite as good. In general, the G5 takes slightly better images, and the HDR mode is fast enough to be left on all the time.

What sets the G5 apart is the secondary camera, which takes wide-angle photos. That’s not something the 6P can match. It has a field of view in the neighborhood of 135-degrees, even wider than a lot of action cameras. The optical distortion isn’t bad, either. These images aren’t great in low light, but they make for stunning landscapes. It’s a little gimmicky at first, but you’d be surprised how often wide-angle photos come in handy.

The Nexus 6P came out last year, so it’s running the best chip that was available at the time, the Snapdragon 810. This SoC was a bust in some phones, but most of its heat issues have been solved in the Nexus 6P. The Snapdragon 810 has a quad-core cluster of high-power Cortex-A57 CPUs and a second group of four highly efficient Cortex-A53 cores. This differs dramatically from the Snapdragon 820 in the LG G5. That’s a quad-core chip based on Qualcomm’s new Kryo custom cores. It’s about as fast, but power usage and heat are lower.

Even with the lower CPU power usage, battery life on the G5 isn’t as good as the 6P. The battery is only 2800mAh versus 3450mAh in the 6P. Both will make it through the day, but the 6P will do so more comfortably. The G5 does have more ram, 4GB versus just 3GB in the 6P. It also includes a microSD card slot for more storage. The 6P comes in variants from 32GB up to 128GB, but there’s no card slot.

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On the software front, it’s a clear win for the Nexus 6P. If you care about having the most up-to-date experience, Google’s phone is the one for you. It ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow with a ton of great features like doze mode to reduce idle battery drain, more granular app permissions, and Google Now On Tap.

What of the G5? Well, it’s also shipping with Android 6.0 right now, which is great. You get all the same core features, but there’s a skin on top that has some issues. Many of LG’s custom apps are not very well designed and the launcher doesn’t have an app drawer. You’ll want to swap that out for a different launcher. Stock Android just looks and feels better. LG has a few software features that are cool, like Knock Code, which can wake and unlock the phone with a pattern of taps.

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Where the Nexus 6P sets itself apart is with the update pledge. Google keeps its Nexus devices up to date for at least two years from release, with another year of security updates. That means at least two more major OS updates for the 6P. Plus, you won’t be waiting for months on the OTA. Nexus devices are usually all updated within a week or two after a new version is announced.

G5 6P

The Nexus 6P retails at $500 for the 32GB version, but it’s often on sale for $50 less. You can’t get it via a carrier, but it’s unlocked and works on all of them (even Sprint and Verizon). The G5 is sold in the traditional manner via carriers. The full price is around $700, which works out to about $30 per month on a payment plan.

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