All tablets in the US exist in the shadow of the iPad. The iPad’s position is just so dominant that if you’re buying a non-iPad tablet, you have to ask why. In the case of the LG G Pad 5 10.1 ($299.99), the answer is that it includes T-Mobile 4G connectivity at about the price of the entry-level Wi-Fi-only iPad. But the G Pad 5’s dated processor and lackluster performance lead me to suggest just getting a different tablet and using your phone’s hotspot if you need internet on the go.
LG has made Android tablets for a long time—this is the fifth G Pad, after all. But its heart doesn’t seem really into it, as it stocked up this tablet with old components and a dull design.
The tablet has a glass front and metal back, with rounded corners and a broad bezel around the 10.1-inch, 1,920-by-1,200 LCD. The screen is fine; it’s not terribly reflective, but neither does it have the glorious punch of a more expensive device’s OLED screen.
There’s a standard headphone jack on top. On the right side there are power and volume buttons, as well as a fingerprint sensor. The left side has a combination SIM/microSD card slot. On the bottom are the USB-C port and dual speakers. The tablet isn’t waterproof, and doesn’t have wireless charging.
The USB-C port and speakers are on the bottom
Mostly because of its large 8,200mAh battery, the G Pad 5 has some real heft to it, at 17.57 ounces. That’s about the same weight as the base model iPad, though, so it’s par for the course for a lower-cost 10-inch tablet. It’s just a little too heavy to hold one-handed for long periods of time, in my opinion.
The G Pad pairs with Bluetooth headsets, keyboards, and mice (Android had mouse support long before the iPad did). There are some third-party Bluetooth keyboard cases out there for this tablet; I prefer the Logitech K480, which isn’t a case but a keyboard that has a slot for the tablet to sit in.
The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is a nice touch
LG uses a very weird processor here: the 2016-era Qualcomm Snapdragon 821. As an older flagship chipset, it turns out to deliver performance that’s similar to one of today’s lower-end smartphones, with better GPU performance. There’s a roomy 4GB of RAM, so that’s not a gating factor.
I got 5413 on the PCMark Work benchmark and 171.49 on the Browsermark Web benchmark, which is similar to the Moto G7 Play phone (5840 and 123.02). But the Snapdragon 821’s GPU punches slightly above its weight; I got 21fps on the GFXBench Car Chase offscreen graphics benchmark, while the G7 Play only delivered 3.9 fps.
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Wi-Fi performance is okay, not great. I tested against a Netgear router with a 100Mbps connection, and got the full 100Mbps 25 feet away through a wall using 5GHz Wi-Fi. At 2.4GHz, I got about 33Mbps down. That compares poorly with my laptop, which manages 83Mbps down at the same distance. But the G Pad did much better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4, which can barely hold a 2.4GHz connection at all in the same location.
LTE performance is thoroughly mediocre, as can be expected from the old X12, 600Mbps modem. The tablet supports lots of LTE bands—1/2/3/4/5/7/12/20/25/26/38/41/66/71—so it will be able to get good T-Mobile coverage. Speeds are limited by the tablet’s 3x carrier aggregation and 2×2 MIMO antennas. As a result, I got an average of about 30Mbps down on this tablet when I was getting 70Mbps down with a OnePlus 8 Pro phone in 4G mode, and 99Mbps down with the OnePlus in 5G mode. The takeaway here is that if you have a good smartphone, using it as a hotspot will deliver better LTE performance than the built-in modem on this tablet.
The big 8,200mAh battery here can supply all-day power. I got 8 hours, 48 minutes of video playback time with the screen set to maximum brightness, which translates to 11 or 12 hours if you turn the brightness down a bit. That’s very good battery life. Charging, over USB-C, is a bit odd. While the tablet’s own adapter, a 22W Samsung adapter, and a 60W laptop adapter worked fine, a 45W Samsung adapter didn’t charge the tablet at all.
The 10.1-inch LG G Pad (left) next to the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 (right)
The G Pad 5 uses a heavily skinned version of Android 9, and I wouldn’t expect to ever see an upgrade to Android 10 here. The only Snapdragon 821 device to receive Android 10 has been the Google Pixel, and even there, Google stopped offering updates for that device in December 2019. Android 9 is relatively recent, so this isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s certainly a con.
LG’s skin eliminates the app drawer by default, changes icons, and adds a Quick Memo app when you swipe left from the home screen that works with your finger or a capacitive stylus. In general, performance here feels like using a low-end phone, and I had some problems with the Google Play Store crashing on my first day of use, although then it straightened itself out.
Although this is an LTE tablet, SMS apps don’t work; it’s provisioned as a data-only device, with no outward-facing phone number. Use Google Meet, TextNow, or another similar service instead.
In terms of multimedia support, the G Pad has 32GB of storage (27GB available) plus a microSD card slot. There’s a 5-megapixel camera on the front and an 8-megapixel camera on the back, neither of which is great. Simulating a Zoom call with light coming in from a window to my right, the G Pad’s front camera struggled with the balance of light and shadow, lighting me a bit too dramatically. Both my phone and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 balanced the light much more evenly.
This lighting is a little too dramatic for a Zoom call
Video and audio playback went much better. The two bottom-ported speakers don’t give you the surround sound you get on an iPad Pro, but they’re quite loud. They’re tinny, but not unlistenably so; they’re much better for game sounds and video chats than for playing music.
Built-in T-Mobile connectivity is the bonus you get with the LG G Pad 5 10.1, but I don’t find that reason enough to buy in. You probably have a phone, and you can probably use it as a hotspot. Cellular connectivity matters more, in my mind, for laptop-replacement tablets like the iPad Pro or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, which are more likely to be used as full-fledged laptops on the go.
The G Pad 5 10.1 just doesn’t deliver enough value for its $300. For $29 more, you can get the current 10.2-inch iPad, which is superior in every way, with a nicer screen, a faster processor, better stylus support, and much smoother performance. If you want to stick with Android, $50 more gets you the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which has a faster CPU, better stylus support, and a more current version of Android.
LG G Pad 5 10.1 Specs
|Operating System||Android 9.0|
|Dimensions||9.73 by 5.93 by 0.31 inches|
|Screen Size||10.1 inches|
|Screen Resolution||1,920 by 1,200 pixels|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821|
|Storage Capacity||32 GB|