Review

LG Spectrum Review, Hands-On [Video]

January 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

LG Spectrum Home

LG’s latest flagship device on Verizon is essentially a rebuild of the LG Nitro for AT&T, with a few minor tweaks for America’s largest LTE network. Foremost among those tweaks is the increased pixel density and upgraded display, which is probably the device’s best feature. We’ll run that down for you in a moment. The Spectrum may seem like just another Android phone, but with the variety of special widgets, and a superior build quality, the latest from LG is actually a very good choice for those looking at phones in the $200 range. At the time of this writing, the Spectrum sells for $199.99 on a 2-year contract, making it $100 less than other high-end offerings like the RAZR Maxx and Galaxy Nexus. This device is very comparable to the Droid RAZR (OG version) in all the right areas. It’s not quite as thin as that device, but it’s a joy to hold, and feels very comfortable in the hand. Let’s run down the specs.

    • 1.5GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU
    • 1GB RAM
    • 4GB Internal storage, with 16GB SD card installed
    • 4.5″ True HD IPS Display (1280×720) with Corning Gorilla Glass
    • 8MP Rear camera with 1080p video capture
    • 1.3MP Front camera for chat
    • 1830mAh battery or optional 3000mAh extended battery
    • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, with ICS update in the near future
    • Dimensions: 5.33″ x 2.71″ x 0.41″
    • Weight: 4.99 oz

*Note: In the video, I called out the battery as a 1300 mAh battery. I misspoke. It is an 1830 mAh battery.

Hardware:

Spectrum Back

The Spectrum has a very nice build, with a quality feel to it. Compared to the Galaxy Nexus it feels absolutely tough. The only real problem I had with it was the extremely slick coating on the back. It makes the device slide out of your hand very easily, which is something you really don’t want to happen with a $200 piece of tech. Investing in a case for better grip is almost a must. Along the back is a nice looking checkered pattern that certainly breaks the monotony of other devices that are usually featureless and black.

LG Spectrum Home

The front is coated in Gorilla Glass, and trust me, you’ll want to protect that gorgeous display. The front of the device has 3 capacitive buttons for Menu, Home, and Back. The Home key also has a silver backing to make it stand out from the others, which I felt was a nice choice. Fortunately, the buttons are also backlit. Along the top you’ll find the power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the USB charging port. The volume rocker can be found on the left-hand side.

Spectrum Top

Spectrum Side

The device’s stand-out feature is, undoubtedly, the display. If you’re picky about pixel density, the Spectrum’s 4.5″ True HD IPS display packs in 319 ppi. That’s slightly higher than the iPhone’s 316 ppi, if you want to quibble about a few pixels. The display is fantastic across the board, though. It’s ideal for viewing HD video, as well as photos. With the humongous screen, it’s also great for web pages or long lists of text. The colors are very bright and vibrant. Overall this display is one of the best on the market. Verizon now carries 3 of the 4 HD-equipped displays available in the US. The other being the afore-mentioned Nitro HD on AT&T.

The battery is perhaps the weakest link in the device, as it is so often these days. From a full charge with fairly heavy use, I saw about 6 hours of use. On standby, you can get about 12 hours out of it. Now, the Spectrum does have an optional 3000 mAh battery you can purchase, and if you’re going to consider picking this device up you will certainly want to invest in that. The 1830 mAh battery it comes with is just not enough.

The camera is an 8MP shooter, and performs rather admirably. I was actually surprised at how well it performs, both indoors and out. Another bonus is that there’s very little shutter lag. Maybe about 1/2 second. One thing that’s always bothered me with Android phone cameras is shutter lag, and it looks like LG has really done their homework on this one, as it’s practically non-existent. The video camera feature can also capture in 1080p, and looks great on an HD monitor or TV. I’ve posted some indoor and outdoor shots for you below.

One area that the camera falls short is in its panorama mode. Ice Cream Sandwich has a panorama mode that’s actually very good. The way LG has done it with this device though is very poor. I’ll post one of them just so you can get an idea. Here’s the problem. ICS uses a continuous shot mode that’s almost like a video as you pan across a scene. Then, the entire scene is rendered into one long photo. The way LG has done it is that the device takes a photo, then the arrows direct you to move to the next part of the scene. It uses a red box that you have to line up in the center to take your next shot. The problem is that the device itself is deciding where your next shot should be taken. That results in a very poorly stitched together photo at the end, as the camera will not take the next shot until you’ve centered it where it thinks it should go. Take a look.

Panorama Shot

Outdoor Shot

Outdoor Shot

Indoor Shot

Indoor Shot

Indoor Shot

 Software:

About Screen

The Spectrum ships with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, and was obviously being developer pre-ICS. Fortunately, there is an ICS update planned in the “near” future. LG has skinned the device with some kind of overlay that’s similar to MotoBlur in its boxy appearance and grid pattern. That’s, unfortunately, not a compliment. The skin does have obvious consequences, and they’re apparent when trying to add icons to the home screen. It also hampers the overall performance. There are some upsides, though. The device comes with 7 home screens, for one. LG has also included some nice custom widgets for weather, news, and social networking functions. Those that are very active on Facebook and Twitter will like the Friends + and Social + widgets. Friends + lets you easily access contacts from Facebook and Twitter, and see status updates from those individual contacts. Social + is a widget that presents your feeds from both Facebook and Twitter in a scrollable list. You can easily toggle between the 2 social networks with a tap. There’s also a pre-loaded live wallpaper that shows your battery life with a water display that fills or empties as your battery charges and drains. The biggest downside in the software is, of course, the pre-loaded bloatware apps. The Spectrum comes totally loaded with all the things you don’t need. Sports fans might like the ESPN Score Center app, but aside from that there’s not much to like. Here’s a short list of just some of the pre-loaded apps.

  • Bitbop
  • Blockbuster
  • Hot Pursuit
  • Let’s Golf 2
  • NFL Mobile
  • Rhapsody
  • TuneWiki
  • Verizon apps
  • Smartshare
  • Finance
  • Polaris Office
Overall performance is pretty good, though. The device scored a 2451 in Quadrant benchmark tests, and would have scored higher if the LG skin wasn’t in the way.

Benchmark Test

Connection speeds were very good, and the 4G signal strong and present about 98% of the time. Verizon has been making a lot of upgrades in our area, since the Super Bowl is coming to town, and it shows. Our speed tests were always over 10Mbps on the download side, except for the 1 test on 3G you can see in the image.

Speed Test

Conclusion:

I do recommend the LG Spectrum if you’re looking for a high-end device that has a price tag lower than that of the Nexus or RAZR Maxx. The Spectrum is certainly a competitor, and performs very well. It’s snappy all around, though does have some slight performance issues because of the custom skin. The best feature, by far, is the display. If you like watching HD videos of playing HD games on the run, this device should certainly be a consideration. The battery life takes a hard hit, but can easily be remedied by picking up the extended battery. The worst feature is the LG skin, in conjunction with the pre-loaded software. As soon as root is an option, you will certainly want to take advantage of it to remove all the unnecessary software. The slick back will give some buyers pause, but with a case that problem is easily remedied. Still, the Spectrum is a great device with a lot to offer, and an affordable price tag. It can be had for $199 with a 2-year contract.

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