Code named the Revolution 2, the LG Spectrum is the most recent Verizon LTE device on the market. After spending a couple of minutes with it at CES, a lot of expectations were set on the table with Verizon’s new list of LTE devices, and the Spectrum topped the list because of the amount of quality specs involved. The expectations grew even more after we noticed that Verizon partnered with LucasFilm in the marketing of the Spectrum, as Verizon’s website has a very prominent comparison between this phone and R2-D2. Is it the destiny of the LG Spectrum to take the market by storm? Or, like Episode I, to be a menance to the legacy of a great OS? Read our full review to find out.
Included in the box (which I actually like), is the typical microUSB and wall wart, along with the recently atypical 16GB microSD card. Not much else to be found, unless you enjoy tiny paper user guides and cardboard. No sentient robots included either unfortunately.
With a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of included external storage (not to mention the 4GB of internal flash storage), the LG Spectrum lines up with the majority of the higher end phones available on the market at the time of this review. We’ll dive deeper into the full capabilities of the device later in the review, but at first glance, it certainly seems to be a powerhouse.
The standard complement of accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi are here as well.
Measuring 5.33 x 2.71 x 0.42 inches and weighing in at 4.99 ounces, the LG Spectrum is slim and lightweight, even with its 1830mAh battery.
The 4.5″ 720×1280 IPS LCD display is the big show piece, covered in more detail below.
Here is where the device shines. A bright and brilliant 4.5″ 720×1280 IPS LCD that has fantastic viewing angles, and beautiful color representation. That is, until you start to look at reference photos and discover that, even though the display is great, it doesn’t do a good job in dealing with gradients. You can see an example of this in the hardware tour above, and while its not readily apparent yet, the slow slide to the dark side starts here.
On the front of the device you’ll find three capacitive buttons: menu, home, and back. If you press and hold on the menu button, then the search option appears, filling in the gap for the normally existing Search button on competing devices.
The bezel around the LG Spectrum is a little larger than expected, but it does hold the 1.3MP front-facing camera as well. Missing here is any sort of LED notification, which is quite unfortunate since we know many of you rely on them.
The top of the phone includes the crowded combination of a headphone jack, microUSB port, microphone port and power button. This becomes quite uncomfortable when you open the microUSB door. I am all for protecting the ports as needed, but if you open the hinged door to charge your device, you’re either left without easy access to the power button. At first glance, it is a minor annoyance, but as you work through the rest of this review, keep this design choice in mind because the rest of the device follows along in the same light.
On the left side of the phone all we find is the volume rocker, which is also the only set of buttons you’ll find on either side. Since the screen is long and these buttons are located just above the middle of the device, they force you to release your grip on it and reach them at times. These may be little things for some of you, but people with small hands will risk dropping it every time they juggle to reach them.
Moving to the back of the LG Spectrum, we find the curved and checkered battery cover, some logos, and an 8MP camera with a flash. The back cover doesn’t have any sort of texture, which makes it the perfect fingerprint magnet we know you all hate. Ironically though, it does seem to be remarkably scratch resistant, but I can’t say I dropped it during my review to prove that. One annoying problem is that the bubble where the camera resides is not wide enough to keep the device balanced. It has a tendency to rock back and forth if you try to use the Spectrum while it rests on a flat surface.
Beneath the back cover hides the 1830mAh battery, a 16GB microSD card, and the Verizon LTE SIM. The Spectrum has one of the strangest storage configurations I have seen in some time. The included 16GB microsSD card is nice, but the internal memory configuration is a mystery. According to the documentation, there is 4GB of flash storage on the device, but the OS reports that just under 2GB are user accessible. Personally, I would have preferred it if the device had 16GB of internal storage along with the option to expand the memory at this price point. The microSD card can be removed without taking out the battery, but that’s not the same story with the LTE SIM.
An unsolved mystery is that we still can’t figure out what the black sheet on the inside of the battery cover is for. You may notice it with a small Caution written over it. I couldn’t find any reference to this in the documents included, but NFC is most likely out of the question.
LG opted to release the Spectrum with Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) and their custom Touchwiz-but-not-Touchwiz skin. The result is a painful to use app tray, with plenty of lag when you start to really use the device. Even after the first boot, scrolling on the Home screen was choppy.
And if bloatware is not your thing, you’ll be sad to know you can’t remove the Verizon bloatware included. Not to mention that I couldn’t get VZ Navigator to completely launch without needing to reboot. Oh, and just when you thought it was over, Verizon snuck in Bing as the default web browser search engine with no way to change the option. To use Google, the only option you have is if you use the widget or press and hold the menu button. Overall, the software configuration on the LG Spectrum was uninspiring and troubled, with crashes and lock-ups a plenty. An ICS upgrade should be coming for this phone in early 2012, and hopefully LG and Verizon will come to their senses and resolve these issues with an update.
LG’s 8MP rear camera only takes fair photos, with colors that are muted but thankfully not terribly misrepresented. There doesn’t seem to be any way to enable a flash-assisted auto focus (useful for darker conditions), and with the lack of any sort of image stabilization, the images are fuzzy unless you have plenty of light. Even the auto flash seemed to fire only when there was little to no light at all. It is a suitable camera for mobile shots, but not much more than that.
The 1.3MP front-facing camera is as decent as you would expect it to be. Good for a quick profile shot or Skype, but not much more.
1080p video can be had on the LG Spectrum, but the high resolution does not translate into high quality. Transitions from dark and light areas take too long to change, and there is noticeable tearing and wobble when you start to move the device around. Colors in the recorded video are muted, and the minimal auto focus distance seems to be further than I would expect. The audio is good as long as there isn’t any wind.
On the surface, the LG Spectrum does seem to be speedy. But once you start using the device as more than just a simple phone, lag starts to rear its ugly head, quickly diminishing the experience. I had multiple crashes and lookups as well. While benchmarks aren’t necessarily a true sign of speed or efficiency, each test was run 3 times with the average posted below.
Smartbench 2012: Productivity 1976, 1771 Games
Linpack MFLOPS: 81.6 Time: 2.14 seconds (multi)
As you can see this is one of the cases where the scores look good in one test, but in another, the true colors show.
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
4G speeds averaged from the low 13995kpbs to as high as 24333kbps with under 100ms of latency times. Upload speeds averaged 5600kbps when on Verizon’s LTE network. 3G speeds were on par with expectations (average 681 down and 897 up). Not quite as speedy as AT&T, but its network is just starting.
Call quality is good, with no complaints about clarity from folks on the other end of the line. The audio quality does a good job in being loud, but was tinny and harsh on both the front and rear speakers. If not for my Bluetooth headset, I would have been hard pressed to use the device on a regular basis.
Battery life for the LG Spectrum is only fair, lasting just barely to the marketed talk time (without talking, numbers may reach 8 hours). And this is in a primariy 3G only area with WiFi enabled whenever possible. For having such a large capacity battery – 1830mAh – this was very disappointing. The AnTuTu battery test gives the Spectrum a score of 374.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The LG Spectrum can be purchased at Verizon
+ Bright and easy to read IPS display
+ 4G speeds (where available)
– Poor battery life
– Tinny and harsh speaker tone
– Lockups and crashes
It is unfortunate that the LG Spectrum couldn’t live up to its own marketed expectations, even with the partnership with LucasFilm. All the flagship hardware involved, specifically the dual-core Snapdragon processor, were enough to make this phone a powerhouse of choice. Instead, it feels like if LG released the Spectrum either too early (without enough testing) or too late (for the processor and version of Android). It is truly an average device, overpriced in its current configuration. Perhaps a price drop and ICS will serve to uplift the device to a more usable state. But for now, there are plenty of other, more stable devices in the same price range on Verizon. The Force is simply not with this one.
We rate the LG Spectrum 3/5.