It's not easy being a Verizon Wireless phone. I mean, there's some serious competition at the high end with the Motorola Droid RAZR and RAZR MAXX, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and HTC Rezound. On paper, the LG Spectrum should fit right in with its 4.5" 720p IPS display, 1.5GHz dual core CPU and promised upgrade to Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich by mid-2012. The phone has a front video chat camera, a rear 8 megapixel shooter that can capture 1080p video, and very good multimedia performance. It has a stable LTE 4G radio that hangs onto a signal as well as the very good HTC Rezound. So what's not to like?
The LG Spectrum is the Verizon version of the LG Nitro HD on AT&T, a phone we liked quite well other than its weak battery life. The spectrum gets a casing makeover with gloss plastics and a CDMA radio for voice and 3G, but otherwise the internals are mostly the same. But the Spectrum lags where the Nitro moved along decently, and that really gets in the way of enjoying what should be a fast, high end Android smartphone. We've also found it a bit less stable, and in the week we've had it, it's spontaneously rebooted a few times (not a common occurrence with other recent Android phones). We get the feeling there's a lot of promise here, but LG needs to work out the software kinks to bring better performance and stability.
The smartphone runs on a 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon CPU like the HTC Rezound and several recent AT&T LTE phones. Qualcomm's radio and CPU chipset integration are excellent when it comes to LTE performance. We see none of the waffling between 3G and 4G in weaker LTE coverage areas that plague us with the RAZR line and Galaxy Nexus. Now, if you're in a good LTE coverage area, or conversely have none at all and disable LTE on the phone, this won't matter to you. But if you are in marginal coverage areas, the Spectrum and Rezound are your best bet.
The display is lovely. It's an IPS panel with good brightness and much more natural and accurate colors than Super AMOLED. You won't see Super AMOLED's hyper-vivid hues and amazing blacks, but will see plenty of sharp detail, crisp colors and good contrast. The 1280 x 720 panel makes for a relatively tall but narrow phone, and that means it's easier to hold in a narrow palm, but it will likely stick out the top of all but deep pockets. There are times when the display doesn't seem to respond to a tap, but it's hard to judge if it's a display issue or lag (I suspect it's lag).
The phone has a high gloss plastic back with a fine silvery checkerboard pattern that looks lovely until you handle it: it gets noxiously gummy. The 5 ounce phone feels weighty and looks like a decent quality piece, and we like the contrasting home button that's easy to see in the dark. The phone has 3 rather than the usual 4 capacitive buttons because LG combines the menu and search buttons into one on the left, and that's fine by us. There's an option to turn off capacitive button backlighting when the display is turned on, and we turned that option off immediately because it's difficult to see the menu/search and back buttons with no backlighting.
The micro USB port is located up top under a door: I find the location inconvenient when trying to both charge and talk at the same time, and the door is fiddly. The headphone jack is up top, as is the power button. The volume controls are on the right and the microSD card slot is under the back cover. Verizon includes a 16 gig card since the phone has only 4 gigs of internal storage with approximately 1.45 gigs available. The rear door is easy to remove and snap on, and the 1830 mAh battery, LTE SIM card slot and microSD card slot are under the door. There's no word whether the Spectrum has NFC.
LG Spectrum Video Review
Calling and Data
Voice quality is good but not among the best Verizon Wireless phones (we give the Droid RAZR, RAZR MAXX and Bionic a nod for their excellent voice). Volume through the earpiece is good and voice on both ends is clearly intelligible but not crisp or very clear. The speakerphone isn't terribly loud for calls or multimedia. It doesn't help that the speaker is located on the back towards the bottom where one tends to grip the phone.
The LG Spectrum has 3G EV-DO and 4G LTE on Verizon's network. Data speeds are very good and the Spectrum matched Verizon's other top LTE phones. As noted, the phone really manages to hold onto a weak LTE signal and on my desk where the RAZR MAXX spends most of its time on 3G the Spectrum stays on LTE.
Performance and Horsepower
In terms of performance, this Android OS 2.3.5 Gingerbread phone gets middle marks for a dual core on synthetic benchmarks, and it falls behind better performing Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket running on the same CPU. We spoke of UI lag, and we wonder how much of this has to do with LG's custom UI. The LG Nitro runs nearly the same UI and feels snappier however. If you haven't seen LG's UI, do watch our video review to see it in action. It reminds us a bit of older versions of TouchWiz, and LG adds some nice touches like sectional dividers for the app drawer (you can create groups for different kinds of apps) and a lovely media quick-access widget.
LG makes good cameras, and the Spectrum takes pleasing shots with good colors and reasonable exposure though it's prone to some whiteout in high contrast outdoor settings. Indoors it does surprisingly well with dim settings even with the flash off. The camera can shoot 1080p video at 30 fps, and again, other than a bit of whiteout for sunny day settings, it did a good job.
The phone easily handles video playback, be it streaming YouTube and Netflix or locally stored MPEG4 content up to 1080p resolution (even high profile plays well). The speaker won't win any awards but the phone has good sound via Bluetooth and wired stereo headphones. The high resolution IPS display really shines for video playback and we found watching movies thoroughly enjoyable. The Spectrum has WiFi for streaming without eating into your data bucket, and it supports WiFi Direct. Bluetooth stereo speakers and headphones work via the Bluetooth 3.0 radio.
Verizon LTE phones aren't Energizer bunnies when running on LTE. The two cellular radios for CDMA and LTE take their toll, and today's fast CPUs and large displays don't help. That said, the 1830 mAh Lithium Ion battery fared decently compared to other Verizon LTE phones, and we managed 6.5 hours of talk time (LG claims up to 8.3 hours of use time). There's an optional 3040 mAh battery available and a wireless charging back that works with the wireless charging mat sold in Verizon Wireless stores.
There's a lot to like about the LG Spectrum. It has LTE with strong 4G reception, a really lovely 4.5" IPS 720p display and a fast Qualcomm S3 dual core CPU. It's promised an upgrade to Android 4.0 and handles video playback like a champ. Not bad for $199 with contract. But we're put off by the occasional stutters and lags, and the phone isn't as stable as we'd like. A firmware update might remedy these issues, but we're not sure if the phone will get much tweaking before OS 4.0 ICS comes out by mid-year.
x 2.71 x 0.41 inches. Weight: 4.99 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with 3G EV-DO Rev. A and 4G LTE. Has Mobile Hotspot feature.
Camera:1.3MP front video chat camera and rear 8MP autofocus camera with LED flash. Can shoot 1080p video.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g/n (supports WiFi Direct) and Bluetooth 3.0.
Software:Android OS 2.3.5 Gingerbread. Upgradable to OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. LG UI and widgets included along with Adobe Flash and the usual selection of Google Android apps like email, gmail, YouTube, Gallery, Mobile Hotspot, Maps and Navigation. Verizon software: VZ Navigator, V CAST Media Manager, V CAST Tones, Verizon Video, Backup Assistant and account manager. Third party software: Polaris Office (view, edit and create MS Office documents), TuneWiki, BitBop, Blockbuster, Amazon Kindle, Rhapsody, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and Let's Golf 2. LG software: SmartShare DLNA, SmartMovie HD, RichNote and widgets.