Two 4.5" LTE smartphones on ATT priced at $249 with 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon CPUs. Samsung camera resolution, same version of Android with both promised Ice Cream Sandwich updates at some point. How do you decide? We'll hit some major points in our comparison to help you decide, then explore the differences in our video smackdown.
The biggest differentiator is the 4.5" IPS 720p display on the LG Nitro HD. That's undeniably hot stuff. With a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels vs. the Samsun Galaxy S II Skyrocket's more pedestrian 800 x 480 display, you get much greater pixel density on the LG (198 vs 329 PPI). That translates into sharper text, and potentially more fine detail showing in high resolution photos. With 500 nits brightness, this is a bright and outdoor viewable display.
But the Skyrocket is no slouch with it's super-color saturated, bright and contrasty Super AMOLED Plus display. If you place them side by side at your local AT&T store, the LG will look more color accurate and bright out of the box. But a good part of that has to do with software settings. Super AMOLED Plus displays have a blue color cast that's noticeable when viewing white backgrounds, and Samsung's "auto adjust screen power" display settings option that's on by default lowers brightness when it detects light colored backgrounds or images. Samsung's auto display brightness setting is also conservative (too dim). If you turn off the auto adjust screen power setting, set the brightness on both phones to 50% they start to look mighty similar. If you use the free Screen Adjuster app (available on the Android Market) to reduce blues a bit and boost reds a hair, color calibration comes in line with the LG Nitro HD and the HTC Vivid.
In terms of text clarity, the LG Nitro HD's text is a bit sharper, though I don't take issue with the Skyrocket despite its relatively low resolution relative to display size. Perhaps my eyes aren't the sharpest, and someone with 20-20 vision under the age of 25 might see differences that I don't, but the LG isn't wildly better to my eyes or that of our staff's.
We give this one to the LG Nitro HD thanks to its seriously high resolution IPS display, but to our eyes it's not screamingly more pleasing to look at. They're both excellent displays!
Winner: LG Nitro HD
Processing Power and Storage
Quadrant (higher numbers are better) Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket: 3346 LG Nitro HD: 2398 HTC Vivid: 2159
Linpack (higher numbers are better) Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket: 88 LG Nitro HD: 75 HTC Vivid: 57
The LG Nitro HD has 4 gigs of internal storage with 1.86 gigs available, while the GS II Skyrocket has 16 gigs with 11.25 gigs available. AT&T includes a 16 gig card with the LG as a consolation for the smaller internal storage space, while the Skyrocket doesn't come with a card. But you're still short 9 gigs of potential max storage with the Nitro HD.
Both smartphones have 1 gig of RAM.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket
Software and UI
This is a highly subjective area, though LG's UI so far hasn't caused quite the heated love/hate phenomenon as Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense UI. The first few versions of TouchWiz weren't my cup of tea: cartoony icons, excessive mucking with the operating systems' underpinnings and not enough tweaking for usability. But the latest versions are a different animal: icons are left to be themselves, the widgets are handy, Samsung's Social Hub social networking is very good and there are all sorts of thoughtful tweaks to make it easy to access wireless radio settings, keep capacitive button backlight on 6 seconds so you're not tapping blindly at black glass. Good stuff.
LG's UI puts strange bubble squares behind icons (you can choose light or dark), but other than that, I like their UI customizations quite a lot. You can create your own app groups, which makes it easier to find programs. You can pinch zoom the app drawer to collapse and expand groups (handy for app-aholics who have lots of apps installed). Pinch zoom the home screen to see all 7 pages and set a default. Turn the phone over to silence the ringer (a la HTC). Turn the phone over when a video is playing to silence the phone and pause playback. Swipe down on the menu bar to access wireless radio settings. Tap the phone on the side to advance through photos in Gallery.My only complaint with UI and usability are the backlit capacitive buttons that go dim almost immediately. Their masking is so very faint that you'll have to memorize the button location because you'll never see them.
Both have extensive gesture settings for panning and navigating the device.
The LG Nitro HD runs Android OS 2.3.5 and the Samsung runs 2.3.6; a minimal difference.
Both are promised upgrades to Android OS 4, Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012. Neither company has a fantastic reputation for cranking out updates in general, but Samsung fares better. For enthusiasts looking for custom ROMs, the Skyrocket is the one to pick for better community developer support.
Tie for UI and Software, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket wins for upgrade track record, hackability via community mods and ROMs.
Both smartphones have 8 megapixel rear main cameras with and LED flash. Both take very good photos and videos. Likewise they have front video chat cameras that make for good quality video calls in Skype (Qik Lite is also pre-loaded but we prefer Skype because its the cross platform market leader and offers better quality video).
The Skyrocket gets points for its faster shutter (we're talking just milliseconds here, the LG is also pretty quick) and better very low light shots and focus (nearly dark room).
Really, really close and almost a tie, but the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket gets the win.
Call Quality and Data
Both phones have excellent call quality and identical reception on LTE. In fact, we're amazed that all 3 AT&T LTE phones never vary by more than 1db of signal strength. Both achieve identical download speeds on LTE and HSPA+. The Nitro HD's earpiece has slightly lower volume.
Build Quality and Ergonomics
Neither the Nitro HD or the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket are going to win design awards or win you over with their high quality materials. This is not the glass and metal iPhone 4S, or the chic aluminum unibody HTC Titan. These are plastic phones, but the Samsung GS II line continues to dismay us with its flimsy plastics and absence of reassuring heft. We don't want phones cast in lead by any means, but a phone can feel too light, and that makes it feel a little cheap and easier to drop. The Samsung's slick curved sides and nearly untextured back are an accident waiting to happen. It's a soap bar sliver.
The LG Nitro HD has a more confidence inspiring build. It feels solid, has no creaks and the back battery cover is sturdy vs. the paper thin Skyrocket's rear panel. The Nitro's back is really odd looking though: it has a dizzying herringbone embossed pattern that's not going to win beauty contents though it's at least very grippy.
Winner: LG Nitro HD.
The LG Nitro HD has an 1830 mAh Lithium Ion battery vs. the 1850 mAh battery in the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket. 20 mAh is meaningless in terms of battery life. Super AMOLED Plus displays are very power frugal though, and the Samsung Galaxy S II trounces the LG Nitro HD. In fact, the HTC Vivid with its little 1600 mAh battery trounces the LG Nitro HD. LG and AT&T claim only 3 hours of talk time for the Nitro HD-- what did LG do wrong here? No phone claims only 3 hours of talk time these days.
My personal Samsung Skyrocket lasts through the day, every day, on a charge with LTE always on. The Nitro HD struggles to make it to 9pm with moderate use.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket
Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket vs. LG Nitro HD Comparison Video
Need more info? Want to see these two side-by-side in action. Check out our video smackdown:
Good Info! As a SR owner I was interested in the Nitro screen. The battery life you write about concerns me. The SR was a compromise for me in terms of battery life for the performance of LTE. I do not think I could deal with the battery life that is indicated here for the Nitro. I guess the SR is a good combination of screen, performance and battery life for the first generation of LTE phones on AT&T.
Glad it was helpful The SR and even the Vivid impressed with with their battery life vs. Verizon's LTE phones. In fact, my SR lasts almost as long as my non-LTE GS II. Verizon has it rough because the phones have to power both CDMA and LTE radios. But after several days, the Nitro HD still isn't lasting nearly as long as the Skyrocket, though it would look good vs. Verizon LTE phones.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview