Review: LG Spectrum - a resounding...mehh

There was a time when smaller phones were the rage. The Motorola Razr was, at the time, an impressive piece of engineering but now we see the opposite trend. It's all about big screen devices such as the Galaxy Nexus or the Droid Razr. LG is hoping to play in the big screen game, that 4+ inch marketplace where pixels rule the landscape.

The LG Spectrum has an impressive spec sheet. starting with a 4.5in IPS 720P display, 1830 mAH battery, 8 MP rear camera, 1080P video recording and more. The device has a lot going for it, but unfortunately this device is running Android 2.3.5 at the moment with no word on when it will get ICS. The full spec sheet is posted below:

Design

Despite having an impressive spec sheet, things start to go down hill from there. The device has the "classic" chrome bezel that has been around for eons and makes this device blend in with the hordes of other devices that look exactly the same. Not to mention that the "chrome" is really just shiny plastic that feels cheap when touching it. Another downfall in the design is that back panel looks like carbon fiber (like the Droid Razr) but looking like carbon fiber is the only thing the two materials have in common.

The plastic back feels ridiculously cheap and is slippery to hold too. The side of the device has a volume rocker but up top a small door covers the USB charging port. This door was another terrible idea as it will surely break off in a matter of weeks.

At the bottom of the phone are three touch sensitive buttons. The press release photos made the home button look like a physical button but it is simply a chrome colored touch sensitive button. 

Display

We were excited about the display specs: a 720P, IPS display. And don't get us wrong, there is a lot to like about this screen. The high resolution makes it great for watching movies and viewing photos, but it is far from perfect. It may just be our unit, but whites are noticeably warm when compared to the Droid Bionic or the iPhone 4. The blacks do stand up a bit better than the whites in comparison but the color reproduction on the device is still a bit lacking. Even at max brightness, the screen does not feel like it's a best in class product.

It's not that the screen does any one thing terribly wrong, it's that other than resolution, it does nothing else above average. Mediocre colors, low brightness, but high resolution do not make it a great screen but merely average.  

User Interface

If there is one place that LG went wrong, it was here. The skin on Android is nothing short of an abomination. While we can tolerate Sense by HTC, this skin is about as bad as they come. If you thought Motoblur was bad, you will be distraught looking at LG's Android skin. We are still unconvinced that skinning needs to occur, while vendors think it adds brand differentiation, we think it's money wasted on skinning a platform that was already well designed. 

The icons across the device appear as if they were pulled from a toy store advertisement. The app catorization, which appears to be useful at first, becomes obtrusive when opening and closing the sections as the devcie scrolls automatically for you to the new section that you open. It's hard to explain, but after a few minutes use, you will always leave every section open. The worst part about it is this skin will keep your device from getting Android updates in timely fashion. Why? Becuase with each new update the skin must be re-tested and, with a major update like 4.0, requires re-skinning. 

Performance

This phone does no justice to the Snapdragon S3 processor. For most tasks it does things relatively well but you can not avoid the lag. One of the included media widgets is slow and clunky when navigating, opening the application drawer hangs up at times, but web browsing is relatively smooth. Using the built in gestures such as pinch-to-zoom works effortlessly and is one of the high points of the performance of the device. 

It's unfortunate that the user experience is not better. We personally feel that it is most likely the skin that LG included that may be slowing the device down and not the internal hardware. Either way, it's not a major flaw that renders the device unusable but at the same time, you will notice the lag.

Cameras

The cameras on the device, both front and rear, are adequate for the device. A high point for the rear camera is that there is minimal shutter lag. When you hit the capture button, the response is quick and should make taking photos a joy when compared to other devices, in fact, it feels quicker than the iPhone 4 when taking photos. 

Droid Razr / LG Spectrum

Video capture is again sufficient for a mobile device. While recording in 1080P will take up a ridiculous amount of space quickly, we opted for 720P to reduce the strain on the CPU, to save battery life, and to keep our SD card from filling up. Recording does work well and gets the job done. It will suffice for those on-the-go moments, but don't expect to be the next Peter Jackson with your cell phone videos. 

Call Quality

Calling on the Spectrum presented no issues. The volume was more than sufficient and could be turned up without much distortion. The speakerphone is the same story, loud and clear with no issues to note at this time.

Battery life

We were able to get a full days use out of the device, although 4G still has a significant impact on battery life. At this time we have only put the device through two-cycles. We will update this post after we spend a few more days to get a better average of real world use scenario for battery life. 

Conclusion

After using the deivce for two days, we are left with a resounding....mehh. The device does a lot of things adequately, but it's incredibly boring to look at, can be frustrating to use, and the UI, oh that stupid skin, needs to be sent off to UI hell. The size is exceptional for viewing videos but how often are you watching full length films on your cellphone? The high resolution screen is good but at the same time, the color reproduction is poor.

The biggest problem with the Spectrum is not the device itself, it's that Verizon also has the Droid Razr and Galaxy Nexus, both devices fall in to the same class and best the Spectrum in nearly every way. 

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