Verizon LG Spectrum 2 Review

Update:  It was pointed out to me by one of our readers on Facebook that you can use the lock/power button on the top of the device as a notification light.  It’s an option that I somehow never discovered, probably because it’s a setting under display.  Regardless, one of my cons for this device was no notification light, and it turns out it does have one.  It’s just not enabled by default and it’s difficult to find the setting.  Thanks Devin!

 

My very first android device was the T-Mobile G2x by LG.  I was stoked to be getting one of the first dual core processor Android devices in the US.  I couldn’t wait to be blown away by the the speed and functionality of the G2x.  Unfortunately, it was a a pretty terrible experience.  I don’t think that there are many people that would argue with me that the G2x was riddled with issues, including the dual core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor that just really wasn’t quite up to snuff.  Why do I bring this up?  I have steered clear from buying an LG phone since.  The G2x was not a pleasant experience.  So, when I had the option to review a few different new Android  devices, I thought it might be fun to have a go at the LG Spectrum 2, especially when I looked over the specs of this “mid-range” device.  I was genuinely curious to see if LG could change to poor taste I had in my mouth towards them.

That being said, I’ve been using the LG Spectrum 2 as my personal device for around a month now, give or take.  I didn’t do an unboxing for this device because its a demo device, and it had already been opened, but I did do a quick first impressions video if you care to take a look.  My first impressions were mostly great.  The display is beautiful. I thought LG’s tweaks to stock Android were pretty interesting which I’ll tell you more about.  But I’ve been using this device for a month now.  I’ve loaded it up with apps I normally use on a day-to-day basis. I’ve taken pictures, movies, etc.  I’m hoping to give you some insight on what your two year commitment will look like if you pick up this mid-range device for $50 from Verizon, or maybe even free if you shop around 3rd party online retailers.

Hardware

I’m going to start off by talking about the display.  It’s beautiful.  The Spectrum 2 rocks a  4.7″ True HD IPS LCD with a 720 x 1280 resolution giving it a pixel density of 312 ppi.  I’ve put it size by side with the Galaxy Note II’s 5.5″ 720p Super Amoled display and although I enjoy the colors more from the Amoled technology, the ~267 ppi just isn’t as crisp as the 312 ppi with the Spectrum 2.  This is the same technology used with the Optimus G and the Nexus 4.  This is not a mid-range display.

You may see me compare this device to the Galaxy S II, Epic 4G Touch throughout the post.  It’s my current personal device, and I think it’s actually a fair match up for the LG Spectrum 2.  The Galaxy S II was last year’s high-end, and it’s still being sold now but as a mid-range device.  So, compared to the S II, the phone is thicker (comparing the main cross-sections), taller, and heavier.  It’s a boxy 5.31 x 2.69 x 0.36 inches (134.8 x 68.3 x 9.2 mm) and weighs 5.22 oz (148 g).  At first I thought the looks of the device was hideous, but it’s grown on me and I really like it now.

While I’m talking about size and weight, I really like how the device feels in the hands.  The back is made of polycarbonate (PC), which you may or may not know I’m am a huge advocate of.  However, unlike on the Galaxy S II or even S III, it’s very stiff feeling, and even has a kind of grippy coating on it which gives it a very nice feel.  It slides in and out of a pocket nicely, yet isn’t slippery in the hand, which is something I’ve always disliked about the Epic 4G Touch. And on the topic of the back of the device, the LG spectrum 2 can be charged wirelessly if you up for buy a $50+ charging pad and includes NFC for some NFC tags that come along with the device.  So, bottom line here, the LG Spectrum 2 isn’t a drop dead gorgeous device (aside from the display), but does come with some fancy bells and whistles.

Under the hood the Spectrum 2 packs a Snapdragon S4 Krait 1.5 GHz Dual–Core processor and 1GB of RAM.  This is the same processor the US galaxy S IIIs sport.  Surprised this device is still considered mid-range?  It also has 16 gb of on board memory and is expandable up to 32 gb.  It has a replaceable 2150 mAh battery which will do you pretty well on a typical day.  If you do a lot of gaming, you’re going to need to recharge sometime during the day.  But under normal use the battery life is decent.  I’ve been impressed with it.  As for radios, it’s on the Verizon network so it’s CDMA and is an LTE device which is awesome on Verizon’s network, but in addition to that,  it also has GSM radios and a sim card slot so it can be used as an international device.

My beefs with the hardware?  No LED notification light. The device is tall, and LG put the lock/power button on top of the device which I think is a poor choice but I’ve gotten used to it.  When you charge the Spectrum 2, a ring around the lock/power button lights up.  I think it would be cool if LG or somebody figure out how to turn that into a notification light.  This isn’t really a beef, but it has one speaker on the bottom left of the back and I’d say it’s average in quality and sound volume.  Lastly, I don’t like the micro usb ports not on the bottom of devices.  The Spectrum 2 has the port on the bottom left side of the device which makes it awkward if you want to charge the device while viewing something like Verizon’s exclusive NFL Mobile app that can only be viewed with the orientation with the charging port on the bottom.  There are probably apps to fix these issues, but I think it’s poor placement.

Software

I’m going to talk about LG’s twist on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich for a little bit.  Like other parts of the Spectrum 2, the UI I wouldn’t call pretty, but they’ve gone above and beyond stock Android with what and how LG allows you to customize the interface.  You can change themes as I demonstrated in my first impressions video. You can change app icons. You can change the number of homescreens and animations when flipping through them.  You can control if the wallpaper scrolls and if the homescreen scrolls circularly.  There are toggles in the notification dropdown and you can change which which toggles are there. You also can change to different clock looks on the lock screen.  This level of customization isn’t typical.  It’s not normally available to you unless you’re using a different launcher like Nova or Apex and even then you don’t have conrol over the lock screen or notification toggles.  You either need to have several different apps running on the Galaxy S II to have this kind of customization or be flashing custom roms.  Things that your average user probably won’t take the time to figure out how to do, but if you have the LG Spectrum 2, you have that kind of flexibility.

Performance

Now, I don’t know whether this would fall under a hardware issues or software implementation, but this device always lags in strange places like opening the app drawer.  When you open the app drawer it always has a brief tiny popup telling you it’s loading.  Why? Why is that hard? It’s one of the most basic functions your device has.  Why can’t you make this smooth LG?

Also, I recently took the LG Spectrum 2 on vacation with me (did I mention Verizon’s LTE was aweosme?) and I feel like I’ve never experience the device having such a hard time with performance until then.  Long drives with Google’s navigation and Mobile Hotspot seemed to just do it in.  The device would just hang and I often had to restart the device which is something I was also plagued with on the G2x.  So, I’m not sure if it is certain apps I’ve recently loaded, or the strain I put it under when traveling, but I feel like the hangs/lag I’ve recently encountered has been pretty disappointing.  I’ve treated this device no different than I would any other device, and at times it has frustrated me.  I think if you would’ve asked me a week ago if I would recommend this device to my mom, I would’ve said “sure.”  Now, I don’t know.  I’m just not sure LG has fixed their implementation woes.

As for the LG Spectrum 2 being a phone, I have zero complaints.  Call quality is decent.  I never had any problems with the radios or reception.  Data speeds are fantastic.  This is an LTE device on Verizon’s LTE network.  This is my first experience with Verizon LTE, and it’s been really impressive.  Coverage has been fantastic and this device pulled down respectable/great data speeds wherever I took it.  I wasn’t able to compare it to other Verizon LTE devices, but the Spectrum 2 always showed better data speeds compared to other devices in the same area on difference carriers. As you can see, I’ve included data speeds above taken in various places around the state of Washington.  I’ve also included a Quadrant Standard benchmark, which you should obviously take with a grain of salt because it Quadrant says it out performs the HTC One X, which I’m certain is far from the truth.

Camera

My overall feelings on the camera are that it’s average or on par for a mid-range device.  It has a standard 8 MP rear facing camera with flash and a 1.2 MP front facing camera.  I like that it has a continuous shot (fast burst) mode.  The camera app itself brings lots of good options for people who may know what they’re doing with cameras with ISO and white balance.  It does do panoramic photos and you can turn the shutter sound off which is convenient.  As far as shutter lag it’s nothing special and I wasn’t blown away with photo or video quality.  I’ve included some random shots I’ve taken with the device in the gallery below.

Conclusion

The good:

  • The display, it’s beautiful
  • The UI customizability
  • The bells and whistles (LTE, NFC, wireless charging, CDMA and GSM radios)

The ugly:

  • The performance of the device. It’s often lags, and hangs/freezes more often than I’d like
  • Button/port placement
  • Wish it had a notification light

The skinny:

I will probably say this every time a review a mid-range device, but I will never recommend to someone to buy a mid-range device.  I realize they have their place.  However, you’re likely making a 2-year commitment, get yourself a device that has potential to be fun/desirable for 2-years.  Why buy old or sub-par technology when you could just be patient, shop around, and most likely find a deal making a high-end device the same price as this mid-range device?

So, let me know if you have any other questions about the device.  I still have it in my possession for a short time.  Or if you have the device, let us know your thoughts on it by commenting below…

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