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LG Spectrum LTE Smartphone Review
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Date: Apr 19, 2012
Section:Mobile
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction & Specifications

LG and Verizon Wireless have brought the same display technology used in LG's premium HD televisions to a new smartphone dubbed the Spectrum. Featuring a 4.5-inch True HD IPS display and a resolution of 1280x720, the LG Spectrum uses Real Stripe subpixel arrangement which LG says is denser and 1.4 times sharper than the PenTile subpixel arrangement used on Super AMOLED displays.  The phone's display features a screen density of 329 pixels per inch to provide a sharp, crisp picture that shows fine details.

The LG Spectrum features a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S3 processor and connects to Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE network. The phone also supports 4G mobile hotspot capabilities for up to ten devices, provided you pay for the option to use this feature.

The Spectrum currently runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), though Verizon Wireless has said this phone will be receiving an update to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). This update is expected to be available in the first half of 2012.

For sports fans, the Spectrum also provides exclusive HD access to the ESPN ScoreCenter application. This app provides ScoreCenter stats, images and videos in 720p HD quality. You can also access scoreboards and live game details such as in-game stats, news, and video from the application.

Furthering its multimedia capabilities, the Spectrum also supports Dolby Digital Plus which lets you stream up to 7.1 channels of surround sound through home entertainment systems. You'll also find SmartShare on the phone for sharing media wirelessly to DLNA-enabled devices.

The Spectrum by LG is currently available for $199.99 with a new two-year customer agreement. Read on as we take a full hands-on look at what this phone has to offer.

Spectrum by LG
Specifications & Features

Network
Verizon Wireless
Bands/Modes
1.9 GHz CDMA PCS, 800 MHz CDMA, 700 MHz LTE
OS
Android 2.3, upgradable to Android 4.0 at some point in the future
Display
4.5-inch True HD IPS touchscreen, 1280 x 720
Corning Gorilla Glass

Processor
1.5 GHz Dual-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S3
Memory
1GB RAM internal memory
4GB internal memory
16GB microSD card pre-installed
Talk and Standby Time
Usage Time: up to 498 minutes
Standby Time: up to 348 hours

Dimensions
5.33 x 2.71 x 0.42 inches (HxWxD)
Weight
4.99 ounces
Battery
1830 mAh
Connectivity
 Bluetooth Version 3.0, 802.11b/g/n, Wi–Fi Direct, 4G Mobile Hotspot, microUSB, S-GPS, 3.5mm headset jack
Camera
8 Megapixel Rear-Facing Autofocus Camera and Camcorder with LED Flash
 1.3 Megapixel Front-Facing Camera
Price
$199.99 with contract and discounts
 
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Design

Like many of today's phones, the majority of the front of the LG Spectrum is consumed by the large, 4.5-inch display. Above the display to the right of the Verizon Wireless logo, you'll find the 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera. In comparison to some other phones which have ridges or a bump where the rear-facing camera or battery resides, the Spectrum has a mostly uniform body.

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Unlike many of today's Android phones, the Spectrum has just three touch-sensitive buttons (Menu, Home, Back) beneath the display. The Search button that is typically found beneath the display on other phones is missing, but you can access this functionality through the phone's interface. The Home button is the most noticeable of the three touch-sensitive buttons because it is surrounded by chrome.

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When you turn the Spectrum over, you'll see a glossy checkerboard finish that tends to attract fingerprints. Although the phone is comfortable to hold, we miss the easy-gripping feature of the rubberized back found on some smartphones today; the glossy back is pretty slick to the touch. On the back of the phone, you'll also see the 8 megapixel rear-facing camera along with LG and 4G LTE logos. You can see the rear speaker to the right of the 4G LTE logo.

On the left side of the phone, you'll find a volume rocker. The bottom edge of the phone and the right edge are null of any controls. On the top edge of the Spectrum, you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB port, and power button. The microUSB port is hidden behind a door that lifts up and rotates out.

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The LG Spectrum has an average weight in comparison to many of today's hot smartphones. The phone weighs 4.99 ounces which is very similar to Apple's iPhone 4S (4.9 ounces). Here's a closer look at how the Spectrum compares to some of today's popular phones.

Samsung Galaxy S 4G 4.2 ounces
Motorola Droid Razr 4.48 ounces
Nexus S
4.55 ounces
Samsung GSII Epic 4G Touch 4.6 ounces
HTC Droid Incredible
4.6 ounces
Apple iPhone 4
4.8 ounces
Apple iPhone 4S
4.9 ounces
LG Spectrum
4.99 ounces
Samsung Droid Charge
5.04 ounces
Motorola Droid Razr Maxx
5.1 ounces
Motorola Droid Bionic 5.57 ounces
Motorola Photon 4G
5.6 ounces
HTC EVO 3D
6 ounces
HTC Thunderbolt
6.23 ounces

 
When you remove the back battery cover, you'll see the Spectrum's microSD card slot as well as a Verizon Wireless 4G LTE SIM card. We appreciate that LG designed the phone so you can access the microSD slot without having to remove the battery. Should you need to swap SIM card, however, you'll need to remove the battery to have full access to the SIM slot.

  

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User Interface

The LG Spectrum runs on Android 2.3 and features some custom user interface tweaks from LG. LG and Verizon Wireless plan to offer an upgrade to Android 4.0 sometime in the first half of this year.

On each of the home screens, you'll notice LG has placed four static icons at the bottom. These icons provide access to the Phone dialer, Contacts, Messaging, and Apps.

From the Home screen, the Menu button provides access to a number of predesigned Themes you can use to customize the phone very quickly. You can also create your own custom themes. There are also a number of widgets preloaded on the phone that you can use to customize any of the phone's seven home screens. To view a thumbnail of each of the seven home screens, simply pinch to zoom out from any of them.

       

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Like other phones, LG and Verizon Wireless have included a number of preloaded applications with the Spectrum. Some of these preloaded apps include ESPN ScoreCenter, Netflix, Amazon Kindle, Bitbop, Blockbuster, Hot Pursuit, NFL Mobile, Rhapsody, VideoSurf, Polaris Office, Richnote, and more. Of course, there are also a handful of Verizon Wireless apps such as My Verizon Mobile, V CAST Media Manager, V CAST Tones, Verizon Video, and others. Many of these preloaded applications cannot be uninstalled using the Manage Applications menu found on the phone.

       

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By default, the applications are presorted into collapsible category folders called Communication, HD, Verizon Wireless, Media, News & search, Tools, and Downloads. Using the menu, you can add, delete, rename, and reorder categories as you see fit. If you don't like the category view, you can also view all applications in a list.

The LG Spectrum comes with a LG Keyboard and the SWYPE keyboard.

 

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Performance, Battery Life

On multiple occasions, we felt the Spectrum was not as responsive as other phones with similar hardware. For example, there were many instances when we would press the application button, wait for the phone to respond, assume it didn't register our command, press the button again, and then see the application menu pop up and close quickly. This happened with other on-screen icons as well. We're hoping the update to Ice Cream Sandwich and/or another software update to the phone will fix this issue, but we don't have any guarantees at this point.

Considering the Spectrum has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, we see no reason this phone should have much of a lag when opening and closing various applications and menus. We've used phones with slower processors and the same OS in the past from other manufacturers and have not experienced sluggish responsiveness as we have with the Spectrum.

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Although there were more than a few instances when we felt the phone was a bit slow to respond, there were also many instances where the phone performed quickly and smoothly. We were able to use the phone for various everyday tasks without issues—checking email, browsing the web, placing calls, launching apps, etc. Overall call quality on the LG spectrum was very good.

One of the selling points of the LG Spectrum is its high resolution 4.5-inch True HD IPS touchscreen. With a resolution of 1280 x 720, this phone has a higher resolution than most other phones we've seen. During our tests, we felt the screen was very vibrant, colorful, and sharp. The screen also offered excellent viewing angles.

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While using the phone outdoors under direct sunlight, we felt the Spectrum's screen was much easier to read than most other screens we've seen.

Although the LG Spectrum is a little lean on internal storage (4GB), it does come with a 16GB microSD card preloaded in the phone. Of course, you can swap cards as needed for additional storage, and we appreciate that LG has made the microSD card slot accessible without removing the battery (although you will have to remove the back cover plate of the phone to access the card slot).

The LG Spectrum has an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with flash. In some instances our test images (particularly indoor shots) appeared a little drab, but many of our outdoor shots were quite vibrant.

   
   
   
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With any LTE phone, battery life is often an issue. LG claims you should be able to enjoy up to 498 minutes (about 8.3 hours) of usage time and up to 348 hours (about 14.5 days) of standby time from the phone's 1830 mAh battery. To put these numbers to the test, we put the LG Spectrum through our standard HotHardware battery test. In this test, we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics and text. The page automatically refreshed itself every three minutes. We set the Spectrum's display to 50% brightness and turned off Wi-Fi.

When we ran this test, the Spectrum lasted for 235 minutes while connected to the Verizon Wireless network in an LTE coverage area before giving up. In our real world testing of the phone, the Spectrum's battery often made it through a light work day (approximately 8-10 hours) while checking email, surfing the web, making calls, etc without needing a charge. Of course, your mileage will vary depending on how much you demand of the phone.

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Performance Testing

In addition to using the LG Spectrum in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the Spectrum compares to other smartphones.

CPU testing
Android CPU testing

Graphics testing
Android graphics testing

 

JavaScript testing
JavaScript Android and iPhone testing

 

In the Linpack test, the Spectrum outscored all other phones in the multi thread test. The phone didn't fare quite as well in the single thread test, however.  

In the An3DBench, the Spectrum came in just behind the Droid Razr to earn the second place spot, but all of the higher end phones are VSync limited there anyway. In the An3DBench XL test, the Spectrum scored very well in the Emperor's New Clothes and Magic Island tests. It achieved a respectable score in the Flower Power test as well, but didn't perform quite as well as some phones in this particular component of the test.

The Spectrum also performed very well in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, earning third place behind the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Motorola Droid Razr.

 

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Performance Testing - Network

Since networks speeds are is a key feature of any smartphone, we also conducted some formal speed tests to see how well the LG Spectrum compares to some of today's hottest smartphones.

The Spectrum scored well in the Xtremelabs 4G test and came in fourth behind three other Verizon Wireless phones.

On the Xtremelabs 3G test, the Spectrum earned more of a mid-range score on the download component of the test. It earned a relatively high score in the upload component of the test, however.

The Speedtest.net 4G test shows similar results as the Xtremelabs 4G test. While the Spectrum didn't earn the top spot, it posted a very good score on the download component coming in third. The phone had an excellent upload speed which beat many phones by a large margin.

In the Speedtest.net 3G test, the Spectrum achieved a score that was slightly better than half of the phones in our comparison database.

Although these tests are designed to put a quantitative score on network performance, it's important to keep in mind network speeds can vary depending on many factors and the test results can also vary from one day to the next. Overall, we were satisfied with the real-world speeds on the Spectrum and felt they were in line with other phones we've seen recently.
 

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Conclusion

With its 4.5-inch True HD IPS display that supports a high resolution of 1280x720, the LG Spectrum is sure to attract users who have a keen eye for graphics and multimedia content. Sports fans will also appreciate some of the included apps and features that come with the Spectrum, such as the ESPN ScoreCenter app that provides ScoreCenter stats, images and videos in 720p HD.

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Our biggest complaint about this phone was the occasional sluggish response we'd get when opening the Applications and other menus. Assuming Verizon Wireless and LG resolve this issue through a future update, or possibly when the phone is upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, we feel the Spectrum will be more appealing to users. In the meantime, if you're willing to be a little patient every now and then, the phone still has a lot going for it. Overall, the Spectrum performed quite well in many of our benchmark tests.

While battery life with the Spectrum isn't terrible, it's also not anything to write home about. Heavy users will definitely want to keep a spare battery or a charger handy for heavy use days.

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All in all, the Spectrum is a very capable phone with some compelling features (particularly its display). Given the many LTE-capable phones from Verizon Wireless, however, we can't say the Spectrum stands out in its current form. The hardware and features are certainly there, but until the glitches we mentioned are ironed out it's difficult to recommend this device over competing Verizon LTE offerings.

     
  • 4.5-inch True HD IPS display
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM
  • 4G connectivity
  • Exclusive HD access to the ESPN ScoreCenter app
  • Occasional sluggish responsive
  • Lots of preinstalled apps
  • No Android 4.0—yet

 



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