- Large, vivid HD screen
- Good performance
- 4G LTE
- Reasonable price
- LG custom interface is frustrating
- Marginal battery life
A good option for those who want to have a smartphone with a high-end display and 4G LTE without needing a second mortgage.
Although LG isn’t a name often associated with cutting-edge smartphones, the new LG Spectrum aims to change that, featuring a 4.5-inch HD resolution screen, 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, and support for Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
The Spectrum is, in effect, positioned as a cheaper alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Like its competitor, the LG model features Google’s Android OS and a large, vivid 1280 x 720 screen, although without some of the bells and whistles that the Nexus has.
Of course slightly cheaper is a relative term; at a suggested retail price of $200 with a new two-year contract, the Spectrum sits on what used to firmly be the upper end of smartphone pricing, before units like the Motorola Droid RAZR and Galaxy Nexus started crossing that line. But shaving a third off the price of its competitors, and with even deeper discounts available through online retailers, this handset proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have high-end features.
Build & Design
As far as its design goes, the Spectrum is fairly ordinary, but then, there’s really only so many things that you can do with a black plastic rectangle. Overall though the build is very solid and feels durable.
The smartphone isn’t super-thin, nor thicker than average; it has a large footprint, but not excessive for a device with a 4.5-inch screen; it is, in pretty much every way, average. It won’t stand out in the crowd, but it’s comfortable in the hand, not too heavy, and has nicely rounded edges to make it comfortable. The back cover is a magnet for finger oils, so you’d best get used to it being covered in smudges, though.
The screen is, no doubt, the Spectrum’s high point. At 4.5 inches, and featuring a full 1280 x 720 resolution (the same as 720P HDTV) it’s a beauty to behold. Of course, because of the level of detail that the human eye can see in a given amount of space, moving up to HD resolution isn’t that visually dramatic of a jump in clarity when you’re coming from 800 x 480 (WVGA) or 960 x 540 (qHD), but you can still see the difference, particularly in web browsing and similar applications. The Spectrum features a resolution that’s really truly in line with some desktop or laptop displays; if you have good enough eyes, you can even browse the Web without zooming in.
Whereas some of its direct competitors, including both of Verizon’s other highest-end smartphones, use Super AMOLED screens, the LG Spectrum instead opts to use an IPS LCD. IPS screens are basically a kind of “upgraded” LCD designed to provide better contrast, and better viewing angles than “regular” LCDs (at, of course, a higher price tag than regular LCDs as well). An IPS screen will usually offer a contrast ratio in the range of 500:1 to 800:1, compared to the 300:1 that regular LCDs average.
So how does it fare against the competition? Well, even an IPS display can’t match the contrast that you get with Super AMOLED Plus. However, despite that, the LG Spectrum holds up remarkably well. The clarity is obviously spectacular for any display boasting HD resolution, but the Spectrum also does well in color vibrance and brightness. In fact, I’d say it’s very competitive with the Super AMOLED screens you’ll see on the Galaxy Nexus or Samsung Galaxy S II. So even if you run across one of these other devices, you’re not going to come away feeling dissatisfied with your Spectrum’s look.
Other Buttons and Ports
Checking underneath the battery cover, you’ll find the LTE SIM card, as well as the microSD card — the latter, thankfully, in a place where you don’t have to remove either the battery or the SIM to get at it. While the Spectrum comes with only 4GB of internal memory, it sports a very healthy sized 16GB microSD card right out of the box. While that’s not as much memory as the recent Droids or the Galaxy Nexus come loaded with, it’s still a lot, and more than you need to get started.
All the other interesting stuff is on the top of the device, which sports not just the power button and headset jack, but also the micro-USB port. The latter is concealed by a small cover to keep out dirt and grime. At the bottom of the screen, the Spectrum uses only three of the four “usual” Android buttons, leaving the Search button off. Not what I’d call a great loss, as that one has always been a little useless.