LG Mach Review: Built for Faster Typing
Sometimes you just want a physical keyboard. And if you still want to poke buttons -- but you want an Android, not BlackBerry -- your options are limited. Almost all Android flagships are touch screen-only. If you want a mid-range Android that doesn't make too many sacrifices, LG's Mach is a good choice -- it's an up-to-date device with a touch display and a slide-out keyboard, giving you the best of both worlds.
The Mach measures half an inches thick, surprisingly thin for a device with a keyboard, which typically adds an extra half-inch of bulk. It's actually slimmer than Motorola's Photon Q, Sprint's other solid mid-range Android-keyboard device, and if you're opposed to extra girth, that's your best choice for a slider. The Mach is far from light, tipping the scales at nearly six ounces, so know that it's much heavier than normal. The sliding mechanism is very sturdy, so you won't have to worry about breaking it.
The design is unobtrusive, with gently curved edges and a thin chrome rim accenting a black plastic frame. If you've seen the Viper, you've seen the Mach -- LG basically slapped a keyboard on the back, which has a faux-metal sheen, but it's plastic. If you're into green, you'll be happy to hear the Mach is 56 percent recyclable and it is certified carbon free and Platinum-certified from the UL Environment.
The 4-inch touch screen, meanwhile, features an 800-by-480 resolution, which is rather low as far as clarity goes -- the 244-ppi pixel density doesn't get the same kind of vibrancy and detail as higher-end displays. IPS technology offers a wide viewing angle, but the obvious pixilation you'll see around the text is a disappointment.
The five-row QWERTY, though, is an all-around winner. Fun orange accents and easy-to-press raised buttons flank a dedicated number row. That's saves a few seconds, which add up, if you text a lot. Meanwhile, navigational arrows and dedicated "search" button lets you quickly move from menu to menu. The buttons offer the perfect amount of tactile feedback. My only problem: the space bar could be a little spacier -- it's not long enough. I accidentally hit the period key a few times while typing. Still, there's one unique and helpful feature: if you choose to type on the QWERTY instead of the virtual keyboard, predictive text suggestions still come up. Start typing on the buttons and press the touch screen once -- the word you want will pop up.
The 5-megapixel camera has a few highlights, but is mostly a disappointment. The speedy shutter helps you easily capture unexpected moments -- there's almost no lag, which is great if you want to snap a spontaneous moment. The "time catch" feature lets you take five photos in sequence. It's like "best shot" on other phones, and you can check thumbnails before choosing the best one to save. Unfortunately, the image quality is mediocre at best -- it doesn't come close to a point-and-shoot, so don't forget to take the standalone camera if you plan to make prints. In dim environments, the LED flash washes out the color in faces to an excessive degree. While there's continuous auto-focus, I would have preferred more manual controls. I wasn't able to fiddle with the exposure to avoid a slight yellow tint in outdoor shots. You can record high-definition 1080p video, which is, again, nothing cutting-edge or particularly spectacular, and use a rudimentary VGA front-facing lens for video chat.
The Mach runs on ICS, which is a little outdated, but fine. The bigger issue is LG's troublesome Optimus interface. Now, the skin isn't terrible, besides its ugly widgets, but it doesn't offer much. There's a feature called "QuickMemo," which lets you scribble down notes with your finger, but I had a hard time doing it legibly. If you know have friends with a compatible device, you can use File Share to transfer movies, photos and other files. Another good thing: even though Sprint installed Sprint ID and Sprint Zone -- neither of which can be uninstalled -- for the most part there's very little bloatware. Polaris Office a far cry from Microsoft Office, but it's a way to edit documents on the go.
If you can get over the mediocre skin, you'll be delighted by the way the Mach runs: the 1.2-megahertz dual-core chip keeps it zippy. It doesn't have "4G" in its name like many rivals, the Mach runs on Sprint's faster LTE network. Check your coverage though, Sprint's network isn't as wide as Verizon and AT&T's, and if you're not in an area with 4G, 3G is, obviously, much slower. You'll want to turn off LTE to avoid draining the battery. I got around eight hours of talk time with the 1,700 mAh battery, which is great and should last you through the day. The 8-gigabytes of storage, though, is nothing to brag about, you can add more with a microSD slot underneath the battery.
Overall, the Mach is a solid mid-tier phone, and it's a great option if you're looking for a mid-range Android with a keyboard. If you're willing to forgo the keyboard, though, there are better mid-tier Androids, like the LG Optimus G or the HTC Evo 4G LTE. ♦
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