You can get away with carrying a knockoff bag, but you can't get away with carrying a knockoff phone. LG's Nitro HD is just a Galaxy S2 knockoff -- and you can spot it a mile away. Despite its 4G LTE connection, the buggy camera and out-of-date software make it obviously second-rate -- and completely overpriced. The only reason I'd recommend the Nitro is if you absolutely need LTE and AT&T sold out of the other options.
The design didn't exactly exciting. Imagine a Galaxy phone -- whatever you have in mind is close enough to what the Nitro looks like. Black plastic rectangle, a few chrome accents here and there for pizazz, a bezel at the bottom -- right down to the textured back, the Nitro copies the S2. At 5.3-inches, it's tall, but lighter than the iPhone, and the only unique element is the uneven bezels -- instead of the same thickness on top and bottom, the lower part is thicker, which gives it an unpleasantly asymmetrical look. Another quirk: the power button, USB port and headphone jack are jammed together at the top, with the USB port is covered by an insultingly flimsy bit of plastic. I'll give LG credit in one area: the Nitro looks better than the Revolution, so at least it's improving.
The 4.5-inch screen is fantastic -- and I almost forgave the blatantly unoriginal design. It's the only area where the Nitro out-and-out beats the S2 -- the 1,280-by-720 resolution renders meticulous details without a whiff of pixilation. And the super-saturation that often plagues the S2's AMOLED screen is mercifully absent from the Nitro's IPS panel. At 326-ppi pixel density, it isn't as sharp as the HTC Rezound, but if you compare the screens, the Nitro is just as vibrant -- its 500-nits of "luminance," or about 326-lux, make it pleasantly bright. The RGB stripes layout is superior to PenTile, which can produce jagged text, so the screen is as clear as it is responsive. There's a slight curve to the glass, which makes it more comfortable to swipe your hand across the display.
The 8-megapixel camera is good, but not nearly as great as the screen. Part of that is due to the extremely slow shutter speeds. In addition, the auto-focus works well for close-up shots, but if your subject is far away, you'll have trouble. I'm disappointed by the useless auto-focus, but you can use push-to-focus to lock in. More uplifting: the Nitro comes with a ton of manual controls for ISO, exposure and contrast. If you're a shutterbug, you'll love to fiddle with it. Meanwhile, you can record video at slightly less than 1080p, since the resolution is actually 1,920-by-1,088, but the quality isn't diminished. The slow shutter doesn't affect the clips and they come out smooth. And thanks to a second microphone, the audio is crystal clear. You also get a 1-megapixel front-facing lens for video chat. It's not useful for much else.
I'm hoping the shutter lag is fixed with a software update. And LG may push out ICS soon. But otherwise, it runs on Gingerbread -- with a clunky LG interface. Frankly, it's just bad -- the Frankenstein of UIs, cobbling together the worst elements of TouchWiz with weird disaster touches. You can tell it wants to be loved -- the animation is cute, the color scheme is bright, yet clashing -- but it fails miserably. LG removed Swype so you'll have to type slower, and it put clunky boxes around each icon for an uglier interface -- if that's possible. Overall, the software cheapens the outstanding display. But that's not all: AT&T and LG piled on the bloatware. You can, fortunately, uninstall most of it -- no need to see Zynga Poker HD -- but some of them are sort of useful. Smartshare, for example, lets you transfer files to other devices, so it's great if everyone in the family uses a Nitro.
Inside, a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip is more than adequate at powering the device -- and the zippiness of the rest of the phone makes the shutter lag stand out. You get 16-gigabytes of storage, which you can bump up with a 32-gigabyte microSD card. That gives you plenty of room to store movies and music. That's great if you want to watch "Downton Abbey" on your commute, but bring a charger, because the 1,830 mAh battery is no match for the big, bright display and 4G LTE -- you'll be out of power in about four hours of heavy use. If you barely touch it, you'll be able to squeeze out a workday.
The Nitro HD has perks, the high-quality screen and excellent video recording. But like all knockoffs, they're never as good as the original. And in this case, that's the Galaxy S2. The software is a big problem, and the shutter lag is an issue. But as a flagship phone, it doesn't put up much of a fight with the market. ♦
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