LG Spectrum 2 Review: A Tale of Two Features
The LG Spectrum 2 has a lot of ingredients that go into making a great phone -- an elegant design, large touch display, cutting-edge camera and attractive features like NFC. It's not too expensive, either. I'd recommend it, but not enthusiastically -- if you get it on sale, it's a great device, but it's not much better than other high-end Android devices like the Galaxy S3.
Why wasn't it a hit out of the park? Well, it avoids making the mistake mid-range phones often do -- adding large, but poor resolution, screens. But its weak spot is the software. Not only did LG ship it with ICS instead of Jelly Bean -- with no update in sight -- but LG added its annoying interface. So despite the great hardware, you won't feel like the Spectrum 2 is a brand-new phone -- it's more like a high-end device your friend gave you after barely using it last year. Yes, it's still nice, but undeniably stale.
That isn't to say there's not a lot to like -- there is. The sleek, angular "dual-layer" design is all sharp corners and straight lines -- Samsung's gently rounded models are on the opposite end of the spectrum, pun intended -- highlighted by a curved chrome trim. It's very attractive, and if you like the edgier feel, and I do, you'll love the look. But at 0.4-inches thick and over five ounces in heft, it's neither slim nor light. You'll notice a difference when you pick up the S3 or Droid DNA, for example. And you'd think the heavier weight is due to the materials. And in some ways, that's true, but it's still plastic. The build material feels better than the plastic on the S3, and the Spectrum 2 is one of those rare devices that feel more expensive than it actually is, but frankly, it goes without saying that for the weight, a better build material would have been preferred.
Overall, the design is simple and elegant, and a 4.7-inch IPS display stretches almost edge-to-edge to dominate the front. Four capacitive buttons below are a bit unattractive in -- blue clashes with the design, but you can decide for yourself. The rubberized battery cover, though, definitely mars the sleek look, but it lets you charge wirelessly -- a nifty feature also found on the Lumia 920 and 820. You'll have to buy a charging pad though.
The display, meanwhile, is just beautiful. Movies are comfortable to watch and photos are fun to browse through. It's on par with the rival high-end touch screens, and that's great for a mid-range price. The 1,280-by-720 resolution is incredibly sharp, and it doesn't suffer from jaggedness that PenTile layouts often do. It's a great size too -- say what you will, but displays over 5-inches are hard to hold, and those under 4-inches are often hard to read on. It's an ideal size, and as bright as vivid as the best out there. I should mention, I did have problems viewing it in direct sunlight, but anywhere else, and the clarity is outstanding, even at extreme angles. I can't say it matches toe-to-toe with other top-tier displays like the DNA, but it's definitely every bit as good as the S3.
LG isn't known for its optics, but the Spectrum 2 stepped up its game with the 8-megapixel camera. Image quality is pretty good. Color reproduction was accurate, though a bit dull, but clarity is a bit blurrier than top-tier lenses. It lacks the sharpness you can see in Optimus G, and frankly, it's nothing much to go on about. It's better than what I expected, but I didn't expect much from LG: it's decent, but not great. Still, the shutter is faster than a hummingbird's wings -- it locks into focus and captures photos with little to no lag. That means if you need it for action shots, you won't have to worry much about blurring, aside from the lens quality. "Time Catch" adds an extra boost too -- it's like action shot on steroids. With one press, you can snap five photos in quick succession, and then choose the best one.
You'll also get "Panoramic" shot, which lets you take scenic landscapes in a wider view, as well as "Beauty Shot" that LG says will even skin tone -- that's always important, I suppose. Silly options like "cheese mode" let you take photos when everyone's smiling and you can also a disco ball to the background for some style. The 1080p video recording as mediocre as the camera, and there's not much to praise or complain about. Not to be outdone, it comes with its own 1.3-megapixel front-facing lens for video chat.
As I mentioned, the biggest issue is the outdated ICS software. But you can't even tell it's Android. LG masked it behind an awful Optimus interface -- screen transitions and silly cartoon icons add nothing and merely bog down the performance. As bad as the one on the Optimus G was, this one is worse -- little tweaks have no rhyme or reason. LG, for example, removed the Wi-Fi toggle. I guess it's nice to assume you're rich enough for unlimited data, but a toggle comes in handy if you want to limit use. The default Android keyboard with one that's nearly identical to it too, but worse. To be fair, I did like how you can choose four icons to use so you don't have to always unlock the screen, but the widgets as ugly as they are boxy. The default view is pretty haphazard too. What does that mean? Well, uninstall or hide the bloatware from Verizon and Amazon. If you don't, you'll accidentally hit launch one of them, and then be charged for the extra service. Google added unnecessary apps -- think Gmail and YouTube -- but they're slightly more useful.
Don't get me wrong. I don't have an issue with ICS -- it still runs on a number of high-end phones, but Jelly Bean is so much better. If you haven't seen it, you really should take a look at the Nexus 4, for example. The interface is streamlined for a more elegant menu. And added tweaks actually make it more convenient to use -- surprise! But I digress.
LG added NFC, which the iPhone lacks, so you can share data with other devices with a tap of the phone. If you can find a store that takes mobile payments, you can use it as a mobile wallet too -- but NFC hasn't taken off yet, so it has potential, but it's nothing to get excited about either. What is, though, are the "Tag+" stickers. Think of it as a nifty way to customize your phone settings -- but changing it automatically by your location. So say, you like to silence your ringer at work. Just set one of the "tags" and leave it at your desk. When you walk in, the phone will switch to silent mode when it's within the vicinity. It's basically a dumbed down version of Motorola's Smart Actions, but rather than GPS, you'll need to scan these tags to enable the settings.
You can use QuickNotes, which is like Samsung's Note app, to jot down messages to screenshots. Both are similar, but with QuickNotes, your fingers do the writing -- not a stylus. Maybe I have fat fingers, but I found it hard to write accurately. Still, it's nice to have in a bind, and I prefer it to a stylus.
The 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip and 1-gigabyte of RAM, meanwhile, is powerful enough to keep things smooth, and it runs on Verizon's speedy 4G LTE service, giving it a leg up over slower rival networks. Unfortunately, the wide screen and 4G drain the 2,150 mAh battery like crazy -- so set the display to 50 percent brightness and turn off LTE when you're not using it. Otherwise, if you leave it on overnight, you notice a big drop in power. At these settings, I easily got a day's worth of juice, so it'll be more than enough. Also, don't worry about storage, since 16-gigabytes is plenty unless you are a music or movie fiend. Still, if you need more, pick up a microSD card for up to 32-gigabytes.
The Spectrum 2 is a good-looking package. Yes, the software is old and awful to use and the camera is mediocre at best, but if you want high-end device without paying a top-tier price, the Spectrum 2 is a decent value. It's one of the better mid-range phones, but it's not exceptional, and there are a few flaws. For a better phone though, expect to pay more, but you'll get more too. ♦
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November 22, 2012
Nice Phone, Nice Price
After a few weeks with this phone, I'm ready to write my review. The touch display is excellent. It's very responsible -- sometimes you can just hover to type a key. The size is ideal and the clarity and brightness are just great -- easy on the eyes.
The camera is quick too. You'll be able to snap action shots with the press of a button. Videos are just a clear. The sound quality is great. Call quality and reception are superb as well.
The phone is loaded with a ton of apps -- 56 at last count. Most you can do without, read: bloatware, but a few are rather useful. With the app drawer, you can preload a few apps on the first few pages. You can arrange them in alphabetical order -- but only downloaded apps, not preinstalled ones. A lot of apps will be linked to your Google account.
The face lock wasn't that great. I don't need to look at myself every time I want to unlock my phone. It's a great novelty item, but not all that practical. Unfortunately, predictive text isn't available on the browser -- only during texting.Was this review helpful to you?
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