LG proved to us with the Optimus G that they can make a decent smartphone. The device earned praise from almost every reviewer out there and went on to be the base of the Nexus 4. But, one question still remained: Could LG make a solid, mid-range device without top-of-the-line specs? The LG Lucid, released in the Summer of 2012, earned solid reviews, but still received criticism for LG’s custom skin. A couple of months ago, LG announced the Spectrum 2, another mid-range device for Verizon. Does it fix the issues people had with the Lucid? Read on to find out!
- Connectivity: LTE 750 WCDMA 900 / 1900 / 2100 CDMA 850 / 1900
- Weight: 5.59 oz (158 g)
- Dimensions: 5.31″ x 2.69″ x 0.39″ (135 x 68 x 9.9 mm)
- Battery: 2150 mAh, Removable
- Display Type: LCD (Color TFT/TFD)
- Resolution: 720 x 1280 pixels 4.7″ diagonal
- Operating System: Android 4.0
- Processor: 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core
- Memory: 16 GB internal storage
- RAM: 1GB
Looking at the Spectrum 2 from afar, you wouldn’t think twice about what phone it was. The device features a rubberized back and rounded design, which make it great to hold in the hand. Much more so than the fingerprint magnet, slippery LG Lucid. It measures 5.31 inches tall and 2.69 inches wide, making it noticeably larger than most other mid-range devices, but that is due to the large 4.7-inch display. Which, while it won’t compete with the Note II by any means, is much larger than we’re used to seeing on LG budget phones. But, it will still fit into any pockets, so no need to worry on that front. At 0.36 inch thick and 5.16 ounces it’s also heavier than most devices, but that’s do to the fact that it doesn’t have an all plastic body like most Samsung phones do. Definitely nothing wrong with that in my eyes.
As far as ports and buttons go, there’s nothing out of the ordinary on the Spectrum 2. The top houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and circular power button, which doubles as a notification light that lights up blue when powered on or when you have a notification. The right of the device is barren, while the left is home to volume rocker and microUSB charging port. On the bottom you’ll find nothing but a small lip to allow you to remove the back cover. Alongside the 8MP camera with flash on the back, you’ll find speakers, a 4G LTE logo, and LG logo. Nothing out of the ordinary. Four capacitive buttons lie on the beneath the 4.7-inch display. The buttons light up blue when the screen is tapped, which is a little bit obnoxious and out of the ordinary.
While the LG Spectrum 2 certainly won’t win any awards for its design, it is well built and feels great in the hand. The blue capacitive buttons to get somewhat annoying, though.
Usually when a manufacturer releases a sub-$100 smartphone, the biggest sacrifices are made with the screen technology. Thankfully though, the LG Spectrum 2 doesn’t suffer from those compromises. The device features a 720p HD IPS display with a pixel density of 312 pixels-per-inch. While it may not be quite as good as the HTC DROID DNA or Nexus 4, it is still very crisp and easy to read. Colors are bright and vivid and it responds to touch well. By no means is the DROID DNA worth the extra $100 just for its display. The LG Spectrum 2’s is quite good and will get the job done for almost anyone.
Looking at the internal specifications of the Spectrum you wouldn’t be able to tell that it costs less than $100. The device is packing a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC (MSM8960) paired with an Adreno 225 GPU and 1GB of RAM. That’s the same processor type and GPU as the United States model of the Galaxy S III, which is quite impressive. While the international Spectrum 2 packs 2GB, Verizon opted to only use 1GB of RAM in its model. Even though I’ve never used the international model of the device, there were a few instances where I felt an extra gigabyte of RAM could be helpful. For instance, swiping between homepages with a live wallpaper set could be somewhat laggy with the occasional stutter. Pinching and zooming on graphic heavy sites, like The Verge, was hard with the stock LG browser on the device and lagged quite a bit. Performance was better with Chrome for Android, but still not perfect or up to the quality of a more powerful device like the DROID DNA or Galaxy Note II.
Games on the Spectrum 2 performed quite well, as did day to day tasks, such as texting, light web browsing, and Twitter. The device was also able to handle the animation-heavy Carbon for Android Twitter client quite well.
The DROID DNA is compatible with Verizon’s blazing fast 4G LTE network. Currently, this network is available in more than 470 markets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Using the speedtest.net app, I was able to consistently get 20-25mbps up and 5-9 up. ESPN’s mobile site loaded in a speedy 4 seconds.
In AnTuTu, the Spectrum 2 received a score slightly over 7,000, edging out the original Galaxy Note and the Galaxy Nexus. In Quadrant, the device beat out the HTC One X and almost doubled the performance of the Galaxy Nexus with a score of 5,100.
Overall, performance of the LG Spectrum 2 was quite impressive. While it can’t compete with the late-2012 flagships, such as the DROID DNA and Note II, it can get the job done. Day-to-day performance with the device was fine. Navigating throughout the operating system was painless and games performed well. By no means does the Spectrum 2 perform like your traditional budget phone. And that’s a very good thing.
The LG Spectrum 2 ships with Android 4.0 and LG’s custom skin on top. And while LG’s skin has improved greatly over the years, it’s nowhere near the quality of stock Android or TouchWiz.
The launcher on the device looks eerily similar to Samsung’s TouchWiz, but sadly it’s far worse. You have five customizable icons at the bottom with a static Google search bar up top. You can have up to seven home screens total. The app drawer features infinite scrolling and the ability to separately view apps downloaded from the Play Store.
The default LG browser on the Spectrum 2 is also rather disappointing. It’s not horrible, but with Chrome for Android being free on the Play Store, I highly recommend using it instead. LG’s browser lacks several features that Chrome has, such as desktop syncing.
Heading into settings will not unveil very many features at all. Whereas TouchWiz offers another layer of user-enabled features and customization, what you see is what you get on the Spectrum 2 for the most part.
LG’s skin really just doesn’t add anything to the Android experience. In fact, it hurts it. It doesn’t keep consistent with Android 4.0′s “Holo” interface or even keep consistent with whatever standard LG is trying to ensue.
Sadly, the Spectrum 2 really lacks in the software department. It’s inconsistent and somewhat buggy. An update to Jelly Bean would heavily benefit the device and I really hope it is coming sooner rather than later. Thankfully, the Android platform allows you to install a third party launcher that greatly improves the experience, which if you purchase the Spectrum 2, I highly recommend you do.
There are a plethora of software options that you can adjust. You can customize things such as the exposure, ISO, and white balance. There’s also voice shutter capabilities that allow you to say “cheese and have the camera take a photo without pressing any buttons whatsoever. One thing that the camera app is lacking is any sort of animation when a picture is taken. This makes it hard to know if a picture was taken or not.
Battery life on the Spectrum was very good. The device packs a 2150mAh battery, which unlike many newer Android phones, is removable. I was easily able to make it through an entire day on a single charge with moderate to heavy use, doing things like emailing, texting, tweeting, listening to music via Google Music, and checking Facebook.
While 2150mAh may not seem that big in comparison to the 3100mAh pack found in the Note II, you have to remember the difference in both size and power between the two devices. The Note II features a screen nearly an inch bigger and with a much higher resolution, as well as a more powerful quad-core processor.
I’m usually very hesitant to review what manufacturers and carriers market as “budget devices,” but the Spectrum 2 was a wonderful device. It’s a device that’s easy on the wallet, but that also performs and functions like a device much more expensive than its price tag. It’s a budget device with expensive internals.
While the software on the Spectrum 2 is very disappointing, it performs very well and features a solid, sturdy design. It’s a solid option for anyone on Verizon looking to get a smartphone. Especially at just $79.99 with a new two-year contract.