LG G Stylo review:

Stylus-wielding phablet with an affordable price

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars 7 user reviews

The Good The LG G Stylo has a competitively low prepaid price, a long-lasting battery and a built-in stylus for added functionality.

The Bad The handset picked up a subtle amount of static during calls, 4G LTE data speeds were slow in our area and its stylus doesn't have as many productivity tools as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4's S-Pen.

The Bottom Line Though the LG G Stylo's stylus is more of an afterthought, it's still a highly affordable big-screen handset.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Camera 7.0
  • Battery 8.0

Although big-screen phones usually come with a high price tag, the LG G Stylo -- aka the LG G4 Stylus -- is a rare 5.7-inch device that costs just $199 prepaid in the US. In addition to its competitive price, the handset also has Android 5.1 Lollipop, an enduring battery and a decent 8-megapixel camera. Oh, and it happens to have a built-in stylus as well.

True, this pen isn't as useful as the Galaxy Note 4's S-Pen, which Samsung packs with all sorts of smart features. And if you're seeking a phone that'll amp up productivity, you'll be sorely disappointed with the G Stylo.

But if you consider the device as a whole and take the stylus for what it is -- a little pen that can come in handy from time to time -- the handset is still a competent and reliable phone. Though it may not be better than every cheap phablet on the market, such as the ZTE Grand X Max+ for instance, its budget price makes it a strong contender as far as affordable phablets go.

Availability

In the US, the device is available for $199 on prepaid carriers Boost Mobile and MetroPCS. T-Mobile also offers it with a 13-megapixel camera instead of the usual 8-megapixel endeavor for $290 without a contract. Sprint users can nab it for $49 with a two-year agreement or $288 without.

Design and display

  • 5.7-inch HD IPS display with 1,280x720-pixel resolution and 258ppi
  • 6.1 by 3.1 by 0.38 inches (154 by 79 by 9.7mm)
  • 5.85 ounces (166 grams)

The G Stylo sports a wide and rectangular design that's similar to LG's G4 flagship . But given its larger display, it feels weighty in the hand. The subtly arched back does make it comfortable to hold though, and it helps with grip. Because the rear control buttons and the back cover are made out of a lightweight matte plastic, the device feels a bit cheaper than LG's higher-end handsets. But a few dashed lines running horizontally texture the backing and add a dash of style and luxuriousness.

The device has an expansive 5.7-inch, 720p display. James Martin/CNET

The top edge houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and stores the stylus (more on that later), while the bottom has the Micro-USB port for charging. The back features the power/sleep key as well as the volume rocker. Above the control buttons are the rear camera lens, flanked by its laser-guided focus on the left and its flash on the right. At the very bottom is a small slit for the audio speaker. A small indentation on the left edge enables you to pry off the back plate. Once removed, you can gain access to the swappable battery, and the slots for the microSD and SIM cards.

The phone's display has a 720p resolution. With a keen eye, you'll be able to notice small pixelation and aliasing with text, icons and images, but the resolution isn't so poor that it's distracting or irritating. In fact, videos and photos are smooth enough for the most part and are easy to view. The screen is also responsive to the touch and has a wide viewing angle. When brightness is turned on max, it's also comfortable to view outdoors.

Working with the stylus

The included stylus measures a little over 4 inches (102mm) and has a soft rubbery tip. Personally, I found the pen to be a bit too thin even for my petite grip, but it's still sturdy and comfortable to write with.

Unlike the styluses that equip Samsung's Galaxy Note series, LG's stylus doesn't have any smart features, so it isn't sensitive to hand pressure, can't hover over text or have a click-and-select button like Samsung's S-Pens. It's just a regular stylus that can tap, swipe and drag.

Drafting a to-do list on QuickMemo (left) and jotting down notes on the handset's display. Lynn La/CNET

Though its functions are limited, it's not utterly useless. A stylus is always useful if you have gloves on and you can't use your fingers to swipe, and with LG's signature QuickMemo+ app, you can type, write, doodle, draw, cut and copy to your heart's desire. The app includes tools to make lists; change your brush style (to a pen, brush, highlighter or chalk piece) and switch out the stylus' color, transparency and sizes. You can also import media into your notes, like videos, pictures and screenshots as well as use the keyboard's write-to-text feature. A watered-down version of the QuickMemo is also available in G Stylo's pull-down menu, where you can also annotate notes directly onto the screen.

All in all, the stylus doesn't add a monumental amount of productivity or tools to your arsenal like the Galaxy Note does, but it's nice to have it as an option when you casually need it. This is especially true given the device's generous screen size, which gives you ample room to make notes and draw doodles. Since you can also tuck the stylus neatly into the handset, and it doesn't take up any space or require additional handling. While I don't recommend it for any serious powerhouse user, the stylus is a useful bonus on an already inexpensive phone.

You can tuck the G Stylo's stylus inside the phone. James Martin/CNET

Software and other features

  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • LG user interface includes KnockCode, GlanceView and QuickMemo+
  • 8GB of internal storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD

In addition to QuickMemo+ mentioned above, the G Stylo includes a handful of other signature features from LG like KnockOn and KnockCode, which enables you to wake up or unlock the device with various tapping gestures while the display is asleep. With GlanceView, you can check the time, date and any missed notifications on the sleeping screen by swiping your finger downward from the top edge.

Boost Mobile throws in its own apps too, though fortunately, you can uninstall them if you want. There is 1Weather, the social-networking portal AirG, Boost Music, the digital Boost Wallet and Boost Zone, where you can check your usage and account information and stay updated with carrier news. Messaging+ is an SMS and video calling service, and PlayPhone is a gaming portal. Lastly, Boost411 is a directory that lets you search for local businesses and people.

A quick glance at some of the phone's preloaded apps. James Martin/CNET

You'll get the usual slew of apps from Google such as Gmail, the Chrome Web browser, Maps, Hangouts, Docs, Photos and YouTube to name just a few, as well as some other pre-loaded third-party apps such as Scout navigation, the rideshare service Uber, NextRadio and the security app Gadget Guardian. And of course, you'll have basic stuff like a calendar, a calculator, a weather tracker and the like.

Camera and video

  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, records 1080p video
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera, records 1080p video

Similar to other high-end LG devices, the G Stylo has a laser-guided auto-focus. But while the handset takes decent pictures, don't expect them to look as crystal clear or the camera to work as fast as the ones on the G4 or the G Flex 2 . Indeed, compared to those phones, the photos from the G Stylo aren't as razor-sharp (especially at full resolution), and you can see a notable amount of digital noise in the images. However, that doesn't mean the camera itself is a deal breaker. In general, if you're looking for a camera that can take casual shots, this will satisfy. With adequate lighting, pictures were in-focus and objects were easy to make out and showed true-to-life colors.

Video quality was also fared well. Both distant and nearby audio picked up clearly, and the camera was able to focus on both still and moving objects. The camera adjusted for lighting and focus in a timely manner as I moved the camera around, and there wasn't any noticeable lag between my moving of the device and what I saw in the viewfinder. Colors also were accurate and the recordings were sharp. You can also pause video while recording and capture photos. Click the photos below to view them at their full resolution.

In this outdoor photo, details in the water, leaves and grass look blurry with a closer inspection. Lynn La/CNET

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