LG G Vista review: Supersized phone without the supersized specs or price

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good The LG G Vista is inexpensive with a carrier agreement, has a bright and expansive display and features LG's customary software goodies.

The Bad The phone's size can be unwieldy for some, onboard storage is minimal and its 720p resolution keeps the display quality from shining.

The Bottom Line Given its midrange specs, the LG G Vista for AT&T and Verizon is a solid buy if you want a big "phablet" at a low cost.

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With its giant 5.7-inch display, the LG G Vista joins such phablets like the massive Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the ZTE Boost Max.

But while its size is definitely big, its on-contract price isn't. The device costs only $50 on AT&T and it's free on Verizon. (Without a carrier agreement, however, it's $355 and $400, respectively.) Why the low price? Because its hardware, which includes an 8-megapixel camera, a 720p display and a Snapdragon 400 CPU, remains strictly midrange. Think of it like LG's G3 flagship scaled up in size, but scaled down in specs.

As such, the handset won't take the best pictures or have the fastest processor. But that doesn't mean it's not a good phone for what it is. Indeed, with its reliable performance and competitive price tag, I'd recommend the Vista for anyone who's in the market for a phablet, but on a tight budget.

Design

As I said before, the Vista is big. Though there are other larger phones (the Nokia Lumia 1320 and 1520, for example, have 6-inch displays, and the Samsung Galaxy Mega has a 6.3-inch screen), it's still quite big. And unless you have a large grip, you'll need two hands to maneuver the device, which measures to 5.99 inches tall, 3.12 inches wide, and 0.36 inch thick. Though you can toss it into most shoulder bags without a problem, it'll definitely be a snug fit for jeans pockets and small handbags. At 5.93 ounces, however, it's surprisingly lightweight for its size, and during phone calls, I didn't feel too bogged down holding it up to my ear.

On its top edge sit the 3.5mm headphone jack and IR blaster, which works with LG's Quick Remote app to convert the handset into a universal remote for your living room. The Micro-USB port for charging is on the bottom edge. Meanwhile, all control buttons, including the sleep/power button and volume rocker, are on the rear. This is similar to many LG phones, including the G3, the Flex, and the G2 Mini.

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Though bright, the G Vista's 720p display isn't as sharp as other higher-end phablets. Josh Miller/CNET

Below the buttons are two small slits for the speaker. An indentation on the left side of the battery door enables users to pry off the back plate. Inside, you'll find a removable 3,200mAh battery, and a microSD card slot that can hold cards of capacities up to 32GB.

The Vista's 5.7-inch HD display features Corning Gorilla Glass 3, a 1,280x720-pixel resolution and 258ppi. Though this doesn't compare to high-end phones like the 1,440p Samsung Galaxy Note 4, a 720p resolution is quite standard for midtier handsets in this price range. As such, images and videos can look coarse or "crunchy," but only upon close inspection. In general, though, the display is bright and is easily viewable in sunlight. Its viewing angles were wide, colors had a lot of pop to them, and it's sensitive to the touch.

Software features

The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and has all your expected Google apps such as Gmail, the Chrome browser, Hangouts, Drive, portals to the different Play stores like Play Music and Books, Plus and YouTube.

For AT&T users, the carrier preloaded a healthy dosage of apps and services. One is DriveMode, an app that can send out a customizable message to incoming calls or texts when it senses the device is traveling faster than 25 mph. There's FamilyMap, which helps you locate family members on your AT&T account; and MyAT&T, which lets you check your data and account info.

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Available on two different networks, expect the G Vista to come preloaded with different carrier apps. Josh Miller/CNET

If your device gets stolen or lost, Mobile Locate will pinpoint its location. The news app AT&T Live is included, as well as a 7-day trial to MobileTV, which lets you stream network TV shows. The carrier also threw in its own navigation app, a handset user guide, and apps to help set up a mobile hotspot and visual voice mail. You'll get AT&T Smart Wi-Fi, which connects your phone to publicly available Wi-Fi, a usage manager so you can look over your battery and data consumption, and 5GB of free cloud storage through AT&T Locker.

For Verizon users, there's My Verizon Mobile, which lets you check your data use and minutes, as well as its cloud and caller ID services. The carrier preloaded apps for visual voice mail, branded navigating and messaging apps and VZ Protect. There are several Amazon apps, too, like the store itself, Kindle, its app and music stores, IMDb and Audible.

As we've seen with other handsets from LG, the company baked in some of its signature software features. This includes Dual Window, which you can access by long-pressing the "back" hot key on the screen. A small menu of apps will appear, wherein you can choose the two apps you want to "split screen" by dragging their icons either to the top or bottom of the display.

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Looking at Gmail and the Chrome browser at the same time with Dual Window (left) and my lock screen with KnockCode activated. Josh Miller/CNET

KnockCode combines turning on your phone and unlocking the lock screen into one action. By dividing the display into four quadrants, users can tap a certain combination within these zones to wake up and unlock their device. Other key tools are the multitasking feature QSlide, the note taking app QMemo+ and Guest mode, which keeps your content and apps private by enabling third-party users (and curious kids) to unlock your phone with an alternative password.

Additional features include 1.5GB of RAM, NFC and a paltry 8GB of internal storage. That might not bother those who plan on adding storage, but with just 8GB of space out of the box (and even less if you go by available storage), that's not much to start out with.

Camera and video

Photo quality for the 8-megapixel camera was decent, but not particularly impressive. With ample lighting, objects were in focus with well-distinguished outlines. Understandably, in dimmer lighting, photos looked more blurry, contained a notable amount of digital noise and artifacts, and objects showed a softer focus. Colors also appeared muted overall and at times, the camera's flash cast an unattractive yellow tinge on the picture. For more on photo quality, check out the images below and click on each individual picture to see them at their full resolution.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Technology CDMA2000 1X
  • Service Provider Verizon Wireless
  • Weight 5.93 oz
  • Diagonal Size 5.7 in
  • Sensor Resolution 8 pixels
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