LG Mach (Sprint) review:

Competitive midlevel slider phone

The front-facing camera offers the same brightness meter, white-balance options, color effects, timer, and geotagging feature, but there are only two scene modes (normal and night), no face tracking, and one image size (640x480 pixels). There's also a mirror image option that saves a vertically flipped version of your photo, a beauty shot meter that lets you adjust the brightness and blurriness of an image, and a voice command shutter function called Cheese Shot.

Video features for the front-facing camera are nearly identical to those of the rear camera, including the quirky effect modes, except there is no digital zoom or flash, and there are only three video sizes, ranging from QCIF to VGA.

Photo quality was decent and adequate for a camera in its class. In well-lit outdoor photos, colors were true to life and bright. While some objects outside the main focus area were blurry, the picture overall was clear and sharp. In dimmer and indoor lighting, dark hues were harder to distinguish, and there was a noticeable amount of digital noise and graininess. Colors also looked more washed out.

LG Mach outdoor
Even on a gray day like this one, colors were still accurate. Lynn La/CNET

LG Mach indoor
In this dim indoor photo, there was (understandably) a lot more digital noise. Lynn La/CNET

LG Mach studio shot
In this standard studio shot, there's a yellow overlay on the white background. James Martin/CNET

Video quality was impressive. When I shot in 1080p, objects (both stationary and moving) were in focus and crisp with well-defined edges. Recordings played back smoothly with a good frame rate, audio picked up well, and colors were accurate and true to life. There was little lag between my moving of the camera and what I saw on the viewfinder, and there were no rendering issues.

I tested the LG Mach in San Francisco. Call quality was mediocre. Although I could understand what my friends were saying, their voices sounded muffled and scratchy. During times of silence, I could hear a low but continual static noise in the background. Likewise, my friends said I sounded stuffy. As with past LG devices, speaker quality was poor. Voices, especially on max volume, sounded tinny and harsh. Audio from music and movies sounded similarly sharp as well.

Listen now: LG Mach call quality sample

The handset runs on Sprint's 4G LTE network, but I could only clock in 3G speeds in San Francisco. On average, the phone loaded CNET's mobile site in 15 seconds and our desktop site in 27 seconds. The New York Times mobile site took about 13 seconds, while its desktop version took 25. ESPN's mobile site took 33 seconds, and its full site loaded a minute and 14 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.12Mbps down and 0.02Mbps up. And, on average, it took 9 minutes and 45 seconds to download the 23.32MB game Temple Run.

LG Mach: Performance testing
Average 3G download speed 0.12Mpbs
Average 3G upload speed 0.02Mbps
App download (Temple Run) 22MB in 9 minutes and 45 seconds
CNET mobile site load 15 seconds
CNET desktop site load 27 seconds
Power off and restart time 37 seconds
Camera boot time 2.88 seconds

The handset is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU. There was no hesitation with basic tasks like unlocking the screen, opening the camera app, and transitioning back to the five home screen pages. Switching between portrait and landscape mode (for instance, like when I opened up the keyboard) also showed little lag. Graphics-intensive games like Riptide GP performed well. Though I've seen smoother and higher frame rates on higher-end phones like the Nexus 4, images still rendered bright and crisp, and the app didn't stutter or freeze. On average, it took 37 seconds for the phone to reboot and 2.88 seconds for the camera to launch.

During our battery drain test for video performance, the phone lasted 7.15 hours. Anecdotally, it has decent battery life. Starting with a full charge, a 2-hour movie with brightness on maximum drained about 90 to 95 percent of its battery, and with heavy use throughout the day, a charge will be needed. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.49W/kg.

Looking at Sprint's current lineup of slider phones, I don't recommend the Mach over the Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE. True, that handset is nearly twice the price of the Mach, but with that extra $100, you'll get an 8-megapixel camera, a beautiful 4.3-inch display, and a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor -- all in a stylish design.

However, after the Photon Q, the Mach is definitely an excellent choice. Yes, the Kyocera Rise is free, but its hardware specs are unimpressive. And if you're eyeing the $50 Samsung Transform Ultra, consider paying that extra dough since the Mach's OS is newer, the camera is better, and the internal speeds are faster.

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