LG Venice (Boost Mobile) review: Pricey but zippy and reliable 3G handset

The handset is equipped with LG's user interface, Optimus UI 3.0, which isn't as stylishly simplistic as the vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich skin. The icons are boxy (but luckily customizable) and the widgets look clunky, especially the unattractive weather widget. There are a few welcome changes, however, like the fact that you can access up to four apps of your choosing from the lock screen by simply swiping over their icons. There's also LG's signature note-taking app, QuickMemo. It lets you jot down with your finger or stylus quick notes or sketches directly over screen images, which you can then save and share. You can also customize the color and style of your pen tip.

Camera and video
The 5-megapixel camera offers a variety of options: autofocus, touch focus, a flash, a 15x digital zoom, face tracking, geotagging, a timer, continuous shooting, and panoramic shooting. It also has an exposure meter, five image sizes (ranging from 1,280x768p to 2,560x1,920p), six scene modes, four ISO options, five white balances, four color effects, and the Cheese Shot function, which lets you operate the shutter by saying, "Cheese."

The front-facing camera offers the same exposure meter, white-balance options, color effects, timer, and geotagging feature, but only two scene modes (normal and night) and one image size (640x480p). There's also a mirror image option that saves a vertically flipped version of your photo and there's a "beauty shot" meter that lets you adjust the brightness and blurriness of an image. This comes in handy when you're taking self-portraits and want to soften the photo.

Video-recording options consist of the same digital zoom, flash, exposure meter, geotagging, color effects, and white balances. In addition, there's audio muting and you can choose from five video sizes (ranging from HD 720p to QCIF). There are fewer front-facing video options; it has the same exposure meter, white balances, color effects, geotagging, and audio muting, but there are only three video sizes (ranging from VGA 480p to QCIF).

Photo quality was respectable, but mediocre. Outdoor images looked good -- objects were in focus and well-defined, but edges did look slightly blurred or washed out. Colors were true to life and had good contrast. Unfortunately, indoor photos did not fare as well. Even with ample lighting, photos contained a lot of digital noise, and dark hues were hard to distinguish. The auto white balance also overlaid white objects with a tinge of yellow.

LG Venice (outdoor)
With ample outdoor lighting, colors in this photo are accurate and objects are in focus. Lynn La/CNET
LG Venice (indoor)
In this indoor photo, dark hues are hard to distinguish, and the white walls look yellow. Lynn La/CNET
LG Venice (SSI)
The white balance on the Venice is pretty terrible. James Martin/CNET
LG Venice (front camera)
The Venice's front-facing camera understandably shows greater digital noise. Lynn La/CNET

On the other hand, video quality was perfectly adequate. Moving objects remained sharp and in focus and colors were accurate. The digital zoom was responsive, and there was no lag between my moving of the camera and the feedback. In addition, audio, like the sound of speeding cars or a nearby voice, picked up well and was clear.

Performance
I tested the tri-band (850/1700/1900) LG Venice in our San Francisco offices. Call quality was excellent. Voices sounded strong and clear and I didn't hear any extraneous buzzing or static. Though I did experience one dropped call during my testing, overall, calls were consistent and reliable and volume levels were fine. Likewise, I was told I sounded clear, and my signal was steady. Speakerphone quality, however, was poor. Calls, as well as music, sounded harsh and severe, making it unpleasantly sharp to hear. You can also hear the sound bouncing off the back plate of the phone. Turning the volume down helped somewhat, and I could still hear what was being said, but it was unpleasant regardless. Listening to music or watching videos on speaker yielded similar results.

Listen now: LG Venice call quality sample

Using Boost Mobile's 3G network, data speeds were slow. On average, the phone loaded CNET's mobile site in 27 seconds and our desktop site in 55 seconds. The New York Times mobile site took about 15 seconds, while its desktop version took 44. ESPN's mobile site took 19 seconds, and its full site loaded in 36 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.22Mbps down and 0.47Mbps up. It also took a whopping 13 minutes and 46 seconds to download the 23.32MB game Temple Run.

The device runs on a 1GHz processor. It performed similarly to the Splendor, in that both were noticeably faster than the international counterpart, the LG Optimus L7. Basic tasks like unlocking the screen, opening the camera app, and transitioning back to the five home screen pages took a shorter amount of time than on the Optimus L7. Sometimes on the L7 the lag was so long that I wasn't sure that the display had registered my tap because it would be a while before an app finally launched. In contrast, this handset was zippy and swift to use. On average, it took 48 seconds to power off and restart the Venice and 2.68 seconds to launch the camera.

Graphics-intensive games like Riptide GP also performed well. Though I've seen smoother and higher frame rates on higher-end phones like the Nexus 4, images still rendered crisply and vividly on the device. However, I did run into one problem over and over again: whenever I launched the game, it'd display in portrait mode, despite my holding the handset horizontally. I'd have to quit and relaunch the app a couple of times in order for it to finally register in landscape.

Performance: LG Venice
Average 3G download speed 0.22Mpbs
Average 3G upload speed 0.47Mbps
App download (Temple Run) 22MB in 13 minutes and 46 seconds
CNET mobile site load 27 seconds
CNET desktop site load 55 seconds
Power off and restart time 48 seconds
Camera boot time 2.68 seconds

During our battery drain test for video playback, the phone lasted 6.05 hours. Anecdotally, the phone had decent battery life. After spending a few hours with this device playing games, watching videos, and chatting with my friends, I found the battery had only drained by about two-thirds of its total capacity, though it does need a good charge or two throughout the day. Charging time, though, could be faster. When I charged it for 40 minutes, the battery percentage only increased about 25 percent. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 1.23W/kg.

Conclusion
If you're interested in having a faster 4G connection, then the Venice isn't for you. Instead, look at Boost's two other devices, the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G and the HTC Evo Design 4G (though frankly, I'd go with the latter since it's only about $30 more than the Venice).

But if you're fine with 3G, then this phone is definitely a strong contender. In addition to its slim profile, it has a bright and crisp 4.3-inch display, runs on the new(ish) Android 4.0 OS, and has a respectable 5-megapixel camera. All in all, if you don't mind the slower data speeds, the Venice's midrange specs and reliable performance make it worthy of consideration.

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Where to Buy See all prices

LG Venice (Boost Mobile)

Part Number: CNETLGVENICE Released: Oct. 10, 2012
Low Price: $89.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct. 10, 2012
  • Technology CDMA
  • Service Provider BoostMobile
  • Weight 4.23 oz
  • Diagonal Size 4.3 in
  • Sensor Resolution 5 pixels