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LG Splendor (U.S. Cellular) review:

LG Splendor (U.S. Cellular)

The Splendor is equipped with LG's newest 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), the widgets look clunky (especially the unattractive weather widget), and even though I like that it's sporting the Roboto font, the keypad and app drawer still look a little outdated. 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 its icon. Personally, I prefer Android's minimalistic interface, but it's refreshing to see LG actively changing and taking chances with its products' UIs.

A couple of other services include Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hot-spotting, and a power saver module that lets you customize which features (Bluetooth, auto-syncing, display brightness) to turn off or adjust when your battery gets low.

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 through a voice command.

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 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 perfectly adequate. There was no lag between the feedback and my moving the camera. However, edges weren't crisply defined as I've seen from other 5-megapixel cameraphones, and colors were a bit muted. In dimmer lighting, edges are especially blurred. As for the front-facing camera, there was some understandable graininess. The smaller number of megapixels did lead to more digital noise and poorer focus, but you can still make out faces easily.

LG Splendor (indoor)
In this indoor shot, colors appear more muted than in real life. Lynn La/CNET
LG Splendor (outdoor)
Though there is more lighting in this outdoor shot, edges are not very well defined. Lynn La/CNET
LG Splendor SSI
In this standard studio shot, a yellow hue takes over the background. Josh Miller/CNET
LG Splendor (front)
Shots taken with the front-facing camera understandably contain more digital noise. Lynn La/CNET

Video recording also was passable. As previously noted, the Splendor is faster than the L7, so recording was smooth with no lag. Images were crisp, colors were true to form, and the lens for the most part kept moving images in focus. Unfortunately, audio picked up a low but constant humming sound during recordings.

I tested the quad-band (800/1700/1900/2100) LG Splendor in San Francisco. There were no problems with signal quality -- I did not get any dropped calls, extraneous buzzing, or audio clipping in and out. Sound quality was respectable. Voices were audible, but maximum volume could have been louder. I was told that my voice sounded clear and was easy to understand.

Unfortunately, the output speakerphone quality 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 Splendor call quality sample

Using U.S. Cellular's 3G network, the data speeds were slow. On average, the Splendor loaded CNET's mobile site in 19 seconds and our desktop site in 48 seconds. The New York Times mobile site took about 12 seconds, while its desktop version took 44. ESPN's mobile site took 20 seconds, and its full site loaded in 34 seconds. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.17Mbps down and 0.64Mbps up.

During our battery drain test, the handset lasted 9.07 hours. Anecdotally, it had a 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. According to FCC radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 1.19W/kg.

Though it doesn't operate at the fastest network speed, nor have the best camera, the LG Splendor is a reliable and affordable option for U.S. Cellular customers. Not only is it marked at a competitive price, but the device also has a zippy processor, a recent version of the Android OS, and a vibrant display that is ideal for anyone looking for an updated but inexpensive midrange phone to get by with.

What you'll pay

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