LG Viper (Sprint) review:

LG Viper (Sprint)

The 5-megapixel camera with LED flash has several features, including autofocus, a timer, digital zoom, an exposure meter, face tracking, GPS tagging, and four shutter sounds.

It's also equipped with numerous photo options, like eight image sizes (ranging from QVGA to 2,560x1,920 pixels); six scene modes (normal, portrait, landscape, sports, sunset, and night); five ISO choices (auto, and then a range from 800 to 100); five white-balance settings (auto, incandescent, sunny, fluorescent, and cloudy); four color effects (none, mono, sepia, and negative); and three shooting modes (normal, continuous, and panorama).

Switching the camera to the front eliminates some preferences, including the flash, the size (it can only take photos in 640x480), and several scene modes (you can only switch between normal and night). But, a mirror image choice is added that will flip the photo vertically, and there is a "beauty shot" meter that lets you adjust an image's brightness and blurriness. This is useful for softening self-portraits.

When you switch to camcorder mode, you have a choice of six different video recording sizes (ranging from full HD video to 176x144, which is convenient for sending video elsewhere). The same white-balance, exposure meter, zoom, and color-effect options are retained, and you have a choice to mute audio when recording.

If you record with the front-facing camera, the flash and zoom will be gone, and you'll only be able to choose between three video sizes (VGA, QVGA, and QCIF).

I tested the dual-band (CDMA 850, 1900MHz) LG Viper in San Francisco using Sprint's services. Audio quality was disappointing. Voices were muffled and tinny in my ear, and sometimes there would be a slight buzzing noise that came out every time someone said something. When I put my friends or music on speaker, the sharpness was really apparent. Sounds reverberated off the backing of the phone, making it harsh to the ear. My friends told me I sounded stifled while talking as well.

LG Viper call quality sample Listen now:

The device is capable of running on Sprint's 4G LTE network, but since the carrier will launch its 4G later in the middle of the year, the handset ships with its 3G capabilities turned on as the default. Once the 4G network is available in your city, you can turn on your LTE/CDMA settings by customizing your network mode in settings. Compared with the carrier's existing 4G WiMax network, browsing the Web on 3G was sluggish. Playing YouTube video on EV-DO Rev. A was a pain, since it took a while to load. Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 45 seconds, while loading our full site took 55 seconds. Downloading the 25.75MB game of Temple Run took a whopping 10 and a half minutes. Ookla's Speedtest app, which is 2.99MB, took 2 minutes and 51 seconds to download, and showed me an average of 0.36Mbps down and 0.62Mbps up.

The 5-megapixel camera took crisp and sharp photos, but color quality was mediocre. Even though they were in focus, images loaded onto a computer did not appear as vibrant as the originals were in real life. On the phone, however, the hues looked more accurate and rich.

In this outdoor shot, even the water droplets are in focus.

Inside this lobby, the light in the chandelier is washed-out, and the colors are a little dull.

There is some graininess with the front-facing camera, but overall it's perfectly adequate.

In this standard studio shot, many of the colors are dampened.

Video recording, however, was great. Especially when set to HD video, the video capture was fast and fast-moving items, like cars, were captured with little to no lag. Small details, like the leaves in trees, were crisp, and colors were vibrant and full of depth. Audio was recorded accurately and didn't sound muffled at all.

In our battery drain tests, the handset lasted 8.02 hours. During my general use of it, the device would lose much of its charge quickly. Texting, surfing the Web, and making calls all day required at least one charge to juice up its life. According to FCC radiation tests, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.71/kg.

The LG Viper is ahead of its time -- literally, and not necessarily in a good way. Many of its most attractive features, like 4G LTE and Ice Cream Sandwich OS can't be used at the time of purchase. Aside from that, and a few disappointments with audio quality and processing speeds, the phone is solid in all other aspects. For a midrange device, it has a great camera, sturdy build, and it's a good fit for those who are environmentally conscious.

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