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LG Enact (Verizon Wireless) review: Dirt-cheap slider marred by slow speeds

With its five-row keyboard, 4-inch screen, and 4G LTE, the LG Enact is a competitively priced QWERTY handset on Verizon.

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Lynn La
Lynn_La2.jpg

Lynn La

Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones

Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.

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7 min read

Outfitted with a generously spaced five-row keyboard, the LG Enact Android smartphone is a great device for quick-type message artists who aren't looking to spend an arm and a leg. In fact, with its $19.99 on-contract sticker price, the handset is a downright bargain.

LG-Enact-1138.jpg
7.3

LG Enact (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

The reasonably priced <b>LG Enact</b> has 4G LTE, a useful and comfortable sliding keyboard, and an optional user interface for smartphone beginners.

The Bad

Slow internal speeds and a mediocre camera tarnish the handset's otherwise reliable performance.

The Bottom Line

Verizon's budget-conscious QWERTY lovers should consider the Enact, but if cost isn't an issue, the Motorola Droid 4 is the better phone.

In addition, the 4G LTE-enabled Enact features a simplified Starter Mode user interface option, which allows Android neophytes to navigate their way around the phone without feeling too overwhelmed.

But, as always, with a low price comes some drawbacks. Namely, the handset can lag at times, and don't expect to book any studio time with its ho-hum 5-megapixel camera.

That being said, you can opt for more expensive QWERTY handsets from Verizon (like the Motorola Droid 4). However, at its current price, the Enact stands on solid ground as a high-value Android smartphone.

Design
Small but sturdy, the LG Enact is a compact device that measures 4.37 inches tall and 2.06 inches wide. It's comfortable to hold in one hand, but at 6 ounces, its weightiness is immediately noticeable. Furthermore, because it is a slider handset, it does have a thick (0.62-inch) profile that feels snug or bulky in pockets of jeans.

On the left are a Micro-USB and a volume rocker that's texturized with a dimple pattern. This makes it easy to distinguish just by touch. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and on the right is a sleep/power button.

The back houses a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash and a small audio speaker designated by two small slits on the right side. A small indentation at the bottom edge allows you to pry off the battery door with your fingernail. Once removed, you'll gain access to the 2,460mAh battery, SIM card slot, and a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 64GB.

LG Enact (keyboard)
The Enact features a spacious five-row sliding keyboard. James Martin/CNET

As for the 4-inch WVGA display, it's topped with Corning Gorilla Glass and has a 800x400-pixel resolution. The touch screen is responsive and feels rather slick. It accurately displayed a white swatch, but I could see a bit of speckling against the screen. In addition to menu icons, text also looked clear, but there were times when a small, serif typeface showed a notable amount of aliasing around the edges of letters. Above the display is a VGA camera and below are four hot keys (back, home, recent apps, and settings) that glow when in use.

Though the smartphone is rather petite, its five-row sliding keyboard beneath is generously sized and spaced. It's also easy to push out and in, due to the sturdy snapping mechanism. The keys were not so flush that they were difficult to feel out, nor were they so bulbous that it looked awkward. Each button took very little effort to press and I like how the space bar in particular is so wide. Included in the keyboard are four navigational keys, shortcut keys to turn on vibrate, and a launch button to open a memo app. There are also PC-esque functions you can carry out. For instance, if you press down the "fn" button, followed by either the letters A, C, or V, you will be able to select all, copy, or paste text, respectively.

LG Enact slider gets your fingers in action (pictures)

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Software features
Although the Enact doesn't run on the most recent OS, its Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean version still brings plenty of features, such as Google Now, which you can launch by long-pressing the home key. It also comes with Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Local, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Search, Talk, and YouTube. The Google Play stores for Books, Magazines, Movies & TV, and Music are included as well.

The device is overlaid with LG's user interface, the Optimus UI 3.0, and comes with a few of LG's signature software features. These include the option to customize certain app icons; QuickMemo, which lets you jot down quick notes or sketches directly over images onscreen; and QSlide 2.0, a multitasking function that you can use to view and resize apps (like the calculator and video player) while using other apps or viewing the home screen.

LG Enact (screenshots)
The multitasking function QSlide 2.0 (left) and the Starter Mode UI. Lynn La/CNET

Also included is VuTalk, which lets you create annotations on documents and photos while sharing it in real time with another VuTalk-enabled handset through either a network or Wi-Fi connection, and Smart screen, a feature that keeps the display on as long as it senses you are looking at it.

As a keyboard phone, the Enact features a function LG calls Quality Communicator. Essentially, its a notepad app that launches any time you start typing on the physical keyboard. You can share what you wrote across different apps and platforms, attach photos, and format lists.

In addition, because the device is aimed at first-time smartphone users, the handset has two UI options: Starter and Standard. Tucked in the Settings menu under "mode change," the Starter UI has a more simplified design. The home screen saves on search time, and puts favorite contacts, a few choice apps, and setting options like brightness front and center for easy access.

LG Enact (Quality Communicator)
True story. Also, you can share your memos via the apps listed below the text. Lynn La/CNET

Verizon threw in a bunch of its own apps too, like Accessories, where you can shop for mobile accessories; My Verizon Mobile, which lets you check your data use and minutes; Verizon Tones music and media store; the video portal, Viewdini; and an app for video calling that just prompts you to download either ooVoo or Tango. The carrier also included apps for setting up visual voice mail and your mobile hot spot, its branded navigating app, and VZ Security.

There are also basic task-management apps, such as an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a dictionary, a native e-mail client, a memo pad, two video editors, a voice recorder, a weather app, and a voice dialer.

Other apps include several Amazon apps (the store itself, Kindle, MP3, its app store, and Audible), NFL Mobile, the mobile office suite Polaris Office 4, a language translator, a gaming portal, two content-sharing apps (FileShare and SmartShare), Slacker Radio, a help app, and the IMDB movie database app. Lastly, you'll also get Bluetooth 4.0 and 8GB of internal storage.

Camera and video
The 5-megapixel camera and front-facing camera offer a variety of options. Both have a brightness meter, five white-balance options, four color effects, a timer, geotagging, and four shutter tones. There's also Cheese shutter, which is a voice-activated shutter function that takes photos when you say certain words, such as "cheese" and "whiskey."

Understandably though, the 5-megapixel camera has a few more features, including a digital zoom, flash, seven scene modes, six shooting modes, Time Catch (which lets users choose and save the best shot from before the shutter was pressed), three focus options, and five ISO settings. You can also save up to six photo sizes (from 1,280x768 to 2,560x1,920 pixels).

The front-facing camera has a nifty a "Beauty Shot" meter that lets you adjust the brightness and blurriness of an image (useful for less-than-perfect selfies), and the option to save a photo flipped vertically. But it only has two scene modes and one size (640x480).

LG Enact (outdoor)
Though colorful, the flowers on the outer frame are blurry and the white pedals are washed out. Lynn La/CNET
LG Enact (indoor)
Despite keeping a still hand, this indoor photo is out of focus and shows a notable amount of digital noise. Lynn La/CNET
LG Enact (SSI)
In our standard studio shot, objects are out of focus and the flash casts a subtle blue hue against the white background. James Martin/CNET

Though 5-megapixel cameras on LG phones are usually satisfactory, I was less than impressed with the Enact's photo quality. I found that it took a few moments for the camera to focus, and in the end, it was more difficult to take a sharp photo (despite trying numerous times and keeping a steady hand). When I did manage to take a focused photo, however, the images turned out moderately well, though colors looked a bit muted. Oftentimes, the outer frames of pictures looked blurrier than the center point, and when I took photos indoors, I could see a lot of digital noise.

Video recording options for the two cameras include the same brightness meter, color effects, and geotagging functions mentioned beforehand. Both cameras can also pause recording and re-start it again in the same video, take photos while recording, and detect faces to warp them for silly (more like creepy) effects. The 5-megapixel camera also has continuous flash and the ability to record up to six video sizes (from 176x144 all the way to full-HD 1,920x1080). Meanwhile, the VGA camera can record in three video sizes (from 176x144 to 640x480).

Video quality with full-HD recording was also adequate, but nothing to write home about. Audio picked up well, and both moving and still objects remained in focus. But again, colors appeared a bit duller than they were in real life, and I saw a notable amount of pixelation in my footage. Moreover, I saw a subtle (almost indistinguishable if you weren't looking closely) pulsating effect from time to time whenever the camera tried to adjust for either focus or lighting.

Performance
I tested the device in our San Francisco offices using Verizon Wireless' network (CDMA 800/1900). Call quality was good -- though I could hear some static whenever my friend spoke, it wasn't overbearing and distracting. None of my calls dropped, audio didn't clip in and out, and I didn't hear any extraneous buzzing or noises. Maximum volume, however, could have stood to be a little louder, especially on speaker. With the speakerphone, my friend's volume wasn't only low, but his voice sounded tinny and pinched as well. As for my end, I was told I sounded clear, but that there was a bit of scratchiness with my voice as well.

LG Enact (Verizon Wireless) call quality sample

Listen now:

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Verizon's 4G LTE network clocked in with fast speeds, and data connection was consistent. Oddly, I did find that the more trials I carried out for data speeds, speeds tended to get faster and faster. On average, loading the CNET mobile and desktop sites took an average of 7 and 19 seconds, respectively. The New York Times' mobile site clocked in at 7 seconds, and its desktop site also took 14 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site also took 7 seconds, and its full site loaded in 11 seconds. The 35.01MB game Temple Run 2 downloaded and installed in an average of 2 minutes and 27 seconds, and Ookla showed me an average of 4.07Mbps down and 3.13Mbps up.

LG Enact Performance testing
Average 4G LTE download speed 4.07Mpbs
Average 4G LTE upload speed 3.13Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 35.01MB in 2 minutes and 27 seconds,
CNET mobile site load 7 seconds
CNET desktop site load 19 seconds
Restart time 34 seconds
Camera boot time 2.25 seconds

Powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, the handset felt sluggish at times. True, there were some tasks that were carried out smoothly, like browsing through the app drawer or returning to the home screen pages. But more often than not, I found that the phone took a hair longer to execute other simple tasks than what I normally expected.

For instance, sometimes there was a slight lag to open up the lock screen, or load the home page up after a restart. Scanning media files upon startup also took a while, as did switching from landscape to portrait mode upon sliding out the keyboard, and even apps like Ookla Speed Test and Chrome appeared to slacken. On average, it took the Enact 34 seconds to power off and restart and 2.25 seconds to launch the camera.

During our battery drain test, the device's 2,460mAh battery lasted 13.9 hours of continuous video playback, and has a reported usage time of up to 11 hours and 40 minutes. Anecdotally, its battery life was solid, and with minimal use, it can last a weekend without a charge. According to FCC radiation standards, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.79W/kg.

Conclusion
Though it can be sluggish at times and its camera is mediocre, the LG Enact is a decent and reliable mid-range handset that's excellently priced. I prefer it over the Pantech Marauder, another one of Verizon's keyboard smartphones, due to the Enact's bigger, sharper screen and more comfortable keyboard.

If you prefer something more high-end and are willing to stretch your budget, however, consider the $99.99 on-contract Motorola Droid 4. True, it's been out for over a year now, but it's software is updatable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It also has a superior 8-megapixel camera, more internal memory, and a sharper screen. And of course, it flaunts an excellent sliding keyboard that will satisfy your messaging needs.

LG-Enact-1138.jpg
7.3

LG Enact (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7
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