X

LG G Stylo review: Stylus-wielding phablet with an affordable price

The G Stylo from Boost Mobile boasts an expansive 5.7-inch display, a long-lasting battery and a built-in stylus that adds functionality.

Lynn_La2.jpg
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.

See full bio
10 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Although big-screen phones usually come with a high price tag, the LG G Stylo -- aka the LG G4 Stylus -- is a rare 5.7-inch device that costs just $199 prepaid in the US. In addition to its competitive price, the handset also has Android 5.1 Lollipop, an enduring battery and a decent 8-megapixel camera. Oh, and it happens to have a built-in stylus as well.

lg-g-stylo-2291.jpg
7.2

LG G Stylo

The Good

The LG G Stylo has a competitively low prepaid price, a long-lasting battery and a built-in stylus for added functionality.

The Bad

The handset picked up a subtle amount of static during calls, 4G LTE data speeds were slow in our area and its stylus doesn't have as many productivity tools as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4's S-Pen.

The Bottom Line

Though the LG G Stylo's stylus is more of an afterthought, it's still a highly affordable big-screen handset.

True, this pen isn't as useful as the Galaxy Note 4's S-Pen, which Samsung packs with all sorts of smart features. And if you're seeking a phone that'll amp up productivity, you'll be sorely disappointed with the G Stylo.

But if you consider the device as a whole and take the stylus for what it is -- a little pen that can come in handy from time to time -- the handset is still a competent and reliable phone. Though it may not be better than every cheap phablet on the market, such as the ZTE Grand X Max+ for instance, its budget price makes it a strong contender as far as affordable phablets go.

LG G Stylo sports a large screen and built-in stylus (pictures)

See all photos

Availability

In the US, the device is available for $199 on prepaid carriers Boost Mobile and MetroPCS. T-Mobile also offers it with a 13-megapixel camera instead of the usual 8-megapixel endeavor for $290 without a contract. Sprint users can nab it for $49 with a two-year agreement or $288 without.

Design and display

  • 5.7-inch HD IPS display with 1,280x720-pixel resolution and 258ppi
  • 6.1 by 3.1 by 0.38 inches (154 by 79 by 9.7mm)
  • 5.85 ounces (166 grams)

The G Stylo sports a wide and rectangular design that's similar to LG's G4 flagship . But given its larger display, it feels weighty in the hand. The subtly arched back does make it comfortable to hold though, and it helps with grip. Because the rear control buttons and the back cover are made out of a lightweight matte plastic, the device feels a bit cheaper than LG's higher-end handsets. But a few dashed lines running horizontally texture the backing and add a dash of style and luxuriousness.

Enlarge Image
The device has an expansive 5.7-inch, 720p display. James Martin/CNET

The top edge houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and stores the stylus (more on that later), while the bottom has the Micro-USB port for charging. The back features the power/sleep key as well as the volume rocker. Above the control buttons are the rear camera lens, flanked by its laser-guided focus on the left and its flash on the right. At the very bottom is a small slit for the audio speaker. A small indentation on the left edge enables you to pry off the back plate. Once removed, you can gain access to the swappable battery, and the slots for the microSD and SIM cards.

The phone's display has a 720p resolution. With a keen eye, you'll be able to notice small pixelation and aliasing with text, icons and images, but the resolution isn't so poor that it's distracting or irritating. In fact, videos and photos are smooth enough for the most part and are easy to view. The screen is also responsive to the touch and has a wide viewing angle. When brightness is turned on max, it's also comfortable to view outdoors.

Working with the stylus

The included stylus measures a little over 4 inches (102mm) and has a soft rubbery tip. Personally, I found the pen to be a bit too thin even for my petite grip, but it's still sturdy and comfortable to write with.

Unlike the styluses that equip Samsung's Galaxy Note series, LG's stylus doesn't have any smart features, so it isn't sensitive to hand pressure, can't hover over text or have a click-and-select button like Samsung's S-Pens. It's just a regular stylus that can tap, swipe and drag.

lg-g-stylo-quickmemo.jpg
Enlarge Image
lg-g-stylo-quickmemo.jpg
Drafting a to-do list on QuickMemo (left) and jotting down notes on the handset's display. Lynn La/CNET

Though its functions are limited, it's not utterly useless. A stylus is always useful if you have gloves on and you can't use your fingers to swipe, and with LG's signature QuickMemo+ app, you can type, write, doodle, draw, cut and copy to your heart's desire. The app includes tools to make lists; change your brush style (to a pen, brush, highlighter or chalk piece) and switch out the stylus' color, transparency and sizes. You can also import media into your notes, like videos, pictures and screenshots as well as use the keyboard's write-to-text feature. A watered-down version of the QuickMemo is also available in G Stylo's pull-down menu, where you can also annotate notes directly onto the screen.

All in all, the stylus doesn't add a monumental amount of productivity or tools to your arsenal like the Galaxy Note does, but it's nice to have it as an option when you casually need it. This is especially true given the device's generous screen size, which gives you ample room to make notes and draw doodles. Since you can also tuck the stylus neatly into the handset, and it doesn't take up any space or require additional handling. While I don't recommend it for any serious powerhouse user, the stylus is a useful bonus on an already inexpensive phone.

Enlarge Image
You can tuck the G Stylo's stylus inside the phone. James Martin/CNET

Software and other features

  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • LG user interface includes KnockCode, GlanceView and QuickMemo+
  • 8GB of internal storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD

In addition to QuickMemo+ mentioned above, the G Stylo includes a handful of other signature features from LG like KnockOn and KnockCode, which enables you to wake up or unlock the device with various tapping gestures while the display is asleep. With GlanceView, you can check the time, date and any missed notifications on the sleeping screen by swiping your finger downward from the top edge.

Boost Mobile throws in its own apps too, though fortunately, you can uninstall them if you want. There is 1Weather, the social-networking portal AirG, Boost Music, the digital Boost Wallet and Boost Zone, where you can check your usage and account information and stay updated with carrier news. Messaging+ is an SMS and video calling service, and PlayPhone is a gaming portal. Lastly, Boost411 is a directory that lets you search for local businesses and people.

Enlarge Image
A quick glance at some of the phone's preloaded apps. James Martin/CNET

You'll get the usual slew of apps from Google such as Gmail, the Chrome Web browser, Maps, Hangouts, Docs, Photos and YouTube to name just a few, as well as some other pre-loaded third-party apps such as Scout navigation, the rideshare service Uber, NextRadio and the security app Gadget Guardian. And of course, you'll have basic stuff like a calendar, a calculator, a weather tracker and the like.

Camera and video

  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, records 1080p video
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera, records 1080p video

Similar to other high-end LG devices, the G Stylo has a laser-guided auto-focus. But while the handset takes decent pictures, don't expect them to look as crystal clear or the camera to work as fast as the ones on the G4 or the G Flex 2 . Indeed, compared to those phones, the photos from the G Stylo aren't as razor-sharp (especially at full resolution), and you can see a notable amount of digital noise in the images. However, that doesn't mean the camera itself is a deal breaker. In general, if you're looking for a camera that can take casual shots, this will satisfy. With adequate lighting, pictures were in-focus and objects were easy to make out and showed true-to-life colors.

Video quality was also fared well. Both distant and nearby audio picked up clearly, and the camera was able to focus on both still and moving objects. The camera adjusted for lighting and focus in a timely manner as I moved the camera around, and there wasn't any noticeable lag between my moving of the device and what I saw in the viewfinder. Colors also were accurate and the recordings were sharp. You can also pause video while recording and capture photos. Click the photos below to view them at their full resolution.

lg-g-stylo-outdoor.jpg
Enlarge Image
lg-g-stylo-outdoor.jpg
In this outdoor photo, details in the water, leaves and grass look blurry with a closer inspection. Lynn La/CNET

lg-g-stylo-indoor.jpg
Enlarge Image
lg-g-stylo-indoor.jpg
The camera captured this well-lit atrium with accurate colors and even lighting. Lynn La/CNET

lg-g-stylo-ssi.jpg
Enlarge Image
lg-g-stylo-ssi.jpg
In our standard studio picture, you can see slight yellow-brownish hues over the white background. Josh Miller/CNET

LG kept the camera's user interface simple and easy-to-use with just a handful of features and tools. Both cameras have a 4x digital zoom, HDR shooting, a voice-activated shutter and a timer. They can take pictures in three different aspect ratios (1:1, 16:9 and 4:3) and record video in two different resolutions (HD and full HD). The rear camera, however, can take panoramic and burst shots (for the latter, just hold down the shutter to take pictures in rapid-fire succession). The interface can also display gridlines to help you frame and compose images.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera can auto-flip pictures vertically and has a beauty meter that helps to blur and soften up your complexion for selfies. You can prompt the camera to take four pictures in a row by either long-pressing the shutter, or making an open-palm to closed-fist gesture with your hand twice (doing the same gesture once also prompts the shutter to just take a single picture). Finally, you can turn a faux flash on, which displays a bright white frame on the screen to help brighten up your photo.

If you want to edit your photos, you can download extra editing tools within the camera. Once it's installed you can apply filters, frames and vignettes; crop and rotate images; adjust saturation, warmth and brightness levels and more.

Call quality and data speeds

I tested the CDMA version of handset in our San Francisco offices and call quality was adequate. My calls stayed consistently connected, audio didn't clip in and out and I heard my calling partner clearly. However, I did pick up some static every time my calling partner spoke. Though it was subtle and it went away during times of absolute silence, it was still noticeable. On the other line, my partner told me I my voice sounded tinny, but clear.

Audio speaker was also on par with the in-ear speaker. Volume was adequately loud, but my partner's voice sounded thin and pinched. This didn't render his voice incomprehensible, however, but it audio could stand to be wider and fuller.

Podcast

Boost rides on Sprint's network, and its 4G LTE data speeds were a bit slow. That's pretty consistent, however, with the carrier's known performance in our area, and connection did time out every so often. Keep in mind that data connection varies due to a number of different variables like location, weather, and time of day, so you may have a different experience than I did.

Ookla's speedtest app showed an average download and upload rate of 5.036Mbps and 5.806Mbps, respectively. CNET's mobile site loaded in about 13 seconds and our desktop version loaded in 5. Downloading and installing the 44.52MB game Temple Run 2 took 1 minute and 28 seconds, and it took 12 minutes and 32 seconds on average to download the 496MB movie "Gravity."

LG G Stylo (Boost Mobile) average data speeds

4G LTE download rate 5.036Mbps
4G LTE upload rate 5.806Mbps
CNET mobile site load 13 seconds
CNET desktop site load 5 seconds
Temple Run 2 app download (44.91MB) 1 minute and 28 seconds
"Gravity" movie download (487MB) 12 minutes and 32 seconds

Processing speed and battery life

  • 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 3,000mAh removable battery

In general, the phone is fast enough to execute daily and necessary tasks in a timely manner. Though its speed isn't anything near lightning quick, actions such as calling up the keyboard, rotating from landscape to portrait mode, launching apps and returning to the home screen were done smoothly and swiftly.

Benchmark tests also yielded good results. Its best 3DMark Ice Storm (unlimited) score was 4,360 and its highest multi-core Geekbench 3 result was 1,394 (single-core was 460). It scored 14,266 with the Quadrant app and showed 183.533MFLOPs in 0.92 seconds. Powering off and restarting the handset took 37 seconds and the fastest the camera launched was 2.13 seconds (which is one thing I did considered a bit too slow).

LG G Stylo best benchmark scores

Restart time 37 seconds
Camera boot time 2.13 seconds
3D Mark Ice Storm (unlimited) 4,360
Geekbench 3 (single-core) 460
Geekbench 3 (multi-core) 1,394
Quadrant 14,266
Linpak (multi-thread) 183.533MFLOPs in 0.92 seconds

Comparatively, the G Stylo scored higher than other mid-range handsets in its class and price range. Though this is expected from the ZTE Boost Max , which only has a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU (yielding a lower Quadrant score of 4,795), the ZTE Grand X Max+ has a 1.2GHz quad-core processor like the Stylo, and it still scored only 8,389 on Quadrant.

The 3,000mAh battery had a solid usage time as well. During our lab test for continuous video playback, it lasted an impressive 13 hours and 50 minutes. When completely drained, it took a little over two hours for the battery to fully charge with its included charger. For comparison, the Max's bigger 3,200mAh battery lasted only 12 hours and 51 minutes, but the X Max+'s same 3,200mAh battery outlasted both at a whopping 16 hours and 37 minutes.

According to FCC radiation measurements, the device has a SAR rating of 1W/kg.

Conclusion

The LG G Stylo is a unique device in that it treads the line between added functionality and too much added price. It doesn't have as many useful tools and tricks as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has in conjunction with its S-Pen, but it also doesn't have the Note 4's premium price tag.

At the same time, the ZTE Grand X Max+ for Cricket Wireless is another extremely affordable phablet that currently costs only $170. And while it too has a long-lasting battery and a 13-megapixel camera, it doesn't have the benefit (however slight) of a built-in stylus.

Enlarge Image
Is the LG G Stylo a right fit for you? James Martin/CNET

In that sense, the G Stylo hits somewhere in the middle -- an inexpensive phablet that has a tad more functionality than your usual lineup of phones. Sure the pen doesn't pack as many smart features, but it still comes in handy when you want to scribble down notes and doodles.

And even without the stylus, the handset still remains a solid big-screen phone for those on a sub-$200 budget. The ZTE Boost Max , for example, costs the same and also has a 5.7-inch display. But LG's phone has a newer version of Android, captures better photos and has a longer-lasting battery to boot.

lg-g-stylo-2291.jpg
7.2

LG G Stylo

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Camera 7Battery 8