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

The camera captured this well-lit atrium with accurate colors and even lighting. Lynn La/CNET
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.

LG G Stylo (Boost Mobile) call quality sample

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.

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.

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