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LG Lancet (Verizon Wireless) review: Affordable Windows Phone handset that doesn't offer enough

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MSRP: $120.00

The Good The compact LG Lancet has a comfortable design, a competitively low price, and a capable 8-megapixel camera.

The Bad The device has a low-res display and its data speeds were inconsistent and slow at times. As a Windows phone, its app store isn't as robust as Apple iOS' and Google Android's.

The Bottom Line Though the LG Lancet is reliable and inexpensive, the Microsoft Lumia 735 gives you more for your money.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7
  • Camera 7
  • Battery 6

It's been several years since LG released a Windows Phone device (we reviewed the LG Optimus 7 , for example, back in 2010). But with its Lancet handset for Verizon Wireless, the company has made a return to Microsoft's mobile operating system.

Equipped with a 4.5-inch display, 8-megapixel camera, and quad-core processor, the phone is reliable and affordable at $20 with a contract and $120 without. If you're a Windows Phone user on a budget or a curious buyer who wants to get started on Microsoft's platform, it's a good device to consider.

However, with adoption rates and user numbers consistently behind that of Apple and Google, and a smaller app store compared to both, the future of Microsoft's mobile ventures stands on shaky ground. (Earlier this May, for example the company announced it is rebranding Windows Phone to Windows 10 Mobile , which will launch at the end of this month.) And many manufacturers, including LG, haven't deeply invested in the OS. In fact, most Windows phones belong under Nokia's Lumia series, which Microsoft fully absorbed.

As such, the Lancet faces tough competition from this family of Windows veterans, specifically the Lumia 735, which is a formidable alternative in both specs and price.

Design and display

  • 4.5-inch LCD display with 854x480-pixel resolution and 218ppi
  • 5.11 inches by 2.55 inches by 0.42 inch
  • 5.05 ounces

Small and compact, the Lancet is comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver with one hand. Its build quality is solid and dense, without feeling too heavy. Because the top and bottom edges of the device arc outward and the battery door is matte plastic, the handset looks like a thicker, more pocket-friendly Google Nexus 5 .

On the left edge is a thin volume rocker, while up top houses a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right is a sleep/power button and on the bottom is the Micro-USB port for charging. Located on the back is the main camera with its flash to the right. To the bottom is a small grille for the audio speaker. Using the Micro-USB as an opening, you can pry off the back plate and access the battery (with the SIM card underneath) and the microSD card slot on the right.

With its petite design, the device is comfortable to hold and maneuver. Josh Miller/CNET

The phone's screen is responsive to the touch and has a wide viewing angle. Outdoors, the display is easy to view with maximum brightness. For the most part, text and icons are clear and easy to read, but given the display's low resolution, you don't have to look too closely to see pixelation and aliasing around edges. This doesn't render photos unviewable or videos unwatchable, however, but know that if you want a razor-sharp display, you should look elsewhere.

Software and other features

  • Windows Phone 8.1, update 2
  • Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage and Cortana digital and search assistant
  • 8GB of internal storage, expandable up to 128GB via microSD

The Lancet runs Microsoft's mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8.1.1 . Commonly used apps (that you can also choose) appear as animated live tiles in varying sizes, and populate the home screen in three columns. A swipe to the left lets you view all your remaining apps and tools. At the bottom of the display are three hotkeys for back, home and search. Long-pressing the back key calls up recent apps, which you can swipe away to quit.

The device also has the digital voice and search assistant Cortana , which can schedule appointments, look up businesses, identify music and more. It can also set up reminders for you in relation to your contacts, like bidding someone happy birthday the next time they call. Cortana also has a notebook where it keeps tabs on your favorite places, interests and quiet hours for when to leave you alone. Click here to see how it stacks up against other voice-activated assistants, like Apple's Siri and Google Now.

As a Microsoft handset, the phone has deep integration with Microsoft ventures like Skype , Xbox , Office and Outlook. There's also a digital wallet; Bing Vision, which scans QR codes and translates text; the note-taking app OneNote; OneDrive cloud storage; the Internet Explorer Web browser; Bing Maps for navigation; and several lifestyle apps from MSN (such as health and fitness, sports news, stocks, travel, and food and drink).

The handset's three-column home screen (left) and digital search assistant, Cortana. Lynn La/CNET

Verizon threw in some of its own apps, too. An exclusive deal with NFL Mobile adds NFL game-streaming for those whose service plan supports it. There's VZ Navigator, voicemail and My Verizon Mobile so you can check your carrier and data plan. Two signature LG features are KnockOn, which enables you to wake up the display with two taps; and QuickMemo, an app that lets you jot down doodles and notes.

You'll get third-party apps as well, including another navigator (this time by a company called Here), Facebook and Slacker Radio. Finally, additional apps can be downloaded at the Microsoft store portal, while games, TVs, and movies can be bought through via Xbox games and video.

It's important to note, however, that while the Windows Phone platform has garnered a respectable number of loyal and passionate users, its app development falls behind that of Apple iOS and Google Android. Yes, the Windows app store is steadily growing day by day, and in August 2014, Microsoft announced it hit 300,000 apps. But in comparison both the Apple App Store and Google Play store have over 1 million apps each. If Windows Phone already has all the apps you need and are going to need, you won't lose any sleep about these numbers. But for those considering a switch, it's worth keeping in mind.

Camera and video

  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, records 1,080p video
  • 0.3-megapixel (VGA) front-facing camera, records 480p video

Photo quality for the Lancet was commendable, given than this is a budget device with only an 8-megapixel shooter. For the most part, objects were sharp and in-focus, though photos did begin to blur outside the central focus point near the outer edges. Colors were true-to-life and in well-lit environments, lighting looked even and appropriately exposed. The camera also operated quickly, with little to no lag between my moving of the handset and the feedback I saw on the viewfinder.

Video quality was also satisfactory. Nearby audio picked up well, and both moving and still objects looked clear and focused. The camera quickly adjusted for different lighting and exposures when moved around, and colors were accurately represented. For more information on camera quality, click the photos below to view them at their full resolution.

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