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LG Leon (T-Mobile) review: Cheap and portable, but still not worth the buy

Video quality was much better, fortunately. Objects were sharper and in focus and colors were true-to-life. Both distant and nearby audio picked up well and evenly, and the camera adjusted quickly when it came to different lighting environments. You can also pause recording and capture photos while shooting video.

Camera features are minimum. You won't see any HDR or panoramic options here, but you will get a 4X digital zoom, a timer, a voice- and gesture- activated shutter and grid lines that can help you compose a picture. There's also burst shot, which lets you take pictures rapid-fire continuously while holding down the shutter button. Images can be saved in four different resolutions (from 1,280x960p to 2,560x1,920p) for the rear camera. The front-facing camera lets you save images flipped vertically and shoot images in a 640x480p. For additional editing tools, however, you can head to the gallery app, which lets you crop, rotate, and filter images, as well as adjust levels like saturation and brightness.

Hardware performance

  • 1.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 8GB of internal storage (with 32GB expandable memory)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 1,820mAh removable battery

With its midrange hardware, the Leon can be slow. It takes a few beats to do simple, daily tasks like opening up the app drawer, calling up the keyboard and launching apps. And while its average time to power off and restart is pretty standard at about 41 seconds, the fact that it takes 3.05 seconds to launch the camera is quite long, compared with other handsets that take about 2 or 2.5 seconds.

When it comes to day-to-day usage like using apps and adjusting settings, the Leon also felt a bit slower compared with the Galaxy Core Prime and the Moto G. Though, the speed difference is only slight, and it was really only noticeable when the devices were placed side by side.

Benchmark scores, however, told a different story. The Leon managed to score decent benchmark results, and had the highest 3D Mark Ice Storm unlimited result compared with all three phones. And while the Moto G had the highest single- and multicore result from Geekbench 3, LG's handset beat out the Core Prime and the OneTouch Idol 3 on the single-core test.

LG Leon Benchmark Test Comparison

LG Leon
4,563
470
1,428
Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
4,545
387
1,153
Motorola Moto G (late 2015)
4,473
528
1,609

Legend:

3DMark Ice Storm (unlimited)
Geekbench 3 (single-core)
Geekbench 3 (multi-core)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

As for its memory, you'll most likely need to expand the Leon's storage with a microSD card. Though there's 8GB of internal storage here, you'll have much less (about 3GB) to work with, and it runs out quickly when you're taking photos and downloading apps.

Battery life

The phone's battery has an estimated talk time of 10 hours and 11.7 days of standby time. During our own lab tests for continuous video playback, the battery lasted a decent 9 hours. As a comparison, the Galaxy Core Prime and the OneTouch Idol 3's 2,000mAh batteries lasted 10 hours and 11 hours and 54 minutes, respectively. The Moto G's 2,470mAh battery lasted the longest at 12 hours and 34 minutes. In addition, it took about 2 hours and 45 minutes for the Leon to fully charge its battery after it was completely drained.

Call quality and data speeds

  • GSM: (850/900/1,800/1,900MHz)
  • LTE B2/B4/B12
  • UMTS B2/B4/B5
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Built-in Wi-Fi calling

I tested the device in our San Francisco offices by calling a landline, and call quality was great. Using a cellular network, my calling partner sounded clear and easy to understand. Call volume was also appropriate and with maximum volume, I was able to hear my partner well. Audio speaker also sounded good, though it sounded thinner and sharper. I was told my voice over audio speaker sounded more muffled as well.

For US customers on T-Mobile, the handset has built-in Wi-Fi calling, meaning it can make and receive calls over a Wi-Fi network, like the one set up in your house or a local coffee shop. This is useful whenever cellular coverage is weak or nonexistent, and it does not count towards your minutes. When I used the feature, the Wi-Fi call sounded good. Audio was steady, and it didn't cut in and out. Audio speaker was also consistent and loud.

If you're a T-Mobile customer, the device supports built-in Wi-Fi calling. Josh Miller/CNET

The phone's 4G LTE data speeds were steady and consistent as well, with data speeds being about on par to what I expected with a device of this caliber. According to Ookla's speedtest app, the average download and upload rate was pretty slow at 3.91 and 10.3Mbps, respectively. It also took about 4 seconds to load CNET's mobile site and 24 seconds to fully load our desktop site. Downloading and installing the 44.68MB game Temple Run 2 required about a minute and 51 seconds on average, and a one-time download of the 496MB movie "Gravity" finished in 23 minutes and 24 seconds.

As always with data tests, speeds differ widely depending on several factors such as location and time of day. What I observed here is just a minuscule sample and may not be what you experience in your location.

LG Leon (T-Mobile) average data speeds

4G LTE download rate 3.91Mbps
4G LTE upload rate 10.3Mbps
CNET mobile site load 4 seconds
CNET desktop site load 24 seconds
Temple Run 2 app download (44.68MB) 1 minute and 51 seconds
"Gravity" movie download (496MB) 23 minutes and 24 seconds

Conclusion

Although the LG Leon is inexpensive at $140/£65/AU$150 and has a few extra goodies like expandable storage and built-in Wi-Fi calling from T-Mobile, the handset doesn't perform well at the basics. Its 5-megapixel camera takes blurry pictures and has minimal photo features, and its processor can lag at times.

If you want to strictly stay within the same price range, the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime also costs $140, has a longer-lasting battery and takes slightly better photos with its camera.

But you don't have to splurge too much to have a better phone. The Motorola Moto G , for example, is a great alternative. Starting at $180, £159 and AU$369, it doesn't cost much more than the Leon and it has a capable 13-megapixel camera, a water resistant design and runs a nearly pure version of Android. The 4.7-inch OneTouch Idol 3 from Alcatel is also another option. It costs the same as the Moto G, takes great photos, has a sharper display and has twice as much internal storage as the Leon at 16GB. Again, both cost more than LG's handset, but the smoother performance and better camera make the price difference worth it.

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