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LG Lucid 3 (Verizon Wireless) review: Free on-contract handset excels, but stutters with the camera

Though shutterbugs won't dig the Lucid 3's average camera, this Verizon midrange handset excels at nearly everything else.

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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

Verizon customer on the prowl for an inexpensive but reliable device should seriously consider the LG Lucid. For one thing, it has consistent and fast 4G LTE speeds, the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS, and a sizable battery. Oh, and it's free (yes, free) when users sign a two-year contract.

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7.0

LG Lucid 3 (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

Verizon’s LG Lucid 3 is free with a carrier agreement, has excellent LTE connectivity, runs the latest Android KitKat OS, and features a generously sized battery.

The Bad

The handset's camera takes shoddy indoor photos and its call quality is subpar.

The Bottom Line

Save for the LG Lucid 3’s disappointing photo quality, the mid-tier device ranks high in its class and is an excellent value on contract.

True, the handset's no heavy hitter when it comes to the top-tier phones available right now -- its call quality is middling, and you're not going to be the next Ansel Adams with its meager 5-megapixel camera. In addition, Big Red carries other good and free on-contract phones with better cameras, including the Motorola Moto X and the Droid Mini .

But if camera agility is not a high priority, the LG Lucid 3 is still a strong contender. Especially since its respectable specs go hand-in-hand with its solid internal performance.

Design

Compact and minimalist, the Lucid 3 looks more like the recently launched G2 Mini , instead of its own predecessor from last year, the Lucid 2 . Indeed, gone are the thick bezels and the boxy aesthetic. Instead, that has been replaced with an attractively thin frame, slightly arched top and bottom edges, and smoothly curved corners.

At 5.2 inches tall, 2.6 inches wide, and 0.4 inches thick (131.6mm by 66mm by 9.9mm), the Lucid 3 is pocketable and easy to navigate with one hand. It's also relatively lightweight at 4.37 ounces (123.89g). On the left sits a volume rocker, while the right holds a sleep/power button. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and you'll find the Micro-USB port for charging on the bottom edge.

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With its 4.7-inch display and 0.39-inch profile, the Lucid 3 is a compact handset. Josh Miller/CNET

The rear is stylized with a subtle grey and black checkered pattern. It includes a 5-megapixel camera with its flash placed right below. On the bottom right are two narrow slits for the audio speaker. You can pry off the back plate through the opening of the Micro-USB port. Underneath, you'll see the 2,440mAh removable battery and the microSD card slot, which is expandable up to 64GB.

As for the front, the phone's 4.7-inch display features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and a 960x540-pixel resolution. This puts the touchscreen at 234ppi, which isn't very high. Indeed, if you look close enough, you can see a bit of graininess with high-resolution wallpaper images, app icons, and texts. In general, however, the screen looks satisfyingly smooth and clear. It's also easy to view outdoors in sunlight. When the brightness level is cranked all the way on max, you can still read the display and it has a wide viewing angle. The screen is sensitive to the touch too, and responsive to my taps and slides.

Above the display is a VGA front-facing camera. Below is the physical home key, which is flanked by two hot keys for back and menu. To recall recent apps, long press the center button.

A longer look at the Lucid 3 (pictures)

See all photos

Software features

As a midrange device, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Lucid 3 ran the most recent OS, 4.4.2 KitKat. And as expected, it has plenty of Google apps like Chrome, Gmail, Plus, Maps, Hangouts, Drive, and YouTube. The Google Play stores for Books, Newsstand, Movies & TV, and Music are included as well.

The handset 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.

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The Lucid features the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS. Josh Miller/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; a gaming portal; and its cloud service. The carrier also pre- loaded apps for setting up visual voice mail and your mobile hot spot, its branded navigating app, and VZ Protect.

There are also basic task-management apps, such as an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a native e-mail client, a memo pad, a voice recorder, and a file manager. Other apps include several Amazon apps (the store itself, Kindle, MP3, its app store, the IMDb movie database, and Audible), NFL Mobile, and the mobile office suite Polaris Viewer 5. Lastly, you'll also get Bluetooth 4.0 and 8GB of internal storage.

Camera and video

One weak point for the Lucid 3 is its 5-megapixel camera. Although it is fast, has many features (more on that later), and takes decent scenic photos, indoor pictures look drab and washed out. This is surprising since, again, pictures taken outdoor are sharp and clear, with colors that are true-to-life. However, once you move inside, lighting is often blown out and over exposed. Colors are muted and pale, digital noise becomes more apparent, and objects have blurry edges. For more on the device's camera quality, check out the photos below. And be sure to click on each picture to see them at their full resolution.

Video recording in 1080p fared a bit better. Both moving and still objects remained in focus and I didn't notice any lag between my moving of the camera and the viewfinder feedback. During my time shooting, it was quite windy out and the microphone picked up a lot of the gusts' noises. However, the video was still able to record nearby sounds well, including my video narration.

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In this amply lit outdoor photo, colors are vivid. However, the dark hues above the fountain are hard to distinguish. Lynn La/CNET

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Despite lots of sunlight, the camera struggles with indoor scenes. Here, customers at Super Duper look pale and blurry. Lynn La/CNET

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In another indoor photo, the background is overexposed and colors are washed out. Lynn La/CNET

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For our standard studio shot, you can see plenty of digital noise in the white background and the edges around these objects appear jagged. Lynn La/CNET

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 4x zoom, flash, five scene modes, including Panorama and Time Catch, three focus options, and five ISO settings. You can also save up to three photo sizes (from 1,280x960 to 2,560x1,920 pixels). Meanwhile, the front-facing camera has the option to save a photo flipped vertically, and has one picture size (640x480).

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 four video sizes (from 176x144 all the way to full-HD 1,920x1080). The VGA camera can record in three video sizes (from 176x144 to 640x480).

Performance

At our San Francisco offices, I tested the dual-band (800/1900) Lucid 3, and call quality was mediocre. While none of my calls dropped and I didn't hear any extraneous buzzing or static on my end, my calling partner's voice sounded choppy. At times, the tail end of her words clipped in and out. Her voice was also difficult to hear on a relatively medium volume level, and when I increased the volume by a few notches, audio suddenly became shrill and tinny. The rear-facing speaker also sounded unpleasantly sharp.

Meanwhile, I was told my voice sounded extremely muffled, and at times difficult to hear. My calling partner also noted that she could hear a low humming sound during the call, but it ended after a few minutes.

Podcast

Given Verizon's robust 4G LTE network, data speeds on this device was fast and consistent. In general, it took just 47 seconds to download the 48.47MB game Temple Run 2. As for Web browsing, CNET's mobile and desktop site took 6 and 9 seconds, respectively. The mobile site for The New York Times loaded in 6 seconds, while its full page appeared after 12 seconds. ESPN's mobile site took 5 seconds, and the desktop version took 9 seconds. Ookla's speed test app showed an average of 15.74Mbps down and 10.17Mbps up.

LG Lucid 3 performance times

Average 4G LTE download speed 15.74MBps
Average 4G LTE upload speed 10.17Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 48.47MB in 47 seconds
CNET mobile site load 6 seconds
CNET desktop site load 9 seconds
Restart time 35 seconds
Camera boot time 2.19 seconds

The 1.2GHz quad-core processor executes simple and necessary tasks easily. I had no problem launching the app drawer, calling up the keyboard, or switching from portrait to landscape mode. And while I've seen higher frame rates in more powerful smartphones while playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP 2, the app played smoothly on the Lucid 3, never once stalling or force quitting.

The device's highest Quadrant benchmark results out of three trials was 8,989. In comparison, the Droid Mini scored 8,905, and the Moto X scored 8,519, putting this LG handset slightly above both both Motorolas. Meanwhile, its best multithread Linpack result was 214.589MFLOPs in 0.79 seconds. On average, it took the phone 35 seconds to shutdown and restart, and 2.19 seconds to launch the camera.

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The device's LTE data times (left) and its best Quadrant result. Lynn La/CNET

Anecdotal performance for the 2,440mAh battery has been observed to be great. It easily lasted on standby over the weekend, and it was able to withstand mild to heavy usage throughout the workday without completely draining. It reportedly has a usage time of up to 12.5 hours, and during our official test for talk time, it lasted 19 hours and 12 minutes. According to FCC radiation measurements, the phone has a SAR rating of 0.78W/kg.

Conclusion

While the LG Lucid 3 isn't without its drawbacks -- for one thing, its mediocre call quality and unimpressive photos drag down user experience -- the device make up for it with its impressive data and internal speeds, an ample battery size, and free on-contract price tag. All in all, it is definitely worth considering.

I'd personally recommend it over the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini , which has a smaller display and isn't as fast. And while the Kyocera Hydro Elite is also free and waterproof, it runs an older version of Android and its camera performed slightly worse than the Lucid 3, despite featuring an 8-megapixel lens.

But if camera prowess ranks high on your must-have list, Verizon has plenty of handsets to satisfy this need. Though they run later OS versions and have smaller battery capacities, the Motorola Droid Mini and the Moto X both have 10-megapixel cameras that take vivid and sharp pictures in a snap.

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7.0

LG Lucid 3 (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7
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