LG Marquee (Sprint)
LG is so confident about the LG Marquee's fashion credentials that the company debuted the phone not at a tech trade show, but during New York Fashion Week. And no wonder, because the Marquee is essentially the Sprint version of the LG Optimus Black, which wowed us back in January with its innovative Nova display and show-stopping good looks. Even though 10 months have passed since we laid our eyes on it, the Marquee still manages to dazzle us with its bright screen and sleek design.
It's not just beautiful on the outside, either. The Marquee rocks Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread right from the get-go, and incorporates a 5-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, a 1GHz processor, and support for corporate e-mail. We're not thrilled about the usual Sprint bloatware and the Sprint ID user customization feature, but the latter is only as messy as you want it to be. For $99 after a two-year agreement, we think the LG Marquee is one of Sprint's better Android offerings.
Just like the LG Optimus Black we saw at CES 2011, the LG Marquee is remarkably slim and lightweight. At 4.8 inches long by 2.52 inches wide by 0.36 inch deep and weighing in at an amazing 3.95 ounces, the Marquee is one of the thinnest and lightest Android handsets we've ever held. Indeed, some might think it's too light--we could imagine completely forgetting that it's in our pocket. Also, its all-plastic glossy shell doesn't have as much of a premium feel as heftier handsets. Still, we think its smooth and sleek shape more than makes up for it. The back is slightly contoured for a better grip, and features a striped pattern that is absent from the original Optimus Black.
What really makes the Marquee shine is its 4-inch Nova display. LG claims it has 700 nits of brightness, which makes it the brightest and clearest display on the market. While we have yet to truly measure this, we can say that it does appear to be just a smidge brighter than the Super AMOLED Plus display on the Samsung Galaxy S II, and looks to be on par with the Retina Display on the iPhone 4. Yet, the Marquee display doesn't seem as vibrant or sharp. Of course, the displays on these phones are different sizes, so we can't say for sure--we're just eyeballing it. We'll have to test these phones in our labs for a more definitive answer.
Comparisons aside, the Nova display does look very impressive. With support for 16 million colors and a WVGA 800x480-pixel resolution, blacks are true and deep, and images and graphics pop with color. Text appears crisp as well. The capacitive touch screen felt nice and responsive, though we did experience the occasional sluggishness during menu transitions.
The Marquee ships running Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread with a Sprint-flavored user interface. It's pretty close to how the native Android UI looks, except that Sprint has added its own Sprint ID button in the bottom row of the home screen. With Sprint ID you can customize the five home screens with certain preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which Sprint ID profile you choose. For example, if you select the Green package, you'll get eco-friendly apps and widgets. You can also choose a minimalist package, which leaves the home screens bare. Just note that deleting a Sprint ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded--you'll have to remove those apps manually. We don't like that Sprint has made Sprint ID so integral to the phone, but it's safe to just ignore it. You can read more here about Sprint ID and how it works.
Underneath the display are the usual four Android shortcut keys: Home, Menu, Back, and Search. This arrangement is slightly different from on the Optimus Black, which has the Menu and Home button positions switched. The volume rocker sits on the left spine along with a customizable shortcut key. On the top are the power/screen lock key, the Micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm headset jack. Sitting above the display next to the Sprint logo is a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, while a 5-megapixel with LED flash sits on the back.
Since the LG Marquee ships with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, compared with earlier Android phones it has an improved user interface, tighter integration with social networks, and an updated virtual keyboard. You can also opt for the Swype virtual keyboard that comes already on the phone. As an Android phone, the Marquee is compatible with plenty of Google services like Gmail, Google Maps with Navigation, YouTube, Google Search with Voice, Google Latitude, and Google Talk. If you decide not to use Gmail, the Marquee also supports corporate e-mail via Exchange ActiveSync as well as POP and IMAP e-mail.
In addition to the default Google apps, the Marquee comes preloaded with a couple of Sprint apps: Sprint Zone and Sprint Mobile Wallet. The phone also comes with Polaris Office, which lets you write and edit Office documents, and SmartShare, an app that enables you to share media with other DLNA-enabled devices. Aside from DLNA, the Marquee has the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS support. It can act as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot for up to five devices as long as you sign up for Sprint's mobile broadband plan. It costs $29.99 a month for a 5GB data cap.
Voice features include the usual speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. As for multimedia, the Marquee comes with the default Android Music player, and that's about it. It does ship with a 2GB microSD card, and is expandable up to 32GB.
The LG Marquee's 5-megapixel camera offers a number of tools and settings. They include four focus modes (auto, infinity, macro, fixed), seven scene modes, six resolutions, three quality settings, five color effects, four ISO settings plus an auto setting, five white-balance presets, LED flash, up to 3x zoom, and geotagging. Picture quality is really quite good. Images look sharply defined, and colors look vibrant and natural. The camera also has 720p HD video capture.
We tested the LG Marquee in San Francisco using Sprint service, and call quality was good. Our friends sounded great, without any significant voice distortion. Volume was nice and loud, and voices sounded clear and natural.
On their end, our friends said we sounded great as well, almost as if we were calling from a regular landline, said one person. We sounded loud and clear, with very little background noise. Speakerphone quality was not as good, however. Friends said that on the speakerphone our voice sounded fuzzier with lot more echo, though they didn't have any problems with volume.
The LG Marquee only has 3G EV-DO Rev. A speeds, but we were still pleased with the coverage we had. Ookla's Speedtest.net app showed us an average of 0.8Mbps down and 0.3Mbps up. CNET's mobile site loaded in around 12 seconds while the full site took close to 40 seconds to load. YouTube clips took a few seconds to buffer at times.
The LG Marquee has a 1GHz TI processor, which worked well for the most part. We didn't experience much lag when launching apps or multitasking. However, we did notice slight delays when transitioning between windows and menus. The main menu would shudder occasionally when we scrolled through it really quickly. We didn't experience any major crashes, though. It takes about 3 seconds to launch the camera app. The LG Marquee has a rated talk time 5.5 hours.
The LG Marquee's thin and light design gives it a sleek minimalist appeal that goes beyond its stunning Nova display. It feels good in the hand despite its lightweight shell and, yes, that screen really is sharp and colorful. We have mixed feelings about the Sprint ID customization, but that's a matter of personal taste. With Android 2.3, a great camera, and excellent call quality, the LG Marquee is a great Android choice for Sprint customers who don't need 4G speeds.