LG Spirit 4G (MetroPCS) review: Zippy LTE with Android 4.0 at a reasonable price

Photo quality for the 5-megapixel camera was respectable. Even in cloudy outdoor lighting, colors were true to life and popped with a certain amount of vibrancy. Objects did tend to blur outside the focal range, but for the most part, outlines were sharp and distinct. Pictures taken in dimmer indoor lighting understandably fared a bit worse. There was a noticeable amount of digital noise and graininess, and objects looked a lot more blurry.

LG Spirit 4G-outdoor
Even on a cloudy day, this outdoor shot still has colors that pop. Lynn La/CNET
LG Spirit 4G-indoor
In this indoor shot, objects appear blurry and there is a noticeable amount of digital noise. Lynn La/CNET
LG Spirit 4G-SSI
The white background in our standard studio shot has a slight yellow hue on the edges, and only a few objects remain in focus in the foreground. Josh Miller/CNET

Video quality was also good. There was no lag between my moving of the camera and the video feedback, audio picked up well, and images (both moving and still) remained crisp and in focus. Colors were accurate, and the focus adjusted quickly.

I tested the tri-band (1900/800/850) Spirit 4G in San Francisco. Call quality was adequate, though there were a few times when I heard my own voice echoing in the background. Other than that disturbance, however, none of my calls dropped and audio didn't cut in and out. I heard my friends easily and clearly, though maximum volume could have been louder.

Voices on audio speaker, aside from already sounding harsh and tinny, could have been louder as well. My friends reported to me that I sounded fine. They were not able to hear the echoing that I heard, and they said that in moments of complete silence, they could hear a subtle static noise.

LG Spirit 4G call quality sample

Listen now:

MetroPCS' 4G LTE network isn't the most robust, but data speeds were respectable and remained consistently fast and stable throughout testing. Loading the CNET mobile and desktop sites, for example, took an average of 8 and 10 seconds, respectively. The New York Times' desktop site clocked in at 13 seconds, and its mobile site also took 5 seconds to load. Altogether, ESPN took a faster time to load, with its mobile site taking 5 seconds on average, and its full site loading in 9 seconds. The 32.41MB game Temple Run 2 downloaded and installed in an average of one minute and 18 seconds, and Ookla showed me an average of 4.59Mbps down and 3.90Mbps up.

LG Spirit 4G Performance testing
Average 4G LTE download speed 4.59Mpbs
Average 4G LTE upload speed 3.90Mbps
App download (Temple Run 2) 32.41MB in 1 minute and 18 seconds
CNET mobile site load 8 seconds
CNET desktop site load 10 seconds
Restart time 32 seconds
Camera boot time 2.22 seconds

Powered by a zippy dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, the device runs very smoothly. Not only did it show no problem executing simple tasks, like scrolling through its five home screen pages and the app drawer, it also took care of more complicated tasks in a timely manner. Opening the camera took, on average, 2.22 seconds, while restarting the handset took 32 seconds. I also didn't experience any stuttering or stalling when I played the graphic-intense game Riptide GP. Though I've seen higher frame-rates and smoother game-play on other top-tier phones (like the Nexus 4), the Spirit still handled the animations speedily.

The handset has 4.3GB of internal memory and a 2,150mAh battery, which has a reported talk time of up to seven hours. During our battery drain test, it lasted 8.08 hours of video playback. According to FCC radiation standards, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.05W/kg.

If $200 is way out of your budget, I suggest going for the $50 LG Motion 4G. You won't get the Spirit's big, bright screen, but for one-fourth of its price, you'll get a decent camera, the dual-core CPU, and Android 4.0.

But, if you're looking to spend $200 anyway, the Spirit 4G is an excellent choice. As one of the few MetroPCS handsets that ship with Android 4.0, it's still a reasonably priced phone that I'd recommend over its like-priced rival, the ZTE Anthem 4G due to the faster processor and updated OS. And as I previously mentioned, the Spirit is an obvious choice over the next few smartphones that are just as behind as the Anthem 4G, but way more expensive.

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