LG Splendor (U.S. Cellular) review: LG Splendor (U.S. Cellular)

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MSRP: $179.99

The Good U.S. Cellular's LG Splendor is an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich device with a zippy processor, a bright display, and a thin build.

The Bad The Splendor's 3G data speeds are slow, its output speaker is poor, and its camera quality is mediocre.

The Bottom Line The LG Splendor doesn't have the fastest network connection, but it's an affordable and snappy handset that's loaded with Android 4.0 and a swift CPU.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

To be honest, I wasn't too disappointed when it looked like the Splendor's international predecessor, the LG Optimus L7, wasn't going to hit U.S. shores anytime soon. During my time with the device, it was frustratingly slow, and while its NFC capabilities were neat, it wasn't enough to merit a solid recommendation.

So when I heard that U.S. Cellular was bringing the handset over anyway, and calling it the LG Splendor, I didn't have very high expectations. But after spending time with the device, I happily stand corrected.

Like the Optimus L7, the Splendor runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, sports an impressive 4.3-inch screen, and has decent battery life. In addition, the Splendor has a faster 1GHz processor than its global counterpart, making it a breeze to handle. And while it isn't NFC-enabled, I'm willing to go without this novel piece of technology if it means getting more reliable performance.

Currently, U.S. Cellular is offering the phone for the affordable price of $80, after you send in a mail-in rebate.

Editors' note: Because they are essentially the same device, sections of our review of the LG Optimus L7 have been used here.

The LG Splendor's humdrum design is nothing to write home about. With its sharp corners, plastic backing, and tapered edges, the device looks similar to all the other minimalist Optimus handsets that came out last summer. It measures 4.92 inches tall, 2.64 inches wide, and 0.34 inch thick, and its slim body weighs 4.48 ounces. It's one of LG's smaller phones, and can snugly fit in a front or back jean pocket. It's easy to pack into a small purse and handling it with one hand is a cinch.

On the Splendor's left side is a volume rocker, up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and a sleep/power button, and at the bottom is a Micro-USB port.

LG Splendor camera
The LG Splendor packs a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. Josh Miller/CNET

At back center is a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash. Below that to the left are two small slits for the output speaker. Unlike most devices, the Splendor doesn't have an indentation to make it easy to pry off the back of the handset. Instead, you'll have to just insert your fingernails anywhere within the seams of the back plate. Once you remove it, you can access the microSD slot, SIM card, and 1,700mAh battery.

Though generally I don't mind plastic battery covers since they keep a phone light and durable, the Splendor is an exception. There are ways to give plastic a more luxurious feel, by giving it a matte coating or unique texture. But the Splendor just has lined grooves like a 3D baseball card, which makes it feel cheap and almost like a toy.

The handset sports a 4.3-inch IPS display with an 800x480-pixel resolution and 450 nits of brightness. Though these specs aren't as impressive as those of other phones, like the LG Optimus 4X HD, the screen is still decent in its own right. App icons were crisp, text was sharp, and colors were vivid at maximum brightness. Although gradient patterns looked somewhat streaky, on the whole, images were rich and highly saturated.

Above the display in the right corner is a proximity sensor and to the left is a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. Below is a physical home button, with a back and menu front key on either side of it that light up when in use.

Just like its international counterpart, the Splendor runs on a 1GHz processor. However, the U.S. model performed noticeably faster. Basic tasks like unlocking the screen, opening the camera app, and transitioning back to the five home screen pages took a shorter amount of time than on the Optimus L7. With the L7, the lag was so slow that sometimes I wasn't sure that the display had registered my tap because it would be a while before an app finally launched. In contrast, the U.S. Cellular device was zippy and swift to use.

The handset runs on the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, and comes with Google goodies like Chrome, Gmail, Search, Plus, Latitude, Local, Play Books, Movies, Music, and Store, Messenger, Maps with Navigation, Talk, and YouTube.

Other preloaded content includes a few Amazon apps like Shop, Kindle, Amazon MP3, Amazon Appstore, IMDb, Zappos, and the audiobook app Audible. It also holds a finance app for keeping track of your stocks; a news and weather app; mobile office suite Polaris Office; SmartShare, a content distribution app; ToneRoom Deluxe; DailyPerks, which keeps track of local deals and offers; an emergency alert app; a bowling game; LG's note-taking and sketching app, QuickMemo; Facebook; and Twitter.

Basic features present are texting, a native e-mail client, a Web browser, a video player, a navigator, Bluetooth 3.0 support, a calendar, a clock with alarm settings, a memo pad, a calculator, and a voice recorder.

LG's Optimus 3.0 UI features customizable icons. Josh Miller/CNET

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