LG Mach review

The LG Mach for Sprint is a decent keyboarded smartphone for a decent price, but there's a better option available.
Photo of LG Mach
399.99

The LG Mach is Sprint’s second best keyboarded smartphone. That actually speaks more to the lack of good keyboarded smartphones out there than it does the strengths of this phone. On the positive side, the $99.99 LG Mach gets you solid performance, better battery life, and an excellent QWERTY keyboard for $100 less than the Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE . On the other hand, the Photon Q bests the Mach in nearly every other category. The Mach is a decent option if you’re looking to save 100 bucks, but it’s not the best option available.

Design, Call Quality, and Network
Aesthetically, the Mach looks a lot like LG went and stuck a keyboard on the back of the LG Viper 4G LTE . It’s made entirely of plastic, with a faux-metal back plate and a faux-silver band around the display. There’s a Camera button on the right, a Power button on top, and a Volume rocker on the left. The phone measures 4.64 by 2.56 by 0.48 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.92 ounces, though it feels markedly lighter than the 6-ounce Photon Q. And while the 4.3-inch Photon Q isn’t all that large compared with many gigantic new smartphones, the 4-inch Mach feels even more comfortable and natural to hold.

The Mach’s 4-inch IPS LCD features just 800-by-480-pixel resolution, which was standard a year ago, but is starting to look pretty rough around the edges. It gets nice and bright, but text and images look a little jagged. There are three function keys beneath the display that light up when the screen is on. Typing felt fine on the onscreen keyboard, but the phone slides open to reveal a five-row QWERTY keyboard. It isn’t quite as nice as the laser-cut beauty on the Photon Q, but the Mach’s keyboard is comprised of raised, well-spaced, backlit keys that feel springy when you press them. It’s comfortable to hold and use, and the row of number keys at the top is always appreciated.

Like many Sprint phones, the LG Mach is also eco-friendly. The phone is 56 percent recyclable, has a casing made of recycled plastic, and is Platinum-certified by UL Environment. It’s also certified carbon-free.

The Mach supports Sprint’s still-sparse 4G LTE network as well as its much slower 3G network. In this year’s Fastest Mobile Networks tests we found Sprint’s 3G network to be the slowest of the nationwide carriers. We recently got a chance to test Sprint’s 4G LTE network in New York City and found it to be a vast improvement. Unfortunately, it’s only available in a limited number of cities right now, so chances are you’ll be stuck with significantly slower speeds until it comes to your town.

Sprint LTE is limited in New York City, where we tested the Mach, so all of our tests were conducted over 3G. Reception was fine, and call quality was average. Voices sound a little fuzzy in the phone’s earpiece, especially at louder volumes. But calls made with the phone sound sharp and clear with good background noise cancellation. The speakerphone goes loud enough to use outdoors. I had no trouble connecting to a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset, and standard Android voice dialing worked fine. The 1,700mAh battery was good for 8 hours and 21 minutes of talk time, an improvement over the Photon Q’s 6 hours and 59 minutes.

Android and Apps
The Mach is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 processor. It turned in some solid benchmark scores, especially given the lower screen resolution, but it’s a little less powerful than the 1.5GHz chip found in the Photon and many other higher-end smartphones. But the phone feels fast and responsive, and you shouldn’t have trouble running any of the 600,000+ apps in the Google Play store.

You get Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) here, along with LG’s Optimus UI 3.0 overlay. There’s no word yet on whether the Mach will receive an upgrade to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). You get seven customizable home screens that come preloaded with apps, folders, and widgets. Sprint has installed Sprint ID and Sprint Zone, neither of which can be deleted. Thankfully, other bloatware has been kept to a minimum.

Like many new LG phones, the Mach come with QuickMemo, which is a system-wide note taking service that lets you annotate screenshots with handwritten notes and sketches, which you can then share. You also get FileShare, which allows you to easily transfer documents, music, pictures, and videos between other devices running the app. And LG Backup app allows you to manually back up your device or to schedule backups.

There’s also the usual Android benefits, including a fast Web browser, first-rate email support, and voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS directions via Google Maps. NFC support allows you to make mobile payments using Google Wallet.

Multimedia and Conclusions
The Mach comes with 5.11GB of free internal storage, along with an empty microSD card slot underneath the battery cover. My 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine. The phone was able to play all of our audio test files except FLAC, and sound quality was excellent over both wired 3.5mm headphones as well as Altec Lansing BackBeat Bluetooth headphones. All of our test videos played back fine at resolutions up to 1080p.

The 5-megapixel camera is disappointing. It captures photos fast, with virtually zero shutter lag. You also get LG’s Cheese Shutter, which allows you to snap a photo by saying the word cheese, which is good for when you want to get yourself into the picture. Unfortunately, photos themselves just aren’t up to snuff. Details look soft, colors are only average, and there’s an unmistakable tinge of pink on many of the photos I snapped. Video capture is somewhat better, with average-looking but shaky 1080p video captured at a smooth 30 frames per second. There’s also an unremarkable 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat.

The LG Mach is only an average smartphone, but it’s a slightly above average keyboarded smartphone. It gets you a very good keyboard, solid performance, and better battery life than the Photon Q, all for $100 less. But if you’re willing to part with that extra cash, the Photon Q gets you the best smartphone keyboard available, along with a faster processor, sharper display, and a better camera. The Kyocera Hydro and the Samsung Transform Ultra are both even cheaper than the LG Mach, but they’re running on dated hardware. We haven’t reviewed them on Sprint, but based on our experience with these phones on Boost Mobile we wouldn’t recommend them to Sprint users, even considering the lower price.

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Specifications
Service Provider Sprint
Screen Details 800-by-480 TFT LCD
Bands 800, 850, 1900
Physical Keyboard Yes
Operating System Android OS
Network CDMA
High-Speed Data EVDO Rev A, LTE, CDMA 1X
Form Factor Slider
Megapixels 5 MP
Bluetooth Yes
Camera Yes
Battery Life (As Tested) 8 hours 21 minutes
Camera Flash Yes
microSD Slot Yes
802.11x 802.11 b/g/n
Processor Speed 1.2 GHz
Screen Size 4 inches
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 Dual-Core
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 5.11 GB
GPS Yes

Verdict
The LG Mach for Sprint is a decent keyboarded smartphone for a decent price, but there's a better option available.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc