LG Spectrum 2 review

The LG Spectrum 2 for Verizon Wireless gets you a first-rate smartphone for about half the price as other top picks.
Photo of LG Spectrum 2
499.99

The original LG Spectrum was a high-end smartphone with a high-end price tag. Fast forward less than a year later, and we have the LG Spectrum 2. It’s designed to compete with the rest of the heavy hitters in Verizon’s lineup, and in most regards, it succeeds. But LG made one key difference this time around: Price. The LG Spectrum 2 is a high-end phone, but at $99.99, it costs half the price as other top choices in Verizon’s lineup. That makes it a seriously good buy.

Design, Data Speeds, and Call Quality
Today’s high-end smartphones are almost unanimously large, and the Spectrum 2 follows suit. It measures 5.31 by 2.69 by 0.39 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.59 ounces, which is a good deal heavier than the 4.69-ounce Samsung Galaxy S III. Physically, the phone looks a bit rectangular and boxy. The back panel is covered in rubberized black plastic, and there are plastic silver accent panels on the sides and matte black panels on the top and bottom. There’s an LED-lit Power button on the top and two Volume buttons on the left. Like all big phones, it’s difficult to hold the Spectrum 2 in one hand and pull the notifications bar down with your thumb.

The front of the phone is home to a beautiful 4.7-inch, 1280-by-720-pixel IPS LCD. While that resolution pales in comparison to the insane 5-inch, 1080p display on the new HTC Droid DNA, the Spectrum 2 gets incredibly bright, and text and images look sharp. It also looks better than the Galaxy S III, the Motorola Droid Razr HD, or the Droid Razr Maxx HD, all of which use PenTile panels that can make things look a little fuzzy. Given the size, typing on the onscreen keyboard is easy in both portrait and landscape modes.

The LG Spectrum 2 taps into Verizon’s 4G LTE network where it’s available, and 3G everywhere else. Verizon’s 4G LTE network is very fast, and received top honors in our Fastest Mobile Networks tests earlier this year. The Spectrum 2 has good reception, and averaged 6Mbps down and 4Mbps up in our speed tests, which is consistent with most results we’ve seen lately. It can also be used as a mobile hotspot to connect up to 10 devices simultaneously with the proper service plan. And if you want to connect to Wi-Fi, the Spectrum 2 supports 802.11 a/b/g/n over the 2.4 and faster 5GHz bands, so wireless performance is solid across the board.

Call quality is average. Volume goes very loud in the phone’s earpiece, but voices get reedy, especially at top volume. Transmissions through the mic are a little fuzzy and voices sound a bit muted, but calls are easy to understand overall. Calls sounded fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and standard Android voice dialing worked well over Bluetooth. The phone’s big 2,150mAh battery was good for a solid 12 hours and 42 minutes of talk time. The phone comes with a wireless charging battery cover, and can be charged wirelessly with a separate charging pad.

Hardware, Android, and Apps
The Spectrum 2 is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor, which is the same chip you’ll find in the Galaxy S III and Droid Razr HDs. It makes for excellent performance and benchmark scores comparable to those phones. We’ve seen this eclipsed by the emergence of quad-core devices like the Droid DNA, but it’s still plenty fast—you’ll be able to run all of the 600,000+ apps in the Google Play store without a problem.

(Next page: Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions)

The Spectrum 2 runs Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), along with LG’s Optimus UI customizations. There’s no word yet on an update to Android 4.1 or 4.2 (Jelly Bean). We haven’t been penalizing phones for this yet (except for Motorola, which is owned by Google), but now that we’re finally starting to see phones ship with Android 4.1, ICS is a bit of a letdown.

You get seven customizable home screens to swipe between that come preloaded with apps and widgets. LG has added four themes to the phone that change your wallpaper and icons. In addition to Optimus, which is what you get out of the box, you get Odyssey, Shine, and Thor. As usual, Verizon has loaded the Spectrum 2 with plenty of bloatware, including apps from Amazon, Amex, a few from Verizon itself, and the ubiquitous Zappos. Unfortunately, you can’t delete any these. You can disable them from showing up in your Apps menu, but that’s it.

LG has preloaded 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 SmartShare, which lets you display music, photos, and video on your HDTV or monitor via DLNA. You can also watch content on the big screen using an MHL adapter. There’s also the usual Android perks, like a fast Web browser, first-rate email support, and voice-enabled, turn-by-turn GPS directions via Google Maps.

Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
The Spectrum 2 comes with a generous 11.5GB 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 without a hitch, at resolutions up to 1080p, though audio was slightly out of sync over Bluetooth.

The 8-megapixel camera snaps some nice photos. Shutter speeds are instantaneous, capturing photos as soon as you press the onscreen shutter button. Colors and detail look sharp and accurate, though still not as good as top shooters like the Apple iPhone 5. You 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. There’s also a standard 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for self portraits and video chat.

For $100, the LG Spectrum 2 gets you the largest display for your money, along with plenty of power, solid battery life, and a good camera. If it’s a little too big for you, the Motorola Droid Razr M is an excellent alternative. It has a 4.3-inch display and a much more compact form factor, and it too serves up plenty of nice features and processing power. For the same price you can also get the Apple iPhone 4S, which gets you an even better camera and the best app selection out there, albeit a much smaller 3.5-inch display.

For $100 more, you can take your pick of even higher-end options, like the 1080p Droid DNA, or the 4-inch iPhone 5, both of which have an edge over the Spectrum 2. But the fact that the Spectrum 2 rivals the likes of the $200 Galaxy S III and Droid Razr HD makes it a worthy consideration if you’re buying on a budget.

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Specifications
Service Provider Verizon Wireless
Screen Details 1280-by-720 TFT LCD
Bands 800, 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 700
Physical Keyboard No
Operating System Android OS
Network GSM, CDMA, UMTS
High-Speed Data EVDO Rev A, LTE, CDMA 1X
Form Factor Candy Bar
Megapixels 8 MP
Bluetooth Yes
Camera Yes
Battery Life (As Tested) 12 hours 42 minutes
Camera Flash Yes
microSD Slot Yes
802.11x 802.11 a/b/g
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
Screen Size 4.7 inches
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 Dual-Core
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 11.5 GB
GPS Yes

Verdict
The LG Spectrum 2 for Verizon Wireless gets you a first-rate smartphone for about half the price as other top picks.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc