LG Spectrum 2 Review [video]

December 13, 2012
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LG might have recently released its Intuition and Optimus G, as well as a LTE-less variant in the Google Nexus 4, but for the most part, high-end smartphone offerings from the company are still few and far between. For years now, LG’s main focus has been squarely on the middle range of the smartphone market. The LG Spectrum 2 is one of the latest of these devices, and it’s surprisingly well performing for a device with relatively modest specs.

In a hurry? Jump to the conclusion, or check out our video review.

Specs

  • 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal storage
  • 1280 x 720 HD display
  • 2,150 mAh battery
  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera
  • NFC

First Impressions

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Before I actually got my hands on the LG Spectrum 2, I can’t say I was overly excited. I figured it would be another mid-range device without anything special about it. After using the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for so long, it’s hard for a lot of other phones to compare favorably.

After I got the Spectrum 2 out of the box and used it for a few hours, I started to realize that despite the middle of the road specs, the phone wasn’t feeling sluggish at all. As a matter of fact, it felt pretty snappy. Call me impressed.

Build Quality

The general feel of the LG Spectrum 2 is solid, if a bit bulky thanks to its wireless charging-ready battery cover (more on that later). The phone isn’t especially heavy, nor does it feel too light or cheaply made like many of its mid-range brethren. I wasn’t able to test this myself, but the Spectrum 2 feels like it would be able to fare pretty well in one of our drop tests. Obviously, this is just speculation.

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While there are some who might say the design is on the plain side, I’m actually a fan of the design aesthetic LG is using in many of its recent models. The rectangular shape not only looks sleek, but seems to help you maintain a better grip on the device.

Screen

The screen is where the LG Spectrum 2 really shines in comparison to much of its competition. Having seen both the LG Optimus G and LG Intuition, I can say that the Spectrum 2’s display is on par with both of these higher-end devices.

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While it may not be the latest and greatest, the 720p display is very crisp and sharp. Colors are extremely vivid, and black levels seemed surprisingly good even with the brightness turned up rather high. High definition video looks great on this screen, with no noticeable ghosting or blurring.

Performance

While it’s obviously not going to stand up to LG’s higher end offerings, the LG Spectrum 2 never felt laggy or slow during my time using it. I almost never noticed any stuttering when scrolling the home screens or the apps menu, apps launched quickly, and everything I threw at it performed as expected.

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The LG Spectrum 2 includes demos for two games: Let’s Golf 3 and Real Racing 2. It would be somewhat embarrassing if the pre-installed games didn’t run smoothly, but this isn’t the case. Real Racing 2, which seems to be the more demanding of the two, ran without a hitch even when displaying a lot of other cars on screen. While it may not handle some of the most demanding games on the market, I found the Spectrum 2 to be surprisingly snappy.

Software

The LG Spectrum 2 runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. We’d all prefer Jelly Bean, but this is really no surprise given the number of phones still launching with Ice Cream Sandwich. Sadly, at the time of this writing, this is still no word on when or even if Jelly Bean will be coming to the Spectrum 2, but we’re hoping that LG will release details on this soon.

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Instead of stock Android, the Spectrum 2 is outfitted with a themeable LG launcher. The choice of the default theme, dubbed “Optimus,” is somewhat questionable, as its easily the least readable of the included themes. Any of the three other options not only increases readability, but also looks better, at least to my eyes.

It looks like LG has some sort of deal going with Amazon, as a ton of Amazon apps are pre-installed. As usual, these apps can be disabled, but not uninstalled. This also goes for the included Verizon apps as well as various other apps like Amex Serve, NFL Mobile and even the included demos of Let’s Golf 3 and Real Racing 2. Luckily, in the case of the latter, the game data is only downloaded after you launch the game and answer yes to the prompt.

Camera

This something I’ve mentioned in other reviews, but for the most part, cameras in Android smartphones are generally the same. Good enough to replace a point and shoot for most people, but nothing groundbreaking. This is the case with the 8-megapixel camera in the LG Spectrum 2.

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Picture quality is nice, but you won’t find yourself staring in disbelief, shocked at how amazing the photos are. Color reproduction is good with none of the strange color issues that have been popping up in some other devices.

One area where the LG Spectrum 2 outclasses some of its mid-range competition is in its 1080p video capture. Some devices that I’ve seen recently have implemented 1080p video as a glorified slideshow with framerates in the single digits. The Spectrum 2 avoids this pitfall. It’s not going to replace your HD camcorder or DSLR, but it definitely produces usable video.

Battery

While the lower spec’d components also mean less of a power draw, I was still wary of the 2,150 mAh battery. Surprisingly enough, in the time I’ve been testing the LG Spectrum 2, the battery has held up very well.

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On multiple occasions now I’ve used the phone two days in a row without charging overnight, with enough battery left to get through the second day without needing to charge mid-day. Obviously if you’re watching a lot of video or gaming on your Spectrum 2 it’s going to eat up the battery faster, but for standard everyday use, the battery life is very decent.

The LG Spectrum 2 supports wireless charging, and to test this, my review unit arrived with the optional wireless charging pad. Unfortunately, in the entire time I’ve been testing the LG Spectrum 2, I haven’t been able to get wireless charging working reliably. I’ve tried even conceivable way of placing the phone on the charging pad, and no matter what, it will eventually stop charging.

Looking around the internet, I haven’t seen any reports of this, which means its fairly likely that it is an issue with the charging pad I received.

Video Review


Conclusion

To wrap up, yes, there are certainly more powerful phones out there. If you’re looking for the best phone on the market spec-wise, the LG Spectrum 2 certainly isn’t it. That said, the performance it offers for the price is excellent. The Spectrum 2 is currently going for $99 with a 2-year Verizon contract, but only if you buy it online. Without a contract, it will cost you $499.

Have you already picked up the LG Spectrum 2? What do you think of it? Do you agree with me that it’s a good deal at $99, or do you find it lacking?

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