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Terrific HD IPS Display Hampered By Poor Software (fixable)
on February 7, 2012
The Spectrum is the only Verizon choice at present for those who want a Gorilla Glass protected large (4.5") IPS (same technology as on iPhone/iPad) LCD HD display LTE smartphone with both removable/replaceable battery and MicroSD card. Below is my comparison to current Verizon alternatives, which are all terrific devices with unique strengths.
Comparative strengths of the Spectrum:
-The Samsung Galaxy Nexus lacks Gorilla Glass, has a pentile display (shared subpixels vs true full subpixels on Spectrum), and non-removable memory.
-The HTC Rezound has a smaller (4.3") non Gorilla Glass protected display.
-The Motorola Razr has a pentile display and non-removable battery. (when traveling, I like to take an extra battery for flights).
-The LG Spectrum is among the first batch of Verizon LTE World Phones, which means it can access any CDMA or GSM network worldwide.
-Not widely publicized: The Spectrum has "Dolby Mobile" included in its music and video player, providing a clearer and more spatial audio experience with most input when listening with headphones. This is very different than reverb or echo or stereo expansion found on some Android music players. Best way to describe it is by analogy: mono is to stereo as stereo is to dolby mobile. Some music with certain ambient pre-processing does sound over-processed with this activated, but unprocessed music, e.g. classic rock, generally is improved vastly. Dolby says this works with the phone speaker too, but I haven't tested that.
LG Spectrum deficiencies:
-Even though it looks like carbon fiber in photos, it has a polished, very smooth, slippery plastic back cover that collects fingerprints like crazy. The closely related ATT LG Nitro has a terrific rubberized textured back cover (very much like the HTC Rezoound), but the shape of that phone has more rounded corners, so unfortunately its cover is not compatible with the Spectrum. Why LG would want users to more easily lose grip on their phones is a mystery.
-No Android Ice Cream Sandwich Operating System (OS) at the moment, but it will be upgraded eventually as it's LG's flagship phone on Verizon.
-Android Gingerbread OS with clumsy LG 'Optimus UI 2.0' skin, especially with regards to frustrating and inefficient app drawer 'organized' by categories.
-No notification LED. This is very annoying, and is a serious omission by LG, especially for their top phone.
-Far too many locked preinstalled applications from Verizon, which can not be prevented from running in the background and occupying RAM, leaving you with less of the 1GB DDR2 memory to use for running wanted applications.
-Yikes, Verizon Visual Voicemail for $2.99 per month advertisement is displayed by the OS whenever you check your voicemail. What other advertisements are buried in the phone waiting to pop up unexpectedly?
-Browser address bar searches provide results only by Microsoft Bing, with no way to change this.
-No way to root this phone at present. UPDATED 2/19-- This is no longer an issue.
Many prior owners have stated that lack of root access is why they have returned the phone to Verizon within their first two weeks of ownership (Root access should allow users to 'fix' many of the software issues with this phone). It's a case of decent and generally appealing hardware crippled by poor carrier/OS/software implementation. When the phone boots, it loads an assortment of unnecessary applications, most of which will start again automatically if you shut them down. Some of these are Blockbuster, ESPN Sport Center, V Cast Media Manager, Music (LG?), Verizon App Store, and My Verizon Mobile. There are a host of other Verizon and Yahoo applications that also cannot be removed. One user who counted reported 24 such applications. Android phones should allow you to choose your apps and remove bloatware you know you don't want.
Minus 0.5 stars for the slippery back cover where other implementations of this phone have rubberized and textured backs.
Minus 1.0 stars for the terrible preinstalled and locked bloatware and advertisements from Verizon.
Minus 0.5 stars for the horrible application drawer of Optimus 2.0 UI.
Plus 0.5 stars for Dolby Mobile.
Plus 0.5 stars for fast processing and graphics.
4.0 stars overall
This review is written by a soon to be ex-Spectrum-owner moving to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (aka Google phone--Google doesn't hate freedom). My far less particular spouse is happily keeping the Spectrum.
Received the Galaxy Nexus and after one day of comparing am surprised to say the Spectrum wins. While the idea of having a true Google phone is great in terms of openness and modernness of the OS; the pentile display is just not very good. Had Samsung chosen to go with Super AMOLED Plus technology (true complete RGB Pixels), the Nexus would have been terrific with a true 720p AMOLED HD Display. As it is, the less costly "HD Super AMOLED" Pentile display, wherein each 'full' pixel is composed of a dedicated green subpixel and a shared blue subpixel and a shared red subpixel, suffers from large pixels, which are easily seen by my eyes and which cause eye strain and headache. Instead of seeing a white background in the browser, my eyes see tiny red and blue and green dots. Even holding the phone a foot away from my eyes doesn't fix the problem. This issue was described by Leo Laporte (longtime tech personality) in his "Before You Buy" review of the Galaxy Nexus. It may be a minority of people who are troubled by the Pentile display, the Spectrum has ~2.76 million subpixels, while the Nexus has ~1.84 million subpixels. Side by side, there is no comparison between the IPS LCD Spectrum and the Pentile AMOLED Nexus display.
As far as the OS, with a lot of tweaking (Go Launcher, Go Locker, ICS theme, many other apps/widgets), the Spectrum can at least function like an ICS phone in many characteristics, and hide all the bloatware from view in the app drawer. Also, the Spectrum is significantly faster and has a stronger dedicated graphics chip than the Nexus. The Spectrum is lighter than the Nexus (5.05 ounces vs. 5.23 ounces on the same micro scale). And surprise: The 4.5" Spectrum display is larger than the 4.65" Nexus display *most of the time*. This is because the soft keys of the Nexus take up a lot of screen space, and browsing in particular suffers on the Nexus. Due to the screen issues described above, the Nexus requires more zooming of text to reach legibility, exacerbating the issue.
The Spectrum is the better choice for those who value display quality over coolness. The Nexus wins for leading edge software and playfulness. Comparing either to my Droid 1 is like comparing a sleek sports car to a minivan. What will our phones be like in two years? At this rate, 4oz with 5+ inch 1080p displays.
For those who care, some benchmarks:
Linpack Single Thread (3 consecutive runs): 50.3; 51.2; 50.2 MFLOPS
Linpack Multi-Thread (3 consecutive runs): 79.8; 78.3; 81.6 MFLOPS
AnTuTu Benchmark: 6486
Quadrant 1 Benchmark: 2646 (3D graphics quite smooth and good)
Quadrant 2.0 Benchmark: 2712 (CPU 4652; Mem 2668; I/O 4305; 2D 342; 3D 1592)
Friend's Galaxy Nexus Quadrant 2.0 Benchmark: 2041 (CPU 5711; Mem 1986; I/O 1118; 2D 192; 3D 1200)
It is now possible to root this phone, thanks to the efforts of the developer community. Bye bye bloatware (it's recommended to 'freeze' rather than remove bloatware). My phone remains stock, but root access is tempting. The bloatware is completely hidden with Go Launcher, but it would be nice to prevent unnecessary use of system resources.
With free 'ES File Explorer', the included video player of this phone easily streams video over LAN (Like the iOS app 'Air Video', without having to run a server program as Air Video requires).
-so far works with avi, xvid, divx, mov, mkv, wmv, and probably others too.
-source material at 1080p is fine and looks terrific on the 720p display.
-hd playback is not taxing to the cpu due to the discrete Qualcomm Adreno 220 graphics chip.
New score: 5/5 stars. It's as good a phone as you can get on Verizon now. After a bit of ownership, both my spouse and I are very happy with this phone.