LG launched its impressive G4 model not too long ago, and it was a good ‘un. But now there’s a new phone in town: the mid-range LG Spirit. How does it compare to its flagship predecessor?
A lot of the things we loved about the LG G4 - the luxurious leather case, the fantastic camera, and the bright HD screen, to name a few - are nowhere to be seen in the LG Spirit. But despite that, it's not a bad phone at all. LG has whittled its flagship down to a smaller size and budget quite effectively.
Design and display
The Spirit might be a cheaper version of the G4, but it doesn't feelcheap. There's none of the tacky, creaky plastic you find on most budget phones - instead, there's a sleek curved back with a brushed metal feel to it. Teamed with the nicely sized 4.7-inch screen, it sits snugly in your palm - although the shiny back made it slither out of this reviewer's hand more times than I'd like to admit.
Posh but slippery.
As per LG's signature design, the home and volume buttons are on the back of the phone. In the G4 this was surprisingly easy to get used to… but not so much on the Spirit. The textures of the keys are just that little bit too similar, so it's not always clear which one you're touching. On a phone this size, the placement doesn't really add anything, besides a lot of fumbling every time you want to lock the darn thing.
Besides that, the rest of the design is intuitive and simple - charging port at the bottom, headphone jack at the top, business as usual. The massive bezels at the top and bottom of the screen feel unnecessary, however, and the humungous LG logo doubly so.
The display itself is all right. You can tell it's not Full HD, but at this price it's certainly good enough. It's just a shame the lines aren't as sharp as they could be, and the colours seem to lack a bit of vibrancy. Despite that, it's fairly bright, so using the phone outdoors is a breeze.
Power and performance
Specs-wise, there's little to complain about, given the price tag. The quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM are just right, though you'll get the occasional judder. So while it's not really a phone for the mobile gaming enthusiast, it'll suit the average user just fine.
The internal storage is 8GB, which… isn't enough. Thankfully it's expandable up to 32GB with a memory card, but nonetheless you really don't get much here. Our model only has a couple of pictures, the standard apps, and a couple of goodies from our network provider, and already the free storage is down to 3GB or so. System data alone takes up more than half of it. Download the Facebook app and a game or two, and it'll disappear.
One area where the Spirit weirdly excels, however, is in the sensitivity of the screen. It's darn near perfect. The responsivity is spot on, you can use it without ever having to double-tap, and it rarely hits the wrong thing, except for when you're wrestling with the tiny keyboard.
Like a fairy's door, the Spirit's keyboard has very small keys.
As for call quality, it's fine. It's nothing to shout about, but it's good enough that you don't need to shout anyway.
Interface and features
Android Lollipop is overlaid with LG's custom UI, which is actually rather easy to navigate and moves around quite slickly. That said, the colours look a bit washed-out - wan yellows and baby-sick greens are an odd choice, especially considering the screen isn't the sharpest.
The phone comes with some decent stuff straight out of the box, too. There's 4G and NFC, for a start, which are nice touches in this price range. As for apps, there's not a lot, but you do get the whole Google suite, Polaris Office, and QuickMemo+.
That last one is a lot of fun. Drag down the notification bar and you'll see a QuickMemo+ button, which takes a shot of your screen that you can draw, write, highlight, and scribble on. It's a simple way to draw hilarious moustaches on pictures of your mates, too.
It probably has other uses too.
And then there's the other little things that stand out. The Knock Code feature, and being able to tap the screen twice to wake it up, are useful additions. And Glance view can be pulled down when the screen is off so you can see the time, battery level, notifications, and the like - great for when you just want a quick, uh, glance - but kind of fiddly to use in practice. There seems to be a knack to it, which isn't something you want in a smartphone feature.
The camera is kind of a mixed bag. The lens itself is 8MP and has good focusing, so your shots aren't half bad. However, it does struggle to capture foreground details, even when it's focused properly. Zooming in reveals quite a bit of blurriness. And colours look kind of dim and washed out - to match the phone's display, perhaps.
As for the software, there are a few noticeable gaps. HDR would be handy on an 8MP camera, but it's not there. Still, you get some of LG's more fun camera modes, like setting it to take a picture when it hears the word 'cheese.' And ultimately, the pics you get are good enough to share on Facebook and the likes - they'll just disappoint photography enthusiasts.
On paper, the 2100 mAh battery doesn't look particularly impressive. But the Spirit doesn't have a massive screen, and seems to have some nifty power-saving under its belt - meaning it can go for a surprisingly long time before it needs charging. With moderate usage it'll last well over a day with no problems.
If you're after a phone with high-powered top-of-the-range specs set to rival the latest flagships, the LG Spirit may disappoint you. But if you just want an inexpensive handset, you'll be thrilled.
It may also disappoint people who like colours.
With a polished design, 4G, and some of the most up-to-date software, the Spirit is a charming phone that will suit your basic mobile needs - and then some. The battery lasts all day, basic connectivity is excellent, and the screen is nice and bright.
The one major drawback is the paltry internal storage, which only has room for a few apps, and will likely get frustrating at some point.
Still, as mid-range phones go, this one could be worth the extra cost of an SD card.
Thanks to Three for supplying our test handset!