Review – LG Stylo 2 Smartphone from Virgin Mobile

It’s not just your imagination; phones really are getting bigger these days. And while YouTube is certainly more fun to watch on a screen with more real estate, bigger phones take up a lot of space in your pocket, and can be hard on the wallet. Fortunately, the LG Stylo 2 from Virgin Mobile is slim, fairly priced, and which makes for a great holiday buy if you need a good phone on a budget. 

The Stylo 2’s hardware checks all the boxes for function, and can perform any task adequately. Its 5.7-inch, 1,280-by-720 IPS LCD screen is pretty good for looking at videos, photos, or just going on Facebook. Though not as sharp as an iPhone 7, colors still pop in 720p playback. The body itself is slim, only measuring 0.3 inches thick, and weighs 5.1 ounces. For ports, the Stylo 2 has a micro USB port, one speaker on the back, and a 3.5 mm headphone port, so you don’t need to throw away your favorite headphones. The 1.2 GHz processor combines with 2 GB of RAM to keep your phone speedy, and most users won’t encounter any slowdowns, unless you’re using the phone for particularly intensive tasks. A 5MP camera on the front ensures you’ll take great selfies, and the 13MP camera on the back performs well in daylight and low-light conditions, as well as supporting HDR imaging. The Stylo 2 has a removable plastic backing that reveals a swappable 3,000 mAh battery (somehow a rarity for most electronics in 2016) that lasts for roughly 7 or 8 hours under normal use, and an SD card slot that can officially support a 128 GB card, but actually supports cards up to 200 GB. Thanks to Android Marshmallow’s adoptable memory, this can dramatically increase the phone’s storage, giving you more room for apps and cat videos. 

The most prominent hardware feature is, of course, the stylus. Styluses, famously derided by Steve Jobs, are making a comeback thanks to the proliferation of larger phones. But few devices use them for specific purposes, only as alternative input devices. LG, however, uses the stylus differently. Located above the top-right corner of the screen, the stylus itself is thin, but sturdy, and its felt tip is gets accurate placement and writes easily. Pulling the stylus out instantly activates a prompt of four optimized software options, where you can take notes, draw, or write on the screen and then save the image. Styluses aren’t absolutely necessary to get the most out of Android, but it does prove convenient when you just need to jot down a quick idea.

The only hardware drawbacks are the system memory and button placement. The Stylo 2 has 16 GB of memory, but only about 8 GB are usable, thanks to the size of the operating system and LG’s layered software, making expandable memory a necessity. Moreover, the power and volume buttons are on the back, just underneath the camera, which takes some getting used to. LG has done this for a number of phones, and the button placement made sense on smaller phones, which are easier to grasp with one hand. But the screen size makes one-handed use very difficult, if not impossible, and the index finger has to stretch a bit to access the buttons on the back. It’s an inconvenience that draws attention away from other great features. 

The software on the Stylo 2 is top-notch. It runs Android Marshmallow 6.0, and LG has provided updates up to 6.0.1, which good news thanks to the frustrating rarity of Android system updates. Marshmallow is fast, capable, and efficient, though the LG system UI is somewhat frustrating. Thankfully, because it is Android, there is always the option to install other launchers or UI skins that don’t get in the way of the OS, which makes for a pleasurable user experience overall.

No Contract plan phone offerings have traditionally been seen as cheaper than or lagging behind a premium smartphone, like Apple iPhones, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 series (both are available from Virgin Moble), which we have found to be a superb performer. But phones like the Stylo 2 show that OEMs still care about consumers who don’t want to be locked into a contract, or drop $600 on a new device. It’s gratifying to see that users can have a choice of some of the best phones on the market without signing away an arm and a leg. Phone plans range from approximately $35 a month for unlimited talk and text with 5 GB of data, to $55 a month for an entirely unlimited plan for talk, text, and data.

The Virgin Mobile LG Stylo 2 is a great purchase for anyone that needs a phone and wants a big screen with a long battery life. It gets MacEditionRadio’s pick as a top holiday buy! 

Thomas Fogel-Burlan, Posted 11/19/2016

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