LG Spirit 4G Review: The Best, Cheap Pre-Paid Phone We've Ever UsedS

Metro PCS isn't exactly known for its selection of cutting-edge devices. Yes, it has the Galaxy S III now, but they charge 500 bucks for it. Pardon us for generalizing, but we're going to posit that people on Metro PCS are looking to save money. That's where the LG Spirit 4G find its sweet-spot.

What Is It?

A 4.5-inch Android smartphone that runs on Metro PCS' 4G network and has a very solid processor.

Who's It For?

People on Metro PCS who want a smartphone that doesn't suck.

Design

It's a very mid-range looking phone. The screen, while decent, isn't HD. The back and sides are a textured plastic that doesn't exactly scream "quality." That said, it's light, not terribly thick, and comfortable to hold. The removable back-panel reveals a micro SD card slot for expanding your storage, and a swappable battery.

Using It

It's a hell of a lot quicker than we expected. There's very little lag when flipping around screens or opening apps, and games played nice and smoothly. Unfortunately, it's launching with a rather outdated version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich aka Android 4.0.4) and it has a very ugly and unintuitive skin from LG on top of it. The screen may not be the sharpest out there, but it's plenty bright for using outdoors.

The Best Part

Speed. This thing zips! It has a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor under the hood. Yeah, that's 0.3 GHz slower than the 1.5GHz chip in the Galaxy S III, but the because the Spirit has a lower resolution screen, it has fewer pixels to deal with, so it's actually faster in most situations.

Tragic Flaw

The 5MP camera is unforgivably bad. There is just no detail to speak of, colors are bland, and it's extremely noisy in low light. Same goes for video, which the Spirit can produce in 1080p. Everything just looks kind of terrible. You can see a few samples here.

This Is Weird...

For an LTE device, data speeds are pretty slow. The fastest we ever got was 4.5Mbps down and 5.5Mbps up, which is fast enough for most uses, but it's a far cry from the 30Mbps we often get on Verizon's network. Often download speeds would be as low as 0.5Mbps (even with the 4G indicator on), and sometimes it would spontaneously lose network connectivity all together. (Disclaimer: We didn't have another Metro PCS phone to test along side this one, so it's possible that this is more of a Metro PCS problem rather than a Spirit 4G problem in the areas where we were testing. Maybe.)

LG Spirit 4G Review: The Best, Cheap Pre-Paid Phone We've Ever UsedS

Test Notes

  • Battery life was better than the average for LTE phones, which is to say it generally lasted us into the evening, depending on usage and the reception where we were. It did, generally, fair a bit better than the Galaxy S III, though.
  • The photo quality might be crap on this phone, but the camera software is actually pretty good. It can do HDR, panoramas, and has a slide mode for selfies where you say cheese and it snaps a pic.
  • You only get 4.3GB of internal storage, which ain't much, so you may want to invest in a micro SD card if you're planning on putting a lot of media on your phone.
  • It comes with a lot of pre-installed software (*coughBloatwarecough*) that you will never ever use. This is mildly annoying, but it's become par for the course with most carriers.

Should You Buy It?

If you're on Metro PCS (or wanting to switch to it) then absolutely. For $200 this is a very good phone. It's really quick and it'll do basically everything you need it to do, and well, except photography. The Galaxy S III is certainly a better phone, but considering this is 300 bucks cheaper, and considering how cheap unlimited plans are on Metro PCS, this setup just might be one of the best deals in mobile. [Metro PCS]

LG Spirit 4G Specs

• Network: Metro PCS
• OS: Android 4.0
• CPU: 1.2-GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4
• Screen: 4.5-inch 960x540 TFT LCD
• RAM: 1GB
• Storage: 4.3GB + up to 64GB microSD
• Camera: 5MP rear / 1.3MP front
• Battery: 2150 mAh Li-Ion
• Price: $200
Giz Rank: 3.0 stars