LG Spirit review: LG’s cut-price £129 Android phone packs in a few of the G4’s features, plus an HD screen and 8-megapixel camera.
It was once the domain of Samsung with its cheap-and-not-very-cheerful Fame/Ace handsets, but the £100 to £150 phone bracket is now rammed full of seriously decent mobiles from a variety of manufacturers. From Motorola’s excellent Moto E and Moto G, to Huawei’s G7 and the Lumia 640, we now fully expect phones at this price point to pack HD screens, 4G support and tons of attention-hooking features.
LG has waded into this suddenly difficult market with its LG Spirit, a dinky Android Lollipop mobile that meets our heady demands by offering HD visuals and solid all-round specs. We already know that LG can beat the big boys like Samsung and Apple when it comes to premium devices, but how does it fare down at this end? Well, glad you asked…
The LG Spirit is a decent-looking cut-price handset, although the finish is more businessy and straight-laced than the sexy decadence of the leather-fied LG G4. But then, what do you expect for just over a hundred quid?
As with most budget blowers, the Spirit is a chunky slab of plastic. However, the compact, curvy build means that it fits neatly in the pal and can be comfortably used with just one hand. That curve even continues along the display itself, which has a subtle bend just like the LG G4.
A plain and smart silver back is punctuated by LG’s usual rear-mounted power and volume buttons, conveniently placed so that they sit beneath your fingers. If the arrangement seems strange, just give it a try in a phone shop – you’ll be surprised by how intuitive the controls are after a little play time.
You can also pull off the back of the Spirit to slot in your micro SIM card and microSD memory card, or swap around the 2,100mAh battery.
Android Lollipop has been done over with the usual LG redesign, which adds a fair few extra features, just like in LG’s premium handsets.
So you get the PIN-replacement Knock Code feature for unlocking your phone (which is more secure as it’s harder for a thief to spy on), plus Quick Memo+ for scribbling on your desktops (handy if you’re in the middle of a call and need to take notes) and full gesture support.
There’s a number of tutorials for Android newbies, to talk you through Wi-Fi setup and other bits while you’re first getting to grips with your handset. These can all be dodged if you’re a smartphone connoisseur, of course.
LG’s phone interface is a love-it-or-hate-it affair, with some people enjoying the packed notifications tab and dense features and others craving the simplicity of vanilla Android. Personally I like it, and as usual you can personalise the Spirit’s look and feel to make it fit your style.
Underneath it all you get 4G support for your media streaming, plus NFC to transfer files with other devices and get a bit of Tap & Pay action on the go. Basically, the LG Spirit leaves out nothing that you’d expect and adds plenty more into the mix.
Screen and media
The LG Spirit is one of the dinkiest phones we’ve seen in recent times, matching the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact for size. But while the 4.7-inch screen gives you less viewing space than many other affordable phones (the likes of the Moto G and Lumia 640 sport 5-inch screens), the crisp 720p resolution makes it a comfortable viewing experience, even when kicking back with a full-length movie.
That sharp resolution also helps out when you’re browsing the web, allowing you to zoom right out of a page but still read the tiny text (providing your eyesight’s up to it).
Colours aren’t quite as bold as they are on the Moto G, but from the respectable contrast levels to the wide viewing angles, this is a quality panel for the price. And even the Spirit’s built-in speaker is surprisingly powerful, although the rear positioning means it’s easily muffled by fingers and you’ll want to use earphones for a quality aural experience.
Performance and battery life
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor is backed up by 1GB of RAM and the LG Spirit runs smoothly for the most part, despite juggling all kinds of different features. You’ll notice the occasional judder when zipping through menus or switching apps, something that’s pretty much unavoidable these days with just a gig of memory, but the stuttering isn’t really intrusive and I didn’t see a single crash while using the Spirit.
Games also run with a surprising smoothness, even fast-paced new titles like Implosion. Chances are, the Spirit will start to show its age in just a few months, but for now it’s a very capable handset.
Each battery charge should see you through a full 24 hours if you don’t go crazy, a modest effort for modern smartphones. If you do go crazy and stream video non-stop, you can expect just under six hours of playback before the Spirit dies.
The LG Spirit’s 8-megapixel camera rocks a typically super-simple interface, similar to that found on the LG G3 and G4. In its standard form, you’ll see no on-screen buttons at all beyond the back button and options button – just tap anywhere on the screen to focus and shoot.
For the most part this system works well, with the lens quickly and accurately locking onto whatever you’re pointing at. It’s not infallible however, and a couple of my shots were too blurry to use. Still, I was impressed by almost all of my up-close macro shots and everyday photos, which packed loads of detail and looked great on a big screen.
The only time I found the Spirit’s camera truly struggled was with ropey lighting conditions. There’s no HDR mode, so high-contrast situations (like shooting a monument against a bright sky) almost always results in a dark, ugly mess. And if you’re trying to shoot in pubs and other dingy interiors, you’ll need to make full use of the LED flash.
You can also shoot your gorgeous puddum with the 5-megapixel selfie cam, which isn’t the sharpest snapper around but does the job when needed. And of course, as this is an LG handset, you can take a photo with a fist-pump. Awesome.
LG’s Spirit is a loveable little phone in an increasingly crowded £100-£150 price bracket. It’s a little bit pricier than rivals such as Vodafone’s Smart Prime 6, but it’s also pleasingly compact and sports plenty of unique features that you won’t find on other budget blowers.
Factor in an attractive screen and a simple-yet-effective camera and the LG Spirit is another great affordable 4G phone.
Thanks to Three UK for the loan of the LG Spirit. You can pick up the Spirit on Three right now, from £13 a month with no up-front cost.