Monday, December 19, 2011

LG Nitro HD

The LG Nitro HD... one of the most expensive phones AT&T has to offer. At $250 it's got a hefty price tag, but it has some unique features that account for that price tag. First of all, the "special feature" of this phone is the 4.5" "true" HD screen for high definition videos, gaming and pictures, as well as better text readability. It's also the third LTE phone to hit AT&T so it's unique in that way. But I still have some questions regarding this phone. What else sets it apart from the rest? Is it worth the extra money? Does the "true HD" make enough of a difference to matter? All these questions and more will be answered in my full review.

- Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) operating system
- 8 MP HD Camera with a single LED flash and 1080 P HD video recording and a 1.3 MP front-facing camera
- 1.5 GHz dual-core processor
- 4.5" high resolution HD display
- Up to 7 hours of talk time
- 2 GB internal memory with a pre-installed 16 GB Micro SD card (expandable with up to a 32 GB Micro SD card)
- 4G LTE enabled
- AT&T Visual Voicemail for Android

I'll start this review off how I usually start off reviews... the physical appearance. First of all, this phone is very tall and skinny, a bit like myself. Like me, it's a bit too much to handle at times too. Even for me and my big bear paws, reaching the lock button without straining my fingers or dropping the phone was hard and it was much more comfortable (and safe) to just hit the lock button with a finger on my other hand before shoving it into my pocket. The reason for it being so tall? Well, I guess I can only speculate... the bottom part of the phone under the display seems to have too much room there and the top part above the display does too. It seems that the phone could have had a little bit shaved off of both of these sides. The thing is, it's very thin for an LTE smartphone and with the addition of the LTE antenna and a large processor to support that network, it's very possible that LG decided it would be better thinner and taller rather than shorter and fatter. Regardless, if "tall" phones are not your thing, look elsewhere.

The top of the phone showing the power/lock button, 3.55
mm headphone jack, and the micro-USB plugin with the
cover open
 The design is very similar to the Motorola Atrix 2. It's mostly black with a silver lining around the edges. The back is texturized and has a thin rubber layer for grip. The battery cover snaps on in a very similar way. The back camera is almost in the same place. The differences end there, however, because the insides are upgraded from the Atrix 2. The charger is on the top, center of the phone. The headphone jack is the top left. The power/lock button is on the top right and has a red accent on it. The volume rocker ended up on the left side of the phone near the top. The charging port has a built-in cover over it to prevent pocket lint and purse gunk from getting in there (which is a welcome feature).

The three Android soft keys at the bottom
 Another quirky little feature about this phone is that it's one of the only top-of-the-line Android smartphones that has only three soft buttons on the bottom. One is a menu key on the left side. This button doubles as the menu key and the search key. With a simple press, the button will bring up the menu. If you press and hold it (a long press) the key will bring up the search menu. The middle button is the "home" button that always brings you back to the home page and the right button is the "back" button that closes menus, brings you back to the previous screen, cancels, etc... Usually in the U.S. there's a dedicated "search" button that brings up a google search when pressed, but this one is lacking that. To be honest, it isn't missed and not including that "search" button makes the phone seem less chaotic.

Now, onto the phones performance.

Battery cover slightly removed to show how
it comes off
 This phone is quick. No two ways about it. The processor moves apps along and encourages them to open at the quickest of speeds. Multi-tasking does not bog it down. Running Pandora in the background while playing games or searching the internet doesn't affect the phones performance.

The internal memory is a "true" internal memory, not just an internal Micro SD card with a separate internal memory. This is a good thing, because it means that you can use the 2 GB of internal memory for storing apps and music. There isn't a smaller, separate memory that you're supposed to be able to fit all of your apps on like on other phones I know *ehem* Samsung Infuse 4G *ehem*. Suffice to say, I'm thrilled that LG hasn't skipped a step here for their premium smartphone and has even gone as far as to include a 16 GB Micro-SD card pre-installed in the expandable memory slot.

I absolutely love this display. I absolutely love watching HD videos, playing HD video games and viewing HD pictures. Unfortunately, the screen is so good that it makes some lower definition pictures, wallpapers, and videos look worse. It's kind of like when we came out with HD TV's for the first time. Now, all the sudden we could see all the blemishes on people's faces, the lines in their stage make-up, the grime in their teeth, the boogers in their nose... and Hollywood had to up their game because little things that would be missed with lower definition TV's now fell under a microscope. The same is true with this phone. The high definition screen makes imperfections in the lower definition pictures, wallpapers and graphics look bad. I suppose it isn't the fault of the phone, so you can't really put the blame on the phone itself, but I feel like it is note-worthy because that tells you how good of a screen the phone has on it.

The back of the phone showing the camera and LED flash
 Battery life with this phone is on par with the HTC Vivid. It's not amazing, but it gets you through the day on a full charge with medium usage. With heavier usage, you're going to need to plug it in part of the way through the day. The battery takes a very long time to charge too (on-par with the likes of Samsung) so that adds to the hard time you'll have keeping it charged.

LG's user interface - the skin they put on their android phones that determine how the phone looks and what native apps look like - still looks like Roger Rabbit exploded all over it. It looks very cartoony. It hasn't changed since the LG Thrill 4G. I don't like it. While it doesn't effect the performance of the phone, it is annoying.

The front facing camera, top speaker for talking on the
phone, and the AT&T logo!
 The camera is great. Taking pictures is just as good as other 8 MP cameras on the market. Videos, however, are way better than other phones on the market. If you're looking for a portable substitute for larger dedicated video camera you have at home, this is it. I don't often care too much for the quality of video I get from most camera phones, but this is something to brag home to Mom about (or record Mom opening her Christmas presents with). It shoots at 30 frames per second and at 1080p HD video that is instantly viewable in HD quality right on the phones screen, there is not a single video camera on a phone that beats this one so far.

To not mention the data speeds on this phone would be a shame. Admittedly, I'm not in an LTE area to test the true internet speeds this phone is capable of, but it's still very fast on the local HSPA+ network that's available - much faster than other phones on the same network. Download speeds were around 7.5 MBPS in the higher ranges and 5.5 average. Upload was 3.0 on the higher range, but averaged around 1.5 MBPS. This is almost exactly the same as the HTC Vivid, a little faster than the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, and faster than the original Samsung Galaxy S II or the Motorola Atrix 2.

Side profile to show how slim the phone is and the location
of the volume buttons
The real defining characteristics of this phone are the large HD screen, the video camera and the LTE compatibility. Other than that, it's very similar to what's already offered by other companies in the smartphone department. It is worth it if you want a portable video camera that doubles as your phone. It's also even more worth it if you want a forward-compatible phone that will eventually be able to take advantage of AT&T's LTE network. The HD screen is sweet for people who actually watch videos on their phone too. If none of these things apply to you, you may want to keep looking for something a little cheaper (see: Atrix 2 or iPhone 4). Make sure to check out the bonus pictures below!

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