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Sunday, August 14, 2011

LG Revolution reviewed

The LG Revolution comes with a large, 4.3-inch display.

LG Revolution
In the ultra-competitive world of smart phones, being first means everything.

Verizon has accomplished that in West Virginia with its 4G LTE service, which is now available in the Charleston area — and coming soon to Huntington. With advertised download speeds of 5-12 Mbps, compared to .6 to 1.4 Mbps with 3G, Verizon’s 4G network is around 10 times faster than 3G. And with smartphones becoming much more versatile, the need for speed is more important than ever, and it’s easy to see why 4G is becoming a much-desired service.

So when given an opportunity to try out Verizon’s 3G and 4G service for the first time, I jumped at the chance. And I’ve always had a good experience with LG products in the past, so I thought I’d give LG's Android-powered Revolution phone on the Verizon network a test drive.

The Revolution is here: First impressions
Upon opening the box, the first thing that struck me about the LG Revolution is its size: It's big. Since the 1980s, we’ve watched mobile phones go from the size of a breadbox to the size of a deck of cards. The Revolution bucks that trend of going smaller, but with positive results. The 4.3-inch screen dwarfs the 3.5-inch display of the iPhone 4. And though LG’s screen resolution is lower (800 X 480) than iPhone’s Retina Display (960 X 640), there’s definitely something to the phrase “bigger is better,” especially while trying to watch a TV show or check out a GPS map while in your car (not while driving, of course). There are two cameras on the phone — a front-facing camera for video chat and a rear-facing camera with a more than adequate 5 megapixel resolution.

Side by side, the LG Revolution, left, is much larger than the iPhone 4.

One of the highlights of the Revolution is its connectivity. In addition to the two cameras, the phone comes with the standard headphone jack, a mini-USB port for charging and a mini-HDMI port, which allows you to connect your phone to a monitor or HDTV and watch your videos in high-definition (720p) in a much larger setting.

The photo quality of the Revolution
is excellent. This photo was taken
from the rear-facing camera.
The phone’s overall voice quality is average to above-average. I had no dropped calls or signal noise. I was also never out of service range for voice or data from New Boston, Ohio, all the way to Charleston, W.Va. And while this may seem a no-brainer, my AT&T iPhone 4 regularly drops calls at my home in New Boston, and I sometimes lose 3G service on both my iPhone 4 and the iPad while at home. 

The photo quality is excellent, and the camera allows for several manual adjustments, such as ISO, white balance and a timer. There are several modes for panorama or continuous shots, and you are given the option of auto or manual focus. The Revolution also comes with a high-intensity LED flash, which won’t light up a gymnasium, but is adequate for small rooms or to shed light on a subject’s dark face. You can also capture high-definition video with the phone’s camera.

Among other phone features include a tethering mode, Bluetooth capability, built in Wi-Fi, a built-in 1GHz processor, GPS services and a micro-SD/SDHC slot allowing up to 32 GB of storage.

The fastest 4G speed I could get from
the Revolution was 2.367 Mbps.
Since the 4G service was only available in the Charleston area, I had very little experience with it. I did make a trip to Charleston to test the 4G speeds, but unfortunately was unable to get the advertised speeds from the phone. After pulling my car into a drug store parking lot downtown, I logged onto to test the speed. After running about six or seven tests, I was unable to achieve anything faster than 2.367 Mbps. In comparison, I tested my iPhone at the same time and place and was able to get 2.23 Mbps speed in 3G mode. While the results did leave me a bit disappointed, they could be contributed to a temporary glitch in the network or inaccurate results from the website, since I was unable to test it again later. Therefore, I will reserve my judgment on Verizon’s 4G service until I’m able to further test it out with other phones.

The LG Revolution, which uses the Android operating system, version 2.2.2, was simple enough to use. Being my first time using Android, I had no problem finding my way around the phone. Setting up various email accounts on the Revolution was easier than on probably any other phone I’ve ever used. I was able to set up my Gmail, Yahoo and Facebook accounts in a snap and remove then just as easily.

As for navigation, the touch gestures are intuitive, and there are short instructional videos to give you quick navigation tips for the phone. Aside from the 4.3-inch screen, the Revolution also has a power button on top, volume controls on the side and four capacitive-touch context buttons along the bottom: menu, home, back and search. In addition to apps such as Facebook and Netflix, the phone comes pre-loaded with Microsoft's Bing search engine.

The Revolution comes pre-loaded with the Bing search engine.

Final thoughts
Overall, I was left with a positive impression of the LG Revolution. It’s a solid phone with many impressive features and a nice, big screen for viewing the pre-loaded Netflix app and games. And although my first experience with 4G service wasn’t the greatest, I’m looking forward to the day when 4G coverage extends to Huntington and beyond — something Verizon has said should happen by around 2013. Until then, the phone’s 3G service is more than adequate for streaming movies, watching TV or surfing the Web to read Digital Thingamajigs.