LG arguably are currently riding the wave that manufacturers dream of. They’ve hit a winning formula with their hardware, their software (while not as clean and invasion free as Nexus software) is generally well liked and they’ve had great success with a number of phones over the last couple of years with the G range of phones and some great success (as well as a couple of swing and miss) with the Nexus devices they’ve worked on.
The LG DAB+ caught my attention when the team was offered the option to review it. I listen to a lot of music during the day at my paid employer and often when something I’m interested in is on, will listen to the radio. Back when at the end of the candy bar phone days and in the early days of smartphones, it was pretty common to have an FM Radio built in. The drawback on this for many users is the need to use wired headphones to provide the radio with an antenna, that need hasn’t stopped with the DAB radio but different issues have arisen with the move to digital.
LG Stylus DAB+ Hardware
I have used a number of LG phones over the last couple of years, starting with the original Nexus 5 and have had some great experiences. Generally speaking the hardware looks great, feels clean and is a pretty solid build; I’m very happy to say that the Stylus DAB+ stays true to this history.
Measuring 155 x 79.6 x 7.4 mm its sitting in the same size proportions as the Samsung Galaxy Note range of phones and the feel in hand is similar too, but when you’re comparing a flagship to a mid-range device thats where the similarities finish. That’s not a criticism of the Stylus DAB+ but more a compliment of the higher end devices because when it comes down to it, the DAB+ is actually a pretty solid device.
The Stylus DAB+ from LG hits most of the marks you’d expect from a mid range phone, perhaps lacking a touch of polish when it comes to memory given that even fairly low-range phones come with 2GB of RAM these days. But in all reality if you’re a power user who craves the top end of everything, this isn’t the phone for you. But if you’re a low to mid range user who’s looking for a bit of extra functionality then listen up.
There’s a respectable, but not earth shattering, quad core processor, 5.7″ HD display, 16GB storage and a 3,000mAh removable (yes some manufacturers still remember how to make a phone with these) battery inside which will meet the needs of the vast majority of users. If you’re after a phone that has the basics and some top-shelf features that won’t break the bank, the Stylus DAB+ is really quickly heading up the list.
|Operating System||Android 6.0.1|
|Processor||Quad Core 1.2GHz|
|Display||5.7″ HD display (720 x 1280, 258ppi)|
|Storage||16GB, MicroSD up to 128GB|
|Rear Camera||13MP autofocus camera|
|Battery||3,000 mAh (removable)|
There’s a couple of comparisons that really quickly spring to mind when you get your hands on this phone. The first is the physical feel of the devices, I was immediately reminded of the HTC One series of phones with the physical feeling in hand. Its solid, without being weighty and (unfortunately) has a vague slippery feel to its outer shell which is highlighted when you try to access the rear power buttons and volume rocker.
The other comparison that seemed quite natural with the Note 5 which is my daily driver at the moment. There’s a couple of reasons for this, the footprint of the Stylus DAB+ and the Note 5 are near identical. Weight, physical size and the dimensions specifically. But the obvious comparison of the two devices is going to be the stylus functionality; the S Pen on the Note devices and the Capacitive Stylus on the Stylus DAB+. The stylus is workable, but the functionality is very simple replacing the need to use your finger for typing but the response is not as accurate and clean as you would want or expect. Personally I also felt that the stylus was too skinny to be really useful as it made my hand ache after using it for a relatively short period of time.
LG Stylus DAB+ Camera
The cameras that LG built into the Stylus DAB+ are decent and more than adequate for the happy snaps running around with your family and friends. The 13MP rear facing camera does a great job for most applications and an acceptable result even in low light conditions. The downside for some users is the lack of software options such as burst mode, filters or selective focus; really only offering some basic function to the user with Auto or Panorama being the options.
The 8MP front facing is one of the better “selfie” cameras I’ve seen for a while, taking some pretty decent pictures (no flash, so low light is a problem) but as with the rear facing camera, little in terms of software based filters or other magic; having said its a good camera it didn’t make me look any better.
We’ve said it repeatedly at Ausdroid in reference to capabilities that Megapixels don’t make the camera, it’s the optics that do the hard work. While it’s nowhere near the G4 and G5 that LG have released, the Stylus DAB+ does a really nice job of producing good colour shots without over-saturating the colours.
Even in variable/overcast light conditions the autofocus camera does a really good job of capturing photos that are really well exposed, even when you’re taking photos that have high contrast areas in them due to shadows or colour of the subject.
LG Stylus DAB+ Software
I do like the fact that they’re running Android 6.0.1 out of the box and there is a lot to be said for the software installation or to be more accurate the lack of bloatware on the device out of the box. There are a few of the obligatory bits and pieces you’ll likely never use, but only a couple that are not active applications or using buckets of space on an already storage deprived device. I really like the DAB radio app though since its very clean, simple and very easy to understand.
There’s a couple of things we like a bit less, including the lack of app drawer, and there’s other things that might not be to everyone’s tastes, including proprietary menu systems. On the whole, though, the LG Stylus DAB+ will be easily accessible to anyone who’s used an LG or Android phone before.
LG Stylus DAB+ Performance and Battery
LG have ticked a lot of boxes here with a slick looking, well specced device that has functions that other devices in the middle of the road phones don’t have. The Stylus DAB+ does really well on the performance front when you consider the specs and price of the device.
Even when I was multitasking with multiple apps open and fast-switching between the lag I experienced was easily put down to the need for more RAM in the phone. There are some apps that will chew through RAM and if you’re switching between a few apps quickly you’re going to induce this lag and performance degradation associated with the lack of memory.
The battery life isn’t brilliant, but it’s also not terrible. For the majority of users its going to do the job pretty comfortably; however, if you’re a heavy user with a lot of calls, screen on time or background data happening you’re going to be looking for power before the day is out and to most users that’s not really acceptable. For me personally with 5 or 6 email accounts running, some monitoring software running for my work, multiple messaging programs going off all day and multiple social media accounts I was looking for power by 3pm.
A point of interest though was that the DAB Radio really didn’t make much difference at all to the battery use. As near as I can tell after removing everything by way of accounts and other battery drain the radio was accounting for somewhere between 2 – 3 percent of battery use per hour. So as long as you are a relatively light users, you could quite realistically listen to the radio all day and still get home with battery to spare.
Stylus DAB+ Connectivity
There is a very predictable connectivity set on this phone starting with the current standards of Micro USB port for charging and data transfer. The choice to stick with MicroUSB versus the emerging standard of USB C is definitely a smart one given the cost of accessories – USB C would make a mid range, cost effective phone an expensive choice for users who had to replace a bunch of cables and accessories.
When looking at phone connectivity, one of the most important yet overlooked factors is the cellular options. Particularly when you’re purchasing from a carrier, there is an implied trust that the phone will just work on their network. The Stylus DAB+ covers the bands that the major carriers offer.
|2G bands||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900|
|3G bands||HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100|
|4G bands||LTE band 1(2100), 3(1800), 7(2600), 8(900), 20(800)|
So you’ll get really good speeds on LTE of maximum 150/50 Mbps.
Interestingly LG have short changed themselves and users on Wi-Fi functionality leaving 802.11 a out of the options. While for a reasonable portion of users 802.11 b/g/n is going to meet their current needs it leaves them with expandability costs for the future if they move to NBN and upgrade their router.
There’s also the expected Bluetooth 4.1 with A2DP for audio streaming which worked very well on my LG Music Flow speakers giving really clear sound even while streaming off Play Music. Rounding out the connectivity is another expected function with A-GPS and GLONASS which are required for the Android Platform for GPS functions such as Google Maps and location awareness in the device.
Stylus DAB+ Digital Radio
When the Nokia phones last the FM radio years ago, it was a real downer to me personally and there aren’t really any viable solutions unless you’re prepared to stream radio, and that’s very expensive in terms of data use and destroys your battery life very quickly.
The addition of the digital radio into the Stylus DAB+ is a shot in the arm for commuters who want to catch the news on the way home or workers who aren’t necessarily in a position to use a PC for streaming, or have space on their phone for gigabytes of music.
The software is very simple to use and will re-tune when it detects you’re in a new area with stations to listen to that the Stylus DAB+ hasn’t yet picked up. Because you’re not using a 2 way data transfer as you would when streaming music, the digital radio is very kind on your battery (about 1 – 2% battery per hour), doesn’t take up any storage and still offers you plenty of entertainment during the day.
There are definitely some great plus’ to having this functionality onboard with very little by way of drawback. Given the marketing that LG are putting out there currently, it is a big selling point of the device and with good reason.
Stylus DAB+ Conclusion
So the LG Stylus DAB+ is a “first of its kind” device running many features similar to the flagship Galaxy Note range of phones with the addition of FM and DAB+ tuner. If you’re looking for the top end performance of a flagship devices you need to look elsewhere but that is clearly not where LG are aiming with this particular device. They have done a great job of offering a really functional device, with some really useful extras such as the stylus and maintaining a price that isn’t going to horrify users.
The LG UI isn’t going to thrill many users because its missing a few important items that many users look for such as a predictable menu system and app drawer. The other main drawback I found is that the battery is acceptable but nothing particularly special which was disappointing when you consider that LG are “selling” the DAB+ with the focus on the radio capability, which in itself is a fantastic additional function on the device when compared to other phones in the mid-range space.
Is it worth a good look?
Absolutely worth a look if you’re after a solid, reliable and quality device. It offers good performance and some really useful functions but be wary if you are a really heavy user, you’ll likely run short on battery and potentially be disappointed with performance. You can buy the device outright for RRP$449 at major retailers or if you shop around you’ll almost certainly pick it up a bit cheaper. A couple of carriers have also picked up the phone and are offering them on various plans so check out your preferred carriers website for details on that.
I look forward to seeing how this concept develops from LG and what they do with their next iteration of the device, or perhaps work in the radio and stylus to their next flagship.
From the review above, would you look at or recommend the LG Stylus DAB+ to your friends or family?