With the Galaxy Note 7 essentially out of action, there aren’t many new smartphones with styluses out on the market. After the Note 7’s latest issues, the closest device we can compare it to has got to be the LG Stylus 2 Plus, and we can’t deny that the latest Stylus-equipped smartphone from LG draws us in.
But how does the LG Stylus 2 Plus actually compare to the biggest smartphones on the block? The device is not a flagship and it doesn’t come with flagship-like specs, but perhaps it has enough to avert our gazes from the Note 7 just long enough for it to be a considerable option for a new smartphone-stylus combo?
Appearance and Build Quality
The LG Stylus 2 Plus isn’t going to win any awards for it’s straight and simple form factor. In fact, besides the trademark LG features such as the unique back-facing button placement, the design for this smartphone couldn’t be considered any simpler.
When compared to something like the elegant Note 7, or even the HTC 10 with its sleek curved all-metal frame, the LG Stylus 2 Plus is lacking a little.
The Stylus 2 Plus features a simple bar shape with slight curves leading inwards at the top and the bottom of the device. One good thing about this kind of build design is that it will certainly make good friends with your hands, even if it’s not exactly appealing to your eyes.
It’s not like it’s an ugly phone, it just doesn’t have enough to make it catch your attention. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing, though – the lack of attention to the overall physical design has perhaps given LG the ability to focus some of their efforts elsewhere on the LG Stylus 2 Plus.
The Stylus 2 Plus is primarily built from different types of plastic – it’s as if LG had taken a trip back in time to the post-Galaxy S6 era.
Whilst it feels a little less durable, the truth is, the plastic on the Stylus 2 Plus is very capable of holding itself together.The softer materials also mean that you’re not going to find the corners of your hands hurting at all like you may find with full metal devices.
There are also two other little aspects of the Stylus 2 Plus design that are worth mentioning, and this, of course, includes the Stylus, which can easily be pulled out from the top right corner of the device, and the power button and volume rocker, which are found on the back, exactly where most users will find their index finger to be resting.
Some variants of the LG Stylus 2 Plus also offer a fingerprint scanner on the power button, but not all do – if you’re interested in purchasing the LG Stylus 2 Plus, you’ll have to double check that the variant you’re looking at has one.
The Stylus looks nice, too – it feels sturdy and light, but not lightweight enough to become flimsy under heavy use.
The LG Stylus 2 Plus is equipped with a 5.7-inch display, making it just a tad bit larger than the average display size in 2016. The display has a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels, which on paper should be more than enough for a nice viewing experience.
One criticism that was made with the original LG Stylus 2 was that the display was just not good enough. The original had a 720p resolution and at this level of resolution, you really can start to see the pixels and lack of quality when viewing media up close. The jump up to 1080p on the Plus was much needed.
The colors on the LG Stylus 2 Plus are quite impressive for such a cheap price point and the vibrancy stands out proud against competitors such as the Moto G4 or the Lenovo K5. Like with many of LG’s smartphones, the brightness levels on 100% brightness aren’t great.
On the opposite side of things, the Stylus 2 Plus can be dimmed considerably more than most other smartphones, and this is something I’ve also personally noticed with LG’s displays since the LG G2. If you’re the kind of smartphone user that likes to chill with your device before bed, the dim display at 1% brightness will certainly appeal to you.
In summary, the display is sharp, has a vibrant color range and it’s perfect for indoor or night time use. The display starts to struggle outside on a bright summer’s day, though.
Software and Functionality
LG’s UX has become quite heavily loaded with features recently, so much so that I usually switch to another custom launcher whenever I have an LG device as my daily driver.
Fortunately, the performance side of things isn’t affected by the somewhat bloated LG UX, but there is a host of deviations from the stock Android 6.0 experience that I just wished LG didn’t include.
There are some useful software changes and additional functionality that I’ll touch on in a second. Before that, I’d like to mention that some of the UI choices that LG has made are perhaps not going to appeal to everybody.
Firstly, the app drawer is gone on LG UX 5.0. If you want it back you’ll have to delve into the settings to download it onto your device.
LG has attempted to create their own everything and as a result, we’re thrown all sorts of LG apps that are either stuck on there for good or simply act as a duplicate for apps already available on the stock Android experience. This does nothing but adds extra confusion and clutter the homepage with things you’re never going to use.
Things like Play Music and the Photos app are mimicked by LG’s own Music application and secondary Gallery app. Next, there is a host of applications that are essentially just extensions of the settings menu. Standalone apps for battery saving controls and memory information, which can usually be found hiding in the settings, just seems to be a bit over the top.
There are some good aspects about the LG Stylus OS but I find it frustrating that it takes a lot of wading through the muck before you’ve got a clean, accessible interface at your fingertips.
Pull out the Stylus and you’ll be greeted with a tray of apps to use the pen with. For example, you can bring up a transparent sketchbook that can sit over the top of your other apps so that you can scribble down content. The sketch app can be used whilst performing pretty much any other action on your phone.
You can also use an app to take screenshots and then edit them with the stylus before finalizing it and saving it as an image on your device, and you can even add other apps from the Play Store to the Stylus app suite for quick access.
Another interesting feature for the LG Stylus 2 is the DAB+ app. Plug in your headphones and you’ll be able to tune into the local radio stations, so long as you’re in a region that supports it. This includes the UK, Europe, Australia and some parts of Canada.
The DAB radio is a feature we haven’t seen on a smartphone before, and it’s interesting to see LG include it. Perhaps not useful all the time, but handy in those rare situations where you’ve got nothing to listen to and have a limited data connection.
LG also has it’s own LG Health app, which nowadays has the standard step tracker, calorie counter and leaderboard/ranking system that we’ve seen on smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Sony. It’s nothing new, but I’m happy that LG has added it, as it’s something that some manufacturers miss out on.
For the most part, the rest of the LG interface offers the same kind of functionality that you’d expect to see on every Android device.
Camera, Specs & Performance
An important thing to mention about the LG Stylus 2 Plus is that it is far from a flagship device, so we can’t expect top-notch specs. Luckily LG didn’t skip out too much on the performance department, though.
There are two variants of the LG Stylus 2 Plus, one of which includes 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage and another that includes 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Obviously, if you can, aim for the 3GB version – that extra 1GB of RAM makes a world of difference for multitasking on present day Android.
The SoC used for the Stylus 2 Plus is the Snapdragon 430 – this has an octa-core setup for help with switching between lower core usage for power saving and high core usage whilst under stress. The 430 obviously is quite far away in terms of performance to something like the Snapdragon 820, but for mid-range spec hardware, it does well.
If you get the 3GB version, the times where you’ll find the operating system struggling to perform optimally will be rare.
You may not get the absolute best performance from playing games, but for the most part, unless you’re playing intense 3D games on the highest settings, the gaming experience you get isn’t going to cause any freezes or drops in frame rates big enough to get frustrated about.
Fortunately the LG Stylus 2 Plus does support microSD cards, so even with the 16GB version, you shouldn’t have to worry about limited storage.
When it comes to the camera, the LG Stylus 2 Plus is equipped with a 16-megapixel front facing snapper that can actually pack quite a punch when it comes to real life performance. It’s gotten to the point where a lot of the camera offerings in the smartphone world are hard to compare, but it’s rare that we see such a great camera option on a mid-range device.
The LG camera app also has a lot of useful photography settings, too. With the LG camera app, you can quickly switch between an auto setup, a quick, interface free camera mode or a more in-depth manual mode with controls for white balance, ISO, shutter speed and more. There are also built-in panorama and slow-mo modes.
The camera on the front of the LG Stylus 2 Plus has an LED flash and the 2GB RAM variant has a 5-megapixel sensor, whilst the 3GB variant has an 8-megapixel option.
Price and Rating – 4/5
So, overall, the LG Stylus 2 Plus is a mid-range smartphone with a few features that make it stand out clearly from other devices in the same price category.
The LG Stylus isn’t going to break any major performance benchmarks, it’s physical appearance and user interface isn’t particularly pleasing to the eye, but it does offer reliable performance and once you’ve customized it to your liking, a fairly comfortable experience with a bit of extra functionality with thanks to the included stylus.
Really what else can you expect from a mid-ranger? LG has really done well with this one. Considering the price, which currently sits at $276 on Amazon, we’d happily give the LG Stylus 2 Plus a 4 out of 5.
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