The LG Marquee is making the jump from Sprint to no-contract land. Now available on Boost Mobile (also operated by Sprint), this Android phone gives shoppers a sleek, lightweight device with one of the brightest displays we've seen. But is the Marquee worth $279 up front for Boost's savings over the long haul?
Just like its Sprint counterpart, the Boost Mobile LG Marquee keeps things nice and slim with its 4.4 x 2.5 x 0.36-inch frame. While the back panel on the Sprint version of this phone had a reflective surface, the Boost version has a nicer matte finish. The panel slopes gently along the sides for a sleek and elegant look. However, sleek and elegant doesn't translate into steady grip, as the slippery rear plastic panel made us grasp the phone tighter than usual.
Up front is a 4-inch display along with a 2-MP camera and the standard four capacitive buttons (Home, Settings, Back and Search). A 5-MP camera and LED sit on the back along with a slim speaker and LG logo in the lower right corner. The power button, headphone jack and microUSB slot reside on the top of the Marquee while the volume and Quick Launch buttons are on the left.
At 3.95 ounces, the Marquee is thinner and lighter than other no-contract Android phones like the LG Connect 4G (4.8 ounces, 4.6 x 2. 5 x 0.5-inches) and the Motorola Triumph (5 ounces, 4.8 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches).
Display and Audio
The Marquee's 4-inch NOVA 800 x 480p display promises a seriously bright display, and does not disap-point. We were delighted with the striking reds, golds, greens and whites during the "Mirror Mirror" YouTube trailer. Text on sites such as CNN and Clutchmag.com was fairly sharp, but there was some slight jaggedness throughout.
With an average brightness of 586 lux, we found it surprisingly easy to view the Marquee's screen in direct sunlight. While it's much brighter than the 298 lux category average for Android smartphones, the LG Connect 4G was brighter still at 616 lux.
The Marquee's rear speaker failed to impress. Despite trying several different tracks, "Love You Like a Love Song," (Selena Gomez) "Pieces of Me," (Ledisi) and "Seven Nation Army" (White Stripes), we ran into the same problem - passable vocals with barely audible instrumentals. The few strums of bass, drum beats or piano chords we could hear were also rather hollow.
The Marquee comes equipped with a stock Android keyboard and a Swype keyboard. The Android key-board provided relatively large keys with generous spacing in both landscape and portrait modes. Howev-er, we wished we could access special characters such as numbers and punctuation via long press. For that functionality, you'll want to switch to Swype, whose claim to fame is the ability to trace letters to form words. It's great for one-handed typing. Both keyboards offer strong haptic feedback.
Software and Interface
The LG Marquee runs Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), complete with its five standard customizable homescreens for widgets and apps. We were disappointed with the lack of looping, as on phones with Samsung TouchWiz.
The top notification bar features mini-notifications for email, voicemail, signal strength, battery and a clock. Icons for Phone, Applications and Mobile ID are permanent fixtures along the bottom of the dis-play. Pulling down from the top of the display reveals the Notification shade, where updates for emails, social networking, and voicemail are displayed.
Like its Sprint counterpart, the Boost Mobile Marquee comes with Mobile ID packs, each of which con-tains apps, wallpapers and ringtones based on specific themes. For example, downloading the Socially Connected ID pack delivered a snazzy purple background with apps such as Foursquare, MySpace, Thrutu, and Flirtomatic, a dating site. There were also widgets for TweetCaster and Facebook.
Some of the more interesting apps included Thurtu, which allowed us to share photos, location, and con-tacts while on a phone call. We also liked Powow, which allowed us to jot off a quick reply while we were in other apps or blacklist some of our more annoying contacts. We spent a fair amount of time conquering the deceptively simple puzzle game "Shift."
Google-based apps include Books, Search, Talk and Maps.
Don't expect blistering speed from the Marquee's single-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor and 512 MB of RAM. Although we tapped out a few chords in "Guitar Hero," without issue, audio in the game started stuttering when we had Tweetcaster and the Web browser open in the background.
The Marquee scored 1,664 on Benchmark CPU, 99 points shy of the 1,763 Android phone category aver-age. The LG Connect 4G and its 1.2-GHz dual-core processor notched 2,177 while the Motorola Triumph and its 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor delivered an impressive 2,223.
On An3DBench, which measures graphic performance, the Marquee delivered a lackluster 4,886, well be-low the 5,933 category average. The Triumph scored 6,444 while the Connect 4G notched 7,404.
The LG Marquee comes with a 2GB microSD card, which can be expanded to 32GB.
Web Browsing and 3G
Web surfing on Boost Mobile's 3G isn't as fast as the 4G or 4G LTE networks out there, but the Marquee was able to load sites at a reasonable clip. Average loading times for mobile sites such as NYTimes.com, CNN.com and ESPN.com were 5.8, 6.3 and 10.8 seconds, respectively. By comparison, the LG Connect 4G LTE service loaded the same sites in 2.9, 4.6 and 5 seconds. Loading the desktop version of Laptopmag.com took an average of 24.7 seconds on the Marquee, while the Connect 4G only took 11.7 seconds.
On Speedtest.net, the Marquee averaged download speeds of 1.5 Mbps with 0.8 Mbps uploads. The Con-nect 4G delivered averaged a more impressive 4.5 Mbps down and 4.0 Mbps up.
Camera and Camcorder
The 5-MP camera on the Marquee captures images and video in 720p. There was about two seconds of lag between each photo. The majority of our images appeared muted, causing fiery reds and oranges to appear faded, and when we zoomed in past 50 percent, they quickly became pixilated.
Video looked even worse, with the Marquee delivering severely muted colors with high amount of graini-ness as we panned up to the sky and back down to street level. At least the camera took little time adjust-ing for the change in brightness.
Video chatting with the 2-MP front camera was a better experience. During a Wi-Fi Skype session, our caller was still able to read text in a headline we held up to the camera. Audio was clear on our end with fairly clear images with bright color.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of continuous Web surfing over 3G, the LG Marquee's 1540 mAH battery lasted 3 hours and 44 minutes. That's 2 hours and 2 minutes below the 5:46 Android phone category average. The Triumph didn't fare much better, scoring 3:45. The Connect 4G's time of 3:53 also failed to match the average.
Note that we set the Marquee's screen brightness to 40 percent. Because this phone's display is brighter than most competing handsets, you should be able to get away with a lower setting and squeeze out more time between charges.
We made test calls to cellphones and landlines in New York and New Jersey. Calls made in Manhattan were nice and clear. We also enjoyed loud, crisp audio on both ends of the call when we dialed a landline. However, cellphone callers reported a slight echo. When we attempted to make calls at our Bronx apart-ment, we had trouble making calls. We experienced a couple of dropped calls at this same location.
Plans and Value
The $279 LG Marquee features a $55 Android Unlimited plan on Boost Mobile that offers unlimited talk, text, Web and email. Over the course of two years, consumers would spend a total of $1,599. Boost Mobile also includes the Shrinkage feature, which cuts down the monthly bill by $5 after every six months of on-time payments. For example, after six payments, the bill goes down to $50 per month. After 18 pay-ments, a consumer would pay $40 per month. So, assuming you pay your bills on time, your total cost after two years would be $1,449.
Sprint sells the LG Marquee for free, and offers 450 minutes and unlimited data and text for $69.99 per month. Over two years, you would pay $1,679 or $230 more than the Boost total. A Sprint plan with un-limited talk would result in a much more sizable $950.76 delta.
By comparison, Virgin Mobile users with the $229 Motorola Triumph and its $55 unlimited plan would pay $1,549 over two years. MetroPCS subscribers with the $60 unlimited plan and the $319 LG Connect 4G would pay $1,759. Sprint currently offers the Nexus S 4G from Google for $99 with a two-year con-tract. However, with a $99 per month unlimited plan, consumers would end up paying $2,475.
When the LG Marquee debuted on Sprint, we loved the bright display and compact design, but we we-ren't thrilled with its short battery life and 3G speeds. Now that this Android phone is on Boost Mobile, it's a better deal because of how much less you'll be paying per month -- if you're willing to spend $279 up front. Overall, we prefer the LG Connect 4G among no-contract phones because it offers 4G speeds, but if you want the quality of Sprint's network paired with Android on the cheap, the Marquee is a pretty good bargain.