Now that Apple has dropped the price of the iPhone 4 to just $99, budget-friendly Android phones are going to have a pretty tough time standing out. But the LG Marquee has no problem doing that, thanks to a 700-nit screen, the brightest on any handset in the U.S. You'll have no problem seeing your apps even in bright sunlight. But does the 3G-only Marquee shine in other ways?
It's clear the new LG Marquee was crafted to challenge the iPhone 4 in terms of sleekness. The device is a hair thinner than Apple's iconic device (0.36 inches to the iPhone 4's 0.37 inches), and it sports a similar shape and familiar rounded edges. Like the LG Optimus Black (available only in Europe and Asia), the Marquee is sheathed in simple black plastic. This device is sleek, but it lacks the iPhone 4's glass-and-steel luxury.
The Marquee weighs a slight 3.95 ounces, nearly a full ounce lighter than the iPhone 4 (4.8 ounces) and more than 2 ounces less than the HTC EVO 4G (6 ounces), making it easy to carry and slip into tight pockets.
Above the screen is a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, while below are backlit capacitive buttons for Home, Menu, Back, and Search outlined in simple icons. The top edge of the device holds a headphone jack, a microUSB port covered by a sliding door, and a power button that's difficult to press when the phone is plugged in and charging. On the left side are a volume rocker and Quick Launch key that can be set to open any of the phone's applications; by default, it fires up the camera.
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The back of the Marquee has a stylish battery cover coated in reflective silver with handsome vertical black stripes. The removable cover provides access to the included 2GB microSD card, which can be removed without disturbing the battery. Here, too, is a 5-MP camera with LED flash.
LG proudly touts the brightness of the Marquee's 4-inch screen, calling it a NOVA display and claiming that it offers 700 nits of luminescence. It certainly is easily to read outdoors and is brighter than the iPhone 4's Retina display (4.3 inches, 960 x 640 pixels) when the two devices are viewed side by side. Still, the LG Marquee's screen resolution (800 x 480) is nowhere near as crisp as the iPhone 4's.
Click to enlargeWhile it's more expensive, we also prefer the larger 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen offered by the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G, which wowed us with deep blacks, vibrant colors, and wide viewing angles. That said, watching a HQ trailer for J Edgar streamed over YouTube on the LG Marquee proved entertaining, with bright orange muzzle flashes of Tommy Guns and fabric details in dark suits clearly visible.
Along with the standard Android Gingerbread keyboard, the Marquee also comes with Swype Keyboard (pictured). It handily let us draw lines through letters to string words together with just one finger. Using this keyboard to type conventionally worked well, too. Most keys double as commonly used symbols, though we wish the space bar was longer. If you'll be mostly pecking out words, you'll want to switch back to the standard layout.
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Audio piped through the LG Marquee's sole speaker was unimpressive. Our test track, "Will Do" by TV on The Radio, sounded flat, tinny, and lacked any bass. When used as a speakerphone, the speaker performed better with voices clearly audible with no distortion even at maximum volume.
Software and Apps
The LG Marquee runs the latest flavor of Android (for now) in Gingerbread. The standard five home screens are here, ready for users to fill with application shortcuts and widgets. Dragging a finger down from the top of the screen (here or in any app) pulls the notification shade down for displaying alerts. A tab at the foot of the screen offers icons for switching to phone functions or opening Sprint ID, a feature that skins the handset with a new theme, complete with custom applications and wallpapers.
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As for applications, the LG Marquee features the standard selection of Android apps, including Gmail, Latitude, Maps, plus Music and Google Talk. Google Navigation provides free turn-by-turn driving directions, while the Telenav app allows use of the company's paid service. Strangely, the app wasn't functional and asked us to update it via the Telenav website. When we tried this, however, the Marquee was not listed as a compatible handset.
Another interesting offering is the Sprint Mobile Wallet app, which promises to make payments easy by linking credit card info to the phone. At the moment, only Namco Wireless and Skymall are participating merchants. The phone doesn't have an NFC chip built in like the Samsung Nexus S 4G, so it doesn't support the new Google Wallet service.
Specs and Performance
The LG Marquee's hardware is what you'd expect for this price. Under the hood is a single-core 1-GHz Snapdragon CPU and 512MB of RAM. The phone muddled through our battery of benchmarks, achieving a relatively low Linpack score of 11.98, 11 points less than the current average. Still, this was enough to surpass the venerable HTC Evo 4G's result of 6.7 on the same test. Despite running a slower 800-MHz CPU, the HTC EVO Shift 4G (29.71) handily beat the Marquee here, as did the Samsung Nexus S 4G (13.77).
The Nexus S 4G (3,164) and HTC EVO Shift 4G (1,702) also easily trumped the LG Marquee's Benchmark CPU result of 1,602 even though it was slightly above what we typically see from Android phones (1,552). The older Evo 4G (649.67), however, lagged far behind.
Graphics isn't the LG Marquee's strength, with the phone scoring 4,897 on An3DBench, which is a full 1,500 points lower than the current average of 6,413. The Nexus S 4G logged a strong 6,785 here while HTC Evo Shift 4G also mustered a higher 5,984 on this benchmark. The EVO 4G pulled up the rear with an underpowered showing of 3,186.
During everyday use, the LG Marquee felt a little pokey. For instance, scrolling through apps felt choppy, and the device was a hair slower when opening menus and opening apps when compared to dual-core phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II.
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The LG Marquee operates strictly on Sprint's 3G cellular network. On Speedtest.net, the phone averaged just 278.6 Kbps on downloads, which is on the low end of the 3G scale. Oddly, we clocked uploads at a faster 523.3 Kbps. Sprint's first 4G phone, the EVO 4G, demonstrated better download speeds, between 3.8 to 4.3 Mbps, while the Nexus S 4G averaged 3.6 Mbps. Average uploads were also faster for both the EVO 4G (1 Mbps) and the Nexus S 4G (854 Kbps).
The LG Marquee's pokey 3G connectivity translated into slow web surfing, too, with the phone loading mobile versions of ESPN.com and NYTimes.com in about 10 and 5 seconds, respectively. Both the EVO 4G and EVO Shift 4G launched mobile sites in 3 to 5 seconds, and the Nexus S 4G did so in 4 to 5 seconds.
Camera and Camcorder
Equipped with a 5-MP camera with LED flash, the LG Marquee snapped lackluster pictures outdoors. Greenery of shrubs along with the blue in skies looked washed out and muted. While the Nexus S also has a 5-MP camera, pictures from that phone showed more vibrant color.
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Video we captured at the Marquee's highest resolution (1280 x 720) was also choppy and grainy, with weak colors.
The LG Marquee is one of the better performers on Sprint's network in terms of call quality. Voices through the earpiece came through loud and clear, while callers on the other end reported clean audio with no distortion. The handset's speakerphone doesn't have much volume, but we were able to hear callers clearly within a large conference room (provided, it was quiet).
One of the trade-offs of owning a such a thin phone with an extremely bright screen comes is short battery life. The LG Marquee ran for only 3 hours and 40 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing at 40-percent brightness. This runtime is two hours less than the average Android smartphone. The Nexus S 4G (5:32), the EVO 4G (5:27), and the EVO Shift 4G (4:11) all lasted longer than the Marquee.
On the plus side, the Marquee's screen looks brighter than the competition at 40 percent. That means you could squeeze more juice out of this handset by setting it to 30 percent or lower and still be able to see the screen.
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Sprint hopes the LG Marquee will entice budget-conscious shoppers seeking a slim and attractive Android handset. However, it's not the best bargain. The HTC EVO 4G Shift ($99) and Samsung Nexus S 4G ($29) offer 4G network access and faster overall performance. And while the Marquee's screen is bright, the Nexus S 4G's Super AMOLED screen is pretty impressive, too.
Then there's the iPhone 4, which will soon be available to Sprint customers. It has a much sharper display, a better camera, and a larger selection of apps. The LG Marquee does indeed shine bright, but it's not much more than a pretty face.