LG Marquee (Sprint)

Upon first glance, the LG Marquee ($99.99, direct) looks like any number of other Android cell phones. But a closer look reveals something special: an exceptionally bright, crisp screen. Aside from a major video playback bug, this is a solid phone if you’re looking for the best screen and physical design for the least amount of cash. 

Design, Screen, and call QualityThis is a sleek phone. the Marquee measures 4.8 by 2.5 by 0.36 inches (HWD) and weighs just under four ounces. It’s made entirely of glossy plastic, with the exception of the glass screen. the tapered back panel features a thin, vertical line pattern.

The 4-inch, 480-by-800-pixel NOVA capacitive touch screen is a sight to behold. it uses IPS LCD technology, just like the iPhone 4’s Retina display. But it’s even brighter, impossible as that may seem. LG quotes it at 700 nits of brightness; Apple says the iPhone clocks in at 500 nits. Next to a Verizon iPhone 4’s Retina display, the Marquee looks about as bright, and had slightly more vivid color. Yellows and whites are more pronounced on the Marquee, even in direct sunlight, although both displays are equally readable otherwise. both phones shame the Super AMOLED-based Samsung Infuse 4G on AT&T ($99, 3.5 stars), especially in direct sun. Viewing angles on the Marquee are solid, but again, roughly equivalent to the iPhone 4.

The Marquee is a dual-band EV-DO Rev. a (850/1900 MHz) device with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. There’s no 4G WiMAX support. the Marquee also works as a mobile hotspot for up to five devices with the appropriate plan. call quality was good, if not spectacular; callers sounded warm and full in the earpiece, with little static. There wasn’t enough volume, though; this isn’t the phone to get if you spend a lot of time outdoors in noisy environments. Transmissions through the mic were a little thin, but clear, and reception was above average.

Calls sounded good through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4 stars). Voice dialing was a failure; it took about 10 seconds to start up each time, and never registered any commands once the display changed to “Listening…” the speakerphone went surprisingly loud, although it had a harsh, grainy tone at the maximum setting. Battery life was average at 5 hours and 48 minutes of talk time 

Apps, Multimedia, and ConclusionsThe 1GHz single-core TI OMAP 3630 Cortex A8 processor and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) OS keep things moving along at a decent clip. LG left the OS relatively unscathed, so it’s mercifully simple to navigate. Sprint ID is also on board; it lets you customize any of the five home screen panels with various downloadable theme packs from Sprint, such as MTV Music, Fashion and Beauty, Green, and NASCAR Sprint Cup. Otherwise, the Marquee is a fairly standard Android device with all the usual features, including an excellent WebKit browser with Flash support, GPS with free Google Maps Navigation for voice-enabled, turn by turn directions, and access to the Android Market, which now features over 250,000 third-party apps.

There’s a memory card slot underneath the battery cover; my 32GB SanDisk card worked fine, and LG includes a 2GB card in the box. There’s also a generous 2.79GB of free internal storage space. the standard-size 3.5mm headphone jack is welcome. Music tracks sounded clear, if thin, through Samsung Modus HM6450 Bluetooth headphones ($99, 4 stars). Standalone videos played smoothly in full screen mode and looked especially vibrant, even transcoded 720p files. however, a huge bug marred all video playback: Audio was out of sync by a full second on all files I tried.

The 5-megapixel auto-focus camera includes an LED flash. Test photos looked good overall, with reasonable sharpness, detail, and light balance, both indoors and out. Indoor shots on a cloudy day still looked fine, with some shadowy areas but surprisingly little grain. Recorded 720p (1280-by-720-pixel) videos played smoothly at 24 frames per second; they looked okay, but could have been sharper and brighter. a 2-megapixel, front-facing camera handles video chats.

Overall, the Marquee is a solid effort. It’s a shame about the bugs, because it could have been a shoo-in for a budget Android phone recommendation. the Samsung Conquer 4G ($99, 4 stars) is a good comparison point; for the same price, you get 4G data speeds and a faster 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, but step down to a dimmer, lower-resolution screen and a more pedestrian overall design.

If you can bump up your budget by $50, the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch ($149.99, 4 stars) adds a beautifully vibrant, 4.5-inch LCD screen and a top-end 1.2GHz Exynos processor in addition to 4G data speeds. the Motorola Photon 4G ($199, 4.5 stars), has an even higher resolution display, better voice quality, and works with an optional desktop dock. Finally, if you’re not beholden to Android, the Apple iPhone 4S ($199, 4.5 stars) is the best cameraphone and portable game console on the market, and its app catalog is second to none.

Benchmarks Continuous talk time: 5 hours 48 minutes

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