For years, LG’s Stylo handsets have been just about the only budget-friendly phones on the market to feature a built-in stylus, but now they finally have some competition in the form of Motorola’s upcoming Moto G Stylus. While the Stylo 5 ($299.99), also known as the Stylo 5V, Stylo 5+, and Stylo 5X, has an upper hand in the stylus department, it falls short just about everywhere else, with slow performance, a lackluster camera, poor speaker quality, and a dated version of Android. The Moto G Stylus offers a faster processor, better cameras, solid stereo audio, and a nearly stock version of Android 10 for the same price, making it the better buy.
Design, Display, and Durability
From its chunky bezels to its thin plastic back, the LG Stylo 5 looks very much like a budget device, especially compared with the sleek Moto G Stylus and ZTE Blade 10 Prime.
The Stylo 5 measures 6.30 by 3.06 by 0.33 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.4 ounces. An unlocked version of the phone is available in black, but other colors, including pink, platinum, and white, are limited to specific carriers.
The front of the phone is dominated by a 6.2-inch LCD with very chunky bezels, for a 79.8 percent screen-to-body ratio. Resolution comes in at 2,160 by 1,080, for 390 pixels per inch, with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Colors are on the cool side, but the display is sharp and bright enough that you should feel comfortable using it for an extended period of time.
On the back you’ll find a single camera lens and fingerprint sensor at the top, and LG’s logo at the bottom. Carrier editions of the phone might have additional branding.
The top edge of the Stylo 5 is bare, while the bottom is home to the stylus, headphone jack, USB-C charging port, and speaker. You’ll find volume buttons and a hybrid SIM slot on the left, and the power button on the right. The buttons are responsive and easy to reach with one hand.
While the LG Stylo 5 features a plastic back that should be able to handle everyday dings and drops, it’s unclear if the phone features a Gorilla Glass display, and it lacks any sort of water or dust protection. We suggest a sturdy, waterproof case.
The best part about the LG Stylo 5 is, without a doubt, the stylus. It’s basic, but it works well. When the phone is locked, removing the stylus causes a notepad to open. If it’s unlocked, you’ll see a tiny icon in the upper right corner of the screen that allow you to quickly access the notepad and other shortcuts.
While this is similar to the how the Moto G Stylus works, the Stylo 5 has palm rejection while the G Stylus does not. It also feels more natural to write on.
Audio, Call, and Network Quality
The LG Stylo 5 is available unlocked and in different variants for every major US carrier. It’s important to note that different versions of the phone support different LTE bands, so some may not work well if you move them from one carrier to another. If you purchase an unlocked version from directly from Amazon, it should support LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/20/25/26/41/66/71.
We performed network tests with a Stylo 5 variant made for Verizon’s prepaid Visible brand. Testing the phone in Brooklyn and Manhattan, we recorded underwhelming average speeds of 13.4Mbps down and 9.8Mbps up.
These speeds are likely due to the phone’s Qualcomm Snapdragon X5 Category 4 LTE modem, an older 2x20MHz modem with 64-QAM modulation. The Moto G Stylus, for comparison, has a 3x20MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 modem with 256-QAM modulation. In layman’s terms, this means you should see at least a 40 percent increase in network speeds on the Moto G Stylus compared with the Stylo 5.
Network performance aside, call quality is good. Maximum volume for the earpiece clocks in at 84dB, which is loud enough to hear on a busy street. Speaker quality is decent, though we noticed some distortion, and noise cancellation is adequate, but didn’t completely block out construction or sirens.
The bottom-firing speaker is loud, with a maximum volume of 102dB. Unfortunately, it sounds bad at just about any volume. Tonal balance is overly bright and tinny, while mids sound boxy to the point that we though maybe the speaker was being muffled in the hand (it wasn’t).
You also get Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless audio and wearable connectivity, dual-band Wi-Fi, and NFC, the latter of which isn’t included on the Moto G Stylus, and is a requirement for most mobile payment systems.
The Stylo 5 features a single 13MP rear camera with an f/2.2 aperture, as well as a 5MP front-facing camera with a f/2.2 aperture.
While our test shots in good lighting featured solid color accuracy and depth of field, we noticed a lack of fine detail at a distance. Low-light performance, meanwhile, is poor, with muddy, noisy test shots. The front-facing camera performed poorly no matter the light.
Video quality is also disappointing. While the phone can record in 1080p at 30fps, we noticed skipped frames, especially when panning. White balance also appeared to be off, as everything had a bit of a blue tinge.
Specs and Performance
The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 chipset and 3GB of RAM. Storage comes in at 32GB, of which 18GB is available out of the box. If you need additional storage, you can add up to 2TB with a microSD card. It’s worth noting that the amount of available storage you get will vary significantly depending on the version of the phone you purchase.
We found performance to lag with just about every task, from unlocking the phone to opening apps. Having more than six apps open simultaneously slows response to a crawl. We tried playing PUBG: Mobile and Asphalt 8. While we managed to get Asphalt 8 open after a noticeable delay, we experienced lag and dropped frames, and PUBG kept shutting down.
See How We Test Phones
On PCMark 2.0 Work, a suite of tests that emulate typical smartphone tasks, the Stylo 5 scored just 4,460, compared with the ZTE Blade 10 Prime’s 7,527.
The Stylo 5 is powered by a 3,500mAh battery and supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0. In our battery drain test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the phone lasted just 6 hours and 18 minutes.
The LG Stylo 5 ships with the dated Android 9.0 Pie with LG’s heavy-handed UX skin. Just about everything from the Settings menu to the shape of icons looks a little different from stock Android.
LG includes a handful of its own productivity apps, as well as Facebook and Instagram apps. It’s worth noting that most carrier versions of the phone will most likely have significantly more bloatware.
The chance of the phone receiving an upgrade to Android 10 seems slim, so you definitely shouldn’t expect anything beyond that.
While the LG Stylo 5 has a good stylus, that isn’t enough to save it. For the same price, the Moto G Stylus offers more power, better camera performance, more storage, and significantly longer battery life. And if you can live without a stylus, we recommend Motorola’s Moto G Power, which gets you even longer battery life than the Moto G Stylus for $50 less.
LG Stylo 5 Specs
|Operating System||Android 9.0|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 450|
|Processor Speed||1.8 GHz|
|Dimensions||5.51 by 2.75 by 0.39 inches|
|Screen Size||6.2 inches|
|Screen Resolution||2,160 by 1,080 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||13MP, 5MP; 8MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||6 hours, 18 minutes|