LG X Power review: A turbo-charged battery with little to power

I have gone on record stating that one of the most important things to me in a phone is the battery. After all, what good is a zippy processor and high-quality camera if your phone craps out mid-way through the day?

After spending a month with the LG X Power, the phrase “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind.

LG’s most recent entrant to the budget smartphone market has a whopping 4,100 mAh battery — and unfortunately not much else.

From overheating issues to inconveniently poor sound quality, issues run rampant with this phone, while benefits are few and far between. The only thing that might save it — at least in the eyes of the less tech-savvy demographic that might purchase it — is its $250 price.

Considering it as it should be viewed, a $0 phone on a basic plan, the question shifts from, “is this a good phone?” to “is this a good enough starter phone?”

Specs

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.3GHz quad-core cortex-A53
  • RAM: 1.5GB
  • ROM: 16GB
  • Battery: Li-Ion 4,100 mAh with Quick Charge 2.0
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Camera: 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, 5 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Display: 5.3-inch 720 x 1280 HD IPS LCD with Gorilla Glass 3
  • Weight: 139 grams
  • Dimensions: 148.9 x 74.9 x 7.9 mm
  • OS: Android Marshmallow 6.0.1
  • Fingerprint sensor: No
  • NFC: No
  • Waterproof: No
  • Ports: MicroUSB and 3.5mm headphone jack

If only every phone could last this long

lg x power

To begin on a high note, the X Power’s battery offers the luxurious, long-lasting experience I’ve always dreamed about. I used the device from July 9th to August 9th, 32 days in full and only charged the handset 17 times in that time span.

Considering that I would’ve charged my previous phone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, every night in the same period of time (often due to necessity), that’s a nearly 55 percent improvement over a market-leading Android.

On average, I got two to three days of use out of the device, and would describe my usage as light to medium. On a typical day, I’ll browse using mobile data for thirty minutes, browse on Wi-Fi for around two hours, message throughout the day, make one or two calls and stream music over data for two to three hours.

lg x power

The phone’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology also fared well, erring only moderately over its estimated 2.3-hour charge time. My charges ranged from two to three hours, most clocking in closer to three.

Unfortunately, more than once, charging heated the handset up to 45 degrees Celsius, far too hot for optimum battery health. In fact, one major downside of the phone is that it runs hot. It rests at about 30 degrees Celsius and, at its highest, spikes to 55 degrees Celsius while in use. In comparison, the $400 Moto G4 Plus, which I also felt had a heat issue, spiked at only 45 degrees and rested at 29.5.

This tendency to overheat is all the more tragic because it’s the surest route to quick battery degradation, which could eliminate the most endearing feature of the phone by far — its long battery life.

Not a big dog when it comes to processing

lg x power

One of the reasons behind the X Power’s impressive battery life is also a major detractor. The phone doesn’t have very much horsepower underneath the hood.

The phone runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core SoC and 1.5GB of RAM. Heavy processing apps like Snapchat and Apple Music occasionally crash and performance is generally plodding.

When it comes to graphically intense games the phone provides a frustratingly slow-loading and glitchy experience. With the viral phenomenon Pokemon Go, for instance, the handset wasn’t able to even attempt augmented reality mode, which is unfortunate because otherwise the battery might have made it ideal for the notoriously energy-draining game.

Having said all that, I managed to use the phone for a month, so it wasn’t intolerable, it just felt exceedingly outdated, especially for someone used to current-generation flagships.

A phone made for selfies

lg x power

Another throwback element of the Power X is the 8 megapixel rear-facing camera. There’s no two ways about it: it’s terrible.

Photos come out looking grainy, dark and amateur unless you take a shot in the best of lighting conditions. Even then, they tend to look washed out. Pictures in low-light are impossible, resulting in darkish blurs. All in all, using the rear-facing camera feels like travelling back in time five years to a much less sophisticated mobile era.

The 5 megapixel front-facing camera seems like a much more reasonable experience in comparison, as that standard of quality is relatively average for modern day selfie cams.

It’s clear, too, that this is where LG has chosen to put its priority in terms of photo features, touting Auto Shot, in which the front-facing camera automatically registers your face and snaps a pic.

At least they didn’t try putting lipstick on a pig

lg x power

The LG X Power is ugly. Not in an interesting way, either — it’s boring ugly. Admittedly I’m a little hyper self-conscious, but the entire time I had it I felt that strangers were judging me for breaking my previous phone and settling for what was clearly a $0 upgrade.

I’ll commend the company, though, for at least not attempting to jazz the phone up with any gimmicks. It’s just a plastic slab — only available in black in Canada — with a textured back and no fingerprint sensor or home button.

One would think that, given its utilitarian looks, the handset would at least have the benefit of a pop-off back, but unfortunately, the phone is sealed. This is worrying, especially because its tendency to overheat means the battery, regardless of size, will lose its edge before long, which would’ve made the ability to swap it out for a fresh one ideal.

lg x power

I will say, however, that the phone is impressively light for holding such a large battery. It’s only 139 grams. Comparatively, the similarly specced Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime is 156 grams, and it only carries a 2,600mAh battery. The more current Moto G Play, however, which is set to come to Canada soon, is 137 grams. It packs a 2,800mAh battery and 5-inch display.

It’s also slim at 7.9mm, and can be held in my small hands without any strain, while giving off the appearance of a plus-sized device due to its 5.3-inch, 720 x 1280 pixel HD display. The screen is crisp, with bright whites and rich colours, but fares extremely poorly in direct sunlight, becoming almost illegible — another major downside.

lg x power

One good thing about the X Power’s build, however, is its sturdiness. Although it’s only coated with Gorilla Glass 3, its plastic bumpers and sealed back have protected it from many a fall from my clumsy hands. As for ports, the phone carries a MicroUSB charge port and 3.5mm headphone jack at its base.

Adding to its list of outmoded elements, the phone isn’t NFC-capable.

Dummy-proof user interface

lg x power

The X Power runs Android Marshmallow 6.0.1, with its own LG-made skin. The skin keeps close to stock Android, with the main differences being omissions.

There’s no Google Now feature, or anything hidden to the far right, and nor is there an app drawer. This makes it feel slightly limited, though many, especially less tech-literate users, might consider that a bonus.

The lack of bloatware also has the advantage of freeing up a decent amount of the 16GB of internal storage. With over 5GB taken up by system data, however, the ROM is sure to run out eventually. In that event, the handset is also capable of taking a microSD card with up to 2TB of storage.

Like screaming into a tin can

lg x power

Now we come to the age old question asked of any telephonic device since the invention of the very first: can you hear the person on the other side, and can they hear you?

Unfortunately, the answer for the LG X Power is barely.

While call quality has certainly become less of a priority for mobile users in recent years, it’s still a regular occurrence for many, myself included. This was an issue with the X Power, as I found myself unable to make out anything that was said over the device unless I was in a silent room.

The phone’s miniscule top front-facing speaker was almost completely ineffective, and it’s more powerful — though still flawed and tinny — main speaker is inexplicably placed on the back of the phone, in the lower right hand corner.

lg x power

This made speakerphone calls difficult, as well as listening to music and podcasts, because setting the phone down would muffle the sound, necessitating a flip on to its front, obscuring the screen and making it vulnerable to scratches.

On top of all that, those I spoke with also often told me they couldn’t hear me either. After a while of getting used to the device, I realized the only way I could make calls was by putting on my headphones and shouting in to the receiver.

So, on a very basic level, the LG X Power fails its test as a telephone, an unfortunate detriment when so many of its benefits would’ve made it otherwise appealing to the senior demographic, who need loud and clear call quality.

Is it good enough to be a starter phone?

lg x power

Now we return to the question posed at the beginning of this review: is the LG X Power good enough to be someone’s starter phone? My answer would have to be no. I wish for the sake of its glorious battery, that I could recommend it, but it’s many flaws disallow me from doing so in good conscience. There are simply better options in the same range. A Samsung offering like the Galaxy Grand Prime (also $250) will offer a much better display and sound quality, for instance. For about $100 more, a Sony Xperia XA will get you a 13 megapixel camera and octa-core processor.

There may be an extremely niche use case for it, though. Perhaps, this could be a dream phone for a person who can’t remember to charge their phone and has very small hands, as long as they don’t make calls, play processing-intensive mobile games or take any photos but selfies.

Other than that, potential buyers are likely to find the LG X Power wanting.

Pros

  • Fantastic battery life
  • Light & slim
  • Relatively fast charging

Cons

  • Runs hot
  • Lacklustre processing power
  • Poor quality rear-facing camera
  • Very poor sound quality

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