LG Stylo 3 Plus Review: Phablet on a budget

LG Stylo 3 Plus is a more affordable variant of the Note 5

LG Stylo Plus 3

The Pros

  • Stylus
  • Large display
  • Low price point

The Cons

  • Fingerprint sensor combined with home button
  • Heats up quickly
  • Below average battery life

The LG Stylo 3 Plus puts itself in an odd market position.

With bezels that could only be considered thin if it were 2015, a stylus and an aspect ratio that doesn’t quite line up with current flagship devices, the phablet shares a strong resemblance to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the Note series in general.

Its specs, however, pale in comparison to the Note series, and the price tag is far from similar. At $350 CAD, the LG Stylo 3 Plus offers a phablet on a budget, which could be enough to close the deal for certain customers.

Fingerprint sensor frustrations

The Stylo 3 Plus features a 5.7-inch LCD IPS display, surrounded by grey bezels on all sides. The bottom ‘chin’ features LG’s iconic logo, while the top ‘forehead,’ features the Stylo 3 Plus’ front facing camera, equipped with an LED flash and IR sensor.

The rear of the phablet is where its main camera is located, along with another LED flash and the speaker.

Acoustics-wise, I’ve never understood why smartphones often feature rear-facing speakers. The Stylo 3 Plus’ speaker can easily be muffled depending on how you’re holding the device, or where the device is being placed — the only way to avoid this is to awkwardly hold the phone in portrait mode.

Also mounted on the rear is the smartphone’s dual-purpose fingerprint sensor and home button, which we need to pause and talk about.

Though I recently argued the benefits of a front-facing fingerprint scanner over a rear-facing scanner, the sensor’s issues relate to much more than just its placement.

Whenever I tried to lock the device, I would accidentally unlock it in the same gesture, a result of leaving my finger on the scanner for a second too long. This issue continued to happen until I used a different finger that had not been programmed to unlock the device.

A rear-facing fingerprint scanner like the Nexus 6P would have been preferable due to its sole use as a sensor and not as the device’s lock button.

Moving on from the fingerprint sensor, the left side of the LG Stylo 3 Plus features the device’s volume rocker, which was only slightly raised and had no unique texture or pattern, leading to difficulties telling it apart from the rest of the side.

The bottom of the device features the phone’s mic, an earphone jack and a micro USB port, with the stylus slot being located in the top right corner of the device.

Build wise, the Stylo has a look to it that feels decidedly mid-range. The device isn’t particularly heavy and it doesn’t feel like a cheaper, low-end smartphone, though its removable back is plastic. While I would never suggest dropping a device, my accidental slips resulted in no more than a scuff on the corner of the phablet.

The Stylo’s stylus

LG Stylo Plus 3 Stylus

The stylus, the Stylo’s most notable feature, works as one would expect.

If the device is locked, taking out the stylus will commence its note-taking functionality. A black display appears and users can write, erase, save and share notes while the device is still locked.

Though this was sometimes very useful, waiting too long before putting the stylus to the screen would cause the display to time-out — or go completely dark. To start using the pen function again I had to unlock the device, which was a frustrating experience.

When the phablet is unlocked, the stylus has five functionalities: what LG calls Pop Memo, the note taking app that runs over top of the other apps on the device; the GIF Capture app, which takes video of what is currently on the display; Pop Lens, which utilizes a magnifying lens; Pop scanner, which allows users to make scans using the Stylo 3 Plus’ camera and, last but not least, the device’s Capture+, which opens the phone’s memo taking application.

With Capture+ users can write notes, draw memos, change the style of pen and alter pen colours, among other things. The feature will also allow users to change the current memo into a QMemo, which works similarly to a pop memo but with customizable transparency. The last of the Capture+ functionalities is its ability to take notes on whatever you’re currently looking at whether it was the home page, or a page you’re looking at on Google Chrome.

I thought the stylus came in handy at times, though I’d often forget it was there. Personally, I’ve never found styluses very useful, however, it functions well; it’s responsive and easy to use.

I think I would have preferred it if the stylus itself featured a note taking function that allowed the user to resume writing even when the display times out. All in all, I thought the stylus offered a good experience, and best of all it’s impossible to actually get it stuck inside of the Stylo.

A lot of post processing

The LG Stylo 3 Plus features a 13-megapixel rear-facing shooter and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. While the device takes decent pictures, I felt the results were less colour accurate than ideal. The camera seems to do a significant amount of post-processing and gives photos a strange, blue-tinted look.

Unlike LG’s flagship, the G6, the Stylo 3 Plus doesn’t include a Pro mode within its settings meaning the smartphone’s ISO and shutter speed cannot be changed.

While the device’s pictures are far from horrible, they’re also not that great, particularly under low light conditions. Even with the LED flash, the phablet’s pictures come out grainy. Compared to other devices with a 13-megapixel camera, this one pales in comparison.

The 5-megapixel selfie shooter, however, takes pictures worthy of sharing on Instagram, even in low light.

Typical mid-range screen

LG Stylo 3 Plus

The Stylo 3 Plus’ features a 5.7-inch 1080 x 1920 pixel IPS LCD display with a pixel density of 386 ppi.

Watching Netflix or YouTube videos on the display was generally a decent experience and even on a large display (386 ppi) I couldn’t pick out any individual pixels.

It is worth noting, though, that I occasionally saw a small amount of light bleeding near the bottom of the display. This seemed to only be noticeable under certain conditions, however.

The screen is also difficult to see when viewed in direct sunlight, though this is an issue I’ve run into with other mid-range devices in the past.

I found my biggest problem with the display, weirdly enough, didn’t occur when watching videos and instead happened when looking for new backgrounds for my Stylo 3 Plus. High-definition images weren’t as detailed as they should be, and were far less impressive than on a smartphone with a better resolution screen.

Dependable performance

LG Stylo 3 Plus

The Stylo 3 Plus features a Snapdragon 435 processor with an octa-core CPU and an Adreno 505 GPU. The device also includes 2GB of RAM and has 32GB of on board storage that’s expandable via microSD

The device runs Android 7.0 Nougat with LG UX skin running over top. LG’s UI isn’t too intrusive, and functions similar to stock Android, only with additional features that aren’t necessarily that useful.

Though the phablet doesn’t feature the speediest of processors, I didn’t run into many instances of slowdown or lag. I did, however, notice that having too many apps open would sometimes cause the smartphone to stutter or pause before opening a new app or when multitasking.

Additionally I found that the phablet heats up rather quickly, especially when playing games. After five minutes of playing Don’t Starve and Ninja Arashi, the device would heat up to an uncomfortable extent.

Similarly the device heats up after watching Netflix for only ten minutes, or when in operation while charging.

Below average battery life

LG Stylo 3 Plus battery

The Stylo 3 Plus includes a 3,080mAh removable battery that provides what I’d consider below average battery life.

I found the device would die around 7pm on average usage days, while it’d power out a little earlier if I added about 20-30 mins of Netflix or YouTube into the mix.

To put this in perspective, throughout the day I tend to set the phone to almost full brightness, send the occasional text, use Facebook to view memes, occasionally listen to music on the way to work and rarely pull out the pen to take down notes.

Additionally, I found the battery would drop by about five to seven percent during the morning as I was getting ready for work, while I as only using it to check the time occasionally.

When I hit 20 percent and switched on energy saving mode, the device lasted another 2 hours with barely any usage.

Photography by Rose Behar. 

Price point is sometimes all that matters

Though it has its flaws, the Stylo 3 Plus' size, usability and pen mostly make up for those concerns.

Without a strong processor the Stylo 3 Plus can't keep up with more premium devices, however, its price point ensures it's still a worthy contender. The combination of its size and price make the Stylo the ideal device for the older demographic, who want a large smartphone for easy viewing, but don't want to pay too much for it.

While the LG Stylo 3 Plus heats up too quickly, dies considerably fast during the day, and has a very frustrating fingerprint sensor, my overall experience with the smartphone wasn't negative. I was never all that frustrated with the device -- except for one instance where the battery died when I really needed it.

For the most part carrying around a charger or an extra battery will help with any battery issues, and if you're not often watching Netflix or playing games, the heating up issue won't be problem. At about $350 CAD outright the LG Plus 3 is worth considering. 

"While the LG Stylo 3 Plus heats up too quickly, dies considerably fast during the day, and has a very frustrating fingerprint sensor, my overall experience with the smartphone wasn't negative"