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On paper, the LG Nitro HD has the goods, with a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU, 4.5-inch IPS true HD 720p display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording, a front-facing shooter, and Android 2.3.5.  It'll run you $249.99, and joins the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC Vivid in AT&T's burgeoning LTE smartphone lineup.

I've worked with it for a few days now, and while it offers some nice features, it's not my favorite LTE phone in the stable.  Here's why:

  • Build quality preferences are always subjective, but I don't care for the way the LG Nitro HD feels.  It exudes a cheap, plastic vibe.  You may be thinking that the Skyrocket (and Samsung in general) provides a similar feel, but it's different here.  The plastic doesn't feel as sturdy, and it just doesn't feel like a premium phone that costs $250.
  • Nitro HD is sporting the usual high-end trimmings, including a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU.  The phone is relatively fast most of the time, though I do notice more hangups on it than I do on the Skyrocket or Vivid.  I attribute it to LG's user interface (more on that later).
  • The 4.5-inch IPS display is a true 720p HD display.  Images are beautiful, and overall, it comes in a close second behind HTC's Rezound.  Like the LG Revolution, the touch accuracy appears to be a bit off, though.  I'm always having to press things twice, as if the screen doesn't register my gestures.

  • You'll get Android 2.3.5 out of the box, which would be great if it didn't come with LG's quirky custom user interface.  If you've used Android before, it's like an odd mix between an early version of TouchWiz and one of the tacky UIs you'd see on an entry-level device.  Beyond the aesthetics, it's clunky, and it makes the device perform worse than it should.  As much of a fan as I am of skins (when they're done right), LG should have stuck with stock Android until they were able to create a skin that's suitable for a high-end device.
  • AT&T's 4G LTE performs pretty well in the Charlotte area, though I've yet to see the 18-20 Mbps speeds that I see on Verizon throughout the city.  In testing, I've averaged download speeds between 3 and 10 Mbps, and upload speeds between 2 and 7 Mbps.  Overall, I find that AT&T's LTE is a bit more inconsistent than Verizon's; speeds are totally dependent on where you're at in the city and the time of day you're accessing it.
  • Call quality is pretty great.  When taking it to an AT&T dead zone over the weekend, I was able to make several phone calls, despite having intermittent chop and other white noise on the line.  I found earpiece volume to be perfectly loud and the speakerphone is one of the better ones I've worked with recently.

 

  • Nitro HD ships with a 1,830 mAh battery, and while I've heard some reports of poor battery life across the web, I've had no major issues with mine.  It seems to be situated right between the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC Vivid.  I took a day and did what I would consider to be "moderate use" - made a few phone calls, sent a few text messages (to PhoneDog fans, because I left the demo number in the YouTube video), checked and responded to email, tweeted, snapped a few pictures, and downloaded some apps.  Battery life was a bit worse than the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, but I made it just into the evening before the low battery warning flashed up on the display.

Choice is always a good thing, so I'm happy to see LG making a presence on AT&T's 4G LTE roadmap.  But it's unfortunate that they keep placing their user interface on their high-end devices when it needs some more work.  I'd expect an entry-level UI on an entry-level or mid-range device (think Pantech Breakout here), but at $249.99, Nitro HD either needs a mature UI or needs to roll with stock Android.  Otherwise, it's a well-equipped smartphone that should serve users well.

Stay tuned for the full review!


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