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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Useful included stylus
Large, bright, high-resolution screen
Has a headphone jack
Back panel is easily smudged and scratched
Camera is mediocre at best and atrocious in low light
No NFC capability
The LG Stylo 4 is an affordable, well-rounded phone and an excellent option if you want a device with a built-in stylus for productivity.
The LG Stylo 4 bears more than a passing resemblance to Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note series— both in its appearance and in its included stylus. For about a quarter of the price of a Note, you get a phone that, at least on the surface, appears to offer many of the features of its high-end competitors. In testing, it proved to be a phone that punched above its weight despite being on the older side.
The LG Stylo 4 looks as slick and stylish as any flagship phone on the market. It may not have curved edges, questionable notches, or attempt a bezel-less display, but it is by no means ugly or bulky. It’s a traditional design that works just fine for the average user.
Though the screen seems to repel fingerprints and smudges admirably, the rear of the device is another story. The instant we removed the Stylo 4 from its plastic wrapping it immediately acquired a layer of filth. Anything that so much as comes near it seems to leave a mark, and when we tried to clean it with the included cloth we found to our dismay that small scratches had been left behind.
Throughout our testing, the rear panel acquired scratch after scratch despite our best efforts to prevent damage from occurring. We recommend purchasing a skin or case for this phone and applying it as soon as you unbox the device.
Writing and drawing with the stylus was surprisingly easy and satisfying, and we were impressed by how accurate it is.
On the other hand, the plastic back could be considered an advantage over the slippery and fragile glass of more expensive phones. It’s easy to get a good grip on the Stylo 4, despite how slim it is. However, it is rather tall and wide with its large 6.2-inch display, so we really had to strain to operate it one-handed.
Button and camera placement is standard, as is the placement of IO ports. If you have ever used an Android smartphone before you should feel right at home with the Stylo 4. What makes it stand out is the stylus, which is located in its own slot on the lower right-hand corner of the phone.
Again, this is similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, but accessing the stylus is slightly finicky compared to Samsung’s implementation. Where Samsung has an elegant press-to-release system, LG has used a far more rudimentary method where the stylus is pulled out with a fingernail. This isn’t particularly hard or inconvenient, but it is certainly inferior to Samsung’s stylus system. Worse is the method of reinserting the stylus, which must be replaced in the same orientation. We never got used to this while testing the phone, and reinserting the stylus was always a little frustrating.
Writing and drawing with the stylus was surprisingly easy and satisfying, and we were impressed by how accurate it was. We had no trouble jotting down legible notes without any practice at all.
We found the fingerprint reader located on the rear of the device under the camera to be fast and accurate. It can also be utilized for more than just unlocking the phone, with fingerprint gestures that allow you to optionally trigger the camera shutter or open the notification bar, among other functions.
Setting up the Stylo 4 was a very simple process, no different than setting up any Android phone. You just pick your language, sign in to your Google account, and agree to all the licensing terms. The phone comes with a bunch of Amazon apps installed, and will prompt you to log in to your Amazon account. Our model came with all the most recent firmware updates preinstalled, which was a nice touch and saved us from having to wait.
The Stylo 4 features a 6.2-inch Full HD+ 2160 x 1080 LCD display that is sharp and color accurate. At a maximum brightness of 476 nits, it is more than adequate for viewing in harsh lighting conditions, and is one of the best aspects of the phone. It is remarkably scratch resistant (especially compared to the back of the device), so you don’t need to use a screen protector unless you want to be extra safe.
It is worth noting, though, that this is only an LCD, and does not benefit from the deep blacks and incredible vibrancy and contrast of higher-end AMOLED panels. That said, LCD is a perfectly serviceable screen type with good viewing angles, more durability, and less risk of burn-in than OLED displays. Like the rest of the design philosophy, it is practical, if not particularly eye-catching.
The aging Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor in the Stylo 4 hails from way back in 2017. Though for most day-to-day basic phone use we did not notice any problems, once you try to use the most recent and demanding apps, the phone really starts to show its age.
We ran PCMark and got an overall Work 2.0 score of 4,330, a score that isn’t spectacular compared with newer devices. Interestingly, the score was largely dragged down by the Writing 2.0 (2,806) and Data manipulation (3,077) tests, and if not for those scores the average would have been much higher. It scored particularly well when it came to Video Editing (5,232) and especially Photo Editing (7,296). Web Browsing was firmly in the center place with a score of 4,619.
This is an excellent affordable smartphone for those who really want an integrated stylus.
For graphics testing, we ran GFXbench T-Rex and Car Chase tests. For the T-Rex test, the phone averaged 20 frames per second (fps) and an overall score of 1,115 frames. That’s pretty abysmal compared to most other mobile devices which score in the 2,000 to 4,000 frames range. Car Chase was an even worse experience, with the phone only attaining 3.2 fps with a score of 189.9 frames—that’s between 5 and 10 times worse than most other devices.
With those scores in mind, don’t expect to play graphically demanding games at anything better than the minimum video settings. We played DOTA: Underlords, one of the latest and greatest mobile games, and found that it could only manage minimum graphics settings while maintaining a reasonable framerate. Even then we noticed many graphical glitches and occasional dropped frames. For some reason, the in-game hero Pudge refused to render fully, and only displayed as a ghostly floating red butcher’s apron.
The LG Stylo 4 performed reasonably well indoors and outdoors on Verizon’s network, but it’s worth noting that we tested the Stylo 4 in the Southwest Washington area, which is very rural with patchy, inconsistent coverage, and speed varies wildly from location to location. We were able to get 19.0 Mbps down and 8.5 Mbps up in one location, which was consistent with results from the LG K30. We got better results from the Galaxy Note 10, but here in the Pacific Northwest it’s hard to come to a decisive conclusion in terms of connectivity.
In practical terms, we had no trouble browsing the web, streaming video from Netflix or YouTube, and even playing online games so long as we were in an area with good coverage.
Wi-Fi connectivity is great, with solid dual-band coverage. You also get Bluetooth 4.2, but no NFC capability. This means that the phone won’t be compatible with software such as Android Pay or some file transfer methods.
The Stylo 4 provided adequate sound quality from the single speaker located on the bottom of the device. Music was reasonably pleasant to listen too, though it could be a little muddy and lacking in the bass range.
The location of the speaker prevented us from accidentally covering it with our hand, as was the case with some smartphone speakers that are located on the rear of the device. That said, don’t expect anything really exciting from the Stylo 4 in terms of sound quality, and for most listening, you will want to use headphones, earbuds, or an external speaker.
The sound quality was perfectly acceptable for phone calls. We were able to hear and be heard even in somewhat noisy environments.
In good light, the Stylo 4 offers reasonably good image quality from its rear 13-megapixel camera. Details were reasonably crisp, and video looks okay. It’s quick to focus and easy to use, giving you good, though not amazing results. Color accuracy was good, but we experienced issues with the camera overexposing highlights.
Low light photography is poor, with lots of noise and muddy, unclear details. Expect good performance in bright light, but you won’t taking a lot of great shots at night or in dim, indoor environments.
You get an odd assortment of different modes with the Stylo 4. In addition to Auto, there is Food mode which essentially allows you to control the temperature of the scene. Match Shot takes a photo with both the front and rear cameras and sticks them together. Guide shot takes one of several sample photos (a bowl of noodles, a lollipop, and a smartphone), and there are several other modes including panorama which we found works moderately well.
The front-facing camera is 5-megapixels, and also provides respectable results. It includes typical portrait modes that clean up blemishes or blur out backgrounds, albeit with a less than consistently pleasing effect.
The 3,800mAh battery provided plenty of juice, allowing us to stretch runtime out for about 9 hours before finally running it down. It should easily last the full course of an average workday and then some. It takes about 1.5 hours to charge to 100 percent.
The LG Stylo 4 comes with very little bloatware. Aside from the usual stock Android apps, you will also find a suite of Amazon apps preinstalled, as well as LG’s stylus related apps which can be accessed via a floating dock that opens into a menu with links to various apps. These are used to quickly take notes, capture screenshots, as well as to perform a few other functions. The integration is mostly good, though we sometimes found the default note-taking app to be difficult to use compared to Samsung’s excellent system in its Note phones.
With an MSRP of $300, the Stylo 4 is a bargain for a stylus-equipped phone. You should expect to be able to find it for much less than that price point too. Of course, what you pay will vary wildly based on where you buy it. In terms of budget phones, you could find something newer for less, but the quality of the stylus and screen could easily justify buying the Stylo 4 at full MSRP.
If you don’t like the idea of putting down a grand on a phone but want a stylus, then the Stylo 4 is a reasonable budget option.
Comparing two phones in such different price brackets isn’t fair, but the stylus, form factor, and obvious intent of the Stylo 4 make the comparison inevitable. This is a phone that will immediately appeal to anyone who wants a stylus, but doesn’t want to fork over up to a grand for the Note.
Put simply, the Note 10 is a premium, high end, flagship device, and each iteration is the pinnacle of its generation of smartphones. If you can afford the chunk of change necessary, you will certainly not regret going with such a high-end device.
That said, there is an argument to be made for cheaper devices like the Stylo 4. In no way is it a better device, but at a quarter of the cost, you are getting tremendous value for your money. The Stylo 4 is not an exciting device, but it’s basically capable of everything the Note is, if in a greatly reduced capacity. It all comes down to what you want to spend. If you don’t like the idea of putting down a grand on a phone but want a stylus, then the Stylo 4 is a reasonable budget option.
The budget kind of productivity.
The Stylo 4 will never win any awards for innovation, power, or design, but it doesn’t need to. This is a device that is purpose-built to offer productivity-minded consumers a device with the basic functionality of a Samsung Galaxy Note series device. It does this remarkably well, acting as an affordable smartphone for those who really want an integrated stylus.
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