As Android phones become more and more prevalent in the marketplace, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is fragmentation of the operating system, in terms of device power. On the one hand there are high-end devices like the Galaxy S II, and on the other hand there are lower-end handsets like the LG Doubleplay. The Marquee is in the latter group.

The Marquee, besides for having an interesting name with an extra “E”, is a low-power smartphone for Sprint running Android 2.3.4, a 1GHz CPU, 512MB of RAM, and a 5MP camera. It’s one of the few Sprint handsets you can buy today that can’t access 4G, and is a 3G-only phone, which for other cell providers would be OK but considering Sprint’s unlimited plans, this is highly irregular.

Sprint customers already have access to 4G (but not LTE), and Sprint offers the best (and only) unlimited plan in the US. So the Marquee, without access to 4G speeds (unless they aren’t available in your area whatsoever), is almost wasted because it isn’t equipped for the 4G network.

Hardware

The Marquee is a simple, small handset. It has a 4″ display with a screen resolution of 480×800, the standard for Android smartphones today. The screen uses what LG has dubbed NOVA technology, which makes the display bright enough to use in direct sunlight. Why NOVA is important is questionable – plenty of smartphones (though not enough) are visible in direct sunlight and use standard LCD displays – but it works. The screen isn’t easily to use in direct sunlight, but it’s readable, media is watchable, and you won’t be squinting or blocking the light to see what it says.

That said, watching video and viewing media in general on the Marquee is a surprisingly good experience. Color and light contrast is very high, the screen can get very bright and uniformly very dark. It isn’t quite as good as some of the OLED displays I’ve tested, like on the Epic 4G Touch, but as an LCD display the NOVA technology is exceptional.

Aside from the screen, the Marquee has a typical smartphone look, with a lock button on top, volume rocker on the left side, and a MicroUSB connector on the top. There’s an additional quick-launch key below the volume rocker, which is convenient for opening any application instantly…almost (see Software).

The rear cover is glossy and reflective, thus highly prone to collecting fingerprints. It is easy to take off, and the design and look will appeal to some, though it’s excessive for me. There is 4GB of included memory, which is expandable by MicroSD cards to a maximum of 38GB (with a 32GB card). Overall build quality is sturdy, and it feels good to hold in the hand and light in the pocket.

Software & Battery Life

There isn’t much different in the software than from what you’ll find in most Android 2.3 devices. LG’s overlay is minimalist, and is mostly visible in simple graphic tones, like when trying to scroll too far a yellow bar will appear to indicate you can’t scroll anymore. I really like what LG has done with their overlay, though it’s too minimalist. The notifications bar is completely barren, and included widgets are scarce. I’d rather have less in the case of Android software additions, but there is a middle ground to reach.

The only trouble with the software isn’t so much a software problem as it is a hardware problem. The single-core CPU should be fast enough to properly navigate menus, browse the web, and handle basic applications without lag, but the Marquee doesn’t. Almost everything has a delay, even just going back and forth between apps pages. This makes doing almost everything on the Marquee a slower process. That’s not to say it can’t handle simple tasks; it just stalls frequently while doing so.

Even the quick-launch key, which is a great idea and should work well for a phone of this caliber, is a waste. It only works when the phone is active (meaning if it’s locked, holding down the key won’t open the application you want), and still requires holding the button down for two seconds before activating the app. I set it for the camera, and it’s two seconds slower than just opening the camera app button on my homepage. So what’s the point?

Battery life on the Marquee is pretty good, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering the power of the phone. It will last a full day and then some. It’s not as good on battery life as the Doubleplay, but it is above and beyond what today’s high-end Android smartphones can endure.

Benchmarks

Because of how the Marquee performed before any benchmarks, my expectations were not high. As you can see below, no surprises here.

The final benchmark I ran was streaming flash video from Amazon Prime. The Marquee can do it, but only barely. Most smartphones are incapable of streaming 720p flash (directly from the web; most apps with HD content do not stream flash video), but can handle 480p. The Marquee sputters, stalls, and has low-image quality and a lot of video fragments when streaming video, and that’s over an excellent Wi-Fi connection. It can’t stream over 3G, nor can it stream 720p video without crashing the web browser or simply not loading altogether.

Camera

With a 5MP shooter, the Marquee is okay at best, and a constant blur at worst. The camera has no manual focusv, is slow to shoot, and because it takes so long pictures all too often come out with significant motion blur. I took shots with the Marquee at the LA Auto Show, and don’t even need to block out people’s faces because they are so blurry in some shots.

When I stood perfectly still, pictures could come out clear. Colors are a little off and lighting is exaggerated, and light contrast isn’t quite up to snuff. In bright conditions colors are dull and lack vibrancy. Take a look at the shots below.

[nggallery id=175]

Conclusion

The Marquee is, at best, a decent handset. It has a solid build and reasonable internal hardware, and fairly good minimalist software, but in both real-world testing and benchmarks, the Marquee is weak beyond belief. In every benchmark I ran, both shown above and the ones I left out, the Marquee is consistently at the end, generally by fairly large margins. That, combined with a poor camera and a lack of 4G on Sprint makes the Marquee a questionable buy at best.

The LG Marquee beside the Samsung Galaxy S II

There’s only two things that stand out for the Marquee: the beautiful and bright NOVA display, and its long battery life. Both of these are important components to a great smartphone, but only two pieces of a much larger whole. The Marquee is severely lacking as a smartphone. The few highlights of the phone are massively outweighed by pitiful processing power, poor performance and only an only mediocre camera.

But hey, it does work as a phone. If you’re on Sprint, then be smart and get a 4G-ready phone and take advantage of that unlimited data plan. The Epic 4G Touch is a great handset to consider.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Fair

Bottom Line: LG brings one major innovation, NOVA, to light with the Marquee, but falls short in every other area. It’s slow, small, and lacks the main feature Sprint touts on it’s smartphones today: free unlimited 4G connectivity.

Pros:

  • The NOVA display technology gives the Marquee one of the brightest screens I’ve ever tested
  • Excellent battery life for an Android smartphone
Cons:
  • Slow; nearly every application of this phone has to pause while processing, and constantly
  • No 4G on Sprint may help conserve battery life, but if you want 3G-only for the price of the Marquee you can buy a brand new iPhone 4 for Sprint, both for $100 plus a 2-year contract
  • Camera quality is mediocre; no manual focus settings, requires microSD card for photography



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.