The LG Nitro HD feels like a phone from the future. That future being about six or seven months from now, when most high-end phones are light and thin, have huge screens, and boast ultra-fast data connections. If you want a phone that won’t go obsolete overnight, this is your guy.

The Nitro costs $200 with a two-year contract and is one of AT&T’s first 4G LTE phones. LTE stands for long-term evolution, and it’s currently the fastest network speed you can get on a mobile device outside of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Verizon was the first of the major carriers to debut an LTE network in the U.S. late 2010, with AT&T following in fall 2011. Sprint has announced it’ll begin rolling out LTE in mid 2012.

AT&T’s LTE network is coming online slowly, though, and it wasn’t available in our market when we had the Nitro HD, so we weren’t able to test the LTE connection. Nevertheless, 3G data service was very good, running so fast at times it felt like 4G. That was thanks to AT&T’s HSPA+ 21 network, which the carrier also considers 4G. It was also probably helped by the 1.5GHz dual-core processor that powers the Nitro — fairly state-of-the-art as far as current smartphones.

If you’re not used to phones with big screens, you’re in for a treat as soon as you unbox the Nitro HD. The screen measures a relatively massive 4.5 inches (diagonal), with a screen resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. That equates to a pixel density of 329 ppi (pixels per inch) — which matches the so-called “retina” display of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. However, I found the Nitro’s LCD screen to be not quite as eye-poppingly bright as today’s AMOLED phones, like the one on the Samsung Galaxy S II.

Still, the big, crisp screen is much appreciated when using the 8-megapixel camera. The Nitro’s built-in camera is performs extremely well in low light. However, it also has an annoying shutter lag when you snap a pic. (Perhaps that can be fixed with a software update.) Although the screen is 720p, the camera can can capture full HD in 1080p format. Regardless, videos look great on the big screen.

The Nitro’s implementation of Android (version 2.3 “Gingerbread”) is pretty straightforward, and will be familiar to anyone who’s used one of the Google OS-based handsets before. The Nitro neatly groups downloaded apps below the several that come preloaded. The bloatware is pretty annoying — it would be nice to be able to delete some of the pre-installed clutter or create folders. There may be ways to do this through other apps, but for the average Android user, it’s not obvious.

Benchmarks

Although it’s not specific to this phone, Google’s integration of its cloud services is getting better and better. First-time Android users will be thankful for the automatic cloud uploading of pics and videos, making them easy to share via Google+ or some other service. And it goes without saying cloud-based email and calendars sync seamlessly — even ones from non-Google services (Hotmail, for example).

Did I forget something? Oh, yes, phone calls. As a phone, the LG Nitro is unremarkable, though it’s served very well by the slim form factor. I must say, it’s impressive to see 4G LTE connectivity built into such a thin and light device. We thought customers might not see phones like this until later in 2012, when the combined LTE chipsets would become available, but engineers have found ways to innovate with design, and it shows in the Nitro.

The Nitro is an excellent modern smartphone, and it should keep its owners in the cutting-edge of mobile tech for at least a few months, and then keep them satisfied for a lot longer. It would have been nice to test the 4G LTE connection, but that’s because the phone is such a good vehicle for it. With a gorgeous screen, slim design and powerful processor, the Nitro is ready for anything you want to throw at it — even the future.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★☆

Great

Review of LG Nitro HD by
Bottom Line:
2012-01-23
4.0/ 5.0
┬áThe LG Nitro HD is a cutting-edge smartphone, with an big, high-res display that looks amazing. If you like — or are thinking about — Android, and LTE is in your area, you can’t lose.

Pros

  • Huge screen
  • Very light and thin
  • Fast connection, fast processor. Did we mention it’s fast?

Cons

  • Plenty of bloatware
  • Camera has frustrating shutter lag
  • LTE not in all areas

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Karl Tennant