LG unveiled their X line of smartphones to hit a market that the G series just couldn’t. They’re all designed with a specific use-case in mind, but they’re also significantly more affordable than LG’s flagships, and in the case of the X Venture, it offers a level of durability that this year’s G6 simply can’t match.
AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the X Venture, continuing the trend of carrying a rugged smartphone for users that want something that’s not covered in fragile glass.
Like other rugged phones, however, there’s always a chance that you’re getting a subpar experience for the reinforced design, so we’re going to dig into the LG X Venture to see how it holds up.
The LG X Venture scraps traditional slim and sleek smartphone design for something that looks like a cross between a brick and a tank. It’s durable, kind of heavy, and is generally just an ugly phone. With that being said, if you’re buying the X Venture, that’s probably not going to be a deal breaker.
The back of the device is reminiscent of the LG V10, which used a textured grip to add protection and make the device easier to hold. That’s a stark contrast from the glass and metal backs that most other phones use, but it pays off for the X Venture.
The edges are rounded off, but both sides of the device are reinforced with a metal bumper explicitly to help with drops and spills. It’s not sexy, but it does give the phone a certain utilitarian charm.
On the bottom of the device you’ll find a micro-USB charging port and headphone jack, plus a single microphone.
The left side of the device houses the volume rocker, SIM card tray, and action button that can be remapped to different functions.
The right side is where you’ll find the power button.
On the face of the phone you’ll find a physical home button in between a physical back key and physical multitasking button. The home button also doubles as the phone’s fingerprint scanner, continuing the trend of cheaper phones using biometric sensors for security.
On the rear, you’ll find the camera lens and a single LED flash.
Aside from being incredibly resistant to damage from drops, the LG X Venture is also completely waterproof (IP68 rated, which is better than your typical water resistance for flagship phones) so you don’t have to worry about rain, splashes, or even taking this thing in the pool.
The design here was very deliberately picked for function over form, but it does make for a very easy to use and easy to hold phone, even if it won’t win any beauty contests.
|LG X Venture|
|Announced||May 22, 2017|
|Display||5.2-inch (1920x1080) IPS LCD w/ Corning Gorilla Glass 4|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 435|
|Storage||32GB w/ microSD card slot|
|Rear Camera||16MP w/ autofocus, LED flash|
|Software||Android 7.0 Nougat w/ LG UX|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, GPS|
|Sensors||Ambient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, fingerprint|
|Measurements||154 x 75.8 x 9.3mm|
|Colors||Black, Chocolate Brown|
The LG X Venture uses a mid-range Snapdragon 400 series CPU, with 4 cores clocked at 1.4GHz and 4 low-energy cores clocked at 1.1GHz. Like most of Qualcomm’s non-flagship processors, you miss out on extremely high-end performance but get some pretty nice battery efficiency and a lower price tag out of it.
Swiping through the phone and browsing the web are decent experiences, although not perfect. Basic tasks aren’t a problem for the X Venture, but quickly jumping around between apps for productivity purposes can gum things up. It’s not unbearable, but it’s also not pleasant.
Gaming performance is also pretty middle of the road, so you won’t have to worry about the phone being unable to play anything. You might see some slowdown when things get graphically intensive, but otherwise everything else is very acceptable.
The full HD screen of the X Venture is serviceable, especially since AT&T is pushing it as a media friendly device with DirecTV built in. On the display part, they aren’t wrong, but the device suffers quite a bit in the audio department. It’s not a deal breaker but when you’re talking about media consumption, poor speakers can affect the experience.
The speakers sound extremely thin and tinny while watching videos, and there’s pretty much no low end while listening to music. They’ll get the job done, but if you’re serious about using this for all of your video and music needs you’re going to want to invest in some (probably waterproof) headphones to go along with it.
There are some compromises made in the performance department with the X Venture, but that pays dividends in battery life. The Snapdragon 435 is extremely efficient with power consumption, even if it’s not going to win a benchmark race with some higher end chips, and that means you’re never going to have to worry about charging this thing up while you’re out exploring.
It’s powered by a massive 4,100mAh battery to boot, and combining that efficient processor and a huge battery capacity makes for battery life that you’re just not going to find in other high end phones. I had no issue squeezing a full day of usage out of the phone with juice to spare for a second day, and I’m a pretty heavy user. I could easily see someone making it onto a third day on a single charge if they’re careful with their usage and manage battery saving modes appropriately.
Love it or hate it, LG’s typical software customizations are here to stay. I’m not a huge fan, but the phone at least offers a ton of customization options to make it palatable to just about anyone if they tweak things to their liking. In this case you’ll get Android 7.0 overlaid with LG’s latest skin and features that should be familiar to anyone who’s used a recent LG device. It’s scaled back from a few years ago, but it’s still going to be a shock from anyone coming from vanilla Android.
It does use some drastic changes by default, however, like the complete removal of an app drawer, but you can bring the app drawer back in the stock launcher by digging into settings, or you can always grab a third-party launcher from the Play Store and skip all of that entirely.
My biggest gripe with LG’s skin is the goofy nature of the colors and icons they like to use. The pastels and blocky icons with inconsistent masking are a step back from some of the slick designs that Google has been pushing with Android as a whole, although using the apps themselves has gotten much better. They all stick to Material Design pretty well and utilize Google’s best practices, like floating action buttons and swiping panels.
Speaking of, you’ll find LG versions of pretty much all mainstay apps on the X Venture, including text messages, phone and contacts, notes, clock, music, and others. These all reside beside Google’s Play version of apps and AT&T’s preloaded junk, which includes three DirecTV apps, plenty of AT&T specific apps, Firefox (??), Lookout, Uber, and the YellowPages app. Mostly typical stuff if you’ve used any recent AT&T device.
LG did include a set of useful apps and services to tie into the X Venture’s rugged nature called “Outdoor Essentials,” and that pretty much does what it sounds like.
The app opens up into a set of tools you’d find useful if you were, say, camping. A barometer will read your elevation, there’s a calibrated compass for navigation, a widget for weather conditions and a shortcut for toggling your flashlight on and off. Since this is an LG app, it also ties into LG Health and shows your current activity including miles walked and calories burned, and offers a shortcut to tracking an exercise in the Health app.
Be default, this app is hotkeyed to the action button on the left side of the device. Tapping that will automatically bring up this menu, and even though that button can be changed to fit whatever you want, I think it’s an incredibly slick coordination of design, hardware, and software.
The X Venture managed to surprise me a couple times with the quality of shots its camera took, but overall it ends up shooting much like you’d expect a $300 phone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since it can nail outdoor shots in bright lighting, which is where LG anticipates potential buyers will be spending their time.
Outdoor shots are typically never a struggle for smartphone cameras, and although the X Venture isn’t really an exception, it does showcase just how warm and saturated colors tend to look. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it does help images look more visually appealing, even if they aren’t particularly accurate. You’re probably not using a $300 smartphone to take perfectly accurate photos anyway, so this is a nice way to give some extra pop to a middle-of-the-road shooter.
Indoor shots seem to get even warmer, making my dog a very bright orange. It’s oversaturated, but it does pop, and for some people that’s going to be a worthwhile tradeoff.
Indoor and low light shots are actually pretty impressive, too. They could stand to be a bit more crisp, but they’ll do in a pinch.
With even less light, the images still turn out pretty decently.
Unfortunately, the X Venture doesn’t have all of LG’s crazy camera features for fine tuning your shots, but there are always separate camera apps and photo editors if you really want to use this thing for mobile photography.
The LG X Venture isn’t a phone for everyone, but it’s also not supposed to be. If you positively need the latest and greatest, this phone likely won’t even be on your radar, but if you’re looking for something that’s well-rounded and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, you might have a winner.
The rugged design is a big plus for anyone that spends time outdoors, but it can also appeal to someone that frequently drops their phones or even a kid who doesn’t need an easily-breakable flagship device. The performance and battery life are good enough, with its only drawback being the below-average screen and awful speakers. That’s going to alienate some media-heavy users, but you have to make trade-offs somewhere.
For what it is, the LG X Venture delivers a cohesive package of design, hardware, and software integration, and I’d argue that it does a better job on that front than even LG’s higher-end G6 did this past year. It won’t get as much attention as the G6, but it certainly shows that LG knows how to put together a phone.
It’s also only $329, or $11 per month, which puts it in a much more attractive space to try and compete with other devices on AT&T shelves. If that’s your budget and you want something that cares more about functionality than a flashy design, give the X Venture a hard look.
Buy it now: AT&T