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printed September 21, 2017
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Review: LG X venture for AT&T

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  

Jul 6, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

The LG X venture is a rugged, waterproof handset sold by AT&T. It packs mid-range specs, such as a 5.2-inch display, a Snapdragon 435 processor, and a 16-megapixel camera, into a fairly compact form factor for a hardy handset. More importantly, the X venture has a few neat tricks up its sleeve that make it an interesting addition to AT&T's lineup. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review of LG's rugged Android smartphone.

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Is It Your Type?

In need of a handset that handles the hard knocks of an active lifestyle? The LG X venture, sold by AT&T, is a rugged, waterproof phone that takes a beating while you're reading or tweeting. More importantly, it's affordable and amazingly compact for such a hearty device.

Body

The thing that surprises me most about the LG X venture, the Korean company's latest rugged handset, is its size. Many rugged smartphones are overly bulky, beset by chunky plastic and other thick materials to shore up their strength. The X venture looks and feels like any regular phone, and the footprint is hardly bigger than that of the LG G6 or OnePlus 5.

Rugged smartphones often share certain design characteristics, such as toughened corners, beefy frames, and grippy materials. The LG X venture eschews many of these for a simpler, thinner build. Metal rails, complete with exposed rivets, line the side edges and form only slightly thickened protective barriers at all four corners. Black plastic end caps stretch from corner to corner along the top and bottom edges. The rear panel has a rubberized surface with dimples to provide some texture. I like the juxtaposition of the bright metal and black plastics. The metal rails even have chamfers along the edges. A few other chrome-colored accents help some of the X venture's functional elements stand out and break up what might otherwise be a boring, monochromatic look.

The X venture is not a small phone, and yet it's certainly no huge phone, either. If you look at fully rugged smartphones from the likes of CAT or Kyocera, you'll see some big, big handsets that belong clipped onto your belt. The X venture isn't in that category. It's just a bit bigger than LG's own flagship, the G6, and it's noticeably smaller than something like the iPhone 7 Plus or Galaxy S8 Plus. At 6 inches tall and 3 inches wide, the X venture is a solid middleweight. Given the engineering necessities for ruggedization, I'll forgive the 9.1mm thickness. I can hold and use the phone one-handed most of the time, and only occasionally need to put my other hand to use. If you have small hands, the X venture might feel a bit big. The size doesn't get in the way of jamming the phone into your pockets, but the rubbery back surface sticks to pocket lining in an annoying fashion.

Body  

The materials are not what I expect from a handset in this category. Nearly every rugged phone I've ever tested has been clad in rubber-coated plastics from head to toe. The X venture's metal sides are a welcome departure. The plastics come across as tough and strong, and the assembly is tight enough to instill confidence in the phone's ability to handle punishment.

I'd call the X venture's face somewhat chaotic. There are lines, angles, and shapes all over the place. The phone actually has gently rounded corners, but the way LG shaped the metal rails over the shoulders makes the X venture look like it has angled corners (it doesn't.) The glass panel that protects the display reinforces the angled look with actual angles in the four corners. LG's logo is painted in chrome just below the earpiece.

A cluster of hardware buttons line the X venture's chin. Hardware buttons are common on ruggedized handsets, as they're easier to use when wearing gloves. The cluster is encircled by the glass panel, so it stands out by visually and by feel. The home button doubles as a fingerprint reader. It's offset by a chrome rim and is fairly wide with a slightly coarse texture. Travel is minimal and feedback is a bit weak. LG placed a large back button to the left of the home button and an app-switcher button to the right. These keys have a rubbery texture that makes them instantly recognizable by feel. I don't care for the loud clicking sound these buttons make, but they work well enough.

The phone's left edge is a busy place. Close to the top you'll spot the orange-colored hot key. Out of the box, the button launches LG's outdoorsy software suite, but you can assign it to something else. The button itself has a really rough texture that makes it easy to find and use. Travel and feedback are decent. LG dropped the volume toggle below the hot key. It's a flat affair with two halves separated by a small gap. The button is just large enough to help your thumb differentiate between the up and down directionals. Feedback is allright.

The X venture's screen lock button is the only thing on the right edge. I sort of feel bad for the button, as it's all alone. Thankfully, the button is easy to find and use, and it offers the best travel and feedback of all the phone's buttons.

I wish the X venture had a USB-C port on the bottom, but LG opted for micro-USB instead. A standard 3.5mm headset jack is located along the bottom as well.

LG wants you to know that the X venture's rear panel and the battery beneath cannot be removed. The phone ships with a stark sticker applied to the rear that says in plain words: "NON-REMOVABLE BATTERY--do not remove back cover or battery." Got that? The dimpled rubber surface provides plenty of grip, even when the phone is wet. Both LG's and AT&T's logos are stamped into the material directly.

LG says the X venture meets IP68 ratings for protection against dust and water, as well as mil-spec 810G for physical abuse such as drops. I can report that the phone is truly waterproof. I let the phone spend some time in my pool as well as the bottom of my local river and it came away no worse for the wear. The phone can easily brush off a rain shower or accidental dunk in the tub.

The phone is definitely tougher than your average slab. The metal sides and rubber rear do their job in protecting the phone from the worst damage when dropped. I did a few test drops on my driveway, sidewalk, and on floors made of wood and ceramic tile. The phone came away unscathed. I am worried about the display, though; the phone's design does not include any sort of protective rim to prevent the screen from coming in direct contact with flat surfaces. That said, I think most people can be comfortable using the X venture without a case.

LG has designed and manufactured a rugged, waterproof handset that doesn't force owners to give up usability. The phone's average size makes it an appealing alternative to using a smaller phone with a thick case.

Screen

LG selected a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD panel for the X venture and it delivers a fine experience. The size and resolution are well matched and ensure that individual pixels are mostly invisible to your eyes. Text, icons, and graphics all look smooth along the edges. The LCD pumps out plenty of light. While I had no trouble using the phone indoors, the display's lack of oleophobic coating means the glass is besmirched by fingerprints and thus harder to see outdoors. Seriously, you need to hunt down shade when outdoors because the fingerprint grime is that bad. On a positive note, the screen supports glove mode, which allows you to interact with the display even when wearing gloves. I tested this feature and it works. Viewing angles are pretty good, though I did see some a drop in brightness when the phone was tilted side to side.

Signal

The X venture performed acceptably on AT&T's network in and around New York City, but it fell a little short when compared to some other AT&T phones I've tested recently. The radio remained attached to LTE most of the time, but dipped to 3G in some poor-coverage areas.

Data speeds were generally decent no matter the signal conditions. The X venture handled browsing media-rich social networks like Facebook and Instagram with no problem, though it gave me a little trouble streaming music and video over LTE.

Phone call connectivity was the most frustrating issue. The X venture sometimes missed calls in weak coverage areas, and dropped a few calls at highway speeds.

Sound

Voice calls are big on volume, but short on clarity. The earpiece pushes plenty of air into your ear, allowing you to hear calls just about anywhere you might take the phone. I had no trouble in noisy spaces such as coffee shops, malls, and the car. Calls were loud. Clarity is inconsistent. I noticed a distorted buzzing sound in the background during many calls. Some calls were free of the buzz, but most were not.

Sadly, the buzz carries over to the speakerphone where I heard the same background noise. The speakerphone does pump out lots of sound, however, making it a viable option in the car and so on. I wish the buzz weren't so noticeable, but it doesn't completely ruin calls.

People I spoke to through the X venture said I sounded "just okay." Ringers and alert tones are very loud, and the vibrate alert produces a strong buzz.

Battery

The X venture's battery game is on point. LG went big with a 4,100 mAh battery for the phone and it delivers big time. It's practically undrainable. The X venture easily coasted through two days on a single charge under normal use. On days when I pushed the GPS and other adventure software features to the limit, the X venture still forged through a day and a half before the battery saver kicked on.

The phone supports Quick Charge 2.0. LG claims you'll get a day's use out of a 50-minute charge and I'd say that's about right.

If you need a phone with amazing battery life, the X venture has you covered.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

I didn't run into any issues with the phone's secondary batch of radios. For example, the Bluetooth 4.2 radio connected to headsets and speakers with no problems. Phone calls pushed through my car's hands-free system were about average in quality. Music sounded nice and punchy when streamed to a Bluetooth speaker.

The X venture's GPS radio located me quickly and accurately. The phone dialed in my location in 5 seconds or less, and accuracy was as good as about 25 feet. The phone worked well as a real-time navigation tool and had no trouble handling highway or city street traffic re-routes.

The NFC radio aboard means you can set up Android Pay if you wish. I found it helpful for pairing with some Bluetooth accessories.

The WiFi radio did a fine job.

Hankering for some good old FM radio? The X venture has you covered as long as you have headphones with you.

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