Sunday, May 22, 2022
Smart Phones

LG Stylo 4 review: How this $250 phone forces me to reconsider Note 9

Switching from a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 to an LG Stylo 4 is analogous to going from a Ferrari 812 Superfast to a Kia Optima. They’re both 2018 smartphones with styluses built in, and they both run the same version of Android (Oreo 8.1). But other than that, they couldn’t be more different.

Where the Note 9 has sex appeal and a high price tag, the Stylo 4 is basic and affordable—even cheap. The Stylo 4 has a quarter of the Note 9’s internal storage (32GB versus 128GB), is made of plastic instead of glass, and is powered by a far slower processor. And it doesn’t have wireless charging or a dual camera or a WQHD+ Infinity display.

stylo 4 note 9 full2Michael Simon/IDG

The Note 9 (right) is bigger, faster, and more powerful than the Stylo 4, but is it worth $750 more?

But much like the difference between a Kia and a Ferrari, the Stylo 4 offers something the Galaxy Note 9 doesn’t: value. And as I used the $250 handset (the cheapest Android phone I’ve used in some time) as my primary device for a fortnight, I began to see just how thin the lines between premium, budget, and mid-range phones really are. I didn’t scale back my use (in fact I set up the Stylo 4 from my Note backup), and while I’ll admit the Note 9 ran circles around the Stylo 4 in nearly every speed test, when you break it down, the two phones really aren’t all that different.

So, do we really need to spend $900 or $1,000 to get the best Android phone? Or to put it a other way: Is the Galaxy Note 9 really 400 percent better than the Stylo 4?

Spoiled by speed

Ever since the first Android phone arrived, we’ve been conditioned to expect a significant speed boost every 12 months. However, while the progression is clear at the high end of the market, with the Snapdragon 821, 835, 845, etc., it’s a bit more muddled for low-end and mid-range phones.

stylo 4 note 9 backMichael Simon/IDG

The Galaxy Note 9 (left) and the LG Stylo 4 both have hard-to-reach fingerprint sensors.

The Stylo is powered by a Snapdragon 450 processor from 2017, and its age certainly shows. Even when comparing it to the newer Snapdragon 636, which runs at the same 1.8GHz clock speed, the Snapdragon 450 is decidedly outdated, with a slow GPU and modem, and a less powerful image signal processor. So it’s obviously slower than the Snapdragon 845 inside the Note 9, and significantly so. The Snapdragon 636 would be slower too, but not quite as noticeably.

The biggest issue is with graphics performance. Normal Android Oreo animations that would normally take less than a half-second on the Note 9 often hang for a second or more on the Stylo 4. It’s something I was particularly attuned to since I had literally switched to the Stylo 4 from the Note 9. Nonetheless, after a week, it wasn’t quite as bothersome.

Apps that were initially slow to load became quicker after their initial launches, and even with just 2GB of RAM, switching became noticeably less syrupy after a day or two. I also began to anticipate when the system would hang, so my fingers didn’t jump to a new task and slow things down even more. 


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