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LG Stylo 3: Our First Take

Scribble away with the LG Stylo 3, an intriguing budget phone

Pop out the stylus, and the budget-friendly LG Stylo 3 turns into an interesting phone.

It’s not easy to make a mid-range smartphone interesting. They don’t have the highest specs, rarely come with some amazing new feature, and aren’t made out of a super special new material mined from another planet. However, that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. LG’s new Stylo 3 is a big-screen phone with a stylus, and that’s what makes interesting. The stylus is not as common as it used to be, because of the demise of the Galaxy Note 7.

Don’t go comparing the Stylo 3 with Samsung’s hot phone, though, because they’re not even close to being similar. The Stylo 3 — called the Stylus 3 outside of the U.S. — is likely to cost considerably less, and doesn’t have features like retina scanning, water-proofing, or catastrophic explosions.

LG trimmed down the stylus tip to 1.8mm, providing more precision. Pop it out of the built-in holder, and the phone vibrates to confirm the action, then opens a special menu. It was a bit tough to get the stylus out of the model we used. There are several stylus-only features for taking notes, annotating screenshots, and LG’s Quick Memo feature for fast note taking in a small window. The stylus is comfortable to hold, if a little slim for extended writing, and leaves a pleasingly realistic pen-like trace on the display. No, it doesn’t offer the feature-packed S Pen experience seen with Samsung’s Note phones, but it’s perfectly adequate for quick notes.

Premium bloodline

While the Stylo 3 isn’t a so-called premium phone, the body is matched to a curved 2.5D glass panel over the 5.7-inch screen, making it comfortable to hold and closer in style to many more expensive phones. The rear cover is plastic, but pop it off and a removable 3,200mAh battery is hidden inside, lessening ties to a charging cable or external battery pack. This is a feature LG’s keen to maintain on its phones, and it works hard to continue the trend throughout the range, including on the G5 and the V20.

Similarly, the Stylo 3 has its home button and integrated fingerprint sensor on the back under the 13-megapixel camera lens, much like the V20. It’s easily located with your finger and can be programmed to activate other features such as the camera shutter release. Also like the LG G5 and LG V20, the selfie cam has a 120-degree wide-angle for improved group and landscape shots, plus the screen acts as a flash in lowlight environments. Rather than a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, LG has chosen an octa-core MediaTek chip running at 1.5GHz for the Stylo 3, with 3GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage space.

The Stylo 3’s success, and our recommendation, will depend on the eventual price.

The stylus is the main reason you’ll want to buy the Stylo 3, but don’t expect it to provide many features outside of variations on scribbling notes. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a pen replacement system, and that’s mostly what people will want to use it for. In our short time with the phone, it performed basic tasks well. Keep your expectations in check, and you’ll be happy with it.

That’s also the approach that should be taken with the phone itself. Performance from the MediaTek chip will be adequate, LG usually makes great cameras, and the screen looked good. You’ll appreciate LG’s nods to more expensive hardware, such as the 2.5D glass, and the lightweight body itself. It weighs just 149 grams. We’re also happy to see Android 7.0 Nougat installed, meaning the phone’s right up to date.

The Stylo 3’s success, and our recommendation, will depend on the eventual price. LG told Digital Trends that the price will be decided by the carriers. It’ll definitely be released in the U.S., but a date will also be provided by the carriers that decide to stock it. The Stylo 2 Plus from T-Mobile costs $240, and if the Stylo 3 comes in at the same price, it’ll be a strong proposition. We’ll update here when we know more.

Highs

  • Precise stylus
  • Latest Android software
  • Wide-angle selfie cam
  • Removable battery

Lows

  • Limited stylus features
  • Simple design