“Few phones at this price can take quite as hard a beating.”
- Two-day battery life
- Solid daylight photos
- Functional design
- Slower performance than the competition
- Only available on AT&T and U.S. Cellular
- Sluggish camera app
Looking for a rugged phone? Options are slim if you want a low price. Phones like Caterpillar’s Cat S60 — a hulking beast of a phone that can be dropped nearly two meters or left underwater for an hour — or the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active, which doesn’t sacrifice performance for go-anywhere, do-anything versatility, cost upwards of $600. Thankfully, LG’s approach strikes a balance between specs, features, cost, and durability. In our LG X Venture review, we put the smartphone through a few trials of our own to see how it stacks up.
Functional, sturdy design
The X Venture is a phone for the adventurer on a budget, and so form follows function. The grippy back cover isn’t made of glass or aluminum, but it allows you to grasp the large frame without fear of the phone slipping out of your hand. The large, physical hardware navigation keys flanking the fingerprint sensor aren’t pretty, but they’re textured and easy to locate.
The orange QuickButton, which by default accesses Outdoor Essentials mini-apps like a barometer, compass, and weather, is also textured and easy-to-access. It sits above the volume rocker on the left, and it can be customized to launch other apps; you can set shortcuts for one press, a double press, or a press and hold, which is convenient.
Speaking of buttons, you won’t feel the X Venture’s bargain price point in the build quality at all. All the keys feel solid and easy to press, with a satisfying tactile click and no wiggle.
We dunked and dropped the X Venture to find out if the phone really was as sturdy as it’s claimed to be — and it passed.
But we have a few minor gripes: The soft touch material that borders the display is a lint magnet that pulls dust into the small gaps between the glass and the rest of the phone. There’s also a rear-firing speaker which, while pretty loud, will produce muffled sound anytime you set the device down.
The X Venture has an IP68 water resistance rating, meaning it can withstand submersion up to 5 feet deep for a half hour — many high-end phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S8 have the same water- and dust-resistance rating, so it’s nice to see it on a budget device. The front glass panel is made of Gorilla Glass 4, with anti-shatter, anti-scratch technology.
The smartphone goes a step further with military-grade (MIL-STD810G) dust and shock resistance. LG says the X Venture passed 14 different tests by a laboratory that conforms to U.S. military standards, which means it should fare a little better in circumstances that would distress lesser phones. That offers some peace of mind, but we wanted to know for sure. We dunked and dropped the X Venture to find out if the phone really was as sturdy as it’s claimed to be — and it passed.
A roughly five-foot fall onto concrete left our device merely scuffed. There was some metal chipped away in areas of impact, as well as some pitted, roughened plastic right where the phone struck the ground. The damage was purely cosmetic, and there was zero harm done to the screen. After submerging the phone in a bowl of water for 10 minutes, it functioned perfectly fine.
Occasionally sluggish performance
Unfortunately, to hit that lower price tag and pack in all these durability features, LG had to make some compromises in the specifications department. The X Venture is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 435 processor, alongside 2GB of RAM. While the Snapdragon 435 isn’t tremendously underpowered, devices like the more affordable Moto G5 Plus equip the more powerful Snapdragon 625 chipset, and offers double the RAM.
The result is underwhelming. Our X Venture stuttered and lagged a decent amount in day-to-day use and seemed to get easily tripped up juggling multiple tasks at the same time — like searching Google Maps while streaming Bluetooth audio, for example. It wasn’t unusual to be faced with a two-second wait anytime we opened a new app.
The benchmarks all told a similar story:
- AnTuTu: 41,501
- Geekbench 4: 634
- 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 233
The X Venture’s 3DMark score is distant from the Moto G5 Plus’ 463, which also handily defeated LG’s offering in Geekbench (803) and AnTuTu (63,190) scores. A flagship killer, this is not.
While the X Venture didn’t like switching between apps and multitasking, swiping between home screens, typing, and scrolling were all as quick as you’d hope. Google Assistant responded to voice queries without a hitch, and even the fingerprint sensor worked reliably fast.
The hardware fared much better in other areas. The X Venture features a 5.2-inch, 1080p LCD display with solid viewing angles, color reproduction, and brightness. In terms of storage, there’s only one option — 32GB — though a MicroSD slot in the SIM tray makes for easy expandability.
Exceptional battery life, capable camera
The X Venture comes fitted with a massive non-removable battery — 4,100mAh in size — and it simply doesn’t quit. Our unit lasted well over a day and a half following high usage — from streaming Spotify over Bluetooth, to navigating with Google Maps, to browsing Facebook, and taking photos.
You won’t have to wait too long to charge it back up, either. The X Venture supports Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 2.0 standard. Unfortunately, it works through MicroUSB rather than the newer, more versatile USB-C standard, but the upside is it’ll be compatible with any old accessories you might have lying around. We were able to recharge the drained battery to full in two hours.
The rear camera isn’t quite as impressive, though it was still a pleasant surprise. In proper lighting, the X Venture’s 16-megapixel shooter captured vibrant, balanced images with striking clarity and impressive depth-of-field. Low-light performance was predictably grainy and a little muddy by comparison, but that’s unsurprising from a phone of this price. The wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera was dependable, and well-suited for group shots.
But while the X Venture produces solid photos in daylight, the camera app gets tremendously laggy — and there’s the occasional shutter lag when you tap the capture button as well. It’s not a good experience overall.
LG adds outdoorsy features to Android 7.0 Nougat
The X Venture is a budget phone sold exclusively through AT&T and U.S. Cellular, which means you’re going to get more than your fair share of bloatware. Including the AT&T software, we identified a total of 16 apps outside the standard gamut of Google, LG, and stock Android apps that could not be uninstalled, only disabled.
Our unit lasted well over a day and a half following high usage.
Bloatware aside, with the X Venture you’re getting LG’s UX 5.0 skin on top of Android 7.0 Nougat. It’s not the same as the 6.0 skin found in the company’s G6 flagship, but it still brings a number of changes to stock Android. The most notable one is the lack of an app drawer — though that can be corrected through an option in the settings.
LG has included a number of conveniences that stock Android can’t match, like a more comprehensive set of quick toggles in the notification tray, a variety of home screen layouts and themes, and programmable shortcuts for hardware buttons. There’s also the manufacturer’s suite of apps, which includes the aforementioned Outdoor Essentials collection as well as LG Health for guided exercise routines.
Additionally, LG has packed in a Glove Mode, which can be triggered through the QuickButton out of the box. This feature does what the name suggests, allowing for use of the touch screen even if you’ve got gloves on. It worked well in our testing, receiving taps and swipes through thin wool as well as heavy polyester and fleece.
Warranty, pricing, and availability
LG offers a one-year standard warranty, under which it will cover repair or replacement and labor — though you’ll have to foot the bill to send it to the company. It’s also important to note that while the X Venture is billed as water resistant and military-certified to survive adverse conditions, the warranty does not cover water damage, nor does it cover damage originating from what the company terms “abnormal use.” So if you plan on testing the phone to the limits of its durability, you’re unfortunately on your own should anything seriously go wrong.
The X Venture is available now from U.S. Cellular and AT&T for $330 outright, or on contract for $11 per month for 30 months through AT&T Next. On U.S. Cellular, it’s $300 or $12 per month for two and a half years.
The LG X Venture won’t wow you with its performance, design, or software, but its toughness coupled with excellent battery life redeems its flaws.
Is there a better alternative?
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, or your line of work puts you in situation where your phone might get easily damaged, the X Venture is worth a look.
In the category of tough phones that won’t break the bank, there’s really just one other option: The Kyocera DuraForce Pro. The Kyocera phone is considerably bulkier, and even more of a tank than the X Venture. It also features a better Snapdragon 617 processor as well as an extra gigabyte of RAM. The downside? You’ll have to make do with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, as the DuraForce Pro doesn’t support the latest and greatest version of Google’s operating system yet. The phone is also a little pricier — $400 from Verizon, and $419 from AT&T. That’s nearly $100 more than the X Venture through the same carrier.
Otherwise, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Active is an easy recommendation, provided you can find it for the right price. The S7 Active has been on the market for about a year now and will likely be replaced by Samsung’s next-generation rugged flagship, meaning secondhand and refurbished models cost right around what LG is asking for a new X Venture. We loved the phone when we tested it last year, and with its top-of-the-line Snapdragon 820 chipset, you won’t have to compromise anything for all that added durability.
If ruggedness isn’t a concern, however, there are countless other affordable devices that would likely serve your needs better. The Moto G5 Plus starts at $230, for example, and still outclasses the LG in terms of power and performance. That’s not even half of what’s out there — our cheap smartphone buying guide runs through the top contenders.
How long will it last?
We don’t expect this device to get a lot of software updates, and it may slow down after a year or two — considering how we’re already seeing stutters and lag.
In terms of physical longevity, though, the X Venture should fare just fine. The build quality is solid, and the combination of shock-absorbing plastics, reinforced corners, and a metal exoskeleton mean it can survive repeated falls and spills.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re looking for an affordable, rugged phone that’s waterproof, the LG X Venture is a good option. It offers the most recent version of Android, and while you’ll have to deal with occasional sluggish performance as well as a slow camera, it’s tough to find an IP68-waterproof phone from a carrier that doesn’t break the bank. If your priorities are different, look elsewhere.
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