Placing the LG Stylo 6 under the microscope of review reveals a smartphone that's equal parts enjoyable and budget-minded.
It doesn't have the best camera in its bracket. Despite being positioned as a stylus-touting budget answer to top-dollar smartphones, its stylus isn't quite the marvel found in Samsung's Galaxy Note series. The overall performance of this handset can, under the strain of multitasking or heavy apps, leave a lot to be desired. And its battery life is, summarily, mediocre at best.
Priced at just under $220, this handset brings plenty of caveats with it to the table. And not all of those are going to be firmware fixable. With that said, this phone is also far from being the worst available.
LG's design language with the Stylo 6 is top-notch, despite being built of plastics. The frame-housed stylus is beyond usable, with hand-rejection that worked almost perfectly in testing. While the camera sensor here is only rated at 13-megapixels, it performs admirably under the right circumstances.
For features, this phone is absolutely loaded compared to other devices that are similarly priced. Those are presented to the user via a display that doesn't outperform but certainly doesn't underperform either. And the battery charges up more quickly than most other devices I've tested in the price bracket.
So let's take a closer look at where this phone stands up to hold its own and where it all falls apart.
LG's Stylo 6 hardware highlights confusing decisions packed under a laudable design
Now, we could discuss at length the fact that the LG Stylo 6 does not have the best hardware on the market. It's a budget-friendly device that feels like plastic because it is. And it comes with a stylus that embeds in the frame but that's made of very cheap metal.
More importantly, the LG Stylo 6 stylus, much to my annoyance throughout my review, is embedded via a spring-loaded mechanism. It doesn't quite sit flush. But that's a topic we'll cover later on.
In fact, that's going to be my biggest hardware-related complaint by far. The stylus is too easy to get out by accident but not at all easy to get back in. The latter problem is because it locks into place and only goes in one way but rotates freely.
In terms of aesthetics, though, this phone is absolutely gorgeous. LG sent the White variant of its device for review. But it's also available in other colors such as Mirror Black and Titan Gray. The White hue is incredibly similar to the white utilized for Samsung's Galaxy Note 10+. It delivers an incandescent glow that shifts almost like a holograph with shifts in light, offset by a flat white on the rear-facing fingerprint scanner.
That latter component is accented by a modern-looking horizontal three-camera array.
The edges have a silvery sheen and are smooth to the touch. So, aside from feeling plasticky, it has a great in-hand feel too. And the plastics serve to make this device harder to outright crack and break — although scratches are more likely.
In fact, the in-hand feel is one of the redeeming graces of this phone's hardware. It doesn't look or feel too cheap, even if it is made of plastic. The buttons, ports, and speaker grille are smooth, with no sharp edges to be found. And the ports fit snugly, snapping into place with a click that all but guarantees long life.
The fingerprint scanner here is easily among the slowest I've ever laid hands on though. That could come down to how slow this phone is to turn on and operate smoothly but, again, that's another topic we'll cover momentarily. It's obnoxious how slowly the fingerprint scanner works, taking what feels like more than a second to unlock — slower than just entering a PIN in some cases.
This display is wonderful for the price but not the bezels
The display on the LG Stylo 6 performed well beyond what could be called "adequate" throughout my review. That's with the exceptions we'll cover in the performance segment below. But, summarily, that comes down to the fact that it's a 6.8-inch Full HD+ display at 2460 x 1080 pixels. So the pixel density is actually quite good. Albeit not as good as it possibly could be for the price.
On a partly cloudy day, indoors, or under other optimal viewing conditions, it's also plenty bright. When performance doesn't dip, the display exceptionally responsive and enjoyable to interact with.
The waterdrop notch used by the company will serve as a pain point for some but didn't show any issues during my test. In fact, it surprisingly didn't show any pixel darkening either, which has been a common problem around punch holes and notches in some other handsets. Particularly in this price range. But there are a couple of "but"s here too.
To begin with, when performance dips, this phone's screen becomes all but unusable. In those cases, it can sometimes fail to respond at all. And the bezels surrounding the panel are unusually thick. So much so that a combination of the bottom and top bezels could easily have housed the camera without the need for a notch. And that would have only made this phone slightly less symmetrical.
That, taken as a whole, completely clashes with the expectations set by the rear panel and edges' more premium design.
LG Stylo 6 software and features are extensive
Now, we're just one segment away from discussing this smartphone's biggest drawback. But, under review, it became fairly obvious that at least part of the issues facing the LG Stylo 6 stems from its software. And, more directly, that's the overabundance of specialty settings, features, and pre-installed apps. Many of which can't be removed.
This phone, for all intents and purposes, has almost every feature users could possibly want to mimic the Galaxy Note series. Aside from the cameras, which we'll discuss in detail later.
But those Note-like features are tucked into the main Settings behind navigation, display, drawer, pen, and other options. Users can, for instance, move between modern gesture-based navigation or use the standard buttons. For others who might need a more accessibility-friendly option, that's there too. And users can also turn back on the app drawer in settings even though that's turned off by default.
The pen enables similar pop-up navigation — as shown in the image above — to the Note series too. This is a very productivity-focused device, in that sense. And those features typically work smoothly, without latency, lag, or related problems.
The big drawback to the LG Stylo 6 pen, is the pen itself. While Samsung's S Pen utilizes a specialty display technology for pressure-sensitive inputs and pin-point accuracy, this pen does not. Looking more closely at it, it's a fiber-based capacitive stylus, just slimmed down to a finer point.
That helps keep the device affordable and is still useful. But the pen isn't necessarily any more enjoyable to use than an aftermarket slim stylus on any other smartphone.
Looking past that, there's even a dedicated gaming mode on this phone. That's in place alongside the plethora of useful features found in Android 10. But only partially makes up for the fact that this phone comes loaded with a ton of bloatware.
My review unit for the LG Stylo 6 was a Boost Mobile variant. And it comes loaded with automatically-refreshing tiles for no fewer than 8 applications.
Those prompt users to download extra software and are easy to accidentally tap. Additionally, this phone comes with dozens of pre-installed apps. And those stem from Facebook to Pandora, Tidal, TikTok, and the full suite of Amazon apps to a wealth of LG specific and Boost-specific apps. It's a jarring experience that undoubtedly contributes to this phone's performance problems.
The inconsistent performance will hopefully be fixed later on
As highlighted in the software segment of this review, LG Stylo 6 is utterly bogged down by features and software. Unfortunately, that shines through on performance too. But perhaps not in quite the way that one would expect. Here, it's just inconsistent.
That is, at least in part, down to LG's decision to use a cheaper MediaTek Helio P35 processor. It also coupled that with a meager 3GB RAM. Conversely, 64GB of storage should be more than enough. But the 4,000mAh battery doesn't quite live up to expectations either, as noted in the dedicated battery section below.
Looking more closely at the performance from that hardware, the problems were noticeable right from the start. This phone took well over a full minute to boot up on the first startup. For a smartphone, that's exceptionally bad. Subsequent startups didn't improve matters by more than a few seconds.
In games, once the system adds them automatically to the gaming mode, there seems to be almost no lag or latency. But in even non-intensive apps — outside of gaming mode — don't perform well. Especially with multi-tasking but, again, it's inconsistent. Sometimes apps just start stuttering and other times they become visually distorted with latency and a lack of responsiveness to match.
The issues seem most prominent while background activities are accessing web services or anything connectivity-related. Even simply loading multiple Chrome pages causes minor issues. But all of those minor issues add up, making for one of the worst experiences I've ever had with a budget phone — setting aside how well it seems to do in even moderately intensive games.
The low number of camera features and inconsistent shots belie a phone that's all budget-friendly
On the camera front, LG didn't fail entirely with the Stylo 6 under review. In fact, where the hardware performs well, it performs much better than expected. With that said, we'll start here by taking a look at where it doesn't do all that well.
To begin with, the camera in the LG Stylo 6 is powered by a triple-array 13-megapixel shooter. That's a 13-megapixel sensor, 5-megapixel wide-angle sensor, and a 5-megapixel depth camera. There's a 13-megapixel snapper at the front. The megapixel count here is much lower than competitors, right out of the gate. And that has a tendency to show through in some shots.
There's also no major suite of underlying camera software. AR stickers are present and an AI-driven automatic scene mode is as well. There's a couple of features — a panoramic and "Flash Jump-Cut" as well as a "YouTube Live" camera — in the "More" segment. But there is no night mode. There are no fancy extras in editing tools. And there's not a whole lot by way of extra features over top of that.
Despite the lack of extras here, I found the camera software, particularly after initial startup, to be almost unbearably slow. Autofocus speeds up slightly with use but is slow to start with too. As with almost everything on this phone, things just take a lot more time to accomplish.
Looking at the quality of photos themselves, as shown in our sample gallery via Flickr, results vary. On the one hand, this camera can capture great details and blurs background subjects well. Under optimal lighting, even it's maximum 4x zoom doesn't perform poorly. But things fall apart as soon as any complexity is mixed in, especially where selecting manual focal points are concerned.
Introducing mixed lighting or manually focusing reveals that this camera does not do a good job of adjusting for lighting. Photos can too easily be too dark or too washed out. Lens bloom appears even when direct backlighting isn't present. In shots that are very brightly lit, the color accuracy can and sometimes will go out the window. The result, when that happens, is difficulty discerning between background and foreground objects in a shot.
No night mode or software to compensate for shots taken at night means that no amount of adjusting or refocusing will capture detail under low-light circumstances.
Now, when this phone did perform well, it was well above what I expected for a phone that often sells for under $200. But that hardly makes up for the inconsistencies. In fact, as often as not, I found myself not wanting to pick up the LG Stylo 6 during this review for photos. And that's simply because the quality was so unpredictable.
That may or may not be fixed with software later on. The shots that do turn out well all but prove this is a software issue and not a hardware problem. But this is a budget phone. So it shouldn't be counted on.
LG Stylo 6 is just not brilliant on battery life
The LG Stylo 6 only took an hour and 45 minutes to fill up any time it died during my review. And an hour gets the capacity pushed as much as 71-percent full. Breaking that down, that means that the LG Stylo 6 fills up at a rate of just over a percent per minute. That's not bad at all for the charging side of things.
But that's just about the only positive thing to say about the battery life with this handset. Or at least it is aside from the fact that this phone can go for hours and hours without losing capacity. In fact, more than 26 hours of standby drained just over 8 percent. So, at the very least, this phone should be just fine under circumstances where long standby is needed.
Having said that, this phone dies consistently with two to three percent of the battery showing as "remaining." It never made it to one-percent during my testing.
And the phone doesn't last all that long under load either. While my battery test saw this phone left on standby for 26-hours and 48-minutes, it only lasted with screen-on for around six hours. And very little of that time was spent doing anything intensive. I spent three-and-a-half hours just browsing the web, using the camera, making calls and text messaging. Most of that was browsing the web and text messaging.
Conversely, I spent just 50-minutes streaming video and only an hour and 43-minutes in a game. And that game — at least for the battery test — was just a puzzle title.
So the battery here really should have lasted longer.
Now, the screen's brightness was turned up entirely, for the battery test. But flagships I have tested with similarly-sized batteries have lasted hours longer. And that's annoying since this phone utilizes "energy-efficient" components. It isn't being powered by the same top-tier power-hungry internals as those other devices.
Audio with the LG Stylo 6 is surprisingly good for the price & could be this phone's saving grace
The audio performance delivered by the LG Stylo 6 was better than expected, especially given my disappointment with a good portion of the rest of the device. Tones are well balanced, although somewhat muddier than might be hoped in the lower registers. But, throughout my review, I never felt the need to take advantage of the 3.5mm audio jack included along the bottom edge of the LG Stylo 6.
And that's saying something since that hasn't been the case with other smartphones in this price bracket.
Now, that's not to say it's a perfect experience by any stretch of the imagination. While punchier than other handsets, with good representation across most of the auditory spectrum, the headphone port is going to offer the best experience by far. Once hooked up, that provides deep sound with a great experience in terms of tonal response. In fact, with the right pair of headphones, thanks to support for DTS:X 3D Surround, the sound here is going to be better than most budget handsets.
Bluetooth works as well as expected too, making audio a true highlight for this phone.
There weren't any complaints to be had in terms of call quality or mic input either. That's either via the earpiece or speakerphone. Earpiece audio wasn't quite as clear as a flagship but it was well above par for the course.
Connectivity was on par with mid-rangers but nothing special
Typically, I test devices on Google Fi's network — leased from Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. For the LG Stylo 6, the company shipped the phone pre-activated on Boost Mobile, so that was used for this review. And on that front, this phone didn't disappoint. As noted above, call quality was clear.
Connections were also at least as strong as any other smartphone I've used in this price bracket in terms of mobile data. Text messages and MMS came through as expected too. As is almost always the case with carrier-locked phones, I didn't see any discrepancies in performance of the network. Or at least no unexpected disconnections or calls being dropped.
In the US, LG Stylo 6 is also available for Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Sprint.
Now, it's fair to say that the LG Stylo 6 — given a two-star rating above — falls in closer to 2.5 stars than to just two. It's also fair to say that, in terms of display size, the inclusion of a stylus, and audio quality, this is one of the best phones around for the money.
That's all looking past the fact that, in terms of being a phone, this device lived up to expectations.
But, unfortunately, those aspects of a device aren't necessarily what make a phone great. And that's why this phone was given such a low review score. Where performance matters, this phone didn't always quite live up to what would be desired at nearly $220.
The camera, for starters, doesn't always perform as well as its megapixel size indicates. Not even under optimal lighting. The performance in multi-tasking or even basic tasks, conversely, sometimes felt slow beyond what could be called bearable. And that became apparent immediately upon starting the phone up.
There are plenty of phones that just perform much better in this price bracket. And, at this point, solid performance on that front feels like a core feature that any smartphone should match. There are plenty of more powerful phones with longer-lasting batteries.
For the areas where this phone does shine, it does though. LG obviously put a lot of effort in for users who really need a stylus in this price bracket. Hand-rejection for this gadget has improved immensely since the last "Stylo" offering. And the company has refined its stylus quite a bit, even if it hasn't improved the underlying technology.
For those who crave a better audio experience without spending flagship money, it stands up well there too.
And, for quick charging, this phone will be difficult to beat at its price. Just as it would be to find a solid entry with a bigger screen or a more beautiful exterior without spending more money. On those fronts, LG has absolutely nailed it with the LG Stylo 6.