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This article was published on August 21, 2018

Review: The Prime Exclusive LG Stylo 4 is a bargain-basement Galaxy Note (but we love it)

Jot this down: This phone costs 1/4 the price of that other stylus-equipped one

Review: The Prime Exclusive LG Stylo 4 is a bargain-basement Galaxy Note (but we love it)
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

The LG Stylo 4 is a stylus-enabled phone looking to fill the void left in anyone’s life who can’t (or won’t) afford the Galaxy Note 9. Whether or not it succeeds is up to you, but we fell in love with this scrappy device despite its obvious shortcomings.

It would be ridiculous to compare a budget phone to the soon-to-be-released Samsung Galaxy Note 9. My colleague Napier Lopez called the Note 9 a “welcome return to obscene specs.” The LG Stylo 4, on the other hand, tickles the opposite end of the spectrum: its specs make it one of the last in line to be considered “mid-tier.” Personally, I’d call it the top of the low-tier in some areas (battery, RAM) and bottom of the mid-tier in others (USB C, screen size).

But, since there aren’t a plethora of stylus-equipped phones out there, let’s bring out the one statistic that works in the Stylo 4’s favor: it only costs $299, and if you purchase the Amazon Prime Exclusive edition you’ll get it unlocked and $50 cheaper. That’s a great discount considering all you’re giving up in exchange is some real-estate on your phone to Amazon apps that you can either remove or disable. The Note 9 will set you back a bit more:

Egads, for that price you could buy four Stylo 4s and keep a few as backups. Or better yet buy one Stylo 4 and spend your leftover cash on a bunch of other cool gadgets.

But, before you do, lets talk about the Stylo 4 on its own merit. Here’s the specifications:

  • 6.2” FHD+ FullVision display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 1.8 GHz
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB storage (expandable via MicroSD)
  • 3,300 mAh non-removable battery with USB Type-C fast charging
  • 13 MP Rear-facing / 5 MP Front-facing camera
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Stylus pen
  • Headphone jack
  • Android 8.1

I’m not going to equivocate here — this is mostly an average performer, as far as the specifications go. It’ll play music, video, and most games without issue. There are other similarly priced options among Amazon Prime Exclusive phones in the LG Q6 and Motorola Moto X. The Q6 is a bit underwhelming in comparison and the Moto X, while more powerful, has a smaller screen. And the Stylo 4 is the only Prime Exclusive phone with a stylus.

The Stylo’s style

It’s a gorgeous phone as long as you’re looking at it from the front or one of the sides. But if you turn it over, you’re treated to a shiny plastic back with a slight textured graphic that makes the phone look cheaper than it is.

I love the screen, those bezels are so tiny I double-checked to make sure I had the correct review unit. A $250 phone usually doesn’t have a screen this big or bezels this small. Just buy a case to cover the back.

It only comes in black, my least favorite color for a phone, but I won’t hold that against it since it’s pretty much industry standard. I was impressed to see not only a headphone jack, but also a USB-C charging port. Some folks are still on the fence concerning USB-C, and bargain shoppers are often the last to desire the upgrade, but for me it’s a selling point – it’s here, may as well learn to love it.

About that stylus

First off, the stylus is a great idea because this phone has a lot of real-estate. The screen is only two-tenths of an inch smaller than the Note 9. That’s pretty big for a budget device. Any smaller and you’d be hard-pressed to enjoy jotting notes with a pen, which may be why you don’t find inexpensive phones with built-in styluses very often.

Luckily, the Stylo 4’s stylus functions quite well. It feels good in your hand and great on the screen. I used it for a few weeks and never felt even the slightest bit of lag – as a bonus, my screen was usually free of fingerprints.

It’s not perfect by any means, though LG does manage to make the software work flawlessly. You can customize what happens when you unsheathe the stylus, making it a breeze to whip it out and access any app or shortcut you choose. Using the pen works fine. What’s not so great is the design of the pen in regards to the slot it fits into.

During my use I deduced I had about a 50/50 shot at any given time of sliding the stylus back into its little hole without having to pull it back out and rotate it to get the top to line up with the slot. It’s annoying, but not a deal-breaker.

Who is this for?

That’s the $64,000 question (or at least the $250 one). If you want a phone that comes with its own stylus, but you don’t feel like shelling out a $1000 or more, then this is the phone you’re looking for. Sure, you could get an older model Note, but the Note 8 still costs at least twice as much as the new Stylo 4, and the Note 7 was discontinued for being at risk of causing fires. Yikes!

The LG Stylo 4 is a good phone. As long as you’re not a power-user who needs a top-notch processor, this phone is perfect for your every day use, and great for taking notes or just doodling during your meetings. Plus, if you’re a neurotic mess like I am, you’ll enjoy finding out you don’t have to clean your screen 50 times a day if you use the stylus for everything.

I love this phone, it punches up and tries something that most manufacturers seem afraid of. No, it doesn’t compete with Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note 9, don’t be silly. But most of us don’t need that much phone, and certainly not at the Note’s price. I’ll stick with the LG Stylo 4, it’s a stylus-equipped phone for the rest of us.

You can get your LG Stylo 4 Prime Exclusive edition on Amazon right now.

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