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Review: LG Tribute 5 for Boost Mobile

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Feb 11, 2016, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

LG's latest low-cost smartphone for Boost Mobile is the Tribute 5. The phone competes in a crowded roster of similarly-priced handsets in Boost's lineup and struggles to stand out from the crowd. Here is Phone Scoop's take on this inexpensive Android smartphone.

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Is It Your Type?

The Tribute 5 from LG is an odd follow-up to last year's Tribute 2. In some ways the Tribute 5 is better than the Tribute 2, but in other ways, it's worse. This low-cost Android smartphone fills a questionable role in Boost Mobile's lineup, and is only for those who need a basic smartphone that can be used with prepaid service.

Body

The Tribute 5 is a more attractive, usable handset than its predecessor, but I'm not sure that's saying all that much. The Tribute 5 — which is very similar to the K7 sold by T-Mobile — is a slim smartphone. LG made improvements to the design and materials, which are the only real reasons to consider the T5 over the T2. (LG says it skipped over the Tribute 3 and Tribute 4 names in a nod to the 5-inch screen and dual 5-inch cameras.)

The Tribute 5 is a conservative handset with a somewhat generic look. The small amount of attention paid to smoothing out the edges, so to speak, goes a long way to boosting its appeal.

The T5's defining characteristic is the front panel, which LG is calling 2.5D Arc Glass (groan). This essentially means the glass is curved minutely where it meets the frame at the edges to form a more seamless look and comfortable shape. The frame is composed of dark gray plastic and is rather thin. It joins the rear shell, which wraps slightly around the side, top, and bottom edges, to cradle the upper half of the phone. The back panel is ribbed, black plastic and carries forward the rounded shape we've seen on the backsides of LG handsets for some time now.

The size and weight of the phone are great. Phones with 5-inch screens can start to become unwieldy, but the Tribute 5 strikes a nice balance. It is 14mm taller and 7mm wider than the Tribute 2, but 2mm thinner. The reduction in thickness goes a long way to improving the overall experience with this phone. I found the T5 comfortable to hold and use. Most people should be able to use the phone one-handed. It's slim enough that it will fit into most pockets without trouble, but I noticed the grippy rear panel sometimes pulled at my pocketliner when I attempted to retrieve the phone.

I have no complaints about the materials and build quality. The glass panel feels like it belongs on a much more expensive handset. The T5 is assembled tightly and avoids coming off as cheap, despite its entry-level stature.

Body  

The glass panel hides a lot under the dark coloring. The front camera is easy to spot, but a pair of sensors are practically invisible. There are no keys or buttons, as the Tribute 5 uses on-screen controls.

Like the majority of phones LG has released in the last few years, the Tribute 5's volume and power buttons are located on the rear surface. That means the left and side edges are utterly smooth. So is the top edge. The bottom edge holds both the micro-USB port and standard headphone jack. There is something to be said for phones with smooth edges.

As I've noted in reviews of other LG handsets, the rear-placed controls take some getting used to and that's no different with the Tribute 5. The quality of the rear-mounted control cluster, framed by a shiny chrome rim, is quite good. My finger had no problem differentiating between the volume up, screen lock, and volume down buttons. The lock button has a rounded shape that sets it apart from the toggles above and below it. All three buttons offer good travel and feedback and can be set to open select apps, such as the camera, with a double press if you wish.

You won't have any trouble removing the rear cover. A small notch in the left side makes it easy to pry off with your thumbnail. Some will be pleased to know the battery itself is removable. LG stacked the memory card slot on top of the SIM card slot, both of which are accessible once the rear cover is removed. You don't have to pull the battery to swap SIM cards.

In sum, the LG Tribute 5 is a good little phone. It's easy on the eyes — even if it borders on vanilla — and is easy to use.

Screen

The Tribute 5's screen kind of bums me out. The T2's display measured 4.5 inches and had 854 by 480 pixels. The T5's screen is bigger at 5 inches, but it maintains the 854 by 480-pixel resolution. That means the pixel density actually decreased from 219ppi to 196ppi. After spending years looking at 720p, 1080p, and 1440p screens, my eyes are surely spoiled. Even so, that doesn't change the fact that pixels are easily visible to the naked eye on the T5's screen. Icons and other on-screen elements sometimes look hazy. Small text can be unreadable in some instances. LG cheaped out with this screen. As disappointed as I am with the resolution, the display is very bright and easily viewed outdoors. Moreover, viewing angles are quite good.

Signal

Boost is a part of Sprint and uses the Sprint network. The handset easily found Sprint's LTE 4G signal in the greater New York region and remained connected throughout my time with the phone. I was able to place/receive calls everywhere I took the phone, which didn't drop or miss any incoming calls. Data speeds were on par with other devices sold by Boost Mobile, which is to say of middling velocities. The T5 delivers a good experience when browsing web sites and scrolling through Facebook over LTE, but it starts to choke on app downloads and data-heavy activities, such as streaming high-def YouTube or high-quality Spotify. It's swift enough for basic use, but more demanding tasks seem to demand WiFi.

It's worth pointing out that the Tribute 5 supports GSM/WCDMA for global roaming.

Sound

The Tribute 5 is a better voice phone than the Tribute 2, but it still delivers a mixed experience. Call quality is very good as long as you keep the volume set at about 50%. Unfortunately, that volume level is only good for quiet spaces, such as home or a private office. The Tribute 5's earpiece delivers a huge amount of sound if you crank it all the way up, but quality suffers immediately thanks to distortion. I was able to hold a conversation in a really loud bar, but it was a chore. I wish clarity were better at higher volumes. People I spoke to through the T5 said I sounded mediocre. The speakerphone is only loud enough for quiet spaces, and quality is scratchy at best. Ringers and alerts are not the loudest, but got my attention when necessary. The vibrate alert is quite jarring.

Battery

LG increased the capacity of the Tribute's battery from 1900 mAh to 2125 mAh; it pushes through a full day with about 10-20% remaining at bedtime. I was able to kill the battery with really heavy use by about 9PM on occasion, but most days it managed to keep going between 7AM and 11PM without question.

The Tribute 5 includes the system-level battery saver tool, which can be turned on manually or set to switch on automatically when the battery reaches 15% or 5% capacity. I set it to turn on at 15% and it only kicked on once while I tested the phone. I can't say it added much life to the phone.

It doesn't support rapid charging or wireless charging.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

The performance of the Tribute 5's host of radios was only so-so. The Bluetooth allowed me to connect the T5 to headsets, speakers, my car, and other mobile devices. Calls passed through mono headsets were atrocious, as were calls routed through my car's hands-free system. Music pushed to stereo speakers, however, sounded great.

The GPS radio took longer than other phones to locate me (more than 20 seconds) and was only as accurate as about 50 feet (other phones are accurate to less than 25 feet). Google Maps was somewhat slow on the Tribute 5, which I attribute more to the processor than the GPS radio. The combination is usable, but left me wanting more.

WiFi worked wonderfully. The Tribute 5 doesn't have NFC.

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