For years, AT&T has taken Samsung Galaxy phones, given them a tough and rugged makeover, and slapped the new model with an energetic name tag like "Active" or "Sport." Unfortunately, those phones kept their flagship price tags. AT&T is taking a different tack with the LG X Venture, which woos more budget-conscious buyers.
The $330 phone features a 5.2-inch screen, chunky chin-mounted physical buttons instead of typical touch controls, a big built-in battery and military-grade durability. And even though the X Venture's performance and specs could stand a little improvement, there's definitely some value to this phone's blend of reasonable price and rumble-ready durability.
Updated May 21
We've updated our review of the LG X Venture based on our in-depth smartphone drop tests. See the results below.
Design: Not your typical house cat
At first glance, the X Venture's big rubbery buttons below its screen let you know it isn't a phone that needs to be coddled or covered in a case. The phone's metal frame wraps around every corner to better protect it from drops, while its back is swathed in a grippy silicone to help prevent those falls from happening in the first place.
On the right, you’ll find a standard power button, while the left sports a volume rocker and a quick button that by default is set to open the Outdoor Essentials app, though you can reprogram it to launch any app installed on your phone. You can even set up more than one shortcut by assigning additional apps to the double-tap and long-press options. The X Venture’s center home button also cleverly doubles as a fingerprint reader.
My one major gripe with the X Venture's design is LG's inclusion of a micro-USB port. It might be OK right now, but as the prevalence of USB-C continues to grow, the X Venture's micro-USB port is going to make this device feel dated even faster than normal. And with even cheaper devices such as ZTE Max XL and LeEco Le S3 having the foresight to use USB-C, there's really no excuse.
Measuring 6 x 3 x 0.36 inches and weighing 5.8 ounces, the X Venture is barely bigger than the Moto G5 Plus (5.91 x 2.91 x 0.38 inches and 5.46 ounces), which is moderately impressive considering the G5 Plus has the same size screen but nowhere near the same level of durability.
Durability: Way tougher than most
LG built a phone that’s shock-resistant up to 4 feet, water-resistant up to 5 feet (for 30 minutes) and able to withstand a whole bunch of other stuff, including salt fogs, high humidity and low atmosphere. Basically, this thing is almost as tough as normal phones get (though it is less rugged than beastly handsets like the Cat S60 and the Kyocera DuraForce Pro), which is good because with its price tag, you won't feel as bad about potentially putting the X Venture in harm's way.
On top of that, LG says the X Venture has passed the same series of durability tests as the LG G6, which include the aforementioned resistance to temperatures, immersion and vibration, in addition to a 10-point battery inspection to ensure the phone won't go all Galaxy Note 7 on you.
To find out how durable the phone was, though, we tested the toughness of the LG X Venture by dropping it on its face onto wood from a height of 4 feet and 6 feet; we then dropped it on its edge and face onto concrete from 4 feet. We also dropped it on its edge and face from 6 feet onto concrete.
This rugged phone made it through 4-foot drops on its face onto both wood and concrete without any damage, but a 6-foot edge drop caused the screen to shatter in the area beneath its physical buttons, and a hairline fracture through the middle of the screen appeared. A dunk in the toilet killed its microphone, but everything else, including the speakers, still worked, and there was no other apparent damage to its display.
As a result, the X Venture earned a toughness score of 6.6 out of 10. To see the results of other smartphones, as well as our complete scoring methodology, check out our smartphone drop tests.
Display: Just good enough
The X Venture's 5.2-inch full-HD screen is pretty basic, but it will get the job done. With a display that covers 109 percent of the sRGB spectrum, the X Venture's color range is pretty average and its peak brightness of 453 isn't much better than the 436-nit average for smartphones. The one redeeming aspect of the X Venture's display is solid color accuracy, as it notched a Delta E rating of 0.22. (Numbers closer to zero are better.)
For me, the biggest letdown is the X Venture's brightness, as most other tough and rugged phones, like the Cat S60 (660 nits) and the Kyocera Duraforce Pro (691 nits), put a big emphasis on luminant screens for better outdoor visibility. Meanwhile, the X Venture gets by merely being just good enough, and depending on conditions, sometimes a bit dim outdoors.
Phone Display Size: 5.2
Display Resolution: 1920x1080
Form Factor: Candybar Touch Screen
OS Family: Android
Operating System: Android 7.0
CPU: Snapdragon 435
Processor Family: Qualcomm Snapdragon 435
Memory Expansion Type: microSD Card
Display (main): 5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 LCD display
Bluetooth Type: Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Front Camera Resolution: 5 MP
Camera Resolution: 16MP
Ports: microUSB, NFC, 3.5mm headphone
Size: 6 x 3 x 0.36 inches
Weight: 5.8 ounces
Performance: Not as fast as its price tag would suggest
Even with the X Venture's exemplary durability and reasonable price, I wish LG had given this phone a bit more get up and go. Featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, the X Venture's performance is pretty anemic, and it's closer to super-cheap $100 handsets than even budget phones costing between $200 and $300.
The X Venture is fine for browsing the web and loading GIFs, but scrolling through the Google Play Store is unusually stuttery, and playing something like the new Final Fantasy XV mobile game can be frustratingly unresponsive.
On Geekbench 4, which measures overall system performance, the X Venture scored 2,613, a good deal less than both the smartphone average (3,639) and the less expensive Moto G5 Plus (3,746). (Motorola’s phone has a beefier Snapdragon 625 processor and double the RAM of the X Venture, though.)
Finally, the X Venture scored 8,290 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. In comparison, the Moto G5 Plus scored more than 50 percent higher at 13,862, while the smartphone-category average is more than two times higher at 19,925.
Cameras: Surprisingly proficient, but low light could be better
Sporting a 16-megapixel cam in back and a 5-MP selfie shooter, the X Venture has a pretty typical camera arrangement, although I found myself preferring shots from the rear cam as opposed to those from the one in front.
In a daytime shot of some flowers, the X Venture easily matched a pic from the Moto G5 Plus. It even went a bit further with slightly better dynamic range and a bit more detail on the white flower petals on the left.
Then at the Union Square Farmer's Market, the X Venture impressed with a strikingly sharp photo. However, if you look at the color of the onions and purple potatoes in back, the X Venture enhanced its red and pink tones a little too much.
Indoors, when I took a picture of some delicious poke, the X Venture captured a decent shot of my lunch. When compared with a pic from the Moto G5 Plus, though, it's clear the LG's pic missed nailing the exposure. The orange on the tobiko in the X Venture's pic is also a little too saturated, which leads to coloring closer to neon orange than the pale shades you see in the G5 Plus' shot. That said, I do like how much detail the X Venture recorded, which is especially evident when you zoom in.
The one area where the X Venture faltered was in low light. When I took a shot of our styrofoam headphone tester in a room with the shades drawn and the lights off, the X Venture's picture was pretty underexposed, which caused its pic to lose a lot of details throughout.
When I snapped a selfie on the roof of our office, the X Venture had a more well-exposed shot, but it wasn't nearly as sharp as the G5 Plus' picture. The G5 Plus captured individual strands of hair on my face and head, along with more detail on my face and shirt.
Software: Almost stock Android Nougat, but there's no app drawer
Our X Venture review unit came running Android 7.0 with the April 1 security patch and a UI that's pretty close to stock. The one major difference is that the X Venture doesn't have the standard Android app drawer, which means every app you install can be found somewhere on the home screen. That makes navigation a bit simpler, but comes at the cost of increased clutter.
As for Android as a whole, you still get all the big important Android Nougat features, including multiwindow mode, the Google Assistant and little improvements like the built-in blue light filter. The Outdoor Essentials app gives you a one-stop shop to view things like elevation, air pressure, compass, step count and more. It's a simple app and it functions as you'd expect, but the app doesn't actually feel that fundamental to the X Venture's core identity.
Battery Life: Pretty good, but stay away from Firefox
The first time we ran our battery test on the X Venture (continuous web surfing on 4G LTE), its time of 8 hours and 17 minutes was pretty disappointing, especially for a phone with a low-power chipset and a sizable 4,100 mAh battery. But that test used the mobile version of Firefox, which is the X Venture’s default browser.
We typically run our battery tests on Chrome, since that’s the default browser for a majority of Android devices. We ran the test again on the X Venture, using Chrome this time. The X Venture lasted 11:12. That's more than an hour and a half longer than the current smartphone average (9:30), and just 20 minutes shy of the Moto G5 Plus' time of 11:31.
LG started with budget specs and an OK display on the X Venture and slapped on an armored coat of rugged durability. The phone’s cameras are pretty sharp for a device at this price, though the focus on the selfie cam could be a bit better. At more than 11 hours, the X Venture's battery life is better than expected, so it’s unfortunate that the phone’s performance feels more sluggish than its $330 price tag would imply.
Ideally, the X Venture would cost $50 to $75 less, which would make it more competitive when compared with budget phones like the $230 Moto G5 Plus. Even so, if you just want something simple, tough and affordable, the X Venture is a solid choice.