The $99.99 LG Tribute 5 (full retail price) is one of many entry-level smartphones you can get on Boost Mobile. It offers decent overall performance for basic tasks, but it's loaded with bloatware and has a lackluster camera and display. It's one of the better-looking phones you can get in this range, but the Motorola Moto E is a more capable device for the same price, and it's our Editors' Choice.
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Design, Display, and Features
The Tribute 5 looks sleeker than your standard affordable phone. Measuring in at 5.65 by 2.85 by 0.35 inches (HWD) and 4.88 ounces, it's about the same size and weight as the Kyocera Hydro Reach (5.47 by 2.83 by 0.38 inches; 5.1 ounces), and more svelte than the Motorola Moto E (5.11 by 2.63 by 0.48 inches; 5.11 ounces). The phone feels good in the hand thanks to a grippy, textured back panel and a front surface that curves upward along the edges to conform to your hand, almost like the Samsung Galaxy S7.
The rest of the design is distinctly LG. The phone is made out of plastic and has rear power and volume buttons. On the bottom, you'll find a micro USB charging port with a 3.5mm audio jack to its left. The back peels off to give you access to a microSD card slot that worked fine with a 64GB Leef Pro card card. There's also a SIM card slot and a removable battery.
There's a 5-inch, 854-by-480-pixel display on the front, which doesn't have great viewing angles and isn't as sharp as the 960-by-540 panel on the 5-inch Hydro Reach, but colors appear less washed out. Still, that resolution only works out to 196 pixels per inch, so games and videos look pixelated. The display is reflective outdoors, but you can still see it in direct sunlight if you crank the brightness up to max. The Moto E has a smaller 4.5-inch screen, but its 960-by-540 resolution gives it the highest pixel density of the bunch.
Network Performance and Connectivity
Boost Mobile devices operate on Sprint's cellular network. The Tribute 5 supports CDMA (850/1900MHz), HSDPA (850/900/1900/2100MHz), and LTE (25/26/41) bands. Network performance where I tested in midtown Manhattan was average, with the phone reaching a high of about 5.5Mbps for downloads and uploads.
Call quality is good, with clear transmissions indoors. Outdoors I noticed some garbling when the noise cancellation kicked in, but the phone does a good job blocking out background traffic noise. Earpiece volume is blaring at the highest volume, but slightly distorted.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The Tribute 5 is powered by a dated Snapdragon 210 processor clocked at 1.1GHz. It scored 20,210 on the Antutu benchmark (which tests overall system performance), on par with the Hydro Reach (20,198). The Moto E is powered by a somewhat newer Snapdragon 410, and offers superior performance.
With 1GB of RAM, multitasking and running intensive apps on the Tribute 5 a struggle. Basic apps work fine, like Chrome, Facebook, Gmail, Messenger, and Uber. But if you have several apps running in the background, you will experience some slowdown and eventually hit the RAM usage limit. Serious gaming isn't possible. There's not enough internal storage to download most larger games, and they run poorly when trying to play them off the SD card.
See How We Test Cell Phones
Battery life is decent. The Tribute 5 lasted for 4 hours and 42 minutes of runtime when we set screen brightness to maximum and streamed full-screen video over LTE. That's a much better result than the Hydro Reach (3 hours, 17 minutes), but not nearly as long as the Moto E can manage (5 hours and 59 minutes). Regardless, the battery is removable (unlike the Hydro Reach and the Moto E), so you can always swap it out for a fresh one.
There are 5-megapixel camera sensors on the front and back of the phone. The rear camera is generally unimpressive, taking soft, hazy shots, even in well-lit settings, and struggling with noise under any demanding circumstances. On the other hand, the selfie camera does a better job of capturing details clearly. You can shoot 720p video at 30fps, but the recorded footage looks jittery.
Software and Conclusions
The Tribute 5 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, with LG's heavy UI layer on top. There are a number of changes to the system, including different app icons and screen transitions, a modified notification shade, and an altered settings menu.
There's also a hefty load of bloatware, with more than 20 unnecessary apps preinstalled on the phone, leaving you with just 2.88GB of available storage out of the total 8GB. Fortunately, you can move apps, photos, and videos to the SD card.
For $100, the LG Tribute 5 is a nice-looking phone that can handle the basic needs of casual users. You'll get similar performance from the Hydro Reach, with the added benefit of a waterproof build, although its camera and battery life are even worse than those of the Tribute 5. For the same price, the Moto E gets you near-stock Android software, faster performance, and better battery life, so it remains our Editors' Choice for entry-level smartphones on Boost.