For the surprisingly large number of people still desperately clinging onto their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones, the LG Stylo 2 Plus isn't likely to be a substitute, but it's the only stylus-equipped phablet you can get on MetroPCS. At $229, the 5.7-inch Stylo 2 Plus is a relatively affordable phone, with some useful note-taking functionality and features like dual-band Wi-Fi, a fingerprint sensor, and NFC, which are uncommon to midrange devices. But if the stylus isn't important to you, the ZTE Zmax Pro is our Editors' Choice, offering better specs across the board at a lower price.
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Design, Features, and Display
The Stylo 2 Plus is a fairly standard gray polycarbonate slab that doesn't have much to distinguish it from the rest of LG's midrange lineup. Measuring 6.1 by 3.1 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighing 5.8 ounces, it's about as large as both the Samsung Galaxy J7 (6.0 by 3.1 by 0.3 inches, 6.0 ounces) and Zmax Pro (6.4 by 3.3 by 0.3 inches, 6.7 ounces), though significantly lighter than both. Its dimensions make it too large to use with just one hand, but it does have Mini View, a mode which shrinks the screen when you swipe left or right on the home button.
Along the sides you'll find the stylus slotted into a dock on the top. Pulling it out wakes the screen and gives you access to a number of note-taking and quick launch apps (more on that under software). The bottom has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB charging port. In typical LG design, the back features all the buttons. The volume keys and power button are both located on the back, right below the camera sensor. The power button doubles as a fairly responsive fingerprint sensor, and the volume keys can be programmed to quick launch the camera or take a screenshot.
The textured plastic back cover can be peeled off to give you access to a removable battery, SIM card slot, and a microSD card slot. The latter worked with a 256GB microSD card, and LG has it certified to up to 2TB.
On the front, the Stylo 2 Plus has a sizable bezel and a bottom lip with LG branding. The rest of it is dominated by a large 5.7-inch 1,280-by-720 TFT LCD. The display has decent viewing angles and color reproduction, but the large size means its pixel density works out to 258ppi. Icons and text aren't as crisp as the 6-inch 1080p panel on the Zmax Pro (367ppi) and the screen isn't as rich and bright as the J7's (267ppi) Super AMOLED screen. Maximum brightness could also afford to be higher to make outdoor usage easier, but the blue light filter is handy to reduce eye strain for night use.
A MetroPCS phone, the Stylo 2 Plus works with the same cell towers used by T-Mobile. It supports LTE bands (1/2/4/5/6/12) and registered solid network performance during my testing in midtown Manhattan, with a top download speed of 10.2Mbps. That's similar to other MetroPCS and T-Mobile devices we've tested in the area. Other connectivity protocols include Bluetooth 4.2 as well as dual-band Wi-Fi and NFC, neither of which you'll find on the Zmax Pro.
Call quality is solid. Transmissions are clear and have natural tones on both ends. Noise cancellation is good, blotting out nearly all background noise aside from wind, which causes occasional crackling. Earpiece volume is reasonably loud and should be audible in a noisy environment, but the speakerphone is tinny.
The midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor powering the Stylo 2 Plus is really starting to show it's age. Clocked at 1.4GHz, the chipset scores 40,275 on AnTuTu benchmarks, which measure overall system performance. It's a markedly lower score than the Zmax Pro (47,007) which benefits from the newer Snapdragon 617 chipset with a higher clock speed to compensate for the more demanding display.
In terms of general performance, the Stylo 2 Plus is usually smooth. You get 2GB of RAM, which allows a fair amount of multitasking. However, in testing, I did experience a few slowdowns and stuttering even when I wasn't close to hitting the RAM usage limit. Playing intensive games like GTA San Andreas is smooth initially, but as you play longer, the controls grow more sluggish and you'll start to notice dropped frames.
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Battery life is great. The phone clocked 6 hours, 53 minutes of runtime when streaming full-screen video over LTE at maximum brightness. That's nearly an hour longer than Zmax Pro (6 hours) and J7 (6 hours, 21 minutes). The runtime is long enough you should be able to get a comfortable day's use out of it, not to mention you can always swap out the removable battery. A built-in Battery Saver can also be enabled to restrict background apps and turn off network connectivity at a particular percentage, and a Game Optimizer adjusts video quality in games to save power.
The 13-megapixel rear camera on the Stylo 2 Plus takes clear, albeit dull, outdoor shots, and focuses fairly quickly in good lighting. However, like many midrange phones it drops the ball in less-than-ideal circumstances. Finer details, like individual branches of a bush or the grain of a wooden railing, tend to be lost compared with sharper sensors, and auto exposure doesn't always adjust responsively. Low-light shots are the biggest struggle. The camera becomes slow to focus and suffers from graininess and blur. Video is recorded at 1080p at 30fps. Footage is fairly stable, but the sensor suffers from the same issues when adjusting auto exposure or trying to record in low light. The 5-megapixel front camera takes good selfies, but tends to oversoften facial features.
Like its competitors, the Stylo 2 Plus comes running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and like most midrange phones, the path for an upgrade to Nougat is unclear. That said, Marshmallow isn't outdated yet and it runs fairly well despite LG's heavy custom UI layer. There are a fair number of changes, the main one being the removal of the app drawer in favor of splashing all the app across the home screen. There are other, mainly visual alterations to the notification shade and the Settings menu.
The real selling point here is the stylus. Pulling it out of its slot brings up Pen Pop, a menu of apps that appear on the top right of the screen giving you access to various note-taking apps. You have Pop Memo, which lets you jot down and save quick notes; Capture, which takes a screenshot of your screen and saves whatever you write on the screen' Pop Scanner, which takes a photo with the rear or front camera and lets you write on the picture; and finally Quick Memo+, which open up a full-screen note taking app that lets you save notes and drawings.There's also an open slot letting you pin an app of your choice to the Pen Pop menu. Overall, it's no S Pen in terms of handwriting recognition, but LG's stylus software makes it quick and easy to jot down notes, reminders, and write on the screen.
Another useful feature is Dual Window, which lets you split the screen and multitask with two apps at the same time. I found it particularly useful if I wanted to refer to my notes while browsing or jotting down points while I was watching a video.
As with all carrier phones, there's some bloatware. You'll find seven MetroPCS apps, two LG apps, and Evernote, Facebook, and Instagram. It's not too grievous, but when combined with the Android software and LG UI it takes up roughly half of the internal storage. You're left with 8.78GB out of a total of 16GB. You can always use a microSD card to add, though Marshmallow's Adoptable Storage feature, which treats the card as internal storage, has been disabled here.
If you're a keen scribbler, the LG Stylo 2 Plus is the only stylus-equipped phablet you can get on MetroPCS. At $229 it's a relatively affordable way to quickly and easily take notes, plus it has a set of connectivity protocols you don't normally find on midrange devices. The Samsung Galaxy J7 is the same price and shares much of the same hardware, minus the stylus, so most users will likely opt for the Stylo 2 Plus for the extra functionality. That said, if the note-taking or dual-band Wi-Fi isn't important to you, the ZTE Zmax Pro has a bigger and higher resolution screen, a faster processor, and dual lens rear camera capable of taking sharper shots with manual controls. It also costs $50 less, giving you the best combination of price and specs, which is why the Zmax Pro remains our Editors' Choice among phablets on MetroPCS.