The budget phone space is incredibly competitive right now. The Moto G5 Plus is still king in this product category, but there are plenty of rivals like Nokia and Acatel selling great devices at inexpensive prices. LG has been making budget phones for a while now, but the X Venture is a bit different. The phone's priorities are durability and battery life, not specifications or performance.

After using the X Venture, I came away impressed. For $329, you get a decently-fast phone that can take a beating, all while lasting around two days on a single charge. It even has a few features you don't often see in phones around this price (at least in the US), like NFC support and a customizable 'QuickButton' that can open any app. But even with a great set of features, I'm not sure if the X Venture's price is right.

Specs

CPU Snapdragon 430
GPU Adreno 505
RAM 2GB
Storage 32GB with microSD expansion
Display 5.2-inch 1080p
Battery 4,100 mAh
Camera 16MP rear, 5MP front
Software Android 7.0
Measurements 6.0" x 3.0" x 0.36", 5.8 ounces
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/r, 2.4/5 GHz; Bluetooth 4.2
NFC Yes
Price $329.99 or $11/month for 30 months

The Good

Design The metal frame protects against drops and bumps, and the back side has a rubber texture for easy gripping.
Water/dust resistance This phone is IP68-rated, so you don't have to worry about getting it wet.
Battery You can easily get two days of solid use out of this phone on a single charge.
QuickButton The X Venture has a button above the volume rocker than can be set to open any application on your phone.
Software LG's Android skin isn't terrible.

The Not So Good

Buttons The side buttons on this phone activate with very little pressure, I often pressed them accidentally while holding the phone.
Speaker The tiny back-facing speaker doesn't sound great.
MicroUSB I would have liked to see USB Type-C instead of microUSB, but at least it supports QuickCharge 2.0.
Cameras The cameras on the LG X Venture aren't very good.
Exclusivity You can only buy this phone from AT&T.

Design

Left: LG X Venture, Right: Google Pixel 5"

The LG X Venture's design can probably be best described as function over form. One of the phone's primary features is a massive 4,100mAh battery, so as you might expect, the Venture X is a bit thicker (~9.1mm) than your typical Android flagship. I didn't find the extra thickness to be annoying at all, but it's noticeable.

Top: Google Pixel 5", Bottom: LG X Venture

The front of the phone is glass with three physical plastic navigation buttons at the bottom, and an LG logo at the top. The home button pulls double-duty as the fingerprint sensor, so you can unlock the X Venture by only by pushing down on it. I'll take software navigation buttons over physical ones any day, but the ones on the X Venture aren't terrible by any means.

The left and right sides of the phone are metal, and the corners are reinforced to better withstand drops and bumps. The left side has the 'QuickButton,' volume rocker, and SIM card tray. The power button sits on the right side, and at the bottom is a headphone jack and microUSB port with QuickCharge 2.0.

The orange QuickButton serves as a shortcut for the 'Outdoor Essentials' application, which displays a compass, barometer, the current weather, a flashlight toggle, and other helpful functions. But if you want, LG allows you to remap the button to any application. You can even set additional actions for double-pressing and holding the QuickButton. Samsung could learn a thing or two from this phone.

Unfortunately, the side buttons on the X Venture are very sensitive. Most of the time I end up pressing at least one of them when taking the phone out of my pocket, or holding it in landscape mode. In my time using the X Venture, this was probably the most annoying aspect of the phone.

The back side is completely rubber, which makes the X Venture easy to grip, but makes the overall design feel a bit dated. Personally, I don't really care what the back of my phone looks like, but maybe you do. There's a camera at the top center of the phone, with a flash on the left side. There are also logos for AT&T and LG, in case the front-facing LG branding wasn't enough for you. At the bottom-left corner is a tiny speaker grill.

Display

The LG X Venture has a 5.2" Gorilla Glass 3 1080p display, with 423 pixels per inch. It's a normal LCD, not AMOLED or anything fancy like that. Despite that, the display was just fine in my experience, with great viewing angles and good colors. But the best part of the X Venture's screen isn't the resolution or colors - it's the brightness.

This phone is clearly built to be used outdoors, and the display is no exception. Trying to use my Google Pixel in full sunlight is nearly impossible, but the X Venture's screen is easily readable in the same conditions. And that large 4,100mAh battery means you can keep it at full brightness without worrying about it dying too soon.

Performance and battery

As you may have noticed in the specifications sheet above, the LG X Venture is powered by a Snapdragon 430 CPU with an Adreno 505 GPU. This is a bit of an odd choice, as the phone is similar in price to the 64GB Moto G5 Plus ($299), but that phone has a Snapdragon 625. The 2GB of RAM is kind of disappointing - the 64GB G5 Plus has 4GB of RAM.

On Geekbench 4, the X Venture scored a 631 on single-core performance and 2583 on multi-core (full results here), slightly below the Moto G5 Plus' scores of 799 and 3823. On 3DMark's Sling Shot Extreme test, the phone scored 237 (full results here). Finally, AnTuTu gave the X Venture a score of 40526.

  

Despite the less-powerful chipset, the X Venture is still plenty fast in real-world use. The apps I use the most include Twitter, Sync for Reddit, Discord, Slack, Instagram, Twitter, Inbox, Chrome, and Hangouts. All of these performed very well on the phone, but Chrome was noticeably laggier than on my Pixel. This is probably more Chrome's fault, though - there are better browsers for mid/low-range devices.

I could even play a 1080p YouTube video while scrolling through Twitter, using Android 7.0's multi-window mode, and there was hardly a slowdown. So while the phone's raw power might not be on the same level of a Moto G5 or Moto Z Play, real-life usage has been very good in my testing.

As far as battery life goes, the LG X Venture is fantastic. The 4,100mAh capacity means you can easily go two days on a single charge, maybe three if you don't use it much. I regularly saw between 6-7 hours of screen-on time, but I don't do much mobile gaming, so your results may vary. One day I left the phone alone for 12 hours, and it was still at 98% (granted, that's also thanks to Android 7.0's Doze).

To charge that massive battery, the X Venture supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0. There is a QC-compatible wall charger and cable included in the box, so you don't have to buy extra accessories. Still, I would have liked to see QC 3.0.

Camera

Budget phones almost always suffer from unremarkable cameras, and the X Venture is no exception. There's a 16MP rear camera with an f/2.2 aperture, and a front-facing 5MP wide-angle lens. As with most budget phones, you might get decent shots with plenty of light, but low-light performance is not great.

Even some photos in bright light, like the trees picture, have washed-out colors. Sometimes you can get a good level of detail, such as in the watch and mailbox photos, but you have to hold the phone very still. The front-facing camera is a similar story, but the wide-lens feature is fun to play around with.

 

Left: Normal selfie, Right: Wide-lens selfie

If you plan on taking plenty of pictures with your phone, the LG X Venture might not be the best choice.

Software

I've owned two LG phones in the past - the Nexus 5 and Nexus 5X. But both of those shipped with stock Android, so I've never actually tried LG's skin. After using the X Venture, I would still have preferred something closer to stock, but it's not terrible.

Let's start with the home screen. LG actually ships three launchers on the X Venture - 'Home,' 'Home & app drawer,' and 'EasyHome.' The first two are nearly identical, except the former doesn't have an app drawer and the latter does. EasyHome is a simplified launcher with the left-most page functioning as a dialer.

  

From left to right: Home, Home & app drawer, EasyHome

I used the Google Now Launcher for most of the review period, but LG's launchers are pretty good. You can change the swipe effect, grid size, and app sort (except with EasyHome, which offers no customization beyond the app icons).

   

There are a few other LG apps present on the X Venture, such as LG Health (a fitness app), Outdoor Essentials (displays barometer/compass/weather info), QuickMemo+ (a notepad), and an FM radio. You don't see many carrier-sold phones with FM radio support, so that's a nice feature to have. There's also something called 'LG SmartWorld,' which seems to be some kind of product catalog.

Besides the LG apps, there is a fair bit of bloatware on this phone. Thankfully they can all be disabled, except AT&T Device Help, but here's what came on my review unit:

  • Amazon
  • AT&T Call Protect
  • AT&T Protect Plus
  • AT&T Smart WiFi
  • AT&T Device Help
  • DirecTV
  • DirecTV Remote
  • DriveMode
  • Firefox
  • Facebook
  • Lookout Security & Antivirus
  • myAT&T
  • AT&T Setup & Transfer
  • AT&T Smart Limits
  • Uber
  • AT&T Visual Voicemail
  • Yellow Pages

Finally, we come to the LG skin itself. For the most part, LG just made everything white and called it a day. The quick settings panel, most of the stock apps, the keyboard - everything is white. Using this phone in the dark might not be a great experience. But LG hasn't made any major changes to how Android operates, which is a good thing.

  

Besides the blinding design, I really only had two complaints. The carrier (in this case, AT&T) is locked to the top-left of the status bar, and I tapped the Clear All button on the Recents screen far too often. But otherwise, LG's skin is pretty unobtrusive.

Conclusion

The LG X Venture is a good phone. I love the larger battery, the customizable shortcut button, and the rugged feel. But the X Venture is in a very competitive space, and I'm not sure the $329 price is right. For $30 less, you can get the 64GB Moto G5 Plus. Compared to the X Venture, the 64GB G5 Plus has a better CPU, twice the RAM, twice the storage, and software closer to stock Android. But the Moto G5 Plus lacks the X Venture's NFC support, IP68 rating, and more protected body.

Ultimately, the X Venture isn't the best choice for everyone. If you want a durable budget phone and you're on AT&T, I would definitely recommend it. But if you don't care too much about durability, or you're not on AT&T, the Moto G5 Plus is a better choice.