Rugged phones are often pricier, bulkier, and lacking in the specs department compared with their more fragile counterparts. The LG X Venture on AT&T is different. It's a rugged Android phone with a slim, light build, and a relatively affordable $329.99 price tag. It's not quite as feature-packed as the Kyocera DuraForce Pro, which remains our Editors' Choice, but it's a solid alternative if you're looking to save $100 or want something more pocket-friendly.
Design, Durability, and Display
You won't mistake the X Venture for a Galaxy S8. It has a black or brown textured rubber back panel, a strip of metal on either side, and physical navigation buttons. Measuring 6.0 by 3.0 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and 5.8 ounces, the X Venture is significantly thinner and lighter than the DuraForce Pro (5.8 by 2.9 by 0.5 inches, 8.1 ounces). It doesn't feel quite as sturdy, but it's easier to use with one hand and won't weigh down your pocket.
There's a power button on the right, while the left has a volume rocker and a SIM/microSD card slot that worked fine with a 256GB card. There's also a Quick Button above. By default, a single press launches Outdoor Essentials, an app that gives you access to tools like a barometer, digital compass, flashlight, activity tracker, and LG Health. A double press enables Glove mode, increasing screen sensitivity so you can use it while wearing gloves, while pressing and holding the button opens the Settings menu. It's fully programmable, so you can have all three of the gestures launch a different app of your choice. The bottom of the phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB charging port.
The phone is rated IP68 for water and dust resistance, meaning it can withstand being submerged in up to five feet of water for 30 minutes. We had no problem keeping it fully immersed for that period of time. It also withstood several drops against the hard, rubberized floor in PCMag's test lab, though we didn't drop it on concrete, since, unlike the DuraForce Pro, the screen is only Gorilla Glass instead of shatter-resistant sapphire.
Front and center is a crisp 5.2-inch, 1,920-by-1,080 IPS LCD panel. The resolution works out to 423 pixels per inch. It's sharp for the size, coming close in pixel density to the 5-inch DuraForce Pro (441pp) and better than the 4.7-inch Cat S60 (312ppi). Screen brightness is excellent, and you should have no trouble seeing it outdoors when set to maximum. Physical navigation buttons are located below the display. The home button doubles as a fairly responsive fingerprint sensor.
The X Venture is exclusive to AT&T and supports GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS (850/900/1800/1900MHz), and LTE bands (1/2/3/4/5/7/12/20/29/30). It showed solid network connectivity in midtown Manhattan, registering 9.5Mbps down and 8.8Mbps up. This is in line with other AT&T phones we've tested in the area and our findings in the Fastest Mobile Networks 2017.
Additional connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.1 and dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz). There's also NFC, which is rare to find at this price.
Call quality is excellent. Transmissions are clear, without any garbling. Voices can sound a bit harsh, but the combination of clarity and a loud earpiece volume makes the X Venture easy to hear in a noisy environment. Noise cancellation effectively blots out almost all background noise and minimizes wind. The one slight letdown is the back-facing speaker. It's reasonably loud, but easy to accidentally muffle. The phone also supports HD Voice and Wi-Fi calling.
Processor, Battery, and Camera
The X Venture has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor clocked at 1.4GHz. It scored 43,639 on AnTuTu, which measures overall system performance, coming close to the Snapdragon 617-powered Cat S60 (45,466) and DuraForce Pro (46,540). It's no competition for the Snapdragon 820-powered Samsung Galaxy S7 Active (123,933), but it only costs half the price.
Real-world performance is fairly smooth. The phone has 2GB of RAM, so it can do a decent amount of multitasking. That said, you'll still encounter the occasional stutter when launching new apps or switching between ones running in the background. It also crashed repeatedly when trying to run high-end games like GTA: San Andreas, but didn't have trouble with less-demanding titles.
Battery life is strong. The X Venture clocked 7 hours, 36 minutes in our rundown test, in which we set screen brightness to maximum and stream full-screen video over LTE, significantly outlasting the DuraForce Pro (5 hours, 39 minutes) and Cat S60 (5 hours). It's still several hours shy of the Galaxy S7 Active, however, which achieved the longest runtime we've tested on a rugged device (10 hours, 30 minutes). Android's default Battery Saver can help save you some juice, but the battery is sealed in, so you can't swap it out for a new cell.
The X Venture's 16-megapixel rear sensor takes decent pictures in good light, but poor shots in any other conditions. Outdoors you'll get a nice level of color reproduction, with responsive autofocus and autoexposure, but fine details just aren't there. Objects like the branches of trees, railings of balconies, and bricks of buildings are all noisy. In low light image quality degrades further, and pictures are grainy and out of focus. The camera records 1080p video at 30fps. It can be jerky when panning around and there's a notable lack of stabilization, but otherwise footage is fairly clear. The 5-megapixel front-facing camera has a wide angle lens similar to the LG G6 and takes solid snaps with proper lighting.
The phone comes running Android 7.0 Nougat, putting it well ahead of most other rugged phones that usually ship with outdated software. By default the phone comes with LG's custom home screen enabled, with the app drawer removed and all your apps splashed across the screen. That's easy to change in the Settings menu, but you'll still find significant changes have been made from stock Android to the notification shade and app icons.
Heavy UI layer aside, there's also quite a lot of bloatware. You'll find 20 pre-installed apps from AT&T, LG, and others, none of which can be removed. The hefty load eats up half the storage, leaving you with 15.57GB available out of a total of 32GB. Fortunately, you do have the option of using a microSD card if you need more space.
For $330, the LG X Venture gives you a good combination of durability, performance, and size. Compared with the brick-like Sonim XP6 and Cat S60, the X Venture is a svelte device that won't weigh down your pocket, but still offers solid protection. The Galaxy S7 Active is a more powerful phone all around, but it's also a lot more expensive. The Kyocera DuraForce Pro is our Editors' Choice in this price range thanks to its superior durability and more powerful hardware, but it still costs nearly $100 more, making the X Venture an attractive alternative if you're looking to spend less.