The LG Stylo 6 is a sub-$300 phone with a built-in stylus, which puts it in exclusive company: the $299 Motorola Moto G Stylus is more or less its only direct competition. For its $270 price, the Stylo 6 offers good battery performance; a big, bright screen; and the handy pen-derived features that stylus life offers. But as much fun as I had doodling on its generously sized screen, it’s just too slow to recommend.
That’s a shame because I genuinely enjoyed aspects of using this phone. I couldn’t seem to drain the battery below the 30 percent mark even on a day of heavy usage, and I experienced real enjoyment texting my spouse a precisely drawn, animated doodle of a farting butt. Photos look good on its vivid, wide 6.8-inch screen, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover while rewatching Chernobyl (don’t worry, I talk to my therapist about this) that it has stereo speakers.
Unfortunately, that enjoyment was overshadowed every time the phone took an extra beat to switch between apps, open Twitter, load my Instagram feed, or start my Google Maps navigation. It’s not unusably slow, but it is quite noticeably slow. If you have the patience of a small insect like I do, there’s a fine line between the two.
LG Stylo 6 screen and performance
The Stylo 6 is a large phone, as you’d expect a phone with a stylus to be. It offers a 6.8-inch 1080p LCD with a standard 60Hz refresh rate and modest bezels. Its dimensions are similar to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, also a large phone, except that it’s slightly taller. The screen itself is plenty bright and vivid, and the aforementioned stereo speakers make watching videos that bit nicer.
I found the phone overall too big to use comfortably one-handed, and it felt awkward in even large coat pockets. That’s beside the point, though, if you’re considering the Stylo then you probably already know you want a large phone, so to each their own.
The Stylo 6 offers a Mediatek Helio P35 chipset and 3GB of RAM. Herein lies the Stylo 6’s troubles: this processor and RAM combination just doesn’t offer enough power for this phone. I noticed stuttering often as I scrolled through media-rich screens on Twitter and Instagram. Ditto the previously mentioned slowness opening and switching between apps, and the camera suffers from laggy processing speeds, too.
I sometimes tapped the screen, then wondered if the phone had recognized the tap a split second before it opened an app or whatever I was trying to do. Conversely, I’d tap the screen too lightly or quickly and wait an extra second before realizing it hadn’t registered, just because I’d gotten used to giving the phone a little extra time to do everything. This would all be more forgivable (if still frustrating) on a $200 phone, but depending where you get the Stylo 6, it’s pushing closer to $300 and should really do better.
If there’s a bright spot to the phone’s processing woes, it’s that battery life is great — possibly as a side effect. The Stylo 6 has a 4,000mAh battery, and after a typical day with two-plus hours of screen-on time, I was usually down to only 70 percent. I was sure a day of heavier use with Google Maps navigation, Spotify, and more social media scrolling than usual would challenge it, but nope. I didn’t even drain it enough for a low battery warning before plugging it in at night.
There’s just one configuration offered with 64GB of built-in storage, which isn’t great, but it’s expandable by way of microSD. It ships with Android 10 and, unfortunately, a lot of preloaded apps and games that you probably don’t want. LG isn’t known for a generous upgrade schedule so it’s very unlikely the Stylo 6 will see an Android 11 update.
LG Stylo 6 stylus features
Of course, the stylus features are a big (sorry) draw here. The stylus is tucked away and spring-loaded into the lower-right corner of the device, and it activates a set of shortcuts when it’s removed. You can take a quick note, grab a screenshot or a GIF of whatever’s on your screen, and mark it up with notes, or draw something immature to text to your partner.
Despite Samsung’s Galaxy Note being the de facto stylus phone, LG has been making phones with styluses for ages, and it shows with little UI touches like automatically toggling off gesture navigation when you start a note so that you don’t accidentally swipe out of it. You won’t find advanced features like the (much more expensive) Galaxy Note series offers here such as handwriting-to-text conversion or the ability to use the stylus as a remote control. Basically though, it does all of the things you’d expect it to do, and these features work well.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed having the stylus available. It’s much easier to draw or write silly notes on images with the pen rather than your finger, which I had basically given up on doing because they always look terrible.
The ability to also jot down a quick note without even turning the screen on is something I really appreciated. I feel like I’m always fumbling to unlock my phone, find the notes app, and open a new note just to type out something quick like an email address or a song title. None of this is unique compared to a Galaxy Note, of course, but the Stylo 6 has a set of genuinely useful features that aren’t very common, especially at this price point.
LG Stylo 6 camera
The Stylo includes a 13-megapixel main camera, a 5-megapixel ultrawide, a 5-megapixel depth sensor, and a 13-megapixel selfie camera. That’s not a lot of resolution to work with, but it’s enough to allow the Stylo to take decent-quality images in good light.
White balance occasionally leans a little too magenta or too green, which sometimes gave an effect I liked — kind of a nostalgic film-like quality. At other times, images just looked too cool and washed out. I like how the Stylo handles high-contrast scenes; the HDR effect doesn’t look too strong. Your preview image will look overly dark, but an HDR icon on the screen indicates that the final image will look much more balanced.
Images in low light or moderate indoor lighting look okay for social media but show a lot of smeared detail if you look closely. The ultrawide lens is somewhat limited by its low-res sensor. Even in bright daylight shots details look smoothed over, and it’s just not up to low light photography.
The camera is also a victim of the phone’s underpowered processor, particularly in portrait mode. The live preview is quite laggy, which gets worse once you push the shutter and wait for the phone to process the image. This can take as long as six seconds, during which you’re unable to take another image.
It’s hard to know if you got the right frame of your subject, and it’s a frustrating experience trying to photograph a subject that’s moving even just a little bit because you can’t “spray and pray.” The camera keeps shutter speeds relatively low, too, so blurry subjects can be a problem. By sheer luck I got a portrait mode photo of my cat mid-yawn, but I wouldn’t count on being able to do that again.
I captured a few images with the Stylo that I really like, but I felt like it was more in spite of the camera rather than because of it. The images this phone captures will look okay on Instagram and Facebook, but overall, the Stylo’s camera capabilities lag behind most other devices at this price.
The Stylo 6 has a few good things going for it: an affordable price, built-in stylus, big screen, and great battery life. But factoring in its shortcomings, namely an underpowered processor, it’s not a device I can easily recommend.
Even around its $270 price, there are many other more capable options. The $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G offers a better camera and processor. The 2021 Motorola Moto G Power includes a massive battery and better processor performance for $200. Neither of those comes with a stylus, of course, but I don’t think the Stylo 6 is even your best bet for an inexpensive phone with a stylus: for just a little more, the 2021 Moto G Stylus offers better performance and an upgraded camera.
If speed isn’t a concern, a stylus is a must-have, and the price is right, I think you can live a reasonably happy life with this phone. Maybe my patience is just too thin, and a more enlightened person can coexist peacefully with it. The rest of us would do best to look elsewhere.
Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge