: Great Value; Solid Performance for all but the highest-end tasks; Bright and sharp 4-inch display, Dual Cameras; It's Android, so it's very customizable

Cons: MetroPCS' "4G" is as fast as the other guys' "3G"; Nationwide coverage map isn't as extensive as those of larger carriers; Too much pre-installed bloatware

Bottom Line: The best contract-free phone I've tried, and an excellent deal for a mid/upper-range device for the budget-minded in Metro PCS' coverage areas

The Details

LG's Connect 4G brings LTE connectivity and a few high end features to Metro PCS' wallet-friendly, contract free cellular service model. After spending a month or so with the handset, I had few complaints other than "Their LTE isn't as fast as the LTE that costs twice as much each month." But, hey, you get what you pay for, right? And in this case it's quite a bit: $319 up front pays for the phone, and as little as $40 each month gets you unlimited talk, text and Web connectivity. That entry-level plan gets you 100MB of streaming data per month; add $10/mo to step up to 1GB, or choose the top-shelf $60 plan for unlimited everything including your choice of Rhapsody music or MetroStudio Video on Demand. Even with 4G speeds more like Sprint's WiMax than Verizon's LTE, $60/month for unlimited everything is a sweet deal.

As for the phone itself, it's nice looking, comfy to hold, and a solid performer. Early adopters and hardcore phone geeks will scoff at the the "mere" 4-inch, 800 x 480 pixel display but it's plenty big and high-resolution for most users. And it's a high quality screen, too, what with its IPS LCD technology (super bright, readable in sunlight) and Gorilla Glass construction. Similarly, Connect 4G is a dual-core device in a world gone mad with quad-core chips in high end phones, but this LG's performs just fine when it comes to Web browsing, video watching, and Angry Birds/Draw Something playing. If you want to rock cutting-edge 3D games on your phone, look elsewhere – for everyone else, Connect 4G will get the job done with power to spare. The 5MP camera with Flash performs pretty well, and there's a front-facing camera for video chats and self-portraits – there's something you don't see on a contract-free phone every day.

MetroPCS' network performed well for me in the San Francisco Bay Area, with solid reception, decent-to-good voice quality, and fewer "Undelievered!" SMS errors in a month than my iPhone sees on AT&T in the average week. The device features good integrated noise cancellation, and paired up fine with a Jawbone bluetooth earpiece I threw at it. As mentioned, LTE on Metro performed more like WiMax or really good 3G than what AT&T and Verizon users see on their LTE devices. I averaged around 2.5 Mbps down and 3 up, though I've seen reports of higher speeds in New York City and other of the 14 metropolitan areas MetroPCS has lit up with 4G service. Note, however, that Metro doesn't offer a 3G network; when you drop off of LTE you drop back to CDMA, which is a 2G protocol.

LG Connect 4G Gallery