The new LG Nitro HD represents the company's premier Android smartphone in the United States. Without a doubt, it has a stellar spec sheet that includes 4G LTE data (AT&T), a 4.5-inch 720p HD resolution display, a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, and a 1080p HD video-capable 8 megapixel camera. It's also fairly thin, light, and attractive.

The Nitro HD should fear no other device when it comes to specifications.

But when it comes to real world performance, not all of its specs live up to user expectations. Yes, LTE data transfers are mind-blowingly fast, and the 720p display is drop-dead gorgeous. The 8 megapixel camera takes some of the best shots I've seen on a smartphone, too. But the phone is not without issues. Lag on a dual-core 1.5GHz processor equipped phone is not something I understand, and three hours of talk time from a massive battery is no easier to comprehend.

There is a lot to love about the LG Nitro HD, but all the 'oohs' and 'ahhhs' come with a couple of 'ughs' thrown in. Read on.

Hardware

The HD part of the LG Nitro HD's name doesn't stand for the 1080p full HD video it can record, but rather for its gorgeous 4.5-inch, 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixel) capacitive touchscreen display. Photos look amazing, even the most tiny of fonts are smooth and crisp, and it's a solid performer in the viewing angle department. In spite of the phone's ferociously fast 4G ~LTE performance, the Nitro's HD display is its defining element.

In addition to the screen, there's plenty to like about the Nitro HD's hardware. The build quality is very solid. It's a big phone, at 134mm x 68mm x 10.3mm (5.3in x 2.7in x .4in), but it's still narrower than the Motorola DROID RAZR and it weighs an easily tolerated 136g (4.8oz). I'd prefer that the top-mounted power button be located on the right hand edge, in Samsung style, since the phone is so long, and I could certainly do without the cover on the micro-USB port. I wish an MHL adapter was not needed for outputting to an HDTV, but if I stretch any further looking for things to complain about, I'll sprain something.

So instead, how about something I love? LG has dropped the dedicated capacitive button for the search function that normally sits under the display on Android phones. Instead it integrated that into the menu button. Why is this great? Because now you really know where to press to get the function you want -- without looking. You can mash a thumb down anywhere near the center and get the home function, the right side is back, the left is menu/search. You don't have to be accurate, you just slam it and get what you expect. That's far better than the 4-button layout found on most every other Android phone. You do lose the ability to long-press the search button to access voice commands, though.

The rear cover on the LG Nitro HD has a somewhat difficult to look at texture that I ended up liking for its feel. The cover has to be removed to gain access to the battery, SIM card, and microSD memory card slot. A 16GB card is pre-installed, which augments the roughly 2GB of available built-in storage.

Usability

While I find that the user interface tweaks LG placed on top of Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread are entirely usable, there are some issues with the phone as a whole. In spite of a dual-core 1.5GHz processor and a reasonable 768MB of RAM, the Nitro HD user is subjected to the occasional lag or stalls when navigating through the phone. It's not chronic, and won't leave you pulling out hair, but the phone just isn't as smooth as its peers from Samsung and HTC.

Apart from that, I really like the shortcuts for wireless settings and ringer mode that LG placed in the notification area, and I like the lock screen music controls quite a bit. Speaking of the lock screen, LG lets users drag down missed event notification icons on the lock screen to jump to the appropriate application, such as the SMS app or the call log, this works quite well. There's no real theme support on the Nitro HD, but LG pre-installs a number of system fonts that you can quickly switch between to customize the look of the phone beyond the normal assortment of wallpapers and home screen widgets. LG also lets you configure multiple home screen "layouts" and widgets that you can switch between easily.

There are 7 home screens available. They can be viewed in thumbnail fashion with a pinch gesture, and the order of the screens can be easily changed from there - as can the default panel that appears when you press the home key.

Text input is handled by the Android Gingerbread keyboard (default) and the LG keyboard. Both are solid, and the large touchscreen makes hitting the right key easy enough. It also aids the use of the copy and paste functions which are pretty good. Voice input on the phone is overall accurate, and the surface of the touchscreen display is particularly well suited to swiping and scrolling. LG's homegrown social networking integration is decent, as it integrates status updates, text messages, and email into a tab on the the contact screen for each of your contacts. Twitter and Facebook are supported out of the box.