LG Optimus 2X Review

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Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone. It can beused with T-Mobile USA andAT&T, but without 3G.

Introduction:


Very often it turns out that it’s more important to be first than be the best. The LG Optimus 2X is the first commercially available smartphone with a 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 chipset, and this feat alone makes it special.

There are other, and more interesting phones coming up with two CPU cores, as much as there are other, more powerful dual-core chipsets than Tegra 2, but none of those you can take for a spin or buy yet. Their loss.

Back in last summer we wrote that due to sinking market share LG is plotting the creation of an Optimus line of handsets, and on top of its food chain will be a powerful phone with a dual-core chipset from NVIDIA, which at the time was selling its Tegra 2 platform to anybody willing to listen.

Both were considered underdogs then - LG due to the never-ending supply of uninspiring feature phones, and NVIDIA due to the fact that Qualcomm, Samsung and TI all had dual-core chipsets in the works, which were more powerful and efficient than its already done Tegra 2.

Both LG and NVIDIA bet heavily on the first-to-market slogan, and we have the end result of NVIDIA trying to get a foothold in the cell phone business, using LG’s urging need to stand out somehow. The LG Optimus 2X is supposed to be the most powerful Android phone to date, but what can dual-core do for you in reality? Read on to find out...

Design:

The phone feels very solid when held, with its 4.9 ounces (140 grams), and is borderline large, but its decent 0.43” (11 mm) thickness comes somewhat to the rescue. Still, there is too much empty space below the screen for the phone to be considered normal size.



You can compare the LG Optimus 2X with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The large 4” screen has 480x800 pixels of resolution, and is bright, with wide viewing angles, and punchy colors - most probably an IPS-LCD, which currently is one of the best LCD technologies. LG is making the Retina Display for the iPhone 4, and the screens on its latest high-end phones, like the Optimus 2X and the LG Optimus Black, can attest to its display manufacturing prowess. There are four capacitive Android buttons below the screen, which are quite responsive.



The elevated square module on the back hosts the 8MP camera sensor with LED flash, which transitions nicely into a chromed strip running along the middle of the back cover, which carries etched Google branding. The same strip we are seeing on LG's upcoming G-Slate tablet, so it might be the mark of a  product line now. There is also a front-facing camera for video chat above the display, but no LED notification light.


The sides don’t have much going on for them – there are separate volume buttons on the right, and a power/lock button at the top, all of which are easy to press, with a nice feedback. On the top are also the standard audio jack, and an HDMI port with a protective cap, which is very easy to pry open. The bottom hosts the microUSB port and two stereo speakers, making the phone a multimedia delight, among its other virtues.


We liked the spartan, streamlined industrial design on the LG Optimus 2X. There is just the right amount of quality materials, like the soft-touch plastic and the metal strip on the back, which prevent the handset from looking plain.

LG Optimus 2X 360-degree View:



Interface and Functionality:

The Android 2.2 Froyo interface hasn't been over-the-top skinned by LG. We have a dock at the bottom of the display, which is always present both in the homescreens, and in the main menu. It is slightly transparent, and hosts four shortcuts - to the Phone, Contacts and Messaging apps, as well as to the main menu or the homescreen, depending where you are in the interface.

Naturally, we have a bunch of widgets, folders and shortcuts we can place on the homescreens. The LG widgets you can see below - a couple of clocks and time management ones, as well as news, social networking and multimedia widgets - nothing new here. The weather widget uses AccuWeather.com to pull its info from.


We especially liked the Calendar widget, since it presented both our near and far upcoming events in a clean manner. LG should have made it possible to fit the Social Feed and My Status widgets on one homescreen, instead of having to look at one screen for Facebook or Twitter updates, and then go to another to post our status.

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You can change the main menu from list grid view to page view, which brings in a nice glowing red line with the page number on it, and you can also create app categories. Scrolling and overall performance in the interface is very fluid, as we can expect from the most powerful Android handset on the market. No matter how many apps we ran at once, we couldn't choke the 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 chipset, even though the phone has 380MB of user-available RAM. It once scored 2777 on Quadrant, and 74.4fps per second on Neocore, which makes it the fastest stock handset we've seen so far.


We will make a segway here to explain what are the current and future bragging rights of having a dual-core phone. For now the most useful advantage is the ability to record and play Full HD 1080p video. More detailed videos is a nice thing to have, but in reality the difference with HD 720p video is not that huge, if you are not watching it on a Full HD-capable display.

Moreover, there are single-core phones, which also claim the ability to record 1080p video, like the upcoming Samsung Infuse for AT&T, simply because the 1.2GHz Hummingbird chipset in it is powerful enough to allow Full HD. The main advantages are coming when there is software written specifically for dual-core, but for now you are only getting the bragging rights.

We ran a few standardized tests on the dual-core LG Optimus 2X against last year's finest the Samsung Galaxy S, and have a couple of charts to share.

The LG Optimus 2X performed better in almost all of the tests, except for close results in a 3D graphics test, where it managed only about 13% more frames per second than the Samsung Galaxy S.


In browser benchmarks, on the other hand, the NVIDIA Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core chipset inside the LG Optimus 2X really shined. It delivered thanks to the Symmetrical Multiprocessing (SMP) capabilities of ARM's multi-core Cortex-A9 chips like Tegra 2. Recent changes in the Webkit code, what we have in the Android browser, allow for taking advantage of multiple CPU cores when rendering websites.

For example, when a single-core chipset encounters some script on a Web page, it stalls other tasks until the script is executed, whereas if there is one more core, they continue fetching the page from the server in parallel, thus speeding up the load times quite a bit. Indeed we saw much faster performance both in benchmarks like SunSpider (JavaScript rendering) or GUIMark2 (Flash and HTML5), as well as in actual page load times.



The full comparison chart set can be found here.

Messaging, Browser, Connectivity and Software:

The LG Optimus 2X presents text messages in a threaded conversation form, as is the norm now. Typing them in both landscape and portrait modes is quick due to the well-spaced virtual keyboard, and the large 4” screen. When you press a letter, a large handle appears to show you which one you've selected. The phone supports several gesture controls, and we found the one where you tap on the phone's sides to move the cursor in a text field most useful. It is usually a pain to position the cursor precisely on a touchscreen phone, so that takes care of it, until the Optimus 2X gets updated to Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with its large handle bar for moving the cursor around.



LG's own email app has only two options – MS Exchange and Other, which has preset settings for the most popular webmail services, so you just need to plug in your user name and password. The Email app offers combined inbox for all your accounts, but the maximum size of messages and attachments it can download is unspecified.


We had a great experience with the browser on the LG Optimus 2X – almost no problems with fluidity when scrolling, panning around, using double or pinch-to-zoom. What's more, probably due to the powerful chipset, Adobe Flash doesn't seem to slow it down much - Flash ads showed quickly, and playing embedded videos worked as advertised, except for one Flash site, where we had to refresh the page for the video to stop buffering, and start playing. Since the chipset is so mighty, it executes both JavaScript and Adobe Flash elements very quickly, so we have the full Web experience loading extremely fast.


On the connectivity front, the Optimus 2X is well equipped – 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, A-GPS, FM radio, DLNA, and even an HDMI port. The GPS chip managed to locate us for about three minutes on cold start, and worked very quickly afterwards, taking advantage of the newest version of Google Maps and the digital compass to show exactly which way you are facing.

Our test of the HDMI-out capabilities can be found here – just plug in the supplied HDMI cable, and watch your phone's display transfer over to your big screen TV while gaming, browsing, or watching movies.

For managing the DLNA connectivity on the LG Optimus 2X, you have the SmartShare app, which allows you to share multimedia over the air via Wi-Fi. The process was as simple as they come, and we were able to browse the gallery on an Android smartphone standing nearby from the comfort of our LG Optimus 2X.

We tested the DLNA feature on our LG Optimus 2X unit and it worked well, with slight hiccups when we were streaming Full HD video to our Windows 7 PC. It also needed to buffer the video for about a minute before it started, but if we were on a wireless N router, it might have been faster.

Playing content from our PC on the phone worked like a charm, but you can only use the default Android player, so no weird formats for you. Streaming to the PC actually solved the problem with playing unsupported formats. If you have the codecs on the receiving end, Full HD video encoded in the .MKV format played with no problems, regardless of the fact that on the phone it can't with the default player.


On the Google side, it comes with the newest versions of Android Market, and Google Maps 5.0, with its 3D view of buildings and large precached areas for offline navigation. To pay a tribute to the fact that it is the first commercially available phone with NVIDIA's dual-core Tegra 2 chipset, there is an app called Tegra Zone. It contains news related to the Tegra chipset, as well as game recommendations, but NVIDIA has further plans for expanding its reach. UPDATE: LG got in touch with us to inform that the Tegra Zone app we had on our review unit is actually still in the testing phase, and it won't come preinstalled on the phone, but rather available as a separate download from Android Market for NVIDIA Tegra 2-based devices.


Another notable software addition on the Optimus 2X is a free one-year subscription to F-Secure's Mobile Security suite. It includes the free Browsing Protection app (similar to the Incognito browsing mode in Chrome), antivirus and malware protection, as well as anti-theft tools, such as remotely pinpointing your phone's location, and wiping it clean from afar. Mobile Security kicked in when we copied or downloaded files to the internal storage, chiming in that they are safe.


LG has also provided its own software for remote control and managing of your phone, called Remote Support, which ominously stated “after connection, a representative will control your phone”, but we never got it to connect to the server.  Of course, we also have LG's own App Advisor, which lists Android applications the company thinks are great, and worth to grace your Optimus 2X with their presence.


There are a few other handy apps preinstalled, like Document Master for viewing Microsoft Office documents, which can also log you into your Google Docs, or Box.net accounts, and take it from there. It also serves as a file browser, so no need to install Astro, or some of the others on Android Market.

We'd be remiss not to mention the Mirror app, which uses your front-facing camera for a mug shot.

Car Home is an app that turns your homescreen into a placeholder for huge icons, suitable to see and operate while you are driving. It includes easy access to your Maps and Navigation apps, as well as Voice Search, Music, Contacts and Phone functions – all those likely to be used on a roadtrip.



All in all, quite the apps selection on the LG Optimus 2X, covering most basics out of the box – from free antivirus protection for your mobile, through a DLNA sharing app, to remote support and management of your phone.

Camera and Multimedia:

The LG Optimus 2X lacks a dedicated camera button, which is a head-scratcher for a smartphone with an 8MP camera, that, on top of it all, is the first capable of shooting Full HD video. Sign of the times, we guess, but considering how much underutilized space there is on the sides, this should have happened.

The camera interface is functional and easy to operate, although the settings menu feels a bit cluttered, due to the sheer number of options available. You can have a look at the list of choices in the screenshots below. The burst shooting mode, Panorama shot and stitching are extremely fast, probably because of the Tegra 2 chipset.



The picture and video samples with the LG Optimus 2X that we took on a cloudy winter day had the overly eager noise suppression algorithms kicking in, blurring the frames quite a bit. Other than that, the sky exposure and the overall color representation were fairly accurate. We used the camera again when the sun showed, and naturally the photos came out slightly sharper.

We tried all the color effects for fun, and were hoping that the Vivid mode will help the photos and videos saturation in the winter daylight, but it bumped up the contrast too high, and darkened the whole scene, so it is not as helpful as what you find on the Nokia N8, for example.



Indoor photos came out very good, except for a slight yellowish hue in strong indoor lighting, before the LED flash started to illuminate the scenes. The flash actually turned out very usable - details are plenty, the frames are focused, and the produced results were sharp, with accurate color representation.



The Full HD 1080p video samples were average in terms of focus and color representation, but the amount of detail was out there for a video shot with your handset. We also found that when you are panning around with the handset while shooting 1080p samples, the video gets lighter or darker very abruptly, due to the phone constantly measuring exposure and adjusting colors accordingly – it's just not as smooth a transition as we are used to on other high-end handsets. But then, again, no phone before had to process the amount of data coming in while shooting Full HD video.

Full HD video is not as smooth as the 720p samples captured with the phone, since it is encoded with 24fps, whereas the handset's HD 720p video goes up to 30fps. A 30 minute 1080p video clip will run you about 2.5GB from the 8GB of internal memory, give or take, which is bearable.

LG Optimus 2X Sample Video:

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LG Optimus 2X Sample Video - Vivid mode:


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Music playback is top notch through the built-in stereo speakers in terms of quality, although they could use a bit more strength. In portrait mode the music player is a run-of-the mill Android fare, but with about 20 equalizer presets, including surround sound in both speaker and headset modes. Turn the LG Optimus 2X in landscape, though, and one of the prettiest Cover Flow-like music player interfaces is revealed. The strip with your album covers has nice 3D effects while scrolling, similar to the Gallery, and a handy slider underneath helps you find the exact album in your extensive music collection you are looking for. The only thing you don't seem to be able to do is fast forward the track in the mode, just play and pause the songs in an album.




The handset supports video files encoded in the MPEG and H.264/3 formats, as well as DivX/Xvid, but you have to register it first for those. Go to About phone in the Settings menu, and choose DivX VOD registration – it will guide you what to do, but basically you write down the code, and insert it in the DivX Player on your computer, which then generates a registration video that has to be played once on the phone, and, voila – your LG Optimus 2X runs DivX/Xvid. For anything else, like .MKV, you will have to hit Android Market. When the phone plays supported video files, it goes all the way up to 1920x1080p without a stutter. If the format is not supported, however, Full HD 1080p playback is somewhat laggy, like what we experienced with a 1920x1080 music clip in the popular Matroska .MKV container, which might have been due to the QQPlayer we used, of course. We watched a Full HD 1080p movie for 3:17 hours, before the battery gave up the ghost.


Performance:

The in-call quality from the earpiece of the LG Optimus 2X is quite decent in terms of accurate voice   representation, but it could use a bit more strength for when you are in noisy environments. The other party said they could hear us well, and our voices sounded natural.

Contrary to the popular belief that the dual-core Tegra 2 will suck the life out of your battery faster than you can say “1500mAh”, the LG Optimus 2X behaved quite gently with the juice pack. It is rated at almost 8 hours of talk time in 3G mode, which is on the long side for an Android handset, and, indeed, while we handled the phone we didn't notice a shorter battery life than the other high-end Android smartphones. Oh, and the phone doesn't heat up too much, to mitigate some concerns about heat from dual-core chipsets. It does get a little warm under pressure, but less than the HTC Desire HD, and especially than the thin Sony Ericsson Xperia arc we handled, both of which have second-gen Snapdragon chipsets.

Conclusion:

You won't be able to conclude right away that the spartan-looking handset you are holding in your hands is the first modern dual-core phone, when you handle the LG Optimus 2X. It doesn't have a flashy design, or “2X” written all over it. You might start getting a hint when you see the option for recording 1920x1080p video in the camera interface, but that's about it. The interface is fluid, browsing and multitasking are top-notch, but so are they on many high-end Android handsets these days.

It is enough to run one of the standard benchmark tests, though, and you will immediately come to grips with the fact that the LG Optimus 2X is the most powerful Android phone to hit retail to date. Others will soon follow, but the LG Optimus 2X will stay forever in our hearts as the first one which made it on the balmy dual-core shores, where lag, stuttering and insufficient power to run Adobe Flash are a thing of the past.

To top it off, the phone offers a fully-featured HDMI port for watching 1080p videos or play games on your TV, as well as a helpful selection of preinstalled apps, like a year's worth of Mobile Security subscription. And so it goes - this Android powerhouse is a no-brainer if the price is right, be it for the simple fact that you will be future-proof when developers start dishing out apps which take advantage of two cores.

All the other alternatives to the LG Optimus 2X are, naturally, of the single-core variety, and not going to score you any geek points, but you can head over to the HTC Desire HD, which has a bigger screen and more appealing design, or stick with the former performance king – the Samsung Galaxy S, simply because of its beautiful Super AMOLED display.

LG Optimus 2X Video Review:

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Pros

  • The most powerful Android phone on the market for now
  • Records and plays Full HD 1080p video
  • Easy to use full-featured HDMI port

Cons

  • Average camera quality
  • A tad on the large side

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

9.4
11 Reviews

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