LG Optimus 2X vs Apple iPhone 4

Introduction and Design

We are always excited here at PhoneArena when we have to compare two outstanding handsets, but our excitement gauge breaks out of range today, because we are about to throw into the gladiator pit the top of the cell phone food chain.

In the left corner a powerful new contender is flexing his guns - the LG Optimus 2X and on the right is the most talked-about and profitable cell phone of all times - the iPhone 4. Spartan industrial design that just dashes through benchmarks with the sheer raw power of its dual-core chipset, versus a thin boutique device with cult-like reputation for running hundreds of thousands of quality apps that make it a Swiss Army knife of a phone.

One of the handsets can record Full HD 1080p video and splash it all over your TV via HDMI, or render Adobe Flash and JavaScript with crazy speeds in its browser. The other can’t do these, but is still selling like hot cakes. Is dual-core powerful enough to bulldoze the Apple orchard? Read on to find out...


The Apple iPhone 4 is like no other in design - steel and glass become one to form an image that both genders find appealing. The LG Opimus 2X, in its turn, tries to convey a high-tech image of a cold, but powerful handset, and succeeds, be it only for the grey-silver sides, and the HDMI title font on the protective cap - it looks like it’s something the Terminator would use.

How surprising it is then to find out that they both actually... weigh almost the same, and when you handle the sharp edges of the iPhone 4 it even feels rougher than the greyish slab with 4” display, but soft-touch plastic on the back that is the LG Optimus 2X.

And here we come to the screens. LG makes the 3.5” 640x960 pixels Retina Display of the iPhone, so naturally it slapped a similar IPS-LCD technology on the 4” screen of its own top-of-the-line creation, but with the lower resolution of 480x800 pixels. It also seems less bright and, of course, with lower pixel density than the one on the iPhone 4.

For some reason it also has narrower viewing angles than the Retina Display, so it might not be the best LG is capable of. Many users would take a very good 4” screen any day before a 3.5” excellent one of the same technology, but a larger screen comes at a price. In the Optimus 2X case it's the larger size, not least because of the excessive space beneath the display, which could have been used for, well, more screen.

Overall, while we don't mind the cold high-tech nature of the LG Optimus 2X's bland looks, we've seen soft-touch plastic on a phone before, thus the sheer exclusivity of the iPhone 4 design tips the scales in its favor here.

Apple iPhone 4 360-degree View:

LG Optimus 2X 360-degree View:


Apple's interface is app-centric, and has been so since 2007. Just one row of icons after another on a page after page might seem boring compared to the widgetized flexibility of the Android UI, but the pure simplicity of iOS with consistent fonts, coloring and transitions has won many hearts over the ragtag Android skinning efforts. Luckily for the iPhone 4, LG’s overlay of the stock Android 2.2 UI is not HTC Sense, so we’d call it a draw.

How’s navigation around those interfaces? Smooth as silk on the iPhone 4, very fluid on the LG Optimus 2X. The iPhone 4 responds to your finger movements seamlessly, like a purring cat to a head massage, while the LG Optimus 2X overcomes the fact that Android is a tad less responsive via the raw power of its dual-core chipset.

We especially liked the scrolling inertia setting of LG’s handset. The iPhone 4 is set to slow down to a stall when scrolling up and down a list, no matter how briskly you swipe your finger, while long lists on the Optimus 2X just go and go when flipped, until you tap and stop the scrolling madness abruptly.

Messaging, Browser and Connectivity:

The keyboard on the LG Optimus 2X is eerily resembling the one in iOS, to the extent where even the popup that enlarges the letter when you touch a key has the same shape. Copycat or a payday for Apple’s patent filings? Either way, the bigger screen makes the keyboard on the LG Optimus 2X more spaced out and comfortable to use.

By now most everybody with the slightest interest in smartphones is aware of what the Android and iOS interfaces look like. Thus what we pointed our attention to was the browser performance. We all know how smooth browsing on the iPhone 4 is. After all, Apple popularized inertial scrolling, touch gestures and tap zooming.

The Android 2.2 Froyo browser has never been as fluid as Safari on any handset, but for a few very valid reasons. The main one is that is renders Adobe Flash, which, as popular as it is around the Web, is a real resource hog. The Android browser also renders the page in real time when zooming, while iOS stops rendering and shows fuzzy image until you’ve finished with the gesture, then it resumes. Nevertheless, because of that navigation in Safari is smoother, and you are not really reading while zooming the page anyway.

The huge plus, however, is the ability of Android’s browser to show Adobe Flash content, which Safari lacks, and Flash is not going away from the Internet any time soon. And in the LG Optimus 2X that support is outstanding, because of the dual-core chipset. Not only is it powerful enough to render heavy Flash pages without much stuttering, but it also does it much faster than on single-core handsets, since recent changes in the Webkit code, as found in the Froyo browser, can delegate tasks to more than one core.

A single-core CPU deals with a script it encounters on a web page until it is executed, whereas with NVIDIA Tegra 2 the tasks are split between the two cores, and they continue fetching the page from the servers while at the same time a script might be executed. But enough with the theory, let’s show you the benchmarks.

First off, the iPhone 4 loaded our home page fully for 31 seconds, while it took the LG Optimus 2X 23 seconds to render it completely, Adobe Flash and all. When we hit refresh, the iPhone 4 was only a second or two late, but not showing the flash ads, of course.

Then we ran BrowserMark and got 48077 on LG’s dual-core phone, while the iPhone 4 scored 30784. On the other popular browsing benchmark Peacekeeper we got 423 for the iPhone 4, whereas the LG Optimus 2X scorched it with 839 points.

We didn’t run any Flash tests for obvious reasons, but Sunspider, which measures JavaScript rendering performance, pegged Safari at 10935ms, whereas the Froyo browser on the Optimus 2X made out like a bandit with just 3948ms when it finished the test - the lower, the better here.

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To cut a long story short, Apple popularized the multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom, and things like double-tap in the iOS Safari browser, so for various reasons they work best there, the absence of Adobe Flash support notwithstanding.

The dual-core power in the LG Optimus 2X, however, allows for faster websites load times, with all the bells and whistles of the desktop web, like Flash and zippy JavaScript execution. If you couldn't care less about Flash, navigating a webpage with Safari is a joy, thanks to the fluid scrolling and multitouch gesture execution. In case you can't part ways with Flash, however, the Android 2.2 browser as found on the dual-core LG Optimus 2X would be the preferred choice.

The two handsets offer similar connectivity options, in terms of 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and A-GPS, but the iPhone 4 notably lacks DLNA and HDMI. It compensates for the lack of DLNA with the AirPlay streaming standard for iOS devices, for which you need the “hockey puck” Apple TV, or a certified device.

The LG Optimus 2X has them both out of the box, so you are covered much better if you want to hook up your phone to your TV via a regular HDMI cable without any additional accessory. Have a look at our HDMI-out video demo on the LG Optimus 2X here.

Native DLNA support is another plus, although you’d better be on a Wireless N router if you want the 1080p videos from your phone to stream to your computer or TV wirelessly without hiccups. The other good news is that you can stream video in formats which your phone doesn’t play, and if the device on the receiving end with the bigger screen has these codecs, it will play the video, regardless of the fact that your phone can’t, which is not possible with AirPlay.

Camera and Multimedia:

The main difference between the 5MP shooter on the iPhone 4, and the 8MP one on the LG Optimus 2X is the dual-core LG phone’s ability to record Full HD 1080p video, whereas the iPhone 4 maxes out at HD 720p. The camera interfaces also couldn’t be more different - LG’s creation has an abundance of scenes, settings and preset modes, whereas the iPhone 4 takes the term “point and shoot” to a whole new level. If you are looking for the easiest casual way to snap a photo with your handset, the iPhone 4 won’t bother you with any settings.

The quality of the pictures from the iPhone 4 has been well-analyzed numerous times. The phone produces contrasty, saturated images, with a very good amount of detail and focus. They tend to be a bit noisy, for the sake of sharpness, and have slightly warmer hue inside.

With the LG Optimus 2X, on the other hand, the noise is less discernible, but post-processing it smears the shot a little bit. Still, the handset captures plenty of detail, but the colors in good daylight appear a bit colder than they actually are. With cloudy skies the shots are murky, and the colors again appear colder than they are in reality. Indoor shots, though, are very good, with sharp details and true colors, whereas the light from the LED flash is more powerful than the one on the iPhone 4. As mentioned above, a lot of indoor shots taken with the iPhone 4 have this annoying yellow tint to them.

Now, for the video, we won’t be reinventing the wheel when we tell you that the Full HD 1080p video option gives a real advantage in the amount of detail the LG Optimus 2X is able to capture, compared to the iPhone 4. Despite the high compression levels, we can see more minute details on the Full HD video samples taken in one and the same location with the Optimus 2X, thаn on the HD video, captured with the iPhone 4.

The frame rate of 24 per second is lower in 1080p mode than the 30fps of the iPhone 4 in 720p mode, so the Full HD videos with LG’s handset are not as smooth looking in comparison. The colors in the video samples follow the same trend observed in the stills - oversaturated, sometimes blown-up colors from the iPhone 4, very cold ones from the LG Optimus 2X when cloudy, and slightly colder than reality when the daylight is plentiful.

We would have given our preference to the video capture from the dual-core phone here, if it wasn’t for the sluggish exposure and white balance adjustments on the LG Optimus 2X. The iPhone 4 is much zippier to seamlessly adjust the brightness when you pan around, or a bright object enters the frame, whereas on the videos with the Optimus 2X it goes as if you are slowly turning Venetian Blinds. Hopefully this can be remedied with a firmware update of sorts.

Nevertheless, because of the abundance of detail in the 1080p videos, the very good indoor shots, and the wider lens view, we’d give slight advantage to the Optimus 2X in the camera comparison.

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Now let’s turn our attention to music. Both handsets have stereo speakers at the bottom, which are very good (for handset speakers, that is). We only wish the speakers were more powerful on both, otherwise the sound output is clear enough.

The LG Optimus 2X music player interface is almost stock Android in portrait mode, and can’t hold water compared to the iPod player on the iPhone 4. Turn the phone in landscape mode, though, and the LG Optimus 2X shows one of the prettiest interfaces to list and play your music we’ve encountered. The albums are arranged in a Cover Flow-esque carousel with 3D effects and transparent titles. A handy alphabetic slider at the bottom allows for quick find of the needed album in case your collection is vast.

As for video playback, Apple’s iOS devices' format support is poorer than the one on the LG Optimus 2X. The Android phone plays MPEG and H.263/.264 files, and, when you register it with the DivX Player on your computer (see the option in the Settings menu), it also plays DivX/Xvid files. We also played .MKV files in the Matroska container with the QQPlayer from Android Market, but 1080p video lags a bit - this player is still not optimized to process so much info in that format.

When we combine the rich format support with the fact that the LG Optimus 2X plays Full HD 1080p video, and has a bigger 4” screen than the iPhone 4, it is the clear winner in video playback. Not that you will appreciate Full HD on any phone’s screen resolution, but it gives you that warm glow inside when you see the video clip resolution pegged at 1920x1080p, and your phone has only warmed up a little.

Performance and Conclusion:

Both the iPhone 4 and the LG Optimus 2X are very good as phone functions go, with enough earpiece volume and clear voices, as well as good microphones for the receiving end. We replicated the iPhone 4 “death grip” when we took it out of the case, in terms that we lost a bar or two of signal after a while, but it didn’t affect the call quality, maybe because we were in an urban area with enough signal strength.

LG quotes almost 8 hours of talk time in 3G mode for the Optimus 2X, while the iPhone 4 is quoted for 7 hours. What we observed is battery life on par with the other high-end Android devices for the Optimus 2X, which disperses with the rumors that dual-core drains battery faster. If you don’t overload it, it will get you until the next morning easily. Playing a Full HD movie on your big screen TV took its toll on the battery, though - it lasted 3 hours and 17 minutes in that mode.

In conclusion we will say that the LG Optimus 2X is the more powerful and capable device of the two, if we take them as they come, and leave the application stores alone. Where the iPhone 4 shines is its unique design and display resolution, as well as the coherent looks and performance in the interface. The Android 2,2 Froyo skinning is a bit rough around the edges on the LG Optimus 2X, compared to the UI of the iPhone 4, but that’s true for most any Android device still - function trumps form.

Where the LG Optimus 2X excels, though, is snappy browsing, with fast rendering of Adobe Flash, and zippy JavaScript execution - areas where Safari played second fiddle to the Android 2.2 Froyo browser powered by a dual-core chipset, at least in the speed department. LG promised quick update to Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and, most probably, to 2.4 Ice Cream, which is Gingerbread with support for multi-core chipsets, so the Optimus 2X can only get better.

In the end, we must say that the first dual-core Android phone won’t sway people, who want the iPhone 4 design, simplicity of use, and the fact that iOS is the platform where developers are putting most effort to come up with more and more quality apps.

Who it might sway is the undecided voters, who want the most cutting-edge hardware, and don’t mind getting down and dirty tinkering with their phones now and then. Not to mention the bragging rights that come with owning the first modern dual-core handset. We are sure the LG Optimus 2X will receive a cult status pretty soon with the custom ROM crowd, which will unleash possibilities yet unknown about the handset.

This fame, though, might last only a few months, until the other dual-core Android phones hit the market in the Spring, not to mention the next generation iPhone in the summer, which, as all indications point, will have a second CPU core of its own.

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