Great hardware, but software niggles let it down
Announced at CES this year, the LG Optimus 2X is the first dual-core handset to reach these shores, running an NVIDIA Tegra 2 chip. We’re expecting faster overall performance, great video support and excellent gaming, but with the dual-core Motorola Atrix coming soon will it live up to our expectations?
With a rubberised back and smart metal ‘Google’ branded element on the back, it’s a nice looking handset and certainly feels far more durable than the plastic Samsung Galaxy S. Although it’s not as sleek as the Nexus S and the design plays safe, in particular the screen doesn’t merge into the black edges, which we liked on the Galaxy S and Nexus S
At the base is a micro USB port, at the top you get HDMI mini, 3.5 mm jack and a power button, the volume controls are on the side.
LG Optimus 2X: Android 2.2
Start up time is a less than impressive 40 seconds. On launch you’re faced with seven homescreens customisable with live wallpapers and widgets. At the bottom are static Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Application keys, underneath you get the standard Menu, Home, Back and Search keys, on the whole these respond well.
It’s a shame the LG Optimus 2X runs Android 2.2, instead of 2.3; however LG’s skin and bright coloured icons make the menu easy to browse. It is upgradeable to 2.3 at some point.
Scroll down from the top from any screen to view the notification bar and quickly turn Vibrate, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and Auto Rotate on/off and access music controls.
LG has included a selection of its own widgets too. Social Feeds aggregates your Facebook and Twitter news feeds, while My Status lets you update your status on either. LG’s Facebook app isn’t as good as the Android one, lacking features and integration with your contacts, so we’d suggest getting rid of it.
LG App Adviser is another LG-Specific feature, selecting optimum apps. It’s probably because the phone is so new, but it only suggested 10 to us, none of which were remotely of interest. Additionally, you still have to download from the Android Market, so it doesn’t make them any quicker to install. It would be infinitely more useful if you could set parameters of interest.
Voice Control works pretty well, speak the name of the website you want to launch or say ‘Call John Smith’ and it comes up with a list of suggestions.
The keyboard is good rather than amazing. There isn’t a dedicated full stop button on the main screen, instead the text prediction bar displays punctuation while you are typing or you can use double space. On some screens there's dedicated smiley key (which we just don’t get), which makes it feel a bit cramped
LG Optimus 2X: Screen
At 4-inches the screen is generous size, yet the phone never feels too big. Despite sharing its 800x480 resolution with the Samsung Galaxy S, whites are far brighter here, although not quite as pure as the iPhone 4, where side by side there’s a very, very slight pink tint. Blacks are impressive though and off-angle viewing is pretty good.
We streamed Ray Mears Northern Wilderness from iPlayer on the LG Optimus 2X, Galaxy S and iPhone 4. Viewing the introductory shots of Canadian lakes the LG Optimus 2X is superior to the Galaxy S, which had visible pixels. However, in terms of rendering fine detail it still lags behind the iPhone 4, fine detail of the waves on the lake looks soft and lacking definition.
LG Optimus 2X: Processor
Equipped with an ARM Cortex A9 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce-class GPU, it’s the power of this phone we’re most interested in. In day-to-day tasks the difference dual core brings isn’t that noticeable. Equipped with a Webkit browser, web pages load in a speed comparable to the iPhone as you can see from our first video. Note: Both phones are on Vodafone, with WiFi on and the cache has been cleared
It's marginally quicker at locating places on Google Maps though.
When it comes to streaming, it’s very quick, launching You Tube videos almost instantly and far, far quicker then the iPhone app as the video below shows (although we should point out that when we went through the iPhone's browser it was much quicker, obviously it buffers via the app). It is noticeably faster than the iPhone 4 and Galaxy S at streaming iPlayer content too, starting almost instantly over WiFi.
Games will undoubtedly be the main selling point of the LG Optimus 2X. At the moment there aren’t many games around that can show the processor at its best, with Galaxy on Fire 2, Dungeon Defenders 2 and Fruit Ninja all coming.
Our handset was pre-loaded with a selection of games, including Shrek Karting, Spider-Man and Guitar Hero WoR, none of which push the graphics capability. However the graphics are bright and punchy and the touchscreen responds well when controlling Spiderman.
What we think will be useful for gaming is the LG Optimus 2X’s HDMI mirroring ability. Hook it up using (the supplied) HDMI cable to a flatscreen and Shrek Karting takes on a whole new dimension. The handset’s gesture controls meant we were able to use the phone like a giant remote to steer the kart without even looking at the phone.
You can also playback videos and photos although the default is portrait mode.
LG Optimus 2X: Video
With 8GB on-board storage expandable via MicroSD there’s plenty of space for music and the music interface is simple enough to use, with Songs, Albums, Artists and Playlists along the top, the volume control still works when the phone is locked.
Sound quality is actually pretty good, with a dedicated Virtual Sound button along with 18 other presets.
LG’s equipped the LG Optimus 2X with two cameras, the primary 8-megapixel offering and a secondary 1.3-megapixel camera at the front.
Pictures taken using the main camera are pretty good; they’re not fairly sharp with accurate colours, if a touch on the bright side. However LG’s equipped the LG Optimus 2X with a good selection of tweakable features including: white balance and ISO to 800. You also get Smile Shot, Beauty shot and Art shot where you find some fun filters.
The LG LG Optimus 2X is capable of shooting full HD video at 1920x1088, with excellent results, video is smooth and detailed even when played back on a 42-inch TV, although we didn’t notice a great difference between 1080p and 720p. Either way results at this level are still far better than many smartphones boasting HD.
Stream HD content from DLNA devices via LG’s SmartShare app. It’s effortlessly simple and instantly found our Western Digital WDTV Live Hub displaying the content of the hard drive in folders you tap to open. Playback wasn’t always instant (more to do with our network than the phone), but it streamed HD H.264, MOV and AVI files smoothly and on-the-whole quickly.
LG Optimus 2X: Battery
Because the phone has a dual core processor and 4-inch screen, we had some concerns about the battery performance. With moderate browsing, WiFi off during the day, Automatic brightness, some calls and video playback by evening battery warnings were flashing up. If we had been playing a Tegra-optimised game, it would have undoubtedly been worse.
A check of the Battery Use menu produced some interesting results. About a third of the battery consumption was taken up by Car Home, which we hadn’t even opened. In short an application we had no intention of opening was guzzling the battery. This seems a fundamental flaw – you have to Force Stop the application every time you start the phone,
LG Optimus 2X: Verdict
In terms of hardware, we really like the LG LG Optimus 2X. The screen is excellent, it’s got a fantastic camera, video is great and it’s very quick.
However, in its current incarnation the software is too buggy, on a daily basis forced us to close while we were launching a game, opening our messages and launching the browser. The only solution was to restart the phone. When browsing the handset froze occasionally too and we had to wait for it to process the request before continuing.
LG UK assures us this isn’t final sample and it will be faster. And we’re happy to revisit the handset when the software flaws have been ironed out and - crucially - we get a chance to play some games that can really make the most of Tegra. For these reasons we’re going to give the LG Optimus 2X three stars, it could be great, but just not in its current incarnation.
LG Optimus 2X launch date: Feb 2011, link LG
LG Optumus 2X price: £499 sim free online, no news on UK carriers yet
LG Optimus 2x Specifications:
- OS: Android 2.2
- Processor: NVIDIA Tegra 2 Mobile Processor 1Ghz
- Storage: 8GB int, Micro SD
- Screen: 4-inch 800 x 480 capacitive
- Connectivity: WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth, 3G (10.2Mbps) 3.5mm jack, HDMI, GPS, DLNA
- Camera: 8MP main, Autofocus, 1.3-megapixel front
- Video: 1080p
- Talk time: 6.8 hours
- Dimensions: 123.9 x 63.2 x 10.9 mm /139g