Ye Giant LG Optimus 2X Review
The Dual Core Android Smartphone revolution began with the LG Optimus 2X, which came out with big guns a’ blazin with its Tegra 2 processors.
Not only is it powerful, but it has a pretty decent camera, capable of recording full HD Video, which isnt even the Optimus 2X’s main feature. Some of the other main features include:
- Quad Band GSM (Dual Band 3G, 10.2 Mbps HSDPA, 5.76 Mbps HSUPA)
- 4.0 Inch 16 Million Colors capacitive IPS LCD Touchscreen at WVGA resolution (480 x 800 pixels)
- Dual Core 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor, ULP GeForce GPU, Tegra 2 chipset, 512 MB RAM
- Android OS v2.2 Froyo (with LG Home launcher)
- 8 Megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, face detection and Geo-tagging, 1080p video recording @ 24fps, 720p@30fps, 1.3 Megapixel Front-Facing Camera
- Wifi, DLNA, A-GPS, Digital Compass, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, and Proximity Sensor
- 8GB Internal Memory, microSD slot supports up to 32GB
- microHDMI port with HDMI mirroring
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack, Stereo FM Radio with RDS
- microUSB port (supports charging), stereo Bluetooth v2.1
- DivX/XviD video support
- Gesture controls
- Adobe Flash 10.2 support
- Dolby Mobile and SRS sound enhancement
It does have some disadvantages though. Like:
- Despite using a similar technology, LCD is not as good as the iPhone 4, and pales in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S2 Super AMOLED Plus
- No Dedicated camera key
- Captured 1080p videos have low frame rate, and are not a huge improvement over 720p
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread in sight
- Audio quality is Average, but Loudspeaker volume is really low
- Battery life is not that great
Ofcourse with modern day smartphones, there are usually compromises made for more power, but they’re minimum on the Optimus 2X. Overall it’s a pretty large display with lots of power under the hood, and have a decent camera, with all sorts of connectivity options.
Or atleast that’s what the specs sheet would have you believe. Read on for our full review.
The Retail Package:
The LG Optimus 2X comes with a pretty good retail package. You have a charger adaptor that connects with the microUSB cable to charge the phone, and a set of manuals and a wired headset.
All that, and you get a very cool microHDMI-to-HDMI cable to that you can hook up your Optimus 2X to your HDTV right away, without needing to buy any extra cables. Very cool. There is no microSD card included in the package though, but you have 8 GB of internal memory to work with anyway, and the microSD card slot supports cards up to 32 GB. You can read more about this section over on our LG Optimus 2X unboxing post.
The Optimus 2X measures 123.9 x 63.2mm, which is pretty much what you’d expect from a phone with a 4 Inch screen. It’s a bit large but can probably slip into most pockets, thanks to the slim 10.9mm profile. It weighs in at just 139 grams which isnt too bad at all, all things considering.
The design has sleek lines coupled with nice accents over the curved glass over the display. Nothing out of the ordinary but it’ll catch people’s attention once in a while. It does resemble other Optimus devices before it, admittedly, atleast from the front.
The 2X design is more about the touchscreen itself, with a 4 Inch, WVGA LCD using IPS technology to improve viewing angles and color reproduction.
On paper that makes it sound very similar to the iPhone 4, except for pixel density, but that isnt the case (the 2X loses out on viewing angles and contrast compared to the iPhone’s Retina display). But the screen is pretty good, able to be viewed with little color distortion at various angles. Colors only tend to shift slightly at, say, a 45 degree angle.
Contrast and Color reproduction are good enough, but set it up against the Super AMOLED unit on a Samsung Galaxy S/S2 and you’ll see a difference. But its way better than the HTC Desire HD, and SE Xperia Arc, for example. Decent, but nothing spectacular. In outdoors sunlight, the Optimus 2X is actually a pretty good performer too.
The Hardware Controls:
There are 4 keys situated below the Display, all capacitive touch. Basically you’re usual Android keys, with Menu, Back, Home and a Search key.
You can also long-press on them for added functionality, such as holding down the Menu key pops up the virtual keyboard, or long-press on the home key pops up the task switcher, etc. A nice touch is the voice search that appears if you long-pres the search key.
On top of the display, is a 1.3 Megapixel front facing camera for video calls, the earpiece, an ambient light sensor (to adjust brightness automatically) and a proximity sensor to shut off the screen when making calls.
On the right side, you have two separate volume keys, which work well enough. No camera key though, which is a missed opportunity considering the camera is pretty decent.
No controls or anything on the left side though.
On the bottom, you’ll find the microUSB port, and a grill for the mic and loudspeaker (similar to the positioning on the iPhone 4). No cover on any of them though, which might lead to dust accumulating eventually.
At the top of the Optimus 2X, you’ll find the 3.5 mm Audio Jack, Power Key and microHDMI port.
The microHDMI port is just … freakkin great, allowing you to stream 1080p videos over to your HD TV, or use both devices since it supports HD Mirroring.
At the back, you have the 8 Megapixel Camera, and the LED Flash which isnt too great for night pictures, but is helpful for night video. The camera protrudes out a bit, and does not have a cover, which makes us wonder how quickly scratches might appear on this one. The camera glass is also very prone to smudges unfortch.
Under the back panel, is a 1500 mAh battery, and microSD card slot (hot swappable). The battery is said to last atleast 400 hours of stand-by or 7 hours and 50 minutes of talk time. Unfortunately though, our unit just barely made it though 32-ish hours of mild usage. If you’re a heavy user, you’ll see that battery go down in about half a day, which isnt too great.
When watching video (at 1080p) the 2X lasts only about 4-5 hours before the video player (and camera app I might add) are automatically shut off because of low battery.
Generally, the ergonomics of the LG Optimus 2X are pretty good for a 4 Inch smartphone. You will want to try it out atleast once, and we’ve found that over time, handling a large phone gets a lot easier.
The Android 2.2 Froyo, with LG Home:
LG has a custom launcher for the Optimus 2X which runs Android 2.2 Froyo currently. LG Home, as its called, is decent enough and brings several features that users might appreciate.
For one thing, you have a homescreen panes view mode, similar to HTC Sense, where you can pinch to zoom-out and see all your homescreen panes at once, and tap on one of them to go to it.
Available homescreen panes range from 3 to 7, with a clear homescreen shortcut allowing you to remove all content from your panels with minimal tapping. At the bottom of the screen are four docked shortcuts, visible on both the homescreen and app drawer. They are, by default: Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Home/Applications.
Even the notifications area has its tweaks, with five switches available for Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound and Automatic Rotation, with Music Player controls permanently docked under.
Even the main menu gets customizations from LG, having options for a side-scrolling grid (ala iOS), a vertical grid that you have to scroll upwards/downwards, or a list view.
One fun feature about LG’s customizations, is the gesture controls that have been put in. You’ve seen flip-to-mute before, but now you can tap on the side of the phone to go through images or songs, or to move the text cursor character by character: just tap on the side. Cool stuff, and if it bothers you, it is possible to turn off.
The NVIDIA Tegra 2 Performance:
The Optimus 2X is the first smartphone to launch with a Dual Core CPU Chipset, packing Nvidia’s Tegra 2 performance underneath. Now Android 2.2 Froyo, is not really the best optimized operating system to manage two cpu cores, but this thing is still a real beast.
So basically, yes performance on the Optimus 2X is spotless, but it doesnt really make it any better than its competitors right now. Eventually as software continues to advance, it will.
The phonebook is basically your usual Android deal, sorting contacts alphabetically in a list, with an alphabet scroll on the right side, and a search bar. The list can be sorted by first name, or last name and you can display contacts as First Name, Last name or vice versa.
There are also Filters available to keep the phonebook from getting too crowded, and you can choose which groups are displayed, and which are hidden (Eg: Twitter contacts, Email contacts, etc).
Each contact is displayed with a photo and name, and tapping on the photo brings up quick contact keys which you can use to call, message or email the contact. When you view a single contact, there’s a tabbed interface with the first tab showing all available information about the contact, with shortcuts to call, text, etc. The next tab shows your history of interactions with the contact (sms, calls, etc), and the last tab is for Photos, which shows the contact’s online albums (bit creepy imho).
You can link contacts if you have them added to multiple services, so that all their data is imported into one contact card. When you tap on “Join” the phonebook suggests contacts that might have multiple entries based on name, and its mostly right. You can also manually pick contacts too, ofcourse. Also, when you add a new account, the phone will offer to only import some contacts, or only some.
Editing a contact is basically the same. You have different types listed (like numbers, email addresses, etc) and there’s a plus sign on the right where you can add information of that time, or tap the minus sign to remove it. Coming to the Call log, it is smart enough that it groups calls (like multiple missed calls from the same contact on the same day) and shows the number of events with a number next to the contact name.
The LG Optimus One 2X had good signal reception while we used it, even in areas with poor coverage. In-call quality is good, but can be quiet at times, even at the loudest volume setting.
The Smart-Dialer shows you a virtual phone keypad, and searches the phonebook for numbers and names as you dial, if the contact is listed in it. The loudspeaker though, was pretty poor in volume, meaning you might miss a couple phone calls, or text messages in averagely loud environments.
All common messaging types are supported here, from SMS, MMS and Emails, with excellent support for Exchange right out of the box, and good social media integration as well. Pressing and holding on a text box, will give you options for cut, copy or paste and you can paste text across all applications, like Email, Notes, SMS, IM’s, etc.
The Gmail app handles Google Email and includes batch operations like archiving multiple emails, labels, spam reports and a conversation styled email view mode. The generic Email app also supports Google Mail and multiple accounts too, with a combined inbox feature which comes in handy. No conversation view here though.
The Onscreen QWERTY keyboard (you have to admit) looks very iPhone-like and is also pretty good to use. Even in portrait mode its accurate for text input.
Also worth mentioning is that you can basically attach almost anything to an email.
The standard Android gallery is used here, with 3D effects, transitions and all. The gallery automatically locates images and video no matter where you store them on the phone, and places them in different folders.
The albums appear as piles of photos, which when tapped on, falls into a neat grid. You can also organize photos by date, with a button on the top right side, which can also be used to switch between the default grid view, and a timeline view. In grid view, you have a date slider anyway.
And ofcourse, there’s pinch-to-zoom multitouch support here too, and you can also choose to double tap or use the zoom in/out virtual onscreen buttons as well. Zooming and panning is fast and smooth, but there is a slight amount of annoying lag.
When you’re viewing a single photo, you can choose to crop, rotate or send it to Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Email or Bluetooth all from right in the gallery.
The Music Player:
The music player is familiar enough and has the usual filters for album, and artist, both having an alphabet search and regular search to find songs faster.
The Now playing screen has the usual large album art right in the center, with controls above and below it. Swiping the album art left or right, skips to the next song or goes back to the previous song, while pressing and holding on the album art brings up a search menu for the title, artist or album, where you can either search your music collection, or YouTube & the Internet.
There are several equalizers present, such as Virtual Surround, and they all work well enough.
When you use the music player in landscape view, you get a neat little 3D wall of all the albums you have stored on your Music collection. You can tap on an album to view more songs under it, with an alphabet scroll at the bottom to make finding albums quicker.
There’s also the ability to add or create your own playlists.
The Optimus 2X comes with three theme songs already in the device, composed by Ennio Morricone especially for the handset. Nothing major, but its in there. And if you get bored of your Music collection, there’s also an FM radio with RDS support built-in (needs wired headphones to be plugged in). Audio Quality is average over headphones and isnt really anything to write home about.
The Video Player:
The Video Player has a pretty simple interface, listing all the videos you have on your device. There’s alphabet scroll to find videos quicker, and you can also play videos right from the gallery if you prefer. The interface is simple enough, with a scroll bar at the bottom, and play/pause buttons onscreen, with next and previous keys.
There’s also a button on toggle cropping (crops to fit the entire screen, or fit video to screen), and one for virtual surround. The Optimus 2X can handle basically any file you throw at it, from 3GP & MP4, to WMV, AVI, DivX and Xvid 1080p Videos. MP4 files only played if they were 720p or lower though. No MKV support unfortch, which is disappointing considering its a common format for most HD content. There’s also support for subtitles.
The 8 Megapixel Camera on the LG Optimus 2X does a pretty good job (especially considering LG’s previous devices). The user interface is quite convenient, and many additional settings can be found inside the extended settings menu.
The overall camera experience isnt as pleasant as it could have been, mainly because the 2X lacks a dedicated camera button, but obviously that was sacrificed in favor of a slimmer profile.
However, shot-to-shot times can take about 3 seconds on an average, which can be a little annoying.
There are plenty of features onboard though, like Face and Smile Detection, Touch Focus, Geo-tagging, all along with settings for ISO, Exposure, Scenes, Effects, Digital Stabilization and a Panorama mode. Additionally, there’s an “Out of Focus” mode which blurs things around the point of focus, and beauty and art shot modes too which to automatic post-processing of the image.
Image quality is pretty good (though the 2X is no Nokia N8), photos have plenty of detail and decent color rendition. Noise and Contrast are problems though, especially at night/low-light shots. Overall it’s pretty good.
Just so you can judge for yourself, here are a couple LG Optimus 2X Image Camera Samples:
Ofcourse, all the fun starts at the full HD 1080p Video Recording which is a feature LG boats the Optimus 2X can easily handle, thanks to the NVIDIA platform and the Tegra 2 processor. Unfortunately though, like the first devices to record in 720p, the Optimus 2X 1080p videos arnt too spectacular. The framerate is supposed to be 24 fps, but the 2X usually is short of a couple frames. 24fps is already the bottom barrier for the human brain perceiving motion as smooth, so you’ll notice choppiness when the frame rate gets any lower. For slow moving objects though, its not a big deal since the choppiness is subtle.
High compression is another problem in the 1080p videos, since it manages to bring the bitrate down to about 10MBPS, but loses a lot of fine detail in the process, and reduces the 1080p advantage over 720p shooters like the iPhone 4 or Nokia N8.
Ofcourse if this all bothers you, you can just knock down the video recording resolution a bit. Videos recorded in 720p are butter smooth, for example, at almost 30 fps. We preferred shooting in 720p in the 2X, since camera shake is very noticeable at 1080p.
Just so you can judge for yourself, here are a couple LG Optimus 2X Video Camera Samples:
The HDMI and Connectivity:
The LG Optimus 2X offers a range of connectivity options that will keep anyone happy. Critics will complain it lacks Bluetooth 3.0 and 4G, but we didnt think that was a big deal at all. There’s Quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE for connectivity in almost any part of the world, and Wifi, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, and micro USB along with DLNA for multimedia connectivity. The piece de resistance, would be the miniHDMI port for outputting HD video.
All that, and there’s also USB tethering, Wifi Hotspot, and a Smartshare app to control a DLNA network.
The Android browser is arguably one of the best available on mobile right now, and offers a flawless experience on the Optimus 2X hardware. The user interface is as minimalistic as it can get, having only an address bar and +/- buttons onscreen. Scrolling down moves the address bar at the top of the screen, out of the way, and the zoom controls auto-hide.
If you need more options, jut hit the menu key, and you’ll get options to open a new tab, refresh, go forward, back, or open bookmarks. There’s another button for even more options like find on page, text copy, etc. And ofcourse, you can pinch-to-zoom or double tap wherever you’d want. The text reflow adjusts columns of text to fit the screen width (provided you double tap).
As usual, there’s a Bookmark list showing a thumbnail of bookmarked pages, with a ‘Most Visited’ section also available, along with History. The browser is also Flash-enabled and hence everything runs along smoothly enough from Youtube video clips, to Flash games. The entire browsing experience is quite excellent, with no lag at all, and plenty of room for webpages on the 4 Inch WVGA screen.Text is crisp enough to read at any zoom level.
There’s the usual set of organizing tools and apps available here, like a pre-loaded document viewer and editor-ish thanks to Polaris Office. You can view Word, Excel, Powerpoint or PDF documents. Editing options include text style, justification, paragraph formatting, bullets, creating tables in Excel, a formula wizard in excel, row/column resizer, border style, merge cells, yada yada. You can even create a full Powerpoint presentation if you’d want to. Definitely better than any other mobile editing app we’ve checked out before, even including Windows Phone 7.
There’s also box.net integration too. There’s a calendar which offers the usual four different views, Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Agenda View. Adding an event is simple enough, and you can also add an alarm to a reminder, as usual, or just use the separate alarm app. There’s a voice recorder, calculator, F-Secure Mobile Antivirus App all available too.
Coming to games, the Indian Optimus 2X doesnt have any pre-intalled unfortunately, but some are available to download using the Preloaded Apps application, or via the Tegra Zone on the Android Market.
Apart from that, we’ve already mentioned earlier that some good quality games that will really take advantage of the Tegra 2 processor will come along soon enough. The current crop work great enough.
Social Media Integration:
There’s great integration with Facebook and Twitter, and contacts can be pulled in, to the phonebook and linked to existing contacts too. When you first create an account, the phone will ask if you’d like to import contacts from the social network. You can import all contacts, manually select which ones, or just important contacts who match people in your phonebook.
When a contact is linked to Facebook or Twitter, their status update appears in the History Tab under Contact into, with the Photo Tab showing their online albums (still creepy imho). The LG Facebook App lets you read new feeds, post updates, check out friends walls or profiles and all the usual things you’d expect from a Facebook App. Similarly the LG Twitter App lets you manage your profile, the folks you follow, read tweets, replies, or send out tweets of your own. New tweets or replies appear in the notifications area. There’s also a MySpace App for those of you who still use that social network.
The Android Market:
The Android Market has enough Apps and Games to hold its own against iOS. They’re divided into sections and subsections, like Entertainment, Communication, etc, so that you can filter the apps that are most relevant to you.
You can also display them all in one list, but that might be information overload for one person. From File Managers, Other Launches, Navigation Apps to Document Readers, there’s all sorts of apps available.
There’s also LG’s App Advisor pre-installed which displays a list of recommended apps.
The GPS and Google Maps:
The A-GPS on the LG Optimus 2X works quickly enough that it will get a lock in a matter of seconds, if not a few minutes. There’s Cell-ID and Wifi network positioning too.
Google Maps v5.0 is pre-installed and uses vector maps which are smaller and hence download faster. They support 3D views (not in all countries), and you can use the two finger camera tilt, or rotate gestures to look around.
Google Maps navigation is available but only for a few countries, with this version offering offline rerouting. Unfortunately since India is not supported, we were unable to test this feature out in detail, the same for Street View Mode.
2010 wasnt a great year for LG’s mobile segment. They entered as one of the fastest growing manufacturers with the Optimus series but soon fizzled out. In 2011 it looks like the company hopes to change that, with the Optimus 2X proving that LG still has what it takes. The hardware is super powerful, coupled with a decent display, a very decent camera (sans the 1080p low frame rate in video recording) and the LG home UI (that folks will either flat out love or hate).
It’s definitely one of the most powerful smartphones available right now, but the competition has caught up already. With the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Sensation available along side, but at a higher price.
The question comes down to whether you’d want to pony up more $$$ for the competition, or buy the LG Optimus 2X with its equally great hardware, knowing that the software might be stuck on Android 2.2 Froyo for a while. Froyo isnt exactly the most polished operating system to mange a Dual Core CPU, and LG has had a controversial history with Android updates (even more so than Sony Ericsson, which is saying a lot).
As of right now, the LG Optimus 2X is a very capable smartphone. And over time it’ll get even better, as the software updates roll in. While we definitely recommend taking a look at this one, there’s also alternatives available.