Every year, major smartphone nameplates release handsets to take on Apple’s iPhone. This year, LG is upping the ante with a refresh of its Optimus line, and while previously we saw the introduction of Android on LG mobile phones, this year we’re seeing a fast processor, lots of memory and an update to the Google OS. Can it best Apple’s wonder-phone?
LG’s flagship model for 2011, the Optimus 2X features much of the same technologies the Korean giant is using in its forthcoming tablets. With power such as this making its way into mobile phones, we’re expecting big things of the new handset.
Protected by Corning’s highly scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, LG’s 4 inch LCD takes advantage of the same IPS screen technology used in Apple’s iPad, effectively providing rich, bright colour reproduction from every viewing angle.
Inside the Optimus 2X, you’ll find the fast Nvidia Tegra 2 processor deployed in pretty much every Honeycomb tablet, including the Motorola Xoom, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, and Toshiba’s AT100. The OS in the 2X is Google’s Android 2.2 (or “Froyo”), a slightly outdated choice common to many 2010 mobile handsets. LG tells us that 2.3 “Gingerbread” is coming to the 2X, but did not indicate when. LG has provided some room to move on the 2X, with 8GB of storage for your movies, music and photos, as well as a microSD slot that can accommodate a 32GB card without you needing to remove the battery.
Thinking of taking some photos? You’ll find an 8 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and LED flash, as well as 1080p capture and a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for video calling.
Outside of this, you’ll also find GPS, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, support for Flash on the internet, and a mini HDMI port.
While LG stayed with the older Android 2.2 OS, it has changed some things that make the Droid experience better.
For starters, the drag-down top bar now has your music player in it at all times – useful for those who like to use their handset for tapping in to tunes. Your regular notifications still appear here – new email, SMS, Twitter updates, etc – but now you can also see what track you’re playing, album art, and skip ahead. You’ve also got shortcut buttons above this for putting the phone on silent, turning WiFi on, Bluetooth, GPS and locking the phone into auto-rotate mode for when you carry the handset in landscape mode.
The application menu system also has a few viewing modes, including the default vertical scrolling grid, a more iPhone-esque horizontal grid, and an option which just lists all your apps. We stuck with the vertical grid and found that once we downloaded new applications, the Optimus 2X not only gave the icons a little “N” to signify they were new, but also located them in a “Downloads” section at the bottom of the menu. Section naming is something LG has added to Android, allowing you to organise applications into menus that are identified how you want.
Battery life was fairly standard with the 2X, operating for a little under a day when accessing Bluetooth, WiFi, and 3G. Much like other smartphones, you’ll want to charge it daily if you’re accessing multimedia and the web.
LG’s Optimus 2X is the only smartphone to integrate the powerful dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2, a chipset more commonly found in tablet computers. This processor is a performance match for the workhorse found within the iPad 2, so we expected the Optimus 2X to fly. We were, instead, shocked by how sluggish it was.
From standby, switch-on took several seconds longer than we expected. Bringing it out of sleep by swiping our finger up the screen was slow, and sometimes didn’t work at all. And often when we pinched the screen to see all seven of our home screens, the animations did not display.
Sloth was present during other activities too: the camera screen refresh was poor and the soft buttons often refused to respond.
LG’s software for reading social networking services such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace isn’t that convincing either, with the free apps available on Android’s Market a better option for those interested in these features.
Equipped with the super-grunty Nvidia Tegra 2 processor – the same chip powering the better iPad competitors on the market – LG’s Optimus 2X should have performed more impressively than it did. Should a software or OS upgrade addressing the speed issue to take full advantage of chip become available, LG make will be on a winner.