Mar 09 AT 6:37 PM Taylor Wimberly 52 Comments

LG Optimus 2X report card

The LG Optimus 2X is coming to America soon so we figured it was time to post our review of this highly anticipated device. The only problem is we received an international version of the phone (LG-P990), so I don’t think the traditional smartphone review is the best format. Instead I would like to submit to you my LG Optimus 2X report card, which is a snapshot in time or progress report of this device and its performance to date. Did the Optimus 2X live up to the hype? Read the report card to see how we graded it.

For our first report card we have no format, so I’m just going to talk about the highlights of the device, how it performs on a daily basis, what’s in store for its future, and what issues have arrived so far.

The LG Pitch

For anyone new to the party, let’s just jump right in with how LG is promoting the Optimus 2X. LG has branded the Optimus 2X as the World’s first dual-core phone and wants you to know it offers “Super-fast web browsing & app. Start-up, seamless multi-tasking, full HD & HDMI mirroring and true visual gaming.”

Key specifications of the Optimus 2X include Android 2.2, 1Ghz dual-core processor (NVIDIA Tegra 2), 4-inch ISP-LCD WVGA screen, 8GB memory (up to 32GB via microSD), 512 MB RAM, 1,500 mAh battery, 8 megapixel rear camera and 1.3 megapixel front camera, HDMI mirroring, and 1080p MPEG-4/H.264 playback and recording.

Please keep in mind these specs are for the international version and they could be tweaked for a US launch.

NVIDIA Tegra 2 super chip


The NVIDIA Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip (SoC) is the highlight of the Optimus 2X and the main reason this device is a revolutionary step forward and not just an evolution of an existing model. Tegra 2 is the first mobile super chip to feature a dual-core CPU, which offers faster web browsing, a more responsive UI, and better overall performance.

System performance

Smartbench 2011 is one of the few multi-core friendly benchmarks.

Our Optimus 2X came loaded with Android 2.2 which was not designed for multi-core processor architectures, but it still supports multi-threaded applications. Several games are optimized to take advantage of Tegra 2, but most apps are not.

A few synthetic benchmarks like Smartbench 2011 are multi-core friendly and we saw the potential when we matched the Optimus 2X against several single-core phones. In the Smartbench 2011 productivity suite, the Tegra 2 devices scored nearly three times higher than single-core phones.

Overall we did notice a big boost in performance when browsing the web. NVIDIA worked with Adobe to make Flash 10.1 fully hardware accelerated, which improved page load times and made scrolling and zooming more smooth. Browsing a heavy desktop website like ESPN.com provided an enjoyable experience.

Moving forward, performance should continue to increase with future versions of Android. Google just released Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) for tablets which was the first version of the platform designed to run on multi-core processor architectures, and those enhancements should find their way into a smartphone soon.

Google’s Android 3.0 platform highlights say that a “variety of changes in the Dalvik VM, Bionic library, and elsewhere add support for symmetric multiprocessing in multicore environments” which will result in increased performance. The good news is that these optimizations can benefit all applications, even those that are single-threaded.

To read more about the benefits of multiple CPU cores, see our previous report.

Games performance

 

Tegra 2 offers the fastest GPU, for now.

The LG Optimus 2X offers the best gaming experience of any Android phone that is commercially available.

It features an ultra low power GeForce GPU, which shares a similar architecture to NVIDIA’s desktop graphics cards. This means that games engines which were originally developed for multi-core desktop CPUs and desktop GPU architectures can be easily ported to run on Tegra 2.

In our recent round of Tegra 2 benchmarks, the Optimus 2X came out on top of every graphics test we threw at it. Motorola’s Atrix 4G has the same Tegra 2 platform, but it scored lower since it has to push 30% more pixels thanks to its high resolution qHD display.

NVIDIA has focused on premium content with their new Tegra Zone application, which showcases games that are optimized for Tegra 2. The selection of games available at launch is limited, but NVIDIA has demonstrated the quality of titles coming to Tegra 2 devices and over a dozen game studios are on board to fill up their lineup.

This includes Gameloft who has already ported seven of their games to the Optimus 2X and EA Games who is working on some flagship titles. A representative of Gameloft even told me that Tegra 2 and other dual-core Android phones were their primary focus for 2011, so you can bet there will be a steady flow of big releases that will all be optimized for the Optimus 2X.

Check out out previous post Gaming with the LG Optimus 2X for another take on what to expect.

10-point multitouch touchscreen

The Optimus 2X touchscreen performance is so good I thought it deserved special attention. LG’s display has a 10-point multitouch controller that can independently track all of your fingers. I can’t think of any apps that take advantage of this, but it just shows you the ability and accuracy of the screen.

As noted in our gaming preview, it offers the best touch performance when playing games with multitouch controls. I hope this becomes the standard of Android phones.

1080p video with full HDMI Mirroring

Thanks to the performance of the Tegra 2 chip, the Optimus 2X supports 1080p video capture and playback. Another cool feature is full HDMI mirroring which displays everything from your phone onto a big screen. This enables some cool experiences like big screen gaming or browsing the web on your TV. Hopefully the US carriers will leave the HDMI mirroring enabled, because I really enjoy this feature.

Camera performance

Golf balls

I really suck when it comes to taking good photos, but the LG Optimus 2X is the first phone camera that exceeded my expectations by producing great results. Check out our Hands-on the Optimus 2X camera for picture samples, a walkthrough of the camera UI, and a 1080p video clip. To put it simply, I found the Optimus 2X offers the best camera performance of any Android phone I have tested (until the Sony Ericsson Exmor R sensor comes out).

Battery performance

Battery benchmark via Anandtech.

The Optimus 2X features a 1500 mAh battery and it’s performance is comparable to other high-end Android phones. A single charge should get you through the day and you must charge it every night. Total battery life depends on so many factors, but I found the Optimus 2X stood up to my heavy usage.

For a more detailed battery analysis, see the Optimus 2X review from our friends at Anandtech.

Software

Our reivew unit of the LG Optimus 2X shipped with Android 2.2.1, and an upgrade to Gingerbread Android 2.3 is already in the works. LG says they are committed to software updates, but we will have to wait and see how they perform.

We expect T-Mobile will start selling the G2x (their version of the Optimus 2X) by April and our sources tell us an over-the-air update for Gingerbread could be available “within weeks” of the official launch date.

Everyone likes to focus on the custom skins that handset makers are slapping on their devices and criticize them, but the beauty of Android is that you can load any alternative home screen and easily change the look and feel of your phone. I didn’t really care for LG’s custom UI and iPhone-inspired keyboard, so I quickly changed them out.

My biggest gripe with the software on this Optimus 2X unit was the exclusion of some of the core Android apps that are not available on the Android Market. The two omissions that annoyed me the most were the default keyboard and messaging app, but 3rd party software from the Android Market satisfied my needs (Smart Keyboard Pro and Go Messager).

Often the more important question with Android phones has become – “Is the device locked?”

Early research shows that the Optimus 2X has a locked bootloader but it is not signed like the Motorola Atrix and it should be easily hacked. Previous LG phones like the Optimus One already have working ports of CyanogenMod 7, so that gives you an idea of how hacker-friendly LG phones can be.

Community developer Paul O’Brien of Modaco fame announced on his forums that he will be purchasing the Optimus 2X, so you can be sure there will be plenty of custom ROMs and support for this Tegra 2 phone.

Needs improvement

My only real complaint with the Optimus 2X has been some instability issues that I experienced. Several times the phone would slow down and then lock up, which forced me to pull the battery. My unit was meant for review purposes and it had pre-production software, so I’m not really worried about this in the long run.

Just about every new Android phone has some minor software oddities at launch, but that’s the price that early adopters pay. If you want to really be sure that all the bugs are ironed out, then wait till Android 2.3 is rolled out since it should include a lot of enhancements.

LG Optimus 2X grade for March 2011: A

After spending nearly a month with the LG Optimus 2X, I would grade it a solid A. The dual-core processor guarantees this device will be future-proof for awhile and I believe LG when they tell me that software support is a high priority.

Hardware wise, the Optimus 2X offers industry leading performance and it will only get better when Google catches up and optimizes Android on smartphones for multi-core processors. Rumors suggest that Google might release dual-core optimizations for smartphones with Android 2.4 around May. This means the Optimus 2X should see a nice performance boost in the second half of this year.

While we wait for the OS to catch up, NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone should supply us with a constant flow of premium games that are multi-threaded and take full advantage of Tegra 2′s power. In the mean time, Tegra 2 devices will continue to lead in web browsing performance when compared to single-core phones.

I’d like to be more critical of Optimus 2X and make some suggestions for LG to improve the experience, but it’s difficult to find much fault in this phone. Any Android fan should be proud to carry the Optimus 2X as their daily driver.

Soon we will learn how T-Mobile chose to customize this phone to their liking, but I feel pretty confident in being able to recommend it right now. I’m sure these decisions have already been made, but it would be a dream come true if T-Mobile decided on a stock Android build similar to their G1 and G2. LG’s custom UI and widgets bring nothing new to the table and T-Mobile is better off just letting their users customize the phone how they see fit.

LG pleasantly surprised me with their mid-range Optimus One and the company did it again by producing a quality high-end Android device on their first try. Just like every Android phone before it, the Optimus 2X will be outclassed six months from now but it offers a big enough jump in performance to enjoy a healthy life and I think it will still be competitive a year from now.

We know that LG Mobile had a really tough time last year, but now I get the impression they are fighting for their life in 2011. I like that attitude and I think LG could be a big winner with US consumers if they continue to push the limits of today’s smartphones and really focus on delivering the best software support. It won’t be an easy road, but devices like the Optimus 2X (and the upcoming Optimus 3D) show me that LG is on the right path.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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