- Solid and elegant hardware
- Snappy dual-core performance
- Stock Android FTW
- Display could be higher quality
- Touchscreen could be more sensitive
- Froyo instead of Gingerbread
There aren't any major differences in hardware between the Optimus 2X and the G2x, other than the T-Mobile logo replacing the LG branding below the earpiece. Our G2x review unit came with a brown / bronze-colored battery cover instead of a matte black one like its European sibling -- that's about it. What we're looking at then, is the same elegant (if not understated) design and superb build quality as the Optimus 2X. It's clear that LG put some effort into making this a premium smartphone by focusing on the details. A glass panel with beautifully beveled sides covers the entire front of the phone, and conceals a 4-inch WVGA capacitive touchscreen, a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, a cutout for the earpiece, the proximity and light sensors, plus the four standard Android keys (menu, home, back, and search). Strangely, these capacitive buttons take up a huge amount of real-estate below the display (almost an inch), making the G2x as tall as the HTC Thunderbolt.
While most of the hardware in the G2x hits the spot, we're a little underwhelmed with the display. The 4-inch WVGA (800 x 480) IPS panel looks good on paper but misses the mark when compared to the competition. Sure, the colors are rich and the viewing angles are wide, but the LCD washes out more than expected in direct sunlight and suffers from a significant amount of backlight leaking out from the edges of the screen, resulting in visible "stains" on solid, dark-colored content. We're also somewhat perplexed as to why LG decided against outfitting this dual-core smartphone with a qHD (960 x 540) display, à la Motorola Atrix 4G. Obviously, we're being highly critical here -- most people will be satisfied with the G2x's display, at least until they come across one of Samsung's Super AMOLED-equipped devices. Another item that requires improvement is the screen's capacitive touch layer, which is slightly less sensitive than on most other phones. Light touches don't always register, and while this is easily remedied by applying more pressure, it's rather disconcerting -- especially for a handset that's otherwise well designed.
Update: We've unlocked our G2x review unit and it refuses to connect to AT&T's 3G network (1900 / 850MHz). As this time we believe this is not a hardware limitation, but rather a restriction imposed by the baseband software. We're confident that, like every T-Mobile Android phone before it, the G2x supports 2100MHz 3G for Europe and Asia. We're investigating this further, and we'll keep you posted.
Update 2: T-Mobile has confirmed that the G2x is not a quadband HSPA+ device as originally advertised, and that the hardware only supports 3G bands I and IV (2100 and 1700MHz).
The G2x passed our call and reception tests with flying colors, and HSPA+ performance is on par with other T-Mobile devices like the Galaxy S 4G. Sound quality is excellent, but the audio output is quieter at maximum volume than most other handsets when paired with some headphones (such as our Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro). Battery life is pretty much what you'd expect from a high-end Android phone, providing about a day's worth of moderate use -- typically a half-hour spent on calls, a few text messages, lots of data being pushed from three email accounts and a Twitter account, plus some web browsing, picture taking, and music listening, all with WiFi / GPS enabled and Bluetooth disabled. While there's still room for improvement, we're pleased to report that the Tegra 2 SoC appears to have little (if any) negative impact on battery life. In fact, the G2x fares better in terms of power management than some single core smartphones we're recently reviewed -- yes, we're looking at you, Mr. Thunderbolt.
The camera in the G2x is a gem in the rough. As you can see in our sample shots, it takes gorgeous pictures, but we can't help but feel that the sensor and optics are being held back by the software, both in terms of image processing and user experience. The first cue that G2x might be equipped with a decent camera is the large lens opening, which allows more light to be gathered. Behind that autofocus lens you'll find an 8 megapixel sensor which, based on the impressive low-light performance we observed, is likely backside illuminated. The camera also features a bright single LED flash for those inevitable (regrettable?) nightclub moments, but sadly there's no dedicated two-stage camera button. Exposure is generally spot on, and pictures always contain a huge amount of detail even in low light, with noise rarely being an issue. Still, colors are somewhat under-saturated, and it often looks as if some of the information gathered by the camera is being unnecessarily lost during image processing -- but we're being picky here.
While most other handsets barely manage to record video at 720p (and often poorly at that), the G2x captures smooth 1080p video at 24fps without breaking a sweat. Sure, there's no autofocus or stereo audio during video recording, but you'll quickly gloss over this once you see the beautiful results. Despite running stock Android, the G2x ditches the default camera app for a custom app by LG, which adds a slew of useful controls such as touch-to-focus, scene modes, smile recognition and panorama mode (see sample here). While this custom interface is reasonably intuitive, the overall camera user experience is somewhat marred by a few shortcomings: the autofocus is slow, the display washes out in direct sunlight, and the less sensitive touch panel sometimes interferes with the clever on-screen shutter key (hold to focus, then release to take the shot). Still, the G2x packs a great camera that leaves the door wide open for future improvements.
The good news is that unlike the Optimus 2X, the G2x runs vanilla Froyo without any unwanted (and potentially rotten) toppings. While T-Mobile added its own flavor in the form of some pre-loaded apps, there are no skin or UI customizations beyond the aforementioned camera interface. The bad news is that these are Gingerbread times, yet the G2x is stuck with Android 2.2.2 for the foreseeable future. Regardless, plain Android is such a breath of fresh air that we're almost willing to forgive LG and T-Mobile for this anachronistic faux pas. Basically, you'll enjoy the same clean and uncluttered user experience as on Google's Nexus phones or the excellent G2, and you'll soon forget about Android contamination and such aberrations as MotoBLUR -- at least until you try to uninstall the bundled apps or start longing for that elusive next Android update. Speaking of pre-installed apps, the G2x ships with EA's NSF Shift, Gameloft's Nova demo, Polaris Office, T-Mobile TV (which dishes out carrier-billed live and on-demand TV programming), Tegra Zone (NVIDIA's game hub), TeleNav, Qik Video Chat, and Zinio Reader. T-Mobile also includes the Swype keyboard, WiFi calling (aka UMA) and SmartShare (LG's DLNA software), along with its My Account / My Device and rather useless AppPack / Highlight / T-Mobile Mail apps. Overall there are no major surprises here, and clutter is kept to a minimum.
While most of the games we tested were Tegra 2 optimized and designed to showcase the handset's CPU and GPU prowess, it's clear that gaming is the platform's strong suit. Ultimately we were most impressed with the Quadrant scores returned by the G2x -- typically 2200 to 2600, a full 1000 points more than the Nexus S, and inline in what we observed on the Atrix 4G. That being said, it's still possible to bring the phone to crawl by watching an embedded Flash video in the web browser while playing music in the background. We also noticed that audio playback stops when activating the camera, which is unexpected behavior for a high-end smartphone. From our perspective, it looks like Froyo and most of the Android apps out there are just scratching the surface of what Tegra 2 can achieve in terms of performance, and we're curious to see what Gingerbread brings to the table in terms of dual-core support.