We do have a couple of dissatisfactions to express, however. The first is that colors look a little washed out. London can be a dreary place at this time of the year, but the Optimus 2X made it look that extra bit bleaker than it really was. This isn't a massive issue as there's a litany of color adjustment programs out there (plus the phone offers a vivid mode of its own) and we'd sacrifice some saturation for all the extra detail quite happily. The second thing that ailed us was that the camera app takes a little while to process each image before being ready for the next, yet leaves you without a visual clue to the fact it's still working. Consequently, users bashing the "New" button to start composing a new image are left frustrated and a little confused as to why the phone isn't responding to their input.
The front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera should be thought of strictly as a video calling facilitator. Chromatic noise sneaks in almost as soon as you step out of perfect lighting and the pictures you take with it won't be of use for too many purposes. As to video on the Optimus 2X, it can be recorded at resolutions up to 1080p -- we saw no obvious processing lag or frame rate stutters at all -- and does a good job of emulating the camera's stills performance by capturing plenty of visual and aural detail. Check out the video below for an idea of what to expect, it was shot using the Super fine quality setting.
Loudspeaker, earpiece and battery life
The loudspeaker on the Optimus 2X is a direct imitation of Apple's iPhone arrangement -- it sits behind the right grille you see above and does a very decent job. Sound output is hard to muffle too, as some of it escapes through the back of the phone, a handy little imperfection to its design. The earpiece is also up to par, with call quality being no better or worse than the competition. The 2X does warm up during extended calls, but again, we can't think of any comparable phones that don't.
Battery life was an important aspect for us with this phone, for obvious reasons. Our happy discovery was that the Optimus 2X can keep up with the current crop of Android multimedia powerhouses, perhaps even outlasting some of the less frugal among them (Desire HD, we're thinking of you). This is mostly down to Tegra 2 having a minimal power draw when idling. We managed to cross the 24-hour standby mark on a day when we did about an hour's worth of calls, a few minutes of HD video, and some sporadic music playback, all while keeping push email notifications and the 3G and WiFi radios constantly on. Note that for the majority of that time the screen was turned off and the processor didn't really have much work to do, but the experience illustrates that you can
take a dual-core smartphone on the move, provided you don't expect anything more from it than you would from its single-core brethren. The camera turned out to be the biggest battery drainer, with 1080p decoding and encoding following up in close second, both predictable outcomes. We can't conclusively say whether the Optimus 2X is more or less power-efficient than its contemporaries -- efficiency being a function of both power consumption under load and
the duration of load times, the latter being shorter on a faster chip -- but we didn't feel any more restricted by its longevity than we did when using the likes of the Galaxy S, Desire HD or Droid X, its direct competitors in the Android big leagues.
Not to put too fine a point on this, LG, but why does your dual-core beastphone feel like an 18-month old HTC Hero?
Reading the spec sheet, you'd expect lag on the Optimus 2X to be measured in flaps of a hummingbird's wings, but the mildly tweaked Android homescreens plod along in a fashion that's appreciably worse than what you'd get on the real Hummingbird devices, Samsung's Galaxy S variants. UI responsiveness on the 2X can be described as mediocre, which we find a mind-boggling development as the hardware is certainly fast enough. It's important to note that applications load up as fast or faster than most other Android handsets we've come across, it's just that navigating to them and through the 2X's menus didn't feel as snappy as we would have liked. The final code simply doesn't look to have been optimized as well as it should have been -- a suspicion corroborated by our unfortunate knack for finding ways to crash applications. For example, our review unit's Gallery app crashes each and every time we exit it via the Back button after entering it through the Clock application. We found that bug without even looking for it, never a good sign.
Worse yet, the 2X's relatively unresponsive behavior isn't exactly sparing system resources. We installed Advanced Task Killer (which we also
managed to crash, woohoo!) on the 2X and even after clearing out all the apps running in the background, the highest amount of memory we could free up was 210MB. That means that of the device's 512MB of available RAM, a good 300MB are taken up by the OS itself. That's a hefty footprint to have when you consider that 256MB of RAM was the standard among smartphones until not too long ago.
One of the culprits for this lack of frugality is the Music app, which is impossible to shut down because its controls are integrated into Android's window-shade slide-down menu. That integration in itself isn't actually the worst idea in the world -- and neither are the rest of LG's moderate modifications to the Android interface. Contact pages are spruced up in a well organized and logical manner, the messaging application has a delightful little drop-down preview of your latest unread text, and the calendar and weather / clock widgets are also nice extras to have. There's a boilerplate social networking updater, which can send your status out to Twitter, Facebook and Myspace at the same time. That part's good, the Twitter for LG and Facebook for LG apps are not.
The Optimus 2X's saving grace is the same as that of many a Motoblur
handset: LauncherPro. Anyone familiar with the remedial effects of installing this little Android skin on their phone will know that a laggy default UI is just something you look at for the 30 or so seconds it takes you to open up the Market and download Federico Carnales' masterwork. Any qualms we have about the Optimus 2X's smoothness evaporate into thin air with LauncherPro in effect, and we even noticed the phone's unlocking animation
-- whose appearance remains unchanged -- felt snappier.
LauncherPro patches over, but it doesn't fully heal LG's gaping software wound. We still managed to clunk applications into dysfunction, which was an unfortunate reminder of what lies under the skin. LG's evident weakness on the software front shouldn't be overstated in terms of its impact today -- app glitches were sporadic rather than regular -- but it's a major sticking point if you're hoping the company will deliver a competent Gingerbread for the 2X. After all, Froyo has been around for over half a year
, yet the best thing we can say about LG's treatment of the OS is that "it doesn't crash too often." Would you really bet your mobile updating future on a track record like that?
The recurring theme through our hardware testing was that Tegra 2's full potential has yet to be tapped. NVIDIA is working hard on correcting that and has enrolled the makers of the Unreal Engine into its development program to ensure that upcoming graphically intensive games make full use of the extra power its new hardware offers. The Tegra Zone
, a preloaded app on all Tegra 2 devices, will be central to this effort. It'll present NVIDIA-curated games, videos, trailers, and app recommendations that showcase its chip's superiority. Devs are being encouraged to create graphically fancier versions of their games specifically for Tegra 2 -- as the makers of Galaxy on Fire 2
, Dungeon Defenders
and Samurai 2
have already done -- with a presence in the Zone serving as their reward. You might call it fragmentation, but NVIDIA would call it just good business.Update:
LG has gotten in touch to say the Tegra Zone app was left on our review handset by accident and won't ship with devices. NVIDIA is still in the process of testing its application out and you'll likely have to download it from the Android Market if you want it on your retail 2X. On the other hand, NVIDIA itself has promised to preload the Zone on phones and tablets running its silicon, we're just guessing it'll do so once said testing has been concluded.
Either way, NVIDIA's clout with developers and considerable budget look likely to secure Tegra 2 a bright and increasingly useful future. In the short term, however, this powerful new chip's biggest contributions to the smartphone realm are going to be 1080p video recording and output plus a dash of added gaming oomph.
We started off by talking about LG's failure to make itself known among the Android elite to this point. Up till now, the Korean giant has never so much as hinted at threatening the incumbents atop the Android pile, and the 2X is therefore its most significant smartphone launch, well... ever. It carries the hopes and aspirations of an entire multinational corporation, and if you want any evidence of how important mobile hardware is becoming, just go check out LG's latest quarterly and annual fiscal results. This phone matters
. And it should matter to us just as much as it does to LG, because everyone benefits from having another legit big-timer competing at the high end. Then maybe we won't have to sit through umpteen different variations on the Galaxy S formula from Samsung or HTC's exhibition of "13 ways to repackage a Desire HD."
The good news for LG is that it's built a very solid foundation for itself with the Optimus 2X -- Tegra 2 is an undeniably powerful, multicore architecture, one that's only going to expand in importance and value as we move forward, and the rest of the phone's specs all match up to our basic expectations of a top tier handset. Construction is robust, finely detailed and generally unobtrusive. The screen may not have anything Super about it, but as LCDs go, it's a very good one. Where we were left disappointed, however, was in the company's software execution. Neat little tweaks to Android's default interface failed to obscure the fact that the Optimus 2X is neither as responsive nor as stable as it should be. You might be able to rectify those flaws by installing one of the inevitable avalanche of custom ROMs that this device will benefit from, but we're here to review LG's own performance and we find the failure to deliver a reliable platform inexcusable.
The Optimus 2X offers great, benchmark-elevating hardware, but can't earn our seal of approval until it gets its software kinks straightened out. As it stands today, it's a great toy for developers and enthusiasts that offers the rest of us a tantalizing glimpse at what the likes of the Atrix 4G and Galaxy S2 might bring as the smartphone world continues its move toward multicore devices.