Donít believe everything you read: some reviews of the LG Optimus 2X didnít do it justice, thanks to a buggy early sample that did the rounds, with annoyances such as shortcuts that turned out to be dead ends, unreliable widgets and Wi-Fi issues.
What Mobile has got hold of the finished product and itís a world away from that.
What was never in doubt about this deeply attractive handset was that it was going to be a real contender as a high-end Android smartie. From the first, itís been clear this is a great-looking machine with brains to match, and a chipset as fast as Speedy Gonzales.
One glance tells you this is a classy number; a sheet of Gorilla Glass across the entire front, uninterrupted by buttons, frames or keys, which slopes gently off the edges in a pleasingly tactile way. A metallic band makes up the edges and the back is matte black with a brushed metal strip running the length of the phone up to the 8-megapixel camera lens.
Throughout, build quality is agreeably high. Along with the new Galaxy S II, this is one of the best made handsets that doesnít have a little Ďií at the beginning of its name.
Turn it on and the good impressions grow. The high-resolution 4-inch screen glows with brightness. It may not match the iPhoneís Retina Display and it isnít AMOLED, the super-vivid technology Samsung favours, but itís sharp, colourful and eye-poppingly good to look at. This is a big, solid phone that feels good in the hand, with that curved-edged glass screen thatís highly strokable like a soothing worry stone.
And we havenít even got to the insides. Crucially, the Optimus 2X (and thereís a clue in the name) has a dual-core processor. This 1GHz model has GeForce GPU and NVIDIA Tegra 2 chipset. All you need to know is itís fast. Apps launch speedily and video looks great, whether youíre playing Angry Birds (which looks smooth and stutter-free) or playing back a movie. Sample video thatís installed on the phone shows spectacular and breathless special effects and colourful scenes flawlessly rendered.
The speed is also evident in more mundane effects: pinch-to-zoom on a web page, for example, and the screen responds very quickly, the accelerometer is quick and responsive when you tip the handset and scrolling through home pages doesnít keep you waiting. Of course, web pages donít load any faster Ė thatís governed by the speed of your internet connection.
Since thereís no such thing as a free lunch, the cost of this super-speedy processor is battery life which is consequently reduced. Itís still as good as some smartphones out there but youíll certainly need to charge daily and may start to feel anxious mid-afternoon that it wonít get you to the end of the day.
Android phone reviews always turn us into numbers geeks Ė what version is running, youíll want to know. It comes with Froyo (Android 2.2) which isnít the newest, but the truth is that 2.3 adds relatively little, and an update to 2.3 will come in due course. One of the new features of 2.3 is support for NFC (Near-Field Communication) and thereís no NFC hardware onboard here anyway.
The custom overlay on an Android phone is often as important as the version Ė HTC frequently produces phones with an earlier Android edition but more advanced own-brand skin. Here, LGís customisation is minimal, mostly restricted to four shortcut icons which stay put as you sweep between home screens for Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Applications.
The advantage of this limited modification is that itís quicker to update the Android version if the customisation is less extensive. One LG highlight is a shortcut to the music controls in Androidís pull-down windowshade, which is a handy plus. And there are a couple of very good LG moving wallpapers, including one with fireworks on a city backdrop which looks splendid.
The phone has a mini HDMI out connector on the top edge so that excellent video playback isnít just restricted to your phone. Connect the cable, helpfully supplied in the box, and you can show video on an HDMI-equipped TV as well. That pre-installed video may not have been so pixel-perfect as it is on the phone, but it still looked mightily impressive and when connecting the phone to a TV, you can choose between 1280×720 or 1920×1080.
The camera performs very well, with the 8-megapixel resolution leading to the only not-so-good part of the design. Because of the sensor, thereís a bulge at the back of the handset. Itís not a fatal flaw and better that than a smaller sensor. Results are strong, with minimal shutter lag beyond the time taken for autofocus to do its work and it includes an LED flash. Thereís also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera while the back camera shoots HD video at the highest possible resolution: 1920×1080.
While the early version of this phone had lots of extra software that might not be required, the one we saw was leaner and focused on essentials. Thereís still LGís App Advisor which is a useful addition: it picks out 10 recommended apps and a button to download them. Handy if you want some steers as to whatís new and interesting in the extensive world of Android Market.
There are other LG apps including customised Twitter and Facebook clients, plus a simple way to update your status on several of these at a time. Again, the non-compliant widgets and crashing software in the previously reviewed Optimus 2X have been rectified, as has the previously dodgy Wi-Fi connection: on our sample it was faultless.
Overall this is a solid, fast, gorgeous gadget that is LGís best Android phone yet.
The Optimus 2X is a big phone with great design and a spectacular 4-inch screen. But the real stand-out features lie in the phoneís super-fast brain which makes the phone seem insanely fast. This really pays off for videos or games. And the HDMI-out connector means you can mirror whateverís on screen to a big-screen TV, which looks great too. Add a strong camera that shines both with stills and video recording and you have a capable, good-looking and spectacularly responsive phone. Battery life isnít quite as good as hoped, but this is still an impressive handset.
Ratings (out of 5)
[wpgalleryimage title="Editors-Choice-4Star" float=right]Performance: 4
Reviewed by Tom Radley