LG Optimus 2X Review

5

Don’t believe everything you read: some reviews of the LG Optimus 2X didn’t 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 it’s 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, it’s 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 doesn’t have a little ‘i’ 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 iPhone’s Retina Display and it isn’t AMOLED, the super-vivid technology Samsung favours, but it’s 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 that’s highly strokable like a soothing worry stone.

Twin peaks

And we haven’t even got to the insides. Crucially, the Optimus 2X (and there’s 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 it’s fast. Apps launch speedily and video looks great, whether you’re playing Angry Birds (which looks smooth and stutter-free) or playing back a movie. Sample video that’s 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 doesn’t keep you waiting. Of course, web pages don’t load any faster – that’s governed by the speed of your internet connection.

Since there’s no such thing as a free lunch, the cost of this super-speedy processor is battery life which is consequently reduced. It’s still as good as some smartphones out there but you’ll certainly need to charge daily and may start to feel anxious mid-afternoon that it won’t get you to the end of the day.

Number crunching

Android phone reviews always turn us into numbers geeks – what version is running, you’ll want to know. It comes with Froyo (Android 2.2) which isn’t 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 there’s no NFC hardware onboard here anyway.

The custom overlay on an Android phone is often as important as the version – HTC frequently produces phones with an earlier Android edition but more advanced own-brand skin. Here, LG’s 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 it’s quicker to update the Android version if the customisation is less extensive. One LG highlight is a shortcut to the music controls in Android’s 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 isn’t 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.

Big shot

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, there’s a bulge at the back of the handset. It’s 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. There’s 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. There’s still LG’s 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 what’s 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 LG’s best Android phone yet.

Verdict

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 phone’s 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 whatever’s 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 isn’t 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

Features: 4

Usability: 3

OVERALL: 4

Reviewed by Tom Radley

Camera photos