LG Optimus 2X P990 Review

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The LG Optimus 2X is one of the first Android phones to boast a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz processor with an impressive eight-core GeForce graphics processing unit to boot. We’re talking top of-the-line hardware in this smartphone, although unfortunately this particular model doesn’t support any North American 3G or 4G connectivity. The specs still sound pretty awesome and we expect to see a very quick device, but is LG’s customized version of Android 2.2 up to the task? Read on for our full review of the LG Optimus 2X!

BOX CONTENTS





Above is our unboxing video of the LG Optimus 2X. You’ll see it only comes with a regular microUSB cable, headphones, and charger. Unfortunately there was no HDMI cable in the box. The box and packaging itself were pretty nicely designed though.

HARDWARE





The LG Optimus 2X has a fairly nice and slim size and weight at 63.2×123.9×10.9 millimeters and 139 grams. It comes with LG’s flavor of Google Android 2.2.1 and a dual core 32bit NVIDIA Tegra 2 250, along with a 1000MHz CPU with 512MB RAM. In terms of storage it’s got 8GB of internal storage and a microSD slot for expansion. The four-inch 480×800 color IPS TFT LCD looks pretty good, and you’ve also got HDMI video out (the actual full device screen) support and 3.5mm audio jack. For radio bands, you’ve got GSM850, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900, UMTS900, and UMTS2100. Of course Bluetooth, WLAN, GPS, A-GPS, QuickGPS, Geotagging, FM radio, and an accelerometer are also on board, plus an eight-megapixel camera, auto-focus, flash, front-facing camera, and a 1500mAh removable battery to power it all. The build quality of the device is quite solid, but the battery cover tends to be very difficult to open.

For more specs, check out PDADB.net.

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On the left side of the device there are no buttons, just a nice clean metal rim that we like a lot.

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On the right side of the device we have the two nice volume up and down buttons. They don’t feel cheap at all, and are easy to find with your fingers without having to look for them.

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On the top we have the 3.5mm headphone jack, HDMI-out port, and power button.

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On the bottom is the microUSB port, microphone and speaker.

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On the back you see a “with Google” logo along with the eight-megapixel camera and single LED flash.

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Underneath the battery cover is the 1500mAh battery, a microSD slot, and the SIM card slot.

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Here you see a size comparison between the Nokia N8 on top, the LG Optimus 2X, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, and the HTC HD7 on the bottom.

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Again, here’s a size comparison between the LG Optimus 2X on the left, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, then the HTC HD7, and the Nokia N8.

SOFTWARE





In this video we review all of the added customizations and software bundles that have been added to the LG Optimus 2X. This European unlocked version comes with a number of added programs that don’t follow the device’s normal language settings and only appear in a single Asian (Chinese?) language that we don’t understand. You’ve also got some cool LG Live Wallpapers as well as LG-designed widgets. The default clock widget (which handily includes weather) will update to show the correct time while the device clock does not. This is because the device clock is not set to sync automatically with a time server. You can edit the number of home screens from the menu on the home screen and you can shrink them down to thumbnails for easy switching by tapping the home button again while on a home screen.

The Optimus 2X does have a front facing camera, although it doesn’t include any video conferencing software like Qik; it does support the normal UMTS video calling services that have been available for years. Polaris Office is included for editing Office documents, but it requires registration, and the email program is capable of viewing most Office documents anyway. The Optimus 2X also includes custom “Facebook for LG” and “Twitter for LG” apps, which is cool, but they’re not nearly as powerful as the native apps that you can just download from the Android Market.



LG has also included a custom keyboard which by default is set to a numeric nine-button keypad. If you remember how to type with one of those, it can be useful for larger one-handed input buttons, but you’ll have to dig into the settings in order to find and switch it to a QWERTY keyboard. We’ve also found some hidden settings for the keyboard that make it seem much more powerful but are not available in the normal Android settings sections. If you tap and hold on the keyboard button with a gear icon in its corner, you’ll find settings that let you switch to three other types of handwriting recognition input methods. They’re much slower and difficult to use when compared to the character recognizer that Microsoft used on their portable devices 13 years ago, but it’s nice to see that handwriting recognition is still around.

There are a few interesting accelerometer gesture features that are not terribly user-friendly, but at least the text input field’s bump-to-move-cursor feature overcomes a limitation of Android’s difficulty when trying to place your text cursor accurately.

CAMERA

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For still photography, the Optimus 2X can take photos at 8 megapixels. Above is an outdoor shot at sunset. The photos seem a bit soft and the shadows are a little too dark, but it’s certainly usable. One annoying aspect of the camera is the excessive lag between pressing the shutter button and actually taking the photo. Every time you press the shutter button it will do a re-focus before it takes the shot, so don’t plan on trying to take any good action shots.

The indoor low-light photo using the flash shows that the whites got very blown out, but the rest of the photo was well lit. Again, there’s a very significant lag between pressing the shutter button and taking a picture. While the eight-megapixel camera is nice, it’s not nearly as good as the Nokia N8’s 12-megapixel camera.

Above is a test of the 1080p HD video recording quality. It looks like the lens quality could be better, and highlights certainly got blown out once or twice, but overall the video recording is quite usable.

PERFORMANCE





As mentioned, the LG Optimus 2X is one of the first Android phones with a dual core Tegra 2 processor so were expecting it to be pretty fast. This video goes through a few Benchmark tests such as Quadrant Standard, Smartbench 2011 and Linpack. Quadrant Standard took a few tries before it would show any results without crashing, but once it worked, we saw some quite good scores of 2480-2500. The Smartbench 2011 score came out to a respectable, but not terribly impressive 2259. Linpack’s MFLOPS benchmark turned out to be a quite good 36.915.

We also took a look at the web browser to see how quickly it could render web pages. The Optimus 2X did pretty well, but in the video you can notice some significant lagging when trying to interact with the site while it’s still loading. The HD7 did not experience such lagging during zoom and panning gestures while loading, but did take quite a bit longer to load.

The dual core goodness really shows up if you install some apps that are made to take advantage of the Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. We downloaded the Tegra Zone app in order to find a few and then bought one of the games; Samurai II Vengeance. The game performed quite well with 3D graphics and speedy swordplay.

BATTERY LIFE

The LG Optimus 2X battery life has been surprisingly good. It might be due to the fact that we haven’t been able to use 3G on this device in the U.S. or it might be due to the great power management of the Tegra 2 processor, but I’ve been able to get a good day and a half’s worth of battery life out of the Optimus 2X’s 1500mAh battery.

BUGS AND WISHES

The most obvious wish for the Optimus 2X would be for the software to be optimized for the high-end hardware. Only certain parts really work well. There’s also plenty of periodic app crashes and lagging slowness. Even the lock screen movement is not smooth.

Another thing I found annoying is that when you plug it into a computer with the USB cable, nothing happens. Well, it starts charging, but there’s no prompt to install software, no indication on the device that there’s anything you can do when it’s connected to a computer… nothing. You have to dig into the settings to turn on USB mass storage mode, which takes a few confirmation taps to enable in itself.

Of course I also wish it has HSPA+ support for European, AT&T U.S., and T-Mobile U.S. bands, but obviously you have to target individual markets specifically sometimes.

PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY

You can buy the LG Optimus 2X P990 now at Negri Electronics for $698.50 unlocked with no carrier contract.

PROS

+ Dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor and graphics chip

+ Great build quality

+ 8MP camera with LED flash

+ HDMI mirroring

+ Handwriting (Finger-writing) recognition

+ Software optimized for the Tegra 2 processor works very nicely

+ Great benchmark software results

CONS

– Very few parts of the OS and software seem to make use of the dual-core processor

– LG’s customizations and widgets seem to mimic similar customizations from other manufacturers

– Innovative accelerometer-based gestures are awkward

– Does not come with HDMI cable

CONCLUSION

I was expecting the LG Optimus 2X to be blazingly fast in all respects. I thought it was going to be a challenge to get it to show any signs of lag. I was actually looking forward to seeing how many things I could do at the same time on an Android phone with such a high-end processor like the Tegra 2. Unfortunately the actual experience was not so great. Slowness showed up even before I was able to install any other programs or load it up with music and videos. There are reports that loading Launcher Pro on the device will improve the speediness, but as a consumer device, you shouldn’t have to do that.

I guess it goes to show you that just because you’ve got the latest and greatest processor, it doesn’t necessarily mean the device will actually be super fast. On the other hand, the apps in the Nvidia Tegra Zone catalog app, which are designed to take advantage of the Tegra 2 processor, run quite nicely and offer some impressive graphics. The video playback quality is also fantastic, and I’m sure the dual cores are put to great use if you often plug your phone into a big screen TV using HDMI.

If you’re the type that’s going to buy a phone just to put a custom ROM on it, then the LG Optimus 2X has got some great high-end hardware for you to play with. If you’re a consumer who uses a phone with whatever it comes with for software, I’d recommend looking for something a bit more reliable and easy to use.

I give the LG Optimus 2X a 3/5.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!