First Look: LG Optimus 2X review

The LG Optimus 2X sees a slight change of direction for LG’s Android line and one that we welcome. The Optimus, the Optimus One and the LG InTouch Max (GW620) were all mid-range in their approach, whereas the Optimus 2X is the very definition of high-end. In fact, Nvidia has labelled the phone a super phone. It’s a term we’ve used before, but Nvidia has now coined the expression for Tegra 2 equipped handsets.

The LG Optimus 2X is one of the first devices to arrive equipped with the new mobile chipset from Nvidia. With a history in graphics, it’s no surprise to find that the Tegra 2 chipset offers excellent on-board graphics handling, as well as the likes of Full HD encoding and decoding. The Optimus 2X was also shown off as the launch device on stage at the Nvidia press conference at CES 2011 in Las Vegas.

The LG Optimus 2X offers a 4-inch 800 x 480 pixel resolution capacitive touch display that is bright and vibrant and has really impressed us on each occasion that we’ve seen it. It pulls out average resolution specs for a device of this size, but it is great to see a run of enhanced displays on mobile devices. Picking up on the success of Samsung’s AMOLED display we saw last year, we now have a great selection out there offering more vibrant colours and better contrast. The 2X typifies this move, so it looks fantastic.

The screen is slightly tapered at the edges, meaning you don’t just hit a sharp edge at the side. The softly rounded back means it fits nicely into the hand but it is noticeably chunkier than the likes of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. A metal band running down the back adds some degree of interest but perhaps looks a little unusual. Overall, from a design perspective, it isn’t the prettiest phone out there, but as they say, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Controls conform to the regular assemblage of touch icons across the bottom of the screen, offering menu, home, back and search, the usual Android configuration. Around the body of the device you’ll find an HDMI connector on the top, along with the standby button and 3.5mm headphone jack. On the bottom is the Micro-USB connector nestled between openings for the speakers.

On the rear of the LG Optimus 2X is an 8-megapixel camera, partnered with a forward-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. An LED “flash” supports the rear camera, which thanks to the processing power offered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset, will capture 1920 x 1080 video, the first time we’ve seen Full HD capture on a mobile phone, but obviously pocket camcorders have offered this for the last year.

Full HD video capture is certainly going to eat into the memory, of which you’ll find 8GB in the device and the option to expand via microSD card (up to 32G). Offering Full HD video doesn’t necessarily mean it is “better” than those 720 HD rivals – we’ll have to have a good look at the quality of the result when we get the handset in for a full review. However, we checked out the camera menus and you can choose a range of options, something that LG have catered well for in the past.

The LG Optimus 2X was running Android 2.2 on display at CES 2011 and from the outset LG has been saying that it will be upgraded to Android 2.3, we’re hoping that happens before it starts rolling out to customers to avoid an immediate upgrade soon after purchase. Still, v2.2 offers many of the niceties of Android such as Wi-Fi hotspot and Adobe Flash support (something else that is natively supported by Tegra 2). Things like the new Android keyboard will be hidden behind LG’s Optimus skin, layered over the top.

LG’s interface doesn’t vary too much from the tried and tested formula, offering a number of customisable home pages to leaf through, dropping shortcuts and widgets as you go. Omnipresent are the four icons for phone, contacts, messaging and home. The duplication of “home” looks unnecessary, but you can often change this selection around easily enough.

All the times we tried the Optimus 2X it was snappy and responsive. There really was an immediacy to opening applications and navigating around the device, with very little sign of lag. Likewise, the multi-touch support was extremely smooth, making very light work of navigating around on the screen. Of course, we’ll have to get it in and live with it for a while before we’ll be able to pass a definitive judgement.

With Nvidia’s new 1GHz Tegra 2 chipset on board, we saw numerous gaming and video playback demos on the Optimus 2X. The HDMI output means you’ll be able to hook-up to your HD TV in the lounge and play Full HD movies so you can easily share the content you capture using the camera. Nvidia has also announced that you’ll be able to get access to more advanced content through the Tegra Zone, its own platform for distributing content that wouldn’t otherwise fit in the Android Market. From what we’ve seen, the performance is really impressive when it comes to gaming and video playback, of course we’ll have to really put it through its paces when we get a sample in for review.

We also know from seeing the Advent Vega that the Tegra 2 performs impressively in benchmark tests, so we suspect the LG Optimus 2X will leave current superphones like the HTC Desire HD scratching their heads. Competitive as the phone market is, we don’t think things will stand still for any length of time and with Mobile World Congress coming in February 2011, we suspect you’ll be seeing plenty more Tegra 2 or new third-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon handsets.

Verdict

What we’ve seen of the LG Optimus 2X is impressive, especially the performance. We love the screen, but we’re not totally sold on the overall design of the phone. That may well pale into insignificance once you see what the Optimus 2X can do. Hopefully we’ll also see it updated to Android 2.3 before it gets into customers' hands. Battery life is still a bit of an unknown and something we'll have to take a look at when we get the device in for a full review.

We like competition in the smartphone arena and it’s great to see LG pushing a high-spec device like the Optimus 2X. It means the race is set to continue and HTC will certainly fight its corner. With Sony Ericsson taking a more considered approach with the Xperia Arc and other high-end devices from Motorola, the stage is set for 2011 to be a cracking year for Android phones.