A vanilla UI and dual-core power combined with open hardware make the G2X one of the best Android phones to date

T-Mobile's G2X

The LG T-Mobile G2X and its cousin from across the pond the Optimus 2X show us LG is serious about getting into the high-end Android market in the United States.  LG has always been a major player in the mobile space, but up until now its U.S. Android offerings have leaned towards the mid-range of the market at best.  When the LG Star prototype first showed up last November, the Android world (at least the part on the Internet) was all a-buzz with excitement.  It's 4-inch display, dual-core Tegra 2 CPU and front facing camera were all still relatively new ideas then, and we ate it up. 

But today, those kinds of specifications are a given.  Maybe we're jaded, but as a whole the Android community scoffs at phones that aren't dual-core hot rods with big glass and don't have two cameras.  So how does the G2X measure up with our current expectations of what makes a high-end Android smartphone?  Hit the break and have a look.

G2X SpecsG2X ForumsG2X Accessories

Some hands-on time

We've had the LG Optimus 2X here for a while, and have held off so we can bring a kind of two-for.  The hardware is identical, and the difference is solely the OS customization (and the radio frequencies, of course).  See what I mean with the following hands-ons of the Optimus 2X and the T-Mobile G2X.

Optimus 2X Hands-on from Phil

  


YouTube link for mobile viewing

Now have a look at the T-Mobile G2X hands-on for comparison:

 


YouTube link for mobile viewing

That's a lot of sexy hardware, now let's break it all down.

The hardware

The LG X twins

The G2X is big without feeling big, and weighty without feeling heavy.  It checks in at 4.90 x 2.50 x 0.40 inches for its dimensions, and it weighs an even 5 ounces.  It's definitely right at the edge of comfortable carrying if you choose to tote it around in your shirt pocket, but the bit of extra screen real estate is handy.  Maybe 4 inches really is the sweet spot after all.  The soft-touch back and the metal frame and corners make it very hand-friendly, and the fit and finish is easily one of the nicest we've seen.  The G2X feels like quality, and if any phone deserved to be called premium this would be one of them. 

The glass  The rear

It's also tough, and survived a brutal trip to Google I/O banging around in a gear bag and being thrown in and out of overhead compartments, coming out none the worse for it.  Allow me a bit of artistic license and I'd say you could drive tent pegs with it.  The IPS display is everything it was lauded as, with excellent color representation and viewing angles.  Side by side you can see the difference between a normal LCD display and the G2X's better technology.

But look and feel isn't everything, the layout and accessibility of ports and controls is important to me as well.  The G2X is laid out perfect for a right-hander.  Since you'll be holding it in your left hand, everything you need to get to is in the top corner where your index finger rests -- allowing for easy access and quick "training" of your finger to know where things are without looking.  Little things mean a lot, especially if you plan on keeping something for two years. 

Top down  Volume buttons

On top you have the 3.5 mm headphone jack, a mini-HDMI port nicely covered by a flap to keep the gunk out, and the power button.  On the right side of the phone you have the volume buttons near the top.  No rocker switch here, the volume controls have been split into two separate buttons.  Working your way to the front of the phone, you have the earpiece, the 1.3 MP front-facing camera, and proximity/light sensors up top.  Slide down the four inches of Gorilla Glass and you have four capacitive buttons, in a seemingly random order (of course) at the bottom.  The edges of the glass are very nicely beveled where they meet the metal frame, making the front of the phone a seamless experience.  It's very nicely done.

Earpiece  Buttons

Camera  Speakers

On the back, you have the 8MP camera and flash, sitting inside a small hump in the center.  Unlike the Motorola Droid X, the hump doesn't extend the full width of the phone and is constrained to the center surrounding the camera assembly.  It gives it a bit of an odd appearance, and as any EVO 4G users can testify, a camera that extends away from the body is just begging to get scratches on the glass.  Only time will tell.  On the bottom of the G2X, you have a microUSB port nestled between a pair of speaker grills.  These are all recessed in the metal center frame, and look very nice but are a bit of a lint trap. 

Battery  Battery compartment

Under the battery door you have a 1500 mAh battery, which does a fairly nice job keeping the phone running all day, your SIM card slot, and a microSD card slot.  You'll need to remove the battery to access your SIM (which you should be doing anyway -- don't switch them while your phone is turned on!) but the spring loaded SD card slot is accessible while the battery is in and the phone is running.  We like that, and since Android gives you the tools to unmount and eject your card while the system is running, they all should be done this way if possible.  Another nice touch is the protective glass over the camera assembly comes off with the battery cover, so if the protrusion does cause scratches, replacement is easy enough.

Overall, the hardware is a big plus.  It feels like you have a $500 device in your hands when you hold it.  Yes, that's all very subjective, but the combination of beveled glass, metal and quality soft touch plastic should appeal to most.  It's one of the few phones on the market that feels as well built as the Nexus One or the iPhone 4.

Hardware specifications

  • 4-inch IPS -LCD display (480 x 800)
  • 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor
  • 8 megapixel camera with LED Flash
  • 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video chat
  • 1080p HD Video recording
  • micro HDMI port with 1080p HD video playback on an HDTV
  • 8GB internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot (up to 32GB)
  • HSPA+ support (14.4Mpbs)
  • WiFi (b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology

Useability

Android phones are connected and cloud-centric, and the biggest question is usually battery life.  The good news is that the G2X will make it through the day for most people.  On an average day checking mail, doing a bit of texting and making a few calls, you'll have power left by bedtime.  On an extreme day of tethering, poor connection, and assorted abuse expect it to be dead by dinner.  It's all in your usage, but over all the battery on the G2X is a step above what we're used to from an Android phone.

Calls are nice and clear on both ends, and much better than the average cell phone fodder.  I'm not sure if it's a testament to the hardware or the radio engineering, but the G2X rivals the legendary call quality and clarity of Motorola's golden age.  You won't be disappointed.

Wifi, Bluetooth, and GPS all worked without a hitch, and both the G2X and the Optimus 2X allowed my Bluetooth headset to access my phonebook with no complaints.  The external speaker assembly is plenty loud enough for voice calls, but a bit tinny for music.

The software

The Optimus 2X software

Optimus 2X homescreens
Optimus 2X homescreens

While the hardware between the G2X and the Optimus 2X may be identical, the software is light years apart.  The G2X runs what amounts to a vanilla build of Froyo with a few T-Mobile extras tossed in for good measure, and the Optimus 2X is running a full blown custom version of Froyo built by the folks at LG.  Both are rather good, and each has it's place -- and in the case of the Optimus 2X that place isn't in the United States just yet.  We don't know if any of the other carriers will pick it up, but it seems unlikely with the slew of other already announced dual-core phones on their way. 

Notification toggles  App drawer settings

Home screen settings

While the colorful layout and icons aren't for everybody (including yours truly), there's a lot to like about LG's custom user interface.  The notification bar has those quick settings switches we all love, and the launcher and app drawer offer a nice level of customization as we saw in the hands-on video above.  The jury is still out about how this will affect LG's ability to get the updates out in a timely manner, but everyone we talk to from LG seems confident and excited about the upcoming Gingerbread update. 

App drawer 1  App drawer 2

App drawer 3

Our unlocked and unbranded Optimus 2X came with a good many pre-installed third party apps, ranging from the useful to the infuriating.  Things like Smartshare for media sharing and Document Master for editing your documents are useful for many, but they are quickly balanced out by App Adviser, which is a list of apps LG thinks you'll like, and "Preloaded Apps," which lists the preloaded apps.  No, I'm not kidding.  I wouldn't read too much into this, as we all know that carriers love to monkey with the app drawer and an Optimus 2X you purchase may be quite different.  But expect the crapplications.

The G2X software

G2X homescreens
G2X homescreens

This is more to our liking.  The G2X is a vanilla build of Froyo, with a smattering of mostly useful apps from LG, and a few from T-Mobile that you'll soon be looking to remove.  The five homescreens, and plain-jane notification bar are ready for you to go to work in the Market and customize to your heart's content.  We like that.  A lot.  It's a solid continuation of T-Mobile's "G" line, proceeded by the venerable G1 and the HTC G2.  LG and T-mobile have stayed faithful, and fans of the series won't be disappointed.

About the G2X  G2X Settings

Tethering

A tour of the app drawer and we see the useful (TegraZone, SmartShare), the fun (Nova, NFS Shift), the annoying (AppPack, Highlight), and the ridiculous (T-Mobile TV).  T-Mobile, bundling a streaming video application that doesn't work on Wifi, and offering plans that throttle after a set amount of data is a bit silly don't you think?  I sure do, which is why it was the first thing to go on my personal G2X. 

App Drawer 1  App drawer 2

App drawer 3

After that, there's no surprises.  It's Froyo.  It's not Gingerbread.  It does everything you know and love from Froyo, and does it well even if the OS isn't optimized for the CPU just yet.  But it's not Gingerbread, and that makes us sad.

Sad panda is sad

Let's hope we see that Gingerbread we have been promised soon.

The camera

The camera fixes a good bit of that sadness.  No cellphone camera will ever replace even a decent $200 point and shoot digi-cam, but they're getting close.  The G2X comes packed with an eight MP shooter, and they're eight usable megapixels.  Sure the LED flash will wash out your photo indoors if you're too close.  And for the file size, the images are still a bit grainy, but the camera on the G2X is leaps and bounds above last years eight MP offerings.  The camera hardware, like all the rest, is identical between the Optimus 2X and the G2X.  And the stills are something you would show to family and friends without a second thought:

Not my closet  Anteitam Battlefield

Pimp my ride

Boom  Anteitam Battlefield

In the hands of a true photobug who knows how to best adjust things like ISO speed and white balance, the pictures should be of excellent quality.  In the hands of someone who leaves everything on automatic, they're just "really good".  Taken at the full 8MP, then shrunk down to a manageable file size they are perfect for viewing on a monitor.

The video camera is quite nice, as well.  When recording at full 1080p, it lacks a bit in the image stabilization department, but the footage is pretty darn good for a cellphone.  At a more sensible 720p (or 480p for sending to a friend) you don't notice it as much.  Hopefully it's a software thing.

 


YouTube link for mobile viewing

One thing to mention here -- there's a bug in the OS, and if you use automatic brightness your camera viewscreen will be very dark.  Turn off auto-brightness and slide it up a bit and you'll be good to go.  Not very convenient for those quick action shots to say the least.  Software bugs happen, let's just hope it gets fixed soon.

Hackability factor

In a word, yes.

LG has kept the trend of wide open devices, and are quickly becoming the delight of the Android hacker community.  Once the software is rooted, the hardware is yours to do as you please -- we haven't see this level of "open" on any other high-end device.  Developer interest is high because of this, and LG isn't afraid to talk with the Android community about it.  If you're looking for a phone to hack, this is a great choice.

The verdict

You won't find a better phone on T-Mobile currently.  From a completely subjective point of view, the only thing missing for me is a SAMOLED plus screen, which is something we aren't likely to see on a phone not made by Samsung.  The IPS display is very nice in its own right though, and anyone who told me they prefer it over other types would be telling the truth. 

If you're the type who likes to wait for the next best thing, then maybe you'll want to hold out for 21 MB/s devices, or the G2X's big brother, the Optimus 3D.  I'm not that guy.  I bought one of my own on Saturday.

 
There are 26 comments

i just got mine last week! BOOYAH, sadly no good custom roms have interested me yet.

Slashdpc says:

Epic FAIL Jerry for not including Stephanie Duchaine, aka the LG girl, anywhere in this review. =P

gcims says:

he's married. he doesn't think about that stuff.

eric6052 says:

Seems like a beast of a phone. I really like the hackability factor and plain Android on board. I'm envious of T-Mobile customers having the choice of 2 vanilla devices while those of us on Verizon have none. I'd also like to see how the Sensation stacks up to the G2X.

iPwn says:

There's always the OG Droid, although it is a bit outdated by now...

mjneid says:

The LG phones are not pure AOSP, They have a super lightweight UI over top of them. Alot of the Dev's over at XDA are starting to report this but none the less, a very cool phone. I'm happy my Glacier, if it was time to upgrade this would be my choice for sure.

Winkz7 says:

Immitation is a form of flattery, the order of the capacitive buttons match the Fascinate!!

By the time my contract is up, I may have a choice between a LG and a Galaxy SII phone for dual core, 4G, etc...

romsrini says:

Tmobile TV app works on WiFi. I'm keeping it for the initial free month so I can see the NBA playoffs. I thought it was mostly AOSP except for a better camera interface and a music player that has additional DTS support.

will54880 says:

Just returned mine, great hardware, but t-mobile is fairly new in my area, doesn't even have 3G data, let alone 4G. I would have to have Wi-Fi on to get decent data speeds. Kinda sad, I really liked the phone.

It did seem to have some wasted real estate towards the bottom, maybe the screen could have been a smige bigger, or the body a bit shorter.

irony#AC says:

Did you even bother to research first to see if T-Mobile had coverage in your area before wasting your time? Or did you just use that as an excuse to test drive an awesome phone?

r3g says:

Had the phone for 2 and a half weeks so far and its amazing. I mean android is android... but it does everything my vibrant does so much faster. everything is seamless. also nice being able to rock AOSP 2.3.4 :)

1976AD says:

I love this phone... Only challenge is T-Mobile's throttling... I tethered my device , and after two days, I was over my limit, with 29 days to go, my download speeds are .06 mps in other words slightly above 19,200 * 3...

So I went out have to use wi-fi ; sprint overdrive pro (none the less)...

r3g says:

There's a fix for that on XDA

Diordna11 says:

Hey Jerry....if Phil can stop biting his nails you can too and then you will be able to pop the HDMI caps and battery covers off. On a serious note, out of all the reviews I have read on the G2X only one person has been keen enough to realize that both of the grills on the bottom are not hiding speakers. The one under the search key is the speaker and the one under the menu key is a mic. I thought the volume was a little weak on mine with the "two" speakers it was reported to have, but now it all makes sense. I've got to say that the screen is amazing on this phone. Avatar actually looks better playing on my G2X than it does on my Vibrant in a side by side comparison. 4G speeds in Atlanta are terrific with my best being 13.46 down and I average 8 to 10. Uploads average high 2's to low 3's. Verizon can brag all they want about LTE, but I will gladly take TMo's HSPA+ and the battery life that goes along with it.

mapin says:

I returned mine after 2 exchanges. Would not recommend to my friends. First off, it's not vanilla Android like you get on a Nexus phone. LG dug their nails into this OS pretty deep, and the result is a buggy phone. Hundreds of complaints on XDA regarding random rebooting, battery pull freezes, GPS issues, awful battery drivers. Hardware is amazing, but I found it to be a tad too heavy and awkwardly long for just a 4" screen. Many people on XDA, including myself, have been turned off from LG by this phone. Maybe after a few months the bugs will be worked out and the custom ROMs will have matured, but until then, you may want to consider getting a phone that you can rely on.

jland22 says:

This is the best phone out period... The devs already have an OC/UV kernel rocking 1.6ghz increase memory (64mb) and quadrant scores averaging > 4,000. CM7 nightlies are getting better and there are now some great custom roms out as well,all the top devs are jumping to this phone. I have not had any bugs other than the known ones from CM7 which I choose to run and help test, roms based on stock code run fine. At the rate things are moving forward on this phone, all bugs (minor in my opinion) will be worked out in weeks. The IPS screen is amazing by the way,not having QHD won't bother you, there is also a tweak to get LCD density lower and make things even more visual stunning. I HIGHLY recommend this phone to people who root their phones. I gladly left verizon and HTC incredible for this phone and HSPA bargain.

HD96CUIN says:

Just got the phone, love it. So much nicer than my old one

Ddust14 says:

Will this phone run on at&t?

r3g says:

yes but it wont get 3g data.

biggbrother2 says:

Where does it say this phone runs a version of Android that allows a hacker to take control of your system?

jland22 says:

It comes with an unlocked bootloader and the development community for this phone is legit... the stock UI isnt completely vanilla but pretty damn close from a bloatware standpoint. There are some great roms and OC kernels out customized for builds 2.3.4, 2.3.3 and 2.2.2, so you have a lot of options.

bobdelt says:

21MB/s devices? Where do I get one of those?

Last time I checked - the max were 21mbps for HSPA+. 8 bits in a Byte. So less than 3MB/s, theoretical bandwidth.LTE won't even touch 21MB/s for a long time.

Something like this discredits the rest of the review.

dsstrainer says:

A co-worker just got the G2X. It's a nice phone, but the excess space by the capacitive buttons is a bit of a killer for me. Why make the phone so tall just to have excess space. I have the HTC Evo 4G and the buttons are perfect. However, my wife's HTC Evo Shift also has excess padding below the buttons.. a big waste of space that just bothers the hell out of me when it could have been used better or brought down the overall size.

dan4patriots says:

i agree, that wasted space bothers me a lot and also the ugly shade of brown on the back cover

giffer says:

I actually like the extra space at the bottom of the phone. I have fairly large hands and find that I can hit the button I need every time with this phone. I looked as several other models and the buttons always seemed crowded to me. I use my phone a lot at work, so I often have one hand on a laptop and the phone on the other. The larger buttons make it easy to navigate with just one hand.

mustangboy88 says:

This phone is 0.00 (contract) @ Bestbuy.com til 8am EST MAY 19.