T-Mobile G2x review

LG hasn’t launched a high-end Android smartphone in the U.S. for some time now — sure, it shipped the Optimus on multiple carriers, and Verizon launched the Ally a few years back, but neither was capable of holding a candle to other first-rate devices. That all changes with the G2x however, which is no doubt LG’s answer to Samsung’s Galaxy S family of smartphones in the United States. Its spec sheet is enough to leave other phones shaking in their boots. Dual-core processor, 4G radio, 1080p video — it has all the trappings of a top-of-the-line handset. I have been using, abusing, and confusing the G2x for the past few days and am ready to levy judgement on LG’s first serious smartphone contender. Want to know if the T-Mobile G2x has what it takes to be your next high-end smartphone? Hit the jump to find out.

Hardware/Display

The G2x packs a serious hardware punch. It has a 4-inch touchscreen display with an 800 x 480-pixel resolution, 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, 8GB of internal storage, 512MB of RAM, 8-megapixel camera capable of recording 1080p HD video, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and HSPA+ radio. The display is bright and crisp, with great contrast and depth — I love how the glass feels like it tapers off at the edges. Colors really pop, and I didn’t have much issue viewing the screen under direct sunlight. I do wish LG included its NOVA AMOLED screen for added color and vibrancy, but the screen, by and large, does not disappoint. One of the device’s biggest strengths lies in its use of NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 chipset. The speedy silicon serves up a generous heaping of killer graphics, but I’ll dive more into that later.

The G2x feels excellent in the hand. It weighs in at 5 ounces, which is just heavy enough without being too light that it feels cheap. Despite offering a large 4-inch screen, the phone doesn’t feel too bulky or large, and it’s thin at 0.43-inches. I love the aesthetics, too; it’s rounded on all corners, and the rear cover has a beautiful copper-colored soft touch finish. There’s an 8-megapixel camera capable of recording 1080p HD video on the back of the phone, accompanied by a metal Google nameplate that adds to the first class look of the device. The front of the phone is also home to a 1.3-megapixel camera designed for video chat, and the HDMI-out port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and power button are all conveniently positioned on the top of the device.

Software

The G2x launched running Android 2.2.2 (Froyo), although LG and T-Mobile have both promised that Android 2.3 Gingerbread is coming in a future update. I won’t go too deep into the operating system — LG thankfully left out any sort of UI customizations — as many of you are likely familiar with the layout of Android 2.2. The capabilities of the dual-core processor are definitely noticeable while moving around the operating system, though. Everything flies and is executed nearly immediately. I never found myself waiting for apps to close and there is no annoying app-lag. This baby just flies and the stock UI means everything looks nice and clean.

The default Android keyboard worked well while pounding out emails and text messages, although I do prefer other custom QWERTY keyboards — such as those on the Motorola ATRIX 4G or HTC’s Android devices — but that’s purely a matter of taste, not something that should dissuade you from buying the device.

Even though the G2x is working with stock Android, there is a bit of bloatware installed. T-Mobile includes its own AppPack software, EA Games, a Highlight news app, and T-Mobile Mall. TeleNav GPS Navigator, T-Mobile TV, and Qik video chat, and NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone have also made their way on to the G2x.

Gaming

We don’t blame you if you’re not a hardware head, especially since the game is constantly changing and new hardware is released all the time. However, as we mentioned before, the G2x comes with NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 processor… and that’s worth talking about. Not only is it a dual-core chip that is blazing fast at 1GHz, it’s also designed to run and render games better, and with more details. So much better, in fact, that NVIDIA has decided to launch its own Tegra Zone game store. It’s been in the Android Market for some time now, but the G2x is the first phone in the U.S. to ship with it pre-installed. There are currently nine titles available and NVIDIA told me it plans to fill out the store with many fresh titles over the next six months. I had a chance to get an early peek at some upcoming titles including Riptide GP, Pinball HD and Galaxy on Fire 2. The games were still unfinished, but there’s a lot to get excited about.

Riptide GP was my favorite of the bunch and totally took me back to my days playing Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64 — only this time with much better graphics and in the palm of my hands. I’ve also seen an impressive demo of it running on an HDTV, although we weren’t able to test this aspect during our G2x review. Pinball HD was fun if you’re looking for some sharp graphics and a pinball machine on your phone, but I didn’t really see a ton of effects that would require a powerful processor. Galaxy on Fire 2’s effects were insane: I was cruising around firing my lasers, blowing up starships, and watching beautiful explosions without any drop in frame rates — everything looked beautiful and stunning. NVIDIA told me that it works with developers to allow for more detail in games running on Tegra 2 chips, and I’m definitely impressed with what I see so far. Each of these games should be launching in the coming weeks in NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone store.

Phone/Speaker

Test calls made on the G2x were crystal clear. It sounded like I was using a landline phone and I didn’t have any complaints from callers on the other end. I think my biggest gripe is the placement of the volume buttons. They could use some more travel and click, but perhaps that will happen after more usage. Either way, that’s not a deal-breaker.

The speakerphone was loud enough to clearly hear the callers on the other end of my calls. It also sounded pretty good when I started playing a few songs, although it did sound a bit sharp. I can’t think of any phone that sounds great playing music through its integrated loudspeaker, however, so this shouldn’t be a big deal either.

As with some of T-Mobile’s other smartphones, the G2x supports Wi-Fi calling. That means you can place calls over your Wi-Fi network if you’re in an area with poor T-Mobile coverage, but unfortunately it also still consumes your T-Mobile minutes. Multiple test calls over my home Wi-Fi network — which is known for its poor upload speeds — weren’t very good. Voices kept breaking up on the other end, even when I was calling landlines, and I generally found it unusable. As soon as I turned off Wi-Fi calling everything cleared right back up. I didn’t have any issues on other networks, however, so this isn’t a ding against the phone itself, but I haven’t seen this performance issue with T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling on my home network before. The moral of the story might just be that you’ll need pretty solid upload speeds in order to make use of this feature.

There’s also a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front of the G2x that can be used for video chats via a gamut of apps available in the Android Market. T-Mobile includes its own T-Mobile Video Chat software, powered by Qik, but don’t get too excited… I’ve found Qik’s video quality to typically be pretty terrible, and I kept getting connection errors on the G2x before calling it quits on the app. I recommend giving Fring a whirl if you’re planning to use the forward-facing camera.

Data

Support for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ “4G” network is offered on the G2x. In New York City, one of T-Mobile’s 4G networks, our average download speed was just shy of 3Mbps and our upload speeds typically hovered around 1.5Mbps — those speeds aren’t bad and are certainly faster than the HSPA+ speeds we’ve seen on AT&T’s “4G” HSPA+ phones. I had 4G signal almost of the time, but the G2x did drop back to 3G in some areas of Manhattan.

Battery Life

The LG G2x packs a 1,500 mAh battery that performed pretty well during my review period. I started using the G2x after a full charge at about noon and after heavy usage, including gaming, surfing the Web, watching some streaming television, checking Twitter and email, and placing phone calls, the phone began to give low battery alerts at 5:45 p.m. That’s about 6 hours of heavy usage, which isn’t that bad. Your mileage will improve with normal moderate or light usage, and should get through a regular day just fine — but I’d definitely pack my charger for any overnight trips. There is a check box to use only 2G data — as opposed to 3G and 4G — which can also help with battery life… if you don’t need high-speed cellular data, of course. Overall I found that the G2x has been one of the better performing Android smartphones when it comes to battery life.

Camera

As I noted earlier, the G2x packs an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash that’s capable of recording 1080p HD video. Pictures were crisp and were generally solid in good lighting conditions. I found that the single LED flash consistently blew out my subjects in dark situations, but at least it was good at lighting up a room. The auto-focus did take a second or two to lock onto a target, though, especially in less than ideal lighting.

1080p HD video, on the other hand, was impressive. I filmed cars driving by on the street below and noticed that I was able to clearly make out the street sign across the street after viewing it back on my computer. Some smartphones can struggle when panning while filming HD video, but that wasn’t the case with the G2x — I saw very little pixelation as I panned the camera around. Audio also came through well.

Wrap up

If you’re in the market for a new smartphone on T-Mobile, the G2x will blow your mind compared to its predecessors. At $199.99, it’s priced on a par with other high-end smartphones on T-Mobile, but it packs so much more power. The dual-core processor means this thing screams right out of the box, so you should be future-proofed against more powerful applications and games. Also, T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network offered some solid data speeds, and gaming was a ton of fun. The decent battery life, good call quality, and sharp 8-megapixel camera certainly don’t hurt either. Right now this is the créme de la créme of smartphones on T-Mobile USA.

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