In many ways, the smartphone platform has evolved following the same kinds of steps we saw in the early days of the PC—lots of different software and hardware platforms, rapidly changing lead players, faster and faster platform update cadence, the slow emergence of obvious majority leaders. Anand and I have talked extensively about just how striking the similarities are between the PC evolution and the current mobile one, but one of the striking differences is just how much faster that evolution is happening in the mobile space. The reason is simple—nearly all the hard lessons have already been learned in the previous PC evolution, it's just a matter of porting that knowledge to mobile under a different set of constraints.

2011 is going to be a year dominated by multi-core smartphone launches, but there always has to be a first. So just like that, we have our first example of said category of smartphone, the LG Optimus 2X, with Nvidia's dual-core 1 GHz Tegra 2 AP20H at its heart. The Optimus 2X (simply the 2X henceforth) hasn't changed much since we saw it at CES—the hardware is aesthetically the same, and software at first glance is the same as well. We weren't able to publish benchmarks at that time purely because LG hadn't finalized the software build on that test hardware, but we definitely can do so now.

First off are the hardware specs. There's a version of the 2X already shipping on South Korea Telecom which is similar but not identical to the version we were sampled—what we're reviewing is the LG PP990 rather than the SU660. You can look at the specs of that Korean version and compare yourself, but the differences boil down to a few things. The South Korean version ships with 16 GB of internal storage compared to 8 GB like ours, Xenon versus LED flash, likely a different build of Android (more on that later), and a physically different set of Android buttons. The Korean version also has T-DMB for mobile TV. LG hasn't officially announced what carrier the 2X will launch with stateside, nor has it been specific about what UMTS or GSM bands that final version will work with, I'd expect that announcement to happen at MWC. Needless to say, I was surprised that the 2X immediately hopped on HSPA when I inserted my personal AT&T SIM. Regardless, just know that what we're reviewing here is something between the international model and what will be launched in the US. The 2X will launch running Android 2.2.1 and is already slated to move to Android 2.3 at some time in the future.

Physical Comparison
Apple iPhone 4 Motorola Droid 2 Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate Google Nexus S LG Optimus 2X
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 116.3 mm (4.6") 106.17 mm (4.18") 123.9 mm (4.88") 123.9 mm (4.87")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 60.5 mm (2.4") 63.5 mm (2.5") 63.0 mm (2.48") 63.2 mm (2.48")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 13.7 mm (0.54") 9.91 mm (0.39") 10.88 mm (0.43") 10.9 mm (0.43")
Weight 137 g (4.8 oz) 169 g (5.9 oz) 127 grams (4.5 oz) 129 grams (4.6 oz) 139.0 grams (4.90 oz)
CPU Apple A4 @ ~800MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3630 @ 1 GHz 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual-Core Cortex-A9 (AP20H) @ 1 GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX 535 PowerVR SGX 530 PowerVR SGX 540 PowerVR SGX 540 ULV GeForce @ 100-300 MHz
RAM 512MB LPDDR1 (?) 512 MB LPDDR1 512 MB LPDDR1 512 MB LPDDR1 512 MB LPDDR2 @ 600 MHz data rate
NAND 16GB or 32GB integrated 8 GB integrated, preinstalled 8 GB microSD 2 GB, 16 GB microSD (Class 2) 16 GB Integrated 8 GB integrated (5.51 GB internal SD, 1.12 phone storage), up to 32 microSD
Camera 5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 5 MP with dual LED flash and autofocus 5 MP with auto focus and LED flash 5 MP with Autofocus, LED Flash, VGA front facing, 720P Video 8 MP with autofocus, LED flash, 1080p24 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 3.7" 854 x 480 4" Super AMOLED 800 x 480 4" Super AMOLED 800 x 480

4" IPS-LCD 800x480

On paper, the 2X is impressive. Highlights are obviously the AP20H Tegra 2 SoC, 4-inch IPS display, 8 MP rear camera and 1.3 MP front facing camera, and 1080p24 H.264 (Baseline) video capture. We're going to go over everything in detail, but starting out the review are our hardware impressions.

LG Optimus 2X Hardware Impressions
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  • rpmrush - Monday, February 07, 2011 - link

    Solid review, but please at least use spell check. I'm not a grammar or typo freak, but there were way too many simple typos that spell check wouldn't even let you get by with. At least have someone proof read it before you publish to the public. Reply
  • zowie - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    who can create a new type battery, who will be the richest man in the world Reply
  • uhuznaa - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    Yeah, and until then those who manage to come up with some decent power management will be the richest...

    Seriously, every improvement on the battery front almost always just leads to devices drawing more power. It's somewhat ironic that last year's iPhone still leads the pack when it comes to battery life. Power management (that is: don't draw more power than absolutely necessary by throttling or shutting down components that aren't needed or aren't fully needed in a given moment) is hard and boring design work nobody seems to care for. And with devices and software getting replaced with the next iteration every few months this is even understandable, it's just not worth the effort, especially when nobody seems to care and benchmarks are so much more important to the crowd.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    How is is typically played back: Cropped, or vertically resampled? Reply
  • Wilco1 - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    Tegra 3 has 4 1.5GHz Cortex-A9's according to a leaked slide.

    That was a great article! A few minor corrections: The ARM11 VFP is fully pipelined (so it can beat the A8 on FP performance). Like the A8, Scorpion is 2-way in-order, not limited out-of-order. In-order cores issue instructions in-order but may complete them out-of-order. On the other hand, OoO cores use register renaming to issue instructions out-of-order but complete them in-order.

    Note none of the micro benchmarks used emits Neon instructions. JIT compilers don't have enough time to generate high quality code, let alone autovectorize! For proper benchmarking you will need to run native code compiled with a quality compiler (not GCC - it is still far behind the state of the art on ARM, especially Thumb-2).
    Reply
  • metafor - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    I would argue with that definition of OoO. A design does not need register renaming in order to issue any arbitrary instruction OoO. It's simply a trade-off of whether to centralize hazard tracking on register accesses or on retirement. Reply
  • PWRuser - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    Excellent review. Please, in your future reviews don't stop including gems like this one:

    "Generally while browsing I can feel when Flash ads are really slowing a page down - the 2X almost never felt that way."

    That's what matters! Including hands on observations along with a full volley of synthetic benchmarks.

    This review comes as close as humanly possible to portraying a handset's ability to readers without the said readers trying it out.

    Your attention to detail puts other reviews to shame. Keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • sarge78 - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    Don't forget about ST-Ericsson's U8500 A9. They could be a major player in 2011/2012 with potential design wins from Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Reply
  • warisz00r - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    What equipments do you use to test the phone's audio quality with? Reply
  • phut- - Tuesday, February 08, 2011 - link

    "NVIDIA tells us that the Tegra 2 SoC is fully capable of a faster capture rate for stills and that LG simply chose 2MP as its burst mode resolution. For comparison, other phones with burst modes capture at either 1 MP or VGA. That said, unfortunately for NVIDIA, a significant technological advantage is almost meaningless if no one takes advantage of it. It'll be interesting to see if the other Tegra 2 phones coming will enable full resolution burst capture.  unfortunately for NVIDIA, a significant technological advantage is almost meaningless if no one takes advantage of it. It'll be interesting to see if the other Tegra 2 phones coming will enable full resolution burst capture.  meaningless if no one takes advantage of it. It'll be interesting to see if the other Tegra 2 phones coming will enable full resolution burst capture."

    LG have probably made this decision based on the sensitivity of the invariably minuscule sensor they will have used. Having 6 frames of 12mp is pointless if they are 12 incomprehensible megapixels due to the lacklustre sensitivity of the pixels in their chosen part.

    The kind of sensor you find delivering a meaningful burst in something like a 5D mk2 is enormous and power hungry, in comparison to an operating environment such as a phone.
    Reply

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