Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4502/tmobile-g2x-review-gingerbread-infused
T-Mobile G2x Review: Gingerbread-Infusedby Vivek Gowri on August 3, 2011 2:09 AM EST
I’ve been a loyal T-Mobile user for the last five years, so the logjam of sorts at the top of The Big Magenta’s smartphone linuep is particularly interesting to me. On one side, there’s the excellent Sensation 4G that Brian reviewed recently. On the other, there’s the dual-core MyTouch 4G Slide, which is set to launch in the coming weeks. And then there’s the G2x. The G2x is T-Mobile’s version of the LG Optimus 2X, better known as one of the first shipping Tegra 2 phones on the market. The best way to describe the G2x is that it’s an Optimus 2X with a different baseband and the stock Android UI, so Brian’s excellent Optimus 2X review offers a solid background for what I’ll cover in this article. It’s been on the market for some time now, but the long-awaited Gingerbread update has finally started being pushed to devices earlier this week, so let’s take a look to see how it stacks up.
|Apple iPhone 4||HTC Thunderbolt||T-Mobile G2x (LG Optimus 2X)||HTC Sensation|
|Height||115.2 mm (4.5")||122 mm (4.8")||123.9 mm (4.87")||126.3 mm (4.97")|
|Width||58.6 mm (2.31")||67 mm (2.63")||63.2 mm (2.48")||65.5 mm (2.58")|
|Depth||9.3 mm ( 0.37")||13.2 mm (0.52")||10.9 mm (0.43")||11.6 mm (0.46")|
|Weight||137 g (4.8 oz)||183.3 g (6.46 oz)||139.0 g (4.90 oz)||148 g (5.22 oz)|
|CPU||Apple A4 @ ~800MHz||1 GHz MSM8655 45nm Snapdragon||1 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 Tegra 2 AP20H||1.2 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon MSM8260|
|GPU||PowerVR SGX 535||Adreno 205||ULP GeForce||Adreno 220|
|RAM||512MB LPDDR1 (?)||768 MB LPDDR2||512 MB LPDDR2||768 MB LPDDR2|
|NAND||16GB or 32GB integrated||4 GB NAND with 32 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled||8 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD||4 GB NAND with 8 GB microSD Class 4 preinstalled|
|Camera||5MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera||8 MP with autofocus and dual LED flash, 720p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing||8 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p24 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing||8 MP AF/Dual LED flash, VGA front facing|
|Screen||3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD||4.3” 800 x 480 LCD-TFT||4.0" 800 x 480 LCD-TFT||4.3" 960 x 540 S-LCD|
|Battery||Integrated 5.254Whr||Removable 5.18 Whr||Removable 5.6 Whr||Removable 5.62 Whr|
T-Mobile G2x - The Hardware, Part I
The device hardware is nearly identical to the international version that we reviewed earlier in the year. It’s a fairly conservative design, with mildly curved edges and corners softening an otherwise rectangular body. The front side is a continuous glass surface, with a slight curve on the right and left sides. The bezel is thin on the two sides and larger on the top and bottom. The upper bezel contains the front facing camera, proximity and ambient light sensors, earpiece, and a silkscreened T-Mobile logo. The bezel underneath the screen is significantly larger and contains the four capacitive touch buttons, but there doesn’t seem to be a readily apparent reason for why there is so much wasted space on the surface.
The battery cover takes up the entire backside of the phone. It’s matte soft touch plastic in a colour that T-Mobile refers to as “Mocha Brown,” and has an aluminum strip down the middle. The camera resides under a slightly recessed window in the battery cover, and there’s a cutout next to it for the single LED flash. Unfortunately, this results in dust getting all over the inside of the battery cover, and especially between the camera module and the lens window. Common sense and good design decision, this was most definitely not.
The matte metallic silver ring around the four sides of the device bridges the glass front and the battery cover. As with the aluminum strip on the back, it gives the device a touch of brightwork to keep things visually interesting. LG devices in recent times have used variations of this design language, with a lot of rectangles, radiused edges, and a metal or mirrored chrome strip down the backside of the device. You can see in the Revolution, Optimus 3D, and even the Optimus Pad/G-Slate tablets. It’s a no-nonsense aesthetic with a bit of subtle visual flair. It seems a bit staid at first, but the more you use it, the more you’re drawn in. Count me a fan.
T-Mobile G2x - The Hardware, Part II
The top of the device contains the lock/power button, the headphone jack, and a covered micro-HDMI port for HDTV output.
The right and left sides are completely plain, other than the volume up/down buttons on the right side.
The four capacitive buttons underneath the screen are backlit and work well, with haptic feedback provided in lieu of physical buttons. The button layout itself is menu, home, back, and search (from left to right), similar to Samsung and Motorola. I’m used to the Google/HTC layout, with home and menu switched, so the LG’s I’ve had come through the labs recently have tripped me up a bit at first. The downside of switching between phones on a week to week basis is that you end up having to adjust to various button and keyboard layouts on the fly pretty often.
The bottom of the device has the mic, speaker, and micro-USB port. As with the Revolution, the port itself is flipped from most other devices (wider side of the connector facing down, away from the screen.) It feels upside down, I’m pretty sure I tried to put the connector in the wrong way every single time I charged the phone. As on the Optimus 2X, the speakerphone is very good. The speaker provides loud, clear audio, far better than the Sensation's oddly poor speaker.
It’s a solid feeling piece of kit. It’s not overwhelmingly well built, a la iPhone 4 or HTC Sensation, but it’s getting there. Based on my past experiences with LG devices, including the Revolution, I wasn’t expecting anything great. The battery cover feels a little bit cheap when you take it off (plastic clips and really flexible plastic backings are always like this), and the dust-prone nature of the camera window is pretty annoying, but overall the G2x surprised me with how well built it was. The weightiness gives it a better in-hand feel than any of the Galaxy S devices and most of the other LG devices. I wouldn’t say it’s up to the level of HTC, but it’s getting there and definitely competitive with the rest of the smartphone class.
T-Mobile G2x - The Display
The word gorgeous doesn’t do the 4” display justice. In this day and age, with most of the high end devices releasing with qHD screens, the WVGA resolution isn’t going to light the world on fire, but it’s an IPS panel that looks pretty phenomenal. Part of that has to do with the colour calibration, which looks pretty spot on (though we unfortunately have no way to verify this on smartphones like we do with notebooks), as well as the greater viewing angles.
Our measured tests say that it’s towards the higher side of average when it comes to brightness and contrast, but definitely still in the middle of the pack. The black levels are not so great, which hurts the contrast ratio, but overall, it’s not particularly otherworldly from a measurable standpoint. Solid, definitely, but I’d say the display looks better than the numbers indicate. The white point of 7000 K is slightly cooler than the Sensation’s display (6500 K), but warmer than Samsung’s Infuse (8000 K). Samsung tends to use oversaturated blues, in my experience, so it’s pretty consistent.
But as much as I like the G2x’s display, the Sensation’s qHD display is probably a better bet. It’s just as bright and still very good looking, as well as getting you the higher pixel density. It’s not quite up to the Retina Display 300+ PPI level, but it’s getting there - 256 PPI is nothing to scoff at. I’ve noticed that Android tends to work better with more screen real estate, so the Sensation has the edge with 35% more pixels at your disposal.
T-Mobile G2x - The Network
One of the major hardware differences between the G2x and the Optimus 2X is the cellular radio. While the O2X uses a Infineon X-Gold XG616, similar to what you can find in the Samsung Galaxy S/Nexus S and the iPhone 4, the G2x uses Qualcomm’s MDM6600 baseband, the whole point of the switch being to support HSDPA 14.4 on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network. At launch, T-Mobile advertised the G2x as a quadband 3G device, with support for HSPA+ over the 1900/850 MHz (AT&T) bands as well as the standard 2100/1700 MHz T-Mobile 3G bands. This, unfortunately, was a blatant error in T-Mobile’s information - after the G2x’s release, it became readily evident that quadband support was only for EDGE/GPRS, not 3G. How an error of this magnitude managed to slip through until the device started shipping (it was advertised with quadband 3G at CES in January) remains unanswered.
But no matter - if you’re on T-Mobile, HSPA+ works, and well. I saw speeds generally in the range of 3.5-6 Mbps downstream and 1.5-3 Mbps upstream. I’m not as obsessive with speed tests as Brian is, so I don’t have enough data points to construct a speed graph like he had, but they’re fairly consistent with results I’ve seen before. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ is faster in Seattle than in Tuscon where Brian is, which is why my numbers are so much higher.
We ran into some issues with cellular stability with the G2x - Brian complained about it before sending me the phone, and I personally experienced a couple of rather disconcerting periods where the G2x would be unable to send or receive cellular data for a span of 5-10 minutes, unless you got impatient and pulled the battery first. It looks like the implementation of the new baseband was rushed, but this is still a pretty significant issue to slip through. It’s something that I haven’t noticed post-Gingerbread, but it’s only been two days since the update released. I wouldn’t say it’s a major problem, but definitely an annoyance. It’s not the only indication that the transformation from Optimus 2X to G2x was a hurried process either, as we’ll see on the software side.
T-Mobile G2x - The Software
The G2x, like the G2 before it, ships with a nearly stock version of the Android UI. I owned a G2 for a number of months (the preview we did was actually my personal device) before selling it due to issues with the slider/hinge mechanism, but I absolutely loved the Android build on it. Using the stock UI is a breath of fresh air from all of the devices with overbearing skins (I’m looking directly at you, HTC and Motorola). LG and Samsung don’t have particularly intrusive UI overlays, but they’re definitely not that useful. HTC’s series of Sense UIs is actually pretty good, but it’s a pretty heavy reskin of Android. Motorola, of course, has the absolutely amazing Motoblur to their credit...the less said about it, the better. Compared to them, using stock Android is a light and joyous experience.
I have a MyTouch Slide 4G here as well, and I’m switching between them basically every other day. The MyTouch has a stripped down version of Sense 3.0, but coming back to the G2x’s stock UI is always so refreshing.
Now here’s the weird thing. The lack of any real UI overlays should in theory make it easier for updates to show up. The key words here are “in theory”. T-Mobile was very (very) slow in getting the Gingerbread update out for the G2 and G2x, but they finally got those out this week (it was brilliant - I basically finished my review, then the day I was going to post it, the Gingerbread update came out and I had to frantically rebenchmark and rewrite large parts of my review. Dear T-Mobile and LG, I thank you for simultaneously making and ruining my day.)
The current software revision is 2.3.3, so not quite the latest revision of Android (which is at 2.3.5), but after how long it took to move forward from 2.2.2, I’m not going to complain. Stock Froyo was smooth on Tegra 2, but Gingerbread takes the smoothness to a whole new level. I described it to Brian as being like a hot knife through butter. It’s really, really quick, there is absolutely no lag throughout any of the UI. If the G2x isn’t the fastest and smoothest Android device I’ve ever used, it has to be very close to it. The Sense 3.0-based Sensation and MyTouch Slide 4G have nothing on this phone.
Regardless of whether we were running the Gingerbread or Froyo ROM, we noticed some instability with the phone. In particular, we ran into one particular bug that was pretty maddening - at the end of phone calls, the phone would occasionally go completely unresponsive. And I mean, the phone would still be running, but the touch screen, capacitive buttons, and even hardware buttons would simply stop working. If you were on the phone, the call would stay active with no way for you to end it unless the other person ends it at first. But because the hardware buttons don’t function, you can’t even power the phone off without removing the battery. It happens often enough to be annoying - I probably saw it twice or thrice a week on average while I had the phone, and almost once a day at certain points. It even happened the day I got the Gingerbread update.
I asked Brian about it, and he floated the idea that it might be a bug in the the radio interface layer, which provides an interface between Android’s telephony services and the onboard cellular radios. If so, it’d just be another sign that maybe the G2x came out of the oven a little bit half-baked from a baseband and software point of view.
As far as other bugs, I noticed one other mildly annoying thing. Every time you wake the phone from display sleep, whatever the last displayed screen was will briefly flash on the display for maybe a tenth of a second, before changing to the correct image. It’s a bit odd, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to get rid of that behaviour. But the big stuff here is all right, especially with the stock Gingerbread ROM. If T-Mobile can get some of the instability fixed, it’d be perfect.
T-Mobile G2x - The Performance
The G2x shares most basic hardware with the Optimus 2X, containing the same 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 SoC and 512MB LPDDR2 RAM as it’s international brethren. We can see slightly better numbers for the G2x across the board versus the O2X, due to Gingerbread and the stock Android UI, but otherwise, performance ends up in the same ballpark. Which is to say, this is a seriously, seriously quick phone.
The modern graphics benchmarks look a bit less stellar - GeForce ULP looks pretty slow in comparison to SGX 540 and especially the Adreno 220 in the Sensation’s dual-core Snapdragon SoC. GF-ULP is still a solid graphics chip for the present crop of high end smartphones and has no problems with any of the latest Android games, but it’s definitely one of the major things that should be improved in Kal-El and the next crop of Tegra SoCs.
T-Mobile G2x - The Camera
The G2x’s Froyo ROM had LG’s standard camera app from the O2X and Revolution, but the G2x got bumped back to the stock Android camera app after the Gingerbread update. Maybe they consciously decided to make it as stock as possible (or maybe they just messed up), but for whatever reason, the camera app was changed in the Gingerbread update. The LG camera app is quite good, as we’ve noted previously, but there’s one major annoyance I have with it - after every picture, it asks what you want to do next. If you’re just shooting randomly, it becomes a serious pain.
The default Android camera app is ugly, but the big problem here is that you lose many of the options present in the LG camera app, including the one to switch from the rear camera to the front facing 1.3MP shooter. Seriously. Remind me again, did I use the phrase “a bit half-baked” to describe the G2x software? This is a problem that definitely needs to be fixed, and soon. The 8.0MP pictures shot with the stock camera app are compressed much higher, with images that end up at roughly 35% of the size of the ones taken with the LG camera app. Also, you can’t shoot video at more than 720p with the stock camera app. In a phone that’s advertised with 1080p video capability (and had it until the update), that’s just unacceptable. I’ve seen some posts on T-Mobile’s forum indicating that some people are using Camera Zoom FX to get the settings and 1080p video recording back, but CZFX can’t switch to the front facing camera and it also costs $4.79. I don’t want to have to pay just to use the camera that worked really quite well until last week.
So let’s talk about the camera’s abilities, as measured before the update and subsequent crippling of the camera’s abilities from a software standpoint. As with the Optimus 2X, we were pretty happy with the high framerate of the preview image, it’s definitely one of the more fluid that we’ve come across recently. The pictures themselves are solid, but not particularly exemplary. The window on the battery cover for the camera, I suspect, has a lot to do with this. The test images look soft and yellowed out, for some reason, they’re significantly worse than the images we saw out of the Optimus 2X. I don’t know whether this is isolated to the specific phone I have for testing, because there doesn’t seem to be any significant camera hardware or software differences between the G2x and the O2X. Or maybe it was just a bad set of conditions for the G2x’s camera. In day to day use, the camera is pretty decent, with vibrant and sharp pictures.
The other thing you need to be careful about with the G2x camera is that the window picks up dirt very, very quickly. This can significantly impact photo quality, so it’s important to clean it out every so often if you want decent pictures.
The front facing 1.3MP camera is fairly medicore. There’s a lot of noise in the images, as well as a lack of colour saturation. The front facing camera also mirrors the image horizontally. It’s acceptable for video chat and fixing your hair in the elevator, but nothing more.
The G2x is capable of 1080p video (camera application notwithstanding), but it’s not that great. The video comes out soft, and at 1080p, lacks a lot of detail, especially compared to the latest HTC devices and the Droid 3. It’s not a bad video camera, especially for YouTube and Facebook uploading. But the optical hardware and encoder are definitely holding the G2x camera back.
T-Mobile G2x - The Battery
The G2x is a bit harder on battery than the Optimus 2X. It’s about 10% off the Optimus 2X’s power consumption figures in the web browsing test, a bit more than 15% off in the talk time test, and roughly identical in the wireless hotspot test. I’m guessing the differences are mostly down to the switch in baseband, as well as experimental variation.
Overall battery life is not so great, it’s down closer to the bottom half of the smartphone group now when compared to the O2X. The Sensation has way better battery life in the 3G tests (browsing, talk time, hotspot), as does the MyTouch Slide 4G (look for a review in the very near future!)
T-Mobile G2x - The Verdict
I really, really like the G2x. It’s quick, powerful, understated, decently well-built, and has a great display. Nvidia gave this one to us as a long-term evaluation unit, so I’ll definitely be looking at it as a day to day phone for the next few months. I’m psyched, because this has all of the elements of a superphone - dual-core SoC, IPS display, HSPA+. In addition, the G2x runs a stock version of Android. (Ironic isn’t it, most companies are putting skins on Android to make them “unique”, and the most unique one on the market ends up being the stock Android UI.)
As a huge fan of the stock Gingerbread UI, this endears the G2x to me greatly. It’s so fluid, so smooth, and so downright responsive compared to most phones, even other similarly powerful dual-core devices. I’ve got a MyTouch Slide here as well, with the same Qualcomm MSM8260/Sense 3.0 combo as the Sensation, and the difference is almost night and day. To an extent, this is because of the asynchronous core clocking in the dual-core Snapdragon SoCs, but still, the sheer responsiveness of the G2x is probably it’s best feature.
Unfortunately, the software side of the G2x is a double edged sword. You’re basically trading that instant response for stability - this G2x isn’t as bad as the Optimus 2X that Brian had earlier, but it’s getting there. Random crashes, cellular instability, etc - I’m averaging a forced reboot roughly once every 36 hours. It’s....disconcerting, let’s put it that way. The Gingerbread update didn’t actually help the stability side of things too much, and the whole camera application ordeal is just bad. It speaks of a lack of attention to detail and testing at almost every level.
And so as much as I love the G2x, I must say that the Sensation is a better buy on T-Mobile. They’re logical competitors, and while I subjectively like the G2x more, the Sensation is better designed, better built, and much, much more stable. The software is simultaneously the best and worst thing about the G2x - the quickness and smoothness of the entire OS makes the device so much fun to use....until it crashes on you. The first time is a bit quaint, the second is more concerning, and after that it’s just annoying.
Now, if you’re open to CyanogenMod’ing it up, that route is always an option. The combination of CM7.1 and LauncherPro is pretty sweet, and me and Brian will cover it in a later article, but it’s a decent way of solving most of the software issues. I love the phone otherwise - the screen is gorgeous, the hardware is pretty decent, and I cannot stress how much fun it is to have a device this responsive. But there’s too many issues with stability with the OS and the baseband for this to top the Sensation, which is probably one of the single best all-around smartphones on the market.