T-Mobile was the first major American carrier to support Google Android. While the company has consistently released quality Android phones at a variety of price points, Sprint and Verizon have been getting more attention with its high-end products. The T-Mobile G2x by LG changes all of that. The G2x is currently the best Android phone available on T-Mobile and one of the best Android phones available on any carrier. Its combination of a Tegra 2 processor, HSPA+ data speeds, a high quality screen, excellent call quality, and above average build quality make it tough to beat. The Android world moves fast, but for now the G2x is an elite phone that stands at the top of this immensely competitive market. Let’s break it down!
Performance — This G2x will make you feel like He-Man. After using it for a few minutes, you’ll want to point it to the heavens and shout, “I have the power!!!” The phone’s 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor is blazing. The CPU performance is stellar and the GPU performance is unparalleled. Everything feels snappy on the G2x, whether it’s scrolling through screens, launching programs, playing 3D games, etc.
The G2x is simply the most powerful phone Android phone you can buy in America. Early benchmarks indicate that it will be surpassed by the Samsung Galaxy S II, but not by much. Besides, it’s not like there are many CPU- or GPU-intensive programs available for Android (due to stupid Google limitations). This phone is a powerhouse now and will be among the top performers for the rest of the year.
Build Quality — The G2x has an understated look that some people will love and some people will find boring. Looking at the phone head-on you’ll see a large slab of Corning Gorilla Glass with a nice metal border. The top of the phone has a bit of bezel that houses the earpiece, front-facing camera, and logo. The bottom of the phone has an unusually large bit of bezel and houses the phone’s four capacitive buttons. The back of the phone is brown rubberized plastic with a metal sliver down the middle and the rear camera.
The bottom bezel is funky. Some people hate it, saying that it ruins the phone’s looks by giving it a Jay Leno-like chin. Aesthetically, I don’t mind it at all. The iPhone 4 is a beautiful phone and it has large bezels. In terms of functionality, it just seems like a waste of space. I wish LG would have made the phone a bit smaller or the the screen a bit larger.
Overall the build quality is good, but not great. The phone is an ideal size and weight for most users. For my tastes there was too much plastic and not enough metal. It didn’t have the quality feel of the iPhone 4 or the HTC Thunderbolt.
Screen — The G2x features a four-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 800 x 480. I was really surprised by the screen’s quality, but in retrospect I shouldn’t have been. LG makes the outstanding IPS display for the iPhone 4. While this four-incher isn’t quite that good, it’s one of the better displays out there. Its colors are bright and accurate — better than what most standard LCD screens produce. The blacks aren’t as deep as the ones produced by the Super AMOLED screen on my Samsung Epic 4G, but the color accuracy and text are better.
In terms of usability, most people find that four inches is the sweet spot for size and navigation. Personally I prefer 4.3-inch screens, but I was quite satisfied with G2x’s display. That said, it will look dated soon. The upcoming HTC Sensation offers a qHD resolution of 960 x 540, while the Galaxy S II features impressive Super AMOLED Plus technology. Of course the relatively small 3.5-inch display on the iPhone 4 still offers the best text on any phone. The G2x’s display is very good for now, but will be surpassed by phones slated for a Summer 2011 release.
User Interface — The G2x runs vanilla-ish Android 2.2. I don’t like calling this a stock version of Android because it’s not truly a stock version. There are programs on the phone that can’t be uninstalled (without rooting) and the camera software isn’t stock. Having said that, this is one of the few phones on the market that offers a stock-ish Android experience. The benefits are speed and faster updates.
Using the phone is what you’d expect from vanilla Android — the OS is flexible and powerful, but slightly rough around the edges compared to Apple iOS and HP WebOS. There were some odd quirks with Android on the G2X that I haven’t experienced on other stock Android phones I’ve used. For example, if the phone is locked and the screen is off, hitting the power button lets you see what’s on display before the lock slider pops up. For business users and people that engage in espionage, that’s a potential security problem. Comments on WordPress sites that use WPTouch appear, disappear, and appear again when they’re opened. From what I’ve read, these issues are a result of immature Tegra 2 drivers. They’re not true problems, but they’re definitely quirks.
There are currently only two types of Android phones that I earnestly recommend — those with stock Android and those with HTC Sense. It’s great that consumers have an incredibly powerful vanilla Android choice with the G2x.
Call Quality — This area was another pleasant surprise. The G2x’s call quality rocked. The earpiece and speaker are very clear, though the latter could stand an additional volume level. The people I spoke to on test calls were very impressed with the call quality. The four people I spoke with said that I sounded much better on the G2x than on the iPhone 4. Two of them said that I sounded slightly clearer on the G2x than on the HTC Thunderbolt, while two of them said I sounded about the same.
The G2x features WiFi calling, which is — by far — my favorite T-Mobile feature. It allows you to use WiFi in lieu of mobile signal for calls. This is fantastic for people that work in big buildings, live in areas with poor coverage, or want to use their phone in their basement. It also allows you to use your phone in other countries for “free”; as long as you’re on WiFi, you can make calls to American numbers while in other countries and it will count against your monthly bucket. Call quality on WiFi calling isn’t quite as good as regular mobile calls due to latency issues. Still, it’s better to have a tiny bit of lag than no signal at all, right?
4G Speeds — T-Mobile refers to its HSPA+ speeds as 4G. While the speeds aren’t as fast as Sprint’s WiMax and much slower than Verizon’s LTE, they’re still very good. Hopping around various parts of Los Angeles, I averaged 5 to 7Mbps down and 1 to 1.5Mpbs up. Ping rates were anywhere from 67 to 1,000 milliseconds. Naturally speeds will vary depending on your coverage.
Camera — The eight-megapixel shooter on the G2x was very good, but not great. For still images, I was happy with the picture quality. The camera produced vibrant images with fairly accurate colors. Shots in natural light were great, while indoor shots using flash were very good. As with most camera phones, the flash can be overpowering and lead to washed out images. The issue I had with the camera was that it was a little slow to focus. The HTC Thunderbolt and iPhone 4 snapped pictures much faster than the G2x.
For video, the 1080p clips I shot produced mixed results. The details were clear and the image quality was great, but the videos can be choppy. The camera can only record 1080p at 24 frames per second; if you’re filming a scene with a lot of movement then you’ll likely end up with a choppy video. Turning the resolution down to 720p at 30 frames per second resulted in smoother video that looked fantastic.
Battery Life — Initially, I was unimpressed with the G2x’s battery life. I averaged nine hours of use on my first three days with the phone. While I knew that the Tegra 2 used a lot of juice, I was still expecting more. I did notice that the phone’s radio would often fluctuate between 2G (EDGE) and 4G (WCDMA). On a lark I switched the phone to WCDMA only and my battery life increased to 13.5 hours.
The solution that worked for me will not work for everyone. Those that live in areas with sporadic WCDMA coverage will have to sacrifice battery life until a software update is available. Furthermore, I shouldn’t have to change a setting to get reasonable battery life. That’s just a sign of immature software.
Conclusion — Despite some software quirks and battery life issues, I was greatly impressed with the T-Mobile G2x. The phone is a scorcher! If you put a premium on performance then I highly recommend this phone. Its impressive Tegra 2 processor and vanilla-ish Android offer an amazingly fast experience that can’t be beat (yet). Having said that, I’m tempted by the upcoming T-Mobile HTC Sensation. While the Sensation’s GPU performance won’t be as strong, it offers a smoother Android experience with HTC Sense 3.0 and sexy aluminum unibody construction. I’m willing to give up a bit of performance for smoothness and better build quality. If speed and gaming are your top priorities then the G2x is for you.