Dual-core handsets are being talked up as the future of mobile phones, promising greater than ever processing power for more complicated apps and general speed of use.
Devices are promised soon from Samsung and Motorola (the Galaxy S II and the Atrix), with others likely to follow, but the first to arrive in the UK market is this little beauty from LG.
It's not just a one trick pony either, since the Android 2.2-packing Optimus 2X also includes an 8-megapixel camera and an HDMI connection.
Design and build
It's a pretty looking handset, with all of the front covered by an iPhone-style sheet of glass, complete with a metal rim around the sides (can you see a theme developing here?).
All four standard Android buttons are beneath the screen on a touch-sensitive strip but there's just a brace of volume buttons on the sides, with microUSB power/sync slot and stereo speakers at the bottom and a power button, 3.5mm headphone jack and an HDMI port on top. This last is covered by a fairly sturdy plastic grommet.
The screen measures 4in on the diagonal and delivers a fine 800 x 480-pixel resolution. It looks great, quite frankly, but the shine comes off it a little in the usability stakes, since the sensitivity of the multitouch capability leaves a bit to be desired.
Too often we found ourselves having to double-tap a control to get it to take effect and while it's not terrible, the 2X has some serious rivals to contend with these days and little irritants like this can easily make the difference.
Interface and OS
Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) is already beginning to make an appearance but the Optimus 2X ships with the previous iteration - Android 2.2 Froyo - on board.
This shouldn't be a deal breaker, since most of the changes to the new OS are fairly minor: Near Field Communications and SIP calling haven't really taken off yet, though Gingerbread also offers the possibility of video calling and there are some improvements to the keyboards and text editing. Either way, an upgrade should be on the cards sometime in the next few months.
Like many other manufacturers, notably HTC with its Sense skin, LG has overlaid its own UI onto the Android shell. In this case there are a fair few elements recognisable from LG's S-Class UI, with some nice-looking icons, a few widgets and a programmable icon bar at the bottom of the screen which you can fill with the shortcuts of your choice.
But it's not really Froyo you want to know about is it? Okay, here goes. The dual-core processor is an Nvidia Tegra 2 and promises faster graphics processing and improved multitasking capabilities.
So how does it shape up in general use? Well, it's fast, notably faster than a single core device, even extremely nippy ones such as the 1GHz HTC Desire S or Samsung Galaxy S.
However, it's not loads quicker - just a bit, and it's arguable whether it really makes that much of a difference in general use, though as more processing-heavy games become available, it's likely that dual core devices will have more of a chance to show their full potential.
One area where it did shine, however, was in downloading files from a PC. HD videos that would normally take several minutes, shot across in seconds.
The 8-megapixel camera comes with a decent range of features including LED flash, autofocus, digital zoom and a variety of focus and scene modes. There are options for panorama shots, as well as macro and multi-shot possibilities and there's an image stabilisation option.
Picture quality is pretty good, so long as you're careful with your light, but it's not the best we've seen - edges could often be a little sharper, especially when the light is a little bit lacking, and depth of field tends to look a bit flat.
Video jumps up a notch, though, with 1080p full HD video recording at 30fps, something that isn't available on any other handset as of now. For sure, there are others that offer 720p and while the 2X's videos certainly look sharp and flow smoothly, the jump in quality isn't quite matched by the jump in the numbers.
Apps and browser
Internet explorations using the standard Android browser proved to be extremely smooth and yes, fairly quick via Wi-Fi, though busier pages can still cause a bit of hang on occasion, just like those old-fashioned single core handsets.
With over 200,000 apps now available on the Android Market, browsing for new apps isn't as simple as it used to be. LG has done its bit to help the novice user with the App Advisor, er, app, which offers a selection of the more popular choices in various categories.
It's by no means essential, and experienced 'droiders probably won't bother, but it's a handy intro to the world of Android.
There's a clutch of 10 apps already included on the phone, including various games and Amazon's Kindle ebook reader. Oddly, you can't uninstall them if they're no use to you, but at least they're tucked away in the 'Preloaded Apps' section of the menu.
Social networking gets a nod with a widget that displays your latest Facebook and Twitter feeds in parallel columns. It's a handy add-on, though you'll need to be connected to use it - if you're out of network coverage the updates disappear.
Media and connectivity
The film viewer does justice to any films you care to load up, and the dual-core processor helps to keep things running smoothly, whatever you throw at it. There's also the welcome option to stretch the film to fit the screen, which it manages to do without twisting things out of proportion.
The music player has a 21-setting equalizer with an option for virtual surround sound, though as is often the way with these things, you'll need a better set of headphones than the ones supplied to appreciate the rather subtle differences.
There's no microSD memory card supplied as standard, but it will take up to 32GB for your vids and tunes.
The HDMI connection makes it easy to view your phone's media content on your TV. It really is plug and play too - you just connect a suitable HD TV using the supplied cable, select the HDMI port using your TV's remote and it will appear on screen.
You can also view video streamed from the internet including YouTube and BBC iPlayer. The processor does a good job here too - even with the picture blown up to a jaggy-looking 47in, it still plays smoothly.
Performance and battery life
As suspected, the powerful processor tends to give the battery a bit of a beating, and we barely got a full working day's use out of it, though admittedly we didn't make use of any of the usual tricks for saving on the battery, such as dimming the screen, turning off push email and Wi-Fi.
- Speedy dual-core processor
- Great 4in screen
- 1080p video recording
- HDMI connection
- Fast, but not super-fast
- Camera could be better
- Touchscreen not sensitive enough
Verdict: The LG Optimus 2X is a lovely smartphone that ups the ante for rivals with the introduction of a dual core processor. But while it's certainly fast, other premium handsets are only a whisker behind.
More info: LG Optimus 2X spec
Price: From free on contract; £500 SIM-free