Best T-Mobile Phone: T-Mobile G2X (by LG)
T-Mobile's latest entry in its G-series of Android phones and tablets, the LG Electronics-made T-Mobile G2X ($200 with a two-year contract from the carrier) is a multimedia beast with an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, HDMI-out, and 4G speeds.
The G2X is at heart the same as the LG Optimus 2X, LG's first foray into dual-core Android smartphones. The Optimus 2X is currently available overseas: Nvidia used it to demo its Tegra 2 chip at its CES press conference, showing off an HD video and an Angry Birds demo. Nvidia also dubbed it a "super phone" for its multitasking strength and processing speed.
The G2X has essentially the same design as the Optimus 2X, but it comes with HSPA+ power and doesn't have LG's proprietary interface running atop Android. Aside from those differences-and of course some superficial branding and a handful of preinstalled apps from T-Mobile--the G2X is virtually identical to its international sibling.
The G2X's black, dark gray, and silver color scheme is fairly undistinguished looking. But don't let this smartphone's generic appearance fool you: This handset has a high-quality feel. Its face is occupied almost entirely by the 4-inch display, with a thin piano-black bezel running around it. Four touch-sensitive buttons lie below the display: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. The back incorporates a matte, dark gray, soft-to-the-touch rubber layer, with a silver stripe that bears the Google logo running down the middle. The battery cover is easy to remove, but it doesn't feel flimsy. A metal frame around the phone gives it a sturdy, solid feel. The face of the G2X is subtly curved, an understated design tweak that helps it feel comfortable when you hold it up to your ear.
At the top of the phone, you'll find the power/lock key, an HDMI port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Along the right spine you'll encounter the volume rocker, while the left spine is bare. The bottom houses speakers and a MicroSD port.
The 4-inch WVGA 800-by-480-pixel LCD screen displays videos, games, and the interface quite nicely. Colors are bright and vivid, details look sharp, and movement and animations are smooth. It happened to be a rare sunny day in San Francisco when I tested the G2X, so I took it outside to see how satisfactorily it would fare in bright light. Unfortunately, the on-screen image completely vanished as soon as I stepped out the door. I had trouble just dialing a number. To make matters worse, the screen is a fingerprint magnet, and with the smudges it's even more difficult to see what you're doing.
When Nvidia showed off the Optimus 2X/G2X back in January, the company made a point of touting the phone's multitasking capabilities. We downloaded a few apps from the Android Market, streamed some music from Pandora, and ran a few games, simultaneously. When we opened up Angry Birds on top of all that, the app ran smoothly with no glitches.
Thanks to the Tegra 2 processor, the G2X handles all Android games quite well. For example, Need for Speed Shift ran fluidly, and the graphics looked sharp. The G2X comes loaded with TegraZone, an app on the Android Market designed to curate games that have been optimized for Nvidia's Tegra 2 chipset. Though few of the games really show off the capabilities of the Tegra 2 chipset--and though the ones that do aren't much fun to play--more games are on their way to the TegraZone, and that prospect gives me hope that gamers will one day be able to enjoy high-quality gaming on a mobile phone.
The Tegra 2's impressive performance is apparent in several areas of the G2X. Menu scrolling proceeded effortlessly, and apps launched quickly. I was especially pleased at how smoothly the phone handled video and 3D games. The browser performed quite well, loading pages in seconds over Wi-Fi and even faster over a strong 4G signal.
We used a different phone, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, to test T-Mobile's 4G network in a few cities, including San Francisco, and overall we were pleased with the solid 4G-like speeds: The Galaxy S 4G averaged 3.38 mbps for downloads and 1.13 mbps for uploads. Though its numbers couldn't hold a candle to the blazing speeds we clocked on Verizon's LTE network (18.30 mbps and 7.39 mbps), T-Mobile's 4G network did outperform both AT&T's HSPA+ network and Sprint's WiMax network.
With those results in mind, I have to give T-Mobile the benefit of the doubt with regard to the rather dismal speeds we achieved with the G2X. The South Park neighborhood of San Francisco (where PCWorld is located) has never been a strong area for T-Mobile. When I tested closer to downtown, the G2X did much better, delivering transfer speeds of 4.23 mbps for downloads and 1.12 mbps for uploads.
Call quality on the G2X was a bit disappointing. Callers on the other end of the line reported that they could hear me fine, but at my end audio piped through the earpiece sounded a bit blown out to me--as if my friends were talking much too close to the mouthpiece of their phone. Even so, the T-Mobile G2X has the chops to compete with other services' top-of-the-line phones, and until the HTC Sensation arrives, this is hands-down the best smartphone available from T-Mobile.