Jun 03 2011

LG Optimus 2X revisited

Right, so I unrooted my Optimus 2X, flashing LG's own latest stock build, and sent it back to the shop with a full sheet of errors, reporting its more or less severe shortcomings. So what did LG do? They "updated the firmware" to the exact same one I had already just updated to, and sent it back to me.Same build, same kernel, same all.

So what did that solve? Well, much what you'd expect.

But you know, I gave it a shot, and after a week in LG's perverse version of FroYo heaven, I've had it. Maybe there's something wrong with my particular handset, maybe it's just a bad goddamn phone. Either way it's going back again.

I got my Galaxy SII today. Preliminary review says, "Nice !"

May 23 2011

LG Optimus 2X review (slight return)

Some time ago I posted a lengthy review of the LG Optimus 2X here.

In my conclusion I wrote that, "I think the best that can be said about the LG Optimus 2X at this point in time is that it has the potential to be a really great device."

I fully stand behind that statement, because of its specs, beautiful screen and physical build quality. But, I also wrote a bit about root and custom ROMs saying, "If [you] know what you're doing, you can pound this beast into submission and have a great Android experience with it.", and I'm going to have to retract that. I most certainly know what I'm doing and as it is, the bloody thing is useless.

Most notably, I had a pretty consistent issue with the phone ringing, me answering the call, causing the phone to promptly reboot. But its inability to switch seamlessly back and forth between mobile network data connections and stored WiFi access points was also very, very annoying. There was a multitude of other major and minor faults, peppered with Force Closes and unprovoked reboots.

LG have been promising a gingerbread update that may or may not solve everything, but that update has been pushed from March to April to May and when I contacted LG Denmark, they said it was coming "this summer", which could just as well be September (or never) as it could be June.

So I've handed it back in with a full A4 sheet of error descriptions and my carrier has subsequently sent it back to LG. We're awaiting their response but whatever that may be, I'm done with it, and I'm getting myself something else instead. Probably a Samsung Galaxy SII, if they can deliver.

Apr 26 2011

LG Optimus 2X review

I've been using the LG Optimus 2X (hereafter called the o2X which the americans would be familiar with as the g2X) as my primary device for the last two weeks, which has given me a pretty good impression of the device. And it's a mixed bag of nuts to be honest.

On the hardware side, it seems good. Well, mostly good. The screen *is* really good. I don't know if its an IPS-panel, at least I haven't been able to confirm that, but it's vivid, clear and sharp with good color representation. And it's fully readable even in direct sunlight. Coming from the HTC Desire that's a nice change.

- Design

Well, it a big one and a bit on the heavy side, isn't it? The camera bulge on the back seems like a bad choice in my opinion. I have huuge hands, so it fits me well, but it's no girl's phone. The *design* is a matter of preference, but despite the brownness of it all, I kind of like it. Build quality seems great, the screen curves slightly down the sides and the seams with the frame fit well. No creaking plastics.

- Camera

The 8MP camera takes decent pictures that are good but not *that* good. Then again, anyone who understands anything about photography already knows it's not about the megapixels. I would have accepted a good 5MP camera over the bulge on the back of the device.

- Video

It takes decent video with vivid color reproduction, that looks *magnificent* when viewed on the device. The HDPI output works fine and is a zero-setup function - plug it in and the device is mirrored on your TV. It handles portrait/landscape changes without issue, and mirrors whatever is on your device screen to your flat screen, except video which is only displayed on your TV. But! Seeing my recorded 1080p videos on my 40" Samsung I wouldn't guess it's 1080p. I'd hardly peg it at 720p, actually. It runs smooth but there is blocking and odd compression artifacts. It looks like halfway between a good "720p" YouTube video and a bad 720p mkv encode, if that means anything to you.

- CPU

As for the hyped up reason it's called "2X" ... meh? I mean, there's no doubt it's fast, as it should be running Android on a dual core cpu, but it's not *that* fast. I can't honestly say I feel a stunning performance increase compared to a HTC Desire running Oxygen 2.0.3, for instance. Go Launcher still lags when swiping between homescreens. ADW Launcher Ex doesn't, but it didn't on my HTC Desire either. Angry Birds Rio still lags a bit when you restart the levels and zoom in/out. I could go on but I won't. I get the frustrating feeling I'd associate with running 32-bit Windows Vista on a quad core PC with 8 gigs of ram. Or racing a Porsche 911 on an icy lake. The power is there, but it isn't being transferred to something useful.

- Software

That leads us to the real issue. The stock LG software on the o2X isn't bad, it's f****ng terrible. Sketchy beta release terrible. Straight out of the box, this thing is disappointing, if not useless. It bundles obsolete and redundant social networking apps that you can't get rid of. It hangs and lags and sprinkles Force Closes and Sleep-of-deaths generously. If you leave a Wi-Fi network and come back, the o2X doesn't hop back on. You have to turn your Wi-Fi function off and back on, or it just stays on 3G. Maybe that's why LG chose to include a toggle widget for the notification drawer, giving easy access to that function, which is useful at least. Unfortunately the drawer also features a music control that takes up a full 20% of the notification drawer while keeping the Music app persistent at the expense of your battery. Can you turn it off? Sure but it pops right back up, because as we remember, the o2X doesn't remember. It tends to forget saved settings, including saved Wi-Fi networks altogether btw, and it drinks a full battery up in less than 8 hours while doing absolutely nothing.

It has to be said that the g2X presumably ships with stock Android and might be another story altogether, and that LG has promised a Gingerbread update "soon" , that may or may not do wonders, depending on what their plan for the device is. As it was, I only managed to live with the stock software for a day, including a thorough test drive, and proceeded straight to rooting and a custom ROM. And at the moment that's sort of the way forward here. Most notably o2X owners should keep a close eye on the LG Optimus 2X section at 2X.MoDaCo.com and the corresponding Optimus 2x Android Development section at xda-developers. CyanogenMod is on it's way with Gingerbread for the g2X, so presumably the o2X as well.

I'm going to be building my CirclesMod specifically for the o2X for the foreseeable future, of course.
My Mod is shown here [link removed, no longer relevant] on MoDaCo Custom ROM Fr12. I've modded all relevant statusbar icons and removed that damn music control drawer widget.

- Conclusion

"CAVEAT EMPTOR" with big goddamn letters, people. If know what you're doing, you can pound this beast into submission and have a great Android experience with it. But if you're not willing or able to root and customize your handset yourself, I promise you it'll end in tears. I think the best that can be said about the LG Optimus 2X at this point in time is that it has the potential to be a really great device. In many ways, this has the potential to be the developer reference phone that the Google/Samsung Nexus S fell pathetically short of. But it needs the proper software support. Not just a half-assed GingerBread update, but a stock Android option with better and properly maintained platform of open source hardware drivers.

Mar 15 2011

How to pick your custom ROM

Update December 2012: The main points in this post are still valid to me, but I currently recommend that if you want to mess about with your phone, get proper developer device. The Galaxy Nexus is the first Nexus that I feel is a really decent phone in its own right. I can't wait to see what the developer community does with it. 

So you're either smart or lucky enough to have picked out an Android phone that was born with an unlocked bootloader or at least easily unlocked and rooted. If you're also lucky enough that your device has an active developer community behind it, you now face the decision of which ROM to choose.

- Why would I install a 3rd party ROM?
Android has seen an immense boom within especially the last year or so, and the good news is that there are a lot of very good Android devices out there right now. The bad news is that manufacturers more or less follow the same software upgrade patterns as they have always done, meaning upgrades as few and far between as possible. The main reasons for this are the logistics of rolling out updates to customers, handling bugs and support and so on but it also makes sense from a carrier's or manufacturer's point of view that the optimal upgrade path from Android 2.2 to 2.3 is to buy a new device. Ditch the Desire for a Desire S and so on. From a consumer standpoint, this sucks because it means that you're stuck on old software on good hardware that might easily be able to handle the upgrades.

Unlocking/rooting your phone, installing a custom recovery and thus enabling installation of 3rd party ROMs returns control of your hardware to you. That simple. That's why.

- Choose your flavor
For a device like the HTC Desire, there are a few different types of ROMs. There are the stock ROMs that are rooted and modified versions of HTC's own software. Some are more heavily modified than others, but although some are built to include extra apps and functionality, the main differences are typically purely cosmetic. 

Then there are the ported ROMs, which have been ported from other devices. Given that the HTC devices within the same generation have tended to have had roughly similar hardware, you'll see a lot of those, that actually work quite well. For the Desire, you'll see a whole bunch of ROMs based on ports from primarily the Desire HD and the Desire Z, but "GingerSense" ports from the Desire S are starting to raise their heads too.

There are the AOSP ROMs, which are built from scratch from the Android Open Source Project source code. These are the ones that are closest you'll get to the "pure" google Android experience. Not everyone will want that, partly because the naked android is slightly spartan, and if you bought a Sense device for the bling and the widgets that, you won't be happy with the naked android. Additionally there may not always be hardware drivers available to enable all device functionality, so read the description carefully and be aware of any known bugs. The thing about a good AOSP ROM is it's smooth and faaast while still being easy on the battery. 

No matter what type you like, there will be many options - some developers have made stability a priority, some weight performance, or battery life or whatever. Undervolting, overclocking, Apps2SD.

- Choose an actively maintained ROM.
While your particular android flavor is entirely a matter of personal preference, here's a general tip. You should choose a ROM from a developer who is serious about his work, and keeps his ROM up to date. Meaning: If a ROM is stable and bug free that's fine, and we shouldn't fix something that isn't broken, but you should check the developer's thread to see if there's a history of maintaining and bugfixing.

As long as HTC doesn't release a new Android version for the Desire, it stands to reason there won't be a Stock GingerBread ROM, for instance. Taking carrier/manufacturer logistics and strategies mentioned above into consideration, well...it's doubtful if that'll happen at all. For AOSP ROMs it's another game because the ROM is built from source.

There is a running joke in the Desire community that we'll see both AOSP IceCream on our Desires before HTC brings us GingerBread.

It's not a joke, really, it's probably true.

HTC, prove me wrong.

And release your damn source code already.

Feb 07 2011

LG Optimus 2X

Engadget got their hands on th LG Optimus 2X and reviewed the hell out of it.

While it is a really cool device, it suffers from the same illness as most other android phones, namely that the vendors feel a need to disguise android in their own bloatware, which range from the tolerable (Sense) to the downright nasty (MotoBlur? Sony Ericsson?).

I would have loved to see this lovely thing wearing only stock gingerbread.

Dec 26 2010

Everything's Gingerbread.

Phew. Everything's been Oxygen and Gingerbread. I've redone all my icons with gradients and glow to accommodate the generally updated UI of Android 2.3. I've also added the connected/fully connected logic layer to everything.

2011 is going to be massive for Android powered devices. The Google Nexus S, anyone? Yes, please. LG's got something coming out called the Optimus 2X, it's a dual core unit, that's just begging to be rooted and Oxygenated. Interesting times indeed.

I don't suppose anyone's got a line on a Samsung/Google Nexus S device that can be shipped to Denmark? I'd kinda like one.