Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X. The affordable Dual-Core Smartphone (unlock, repair, Auckland)

Yep, you read that right. Affordable and dual core wouldn't normally belong in the same sentence. In 2011. And you don't need to press fast forward. Just sit back and enjoy. There's a lot stewing in the industry's pot and we think the place smells of quad core already.

So, two affordable dual-core Android smartphones it is. The Samsung Galaxy R and the LG Optimus 2X have been duly and thoroughly reviewed but we thought a head-to-head comparison wouldn't hurt - we've certainly been asked plenty of times which one is better.

The LG Optimus 2X prides itself in being the first dual-core smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy R follows at quite some distance but runs on the same chipset - the NVIDIA Tegra 2. Both have comparable screens too: 4" of WVGA IPS LCD on the Optimus and a 4.2" WVGA SC-LCD on the Galaxy R.

What sets them apart is imaging - the Optimus 2X is in line with the current flagships with an 8MP still camera and 1080p video, while the Galaxy R stops at 5MP/720p.

Here's a quick summary of the ups and downs of the two phones in direct comparison.

Samsung I9103 Galaxy R over LG Optimus 2X:

  • A bigger screen: 4.2" vs. 4"
  • Thinner: 9.5mm vs. 10.9mm
  • Double the RAM: 1GB vs. 512MB
  • Faster HSDPA: 21Mbps vs. 7.2Mbps
  • Slightly better battery life
  • USB On-The-Go support
  • Bluetooth 3.0 vs. 2.1

LG Optimus 2X over Samsung I9103 Galaxy R:

  • Better still camera: 8MP vs. 5MP
  • Better video camera: 1080p vs. 720p
  • HDMI TV-Out (with cable in the box) over no TV-Out at all

The Optimus 2X has fewer wins in its column, but they're all major victories. At least on paper - we'll see if the difference holds up in our tests or if the Samsung camera can make up for the lower resolution with better detail.

There are, of course, other differences too. It's between Samsung's TouchWiz and LG's custom skin on top of Android Gingerbread. And there's the design and build quality too: both have metal inlays on the back but the Galaxy R is more than a millimeter thinner.

LG Optimus 2X • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R

Other than that, the two phones are close enough in terms of specs to make this a fair and square fight. And exciting too.

Software and Hardware overview

The Samsung Galaxy R is the thinner of the two at 9.5mm (the Optimus 2X is 10.9mm thick).

Samsung I9103 Galaxy R

The 2X is just a tad smaller, though the actual difference in both width and height is negligible. And it's down to the screen size. The R has a 4.2" screen, while the 2X has a 4" diagonal. The relative difference is about 10% of screen real estate but the resolution is the same.

We'll have a look at the performance of the displays in more detail further on.

LG Optimus 2X

As far as weight goes, the two are practically impossible to tell apart - 139g vs. 135g. The thing to note is the Samsung Galaxy R weighs less despite having a larger brushed metal inlay on the back cover.

It has a slightly bigger battery than the LG Optimus 2X too - 1650mAh vs. 1500mAh - but we'll see whether that makes any difference in our battery test, since the power consumption is important too.

The loudspeaker performance is another area where those two differ. They actually ended up even on one of the three tests, but the Samsung Galaxy R was noticeably louder in the other two. Here's how they did and how that compares with other phones we've tested.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overal score
Nokia Lumia 800 60.9 59.0 61.7 Below Average
Apple iPhone 4 65.9 66.5 67.3 Below Average
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S 66.6 65.9 66.6 Below Average
LG Optimus 2X 65.7 60.0 67.7 Below Average
Samsung S8600 Wave 3 68.0 65.8 69.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy W I8150 69.6 66.6 67.0 Average
Samsung I9103 Galaxy R 65.7 65.7 71.5 Average
Samsung S8500 Wave 69.8 66.6 75.5 Good
HTC Titan 75.8 66.2 82.7 Very Good
HTC Desire 76.6 75.7 84.6 Excellent

As far as software goes, both phones are currently running Android 2.3 Gingerbread with both manufacturers committed to an Ice Cream Sandwich update. LG is expected to release ICS for the Optimus 2X in Q2, while Samsung's time table is yet to be confirmed.

We won't dig into the Samsung and LG custom launchers for Android. We've found that this is a personal preference and it's something you'll have to decide on for yourself. It appears the differences between TouchWiz and LG Home are mostly aesthetic.

The video player on the LG Optimus 2X handled 1080p videos (FullHD MP4 videos were problematic and MKV a straight no-go) and the Samsung Galaxy R matched it in FullHD video playback (with MP4 videos presenting problems again).

The LG Optimus 2X has a key advantage though - the Optimus 2X has a microHDMI port, which allows it to actually play those FullHD videos on an HDTV. There's a microHDMI cable included in the box too, so you don't have to worry about getting one. Depending on how you plan to use the phone, this might be one of the deciders.

The Galaxy R has only DLNA to rely on for connecting to TVs, but the Optimus 2X has that covered too.

One the thing that the Galaxy R has over the Optimus 2X in wired connectivity is USB On-The-Go. With it, you can hook up some external storage and and manage files on it. You'll need an OTG cable though, which isn't included in the box.

That aside, both phones have very similar software features. Both offer Flash-capable web browsers, come with Office document editors out of the box and offer social networking integration.

It's hard to pick a winner in this category. The Galaxy R is thinner and with a bigger screen, and with a slight advantage in loudspeaker performance. However, no TV-Out is a deal breaker for some. The standard microHDMI port of the Optimus 2X can save you some hassle (no MHL adapters or proprietary cables needed).

Screen comparison

The LG Optimus 2X and the Samsung Galaxy R use LCD screens with their own proprietary technology to improve the image quality.

Slight color and contrast loss when viewed at an angle is observed in both, although the problem is less prominent in the Galaxy R.

LG Optimus 2X • Samsung I9103 Galaxy R

Identical resolution and a slightly smaller screen means the Optimus 2X has an edge when it comes to sharpness. It beats the Galaxy R with a pixel density of 233ppi vs. 222ppi. It's not enough though to make a difference to the naked eye.

The LG Optimus 2X offers much better black levels - even at 100% brightness, the blacks were darker than what the Samsung Galaxy R managed at 50%. The 2X leads in contrast too, as the table below shows.

Where the Galaxy R wins out however is brightness - it's more than twice as bright. Here are the hard numbers:

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
LG Optimus 2X 0.23 228 982 0.35 347 1001
Motorola RAZR XT910 0 215 0 361
HTC Sensation 0.21 173 809 0.61 438 720
Samsung Galaxy W I8150 0.29 243 853 0.50 423 853
HTC Rhyme 0.43 265 609 0.58 402 694
Samsung I9001 Galaxy S Plus 0 251 0 408
HTC Sensation XE 0.23 172 761 0.64 484 752
HTC Radar 0.26 204 794 0.59 471 797
Samsung I9103 Galaxy R 0.51 407 806 0.92 785 858
LG Optimus Black 0.127 332 1228 0.65 749 1161

In conclusion, let's say it again. The Samsung Galaxy R has a 4.2" screen, which has 10% more surface area than the 4" screen of the LG Optimus 2X. It means though that the WVGA resolution is stretched a little thin on the Galaxy R - it has a 222 ppi against 233 on the Optimus 2X. The Optimus 2X display has better blacks but the Galaxy R display is brighter and has slightly better viewing angles.

Still camera comparison

Comparing photos of different resolution can be hard, so we turned to our Photo Compare Tool. We chose to look at both photos at 8MP resolution (so, the Galaxy R photo was upscaled and the Optimus 2X photo was left untouched). This way the resolution superiority of a higher megapixel camera would be easier to spot and measure.

You can use the tool too, via those links. Also, we've prepared custom crops that focus on the key areas of the chart.

Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X in our Photo Compare Tool

Let's start with synthetic resolution, the first chart we have. It will set the ceiling of the resolution we can expect.

Looking at the horizontal resolution, the two come surprisingly close. In vertical resolution, however, the Optimus 2X has a clear advantage. It's not big - if you look at the third phone, which we used as a yardstick (the iPhone 4S), you can see there are 8MP cameras that perform much better.

Still, it's a win for the Optimus 2X, though not by a large margin. The downscaled images of both photos reveal a slight pink spot in the Galaxy R photo.

Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X vs. Apple iPhone 4S

The second chart shows a difference in processing. The LG Optimus 2X photos are a lot grainier (but no color noise), and that's because the Samsung Galaxy R sacrifices more fine detail.

The color patches show more saturated colors in the Optimus 2X, but they are actually closer (if a little oversaturated) to the colors on the chart than the duller colors of the Galaxy R photo.

Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X vs. Apple iPhone 4S

The third chart shows natural objects and while the Galaxy R offers a respectable quality, the Optimus 2X packs more fine detail in its photos. This chart is shot under artificial lighting and it's a good tell of faulty white balance - the R is spot on, but the 2X has a very strong blue tint.

Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X vs. Apple iPhone 4S

Summing it up, the Optimus 2X has the upper hand in still imaging in almost all scenarios except under artifical lighting where the white balance is a hit and miss.

Video recording comparison

Because of the big difference in resolution, we'll be using our Video Compare Tool setup. The LG Optimus 2X and its FullHD videos offer double the resolution that the Samsung Galaxy R manages. For the yardstick, we'll use the Nokia Lumia 800 this time - an excellent 720p shooter - to show that resolution and captured detail aren't always the same thing.

Here are the links to the Video Compare Tool. We've prepared relevant crops again, upscaled to 1080p.

Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X (1080p) in our Video Compare Tool

Let's start with the synthetic resolution chart again (it's the third image in the Tool). The Optimus 2X has a very clear advantage when it comes to horizontal resolution, but the advantage in vertical resolution isn't as clear cut. The 720p footage of the Lumia 800, however, shows a sharper image than either of those, despite the upscaling to 1080p.

Samsung Galaxy R (upscaled to 1080p) vs. LG Optimus 2X (native) vs. Nokia Lumia 800 (upscaled to 1080p)

Let's go to the more realistic setup. Under good light, the LG Optimus 2X has a clear advantage in detail (notice the grass and the flooring, as well as the small type). Color rendering is also more accurate, but there's the familiar bluish tint from artificial lighting.

The Galaxy R keeps almost none of the fine detail due to heavy compression. Even the relatively large "RIDE THE" label is nearly illegible. The Lumia 800 again shows that lower resolution doesn't necessarily mean lower quality.

Samsung Galaxy R (upscaled to 1080p) vs. LG Optimus 2X (native) vs. Nokia Lumia 800 (upscaled to 1080p)

In poor lighting, the LG Optimus 2X maintains its advantage over the Galaxy R in resolved detail and color accuracy.

Samsung Galaxy R (upscaled to 1080p) vs. LG Optimus 2X (native) vs. Nokia Lumia 800 (upscaled to 1080p)

We decided to put the Optimus 2X in 720p mode and see if there's any change in the performance. The viewing angle is wider in this mode (a nice option to have since you can, say, fit more people in the shot), the 2X still had an advantage in resolution.

Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X vs. Nokia Lumia 800 (720p videos)

The difference in viewing angles is pretty obvious in our ferris wheel setup. Even though it was on equal footing in terms of resolution and having a narrower viewing angle (which makes it easier to capture fine detail), the Galaxy R still lost (check the "RIDE THE" sign again).

Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X vs. Nokia Lumia 800 (720p videos)

Dropping the resolution to 720p didn't improve the low-light performance of the LG Optimus 2X, but it managed to keep a marginal lead on the Galaxy R.

Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X vs. Nokia Lumia 800 (720p videos)

You can look at the full frames that were used to make the crops too:

Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Samsung Galaxy R vs. LG Optimus 2X (1080p) in our Video Compare Tool

The Samsung Galaxy R has an annoying issue - there's no autofocus in video recording - you can't focus on your subject prior to recording and continuous auto-focus is not availble during recording. It also records mono sound, but at least it hits a smooth 30fps framerate.

The framerate of the LG Optimus 2X videos hovers a little under 24fps in 1080p mode and there's slight choppiness noticeable. It does do 30fps 720p mode though. It records stereo sound with the videos and autofocus works correctly.

To sum the video recording section, the Opimus 2X is a clear winner between the two, however the comparison to the Nokia Lumia 800 clearly shows 1080p is not always better than 720p in terms of resolved detail.

This post sponsored by:
Dr Mobiles Limited
1 Huron Street, Takapuna, North Shore 0622
Tel: (09) 551-5344 and Mob: (021) 264-0000
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