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My Hands-on Comparison of Samsung Transform (2.1) & LG Optimus (2.2)

Discussion in 'Sprint' started by RazzMaTazz, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. RazzMaTazz

    RazzMaTazz Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    I'm posting this evaluation of the Samsung Transform and the LG Optimus (both unmodified) in case it helps anyone make a decision between the two.

    I got 3 LG Optimus’s (for my family) and 1 Samsung Transform (for me) on the last day before Sprint’s $10/month 3G smartphone adder (1/29/11), figuring that I’d try them both for 30 days (see if Sprint/Samsung releases the faster Android 2.2 for the Transform) and then return the model that I liked less. I plan to update this review if Samsung updates the Transform to Android 2.2 (or perhaps if I run out of time, get brave, and decide to root it and update it myself).

    Note that the Optimus is running Android 2.2, which runs faster, and allows things like tethering (which is free with an appropriate app download). Also note that I performed these initial tests on stock phones, with no modification to the apps and no app-killer (yet). Furthermore, the speed results may not be fair because although I tested these phones before I downloaded apps to them, they didn’t have the same Sprint ID package so it’s possible that one ID package had more background tasks running. (Though I don’t think there were any significant differences.) It is worth repeating that the Optimus runs Android 2.2, whereas the Transform runs the slower Android 2.1.

    General speed & functionality: The 600MHz Optimus (with Android 2.2) is definitely faster and snappier than the 800MHz Transform (with Android 2.1). That paradoxical speed difference may be a result of the difference in versions of Android. But it is also likely due to Samsung failing to write the OpenGL driver necessary to take advantage of the built-in graphics processor (as was reported by Engadget). For example, the popular game, Angry Birds, plays nicely on the Optimus, but it’s essentially unplayable on the Transform because it runs so slowly. Other apps (and video) load and play more quickly and more smoothly on the Optimus. It will be interesting to see if the Transform outperforms the Optimus if the Transform gets Android 2.2 (and perhaps an OpenGL graphics driver).

    LCD Screen: The Optimus screen is brighter and more vibrant than the Transform, even if you turn the brightness of the Transform all the way up. Indoors it’s not hugely noticeable since both are easily readable. Outdoors in direct sunlight, the Optimus is a bit easier to read. Both screens are HVGA (480x320 pixels) but the Optimus screen is physically smaller (3.2” vs 3.5”). However, it’s not really any harder to read or use the Optimus’s slightly smaller screen (at least not with my 49-year-old eyes and fingers). In fact, overall, I find the Optimus's screen easier to read and use. From what I've read, the Transform has a glass screen, whereas the Optimus has a plastic screen, so the Optimus may be more scratch-prone. But I guess it's best to get a screen protector either way.

    Cellular signal reception: The Optimus consistently showed slightly more bars of cellular service (if you can trust the signal strength meters). For some reason the Optimus provides a “3G” notification icon, while the Transform provides an “EV” icon (or “EV-D” when it's dormant, or “1X”, I guess when it's in some kind of limited data service). I assume that “EV” on the Transform has the same meaning as “3G” on the Optimus. However, during one test, the Transform dropped out of it’s normal “EV” coverage and went into “1X” coverage—at which point it was considerably slower at web browsing than the Optimus which seemed to remain in “3G” coverage. This is odd because I was holding both in my hands at the same time... And then when I went into my house (where there’s an Airave femtocell which should give both phones 5 bars of 3G service), the Optimus quickly locked onto the Airave, whereas the Transform stayed in weak “1X” coverage for several minutes, before (apparently locking onto the Airave and) going to “EV”.

    Cellular data download test: With the WiFi turned off, and when both devices were in “3G” or “EV” coverage (in tests both inside and outside of the range of my Airave, with both weak and strong signals) I repeatedly ran 3G speed tests on DSLReports.com. (The DSLReports speed test is Javascript based which may or may not make this test fair. I’m not sure if the Android 2.2 executes Javascript more efficiently.) The Optimus and Transform showed very similar speed results according to that test. However, when I actually downloaded web pages, the Optimus was significantly faster. For example, on “small” mobile-formatted pages (like m.espn.com) the Optimus consistently downloaded the page a 1-5 seconds faster, and for large non-mobile-formatted web pages (like espn.com or yahoo.com) the Optimus consistently loaded significantly faster—like 10-20 seconds faster.

    WiFi test: I tested both phones repeatedly at both close range and long distance from my WiFi router (which has a 1.7Mbps DSL connection). The Optimus consistently showed a slightly higher signal strength (but I’m not sure that you can trust the signal strength meter since it’s actually a signal-to-noise meter that’s reported by the WiFi chip and could vary by chipmaker). When I ran WiFi speed tests on DSLReports.com (which is Javascript-based) the Transform would show download speeds at about 1.7Mbps, whereas the Optimus would never get above about 800kbps. However, in real-world tests (downloading web pages) the Optimus consistently downloaded web pages noticeably faster. So perhaps the DSLreports speed test is not a good real-world predictor for a variety of technical reasons that I could imagine (but won’t bore you with).

    Voice quality: The Optimus seemed to have slightly clearer voice quality on both sides of the conversation, but the outgoing quality of the Samsung seemed to suffer the most. Both are fine.

    Speaker quality: With the phones' volume turned all the way up, I played the same (192kbps WMA) rock-song audio file, side-by-side, full volume, on both the Optimus and the Transform over the built-in speaker. As you’d expect, neither has impressive sound quality, but the Transform definitely has richer sound quality, especially in that it had better bass response. The Optimus had a severe lack of bass notes, and was almost irritatingly tinny at that volume. I don’t think that’s an important issue, but maybe some people do. For a speakerphone conversation, both are fine.

    Audio output fidelity: With the volumes adjusted to provide equivalent loudness, I played the same (192kbps WMA) rock-song file side-by-side, and listened to each through the headphones, swapping back and forth repeatedly. It was close, but the Transform had a slightly better sound quality—especially in the bass response. (My 13-year-old daughter concurred.) I also found the same slight audio fidelity difference when I connected both phones to the auxiliary input of my car’s stock (GM) radio. Both phones output a signal that is strong enough to ruin your hearing if you’re listening through headphones, but the Transform’s signal is about 10% stronger according to my car radio’s dial. If you want to crank the music in your car with a stock radio you may appreciate the slightly stronger audio output of the Transform. As a side note, I also compared the Optimus’s audio fidelity to my daughter’s 4th generation iTouch, playing the same song (albeit in a crappier 128kbps AAC format). The audio fidelity was indistinguishable but the output signal strength of the iTouch is about 30% stronger.

    Speech recognition & Google Voice Search: Google voice search works much, much better on the Optimus, but I think that’s due to the different versions of the operating system. I didn’t notice any difference in the speech recognition capabilities of the phones. I tested both phones in quiet and very noisy conditions (radio and TV turned up loud), but they both performed similarly (and amazingly well) in converting my speech to text. However, the Optimus (probably because of Android 2.2) is better able to convert my words into the desired actions. Both phones could execute the commands “Call…”, “Dial…”, “Navigate to…”, “Directions to…”, “Map of…”, but only the Optimus could recognize the commands, “Send email to…”, “Text to…”, “Send text to…”, “Go to…”, & “Note to self…”. For example, if I say “Text John Doe” the Optimus will open up an instant message to John Doe, whereas the Transform will open up a web page with “Text John Doe” in the search line.

    Keyboard: I thought that having a physical keyboard was going to be a killer feature for the Transform. But thanks largely to the speech recognition (and in small part due to the reasonable ease with which I can type on the on-screen keyboard) I no longer think that the physical keyboard is a killer feature. In fact, I barely even used the physical keyboard because most of the time I used the phone with one hand. I can definitely type faster on the physical keyboard than an on-screen keyboard, but I can talk faster than I can type, so whenever I want to type a long message or email, I just dictate the message and let the speech recognition software convert it to text. If someone needs to do a lot of silent texting and emailing without dictating (say in meetings or in lectures, or in airplanes) then I could see the keyboard being very useful. I think that one of the biggest advantages of the keyboard is that the arrow keys make it much easier to edit text.

    LED flash: The Transform has an LED "flash". That’s nice for photos, videos, and for use as a flashlight. It’s not a clear, bright flash like on a point-and-shoot camera. It’s more like a single-bulb LED flashlight. But it’s good enough to light up scenes pretty well, up to about 10 feet. It can even passably light up a completely dark room from 20 feet. At that distance, you won’t love the photo or video, but it can make the difference between actually taking a dimly lit photo, or not being able to take a photo at all (like with the Optimus). I could see the LED being very helpful for photos in dark nightclubs or out by the campfire.

    Video quality: The Optimus can take higher resolution video than the Transform—about 4X higher resolution. At the highest quality setting the Optimus can take 640x480 video at ~17 frames-per-second (roughly 1.8Mbps). The Transform can only take 352x288 video at ~15-frames-per-second (roughly 0.4Mbps). It is possible that the Transform’s video capabilities will be enhanced in conjunction with the long-promised Android 2.2 update, though I doubt it. Needless to say, the specs don’t lie, and the video quality of the Optimus is clearly superior to that of the Transform in terms of resolution, clarity, block-noise, and smoothness. Of course both phones are far inferior to old standard-definition camcorders. As mentioned before, the Transform has an LED light that can help illuminate subjects in dark settings.

    On a side note, I was disappointed that when I transferred the (3GP) video clips from both phones to my Windows 7 PC, the audio would not play on the latest version of Windows Media Player (v 12.0), nor on a fairly recent version of the free VLC media player (v 1.0.5). But the audio did play when I upgraded VLC Media Player to the latest version (v 1.1.7). So apparently Windows Media Player is missing a needed audio codec. I’m a bit bummed that if I email video clips to most PC users (e.g. my parents) they won’t be able to hear the audio if they simply double-click the icon and (by default) launch Windows Media Player. But that's not the phone's fault, I guess.

    Photo quality: Both phones have a 3.2MP camera. The Transform has slightly better photo quality, with more accurate, saturated colors, and a bit less barrel distortion. Of course, neither phone is anywhere near as good as a 10-year-old 3MP point-and-shoot camera. But hey, it’s a phone.

    Front facing camera: I haven’t tried it. Posters on the web are saying that there isn’t a good video conferencing solution yet and that it will require Android 2.2, so I haven't wasted my time trying any video conferencing apps. I thought that video conferencing would be THE killer feature for the Transform over the Optimus. But apparently that won’t be available with any reasonable quality, at least until Samsung upgrades to 2.2.

    Home, Menu, Back, & Search buttons: The Optimus has physical buttons on the bottom of the front-bezel that are easy to use, easy to see, easy to depress, and all of which wake-up the phone (which is really nice). The Transform has cap-sense (touch) buttons on the bottom of the front bezel. The Transform’s buttons are very hard to see in a moderately lit rooms, and almost impossible to see in dimly lit rooms, except when they are backlit. However, both phones turn off the backlight on these buttons after about 5 seconds (and well before the screen’s timeout) so it can be hard to use these buttons on the Transform even in a moderately lit room unless you have the button-location memorized. It kinda drives me up the wall, though I guess you’d get used to it. Unlike the Transform, at least with the Optimus you can touch any one of these buttons to wake up the phone (and you can feel which one you’re hitting). Maybe it seems trivial if you’re reading this rather than experiencing it day after day, but for me, the visibility, feel, and backlighting of these buttons really improved the ease of use for the Optimus.

    Connecting to a PC: I am easily able to connect the Optimus to any of my PCs (Win7 64-bit or WinXP 32-bit) with either the supplied USB cable or the Transform's USB cable. It works quickly, every time. I have had a LOT of trouble connecting the Transform to any of my PCs through the USB cable. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. And oddly, it will never connect to any PC with the Optimus's USB cable. It will only work with the Transform's USB cable. (That makes no sense to me since the USB cable spec is a standard.) I've tried all kinds of things to get it to work right, but it doesn't. Often I have to power down and pull the battery to get it to work with one of my Windows XP PCs. Despite initially getting the Transform to connect to one of my Win7 PCs, now I can't get it to connect to any of my Win7 PCs no matter I try. And there are lots of people on the web complaining about the same thing, with no clear solution. This is clearly a bug with the Transform, and it really disgusts me that Samsung's quality assurance testing is so pathetic that they allowed this phone to be shipped with such a glaring bug.

    Battery life: I didn’t do a true side-by-side test. Both seem adequate.

    Size & feel: The Transform is slightly larger in all dimensions. I prefer the smaller, more solid feel of the Optimus.

    My personal verdict: Obviously different people value different features. And if/when the Transform gets updated to Android 2.2, it may end up being better than the Optimus. But at this point, for my needs, I prefer the Optimus.

    I hope this helps someone. Stay tuned, as I hope to update this comparison if I get Android 2.2 on the Transform.

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  2. dan330

    dan330 Extreme Android User

    awesome write-up man....

    it pretty much lines up with what i have been reading..
    I feel more confident to recommend the LG over the Samsung.
  3. BenChase7

    BenChase7 Android Expert

    Thanks for the review, its an awesome comparison. The Optimus sounds pretty nice. Enjoy your cool new phones!
  4. CarrieK

    CarrieK Android Expert

    I never used the Transform, but my husband and I both have the Optimus. Your review is spot-on and we are very happy with ours.
  5. aaron3315

    aaron3315 Member

    I actually picked up an optimus while Sprint was running a deal to where it was free, and I thought it was a pretty nifty little phone. For the price, I would say that the Optimus is the best phone....I gave it to one of the other users on our account and went back to the evo though. :)
  6. CarrieK

    CarrieK Android Expert

    We have an EVO as well...I'm on it right now. We use the Optimi as our carry around phones and play on the EVO. I did just root my Optimus but even before that it was pretty snappy.
  7. Hizorse

    Hizorse Member

    Nice write up, although I have a Epic and neither of these phone provide any interest to me its nice to see you took the time to use both of them and write up a lengthy review of them.
  8. toomuchgame441

    toomuchgame441 Android Expert

    Great write up man and very accurate. I got my fiance an LG and she loves it. She had to a warranty exchange because her Moment was crap so she went with the Optimus. And I have to say this again, this is probably the best mid-ranged device you can pick up. I thought I loved my Hero (i currently have an Evo) but the LG is just superior and I think that's in part of its great software (2.2). Again, great write-up man, enjoyed the read.
  9. tschepis

    tschepis Lurker

    I had the Optimus for a short time. I was due for an upgrade and sick of waiting for Transform to go 2.2. I have few issues with Transform, just the 2.2 thing. Also nervous about switching to LG, I had bad experiences with LG when with AT&T, most of the phones they offered were garbage.

    The Optimus a great little phone! Had 2.2, very smooth, AMAZING battery life. I could go an entire 24 hours without having to charge or change batteries. I cannot say that about any other Android phone I have had (Moment, Intercept, & Transform). You cannot beat the price!

    My only gripe and reason I sent it back was the virtual keyboard. It was just too small! Coming from all slide out keyboards and larger virtual keyboards I couldn't text or email without spending so much time backspacing or correcting Swype. It was just more than I can take.

    I'm going to miss it, just wish it was just a tiny bit bigger!
  10. stevenkabc

    stevenkabc Lurker

    Any new thoughts now that Sprint/Samsung released 2.2 for Transform?
  11. tommason1968

    tommason1968 Lurker

    I am one of the many unlucky who owns this fraudulent contraption transorm. I will make it. Short. With 2.2 the transform is even worse.
  12. TheEngineer

    TheEngineer Android Enthusiast

    It should be much better as 2.2 runs much faster than 2.1.

    After the update, you need to hard reset with the hardware keys in order to clear the Dalvik cache.
  13. RazzMaTazz

    RazzMaTazz Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    Does anybody know if Samsung added an OpenGL graphics driver to the Transform when they upgraded it to Android 2.2? Does it play Angry Birds smoothly now?

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