Review: T-Mobile G2, the best GSM Android device you can buy

October 6, 2010: 10:06 PM ET

The issues are few and far between on this powerful slider.

I've spent the last five days playing with T-Mobile's new G2 Android smartphone.  It is Senseless (in a good way) Android 2.2 in a slider keyboard format, similar in size/form factor to the Motorola Droid and Droid 2.  It has a sharp 5 MP shooter with bright flash, a 3.7 inch bright LCD display and an optical scroll.  T-Mobile touts it as its first HSPA+ device sold in the U.S.  That means at the moment it is the fastest phone in New York City (because Sprint's 4G hasn't shown up yet).

Samsung Epic 4G left, G2 center and Droid 2 right. Click to enlarge

The device is heavy at 6.5 ounces and feels incredibly solid.  That can be good if you don't mind the extra weight or bad if the heavy feel isn't you're thing.  Most people won't mind (or notice?) the extra weight and after a few hours of use, I'd forgotten about it.

If I had to describe it in just a few words, I'd say: Take a Nexus One and add a slider keyboard to the back and replace the trackpad with an optical scroll.  You'd be 90% of the way to the G2.

The way this keyboard flips out is its big differentiator.  Check the video below:

From looking at its mechanism, you'd think this would be a flimsy joint.  It definitely isn't and it has a nice flick lock like the old Sidekicks used to do.  The open/close is fun to play with and has survived a few drops and a lots of flips over the past week.

The keyboard is fantastic and in my opinion better than either the Droid or Droid 2.  I'd give it a tie with Samsung's Epic 4G because these keys feel better and are easier to use, but the Epic 4G's keyboard is bigger and has another numbers row.  The G2 also has Swype for when you want to use a virtual keyboard.

The G2 comes with stock Android with a few Google apps already installed.  Just like any other Android phone or the iPhone, you can't (for whatever reason) remove stock apps without a hack.  Speaking of hacks, rooters have found that the G2 reflashes the stock hardware if it is hard reset and rooted.

The camera was a pleasant surprise.  It uses the same app as the Nexus One's stock Android but has a much clearer picture in my opinion.  Video was on par or better than other Androids in this class.

The GPS worked well as I've come to expect from HTC and Motorola phones.  The mic also worked well for calls and voice actions.  The speaker was a little weak but not horrible. Calls generally went through and sounded great.

One thing that stood out on the spec sheet for me was the 800MHz processor.  Most high end Android phones crossed the 1GHz barrier awhile ago.

I can say unequivocally that the G2 is as fast, if not faster than any other Android device I've tried. The browser is 'laptop quick' at rendering pages and there is no lag at all between applications.  The only app I had an issue with was Skype, but I blame that on bad code.

Another gripe is that for some reason, T-Mobile slapped Web2go, an annoying Photobucket app on the G2 by default.  Way to ruin a pristine Google experience, T-Mobile!

Perhaps the biggest issue I had with the G2 is that it doesn't tether or act as a hotspot for other devices.  A T-Mobile spokesperson told me that tethering will come  in an update in the coming months but holding off kinda goes against the whole "Google Phone" thing.  A big part of the stock Froyo update was the native hotspot, something T-Mobile was supposed to be behind.  Add tethering and the HSPA+ speeds might make a deadly Mifi-killing combo.  We'll have to see.

Similar size as iPhone 4 (shown with bumper), slightly larger display

As for HSPA+ speeds, they are available sporadically around New York City.  I may have hit them, I may not (the indicator at the top doesn't tell you if you are on HSPA+ or not).  On Speedtest.net, I would constantly be from 1-4M but nothing near 14.M that HSPA+ advertises.  The speeds were very quick overall and frankly, latency and network utilization are bigger factors in mobile phone performance (which weren't issues on this phone).

Conclusion: So is this really the best GSM phone sold in the U.S.?  The closest competition is the Nexus One which you can no longer buy and the Samsung Galaxy phones (Vibrant and Captivate) which are still stuck on Android 2.1 and don't have a strong GPS.  The closest contender is actually the T-Mobile MyTouch HD which is due out in a couple weeks.  We'll see how it stacks up to the current "King of Android GSM"

You can pick up the G2 at T-Mobile for $199 with a two year plan, but Amazon and Wirefly offer it for $99.

Some other noteworthy reviews:

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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