LG Optimus Vu - Larger Than Life

Launch SRP: S$768

Design & Features

LG Optimus Vu - Larger Than Life

Another phablet option joins the fray here, but it might have come a tad too late in this region. In fact, we first had a good look at the LG Optimus Vu at MWC way earlier this year - the device was launched in March in Korea with its successor, the Vu II recently announced - and it is only in the tenth month of the year that it officially makes its retail appearance in Singapore, right after the vastly popular Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE's launch in Singapore. It goes without saying that the late entry is definitely going to hurt sales, whether LG likes it or not. Furthermore, it's not 4G/LTE ready for those looking to use the fastest data spectrum possible.

Phablet lineup (from left to right): Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy Note and the LG Optimus Vu.

Nonetheless, the LG Optimus Vu does look stand out amidst similar looking handsets, mostly due to its 5-inch, 4:3 aspect ratio touch screen. With more manufacturers venturing into the phablet arena and starting to take this particular pool of interested users seriously, the LG Optimus Vu and the Samsung phablet devices definitely have a head-start. But of course, the main question is - aren't the growing pool of 4.5- to 4.8-inch smartphone devices good enough? How about the 7 to 8-inch tablets - is there really a need for an in-between device that is neither as pocket-able nor offers the same level of readability as its alternative? To better answer this question, we move on to assess the LG Optimus Vu.

The LG Optimus Vu's 5.0-inch, 4:3 ratio screen looks like a handful compared to the 'diminutive' Galaxy S III.

The LG Optimus Vu sports a rather unassuming plastic black build, one that's quite like another flagship LG device, the Optimus 4X HD or the older Samsung Galaxy Note. Like the latter, the device comes with a grooved back that allows for a good grip and keeps fingerprint smudges at bay. Of course, the main attraction here is its large and wide 5.0-inch IPS screen. Because of its unusual 4:3 screen ratio format (similar to Apple's devices), the device adopts a rather square-like form factor that on first impressions, comes across as bulky and not pocket-friendly.

The Optimus Vu is about 10mm wider than its Samsung Note/Note II peers but is also about 1mm thinner than them. Unfortunately, LG's design doesn't incorporate a built-in stylus, which we would gladly welcome even if the phone was a tad thicker.

In actual usage, the handling experience is more positive than expected. Yes, the device is a little too wide for comfortable holding but buttons and ports are spaciously laid out, so there's no problem in operataing the device out of the box. The oft-used buttons, such as the volume rocker, quick memo and power buttons, are easy to press with good tactile feedback. Despite its girth, the device is considerably light at 168g and thin at 8.5mm, which takes a little pressure off in managing its width. Those with larger sized hands should feel more comfortable in handling the Optimus Vu.

Like its LG Optimus 4X HD and Prada by LG 3.0 peers, the Optimus Vu is framed by silver-accented buttons. From right to left - power/lock button, a micro-USB port that's protected by a silver slide-out cover and a built-in QuickClip button. The latter allows users to make notes, draw and edit on virtually any screen/photo/documents (including any home screens) in one quick touch - one that's similar to Samsung's S Memo function. 

Unfortunately, the Optimus Vu does not come with microSD support or a removable battery. To fit your micro-SIM in, simply pry open the rubber cover - demarcated by a tiny hole - on the left profile of the phone.

The Optimus Vu comes decorated with for capacitive touch controls, including the back, home, multi-tasking and menu/settings buttons.

The LG Optimus Vu initially came with Android 2.3 when it was first announced at MWC 2012, but has since been updated to Android 4.0. This also explains why the device features four touch controls as opposed to the usual three found on Android 4.0 devices. To open the multi-tasking tab, simply tap on the third button from the left.
 
 

Features

As with most Android phones, manufacturers prefer to add their own special touches to their user interfaces so as to differentiate their bot-flavored devices. Of course, the Android experience on the different devices remains well-preserved despite the little goodies that manufacturers inject into their mobile phones. While LG hasn't gotten as much traction as its HTC's Sense UI and Samsung's TouchWiz UI, it is no different. The LG UI found on the Optimus Vu offers users a similar experience found on its other Android 4.0 quad-core device, the Optimus 4X HD.

The notable difference is of course tailoring usability to its unique size. While the 4X HD came with the Quick Memo function, the software is baked further into the Optimus Vu's core - there's an extra physical button to launch the function; the software feels more refined with subtle improvements and the function works hand-in-hand with the pre-installed Notebook app. This feature is notably enhanced by a handy stylus that's included with the handset. The "Rubberdium" capacitive stylus worked smoothly on the phone's screen across the apps and had more accurate responses than the average finger. Still, we would have preferred the stylus to be tucked somewhere within the body of the device. The inability to house the stylus within the body of the phone is a major setback when greater precision is required, such as note taking, if you forget to bring the stylus along or if you've misplaced it.

The LG Tag+ app is here to stay as well, and LG has also kindly included three NFC stickers with the Optimus Vu. If you find yourself needing more, the stickers are sold at the LG Service Center at the price of S$6.00 for a pack of three NFC stickers.

We previously took a short video of some of the Vu's unique features back during MWC but do keep in mind that there have been changes since:



 To unlock your screen, simply touch and swipe the lock icon or any of the five (four on the 4X HD) app icons below. You can easily configure the options under Settings.

If you find the original keyboard too big for one-handed operation, you can simply toggle the left-hand/right-hand keyboard option on for easier typing. First, you have to turn on the option under Settings.

To activate the Quick Memo function, simply hit the assigned button on the top. You can make notes on ANY page but if you prefer the yellow page that's reminiscent of an old-school notepad, simply tap on the icon on the top left (as seen on the left screen shot). To prevent yourself from moving out of the page accidentally, you can lock the touch buttons by tapping on the icon at the bottom (as seen on the right screen shot).

You can make notes on and crop video stills as well via the Quick Memo function.

Other than the usual sharing options - Facebook, Bluetooth, Twitter, Email and more - users can either save their Quick Memo pictures to a notebook or your gallery. If you chose the latter option, you can add it easily to a page in the notebook app and scribble down more notes.

Your Notebooks are laid out on 'shelves' for easy viewing. To add a new book, simply click on the giant '+' sign on the top left corner of the 'shelf'. You get a couple of customization options for your notebook - type and color of paper design. You can easily share your notebooks in their entirety via email in either .pdf or zipped files (.png).

7.5
Design
7.5
Features
8
User-Friendliness
8.5
Performance
7.5
Value
8
The Good
More real estate
Bright and crisp HD IPS screen
User-friendly UI
Excellent performance
The Bad
Lackluster battery performance
Camera performance needs improvement
Width of device is very wide
Very late market availability