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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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: