LG Optimus Vu: An Impressive Phone Held Back by Clumsy Design


On paper, the LG Optimus Vu (currently available only in South Korea) sounds like a killer phone: It has a high-resolution display, a speedy processor, and NFC (near-field communication), and is LTE-compatible. However, the phone itself doesn't live up to what you see on the spec sheet, and you're left feeling let down by what could have been a superb product. The disappointments include an awkward design, a nonremovable battery, and some software that felt a little undercooked.


Much like Samsung's wildly popular Galaxy Note, the Vu is a tablet-size phone--casually referred to as a "phablet". The Vu's 5-inch IPS display has the same resolution as the original iPad (1024 by 768) and is one of the phone's defining features. Unlike other phones, the Vu has a 4:3 aspect ratio--a rarity now that most modern smartphones are shipping with widescreen displays. This works to the Vu's advantage when it comes to presenting Web pages, since most websites and documents are formatted to fit screens with this standard aspect ratio. The screen on the Vu isn't as sharp as the one on the Samsung Galaxy S III or Apple's iPhone 4S, but I didn't mind reading longer news articles off of it. The display can look grainy at times, and can be a bit difficult to read outdoors in direct sunlight.

Aside from its massive screen, the front face of the Vu also includes the four standard Android navigation buttons (Menu, Home, Back, and Search) and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. The volume rocker is located on the right spine of the device, while the SIM card slot is hiding behind a small door on the phone's left spine. You'll need a small tool to open the slot (the hole was too small to fit a paper clip into), so you'll want to make sure you keep it in a safe place to avoid losing it. The charging and headphone ports are on the top of the phone, as are the power button and the QuickClip key (more on that later). The phone also has a retractable antenna for picking up TV and radio signals, but it uses a different spectrum than what we use here in the United States so I wasn't able to test it. On the rear of the Vu you'll find an external speaker, as well as an 8-megapixel camera with an LED flash (again, more on that later).

The body of the Vu is largely a gaudy-looking plastic that makes the phone feel cheap; despite that, the Vu overall felt quite sturdy.

The Vu's boxlike design is by far the phone's biggest fault and really detracted from my overall experience with it. The Vu is both shorter and thinner than the Samsung Galaxy Note, but it's also a tad wider. That extra width gives it a blocky shape, making it uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time. Trying to use the phone one-handed--even if you have larger-than-average hands--proved to be challenging and often caused me to accidentally tap things on the screen that I didn't mean to. I was able to fit the phone into the pocket of my jeans, but it felt bulky, and I sometimes felt that it would burst out of my pocket whenever I sat down.