Saturday, 17 November 2012

Review: LG Optimus Vu P895

Here is an LG smartphone that dares to be different with an unconventional design.
THE first thing that will come to one's mind upon seeing the Optimus Vu is how peculiar the device actually looks. With a 5in screen that has a 4:3 aspect ratio, it is rather square-shaped, looking like a compact tablet.
The Vu is LG's foray into the "phablet" (hybrid of phone and tablet) market that was made popular by Samsung's Galaxy Note. It is larger than the average phone, yet too small to be a tablet.
While more and more phone manufacturers are beginning to venture into making wide screen with the 16:9 aspect ratio, LG has opted for this form factor to make it more user friendly for notetaking and web browsing.
Stands out from the rest
The thing that really stands out about the Vu is how different it looks from an average smartphone. The first question that everyone poses when shown the device is: "Is that a phone?"
It looks huge thanks to the unconventional aspect ratio. The 5in IPS screen displays in true high definition (HD) and the colours are clear with good viewing angles. The screen scores bonus points for making web browsing, document viewing and e-book reading more comfortable thanks to its wider-than-average dimension.
The screen is capable of displaying crisp and colourful multimedia content, although most of the latest videos are in 16:9 wide- screen format, so there will be lots of unused space on the screen due to the difference in aspect ratio.
Despite looking so big, the device is very slim at just 8.5mm thick. And with a weight of 168g, it is pretty light as well. The design feels solid and sturdy, but does seem a little uninspiring.
SLIM: Despite looking so big, the device is very slim at just 8.5mm thick.SLIM: Despite looking so big, the device is very slim at just 8.5mm thick.
The Vu looks very much like a tablet, especially without any physical buttons on its front. The power button is at the top right and can be hard to reach at times, but thankfully the volume button on the right side of the device is a more reachable substitute for unlocking the screen.
Another neat design is a slider that covers the mini USB port to avoid dust from entering.
This LG is stocked with Android OS 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and is powered by a quad-core 1.5GHz nVidia Tegra 3. That's a recipe for a smooth sailing experience as the user interface is fluid. Even though it isn't the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich is still an enjoyable experience for users.
The Vu does not give the option of expanding its 32GB of internal memory, as there are no external memory card slots.
With a 2,080mAh lithium-ion battery, the device isn't able to last very long. Having such a big screen and four cores to feed, you will be lucky to have the Vu running for over a day.
Multimedia machine
The device comes with the usual array of connectivity options such as WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB 2.0. What's interesting here is the addition of NFC (near field communication) and how it is used.
NFC is an interesting technology that will likely be as revolutionary as Bluetooth. While there are many ways that NFC can be used, the focus here is on the NFC tags that LG has included together with the Vu.
NEAT: The camera on the Vu has a few tricks up its sleeve, but picture quality is pretty average.NEAT: The camera on the Vu has a few tricks up its sleeve, but picture quality is pretty average.
The three NFC tags that comes in the box together with the Vu are labelled as "car mode" "office mode" and "sleep mode."
All users need to do is to touch the back of the phone on the sticker tags and the phone will change to the preset settings. For example, car mode will enable Navigation, Bluetooth and Music. The settings can be edited with the LG Tag+ app that comes with the phone.
This isn't the first device to be making use of NFC tags, but we still find it to be a very useful feature with a whole lot of potential and possibilities. It also works great in impressing people who don't have a clue about NFC :-)
The camera on the Vu has a few tricks up its sleeve as well. Aside from coming with voice recognition that allows you to capture pictures just by saying "cheese," the volume buttons also work as camera buttons. This is an ingenious way to overcome the lack of having a physical shutter button on most modern smartphones.
However, picture quality from the camera is pretty average. It does what it is expected to under broad daylight but will require extremely steady hands in low light conditions as even the slightest movement can make the photo unacceptably blur.
The video player does justice to LG's claims that the Vu is a multimedia device. It has a handful of nifty features that can be interesting to play with, such as a speed controller to adjust the video playback speed from 0.5x to 2x.
There is also an on-screen button that will enable a preview frame to appear along the video's timeline. We found this especially convenient when watching a movie, as it makes it easy to skip to the interesting bits.
Another feature not commonly found in the default Android video browser is the ability to zoom in while watching videos, which is present here.
The only downside to watching videos is if you are viewing a widescreen movie that's meant for 16:9 screens. The video will only be able to use a small portion of the screen estate to fit the 4:3 ratio of the Vu.
Electronic notepad
As mentioned earlier, the Optimus Vu aims to simulate the experience of having an actual notepad. There is a built-in QuickMemo hotkey on the top left of the device. Upon pressing this, the Notebook app will launch immediately.
If pressed while the screen is locked, the Notebook will open as soon as the screen is unlocked. This dedicated button is useful in situations when something needs to be written down promptly, as it allows the user to instantly jot down notes or messages with fingertips.
There is also a Rubberdium stylus pen that comes with the Vu. The first major complain is that the device does not have a slot for the stylus, and as such it will have to be carried around separately.
While this move was probably made to keep the size of the gadget as slim as it is, it is really inconvenient to have to carry the stylus around with a huge risk of losing it.
Complaints aside, the screen is very responsive to the stylus and it is nice to use it for sketching. As it's not restricted in size because it doesn't have to be slotted into the device's body, the stylus isn't too short and fits comfortably in the hand.
The Vu comes with a number of handy utilities, such as Tasks and Polaris Office. Tasks is an app that is basically a to-do list that can be very useful if you are a forgetful person.
Polaris Office is a complete suite that offers document creation and editing for standard formats such as WordExcel and Powerpoint.
As mentioned earlier, the spacious screen makes it more comfortable to view documents, and the same can be said for document editing.
If that isn't enough, there are thousands of apps and games that can be found on the Google Play Store to experiment with.
One thing about gaming with the Vu is that the device isn't very long when held in landscape mode.
This will mean that games with a virtual keypad and control pad are going to be a little tougher to play since your two thumbs will be covering up a significant amount of the screen.
Final view
At RM1,899, LG's Optimus Vu is a device that is worth every penny thanks to its powerful hardware and operating system.
It works great as a multimedia device with its clear screen and feature-packed media player.
Although the unconventional aspect ratio can take some time to get used to, it is a product that is unique and different.
Unfortunately, the form factor that makes the Vu stand out is also the cause of its shortcomings.
As a phone, it is too wide to be used comfortably with one hand. While it is intended to be used with both hands, it would have been nice if the device was more user friendly for those who like to use just one hand to operate their devices.
The one handed operation mode for messaging does help mitigate this problem, but does not eliminate it completely. It doesn't help that the width makes it tough to pull the phone out from a tight pocket.
Another major flaw with the design is the lack of a stylus slot. For a device that comes with a hotkey to open up a Note app, the lack of a compartment to keep the stylus is a setback.
With all that said and done, the Vu is a device that impresses if you are able to accept its daring design and tiny flaws.
Pros: Smooth and speedy user interface; easy to make notes; NFC capabilities and tags.
Cons: Too wide to be used with one hand comfortably; no stylus slot; poor battery life.
Optimus Vu P895
Android smartphone
Platform: Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Processor: 1.5GHz nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100
Camera: 8-megapixel with LED flash (back), 1.3-megapixel (front)
Display: 5in (1,024 x 764-pixels) IPS display
Memory: 32GB internal memory, 1GB RAM
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC
Features: Rubberdium stylus pen, NFC tags
Battery: 2,080mAh lithium-on
Dimensions (W x D x H): 139.6 x 90.4 x 8.5mm
Weight: 168g
Rating: 3.5 stars

- Donovan Quek (The Star)

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