The LG Optimus Vu was frankly a bizarre device. A phablet with a large screen but an odd aspect ratio (4:3), which not only made grasping it hard, but also neutered the benefits of the large screen while watching videos. It came with a stylus, but didn’t actually have a slot where you could store it. The Vu had many such obvious flaws poor sales performance. However, that didn’t daunt LG’s spirits. It followed up with Vu II in its home market. Now, after almost a year, LG might be gearing up for the third entrant in its Vu series.
PhoneArena has spotted a couple of spotty images in a Chinese blog, which suggests the existence of the Vu III. An alleged screenshot of the Vu III indicates that the new phablet will have a resolution of 1280×960 pixels. This means that the new Vu will continue using the odd 4:3 aspect ratio. Clearly, LG sees something about the boxy dimensions that we don’t. There’s also a sample panoramic photo that is said to have been captured using the LG Optimus Vu III.
LG has really upped its game over the past several months. The Optimus G, the Nexus 4, and the Optimus G Pro were all great devices in the own rights. Let’s hope that they will prove us all wrong and surprise us with the Vu III.
A short while back, LG launched it’s new flagship, the Optimus G Pro, in India. Coming mere months after the Optimus G, which in itself was an excellent smartphone, the Pro attempts to take things to the next level. But, does it succeed? Read on for our full review.
Appearance and Display
Although LG hasn’t been using the word phablet for the Optimus G Pro, in reality, it is more of a competitor to the Samsung Note II than the Galaxy SIV. The Optimus G Pro features slimmer bezel than the Note, and as a result is slightly more compact. However, it’s still too large for one handed operation, and for a lot of users the size will definitely be a cause for concern. Thankfully, LG has attempted to make things slightly easier by placing the power and volume buttons on the side instead of on the top. There are two capacitive buttons along with a physical home button that also doubles up as the notification LED. Unlike it’s predecessor, the G Pro features a shiny all plastic body. It definitely doesn’t feel as good in the hand as the Optimus G. However, the plastic back offers quite a few advantages. The most obvious benefit is increased durability. I couldn’t muster up the courage to drop test the review unit, but the plastic back definitely increases the odds of the handset surviving a fall. The plastic back has also enabled LG to make the battery user replaceable. To LG’s credit, it has tried to infuse some character into the back cover by imprinting a Optimus G like pattern on the back which shines under light. The effect is not as spectacular as it’s in the Nexus 4; however, it still looks pretty cool.
The Optimus G Pro features a full HD (1080p) 5.5 inch IPS Plus LCD display, which boasts of a pixel density of 400 ppi. The display is quite simply spectacular. It’s crisp, vibrant, yet well balanced. LG’s display is definitely among the best, if not the best, that you’d find in the current breed of smartphones. It has extremely wide viewing angles, and is bright enough to be legible even under direct sunlight. HD videos are a joy to watch on the giant display, and made me willing to accept the inconveniences caused by the size.
Hardware and Software
The LG Optimus G Pro features a Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600 chipset that houses a Quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300 processor and an Adreno 320 GPU. The top notch SoC is well complemented by 2 gigabytes of RAM. Although I didn’t get around to running any benchmarks, the phone was consistently fast. Whether I was zooming into a full-HD video, or switching between a dozen tabs in Chrome, or playing Asphalt 7, the G Pro never missed a beat. You’re unlikely to be complaining about the performance of this device for quite some time to come. The review unit I received had 16 gigs of internal storage (slightly more than 10 GB is available to the user); however, I believe that a 32 GB edition might also be released in the market. The storage can be augmented by up to 64 GB of external memory (microSD).
On the connectivity front, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Miracast, Bluetooth 4.0, MHL, and NFC are supported. It also sports an IR blaster that can be used for controlling your television. The Optimus G is an LTE enabled handset; however, this is of little benefit in India. The G Pro features a powerful 3140 mAh battery, which ensures that even with a gigantic display and a bleeding edge chipset, the handset can keep on chugging along for a full day (or more) on moderate usage on 3G. The Note II features a similar battery; however, thanks to its last-gen chipset and a lower resolution display, it will probably last a bit longer than LG.
LG doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to Android updates. It’s launching the G Pro with Android 4.2.1, even as Samsung managed to ship the Galaxy SIV with Android 4.2.2 just months after the update was released by Google. There are rumors that LG is testing Android 4.2.2 on the Optimus G Pro; however, so far there hasn’t been any official confirmation. The G Pro runs LG’s Optimus UX, and comes with the usual suit of LG specific apps. Some of the most notable software enhancements include: QuickMemo: QuickMemo can be triggered anywhere anytime through the dedicated hardware button. It captures the current content on the screen, and allows you to annotate and draw on top of it. Notes saved through QuickMemo are sharable through email, Facebook and other networks. QSlide: QSlide enhances multitasking by running supported apps in a windowed mode. So you can continue surfing the web while watching a movie. Qslide supported apps include the web browser, video player, Memo, Calendar, and Calculator. You can also adjust the opacity of these apps so that they don’t get in the way of your workflow. MediaPlex: Most the fancy new features in the video player that were introduced with the Optimus 4X have been retained in the Optimus G Pro. So, you can pinch to zoom into a video, get a neat preview while seeking, and increase or decrease playback speed. All of these work flawlessly even on full HD videos, and are perhaps the best demonstration of the power of the Snapdragon 600. Smart Screen and Smart Video: These two features are exactly the same as the Galaxy SIV’s Smart Stay. The Optimus G Pro can detect when you are looking at the phone and accordingly prevent the screen from timing out. Similarly, it can also detect when you aren’t looking at the phone and automatically pause videos. Both of these features are disabled by default, which suggests that LG isn’t too confident about their accuracy. Quiet Time: You can pre-define a time range during which your phone will automatically go into silent mode, and disable all sounds expect that of multimedia and alarms.
There are a bunch of other neat stuff including Vu Talk, configurable notification toggle buttons, video editor, and music video creator. The SMS notification implementation is particularly cool and deserves a shout out. When you get a new message, you get a neat popup near the top-left, which lets you to immediately reply to the SMS without having to open up the Messages app.The Optimus UX doesn’t exactly go overboard with features like TouchWiz; however, it offers supports extensive customization options which will please the power users. My favourite setting is the ability to map the QuickMemo button to any custom app, including the camera app. The Optimus UX is not without issues though. LG still uses the unified volume control option, which can be frustrating. The notification menu appears a bit cluttered with the inclusion of power control widgets, QSlide apps, and a brightness control slider.
The LG Optimus G Pro sports a 13 megapixel rear-camera and a 2.1 megapixel font camera. While many of the early reviews criticized the camera quality, I found the G Pro to be an excellent snapper giving great performance both indoors and outdoors. LG has been continuously refining the Camera app over the past few generations, and as a result its a joy to use. All the usual stuff including preset scenes, exposure adjustment, white balance settings, ISO settings, panorama and HDR mode are there. Additionally, LG has thrown in manual focus, color modes, time catch shot, dual shot, and VR Panorama. Time catch shot is a nifty feature whereby the camera automatically preserves shots from moments before and after you pressed the shutter, and allows you to keep the best shot. VR Panorama is essentially Google Photo Sphere, which allows you to stitch together multiple pics to create a 360 degree view of any point. Dual shot, as the name suggests, uses the front and rear cam simultaneously to take a pic of the photographer as well as the subject. This works for both stills and videos.
The G Pro is capable of recording full HD (1080p) videos with continuous auto-focus at 30fps. HDR mode is supported; however, it yielded disappointing results for me. Due to some reason, HDR videos seem to be desaturated and devoid of details. The video player supports Live Effects that can track faces to add silly effects as you shoot the video. It can also replace the background provided the camera frame remains still.
The Optimus G Pro is a fabulous device and a worthy successor to the Optimus G, which was LG’s first truly great smartphone. It’s most obvious feature is the huge display, which is absolutely fantastic. You’ll find yourself wanting to use the phone simply because of the display. However, at the same time, the large size will also make you want to pick up an HTC One or even an Samsung Galaxy SIV. They are so much easier to hold and use that many will be willing to forgo the advantages of a large screen. Do you want a phone that can be used with one hand, or do you want a phone that can shoulder some of the responsibilities of a tablet? That’s the single biggest question you’d have to answer. If you want a phablet, and don’t plan on doing any drawing or sketching, the G Pro will serve you well. It’s a generation ahead of the Note II and is a better performer in every way. The Optimus G Pro delivers in terms of performance, display clarity, camera quality, and battery life. It’s a true winner.
LG has finally launched LG Optimus G Pro in India. With a 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor and 5.5 inch full HD display, this Android Jellybean (v4.1.2) device it is a worthy successor to LG Optimus G launched a few months back.
The Optimus G Pro is the first smartphone to be equipped with 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor. Also, the Optimus G Pro is incidentally LG’s first Full HD smartphone and adopts a Full HD IPS Display which doubles the resolution compared to True HD IPS. The smartphone features 5.5 inch display with a 1920 X 1080 resolution and has a total of 2,073,600 pixels. LG claims that the pixel density of 400ppi is the highest amongst the smartphones in the market making text and images to look much more vivid, crisp, and brighter.
The smart LED lighting around the home button displays various colors to alert users. The lighting alerts the users for missed calls and messages among other notifications with various colors. The 5.5 inch display fits nicely in the hands due to the narrowed width and minimized bezel to 3.65mm.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S4, Optimus G Pro includes its share of gimmicks, some useful and some just fancy additions. There’s a Dual Recording feature that captures video with both the front and rear cameras simultaneously for a unique picture-in-picture experience. The Virtual Reality Panorama feature allows 360 degree viewing, from taking pictures of both horizontal and vertical environment.
“With Optimus G Pro we have pushed the boundaries of computing and technological innovation to develop a smartphone that caters to both business and lifestyle needs of today’s customers. With this launch we are gearing towards our aim of capturing 10% market share of the smartphone category by end of 2014.” – Mr. Soon Kwon, Managing Director, LG India
According to LG, the smartphone market in India is growing rapidly and there is a huge demand for big screen size mobile phones. The market size for 5 inch and above screens is expected to be 1.5 million units by end of 2013. To keep up the pace, LG Mobiles has earmarked INR 80 crores for strengthening the infrastructure for retail development and marketing activities.
At INR 42,500, LG Optimus G Pro ticks all feature lists and comes packed with top of the line specifications. It’s a great phone, but faces tough competition from Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, the mascots of the Android ecosystem at the moment.
In all the hullabaloo surrounding the launch of flagships boasting of the latest and greatest technology, it can be easy to forget about devices like the Galaxy Ace and the Xperia Tipo. However, it’s these low-margin bargain devices that have helped Android zoom ahead of the iPhone. In fact, according to Opera’s State of the Mobile Web report all of the top nine handsets used by Opera Mini users were priced under Rs. 10,000 (about $165). LG’s new entrant in the budget smartphone category is the LG Optimus L3 II Dual E435. After using it for a week, here’s my quick review.
Appearance and Display
The Optimus L3 II won’t win awards for its design; however, it definitely doesn’t look bad. Like most other second generation L-series devices, the latest iteration of the L3 has dropped the bold rectangular design and gone back to the traditional rounded edges. The phone is small, but solidly built and feels wonderful to hold. The plastic body feels well-constructed and doesn’t creak, while the buttons offer good feedback. My biggest complaint with the body is that the front buttons aren’t backlit. This makes them difficult to spot in the dark.
The 3.2’’ display is small by today’s standards, but considering the price, you can’t really complain about the size. However, what’s shocking is the resolution. Thanks to a meagre resolution of 240 x 320 pixels, even the tiny display can manage only a 125 ppi pixel density. This is far lower than that of similarly priced Sony Xperia Tipo Dual (180 ppi) and Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos (165 ppi). As a result, everything on the screen appears pixelated. Reading small text is nothing short of a nightmare on this display. The viewing angles and outdoor visibility are pretty decent; however, none of the other positives can make up for the horrific resolution. The L3 II has the worst display that I’ve seen in an Android phone so far.
Hardware and Software
The LG Optimus L3 II is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225A Snapdragon chipset which comes with a 1 GHz processor and Adreno 200 GPU. It has 512 MB RAM, and 4 GB of internal memory. Quite obviously, you can’t expect the L3 II to be able to run all of the games and apps; however, it is capable enough to tackle the likes of Temple Run and Cut the Ropes satisfactorily. In fact, as far as CPU power is concerned, the L3 II is ahead of the Ace Duos and Tipo. The lower resolution further reduces the computing load on its chipset. There were a couple of seconds of wait while opening apps or switching between tasks, but I didn’t encounter significant freeze ups. General operation is reasonably smooth, and LG’s budget smartphone feels a lot more responsive than its competitors like Tipo.
As far as the hardware is concerned, the best thing about the L3 II is its battery. The L3 II 1540 mAh battery, which is quite a bit more powerful than the one found in the Galaxy Ace. Thanks to the tiny screen and the low-end single core processor, the battery isn’t really pushed too hard. As a result, even with reasonable amount of usage on 3G you should be able to make it through the day without requiring a recharge. This is significantly better than what most flagships have managed to offer.
The L3 II Dual packs a 3.15 megapixel rear camera capable of snapping images at 2048×1536 pixels and recording VGA resolution videos at 30 fps. The picture quality is exactly what you would expect. It’s good enough for Facebook and Instagram updates, but not something you’d be happy carrying on a vacation. The absence of even an LED flash means that the camera is useless in low light scenarios. The Camera app offers five different preset scenes and supports white balance, ISO, and exposure adjustment.
As the name suggests the L3 II is a dual SIM phone. It has a dedicated button, which allows you to toggle between two SIM cards. The switching happens quite quickly without requiring a reboot. However, you cannot use two SIMs at once.
On the software front, LG has launched the L3 II Dual with Android v4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), which is once again better than its closest competitors. Like all LG smartphones, the new L3 also comes with the Optimus UX. However, the only fancy feature that has made it into the L3 II is Quick Memo. QuickMemo is a sharable, system-wide notebook where you can jot down stuff quickly or annotate and comment on documents. Almost all of the other goodies that we saw in the flagship Optimus G have been dropped. Thankfully, even the stripped down Optimus UX has lots of configuration options and nifty tricks up its sleeve. You can change themes, use any of the half a dozen preloaded screen swipe effects, enable Quiet time, edit the lock screen shortcuts and more.
Budgets phones are all about compromises. It’s often difficult to pick the best phone in this category, as the best really depends on the user. The LG Optimus L3 II has its fair share of flaws, as does all of its competitors. The L3 II Dual costs just Rs. 7,500 and LG has had to make plenty of trade-offs to get there. The real question is can you live with the decisions LG has made? The L3 has a horrible display; however, the same low resolution display probably helps in boosting its performance. The L3 has a newer version of Android than most phones in its class, and feels smoother than many of the other low end devices that I’ve used. If performance is important to you and you are willing to overlook the display, the LG II Dual might be a good fit for you. However, if you are looking for a decent display, you need to look elsewhere. Similarly, if you want a decent camera, the old Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830 with a LED flash might be a better buy. Alternatively, if Android isn’t a must for you, you can even take a look at the Lumia 520. It doesn’t have as many apps as the Android smartphones; however, offers a better camera and significantly better performance.
India is still waiting for the official launch of the Nexus 4. However, LG’s Optimus G, which is the phone on which the Google Nexus 4 is based upon, was launched in India last month. The launch went practically unnoticed, with most of the hype centered on upcoming handsets like the Samsung Galaxy SIV, Sony Xperia Z, and the HTC One. The reason for that might be that the Optimus G is actually a six month old phone, whose successor LG Optimus G Pro has already been launched in Japan and Korea. However, while the Optimus G isn’t the latest and greatest, its specifications suggest that it’s no pushover. I used it as my primary device for a week, and was pleasantly surprised by it.
Unlike the Optimus 4X, the Optimus G doesn’t feel plasticky. It’s a solidly built premium smartphone that continues with the rectangular design ethos introduced in the previous generation LG devices. When the display is off, the screen blends with the bezel and appears to be a pristine black slab which oozes a lot of oomph. Much like the Nexus 4, the Optimus G also has a Gorilla Glass 2 back, with shiny metal bits embedded below the back cover. Under light, these metal pieces light up by reflecting the light hitting them at different angles. The effect is less pronounced and less magical than in a Nexus 4, but is still cool to look at.
Of course, glass back has its own disadvantages. The Optimus G is a device that is meant to be handled with care. My SIII has suffered numerous harsh falls, but has survived largely unscathed. With the Optimus G, however, I will almost surely end up with a cracked back. In fact, the metal rim can also add to your woes. The review unit I received had slightly chipped edges, which tended to agitate my skin while talking. In fact, the glossy back doesn’t feel as secure or comfortable to hold as the Optimus 4X with matte finish did. All these weaknesses are inherent in using a glass and metal body, and are present in similarly constructed devices from competitors like Sony.
One of my major complaints with the previous generation LG handsets was accidental home button presses. It was extremely easy to accidentally press the home
button while trying to press the Space key. Thankfully, LG has fixed that issue in Optimus G by adding a slight buffer space below the screen.
The Optimus G has a 4.7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 768 x 1280 pixels, which is protected by a Gorilla Glass 2 screen. I wasn’t a big fan of the previous generation LG displays, which seemed to appear washed out. Thankfully, the Optimus G marks a major step forward for LG displays. While not being as saturated as Samsung displays, color reproduction is rich and natural. In fact, when compared side by side, LG’s display seems more while remaining sharp and vibrant. Sunlight visibility and viewing angles are also good enough to be not an issue. LG’s Optimus G also boasts of something called ZeroGap touch, which reduces diffused reflection by integrating the touch sensors into the glass itself. While I am not sure exactly how much this has helped, I can state with confidence that the Optimus G’s display is definitely among the best that I have seen.
The LG Optimus G was the first phone powered by the Snapdragon quad-core S4 Pro chipset. Thanks to the powerful CPU and GPU, the phone is screaming fast. I am yet to encounter any lags or hiccups while using the Optimus G. Whether you are flinging through long lists, scrolling through your Gallery, or going on a rampage in GTA III, the Optimus G doesn’t miss a beat. The Optimus G boasts of 2 gigs of RAM and 32 gigs of internal storage. There is no provision for memory cards.
I ran a couple of synthetic benchmarks. As expected, the Optimus G fared very well. Unfortunately for the Optimus G, its lead won’t last for long, as next gen devices from Samsung, and HTC will hit India within the next couple of months.
The downside of the Snapdragon S4 Pro is that it gets hot. I mean really, really hot. Even after only surfing the web for half an hour, the phone begins to feel uncomfortably hot. And this is in spite of having a glass back, which should be cooler than an all metal back.
LG Optimus G currently runs on Android 4.1.2 Jellybean with a custom Optimus UX layer on top. LG has announced the launch of Android 4.2.2 powered Optimus G handsets in Europe; however, it’s not known when it will roll out the update to the rest of the world.
The Optimus UX is actually quite subtle and baring some unnecessary skeumorphisms (especially in buttons and icons) and brightly colored icons, it doesn’t look too bad. However, as is the case with most manufacturers, the original Android UI is still more appealing than the custom skin. In addition to retaining QuickMemo, SmartShare, and SmartWorld, that we have seen in previous LG handsets, LG has thrown in some more new goodies for Optimus G users. The major ones are:
Q-Slide: Q-Slide is similar to Samsung’s Popup Play, which allows users to watch a video while working on something else. The video player floats on a screen and can be freely resized and repositioned. Q-slide, however, goes a step further, and can be overlaid on top of existing apps. You can continue watching a video full-screen, while working on other apps by simply controlling their opacity. For example, if you want to compose an email while watching a video, Q-Slide will simply make your email app translucent so that you can still see the video, while writing your email. And yes, you can still pinch to zoom into videos. Check out the video below for a demonstration.
LG has also added a Q-Slide section to the notification screen, which acts as a quick launcher for Q-slide compatible apps. These apps are Video, Internet, Memo, Calendar, and Calculator apps. This is a nice idea, but would have been truly useful, if I could add my own apps to the list, instead of being limited to the five system apps.
Quick Translator: Quick translator app can translate text from images that you capture between a number of languages. This feature was actually introduced with the Optimus L9 and wasn’t present in the Optimus 4X. The translator can translate words, lines, or blocks of sentences. The app also supports offline translation, but for that you will need to purchase dictionaries from the Play store. Smart Screen: This feature is obviously inspired by Samsung’s Smart Stay, which prevents the display from timing out when it detects that you are looking at the screen. Wise Ringtone: This is something that I haven’t seen elsewhere, is actually a very neat idea. Optimus G uses the microphone to judge if you are in a loud environment and accordingly increases your ringtone volume. Quiet Time: This is another really smart feature, which allows you to define a time range during which everything except alarms and notifications will automatically be muted. Safety Care: This is a feature that a lot of Indian users will appreciate. It allows you to define emergency contacts, and in case of an emergency, your location and other information will automatically be sent to them. You can also simply set a number, which when dialed will trigger a location alert to your selected contacts. LG also claims to automatically know when you are calling a emergency, so that it can alert your emergency contacts. However, I am not sure if it is configured to recognize Indian emergency numbers.
The Optimus UX retains its previous strongpoints, which includes easy access to frequently used power options from the notification bar, a very cool unlock animation, and massive amount of customizability. When I say massive amount of customizability, I really mean it. Everything including the lock screen, home screen, and the general UI is customizable. You can change themes, animations, font, font size, lock screen apps, and a whole lot more. Unfortunately, some of the existing annoyances with the Optimus UX have also been retained. The app drawer refuses to remember your sorting preferences, and you have to reselect your sorting preference every time you install a new app. The volume control button still only gives an unified volume control options. Additionally, LG has also decided to stupidly copy the water droplet sound effect from Galaxy SIII, which makes little sense.
The Optimus G boasts of a 13 megapixel rear camera with full HD video recording support. As you might expect from such a hefty camera, the picture quality is excellent, whether you are capturing stills or videos. Details are well preserved, noise is limited in outdoor photos, and color reproduction is good. The only issue is that the focusing can be a bit finicky and sometimes requires two or three attempts to get things right. In addition to the standard burst mode, panorama, and HDR mode, there is also LG’s Time Catch shot. In this mode, the camera actually snaps pics from a few seconds before you pressed the shoot button to a few seconds after. You can later choose which picture you want to keep. This is meant to ensure that you don’t miss the shot you wanted. LG has also improved its low light capture, and now can compete with the likes of SIII comfortably. In fact, on whole, the L3 is among the best, if not the best Android shooter. For video calling there is also a 1.3 megapixel front camera, which gets the job done. One thing that’s often ignored while reviewing a smartphone is its speakers. However, the Optimus G’s speakers are actually loud enough to deserve a special mention.
Thanks to the glass back, LG had to make another compromise with the Optimus G. The rear portion is completely locked down, which means that the battery isn’t user replaceable. This isn’t something I am a big fan of. It rules out the possibility of carrying a spare battery, or even upgrading to a high performance 3rd party battery. The good news here is that the Optimus G’s battery life isn’t bad. The 2100 mAh battery lasts a day in 2G mode, and will survive for about 10-12 hours in 3G mode, which is enough to get back from your office and charge the phone. You can squeeze a couple of additional hours by enabling Eco mode for the processor, and turning on the Power Saver mode when battery is below 50%.
Connectivity options include all standard features along with Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and MHL.
The LG Optimus G is perhaps the first LG smartphone that I can term as a great phone, without any ifs and buts. It sports a blazing fast chipset, a sharp camera, brilliant display, and some nice software bells and whistles. My biggest reservation with the device is the glass back. However, judging by the growing trend of glass backs, and how well the older iPhones sold, and how much in demand the Nexus 4 is, it’s obvious that a lot of people don’t share the same concern. The non-user replaceable battery, and the lack of support for microSD are also downers, but they aren’t big enough issues to come in the way of the Optimus G achieving greatness.
The biggest problem LG India will have is that the Optimus G will be sandwiched between the best of the previous generation like the SIII and the One X, and the best of the current generation like the SIV, Xperia Z, and the One. If Optimus G had been launched in October or November, it would have simply been the most powerful phone in the market. However, by the end of this month, that will no longer be true. LG will also have to withstand the marketing blitzkrieg of Samsung and Sony. Priced at about Rs. 31,000 it’s the best phone you can buy for that price. It’s a fair bit cheaper than the similarly specced Sony Xperia Z, which is currently selling at about Rs. 35,000. However, the Xperia Z has a bigger screen, more powerful and user replaceable battery, and is water resistant. If you spend a bit more, you will soon be able to get the newest powerhouses from Samsung and HTC. On the other hand, if you compromise a bit on the performance, the SIII and other previous generation handsets are available for Rs. 27,000 or less. I hope that the Optimus G manages to carve out its own identity. It’s just too good a phone to be a failure.
LG’s L-series of style conscious smartphones is about to get a new member in the form of a sequel to the L7. The L7 II Dual, outed by a Russian website will introduce dual SIM support, in addition to bumping up the specs.
The L7 II will feature a 4.3-inch IPS display and ship with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) powered by a 1 GHz dual-core Cortex A5 processor of unknown make. On the multimedia side of things, it will ship with an 8-megapixel rear cam with 720p HD recording, as well as a front-cam for video calls. The battery will also be beefed up to 2460 mAH and should offer significantly improved performance. LG’s usual Optimus UX with proprietary apps like Q Memo, and Q Slide will also be present. The phone will come in two standard colors – black and white.
The LG Optimus L7 II Dual is slated to be launched in Russia towards the end of February for $432. With MWC also scheduled next month, we might catch a glimpse of the L7 II in Barcelona.
Samsung’s original Note singlehandedly created the segment of smartphones that is commonly referred to as Phablet. These are devices that are larger than most conventional phones, but smaller than tablets. I have never been a big fan of phablets. They are essentially compromise devices – too large to be conveniently used as a phone, yet too small to confer the multimedia benefits of a tablet. I found the original Note to be simply a bloated version of the S2. However, clearly, a large section of the populace didn’t mind the giant screen, as the original Note sold quite well. The recently introduced Note 2 has been doing even better – selling more than three million units in less than a month.
Now, other manufactures are also getting in on the act, and last month, LG introduced its first phablet – the Optimus Vu P895 in India. Soon Kwon – MD of LG India, believes that the Vu has everything that the competition fails to offer. I used the Vu as my primary device for the better half of the past week to find out if it lives up to the promise.
Even though LG’s 2012 series of smartphones have been a bit all over the place in terms of overall quality, one thing they have consistently delivered on is design. The Optimus Vu is no exception. It is exceedingly thin (8.5 mm), and feels solidly constructed. There’s a lot of plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap and flimsy. I have been a fan of LG’s bold rectangular design principle, and the Vu holds onto much of what I liked about the Optimus 4X. The matte finish of the back cover makes the Vu easier to grip, and the sliding door covering the micro-USB port is a nice touch. However, the most striking feature of the Optimus Vu is just wide it is. At 90.4 mm, the Optimus Vu is about a centimeter wider than the Note 2. The extra width means that unless you have a really big hand, you are going to have a hard time gripping the Vu. I found it extremely uncomfortable (almost painful) to hold the Vu during long conversations. Thankfully, in spite of the bulk, the Vu is fairly light, weighing just 168 grams.
LG has utilized the extra width to pack in a couple of additional buttons. At the top left there is an additional button that triggers the QuickMemo app. At the bottom, there is an additional capacitive button for launching the new Android task switcher. Both of these are non-essential additions, but are nice to have.
LG could have slimmed down the Vu a bit more by shrinking the rather wide bezels. However, the extra bezel space has eliminated the accidental button press problem that I encountered in the Optimus 4X.
The Vu features a 5’’ HD-IPS LCD screen with a resolution of 1024-by-768 pixels. LG claims that the PC-like 4:3 aspect ratio is ‘perfect for multitasking’. I will take a closer look to see if that claim has any substance in the Software section of this review. The screen is bright and offers good outdoor visibility with excellent viewing angles. It’s not as vibrant as the Note 2’s or One X’s display, but doesn’t appear washed out like some of the other LG displays.
The Optimus Vu ships with a 5.5’’ Rubberdium stylus. Vu’s stylus falls somewhere between the original Note’s and the Note 2’s stylus. It’s thicker than most styluses, but not as think as the new S Pen, which can be actually gripped like a pen. Since, the Vu needs to be used with two hands anyway, it’s a smart move to include a stylus. Unfortunately, all the benefits that the stylus could have offered is rendered moot by sheer stupidity. LG has thrown in a stylus, but the phone itself doesn’t have any slot for storing the stylus. Instead, you have to actually carry around the stylus in your pocket. This is of course a major annoyance. I already almost lost the stylus once, and after a couple of days, I simply stopped carrying around the stylus. Samsung on the other hand, not only provides a mechanism to store the stylus, but actually reminds you if you forget to tuck your stylus into the phone before walking away. The second sore point is that the Optimus Vu stylus is not pressure sensitive. The S Pen stylus for the Note 2, on the other hand, can differentiate between 1024 pressure levels. So, the Vu stylus can only be used as a pointing device or for scribbling. Don’t think about drawing or doodling with it. The final and the biggest point of annoyance is that you can actually tap on the capacitive buttons with the stylus. So, while using the stylus, you will have to consistently toggle between using your finger and the stylus. The stylus really seems to be something that LG tucked on to the Vu at the last moment for namesake.
The Optimus Vu ships with Android 4.0.4, and is slated to get Android 4.1 (Jellybean) in first quarter of next year. No word on whether it will receive Android 4.2 or not. There is the customary LG Optimus UX running on top of stock ICS. While some aspects of the Optimus UX – like its overuse of bright colors – are annoying, there are plenty of thoughtful additions. LG has a TouchWiz like scrollable notification bar, but unlike in TouchWiz, it’s completely customizable. In fact, customizability is one of the strongest points of Optimus UX. For example, everything about the lock screen can be changed including how the clock looks or what shortcuts appear in the dock.
LG’s QuickMemo, which we earlier saw in the 4X and the L-series handsets, has made it to the Vu too. It is essentially an enhanced note taking app that is now accessible through its dedicated physical button. You can annotate presentations, documents, webpages, and just about anything with QuickMemo. You can save your memos for later reference or share them with your contacts.
In addition to QuickMemo, LG has added another note taking app called Notebook. In fact, all QuickMemos go into a single folder inside the Notebook. The Notebook allows you to create elaborate notes with images, drawings, and text. Other bundled apps include a backup tool, a news reader, Polaris office, and a video editor called Video Wiz.
One aspect of the Vu where LG has put in a lot of thought and effort is the keyboard. The keyboard has four distinct modes – a classic feature phone layout (that I am sure no one will use), QWERTY layout for tap typing, QWERTY layout for Swype style shape writing, and a handwriting recognition mode. Normally, typing with single hand is impossible on the Vu. However, the keyboard has a special singlehanded typing mode that can be triggered via convenient gestures. When in this mode, the keyboard automatically shrinks and sticks to one edge of the screen (left or right). Although, I found the stylus to be pretty unusable in its current form, I did give handwriting recognition a fair spin and came away impressed. It was able to pick up my shabby handwriting with surprising amount of accuracy. Not only is the recognition engine accurate, but also quite fast. It’s a pity that the stylus is so unusable. The only complaint that I have is that most keyboard settings are buried several levels deep in the Android interface.
LG claims that the 4:3 interface is best for multitasking. After taking the Vu for a spin, I can’t say that I am convinced. LG might be onto something, but the Vu’s software fails to drive that point home. In fact, the Note 2 with its multi-window multi-tasking is a lot more productive. Even, QSlide from Optimus G with added support for streaming videos, would have been quite handy. However, with the standard interface, I don’t see how the Vu is better suited for multitasking than any of the other current generation smartphones. In fact, the 4:3 aspect ratio has a negative impact on the multimedia experience, since almost all video content is in widescreen aspect ratios. Some apps like Subway Surfer also have a problem with the Vu’s resolution and need to be scaled. The only aspect where the Vu really benefits from its resolution is web browsing in portrait mode.
LG Optimus Vu P895 ships with an 8 megapixel camera, which may not be the best mobile camera in the market, but produces good quality images and acceptable videos. Its weakest point is low light capture, where it performs significantly worse than the S3. However, under proper lighting conditions, the Vu takes well balanced, detailed images. The algorithm that LG is using is really smart and manages to get the settings bang on in most cases. In keeping with Optimus UX’s focus on customizability, the camera interface is also adjustable. The usual features including panorama, HDR, and burst modes are present. The Vu lacks an option for macro-focusing. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that the Vu can’t take close up pics. The auto-mode is really good at figuring out when you want to use macro mode. The camera app’s biggest draw is ‘Time Catch Shot’, which we first saw in the Optimus 4X. When you enable this feature, the Vu captures five shots in a quick succession, including shots from moments before you clicked on the shoot button, from which you can select and keep the best shot. With Time Catch, even if you are too late or too early with the shoot button, you can still capture the moment you wanted. Another gimmicky feature called Cheese shot captures the pic when you say ‘cheese’.
The Vu shoots videos at 1080p with 30 frames per second. LG has thrown in a couple of interesting video effects. You can remove the video background and instead use a disco, sunset, or space background. You can also pick a video from your own library to use as a background. Be warned though, in order for this feature to work, your background needs to be stationary and the phone needs to be extremely stable. You also have bunch of face wrap options for playing with your friends.
The video player in Vu boasts of all the excellent enhancements we saw in the Optimus 4X. They are –
Fingertip seek, which shows a YouTube like preview of the frame you are about to jump to while seeking.
Speed controller, which allows you to slow down or speed up the video on the fly.
Split-Screen view, which allows you to quickly browse through your library.
Pinch-to-zoom, which allows you to zoom into any video you are watching. While this is not something that you will use regularly, it is a nice to have enhancement.
LG Optimus Vu features a number of connectivity options including NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, and Bluetooth 4.0. Like Sony, LG includes a couple of NFC Tags called Tag+, which can be used to automatically change your phone’s settings to a preset mode. These tags can be configured with the companion Android app.
The Optimus Vu includes a 2080 mAh non-user replaceable battery. This can be a real headache, given that the Vu doesn’t really last all that long. I only got about nine hours with moderate usage on 3G. This is unacceptable for a phablet, since its strong point is supposed to be watching videos and surfing the web. The Note 2 on the other hand comes with a 3100 mAh battery.
LG has also opted to not include an expandable memory slot. However, this is unlikely to be a major problem for most users, given that Vu ships with 32 GB of internal storage.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I am not a big fan of phablets, and the Vu did nothing to change that. However, if I keep my preferences aside, then I must admit that the Vu is an interesting device. It certainly has a lot going for itself. It’s fast, well designed, sports a good camera and a feature-packed video player. It also makes a few mistakes. Unfortunately for LG, the Vu’s oversights are really big, and they end up hurting what would have otherwise been an excellent product.
I tried really hard to understand why LG would go for a 4:3 screen, but failed to come up with anything concrete. My takeaway is that with this odd proportion, LG has sacrificed too much to gain too little. The next slipup is with the Stylus. In fact, LG gets the stylus so wrong that you should pretty much ignore it all together. You are unlikely to be using it a lot. And, even if you want to use it, you will probably lose it very quickly. My final grudge is with the battery. If you are going to make the battery non user replaceable, you better make sure that it has enough juice to last a day.
When I began to use the Vu, I really liked the device. Yes, it was too big, but it had a nice display, was really smooth and fast, had a nice speaker, and took great snaps. Unfortunately, the poor battery subconsciously affected how I used the Vu. I started watching YouTube less frequently as I was afraid that I would run out of battery before I reached home. This is a real pity, because the Vu had a lot of promise. It’s sensibly priced and can currently be picked up for Rs. 30,000. Yes, it costs the same as Samsung’s previous generation Note. And, that’s the biggest redeeming factor for the Vu. On the whole, the Vu fails to live up to Mr. Kwon’s promise. It simply can’t compete against the Note 2. However, it’s also significantly cheaper. If you want the best phablet that money can buy, you should get the Note 2. However, if you want something cheaper, take a long and hard look at both the Note and the Vu. If you can live with Vu’s odd proportion, and don’t mind carrying your charger around, it might make sense for you to go for the Vu instead of the Note. It’s hardware is a generation ahead of the Note. Otherwise, the Vu might end up frustrating you.
Samsung invented the ‘phablet’ segment, which consists of high-end smartphones with displays that are bigger than what you would expect in phones, but aren’t quite big enough to qualify as a tablet. I am not a big fan of phablets, which are invariable too huge to be used comfortably as a phone. However, as the popularity of the Galaxy Note has shown, millions across the world don’t have the same reservation. The strong performance of Note has prompted others to try their luck with phablets. LG was among the first movers with its Optimus Vu, which was announced towards the beginning of this year at the MWC. Now, after a prolonged wait, the Vu is finally here in India.
In an event held in New Delhi, LG launched the Optimus Vu. The Vu runs on a quad core 1.5 GHz Tegra 3 processor, and sports a 5-inch display with a resolution of 768 x 1024 pixels. Memory card slot is not present, but the 32 GB internal storage should be good enough for most users. The 8 megapixel rear cam is capable
of snapping 1080p videos at 30fps, while the 1.3 MP front cam is good enough for video calling. On the software front it is Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) running LG’s Optimus UI.
Vu is an interesting device, and a commendable effort from LG. On the hardware front, the P895 is extremely competitive. However, I wish that LG had introduced it earlier in the Indian market. LG International has already announced the Optimus Vu II for Korea. The Vu is launching with a price tag of Rs. 34,500, and will probably cost a thousand bucks less in the market. The Galaxy Note 2 is available for Rs. 37,000, while the original Note is available for Rs. 31,000. Vu’s biggest strength is its price. It will make everyone looking to buy the original Note think twice, and might also eat into Note 2’s sales. It’s about ten percent cheaper than the Note 2, and its Tegra 3 is in the same league as Samsung’s Exynos 4412. The Note 2 is easier to grip, runs Jelly Bean, supports microSD cards, and has a bigger battery. The Optimus Vu is prettier and cheaper, with Jelly Bean scheduled to come next year.
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LG’s Chang Ma set the expectations really high when he claimed in an interview given to the WSJ that LG’s tablet PC is going to be better than the iPad. The tablet, which is being dubbed as the Optimus Pad, will run an unknown version of Android operating system, and is expected to be released in Q4.
LG is claiming that the Optimus Pad will offer superior performance, while being sleeker than its competitors. The slide shown above also claims that the tablet will boast of “many firsts”. With very little information being currently available about LG’s iPad competitor we can only wait with baited breath. Let’s hope that it will live up to the expectations.