LG Optimus Vu Review

Introduction and Design

Here’s one phone that will leave a lasting impression on you from the very moment your first spot it - the LG Optimus Vu. This handset is eye-poppingly gigantic. It’s so big the adjectives won’t prepare you for its actual size and you’d be wondering whether that’s a phone or a tablet.

Chances are you won’t see it a lot though as it’s only selling in Korea at the moment and we don’t expect it to arrive to Western markets anytime soon. Being almost in a category of its own we’re excited to take a deeper look and see how LG’s experiment with big phones works out and why this phone is so different.


If the Samsung Galaxy Note created the phablet category, the LG Optimus Vu is the very incarnation of a phablet. The Vu actually looks a bit more like a tablet than like a phone - it’s plain big. The size would definitely get you some weird looks in public when you hold it to your ear. If we had to squeeze it down to one thing that makes it so weird, it’s LG’s bold decision to make this the world’s widest phone.

You can compare the LG Optimus Vu with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The Vu is enormous - while someone with an average hand could still hold a Galaxy Note and even make a phone call with some hand gymnastics, we wouldn’t risk trying to single-handedly place a call on this device. Bottomline is you’ll need your two hands to operate it.

With this in mind, is it really pocketable? Put simply, it’s bulky and you won’t forget you have a big phone in your pocket. And if you like wearing tight fit jeans, you should cross this phone off your wishlist right away.

Now, if pocketability is not your main concern, otherwise the phone is surprisingly light and lean for its jumbo looks. It’s got a textured plastic back that doesn’t feel particularly elegant, but makes it harder to accidentally drop the handset, and you’ll appreciate LG’s practicality on this. Still, it’s much less classier than the luxurious soft touch plastic on the Galaxy Note. The back of the phone also holds an NFC chip.

From afar, the Optimus Vu looks good though and LG has gone with stylish rounded metallic buttons. Below the screen you’d find the four buttons standard for Gingerbread and earlier. We wish the phone came with the modern three-button layout, though, as reaching for the last button is virtually impossible with one hand. On top there’s a microUSB port and a 3.5mm jack, as well as a QuickClip dedicated button for jotting down on top of what’s on the screen (more on this later), the power button and a hidden antenna.

The antenna is the funny part to us used to phones released for the West, but in Asia watching TV on your handset is pretty common and that explains why it’s here. TV is what also explains why this phone is so wide - most channels are streamed in 4:3 aspect ratio, and coincidentally the Vu comes with the same screen proportions.


You have a gorgeous 5-inch IPS high-res LCD display. The resolution is 768x1024 pixels - just like on the original iPad - and the brightness is 650 nits, which in layman terms is very detailed and pretty bright, legible even under direct sunlight. Whites are not bluish as in AMOLED panels, colors are vivid and nicely saturated, and viewing angles are wide. Overall, for its intended purpose of watching a lot of TV in - say - the subway, the Optimus Vu is great. LG says 4:3 is also the most widespread ratio for print materials, a claim we can only support - we were delighted with the reading and browsing experience on this phone.

When it comes to video on the web though, the 4:3 screen backfires as a big mismatch. Video either stretches weirdly or you have to get used to two huge black strips on the top and bottom. The experience is far from what could have been if the whole screen showed the video.

Apps that we tried scaled well - we had no problems playing Angry Birds, Temple Run and Cut the Rope, and actually enjoyed gaming on the big screen. For apps that don’t scale well, LG offers “aspect ratio correction” that you trigger by holding down the home key. This will slim down the app to accurate proportions.


Also, the Vu comes with a “Rubberdium.” Rubber jokes aside, this is actually the stylus that comes with the handset. It’s somewhat different than a standard stylus as it adds a bit of a pen-like drag when you write with it. It’s also surprisingly solid and comfortable to hold.

Earlier, we mentioned the QuickClip button on top of the Vu, and that’s something you might want to use with the phablet. Pressing the button takes you into memo mode, so you can draw on the screen grab you just captured. There is also a dedicated Notebook application which serves as a center for most stylus-related activities - you can sketch and jot to your heart content.

Drawing with the stylus however still comes with the usual delay for current touchscreens and that’s something we try to get used to everytime we use a stylus. Overall, it’s a neat addition, but we wish there was a slot for it in the handset so you don’t have to wonder where you left it when you need it.

LG Optimus Vu 360-Degrees View:

Interface and Functionality:

LG’s Optimus Vu packs a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S3 processor and 1GB of RAM, so everything is running smooth, but everything in this case means Android 2.3 Gingerbread and that’s a letdown. Ice Cream Sandwich is sorely missed on this handset and even though LG promised to bring Android 4.0 in June, it’s still not here for us.

LG brings its Optimus skin on top of Gingerbread here, and this comes with a different set of icons, some changes in the user interface and most notably in the way widgets are added and a new look of the notification drop down toggles.

Basic functionality paired with a 4:3 screen is a mixed plate. On one hand, single-handed operation is a pain, but on the other you have a very spacious keyboard, and typing in portrait mode is extremely accurate with those huge keys. We’d say that typing on the Vu is definitely among the best experiences we’ve had on a smartphone with no physical keyboard.

Bottomline is that calling and on the go use suffer from the huge screen, but texting, emailing and browsing are a joy. The Vu behaves more like a tablet than a phone, and that’s a compromise you have to make with it.

Internet and Connectivity:

The device comes with the stock Android browser workings as smoothly as you'd expect and fully capable of handling Flash. As we mentioned before browsing the web and reading on the 4:3 screen is a joy partly because of the screen size and partly because of the high pixel density. The wide display also allows you to read most text in portrait mode, something you can't always do even on huge phones like the Galaxy Note.

The phone comes with LTE for Korea only, so there was no way for us to test it. What we could test though was NFC. The phone works okay, but occasionally we had to retry a couple of times until we could share what we want. The Optimus Vu comes with a couple of NFC tags you can put in places like your car and office and tap the phone to them to start say navigation in your car or mute the phone at work.


The Vu comes with an 8-megapixel auto-focus rear camera with LED flash and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing shooter. The quality of the pictures is decent - we've seen more detailed images from the top cameraphones, but generally colors look okay if not a bit overblown and during daytime pictures turned out okay. In low light and indoors, noise starts getting in your way, so if you want a phone to snap pictures at parties, that's probably not the best choice. The front camera compensates for the lack of quality with a fun effect that airbrushes your face so if you can mask up the occasional wrinkle, if that’s your worry.

Video is captured at 1080p and thirty frames per second with continuous auto-focus on the rear camera, and maxes out at 720p for the front shooter. Again, it was okay, and the camera moved relatively steady with a rare dropped frame. Forget about shooting after dusk, though - while the Galaxy Note has excellent low light performance, this here device just can’t get enough light in.

LG Optimus Vu Sample Video:

LG Optimus Vu Indoor Sample Video:


For multimedia, you have 32 gigs of internal memory but no microSD card slot to expand that. The highlight of the handset, though, is it’s TV-ready with a standalone app and a huge antenna, but sadly we couldn’t catch any programs as the feature only works in Korea. For all other media, what we said earlier holds true - 4:3 is great for TV rips, while for video on the web it only results in larger strips of black space on the screen.

Sound quality is disappointing for us. Playing back music or video through the speaker produces tinny sound that lacks even the slightest bass (we didn’t expect much), and if bumped up to the maximum on certain songs this annoy the ear.

Call quality and Battery:

The call quality is rather mediocre - you’d definitely be able to hear your callers, but voices were dull and muffled. People we spoke with also reported they were hearing us dull on the other side of the line.

The Optimus Vu comes with a 2,080mAh battery that is not removable. The phone got us through a day of average use - browsing for an hour, playing games for about as much, snapping a couple of pictures (no flash).

When it comes to signal quality, we didn’t have issues with dropped calls and won't experience tight grip antenna problems with the device because of its sheer size.


The LG Optimus Vu is a brave and interesting experiment with the size of a smartphone. It’s phablet to its core - a smartphone moniker might still somehow fit the Galaxy Note, but you’d find it hard to twist your tongue and call this a phone.

The huge size is our main complain about the Vu. It’s just not fit for one-handed use - it’s too wide. Android Gingerbread now looks very dated and adds on to that undercooked feeling of the UI and phone in general. It’s probably no coincidence that LG didn’t release this globally - the phone is not yet ready for it. Korea, though, is a different world with commuters watching tons of TV on their devices and demanding an antenna for that. If we had to sum it up in one phrase, it’d be “Big in Korea.” We’ll leave this phone for them, with no final score as it simply doesn’t fit our reality for the time being.

Video Thumbnail


  • Big bright screen, perfect for reading
  • Spacious keyboard, great for typing


  • Too wide for one-handed use
  • Not comfortable to hold in your pocket
  • Most video doesn’t make use of 4:3 screen

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless