View from the top

Written by Sharad Raghavan | Updated: Nov 15 2012, 10:19am hrs
The LG Optimus Vu seems to be aimed at the same market as the Samsung Galaxy Notemore than a smartphone, but not quite a full-blown tablet. With a five inch screen, the Vu starts off with the same problem that afflicts the Noteits too big to comfortably hold in the hand or put in the pocket, and looks decidedly odd when held up to the ear. That said, with greater size comes greater accessibility. Where the larger screen might seem cumbersome when used as a phone, the Vu is outstanding when used as a tablet. That is, the larger screen makes reading PDFs, viewing photographs, and even accessing social networking sites a dream.

What adds to this pleasurable experience is that the 1.5 GHz Dual Core processor and 2 GB RAM allow apps to be opened instantly. Theres not even a half-second wait before you have the app up and running at your fingertips. This fast processor speed, a shade faster than what the Note offers, makes all the difference as the phone runs a graphics-heavy operating systemthe Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Now, Android comes with a lot of fun features that, though lacking in an real functionality, make the user experience a more enjoyable one. One example is the manner in which you can slide between pagesthe tiles can simply move to one side, cascade, ripple etc. To make sure these transitions are seamless, a fast processor is a must, and here the Vu delivers.

Given the size of the phone, one would think it would be clunky and heavy, but that is not the case. With a thickness of just 8.5 mm, the Vu is even slimmer than the Note (9.65 mm). And, weighing just 168 grams, it is a full 10 grams lighter than the Note. The buttons are mostly standard power on/off, volumebut there is one additional button that really changes the game for the Vu, making it at once an accessible tablet and a smartphone all in one. That button, placed on the top in line with the power button, turns on and off the sketching mode.

Once you click the button, the phone enters drawing mode that is, whatever the background, you can draw/write over it using only your finger or the stylus provided. Now, this is a fantastic feature. Suppose you are in a hurry and need to write down a number. Instead of entering the notes app, simply press this button, scribble the number on the screen and press the button again. This saves whatever you have scribbled, making it easily accessible as soon as you press the button again, while simultaneously doing away with the danger of it being erased or overwritten.

But, there is a grave problem here. Without a doubt, scribbling on the Vu is much easier using the stylus, but LG made the mistake of not incorporating any space to store the stylus when you are not using it. This is a grave error since a stylus is not something one would immediately remember to carry, thus making it prone to get lost. The redeeming factor here is that everything can be done on the phone using your finger, but then what is the point of providing the stylus at all

Another problem associated with the phone, and this is a surprise given its size, is the fact that some elements in the keyboard seem cramped. Notably, the full-stop button is right next to the spacebar, and often one gets pressed in place of the other sentences. This isnt a problem when using the phone in landscape view, but surely the size should pre-empt this in normal mode as well

The cameras are good, with the main one at 8 megapixels and the frontal camera (for video-conferencing) is a respectable 1.3 MP, and at R34,500, the LG Vu is a good buy if you want a good alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Estimated street price: Rs 34,500