I love phablets, but the LG Optimus Vu is atrocious

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| July 17, 2012

Prior to actually getting some hands-on time with the Galaxy Note, I was determined anyone who wanted a smartphone that size had lost their mind. A 5.3-inch phone? Why would anyone ever want that? Why not just get a small tablet instead? With time, however, the idea of a smartphone-tablet hybrid picked at my conscience and I started looking for ways to get a Galaxy Note to work on T-Mobile. (I wasn't settling for EDGE, so I was looking and waiting for a breakthrough in making the Note work on T-Mobile 3G/4G, which eventually happened.)

After just a few hours with the Note, I fell in love.

Aside from the slightly dated Snapdragon S3 chipset and Samsung's decision to regress back to the PenTile Matrix subpixel layout (versus the standard RGB) in the HD Super AMOLED display, the Samsung Galaxy Note was easily one of my favorite devices to date. While I admit it was a bit big and did require using two hands at times when most phones are easily held with one, it was a solid balance between the portability of a smartphone and usability of a tablet.

Diagonally, the display was at least an inch larger than most phone I had previously owned and over .5 inches larger than the Galaxy Nexus I had traded for the Note. The extra display space made the Web browsing experience much more comfortable, and typing was a breeze. And, best of all, the S Pen was perfect for taking notes, screen captures and annotating.

It has been approximately three months since I moved on from the Note. With other devices that perform noticeably more smoothly, it was difficult to stay with the inferior Note. And considering there have been next to no competing phablets hit shelves, it was impossible to stick to my tentative game plan of only buying phablets moving forward.

Hinging on the success of the Note, though, which was originally perceived to be a very niche device, a couple other Android manufacturers are beginning to  dabble in the mysterious phablet realm.

Recently, there have been an increasing number of rumors pointing to the possibility of an HTC-made phatblet device. The first report pegged the 5-inch HTC-made device for Verizon in the fall with a 1080p display, quad-core Qualcomm Krait processor, Adreno 320 GPU, Sense and a Scribe pen. And just four days ago, a Verizon-bound HTC phablet popped up in GLBenchmark results. This device is also packing a 1080p display, Android 4.0.4 and Adreno 320 GPU. However, this benchmark result lists the 6435LVW as having a MSM8960 Qualcomm S4 chipset, which is dual-core instead of quad-core.

Believe me when I say I'm extremely excited to see how this device pans out and if its as solid as HTC's current One entries. Time will tell …

The other phablet device is one I'm not nearly as excited about. In fact, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if it "unhappened" and were swept under the carpet. It is the LG Optimus Vu, which we first saw in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. The Vu features a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel rear camera with a 1.3-megapixel front-facing shooter and a 2,080mAh battery.

Just yesterday, a picture of a Verizon-bound Optimus Vu made its rounds on the Internet. But while I may love phablets and over-sized smartphones the Optimus Vu is easily the last device on my agenda to try.

On paper, it doesn't sound so bad. But the Vu's problems only begin with its dimensions. Unlike the Galaxy Note (or most other smartphones, for that matter), which houses a 5.3-inch display at a widescreen 16:10 (or 8:5) aspect ratio, the display of the Vu has the same aspect ratio as the Apple iPad, 4:3. As you can see above, this makes the device much more squared and much wider than your typical handset. While the Vu has a 5-inch display, it's hardly any taller than, say, the display on the HTC One X. All the extra display real estate has been added in width. And as most people who have had the opportunity for some hands-on with the Vu have noted, including our own Aaron Baker (his sentiments are noted in the picture above and in this video), its width makes the device a bit unwieldy, especially for one-handed use.

I'm not sure what inspired LG to make a 4:3 phablet. I'm not sure what would inspire any company to make a phone with such an off aspect ratio. Sure, the iPad is wildly popular and also sports 4:3, but it's a tablet and two-handed use is expected. But I honestly don't even like 4:3 on the iPad. I prefer widescreen aspect ratios on phones, tablets and quite literally every other gadget or electronic device I own. Worst of all, most apps and software aren't optimized for 4:3, especially video content. Granted, most applications will scale to fit the display. But as you can see above, LG didn't even optimize their own customized interface to accommodate for the wider display.

If LG can make a phablet with their 5-inch 16:9 1080p display they debuted in late May, I would be all over it. But until then, I'll be keeping an eye out for HTC's phablet or the Galaxy Note 2.

What say you, folks? Are you interested in phablets at all? Are you interested in either HTC's over-sized phone? The Galaxy Note 2? Or does the 4:3 of the Optimus Vu strike your fancy?

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