When Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note at IFA, we were excited, but a bit perplexed. The Galaxy Note's 1280x800 HD Super AMOLED display could be a big winner, but the phone's size seemed too ungainly to make an effective phone. Later PR seemed to confound expectations further by referring to it as a 'phablet' rather than a phone or tablet. After strong European and Asian sales, though, the phone has been released on AT&T in the States, and interest is quite high. So it should be no surprise to see other entrants into this oversized phone space.

LG's Optimus Vu has been teased and leaked numerous times over the last few weeks, and so its announcement this weekend didn't come as a huge surprise. Unique to the Vu, versus the Note, is a 4:3 aspect ratio, which gives its 5" display a more squat appearance than the elongated 16:10 slates we're used to. The IPS display touts a 1024x768 resolution, so it's pixel density isn't quite as high as the Note's, though if it is an RGB screen its subpixel density should be impressively high and its color reproduction should be a bit more accurate than Samsung's SAMOLED display. 

Most recent Optimus devices have put Qualcomm's S3 processors to use, with the MSM8660 finding its place in the Optimus LTE recently, alongside the MDM9600 for LTE connectivity. Though Krait SoC's are just around the corner, we expect based on development times that the Vu will feature a similar MSM8660/MDM9600 combination. We have AT&T's Optimus LTE variant in house and so we know what kind of performance we can expect from the device. From a graphics standpoint, the Mali-400 GPU in the Note's Exynos SoC clearly outpaces the Adreno 220 in Qualcomm's S3. Compute performance should be comparable, but with the GPU being leveraged to a greater degree in Ice Cream Sandwich, the user experience delta might grow when both are updated later this year. 

When the 4:3 iPad was chased by 16:10 Honeycomb tablets, part of the discussion focused on the ergonomic differences of a slate that's so wide while in landscape mode. So while viewing widescreen content on a widescreen device might be a bit more satisfying, actually using the wider device can be a bit more of a hassle. LG is obviously hewing to the user data that says that larger devices benefit from the 4:3 form factor, and it'll be interesting to see whether the Note or the Vu feel better in the hand while being used as a tablet. 

Physical Comparison
  LG Optimus Vu Samsung Galaxy Note Dell Streak Galaxy Nexus LTE Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX
Height 139.6 mm (5.49") 146.9 mm (5.78") 152.9 mm (6.02") 135.5 mm (5.33") 130.7 mm (5.15")
Width 90.4 mm (3.56") 83 mm (3.27") 79.1 mm (3.11") 67.9 mm (2.67") 68.9 mm (2.71")
Depth 8.5 mm (0.33") 9.7 mm (0.38") 9.98 mm (0.39") 9.47 mm (0.37") 8.99 mm (0.35")
Weight 139 g (4.9 oz) 178 g (6.3 oz) 220 g (7.76 oz) 150 g (5.3 oz) 145 g (5.1 oz)
CPU 1.5 GHz Dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2 GHz Exynos 4210 Dual-core Cortex-A9 Qualcomm Scorpion @ 1GHz 1.2 GHz Dual-core OMAP 4460 Cortex-A9 1.2 GHz Dual-core OMAP 4430 Cortex-A9
GPU Adreno 220 ARM Mali-400 Adreno 200 PowerVR SGX 540 PowerVR SGX 540
NAND 32GB NAND 16 or 32GB NAND, up to 32GB microSD 16GB micro SD + 2GB integrated 16GB NAND 16GB NAND, 16GB Class 4 microSD preinstalled
Camera 8MP AF with LED Flash + 1.3MP Front Facing Camera 8MP AF with LED Flash + 2MP Front Facing Camera 5MP AF with dual LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 5MP AF with  LED Flash + 1.3MP Front Facing Camera 8MP AF with LED Flash + 1.3MP Front Facing Camera
Screen 5.0" 1024 x 768 IPS 5.3" 1280 x 800 HD Super AMOLED 5" 800 x 480 4.65" 1280 x 720 HD Super AMOLED 4.3" 960 x 540 Super AMOLED Advanced
Battery Integrated 7.7Whr Removable 9.25Whr Removable 5.661 Whr Removable 6.85Whr Internal 12.4Whr

But these are phones, and as such, we're concerned about the feasability of putting such a large device up to our heads. Anand spent some time with the Dell Streak as his only phone, and found the experiencing satisfying and the size a non-issue. What's notable is that the Streak, though longer than the Note and Vu, was also somewhat narrower. The Note and Vu are within a centimeter of each other in both height and width, but the Vu comes in nearly a half inch wider than the Streak. Portability could be a concern, too. With each device pushing six inches of length and over three inches in width, the ability to slip these devices into a pants pocket could be challenged. 

So, this begs the question? Are you interested in a phone this big? Is this meant to somewhat canibalize the small tablet market? Could this be your next phone? Let us know in the comments, we'll have more on the Vu next week, at MWC.

Source: LG

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  • Rick83 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Considering that I got an Archos 5 26 (!) months ago (late 2009), for 235 euros, I am appalled that these devices go for 600-800 euros. Yes, there's better screens and 3G/4G modems and cameras and faster SoCs in there, but nonetheless, the markup is quite insane, considering that they come without USB-host and HDMI output, and don't look half as pretty. At least 32G flash has now become standard - microSD is missing on the LG though...

    On the other hand, the 5 inch form factor is ideal for me, as I need a dedicated telephone and a "portable computer" - essentially replacing a netbook. 5 inches fit into jacket/ coat pockets and easily disappear into any carry-on bag.

    I just wish for a drop in replacement of the Archos, with a more efficient SoC and better GPS, and built in 4G. Willing to pay 300 euro, for a version with 32G flash, not more.
    Oh well, I'm pretty sure that at Archos they are currently looking into how to fit a 4430 into a 5-6" shell, possibly with support for their USB-3G modem.
    Until my A5IT dies, I can wait :D
  • Johnmcl7 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    The Archos isn't even remotely comparable to the specification of the Note, the Archos has a basic budget specification as you'd expect for the price whereas the Note's hardware is considerably superior in every way which costs money. that's like claiming an Intel i5 is massively overpriced against the cost of an Atom processor. The Note also does have USB host and HDMI output with a couple of cheap cables. I actually think the Note is surprisingly good value for money as it's cheaper than a Nexus despite having a bigger screen, better camera, removable storage, stylus digitiser, faster processor, better graphics card and larger battery.

  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Don't put batteries in your phones smaller than RAZR MAXX. Motorola can do it in a tiny size, so can you.
  • solipsism - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Note that Moto has used a non-user replaceable battery. I'm all for those but it seem most here think it's evil.
  • MeesterNid - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    At what point do we stop calling something like that a phone and call it a tablet? Honestly, clothing designers will have to start making much bigger pants pockets if this is going to be the new norm in size. I personally think that something the size of the Nexus S is perfect for a phone and don't want one any bigger.
  • Johnmcl7 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    That's the beauty of this phone size - it doesn't need bigger pockets, it fits fine in any pocket I could fit my previous 3.5in phone (Nokia N900) and it's lighter as well. Going up from the Note are the 7in tablets which I think it's fair to say those are too big for phones.

  • dasgetier - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    Those new phones are quite thin, I guess that helps fitting them into the same pockets as well
  • nosirree - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I don't think we'll need the 20:20 hindsight to prove it too.

    I actually wonder what LG was thinking? Different can be good, but sometimes there are good reasons why some stuff is not tried.

    Human hand size does not change according to Moore's Law or the next iteration of some SoC.

    3:4 ratio can be OK if it is at some cute and cuddly size. If we are talking phablets, it probably will be unwieldy. Too wide.

    Screens do get bigger the more they approach the square (assuming 4 right angles) areawise. Simplest math. Therefore, the same diagonal measure (say, 5 or 42 inches) is bigger if it is on a 4:3 screen.

    But: The Samsung Note is on the borderline of being graspable by one medium sized hand. And (IMHO apart from the design/material and the horrid laggy Samsung s/w overlay) it gets more things right.

    I don't think this LG device will get anywhere, besides being a rare curiousity.
  • Johnmcl7 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    With the Galaxy Nexus hardware being very disappointing (not even expandable storage) I went for the Note and not regretted it for a moment. Yes, it does seem quite big when you take it out of the packaging and is quite odd to use for phone calls for the first few days but I'm entirely used to it now and going to struggle to go back to a normal sized phone. I used the Note exactly the same way as my previous phone (N900) and have no problems putting it in pockets or similar, it's not as heavy as you'd expect for the size and it's surprisingly slender making the Streak look a little bulky.

    I've never understood the point of a tablet after buying one to try it out, they just seem far too basic rather than offering a more powerful balance between phone and laptop so the Note is ideal for me as you get some of the large screen benefit of the tablet without having to carry around a separate device. Web browsing in particular is superb even over the large 4.3in screen on the Galaxy S2 as you can fit so much on the screen without having to zoom or move the screen around. The Note hardware is also considerably better than the Galaxy Nexus as it has expandable storage, a better camera, better graphics card, larger battery and stylus digitiser.

    I'm not saying the Note's size is for everyone but I wouldn't just dismiss it out of hand as it's far more usable on paper than it sounds. It's considerably smaller than the Galaxy Tab as the bezel is extremely small and the device thin.

  • randinspace - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    All the "power smartphone users" I've known in my life either rely upon speaker phone if their environment isn't prohibitive to it (a personal office or house call vs. cubicles in the middle of a call center), or headsets (bluetooth in particular, conversely it's been my experience that people who don't really need it will bitch about products that don't support it because they can easily imagine usage scenarios) if it is, and tend to be unnaturally proficient at doing tasks on their phone while talking away. Either way these people who permanently have their phones in their hands and headsets latched onto their ear could care less about how ridiculous they look and would simply relish the larger screen's increased productivity.

    On the other hand such people run down their batteries almost as fast as they run down their Starbucks, so Samsung did a really smart thing and included a high capacity removable battery (to a slightly lesser extent they nailed it with the Galaxy Nexus LTE too), whereas LG's integrated yet still lower capacity battery (compared to say the Droid Razr MAXX from the chart) is going to automatically turn their perspective audience away regardless of what it actually ends out capable of.

    As a side note, I agree with the presently circulating opinion that if Microsoft ever gets their act together they're in the best position to capitalize not only on this market of personal users, but even more so with professionals since I can easily imagine the guy who came out to repair my internet connection ditching his company provided blackberry and netbook for either a single device running windows which is synched up to a workstation SOMEWHERE, or a windows phone AND slate/tablet which are (what M$ is really hoping for). In theory Apple could do the same thing if they were willing to burn a LOT of cash to repair their reputation among IT guys since they're the ones who are closest to a unified platform, and god knows Google wants to have a monopoly on everything, but whether deserved or not (I think it is) people just have more faith in Microsoft... which is another topic, I'm sure.

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