verizon lg intuition review 10 640x426Known as the LG Intuition in the USA, this smartphone has been introduced by LG as the LG Optimus Vu at Mobile World Congress. We had published a hands-on in early 2012. The goal for this device is to address the very large display smartphone market created by the Samsung Galaxy Note, which has sold more than 10M units since its launch.

The LG Optimus Vu adds a few things to this “phablet” category, including an ultra-wide display, a very fast user interface and some LG proprietary software. The main difference with the Galaxy Note is that the LG Intuition does not use a stylus, so keep that is a huge difference in my option.

It’s not always obvious from the photos, but this smart is huge, but the question is: how does it feel on a day-to-day basis, and I’ll try to answer that question for you. Let’s gear up for an LG Intuition deep dive…

Technical highlights

Display: 5″ gorilla glass, 1024×768 pixels, 4:3 aspect ratio
Dimensions: 5.50″ (H) x 3.56″ (W) x 0.33″ (D)
Processor: [name, GHz, x-core]
Storage: 32GB Internal, no expansion
Battery capacity: 2080mAh
Cameras 8 Megapixel main camera. 1.3 Megapixel front camera.

Context

We all use smartphones differently, so it’s important that I tell you what I do with my smartphone(s): I typically check email often with the built-in email app (via Microsoft Exchange), and reply moderately because typing on the virtual keyboard is tedious. I browse the web several times a day to check on news sites, but rarely watch movies or play music. I don’t call much – maybe 10mn a day, if at all.

On the “apps” side, I have a couple of social networks (FB, G+), a receipts manager and random apps (<20), but I rarely play games or do something super-intensive like video editing. This usage pattern will affect battery life and the perception of what features are useful. Now you know where we’re coming from…

Industrial design

verizon lg intuition review 01 640x424When looking the the LG Intuition, it is obvious that this is no regular smartphone. LG has up the ante in the now-popular “phablet” form-factor by proposing something that has an unusual width. The photo makes it obvious, but the LG Intuition is about 1.5X wider than an iPhone 4S/5 and it is substantially taller too. In terms of thickness, it is comparable to the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, and I only use this comparison because most readers have probably seen one of those before.

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The bottom, left and right sides do not have much going on: just the volume control on the right side. The top of the phone is where most of the action is: you can find the Power control, a micro-USB port with a nice slide-out cover and more importantly… a Screen Capture button that instantly snaps a screenshot of the current screen and launches the Notebook application where you can annotate the screenshot and share/save it.

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Next to the 3.5mm audio, there’s a “screenshot” button

to the initiated, the Screen Capture button isn’t much faster than using a key combination, but it would probably make more sense to the regular user then something like power+volume down, or a button in the user interface that may require a swipe motion to be visible.

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The back of the LG Intuition is made of textured plastic with the LG and 4G LTE logos clearly visible. The back cover is not removable so you cannot change the battery. There is also no micro-SD port in case this is important to you. The good news is that the phone comes with 32GB of storage, which should be pretty satisfactory for most users.

The front of the phone is all glass and features the Verizon and LG logos in a prominent way. To be frank, I would have preferred seeing less branding as it would have kept the design much cleaner. At the top-front, the front camera is visible, and next to it, one can see the proximity sensor which is used to detect when the phone is in your pocket or near your face.

Ultra-wide phone: how does it feel?

I’ll get straight to the point: this is a VERY wide phone and I have to admit that this is pretty much the limit of what I can hold with one hand. I have average size hands (literally M when I buy gloves etc), and I while I can grip the LG Intuition solidly in one hand, I can’t say that this is very comfortable. It’s OK though for a regular use, and because I don’t call a lot, this wasn’t a problem for me in general.

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Size of the LG Intuition keyboard in relation to my hand (M-size, for gloves)

Awesome for typing: such a width does have advantages. As I felt during the initial reveal at Mobile World Congress in Spain, the LG Intuition is VERY comfortable to type on. If you come from a very narrow device like the iPhone, the difference is like “heaven and earth” to borrow an expression used by Asian executives…

The keyboard is very big, so typing is much more comfortable and casual typing yields much less typos errors than on my iPhone 5. If I really want to concentrate, I can type just as fast on the iPhone. However I am never in a “typing benchmark” mindset when I just want to send an SMS or reply to an email. The reality is: typing on a bigger virtual keyboard simply requires less concentration and muscle control than on a small keyboard – it’s simple ergonomics. Less typos, means less frustration and this is really one of the highlights of the LG Intuition.

The other thing that should be mentioned right away is how responsive the keyboard is – especially when compared to the original Samsung Galaxy Note, which I found to be a bit “laggy” in my previous review. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 fixes most of that, but I found the LG Intuition keyboard speed to be very competitive, if not better, than even the Galaxy Note 2 — bonus points here.

Now, I think that the phone may be a bit too wide for optimal typing speed. In my particular case, I found myself having to move my hand and fingers more than I would like to, and I suspect that the Galaxy Note / Note 2 will be more comfortable in that respect.

Taking simple notes with the LG intuition

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For taking notes, the wide format works really well. No question about it: the super large display works very well for that use case, and to LG’s credit, the virtual “ink” is very fast. In fact, this is the fastest ink that I have seen on Android so far.

Because the LG Intuition does not handle pressure sensitivity like the Galaxy Note/Note 2, it won’t be as good for artistic purposes. However, if you get a simple capacitive stylus (which basically fools the display into thinking that you finger is sliding all over), you can take decent notes and draw mostly with a single line width/color at a time, but again if you’re not into Art, it’s probably OK. The ink speed is critical and this is something that will be improved as we get more processing power in those devices. Ideally, we want an infant feedback and zero lag — not quite there yet, but LG does good here.

Display

Saying that the LG Intuition display is comfortable to use would be an understatement. It is gorgeous and immediately gets “ohhhh and ahhhh” as soon as I pull it to show photos or movies. Clearly, that’s one of the upside of using a Phablet.

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Simply big and beautiful!

The display is based on IPS technology for which LG leads and provides hardware for competitors like Apple and others. The color reproduction is perceptually excellent and the brightness is high enough that I don’t need to worry about it, even in a bright setting (within reasonable limits).

Finally, the overall user interface is VERY responsive. While most of this is software-based, LG may also be using a touch sensor that has a higher refresh rate than usual. I’m not quite sure about this, but at the very least, they have not made modifications that seem to jeopardize the Android 4.0 native responsiveness.

Killer apps

Virtual keyboard: Ironically, despite having hundreds of thousands of apps at their disposal, most users sill refer to text-based communication as being the “critical” application for them. That’s why you must not underestimate the importance of a virtual keyboard. The more productive you want to be, and the more likely this element may get in the way.

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Clearly, the gigantic keyboard is extremely comfortable and responsive to the touch. It is a pleasure to type with, and going back to a narrow smartphone afterwards does induce frustration until I can adapt again. The sheer size of the keys makes it possible to have both letters and special-characters visible on each key, while not making the keyboard appear visually busy (a la HTC). I love it.

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Email: The email client is relatively plain, but offers common features like multiple item actions, which is handy for email curation. I would have loved to have a search box visible from the email home screen, but instead users have to hit the “Menu” capacitive button on the bottom right. In dim lighting, it  may not be visible because the screen brightness can overwhelm the eyes.

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Calendar : The calendar view uses the extra screen size and shows a split screen with the days at the top (week or month), and some details below. Details can be an “Agenda” view which shows the upcoming meetings, or a detailed week view that shows how busy the days are. It is possible to completely get rid of the split screen if you want to.

Facebook: the FB app is its old self, but the sheer size of the screen makes looking at those wall photos a real pleasure in my opinion. You don’t need to open the full photos to take a good look. The albums look fantastic. I would almost forget how slow the app can be sometime.

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Google Maps: Needless to say that using Google Maps on the LG Intuition is delightful. Again, the size helps a lot here and being able to see clearly while driving or without zooming helps quite a bit, and makes maps even more convenient. As for the software itself, this is the same Google Maps that you will find on pretty much any modern Android smartphone, so this is mainly about industrial design.

Entertainment

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Video playback: not surprisingly, the LG Intuition is an extraordinary multimedia system. The quality and size of the display ensure that the movie playback experience is one of the best in the smartphone world. Sometime, it’s just good to be big.

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Gaming: I’ve tried games like Riptide GP, and while they are completely playable, you shouldn’t expect the highest possible performance. The game was running at a maximum of 30FPS, and it went down to about 20FPS at times, so if you’re sensitive to high frame rates, this may be an issue. Of course all the 2D casual games should run fast.

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Speaker-quality: Despite its size, the LG Intuition doesn’t come with a great loud speaker, which is a bit surprising given the internal volume of the device.

Usually, there are two factors when it comes to good audio: the quality of the speaker and how much air they can push. To push that air, there needs to be a good air circulation, and that’s often the main design challenge in a super thin phone, like the iPhone or the Galaxy S3 for example. The HTC One X did a remarkable job, and we think that LG could have done better here. It’s not clear if the speaker quality or the air circulation (or both) is at fault here, but the audio is basically not very loud.

Imaging (average+)

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A photo shot on a cloudy day with the Verizon LG Intuition

With such a large phone, I was hoping that LG would take the opportunity to use a big sensor and/or big lens. Unfortunately, the LG Intuition disappoints in that respect. The photo and video quality is slightly above average in general, and certainly below-average for a “high-end” phone. It’s mostly OK (but not great) in good lighting, but the low-light photos aren’t very usable and trail when compared to the latest Samsung and Apple offerings, which themselves are inferior to Nokia’s lastest Lumia 920 smartphone.

Performance

Before we start, keep in mind that this US-centric version of the LG Optimus Vu (called LG Intuition here) uses an older Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. The international version is equipped with an NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip, and has different performance characteristics.

Antutu is an overall system performance benchmark (CPU, graphics, storage), and what it shows is that overall, most recent phones land in a comparable performance footprint. This means that unless you do something very specific (like “gaming” or “downloads”), those phones should provide a similar overall performance.

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The CPU performance is pretty good for a dual-core, but in the Antutu benchmark, scores do scale really well with a quad-core, so it’s not surprising that the Verizon LG Intuition trails here. Still, that’s pretty much as fast as all the other high-end phones with a dual-core chip.

GLBenchmark 2.5: with 7.4FPS on the off-screen rendering test, the Verizon LG Intuition is unfortunately rather slow, given that most phones get around 13FPS and the best phones get 20FPS to 26FPS. This means that high-end games won’t run as smoothly, even if casual games should be fine. Still, we are talking about a 300% speed difference with the best here.

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SunSpider is a Javascript test that mostly measures how good the Javascript engine is. Performance jump of 100% have been witnessed after software updates, so keep in mind that this may not be a great CPU test. It also uses a single-core, so it won’t be able to differentiate much between single and multicore architectures. Also, please don’t consider it to be a “web performance” test, because it is not. Most of the perceived web performance is felt during the load time and rendering time, both of which often have nothing to do with Javascript performance.

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With a score of 2235, the Verizon LG Intuition does not impress. Because this is mainly a JavaScript engine test, we would expect a recent phone to beat older ones, but this is not really the case here. Yet, on a day to day use, JavaScript performance is hardly perceived, so I think that most people won’t feel a difference with other phones.

Perceived performance: Synthetic benchmarks can only carry us so far. What they don’t show for example is the user experience is smooth and responsive (responsiveness is not always solved with brute-force processor power). In the end, what good is raw performance if you can’t perceive it?

Despite not scoring very high in all benchmarks, the overall responsiveness of the phone is great – especially for the keyboard and the electronic “ink” when taking notes. This is one of the best aspect of this smartphone. Now, for games, you will clearly see that there’s better elsewhere, and in my opinion, this is where the performance difference is the most noticeable.

Battery life

In terms of battery life. the Verizon LG Intuition is fairly average. Despite its massive size, the battery has a relatively normal capacity (2080mAh), which is very much comparable with much smaller phones, like the Motorola Droid RAZR M and its 2000mAh battery. I suspect that the massive screen draws more power than smaller phones because the lighting needs to be stronger. In the end, this is a phone that I had to charge every evening when I was using it.

Keep in mind that battery life varies a lot depending on the apps that run in the background, your network reception, your local network density and the amount of time that the: display is ON. You can always refer to the Android battery report to see what is consuming the power. Finally, keep in mind that network transactions generated by apps can appear as “Android” as it is ultimately the OS that handles those transactions.

Conclusion

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The Verizon LG Intuition, also known as the LG Optimus Vu, is ironically a counter-intuitive phone. Many people don’t “get” the 4:3 screen choice at first. However, those who can go past the initial impression will love the huge screen, and the amazing  comfort that the wide format provides – it is unparalleled. That said, the wide format can often be considered “too wide”, especially for one-hand use.

Because the gaming performance is relatively low, I suspect that this would be a good fit for business folks who need to type often, and who don’t want to pull their glasses out every time they need to check the phone. This is also a clear advantage for large display smartphones, over the smaller 3.5″ or 4″ ones. It is not something that should be underestimated, and if you don’t like to search for your glasses every time you look at a smartphone, you should check these 5″+ phones.

The Verizon LG Intuition is not an obvious choice, and in many ways, I feel like it would have been much more impressive had it arrived in April 2012 instead of September 2012. With the arrival of the Galaxy Note 2, LG will have a tough battle and you should wait for our imminent Galaxy Note 2 review to see which mega-smartphone you can count on for the end of the year. Check this phone in a store, and if you like it, be assured that there is nothing quite like it out there.

I hope that this review gave you a good feel for what using the Verizon LG Intuition (Optimus Vu) is like. If you found it useful, “Like it” and “share it”. For additional questions, feel free to drop a comment, and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about LG, optimus vu and Verizon.

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