Lenovo's fortunes and portfolio have been gathering pace especially since the release of the K3 Note, and the company has even declared that they do not plan on letting Lenovo branded phones play a second fiddle to their Motorola siblings.
With the release of Lenovo's Vibe X3, the company seems to be coming good on that promise, says Himanshu Juneja.
A good amount of thought has gone into the designing of the Vibe X3, but people should be forgiven if they get visions of the celebrated Moto X Style, as the inspiration is quite evident.
Surely, piggybacking somewhat on their own existing product is not against the rules.
So does the Vibe X3 comes with enough capabilities to pack a punch of its own, or will it be another case of being nearly there? Let us find out with a closer look.
Weighing a decent 172 gms, the Lenovo Vibe X3 is a good amalgamation of metal and plastic, and the combination gives a good overall premium feel. The chamfered edges gives it a nice aesthetic touch to boot, and along with the curved back, users should be able to easily wrap their hands on the device.
Lenovo did well to clad the entire front portion with Gorilla Glass 3 to provide protection for the notification LED, front camera and the sensor as well.
The rear is where things get a bit tricky. A textured back panel would have been good, as the present slippery nature of the back hampers in establishing a firm grip straightaway. Thankfully, there is clear plastic case being provided with the purchase to mitigate this effect.
Lenovo could have avoided the raised camera module which maybe of concerns for some as it will make the phone wobble when placed on a flat surface. Another blunder is the non-backlit nature of the soft keys. Lenovo could have gone for the onscreen buttons if the budget was getting too tight.
Lenovo would be banking heavily on the stereo speakers and the fingerprint scanner at the rear panel surely boosts the phone's credentials further.
As for the other button placement, the right edge carries the power button and the volume rocker. The left edge sports the dual SIM card slot, and the base is where one finds the microUSB port. The 3.5 mm audio jack is placed at the top and a pleasant feeling to find the IR blaster there as well.
Even after being billed as resistant to fingerprints, there were plenty of cleaning and wiping required. But the built quality leaves less room for complaints. It is indeed a well crafted phone.
Lenovo has brought in a 5.5-inch full HD display. With a resolution of 1080 x 1920p, the 401 ppi pixel density ensures that there is no pixellations of the text or of any other content. There was a slight bluish hue to the display, but not heavy enough to disrupt the mood.
Contrast levels are very impressive, the colours vibrant, and the display is bright enough to be carried outdoors for reading pleasures. The option to change the colour balance is a good touch, allowing users to define the display with their own choice.
Lenovo planned this handset to be a strong mid ranger, and this was clear with the Qualcomm Snapdragon's 808 chipset inside. The fact that even Nexus 5X carries the same hardware should excite a good many owners.
The CPU consists of a Quadcore Cortex A53 (clocked at 1.2 GHz) and a Dualcore Cortex A57 (clocked at 1.8 GHz), making this a hexacore device.
There is the Adreno 418 for handling the graphics, while 3 GB of RAM rounds off a powerful mid range configuration. There is ample onboard storage in the form of 32 GB, and users can expand this via microSD card by upto 128 GB, but that will mean sacrificing the secondary SIM card slot.
Providing the extra hardware punch
Lenovo seems to be bundling something extra with the hardware capabilities here. The microUSB port on the Vibe X3 also enables the users to use the phone as a power bank.
Also, the audio output via the headphone jack is being claimed to be lossless and studio grade. The presence of Wolfson 8281 processor with ESS Sabre 9018C2M DAC with TI-OPA1612 OP Amps makes the Vibe X3 stand out in the given category.
The Vibe X3 is also compatible with TheaterMax headset, (sold separately for Rs 1,299). The Virtual reality headset is cheaper than competitors, and this provides another big advantage with the X3.
The phone is a 4G enabled device, and carries the usual set of connectivity options like WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth (ver 4.1) and even NFC. There is also the GPS navigational assistance option onboard.
Although advantageous, the choice of a hybrid SIM slot provides is generally not something very endearing to the customers. The harsh choice between extra storage memory or another SIM card should not be thrusted and a dedicated slot for both would have been much preferred.
As expected, the Vibe UI comes running on the Android Lollipop (5.1) as its base OS. What is good to see is that Lenovo has heard what the users have been demanding and the result is a cleaner interface here.
The Vibe UI skin resembles a more stock Android OS, complete with its app drawer. Lenovo also has given good options to customise as well, starting with the option to switch over to a non-app drawer version. There is also the theming app, but disappointingly, it is still not carrying enough exciting options at present.
Users will find useful options like taking snaps instantly from sleep mode by a mere double tap on volume button. Similarly, a feature to wake the phone by double tapping the screen takes care of preserving the power button as well as avoiding to handle the big phone everytime. Then there is the option to lock the screen by flipping the phone over. These are all very useful add ons which will come in handy.
Speaking of handy features, Vibe X3 also comes with plethora of pre-installed software, and many are useful. Lenovo's own SHAREit, SYNCit finds place. There are others as well, and WPS OFFICE, McAfee Security Route 66 Navigation, and Truecaller are worth mentioning. There is also the Facebook app which should be uninstalled to free up resources as the app is a known hog. Users can uninstall most of these already installed applications.
The users can draw a C shape on the screen to bring the OS down to one handed version for ease of use. The icons however are still very tacky and way too colourful. Subtleness, may be, is not Lenovo's strong point.
In general, the leaner UI is a welcome step, and hopefully Lenovo will keep improving the skin further.
Coming with a 21 megapixel camera at the rear, and an 8 MP front facing camera, the handset seems to be equipped nicely.
The photographs taken with good ambient light conditions came out pretty impressive, and packed good amount of details. The colours looked to be on the softer side though. Missing OIS with the lag only highlighted how badly this feature needs to be a standard. There are few modes available for the user, like HDR, Artistic HDR, Art Nightscape, and the Blur background mode. There is a pro mode as well, but it is not as populated as a prosumer would have liked. Looked more like a token gesture than a committed effort.
The low light photography is just about decent, good enough to be shared around on social media websites. The presence of noise does not go unnoticed and zooming in only makes things worse.
The camera is also capable of shooting 4K videos, and the results ranged from good to very good depending upon the light conditions. This was impressive stuff from the Vibe X3.
The front facing camera does a nice job and clicks decent selfies.
The phone performs as per expectations, be it the usual performance during launching or exiting of the apps, or going through the HD media files. However, much against the tide, there was occasional stuttering experienced while browsing the phone's content with media files running in the background. The camera too depicts lag while saving the photographs.
These should have been addressed, as the phone surely has the firepower to deliver all-round smooth experience. The fingerprint scanner too takes its time to unlock the device. It is also not error free as the user needs to land their digits in proper fashion for a glitch free unlocking. Expected better here from Lenovo, and hopefully Marshmallow's native support will enhance the performance rate.
The stereo sound speaker system is a good thing to have, but to experience the full effect of Dolby Atmos, one needs to plug in a good set of headphones. Otherwise the stereo speakers are loud without providing too much depth. The phone gets a bit hot with strenuous tasks, but not to alarming levels.
A 3500 mAh battery pack is massive, and Lenovo seems to have provided this with a reason, as a moderate to heavy usage pattern will see the phone needing a recharge at the end of the day. Seems like powering up all that hardware surely is no menial task.
With a price tag of Rs 19,999, Lenovo has tried to offer a handset with oodles of power. The lure of Nexus 5X-like hardware, dual speakers, capable battery life and of course premium built quality will surely have interests piqued. This one surely has what it takes to be crowned as the mid segment's leader. The music capabilities are in a different league altogether.
But improper execution on software side will see the balance shift towards Moto X Play, Vibe X3's main competitor. The X Play provides exactly what Vibe X3 should have in the form of a clean and smooth OS. Its price being slightly less than that of Vibe X3 may just pull customers into its camp, especially those who are not high on hardware or music playing prowess.