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May 30, 2014

Lenovo Vibe Z Review

Lenovo ventured into the smartphone market with numerous models ranging from low-end to flagship. Here we have the Lenovo Vibe Z K910L, Lenovo’s Snapdragon 800 offering for consumers with top of the line specification that competes with the likes of LG G2 and Nexus 5. Read our full review to find out if this smartphone from a Chinese computer manufacturer can live up to its promise.

The Vibe Z succeeded the Lenovo K900 as the company’s flagship smartphone this year. Lenovo shifted from Intel to Qualcomm in order to provide a device that supports LTE.

Design and Construction

Starting with its physical aspects, the Lenovo Vibe Z is a fairly big phone due to its 5.5″ display. It is made out of polycarbonate, so it is light weight. Though the back panel of the device sports a textured finish with silver color coating.

Going around the device, the left side sports the volume rocker and nothing else. To the right we have only have a micro-SIM slot. The bottom of the device reveals the micro-USB port while on top, we have the power/lock button and the 3.5mm headset jack.

The whole front is dominated by the Full HD display topped with Gorilla Glass 3 that ensures scratch protection and smooth swiping. The earpiece hides the LED notification light when off while the primary microphone is latched just at the chin.

While the looks of the Vibe Z won’t impress anyone to the extreme, its design significantly blends to its surrounding. For instance, when you lay it flat on a office desk, the Vibe Z looks professional and not a toy phone.

OS, Apps and UI

The Lenovo Vibe Z runs Android 4.3 “Jellybean” with Lenovo’s skin on top. There is no virtual navigation buttons here unlike with the current crop of Android smartphones. Navigation relies on touch and with the three capacitive buttons below.

Because of Lenovo’s skin, the app drawer is nowhere to be found. You have all your apps displayed on your homescreen which reminds us of Huawei’s Emotion UI and Apple’s iOS. Honestly, it takes sometime to get used too especially if you are accustomed with Vanilla Android or any similar skin. We find it somewhat tedious to have all your apps, either you frequently use it or not, all in one place. Good thing you can create a folder and hide all the apps you don’t want to see everyday.

Overall, the skin is buttery-smooth and does not cause any slow down unlike TouchWiz. It also worth noticing that Lenovo included their proprietary apps for syncing, sharing, security, power management and data transfer assistance. They are not exactly bloatwares because you’ll probably download similar apps too, so it’s nice to see it pre-installed and optimized.

Since this is a 5.5″ smartphone, our tiny hands can’t compensate for one-handed us. Then we found out this nifty feature in the dialer that automatically shifts the numpad towards where the phone is leaning. It’s easy and it works! We’re pretty sure Lenovo’s customization does not end there so be sure to dig in and look for other useful features when you’re getting the Vibe Z.

Camera and Multimedia

Equipped with a 13MP shooter and 5MP selfie camera, Vibe Z is not ashame to show its prowess in terms of imaging. There is also a dual-LED flash to help with low-light situations, but the camera itself should already be a good performer because of its f/1.8 aperture. But, this is all on paper. So we tested if it really is a great camera phone.

Based on almost two-weeks of usage, we find the camera of the Vibe Z to perform quite decent though we’ve seen better expecially in this price range. In good lighting, the 13MP rear-camera captures good amount of details with decent colors. Things change drastically when we shoot in the dark. Output becomes smudgy and looks like an oil painting. I guess the f/1.8 didn’t help, or the post-processing algorithm is to blame here.

The 5MP selfie camera is different though compared to other front-facing cameras of other smartphones. It’s bright and sharp when in good light. It certainly is a good front camera for your video calls and vanity.

Check out this samples:

The video recording capabilities of Vibe Z is disappointing. Even at 1080p, details from the clip seems smudgy and the microphone doesn’t capture audio well enough. Color seems to be muted as well. Check out the sample for yourself.

Shifting to the video playback, the Vibe Z’s generous 5.5″ display is perfect for multimedia content. The included in-ear headset is of nice quality and the phone’s loudspeaker is pretty descent but not that loud.

Full HD playback is not a problem here as well so throw in your 1080p movies for an instant mobile cinema.

Performance and Benchmark

With a Snapdragon 800, Adreno 330 and 2GB of RAM, this smartphone is a powerhouse. Everything is snappy and responsive. Multitasking is a breeze and graphic intensive games can be played in high setting. So enjoy all the water splash, lens flare and smooth reflections.

Here are the benchmark scores of the Lenovo Vibe Z:
Antutu 4 – 35,082
Quadrant Standard – 20,663
Vellamo HTML5 – 2912
Vellamo Metal – 1142
Nenamark 2 – 60fps

Call Quality, Connectivity and Battery Life

Expect clear and quality calls on either end when using the Vibe Z. The dedicated noise-cancelling microphone does it job well. The earpiece is also fairly loud even in noisy environments like schools and public places. There is also LTE on board with decent speeds that is network dependent. NFC is not present on the other hand which is a bummer because latest accessories are NFC-capable for easy usage.

With a 3,000mAh battery, we were able to use the Vibe Z for a whole day with little to spare overnight. That is with data connection on and casual calls and text. Having a full day battery is already a good sign of a great road companion.

Conclusion

As we come to an end, we can confidently say that the Lenovo Vibe Z is a beast of a smartphone that can outperform some of high-end Android smartphones. With a suggested retail price of Php24,999 (street price could be lower), it’s not as attractive as it should be but these specs come with a price.

Lenovo Vibe Z K910L specification:
5.5″ Full HD IPS LCD display @ 1080×1920 pixels, 401 ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
Adreno 330
2GB RAM
16GB internal memory
LTE Cat4
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP support
13MP f/1.8 rear camera w/ dual-LED flash
1080p video recording @ 30fps
5MP AF front-facing camera
GPS w/ A-GPS
USB OTG support
Li-Po 3,000mAh battery
Android 4.3 Jellybean
149 x 77 x 7.9 mm (dimensions)
147 grams (weight)

What we liked about it:
* Beautiful Full HD display
* Great front-camera
* Long battery life
* Performs very well
* Slim and thin profile
* LTE capable

What we did not like:
* Average low-light performance
* Still in Jellybean universe
* No NFC
* Pricing is a bit steep for its category


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This article was contributed by Daniel Morial, a film junkie and technology enthusiast. He wish to have his own cinema soon, so watch out for it. You can Follow him on Twitter @PlyrDan10.

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