Lenovo Phab2 Pro Review
In June 2016, Lenovo unveiled the first smartphone to feature Google’s Project Tango technology, the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. Now that it’s finally in the Philippines (launched in PH last November 2016), let’s take this AR-powered smartphone for a full review to see what it can actually offer its users.
The Phab2 Pro, since it’s mainly for multimedia use, carries a sizable footprint for better viewing of content. Dominating the front of the device is a large 6.4-inch IPS display which is then mounted with a 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass. Placed above the display are the earpiece, sensors, and the 8MP front camera.
Down below are three capacitive buttons for navigation. They are back-lit although very faint — just enough to see them when navigating the phone in total darkness.
Flip it on its back and you’ll see its metal chassis. Our device came in Gunmetal Gray color but there’s also Champagne Gold if you prefer a classier look. The model we have has a matte finish which repels fingerprint effectively. Also seen here are thick antenna bands at the top and bottom which continue to the sides of the chassis.
It’s a bit crowded at the back since this is where all the tools for its Tango feature are placed. There’s the 16MP main shooter at the very top with two more sensors above the fingerprint scanner. An infrared sensor is here to measure the distance from objects while a wide-angle camera sporting a fish eye lens comes with a motion tracker for Google’s Tango.
To the right are the volume and power/lock buttons. They are easy to reach and the power button has a textured surface making it easy to lock and unlock the device even without looking.
Situated on the left side is the SIM tray in a hybrid setup, meaning you can place a microSD card onto its SIM 2 slot.
Up top, we have the headset port on the left-most side, while down at the bottom are the microUSB port, two sets of drilled holes for the microphone and speaker, and a pair of screws. We also see here that the Phab2 Pro has a curved back which slightly makes it easier to hold.
Standing at almost 180mm tall and weighing 259 grams, the Phab2 Pro is simply a huge device that’s generally meant for two-handed operation. It’s nice to hold, though, as its aluminum unibody and display with curved edges convey a premium quality feel.
At first, the placement of the fingerprint scanner right smack in the middle of the back panel felt awkward as it’s not where you’d naturally place your index finger (we kept touching the wide-angle camera instead). Although you’d learn to adjust later on which will force you to hold the device lower.
Display and Multimedia
The oversized smartphone is carrying a 6.4-inch display with QHD (2560 x 1440 resolution) panel. This brings its pixel density to 459ppi. The images it produces are vibrant in colors and doesn’t fall short on details. It also has impressive contrast which is quite enjoyable when watching video content or playing games.
Speaking of content consumption, its sizable screen definitely helps a lot to give you a more immersive experience whether you’re just watching a video or using its augmented reality apps.
We used the device to play games under direct sunlight and we were still able to distinguish and see the images even with glare present. Viewing angles are also commendable.
As for the sound it delivers, Lenovo once again incorporated Dolby’s Atmos sound technology to one of its handsets. The Phab2 Pro enjoys its benefits like surround sound, especially when wearing a pair of headphones. We enjoyed this implementation while playing action and racing games like Need for Speed.
Speaking of dedicated headphones, the Phab2 Pro ships with complementary JBL in-ear buds. It is a decent-sounding audio device but has that muffled sound that I personally am not a big fan of. Bass is decent, mids could use a little more power, while highs are left wanting. Basically, it’s a mediocre performer but is still a lot better than watching or playing games using its loudspeaker that only fires on one side (in landscape orientation).
Do take note that only the right grille is where the sound comes from since the other side houses the microphone. The loudspeaker can produce volume reaching 78dB which is enough to fill a small, quiet room.
OS, UI, and Apps
The Phab2 Pro comes with Android’s 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box. There’s bloatware present although they’re not a handful and are mostly disposable. UI is fast and maintains little to no hints of lag.
Embedded inside is 64GB of storage for apps and media files. If you need more space, there’s always the microSD slot that supports up to 256GB. Again, expanding your memory will not cost you a second SIM like with hybrid setup since it has its own dedicated tray.
The main shooter is handled by a 16-megapixel sensor equipped with phase-detection autofocus (PDAF) for snappier focusing and accompanied by a dual-tone LED flash. Images taken outdoors with sufficient light appear decent with evenly saturated colors but it has that slightly faded output noticeable mostly in dark areas. Although, HDR mode fixes it based on our experience.
Low light performance got us mixed feelings since digital noise is kept down to a minimum but you have a smudgy texture on the details upon closer inspection. I personally like this effect for shooting indoors with a little light source, but using it outside at night doesn’t yield very impressive photos.
Meanwhile, up front, an 8-megapixel camera takes care of selfies and it does a pretty good job doing so. It shows a good balance between light and dark areas while maintaining clarity. Below are some sample shots:
Google’s Project Tango
The Lenovo Phab2 Pro’s main selling point is the Tango technology developed in partnership with Google. The said tech enables augmented reality (AR) gaming and utilities which allow you to see objects with information/graphics overlaid on it. Using its depth- and motion-tracking sensors, the Tango can detect and map out the area you’re in so it’s actually pretty cool in concept.
One of the more useful software that utilizes Project Tango is the Measurement app. It basically uses the phone’s depth-sensing and object-tracking sensors to measure the distance between two points — like for a wall or flooring. Other utilities you can download include an interior designing app which lets you pick home essentials and place them inside your room or anywhere in the house to see how they would look. There’s a wide selection of items including sofas, tables, lamps, beds and more.
Of course, there are also apps that are simply for fun. For example, the Holo app lets you insert different personalities over real world images. My personal favorites are the talking gorillas, zombies, and Donald Trump with his famous lines. It’s fun to play around with since you can put in a lot of these things and individually program what each of them would do. You can also create your own Jurassic Park by conjuring different dinosaurs using the Dinos Among Us app, among other things. It’s also worthy to mention that its 3D mapping prowess is almost spot on. As you can see on the sample AR test below, the cute puppy can jump from the pool table down to the floor and climb back up once commanded. This simply means that the sensors effectively recognized the existence of the table and was able to translate that as platforms for the computer-generated canine.
As of now, there are different apps that support Google’s Tango but still not that many. Although we’re sure the library will still expand in the future.
Being the first smartphone to sport this technology is actually impressive, and you would definitely wow a lot of people if you show it off — especially to others who are still not familiar with it. Thing is, we can’t help but look at it as a simple novelty feature at this time since, as we have mentioned, it’s mostly for fun and isn’t an integral feature to have to get you through a day.
Also, it drains the battery like crazy once you spend an extended amount of time using AR and all of its sensors.
Running the show is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor and, although it isn’t the top of the line CPU from the company, is fairly enough to handle processes for the Tango and the smartphone in general. There were slight lags when switching between multiple apps and we experienced a couple of crashes at times, but nothing too severe. The processor is then accompanied by an Adreno 510 GPU and 4GB of RAM which proved to be capable of handling high-res graphics and multi-tasking. Fingerprint scanning is swift and responsive and we had no problems using it for unlocking the device.
We also ran our usual benchmark tests where it scored 82K for AnTuTu. Below are the rest of the test results:
- AnTuTu: 82,122
- Quadrant Standard: 39,613
- Vellamo: 3,016 (Multicore), 2,544 (Metal), 4,700 (Browser)
- 3DMark (SlingShot Extreme): 880
- PCMark (Work 2.0): 4,439
We’re all for packing capable internals but we’re glad that Lenovo settled for a Snapdragon 652 since we experienced it to be enough for the handset and should keep the costs down unlike if they went for a more powerful CPU.
Connectivity and Call Quality
The Phab2 Pro has the basics of connectivity covered including Wi-Fi, LTE, Bluetooth, and GPS. It’s already on dual-band Wi-Fi which supports simultaneous connections on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Meanwhile, it’s also capable of LTE connectivity on bands 1, 3, and 7 (FDD) and bands 38, 39, 40, and 41 (TDD). We used its data connection while outdoors and we got decent speeds (in PH standards) in most locations around the Metro. Location services are also spot on using its GPS with aGPS and GLONASS. It doesn’t support NFC, though, meaning it could not be used for instant pairing or as a payment method.
As for call quality, audio from the other end of the line is received well and our voice was also clearly heard thanks to its noise-canceling microphones.
Powering this huge device is a 4050mAh Lithium Polymer battery which is unremovable. We conducted our usual battery benchmarking test where it yielded 6 hours and 37 minutes using the PCMark app. That’s slightly below the average life of smartphones but it’s also understandable since it has a large 6.4-inch display with QHD resolution. As for our video loop test, we ran a Full HD video with a fully-charged battery on Airplane Mode with 50% brightness and volume. The result is 10 hours and 29 minutes of continuous playback before we needed to charge it again.
Speaking of charging, it was able to go from 0 – 87% in exactly one hour thanks to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0.
The Lenovo Phab2 Pro has ticked a number of items in our checklist. It has a premium feel due to its metal body, has a sharp and vibrant display for watching videos and playing games, comes with Dolby Atmos that works best with a pair of headphones, features Project Tango which is always fun to play around with, a capable Snapdragon 652 CPU, and its fast-charging capabilities.
Although, it’s got us mixed feelings with its camera’s low-light performance. The weird placement of the fingerprint scanner also takes some time to get used to and its lack of NFC might turn some users off. The huge form factor won’t let you use it with one hand unless you’re just scrolling through your news feed. The sheer size of the device also received a couple of negative reactions when other people saw it during our time.
Still, with a price tag of Php24,999, it’s actually not a bad phone for what it is and what it offers. In the end, you just have to ask yourself if having AR on a phone will be of good use to your everyday activities.
Lenovo Phab2 Pro specs:
6.4-inch QHD IPS display, 459ppii
1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core CPU
Adreno 510 GPU
4GB LPDDR4 RAM
64GB internal storage
Up to 256GB via microSD card
16MP rear PDAF camera, LED flash
8MP front-facing camera
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS with aGPS, GLONASS
Dolby Atmos audio
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
4,050mAh Li-Po battery
179.8 x 88.6 x 10.7 mm
What we liked about it:
- Premium feel
- Sharp and vibrant display
- Dobly Atmos
- Dedicated microSD slot up to 256GB
- Low digital noise when shooting in dim places
- Fun to use Project Tango
- Capable Snapdragon 652 CPU
- Charges quickly
What we didn’t like:
- Positioning of fingerprint scanner takes a while to get used to
- Smudgy details in dim places
- No NFC