The Lenovo Vibe Z is the latest flagship Android smartphone from Lenovo, a 5.5 inch, Full HD device that packs a 13MP rear facing camera, and a solid, high-end Qualcomm processor. It’s the follow up to the Lenovo K900 that first arrived at the end of last year, and demonstrates improved hardware inside and out with a revised sleek design that looks really good. However, for a top-end retail price of around $700, is this the flagship smartphone from Lenovo that we were hoping for?
Lenovo are without doubt one of the biggest and most influential companies in China right now. Recent stats and research show Lenovo has being the third biggest smartphone vendor, lagging only behind Xiaomi and Samsung in terms of units shipped for Q2 of this year. However in terms of a real flagship device that could compete with the Galaxy S5, Xperia Z2 and others, has Lenovo finally cracked it with the Vibe Z?
Before you read on, be sure to check out this video from Nicole where she examines the pros and cons of the Lenovo Vibe Z as she also introduces you to some of the cooler spots in the Taipei area:
Lenovo Vibe Z: Hardware Focus
The Lenovo Vibe Z (also known as the Vibe Z K910) is according its spec list of a similar ilk to many other high-end smartphones on the market right now. It has a fairly large 5.5 inch IPS LCD screen with a 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution, runs on the Snapdragon 800 from Qualcomm, sports a 13MP camera on the rear, 5MP on the front and comes with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. Check out the specifications in full below:
Lenovo Vibe Z (K910) Specifications
- 5.5 inch IPS LCD Display
- 1920 x 1080, Corning Gorlla Glass 3, 401ppi
- Qualcomm Snapdrgaon 800 (2.2GHz)
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB Storage
- 13MP Rear Camera w/Dual LED Flash
- 5MP Front Camera
- 2G/3G/4G (LTE 850/1800/2100)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 149.1 x 77 x 7.9 mm
- 145.2 g
- Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
- Android Kit Kat 4.4
- Silver or Titanium
In purely hardware terms, the Lenovo Vibe Z is more reminiscent of a flagship device from about six to eight months ago. It is not far off in terms of performance – the Snapdragon 800 is not going to win any pissing competitions against the newer 801 which is clocked that bit more aggressively in both CPU and GPU departments, but it remains a very competent processor and I really don’t think that many, if any users will really feel a difference between the 800 and the 801. Perhaps in 3D gaming on a QHD screen, the 801 would have the edge, but on the 1080p display we have here, there really will be very little to differentiate the two.
Other specs include the 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Some of the more recent flagship level devices we have reviewed have opted for 3GB and 32GB or 64GB configurations. In truth 16GB storage seems a little weak especially when you are denied the use of an microSD card for expansion. 2GB of RAM is sufficient on a 1080p device so we shouldn’t complain too much there.
The 3,000 mAh battery is generous enough (the Galaxy S5 makes do with only 2,800mAh for comparison’s sake) and indeed kept Nicole going for a full day traveling around the more scenic areas around Taipei. We are pretty confident that even heavier users will be impressed with the battery life available here, and the LaptopMag battery test we ran revealed a pretty impressive score of nine and a half hours.
Finally, the display on the Lenovo Vibe Z is impressive, but again not bleeding edge. The colors look good, the dark blacks are solid and dark and the viewing angles are also great. All sounds very positive I know, but if this is Lenovo’s newest and greatest, it is still lagging behind the displays we see on the high-end Sony and Samsung devices which use top, top grade AMOLED panels. Likewise it may not stand up to scrutiny against the new devices from China which will compete directly with the Vibe Z. The new Xiaomi Mi4 and the OnePlus One use JDI displays that are some of the best LCD panels we have ever seen. Lenovo is still some way off the true top tier where displays are concerned.
The design and build of the Lenovo Vibe Z is really quite solid. The square, blocky looking design of the previous generation has been replaced by a more rounded and streamlined design that feels better made, and better in the hand. The back cover is made of plastic but manages to convey an non-glossy, textured feel that does improves grip. The sides and buttons are made of a chrome-like material that does well to make you think it is actually a metal alloy, where in fact it is plastic.
The materials used make the Vibe Z somewhat lighter than most 5.5 inch smartphones, weighting around 145 grams. The device is also impressively thin at only 7.9mm and generally speaking, feels somewhat smaller than most 5.5 inch devices we have tried – including the 5.5 inch OnePlus One which is 153mm long compared to the Vibe Z at only 149.1. Lenovo deserve credit for cramming this much screen into such a small device.
The 13MP rear camera on the Vibe Z uses a EXMOR RS Stacked CMOS sensor from Sony, the same as we have sen on the Galaxy S4 and the LG G2. An f1.8 aperture lens means it can capture plenty of light pretty quickly, which works very well in brightly lit outdoor conditions, with HDR also helping to bring out some really vibrant colors and details. HDR, as with many smartphones, does not do so well in low light however.
The major issue we found with the 13MP camera was the really poor HD video shooting. The image stabilization is virtually non existent, the picture quality is thoroughly average and the audio quality is some of the worst we have come across.
The camera UI is easy enough to navigate and offers the usual selection of settings choices etc as well a choice of filters that can applied in real-time, a feature we do enjoy.
The Lenovo Vibe Z uses a heavily customized in-house developed UI that is colorful, reasonably well thought out and highly customizable. One of the more attractive aspects of the themes on offer, is that you can select exactly what element of the theme you want to use; you can take a wallpaper from one theme and mix and match with a lock screen from another. Its all presented in a very graphical way too which gives you lots of control over how your phone looks.
Kind of similar to iOS, the Lenovo UI does not feature an app draw. All of your installed apps are going on the front desktop. There are some neat features that deserve praise too, including the ability to have multi-windows, i.e. open apps in separate windows that can be moved around the screen – good for multi-tasking.
There are issues however, as we found the UI to be quite laggy in places. This is almost unforgivable and not something we can blame on the processor. The Snapdragon 800 is a very capable chip when it comes to graphical transitions, so we have to consider if these themes have in fact been optimized incorrectly. This is an issue that we don’t expect to find on a $700 phone.
Generally speaking, the price tag of the Lenovo Vibe Z is a major issue, simply because the device is not quite of the standard to warrant such a premium. The specs are more like a flagship phone from six months ago, the competition have moved on in terms of screens, cameras, and processors. And the competition are frankly doing it better. Devices like the OnePlus One and the Xiaomi Mi3 and Mi4 are way ahead in terms of hardware and software, and they are also approximately half the price.
The overall design from Lenovo looks good. It’s light. It’s thin and it looks attractive enough without stealing the beauty parade. But there are too many issues; a laggy UI, poor HD video shooting and more. All of this makes the Lenovo Vibe Z a tough smartphone to recommend – certainly at this price point.