Lenovo is probably not what comes to mind when you're shopping for a new android phone. In a market that is almost synonymous with Samsung, there is little room left for what defines a good android phone. Lenovo smartphones have had presence in the Chinese market and are now making their way into this region.
Lenovo is out with six different models (all android), and I was handed their flagship phone – the K900 – for review.
When you buy the K900, you'll get a big, black box with "K900" cut out. With a 5.5" screen, the K900 goes with the phablet category along with the Samsung Galaxy Note II. From the size alone, this isn't a phone for everyone. That's just the screen though; the actual phone size is roughly 6"x3". To put it in perspective, it can cover three rows of icons on the iPad 3 and stretch the width of the visible iPad screen. It's a big phone.
That said, it is a light phone. Very light for its size, in fact. And ridiculously slim too: at 6.9mm it is even thinner than the iPhone 5. The phone feels posh to hold, with great finishing and metal casing industrial design. Nothing about this phone feels cheap.
As mentioned, the screen is 5.5" making this a phablet and not a phone. The screen is just gorgeous to look at, with 1080 x 1920 pixels, at around 400ppi. The colours are natural, with nice deep blacks and natural-looking whites. The text is crisp, and photos are rendered faithfully.
Like many other manufacturers, Lenovo implemented its own UI on top of android. When many manufacturers are opting for a simpler design, Lenovo went the opposite direction with an industrial look. The interface has cues from a manufacturing plant, with plenty of grey, steel gradients, and even bolts. It looks nice in some places but in others it is distracting and difficult to adjust to. SMS in particular is a miss, with small fonts and clumsy looking UI. The phonebook and dialler are better looking, though the contact-adding screen leaves a lot to be desired for.
The home screen itself eventually stutters in typical android fashion and moving icons around and into folders is rather cumbersome. Thankfully all of those can be easily remedied with different launchers or replacement apps.
What I really liked though is the photo album. It displayed the images in a beautiful mosaic sorted by day. You can switch on different modes to view the albums, like the default folder view for example. The UI is slick and modern – different than the industrial look of the rest of the phone.
What is neat though is that the calendar and keyboard are from stock android, which is great but also adds inconsistency in the design, with some default apps having a Lenovo UI and others defaulting to stock android. Other aspects of the launcher show some inconsistency in fonts. Again, as with android, this is all customisable and most users will be installing all sorts of different configurations, but out of the box there is inconsistency.
Intel is powering the K900, making it more of a PC-phablet than any other phablet. AnTuTu results below show how it ranks against the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, and it fares better in some aspects. In real usage, though, there is little difference. I had to do away with the default launcher in order to properly use the phone. Launcher aside, everything was blazing fast. I could switch between applications quickly and all apps performed rather well, with only little stuttering here and there which is endemic to android.
Gaming performance leaves a lot to be desired for. While the benchmarks were great, in reality some games show lag. Comparing a couple of games running on the K900 and the Galaxy S4 you’ll also notice some effects, lighting, or reflections not being rendered.
Battery performance is very good. During the first couple of days it lasted 8 hours – but that is normal when a lot of time is spent in installing and configuring the phone to one’s liking. The rest of the week with my normal usage it took 12-16 hours for the juice to run low. Quite a far cry from the Lumia 920 I was carrying before. There is some battery tech wizardry that allows for a fast charge to 80% then slowing down until it trickles its way to 100%. Some customisable presets to instruct the phone on what to do when the battery becomes low are also available. While there are many power-saving apps on the Play Store, Lenovo decided to create their own embedded power management system and it works very well.
There are 13MP in this camera, and they're good megapixels, but not the best. You'll get plenty of detail depending on the situation, with some odd lights and low light taking a hit on the camera. The night shots are decent but it's not a Lumia. HDR looks ok but also introduces noise into the image.
There are plenty of bells and whistles packed into the camera. Aside from your usual settings (night mode, HDR, panorama, macro, etc) and white balance and ISO, you get some nifty filters. Lots of them. You have your usual instagram-like filters and you can also add some special effects like fisheye and a quite powerful tilt-shift effect.
The front camera has a nice wide-angle lens which reminded me of the HTC 8X. I still fail to see why this isn't a default for all phones; it does make a huge difference when you want to send a pic to your friends or family living abroad of where you are at the moment. Macro shots are fine, and the autofocus is usually very good as long as you’re within the camera’s focus limits.
The K900 is Lenovo’s flagship phone in their endeavour to enter some ME markets. The phone has a beautiful and industrial look and feel to it, making it stand above the rest of the crowd in its category. The UI needs more refinement in some areas out of the box, but are easily remedied with replacement apps. Packing in a better, higher resolution screen and a better camera than the Galaxy Note II, and if plastic isn’t for you and you’re in no need of plenty of bloatware or other tech features that the Note offers, then the Lenovo K900 is a great phablet..