Technophile

Lenovo enters the flagship killing business

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 02, 2016

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The Vibe X3 is the Chinese company’s first attempt at a flagship-class device. And it ticks most of the right boxes



After a decade of frantic progress, innovation in the smartphone industry has slowed down massively over the last few years. As a result, the difference between the best smartphone and the rest has narrowed considerably and several upstart Chinese manufacturers have taken advantage of this to make significant inroads into the market shares of established players. Lenovo has adopted a unique strategy compared to the others. Instead of attempting to go after the flagship market with eyeball-grabbing devices like Xiaomi and OnePlus did, the company concentrated on packing the budget segment with great value. Today, while it has little street-cred among the specs-obsessed enthusiasts, Lenovo has built a base of loyal Indian customers for its no-nonsense devices that offer good build and great battery life.

Easily the best-specced device the company has put out till date, the Vibe X3 is Lenovo’s first attempt at mixing it with the big boys. It doesn’t quite reach the level of Samsung or Apple’s flagships, but could very easily give the devices one rung below them – the so-called flagship killers – a run for their money.

Design

Nothing particularly stands out about the design of the Vibe X3 but there isn’t much wrong with it either. It follows the now well-established tradition set by many rectangular Android slabs. The 5.5-inch Full HD display has a pixel density in excess of 400 ppi and extremely thin bezels. The display is flanked above and below by Dolby Atmos-equipped stereo speakers. Apart from the bezel and the speaker area, Gorilla Glass encompasses most of the X3’s surface area, protecting not just the display panel, but also the front camera, notification light and capacitive navigation buttons.

The aluminium frame is neatly chamfered at the edges while the rear cover is a smooth plastic that doesn’t offer great grip. In keeping with the current trends, the X3 attempts to conceal its true girth by employing a slight curve on the rear cover. So its slim appearance from a side angle conceals the 9.3 mm thickness in the centre. The camera and the fingerprint sensor are located on a slightly elevated platform on the rear. The one really unique hardware element that this handset can boast of is an Infrared port – a feature that has largely gone the way of the dodo lately.

Specs and performance

The Vibe X3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset equipped with six Cortex processor cores (four A53s and two A57s), Adreno 418 graphics and 3 GB of RAM. This is the same combination of hardware that the BlackBerry Priv runs on – at roughly a third of the price and devoid of the heating issues. Performance on the X3 is more than adequate, ensuring a fast and fluid multitasking and gaming experience. 32 GB of onboard storage space means that a microSD card becomes unnecessary for most users.

The display, which according to Lenovo, can reproduce 100 per cent NTSC colour gamut, is vibrant and accurate. Combined with the stereo speakers, which have enough power to fill a standard-sized room, the X3 makes for an excellent multimedia consumption device.

Despite the small contact area on offer, the fingerprint sensor is fairly precise and fast. True to Lenovo tradition, this handset too sports a large battery. The X3’s 3,500 mAh unit proved more than adequate for a day’s worth of heavy usage – the standard measure of smartphone uptime. It typically ended a full day’s usage – which included a couple hours of music playback, an hour of gaming and constant web surfing and texting with 4G always on – with between 10 and 15 per cent juice left.

Camera

The 21-megapixel rear camera on the X3 is equipped with a flash unit, phase-detection auto focus and an f/2.0 aperture. While this may sound very impressive, real world performance is roughly on par with other cameras in this price range – which is only marginally better than adequate. Shots taken in brightly lit conditions were reasonably good, but software correction appeared to be slightly on the aggressive side – smoothing out details it had no business touching. Low light performance is markedly worse, but that is to be expected. 4k video recording is also possible, although it isn’t enabled by default. The 8 MP front camera will not disappoint selfie-lovers.

Lenovo’s camera software isn’t the best available, but casual users might find its simplicity attractive. While the default shooting mode will attempt to smother your input and deliver its own version of an acceptable image, the Pro mode puts a few more useful features such as ISO, shutter speed and white balance control within easy reach, making it possible to customise your composition.

Software

Lenovo’s Vibe UI – as seen on the X3 – is a lot closer to stock Android than most of its custom cousins. Apart from additional quick settings, themes, permission controls and a few other minor tweaks, it doesn’t differ from standard Lollipop by much. Some of these tweaks, such as the ability to quickly click a picture by double clicking the volume button or the built-in call recorder, might seem innocuous, but make a great deal of sense.

There are a whole lot of additional third-party apps, but thankfully, almost all of them can be uninstalled and the few that can’t – such as the Peel Smart Remote app, which can use the built-in IR to control your TV – are actually quite useful. Lenovo has also added a feature called Secure Zones, which is akin to multiple user accounts that separate data from the apps that access them.

Bottomline

The Vibe X3 may be the first Lenovo-branded premium smartphone, but its subsidiary, Motorola, has been building devices of its ilk for years. The Chinese manufacturer has clearly drawn on the experience and expertise of its American unit and the result is a home run on the first pitch. The X3 has great build quality, performance that is only a notch below the top-of-the-line devices and killer battery life. In addition to its excellent display and speaker combo, it also has a fingerprint sensor and a reasonably good camera. Throw in a pricetag that somehow manages to undercut its closest rivals by a few thousand rupees and it’s impossible not to recommend this device.

Price: ₹19,999

Love: Good specs, battery life

Hate: Bloatware

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Published on March 02, 2016
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