Lenovo’s recent rise to smartphone super power status has been attributed to its ability to churn out solidly designed devices that do not cost the earth (the p780 being a prime example). However, the company has also been making its presence felt in the higher price segments – the Intel-powered K900 got very good reviews last year, the stylish Vibe X turned heads with its slim design, and now comes the Vibe Z, perhaps the first Lenovo phone that can lay claim to being as good as any from a pretty formidable competition.
The Vibe looks
In terms of appearance, the Vibe Z borrows more from the sleek and curvy Vibe X than the metallic and sharp edged K900. The front is really all about the 5.5-inch full HD display, below which you see the three touch buttons that are the trademark of most Lenovo devices – for home, back and a button that lets you tweak themes and setting on the homescreen and otherwise acts as a menu button within apps. Rather strangely, Lenovo has opted to park its power/display on/off button on the top of the phone, making it a bit difficult. Yes, you can also turn on the display by touching the volume rocker which is more conveniently located on the left side of the phone, but switching off the display still necessitates using that top button, which is a bit of a pain.
Unlike the K900 which was all-metal, the Vibe Z has metal on the edges but a plastic back. Mind you, it is not your run of the mill cheap plastic but one which is textured and gives off a metallic shine. At 7.9 mm thin, the Vibe Z is impressively thin and at 147 grams, light for its size. It is unlikely to turn heads the way the K900 did, but it definitely is a decent looker, and thanks to its curved edges, is a lot more comfortable to hold and keep in one’s pockets.
It’s got the hardware…
What, however, marks the Z out as special is the hardware it packs in. We have already referred to the full HD 5.5 inch display, which is made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Well, lying under it is a 2.2 GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor backed up with 2 GB RAM. There is 16 GB of on-board storage and the twin cameras come with a megapixel count of 13.0 (for the rear one) and 5.0 (for the front-facing one). Round that off with connectivity options that include LTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS, and you have a device with a spec sheet that is capable of slugging it out with the likes of the best Android can offer at the time of writing. We would have liked to have a memory card expansion slot in the device, but that is a frailty that Android’s own Nexus flagship shares with the Vibe Z.
…and some nifty software
Lenovo has never been shy of experimenting with the interface on its devices, and the Vibe Z follows the footsteps of the Vibe X in having a no app drawer UI in which all your apps are spread across multiple homescreens. Yes, it needs a bit of fiddling to get used to – you have to lay out the apps the way you want them – but barring a matter of familiarity, we found no problems with it. It certainly did not seem to lag and stutter as the interfaces on some worthies did.
In terms of OS, the Vibe Z runs Android 4.3, and Lenovo has added some of its own apps to the device including the supremely handy SHAREit that lets you transfer just about anything from one Android device to another (yes, including apps!), SYNCit (which lets you back up and restore contacts), SECUREit anti-virus and a Power Manager that has the happy knack of eking out a few extra hours on the device when used prudently (and we did not half need it on the battery guzzling Vibe X).
Hey, it performs!
Of course, all the hardware and software of the world are just words on a spec sheet if they do not perform well in sync. And yes, although it does take some time to get used to the app drawer-less interface of the Vibe Z, we found the phone living up to its hardware and software muscle. I am not a huge fan of benchmark tests but the phone ran games like ShadowGun, Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 8 without a hitch, Web browsing and watching videos on the large display were a joy, and praise be, unlike its mediocre counterpart on the Vibe X, the 13.0-megapixel camera on the Vibe Z actually is a very competitive performer. No, it won’t give iPhone 5s or Lumia 1020 owners sleepless nights, but in good light conditions, it can pretty much hold its own against most competitors. Things get iffy when the lights dip in intensity, but Lenovo does compensate by including a number of shooting options in its camera app, including a rather mushy picture in picture which lets you take pictures from both cameras simultaneously. As in the K900 and the Vibe X, there are a number of editing options built into the camera app itself. Selfie lovers will also love the 5.0-megapixel front facing camera, which is a steady performer.
The sound, alas, is a bit of an Achilles Heel – we liked it over the headsets but in loudspeaker mode, it was not really in the recent high-end HTC-Lumia category in terms of both volume and clarity. The battery saw off a day of hectic use – with Facebook, Twitter and mail buzzing merrily, and a bit of photography and a couple of hours of calling thrown in. All in all, the Vibe Z delivers a performance worthy of a high-end device.
As to the question asked in the intro, here’s the answer: yes, Lenovo can mix it with the big boys of celltown.