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Lenovo Vibe Z review: Big phone with a few extra tricks

Lenovo Vibe Z review: Big phone with a few extra tricks

Top Features
*Slim and attractive design
*Fast performance
*Very good battery life

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Recently we reviewed Lenovo Vibe X. We found it had a nice design and a very good screen. But we also saw performance issues on it. Overall, we found it to be a step back from K900, Lenovo's flagship phone last year.

Now, we know the reason. Despite its relatively high price, Vibe X is not meant to be a replacement of K900 in the market. This replacement is Vibe Z, a phablet that packs in a screen size of 5.5 inches, similar to that of K900. Unlike Vibe X, Vibe Z comes with top of the line hardware. This is the flagship phone -- or rather phablet -- from Lenovo. It looks, feels and is priced like a flagship.

But is it worth getting it over some of the other high-end smartphones sold by companies like Samsung and LG? We tell you ...

Slim, sleek but almost all plastic
Unlike K900, which had a steel body, Vibe Z uses a shell made of plastic. But it is not as bad as it sounds.

Vibe Z looks good, though some may find it a bit too flashy. The back cover, which cannot be removed by a user, is made of plastic but has a faux metal finish. It also has a fine dotted pattern, which makes it look and feel better than the glossy plastic covers used on some other phones. The device has a plastic frame with faux chromium finish. The volume and power buttons are made of metal.

The device has been put together very well. The build quality is good and the finishing is top notch.
Unlike K900, which has a boxy design, Vibe Z has rounded edges. This makes it fit better in hand. Despite having the same screen size, Vibe Z is easier to use and carry compared to K900. The use of plastic also keeps its weight lower. The power button is placed on the top of the phone but volume buttons, which are easier to reach, can also be used to wake and sleep the phone screen. Compared to K900, which weighed around 162 grams, Vibe Z weighs 142 grams.

In terms of design, the only thing we find amiss in Vibe Z is its menu button, which also doubles up as a multitasking button. Under the screen, Vibe Z has three touch-sensitive buttons - home, menu and back.

Unfortunately, while using the device when we long-pressed this button to bring multitasking option, most of the time it also opened the menu inside an app. This is a minor issue but little annoying nonetheless.

Vibe Z is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor. It is a quad-core processor running at speed of up to 2.2GHz. The graphics chip is Adreno 330. The device has 2GB RAM. Of this, around 900 is usually free during the use. Vibe Z has a FullHD screen, a 13MP primary camera, a 5MP front camera, 16GB storage (can't be expanded with a microSD card) and 3000 mAh battery.

Android but with some extra goodies
Lenovo is shipping Vibe Z in Indian market with Android 4.3. It is not android 4.4, the latest version of the OS, but at least in this case it doesn't matter much because Lenovo has heavily customized it with its users interface and system-level tweaks.

During our use, we found Vibe Z to be a capable performer. With top notch hardware inside its shell, the phone is fast. The lag that we saw on Vibe X is not visible on Vibe Z. Apps open quickly on this phone. Web browsing is smooth. The performance of GPS is fast and accurate. Vibe Z can play HD and FullHD videos well. And it runs even demanding 3D games like Asphalt 8 at the highest graphics settings without displaying any lag.

Compared to Nexus 5, which is the smoothest Android phone in the market, Vibe Z holds up well. It doesn't feel as responsive as Google's official phone but the difference is subtle. Vibe Z is a flagship phone and feels as fast as other flagship devices like Galaxy S4, Xperia Z1 and LG G2.

However, where Vibe Z feels different is the software. This is both good and bad.

The customized user interface in Vibe Z lacks an app drawer. Instead all apps are installed on the homescreens. This is similar to how apps are installed on iPhone. While it is simple to use, if you have an Android phone and buying Vibe Z, it will take you a few days to get used to it.

Lenovo has changed almost every aspect of stock Android in Vibe Z. The settings panel is different. Notification shade and quick settings options are laid out differently. Unlike the flat icons in stock Android, the default theme on Vibe Z has icons with faux glossy finish. They are also extra colourful and may look garish to some users.

The phone has tens of options to customize the look and feel of user interface. Different themes can be applied. Unlike the sublime and largely minimalistic theme in stock Android user interface, all themes in Vibe X use icons and looks that are too colourful and somewhat cartoonish. Some users will like it, some won't.

Vibe Z also comes with a number of unique software and hardware features. Some of them are useful, some not so much. The utility of features like smart answer - respond to a call just by picking phone up - or smart dial - call a number while reading a message by picking up the phone and holding it against your ear - will vary from person to person. But the features like pocket mode - louder volume when the phone is in pocket - and shake to lock are more useful.

But the two features - multi-window mode and USB-To-Go - are useful. In multi-window mode you can open two apps at the same time and resize them on the screen. Only apps that support Lenovo's multi-window mode work. But most of the common apps, including browsers like Chrome are supported, so it is useful.

The USB-To-Go allows a user to connect any pen drive to Vibe Z and copy or access files. To use USB-To-Go you will need either need a pen drive with microUSB connector or will require a USB-to-microUSB cable, which Lenovo is selling separately.

Vibe Z also comes with a number of apps pre-installed. Some users will find these apps useful but some may find them annoying. For example, it comes with a security app that cannot be disabled. If you think your phone must have a security app, it may not be an issue for you but if you don't want it, you are out of luck. It always runs in the background. Similarly, the phone has a power manager, which too runs in the background.

Share It, an app that can be used to share files between two phones, is useful though. The app comes preinstalled on Lenovo phones but if you want to share files between Vibe Z and a non-Lenovo phone, you can install the app from Android Play store on the non-Lenovo phone.

Similarly CamCard, an app that costs over Rs 600, is pre-installed on Vibe Z. It allows a user to manage business cards in a better way and most people will find it very handy.

Due to all the unique features, options to customize user interface and tweak various settings, Vibe Z offers a lot of options to power users. But for the same reasons, it may also feel a little overwhelming to users who value simplicity and clean user interface.

Good screen, camera and battery life
The Vibe Z screen has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It is a sharp screen. Text and images look crisp on it. It also shows rich colours and viewing angles are good. Watching high-resolution movies on the device is an enjoyable experience. The level of brightness is adequate during indoor use but under sunlight, the screen feels dim and it is difficult to read on it.

The primary camera in Vibe Z performs well, though we did not find it as good as the one in K900. In the default mode, the pictures that we clicked with Vibe Z in good light came out well. They had ample amount of detail and the focus was sharp. But at the same time, we found the contrast a little low. In low light too, Vibe Z shoots decent images. The amount of noise is low.

The 5MP front camera has wider angle of view compared to what is found on other similarly-priced phones. We found the quality of images taken with front camera to be slightly better than what other devices manage, mostly because of the higher resolution of these images.

Vibe Z shoots videos in up to FullHD resolution. In videos shot with Vibe Z we found that focus was maintained well. But the lack of contrast made them look dull. Vibe Z will capture the footage during your birthday party but devices like LG G2 are better at video.


Battery life is a strong point of Vibe Z. When used with a 3G connection, the phone lasts around 15 to 16 hours of use. If you utilize the battery saver modes through the power manager app, you can get even better battery life.

The sound quality during calls was very good on Vibe Z. However, we found the sound output from speakers to be on the lower side.

Should you buy it?
Lenovo Vibe Z has a price tag of RS 35,999.

If you are looking for an easy-to-use, fast and reliable Android phone, in this price range we recommend Nexus 5 with 32GB storage. That will cost Rs 32,999. It is faster than Vibe Z, has more storage, comes with a camera that is slightly better at clicking images (but not videos), runs a more slicker looking version of Android and will get early Android updates.

But if you are looking to get a phone with a bigger screen, better battery life and features like USB-To-Go, Vibe Z is a good option. It works well and offers a number of unique features which are likely to be useful to you, if you do not mind the unique user interface and software customization that Lenovo has put in the phone.


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