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Review: Lenovo Vibe Z

The Vibe Z is Lenovo’s first LTE smartphone. Even though my initial impression of the device was positive, I was a bit skeptical as to what Lenovo can deliver on the mobile phone front. But after spending some time with it, I am convinced that Lenovo truly has a compelling flagship on its hands. Read the review to find out why.

DESIGN

The Vibe Z is a beautiful device. The simple design aesthetics, rectangular shape and metal accents give it a professional look and feel.

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vibe-z-display3   vibe-z-back2 vibe-z-box   vibe-z-set

The first thing I noticed when I held the Vibe Z is the weight. I was surprised that the whole thing weighs only 147 grams. And it is thin at 7.9mm, making it comfortable to hold.

vibe-z-display2

Looking at the front, you’ll notice that there are no hardware keys (only capacitive ones), and the bezel around the screen doesn’t take too much space, making the phone look a  bit narrower. To give you an idea of its size, here is the Vibe Z beside the Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3.

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A quick look all around reveal the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack on top, volume toggle on the left, the micro USB 2.0 port at the bottom, and the micro SIM card tray on the right (which you can access via the supplied SIM ejector tool) .

vibe-z-left   vibe-z-right vibe-z-top   vibe-z-bottom

The back features a plastic laser-etched fabric-feel rear cover, and shows the camera and LED flash, with the Lenovo logo in the middle. It is non user-removable, so you can’t replace the battery. You can also see the speaker grill at the bottom, surrounded by a shiny plastic accent.

vibe-z-back-cam

vibe-z-speaker

The build quality is impressive. The sides are made with aluminum, making the phone feel very solid and sturdy. I was pressing and fiddling the device all around, and did not find any creaks. Overall, I like the design of the Vibe Z. The serious look, solid feel and sturdy body give it credence to the title “flagship.”

HARDWARE AND DISPLAY

The Vibe Z is a single sim device (micro sim) that comes with a 5.5 inch Full HD IPS display (1080 x 1920 pixels; 401ppi), a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, Adreno 330 GPU, 16GB of storage (12GB available for users), and 2GB of RAM. It has a  13MP AF camera equipped with a BSI sensor, an aperture of f/1.8, and dual flash LEDs at the back, and a wide angle 5MP shooter up front. It supports LTE, HSPA+ and 3G. Sadly, there is no microSD slot, but makes up for it with OTG support.

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The screen is by far one of the Vibe Z’s best assets. The 5.5 inch Full HD IPS screen is powered by Lenovo’s 20/20 vision display technology, allowing 1080 x 1920 pixels and a 401 ppi. It has great viewing angles, and the images are sharp and crisp. Colors are bright and a bit saturated.

PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE

For those of you who like numbers, the benchmark scores came out great. The Vibe Z performed like a beast, with scores that belong up there with other flagships.

The smartphone scored an impressive 34,894 in AnTuTu Benchmark, sharing the top spot with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and beating popular flagships like the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, the LG G2, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One.

vibe-z-antutu (1)    vibe-z-antutu (3)

The Vibe Z did great in the Quadrant test as well, scoring 21,154. While in Nenamark 2.0, the phone scored an equally impressive 60.

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Vibe-z-NenaMark2

Between the full HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon processor and the Adreno 330 graphics, you know the Vibe Z was built with mobile gaming in mind. Games loaded quickly, and the graphics were superb.

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Watching videos was also a joy. The Vibe Z’s 5.5 inch display showed great contrast and detail. The phone also has great codec support, as I was able to play MKV file formats, besides the usual MP4.

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The Vibe Z is powered by a non-removable 3,000mAh battery, and has a quoted talk time of up to 33 hours, and up to 18 days of standby time. Under normal use, with WiFi and auto-brightness turned on, I got around 1.5 to 2 days out of it in a single charge. I browsed the web, played some games, sent a few texts and made some calls before I reached for the charger. You could probably get a bit more by using its power saving options.

However, battery life takes a dip when on LTE. I started testing in the morning by viewing videos on YouTube, along with a lot of browsing and checking of social networking sites. By lunch time, battery was down by almost half.

The 3,000mAh battery takes around 2 hours to get a full charge.

SOFTWARE AND CUSTOMIZATION

The Vibe Z runs Android 4.3 Jellybean, with Lenovo’s UI on top. If you’ve used or seen stock Android before, you might not be able to recognize the OS at all. Almost all aspects of the Android OS has been modified or covered by Lenovo. But despite all that, the modifications actually look refreshing.

vibe-z-ui (2)   vibe-z-ui (1)

Lenovo also put a lot of features and enhancements into the Vibe Z. The ones I found the most useful is the “shake to lock,” wherein you literally shake the device to lock the screen. Another interesting feature, you can use the volume key to wake up the phone – a pretty useful option for such a huge device.

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The new Lenovo Launcher is unlike stock or other third party launchers (like Nova or Apex) that you may be used to. For one, it doesn’t have an app drawer. All the apps are on the home screen. And you can only place 4 apps on the dock or hot seat as Lenovo calls it.

With the theme center, you can customize the look of your Vibe Z. You can choose from 8 different themes that change the icons, desktop wallpaper, lock screen wallpaper, and the colors of the UI, dialer, contacts and messages.

vibe-z-theme-center (1)   vibe-z-theme-center (2)

SHAREit

The SHAREit app has got to be one of the most useful apps I’ve tried. As advertised, the app “shares information instantly between multiple devices without network charges.” It basically uses your WiFi to instantly transfer almost any type of file. Lenovo claims it is 40x faster than Bluetooth. And I agree. It’s fast and easy to use. We transferred 48MB worth of data over two devices. The transfer took less than 10 seconds.

vibe-z-shareit

SHAREit comes preloaded on all new Lenovo Android tablets and smartphones and is also available for download on the Google Play store free of charge. I’ve already installed the app on my phone and tablet.

CAMERA

The Vibe Z has a 13MP AF camera, with an aperture of f1.8, Dual Flash and BSI sensor. It has a burst mode of up to 100 shots, HDR, Panorama mode, Macro mode, and more. The images taken outdoors with the camera were ok. The images could use a little sharpening, and the colors were a bit saturated, but generally don’t look bad. I noticed that it tends to hunt for focus indoors, even with decent lighting.

Here are some sample photos taken with the Lenovo Vibe Z. You can click on the images to view a larger copy.

vibe-z-cam (1)   vibe-z-cam (2)vibe-z-cam (3)   vibe-z-cam (4)

WRAP UP

Before we wrap up this review, let’s take a quick look at the Vibe Z’s advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • Great display
  • Long battery life
  • OTG support
  • Love the build quality: feels light and sturdy
  • Smooth and fast performance
  • Volume button wakes up the phone (very handy feature for a 5.5 inch device)
  • Theme Center provides great customization options
  • SHAREit app is very useful

Disadvantages:

  • No microSD expansion slot
  • Non-removable battery
  • Relatively weak WiFi
  • Image quality needs a bit of sharpening
  • Camera tends to hunt for focus indoors in moderate lighting conditions

All in all, the Vibe Z is an outstanding smartphone. The design and UI looks fresh and attractive, and the body feels strong and sturdy. The phone is able to deliver smooth and fast performance, as apps load quickly and graphics intensive games don’t stutter. The Vibe Z also has a great display, and with the high ppi, images are crisp and sharp.

The Vibe Z may have some issues (image quality, no micro SD card), but it’s not really a deal breaker. This phone is definitely worth your time and money.

The Lenovo Vibe Z is now available in Lenovo stores and authorized dealers of Open Communications for P24,999.

 

Vibe Z key specs:

  • Single SIM (Micro-SIM)
  • Snapdragon 800 MSM 8974 2.2GHz Quad Core w/ Adreno Graphics
  • Android OS Jelly Bean 4.3 with New Lenovo Launcher
  • Full HD IPS 5 points Multi-Touchscreen Display with 400+ PPI
  • LTE Cat 4 DL 150Mbps, UL 50Mpbs UL 3G / HSPA+ DL 21 Mbps, UL 5.76 Mbps
  • Gorilla Glass 3 w/ Laser-etched fabric-feel rear cover
  • 2GB LPDDR2 RAM, 16GB ROM (12GB User Memory)
  • 13MP AF f1.8 Dual Flash & BSI Sensor + 5MP Front 84° Wide -angle
  • Burst Mode up to 100 shots, HDR, Panorama, PIP, Macro, Smile shot Speech Photo, Intelligent Group Shot, GIF & Camera Special Effects
  • One-hand usage gestures & Motion enhancement
  • Connectivity: USB OTG, Micro USB 2.0 ,Bluetooth 4.0,
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/a/n, Personal Hotspot, GPS with AGPS support
  • Sensors: G-Sensor, E-Compass, Light & Proximity Sensor
  • Standby time: 18 days(3G), 13 days(2G)
  • Talk time: up to 33 hours (2G) , up to 10 hours (3G)

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