Lenovo is making its second big launch of the year in India later this month, when the Vibe X goes on sale around Christmas. After the K900 launch earlier this year, Lenovo is trying to change things up with the Vibe series and at an event in Mumbai, the company showed us the thinking behind the re-branding, while also allowing us a chance to experience the new smartphone. Here's a hands-on video before we dive deeper.
Lenovo told us the Vibe series is targeted at the urban Indian youth. It’s a surprise then to find that instead of peppy colours, the Vibe X is just going to be available in the silver gray colour, that’s so not youthful. Your Vibe X experience will begin the moment you hold the phone. For a 5-incher, it’s not all that hulking, which is good thing, but the biggest surprise is how freakishly light it is. It weighs 121 g, which makes it one of the lightest smartphones ever. And holding it for the first time I was afraid it would slip out of my hands if I looked away. At 6.9mm at its thickest point, it’s not quite the thinnest phone in the world, but not all that far off from that mark either. It made a Nexus 4 look quite chubby.
The chrome bottom lip ruins the look of the back
The Vibe X is made out of plastic, but there has been a concerted effort to make it look less like plastic and more like metal. Even though that effect wears off after a few minutes with the phone. Lenovo told us that they listened to criticism from their customers and reviewers. The previous flagship Lenovo K900 is massive, and has sharp edges, so they decided to reduce the display size and make the edges rounder. The effect is a phone that’s quite a pleasure to hold. The slight curve on the back fits the palms perfectly. The back has a scratch proof protection, which withstood our attempts with a toothpick to blemish the silver body. The shiny chrome lip on the bottom of the phone is a blight though. It robs the phone of any understated class it may have. That’s the one thing about the body that really looks and feels tacky.
There’s really nothing wrong with the Vibe X display, it’s just one of hundreds of 5-inch 1080p displays. We had a feeling of having seen the same thing in many other phones. Even so, it’s a very vibrant screen. It has Gorilla Glass 3 protection to ward off minor scratches and such. At full brightness it was bright enough to light up a small corner of the lounge. And at medium brightness too colours popped as if the IPS panel was really an AMOLED display. Full HD resolution is always a joy to view and icon labels were crisp. Viewing angles were good at higher brightness levels, but it got quite mediocre as we reduced the brightness.
The display is bright and renders crisp test
The company is quietly confident about its performance in the Indian market, despite the intense competition. But we can’t say the same about the performance of the phone. The Vibe X has an MediaTek MT6589T chipset with a 1.5GHz quad-core processor. Ideally this should deliver smooth performance, even though the cores are Cortex-A7. But no such luck. Everything lagged, from opening the notification drawer to using the keyboard to the camera. We were told the handsets were running non-final software, so we don’t know if the sluggish UI had to do with the hardware or the software. The underlying Android version is 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but Lenovo's build was nearly a month old. In places, the phone would take ages to open an app or go to the next homescreen, which was frustrating because the display makes you want to use it.
Not all that big for a 5-inch phone
Lenovo has gone with an MIUI-like interface with no app drawer and icons all laid out on the homescreen. The in-built theme manager which lets you customise each and every aspect of the UI individually is also a nod towards MIUI. While to my taste, these themes seemed too cheerful and colourful, it should work with Lenovo’s primary target audience. While most Indian companies also ship phones with theme managers, Lenovo says it has developed its own app for the same. In addition, the phone will ship with three other apps – ShareIt, SyncIt and SecureIt. The first one lets you share files instanteously using Wi-Fi direct, the second lets you carry forward any data from your previous phone or to another device, while SecureIt is a suite of security features, including per-app privacy, data usage protection, remote lock and wipe as well as an anti-virus to scan for malware.
Comes with an in-built theme manager that lets you modify everything from the lockscreen to the icons
We couldn’t test the camera properly, since the lighting wasn’t ideal. We spent a couple of minutes trying to click a picture, but the camera was slow to focus. Again this could be down to the non-final software. The front 5-megapixel shooter was quite an improvement over some of the other front cameras in the recent past. It had a wide viewing angle, quite like the HTC One, which means more of your friends in a selfie and no more painful Selfie Arm.
A 13-megapixel camera on the polycarbonate back
Overall, the Vibe X is a very good looking phone with a bit too much shine for most people’s liking. But Lenovo has done a great job with the ergonomics as handling the phone is a pleasure. The display is crisp and colours popped brilliantly and it will serve very well for multimedia viewing. Lenovo has even managed to improve the cartoonish UI from last time around, and lets users take control of how they want the interface to look. What will be the real test is the performance of the phone and that’s something we can only talk about after using the final software. At the moment, we feel that a MediaTek MT6589T will be outclassed in 2014 by other more updated chipsets, which is why this choice looks like the wrong one for Lenovo. But at least they have made a phone that leaves us eager to find out if that choice is vindicated. Here's another look at the Vibe X.
Using MediaTek also makes the price a big factor. This one has an MOP of Rs 25,999. For a phone running a MediaTek chipset, this is rarified atmosphere. Despite the very good build quality, the materials used and the homebrewed software features, which Lenovo believes justify the price, we feel this price is about Rs 5,000 more than anyone is willing to pay for a MediaTek phone. That's because you will find phones with the same specs for much cheaper. India has not reached the point where a significant number are going to buy a phone because it looks and feels better than the competition. If that were the case, the HTC One would be stomping the Galaxy S4 and others in sales charts. So Lenovo's pricing might come back to haunt it.