Lenovo Phab2 Plus first impressions: A worthy Mi Max competitor?

While we still have to wait to get a taste of Project Tango, Lenovo has brought the Phab2 Plus to India. We tried the smartphone for a bit and here is what we think of the device.


Lenovo has gone big. The past couple of years has seen the brand growing from just a PC maker to one of the biggest tech companies today. It took over Motorola and IBM and has indulged in creating innovative products across all segments.

One of them is the Phab2 Pro, the world’s first Project Tango smartphone, which was announced at the Lenovo Tech World Conference in June. The smartphone brings in augmented reality combined with 3D mapping to the end-user. It also showcased the Phab2 Plus, a more sublime version of the Phab2 Pro with a simple dual-camera setup for AR capabilities.

While we still have to wait to get a taste of Project Tango, Lenovo has brought the Phab2 Plus to India. We tried the smartphone for a bit and here is what we think of the device.

Design and build

As the name suggests, it's a phablet. Having a 6.4-inch display, the smartphone is pretty huge. I think the only other handset offering such a form factor is the Xiaomi Mi Max. In fact the dimensions are almost the same, except that the Phab2 Plus is a bit thicker and weighs slightly more.

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The handset comes with a neat, unibody metal finish which makes it feel solid. It feels a lot like most of the smartphones that come around the 10-15k budget, like the Redmi Note 3 or Lenovo’s own Vibe K5 Note.

The curved glass on top of the display is a nice addition. Although I wasn’t very happy handling the sheer size of the device. Using the phone with one hand will be foolish. There's nothing fancy in terms of ports and buttons, although I did like the fact that the capacitive navigation keys had a backlight.

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At the back you will find the dual camera setup which oddly reminded me of how Moto arranged its camera on the latest Moto G and Moto E. The fingerprint scanner sits below the camera setup which is positioned fairly well, although users will small hands will find it difficult to use.

Lenovo has done a good job here. For Rs 14,999 it is definitely a very good looking smartphone. Is it as premium as the Mi Max? Definitely.

Display

The Phab2 Plus features a 6.4-inch full HD display which translates to 344 ppi. This is pretty much the same as the Mi Max. It is bright, although under the bright sun it did tend to struggle. Lenovo has used an IPS panel with a curved glass on top, but hasn’t confirmed if it's Gorilla Glass.

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Hardware

Lenovo has been using Mediatek processors and in all fairness, they have worked quite well for them. The Phab2 Plus rocks a Mediatek MT8783 octa-core processor clocked at 1.3GHz. This is paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage out of which about 25GB is available. The storage can be expanded further using a microSD card. This sounds like a decent combination but nothing beyond the ordinary.

In the connectivity department, you get 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB, FM Radio, and GPS. It does come with dual-SIM option with a hybrid slot. There is a 4,050mAH battery inside that is said to last long.

OS

The smartphone runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box which is more or less stock. There isn’t a lot of bloatware except for a few preinstalled apps like Netflix, McAfee Antivirus, Swiftkey keyboard and a few others. The UI runs snappy but it didn’t seem perfect on the unit that I got to use for a few minutes at the launch event. However it should work seamlessly on the production units. Lenovo has done a good job in keeping the UI clean and also offers some tools to make the handset more user friendly when using with one hand.

Camera

The highlight and probably the only distinguishing feature on the Phab2 Plus is its primary camera. It comes with a 13MP dual-camera setup with an f/2.0 aperture, which offers an AR mode as well as the ability to refocus and background manipulation.

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Apart from that you get your standard camera features like HDR, a manual mode, panorama, and also a group selfie mode. Speaking of which the front camera comes with an 8MP resolution and an f/2.2 aperture.

The rear camera comes with a dual LED flash and phase detection autofocus, however the camera felt a little slow while taking pictures. Focusing is a bit slow and to be honest I wasn't fully impressed with the quality of the pictures. Pictures taken indoors were a bit grainy and there was lack of detailing. The various modes work well but for a person who likes photography, these features didn’t intrigue me. More than gimmicky features I would like better looking pictures.

Conclusion

The Phab2 Plus is well suited for someone who likes consuming a lot of media. It will probably be a good companion to watch movies, TV series and gaming. Now this is similar to what the Mi Max provides and distinguishes itself from the Mi Max, Lenovo has tried to incorporate a unique camera setup. But personally I didn’t feel the camera features be a strong enough reason for me to choose this over the Xiaomi phablet. Of course in terms of performance and overall experience we still need to test the Lenovo Phab2 Plus, so stay tuned for the full review.


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