While Lenovo has been churning out smartphones for sometime now, it was last year that the company became a popular name among masses with its budget devices. What particularly caught everyone's attention was the K3 Note. The company quickly released its successor too. The Vibe K4 Note is an incremental upgrade. The K4 Note received as much adulation as its predecessor, owing to the nifty specs sheet. On paper the device is excellent, and so we took it for a spin in our labs to find out if it has enough meat to keep up with the hype.
Build and Design: 6.5/10
The K4 Note features a curvy design, compared to its predecessor. The design aimed at better ergonomics ensured a firm grip. In fact, we quite liked the looks. The company did boast of a metal body during the launch, but the device seems to get only a metal frame and the rest is all plastic. That doesn't mean the device looks cheap, rather we loved the looks. However, we doubt we'd say the same about its build quality.
The front side stares back at you with a 5.5-inch display, similar to what we'd seen in the K3 Note. Stereo speakers take position above as well as below the display, and you will also find three touch buttons that do not illuminate. Then there's a front camera and a notification LED on the upper right corner. The right edge shows the power and volume buttons, upper edge has audio jack, lower edge gets the microUSB slot and the left edge is smooth sans any buttons or slots.
Turn the device around and you will find the rear snapper and right below it is the fingerprint sensor. The removable plastic back shows two SIM slots and a microSD card slot. The device dosen't feel bulky at 156 grams (thanks to the plastic) and measures 153.6 x 76.5 x 9.2 mm dimensions. The company has bundled a back cover, again cheap plasticky, but you won't find any bundled headphones. Unlike the 5.5-inch handsets we've got to spend time with lately, the K4 Note offers better one hand use. Also, in terms of looks and build quality, it seems better than the recently reviewed 5.5-inch Coolpad Note 3 that falls in a similar price bracket.
The Lenovo K4 Note has maintained the same 5.5-inch fullHD display as its predecessor, with a pixel density that goes up to 401ppi. It gets a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The dual SIM device supports 4G and comes powered by an octa-core Mediatek MT6753 processor clocked at 1.3GHz, and coupled with 3GB RAM. We have got a unit with 16GB onboard storage, out of which roughly around 9GB was available for use. However, the expandable slot supports up to 128GB to ensure you get the device loaded with all your data.
It runs Android Lollipop along with a layer of the company's Vibe UI on top. The device gets a 13MP rear snapper and a 5MP front-facing camera. The company also includes fingerprint scanner, making it fall among the handful of devices adopting the feature in this price range. We prefer this position of the sensor, which is just below the rear camera module, making it easier to unlock using the index finger. The connectivity options include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, GPS with A-GPS and NFC. Finally, a 3300mAh battery completes the package.
The Vibe K4 Note sports a 5.5-inch display with Full HD resolution, just like the K3. The company had touted it to be a killer display with 1000: 1 contrast ratio, 450 Nits brightness, user controlled color balance and a layer of Gorilla Glass 3.
There is no evident change in the display that would distinguish it from some other 5.5-inch devices with Full HD display. But the viewing experience and display quality seemed good, and there is nothing much to complain about. The display is bright and reproduces vivid colours, ensuring legibility even in bright outdoors. We had taken to reading a few quick e-books, and it was quite a good experience, be it while travelling in bright light or in dim light just before hitting the bed.
Dig a little deeper into the settings and you will find that Lenovo lets you adjust the brightness by offering several viewing modes, depending upon the lighting conditions.
The K4 Note runs rather older Android 5.1 Lollipop with a layer of the Vibe UI on top. Following in the steps of most its fellow Chinese vendors, there is no dedicated app drawer and apps are strewn across pages. However, it does give you the option of an Android launcher that offers an app drawer. Adding to it, there are some neat themes to choose from the Theme Center.
The user experience is pretty slick and fluid. What may annoy you is the ample bloatware present. It includes some apps like Amazon Shopping (though, we love this one), Shareit, Skype and so on, that you won't be able to uninstall. Like other Chinese vendors, the notifications section has been spruced up for more handy shortcuts. Moreover, you can decide which shortcuts you want to view in the notifications bar. It includes an option called Secure zone that allows you to set certain apps in the secure zone that can be accessed only with a different pin/password. You can also opt for an all-time onscreen button that lets you switch with between secure zone and open zone.
Some other handy features include loading camera by double clicking the volume button even when the screen is off, double tap the screen to light a locked screen, flip the device to put it to sleep and a floating button that gives quick access to multitasking options.
Lenovo also adds a Companion app that lets you check for the latest software updates and also gives access to community forums. Besides, there is a Diagnostics section that lets helps with hardware tests (these are quick tests to check if your speaker, headset, mic etc. are functional) and also gives you all information about System and Apps.
Under Settings, you will also find a Notifications section that lets you control what you want to view, along with app notification management to control notifications for each app.
The device comes armed with a 13MP rear shooter and a front-facing 5MP snapper The camera is capable of taking some neat shots outdoors in bright light. They turned out to be sharp and detailed most times.
In low light and ambient light, the photos seemed a bit noisy. For general purpose, it is as good as others in the price range, but if you are a photo enthusiast, some bits could be disapointing. The front-facing camera may be the standard 5MP that we see these days, but did a great job at selfies in bright indoor setting. There are some other options like controlling the brightness, setting a timer and so on. The device comes with 1080p video shooting capability for both cameras.
Coming to the in-built camera app, it is as simple as it gets. You get a camera toggle and quick access to HDR. Besides, there is flash and a menu button that takes you to Panorama and Effects. Under effects, you will find some filters.
Take a look at some of the camera samples below:
Note: Images have been resized below. To see the high resolution images please click on the images. Alternatively, you can also check out the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note album on Flickr.
The Mediatek MT6753 processor coupled with 3GB RAM does a good job at maintaining a slick and fluid user interface. We found the device adept at multitasking as it could load picture heavy websites, whilst switching between apps and tabs. However, run a few apps for a long time and the device starts warming up. However, it never felt too uncomfortable to hold. However, we didnt run any heavy games, and stuck to the usual casual affair with Angry Birds and Temple Run. The device was smooth at all times, but we noticed that it takes a step back when switching between apps at times.
Now, coming to some of the basic functions, the call quality is good. We could make and respond to calls even in crowded buses. Another notable feature is the audio, which is good enough to fill a medium-sized room. In fact, when we tried streaming the same song from the same source on the K4 Note and on a sub-Rs 25,000 device, the K4 Note seemed better by a mile. The device handles 720p and 1080p vieos quite well too.
Finally, one of the USPs of the device is the fingerprint scanner. It took a few seconds to setup and worked perfectly well each time we unlocked the device using it.
On a full charge, we could easily squeeze through a day after surfing the web, checking emails, steaming music on Gaana and some social media coupled with frequent Whatsapp. And our battery test will further vouch for it that showed a whopping 8 hours and 44 minutes in the results. Lenovo adds some handy Battery saver modes too.
Verdict and Price in India
Lenovo continues to impress with the Vibe K4 Note. Firstly, the price point of Rs 11,999 and the specs that it features absolutely blow your mind, at least when it was launched in early January. It has a good display, fingerprint scanner and delivers excellent performance overall.
While there is a lot to love, there are also a few hiccups when it comes to the device. The camera and build quality could have been better. The software appears more gimmicky, but as we've seen it finally depends upon what the user prefers handy and it is nice to see Lenovo include an almost-stock-like UI option.
This doesn't mean, the company rules the roost in this price bracket. One of its biggest competitors is the Le Eco 1s that is priced Rs 1,000 less. Going by the benchmarks, the LeEco 1s seems better positioned. And, so is the most recent Xiaomi entrant Redmi Note 3 that comes at a similar price and has a metal body and a much powerful chipset.
So, if you are looking for device in this price range and prefer a device from a seasoned OEM rather than a relatively newer entrant then the K4 Note fits the bill just right. All in all, the Lenovo K4 Note is a great option, but there is no denying that it faces stiff competition in the budget segment.
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