The Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus is undeniably a budget phone, but it does offer a well-rounded feature set for the price. There is some stiff competition in this category however, and how can we talk about budget smartphones without addressing Xiaomi, the elephant in the room? Xiaomi's budget-friendly Redmi Note 3 has really raised the bar as far as budget phones are concerned and is an interesting option, provided you can manage to buy one in its flash sales. So how does Lenovo's Vibe K5 Plus compare? Let's find out.
Build and design: 6/10
In terms of build, the device isn't bad. It seems to be mostly finished in plastic, though there does seem to be a patch of metal on the removable back panel.
You get your power and volume buttons on the right side of the device (something I bemoan as a lefty).
The Micro USB port and headphone jack are placed on top of the device, leaving the left side and bottom clear of any buttons or ports.
You do get two speakers, but sadly, Lenovo's decided to place them side-by-side, on the back of the device. The camera and a single-LED flash are placed, as expected, on the top left of the back panel.
In terms of features, you get the usual 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-fi support, 16GB of storage (expandable via MicroSD card) and 2GB RAM. The phone runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 (with 8 core processor) and the rear camera is a 13MP f/2.2 model. The front camera is of the 5MP f/2.8 variety and you charge the device via Micro USB port.
The device runs Android 5.1 with a Lenovo's VibeUI skin on top. The speakers are supposedly Dolby Atmos certified but since they're placed so close together at the back of the device, they're not really that good.
The display is a 5-inch full HD IPS touch-screen panel which is surprisingly good. Viewing angles are quite good and while there is a noticeable lack in brightness at any other angle other than straight on, there's no noticeable colour shift. A 1080p resolution on a 5-inch screen means a ppi of around 440, the sharpness of the text and UI are testament to that.
The biggest gripe we have with the phone is on the software front. For some reason, we've encountered stuttering with Lenovo's VibeUI and the Vibe K5 Plus is no exception. A system update partway through our review process did speed up the UI and eliminate most of the lag we encountered. However, when you get phones like the Redmi Note 3, Honor Holly 2 or Coolpad Note 3 at the same price, it's hard to justify lag of any sort.
YouTube in particular was a pain to use. If you're watching a video in fullscreen mode and tap to view controls, the video freezes for a fraction of a second before rendering the controls. It's small quirks like these that makes the interface a bit tedious to use. We haven't seen such issues on similarly specced Android devices before and thus, are inclined to place the blame squarely on Lenovo's shoulders.
As mentioned earlier, the UI would get exceedingly sluggish at times, resulting in a great deal of frustration. When it worked, everything was smooth, but never snappy. There's a slight delay to just about any heavy task that you would do, be it watching a YouTube video or using the camera. The phone would also heat up very rapidly with light use. It's not that the device got exceedingly hot, it's just that the device would consistently get very warm.
When gaming however, we didn't notice any noticeable lag and all the games ran smoothly. All things considered, we'd categorise the experience as sluggish. Xiaomi's Redmi Note 3 and the Coolpad Note 3 will consistently outperform this device.
Audio quality from the speakers was a disappointment. They claim to support Dolby Atmos, but with speakers so small, with little spacing between them and the biggest crime of all, being placed on the rear of the device, it's just not enough.
The audio is loud enough when you place the device on its face, but that's not how you use a phone. It was a pleasant surprise to experience audio via headphones, however. The audio quality over the 3.5mm jack was surprisingly clean and loud in both movies and music.
The camera is strictly average. Shots in bright sunlight, mid-afternoon, are quite good. Shots in any other light get noticeably grainy and more noisy. Shots in low light are downright unusable. Considering the price of the phone, the camera is acceptable. Again, the Redmi Note 3 offers a better camera at the same, or slightly higher price.
We won't waste words describing the camera's performance. You can click through our Flickr album above to get a better idea of the image quality.
The 2750 mAh battery is not small by any means, especially in a phone of this size. However, our testing revealed a battery life of just under 9 hours. In regular use we found that the device would barely last a work day and that recharging on getting home was a must.
The usual 30-40 minutes of browsing on 4G that defines my commute saw battery life drop from 100% to 60%, which is quite drastic, but normal enough for an Android phone. The iPhone 6 Plus with a similar capacity battery only loses about 20% in a similar scenario.
You can't talk about budget phones without mentioning the Redmi Note 3 and without a doubt, that phone is better than the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus. The former offered a better camera, faster processor and larger display for almost the same price.
It's not that the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus is a bad phone, it's definitely not. It's just that the phone doesn't stand up very well against the competition in the sub-10,000 price bracket.
The camera is strictly acceptable and the UI gets sluggish. Other than that however, we really have no serious complaints about the device. The screen is nice, the audio from the headphone jack isn't bad and apps are usable.