Lenovo has started off 2016 by releasing two phones, with the Vibe X3 being its flagship offering complementing the mid-ranger K4 Note. While in terms of design, both the phones seem somewhat similar, it is what is present on the inside of the Vibe X3 that makes it stand apart. So without further ado, let’s jump straight into the review.
Build and Design: 8/10
The Lenovo Vibe X3 is a really well designed phone. It employs metal in the build of the frame and this is complemented neatly by sturdy white plastic rear cover that is not removable. The metallic frame appears sandblasted and it has nice champfering ensuring there are no sharp edges as such. The in-hand feel of the phone is really good with the index finger resting perfectly in place of the fingerprint scanner on the rear side, just below the camera module. The phone is a tad bit slippery though, thanks to the smooth back.
The camera module on the rear side is slightly raised from the plane of the phone and the edges are again neatly chamfered. Just below the camera there is the dual-tone LED flash unit and below that in a rounded square shape is the fingerprint scanner. There is only a slight difference in shades between the scanner and the rear side of the phone.
Despite having a 5.5-inch display, the curved arc design on the rear side makes the phone quite easy to operate with a single hand. Of course, reaching all the edges is still not comfortable. The phone measures 3.2mm on the thin edge and around 9.3mm overall thanks to the curve. The phone weighs around 175 grams.
The left hand side has the hybrid dual SIM card slot whereas on the right hand side you have the metallic volume rocker and power/standby buttons. At the base there’s the microUSB charging port and at the top you have the 3.5mm audio jack along with the infrared blaster. There are plastic antenna cuts on the top and the base.
For the Vibe X3, Lenovo has gone for the second best Qualcomm chipset - the Snapdragon 808 which is impressive considering its pricing. The Snapdragon 808, also seen on the Nexus 5X, QiKU Q Terra 808, has a hexa-core processor with one dual core cluster clocked at 1.8GHz and one quad-core cluster clocked at 1.2GHz. This is paired with 3GB of RAM.
On the storage front, Lenovo has provided 32GB out of which around 25.41GB is available to the user. You can also add in a microSD card if you want to expand the storage. The phone comes with a hybrid dual SIM configuration. So you can either add in two nano-SIM cards or microSD card along with 4G nano-SIM card.
Other connectivity options include Wi-fi 802.11ac, Wi-fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, FM Radio, NFC as well as USB OTG. Pretty much all bases covered there.
Lenovo has used an advanced Sabre 9018C2M DAC to offer lossless audio playback for the audio enthusiasts and it is also capable of powering high end headphones. It uses a Wolfson 8281 processor with a three-microphone setup to reduce ambient noise. The phone has front-firing stereo speakers located on the top and bottom of the front-face. It also comes with the Dolby Atmos certification. The Vibe X3 also supports TheatreMax, which lets you video movies or play games in a wide-angle viewing mode using a VR headset. Lenovo has really paid a lot of attention to the multimedia aspect of the Vibe X3.
Lenovo Vibe X3 sports a 5.5-inch full HD display. It uses an IPS LCD panel which gives good viewing angles. The display is vibrant and can go really bright when you max out the brightness settings. The colours are natural and aren’t too saturated as is seen in some sAMOLED displays, although the default mode shows a slight blue cast. Thanks to the 401ppi pixel density, the text appears sharp and we barely noticed any pixillation. You can change the display colour balance from the Display settings menu to Comfort (warm cast for reading), Super Bright as well as custom mode. Or you can set it to smart brightness mode which adjusts the brightness according to ambient light.
Watching movies or Netflix on this phone is a joy. The contrast levels are great and the black levels are also sufficiently deep, although not as deep as those seen on an sAMOLED display. Pair this with a good stereo speakers and you have a really good movie viewing experience even without headphones.
The Lenovo Vibe X3 runs on Android 5.1.1 along with the Vibe UI skin atop it. This is an improved version of the Vibe UI, in the sense that it has an app drawer and there are relatively less proprietary apps, relative to the older VibeUI based phones. Lenovo has added on an app called Peel which can make a program guide for you based on your location and cable operator.
The settings menu is slightly modified though. For instance, the notification shade has a lot more quick settings options. You also have a notifications assistant which lets you know how many notifications you’ve received and you can also select where you want the notification to show and if you want that on priority based on the app.
Theme Centre lets you change themes, wallpapers, recent task list animations, alert tones and so on. The tools folder just has calculator, recorder, clock and compass apps. Music app Guvera and gaming app Game Store come bundled along with proprietary SHAREit, SYNCit and Lenovo Companion. The Vibe UI also bundles McAfee Security app.
Gesture support is also quite good letting you take a quick picture but double clicking on volume button, snapping a photograph using fingerprint reader, flipping the phone to put it to sleep, tapping on a sleeping phone to see the notifications and so on.
The Lenovo Vibe X3 does well on the basics. The call quality was excellent and the earpiece speaker is loud and clear. The Snapdragon 808 paired with 3GB of RAM gives plenty of juice for the phone to perform smooth without any disturbing lags. However, when listening to music, if you are switching between apps you will hear a slight skip in the audio, which is annoying.
Fingerprint reader is not the fastest around, but is relatively quicker than the one we had seen on the Yu Yutopia. It gave fewer errors as compared to the Yutopia when trying to unlock. It works well as a camera shutter specially when it comes to taking those tricky selfies.
The speaker is the highlight of the device. The dual front-firing speakers on the top and bottom edges are loud and come with the Dolby Atmos certification. You will need high end earphones to notice the difference in sound quality. We tested the phone using the stock earphones as well as AudioTechnica WS550 (38 Ohms) and Sennheiser HD380Pro (54 Ohms). The low bass notes at the start of Cornfield Chase from Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score are clearly audible with the WS550, the vocals in Porcupine Tree’s Arriving somewhere but not here sounded wonderful on the HD 380Pro. As long as you have high quality audio and good earphones the phone is capable of delivering the audio chops. Even watching movies with just the front speakers on is a pleasant experience thanks to the rich sound. Long story short, audio has been given a lot of attention on the phone, and it delivers to that end.
In terms of benchmark scores, the Lenovo Vibe X3 gave higher scores to other Snapdragon 808 phones such as Moto X Style, LG G4 and event Google Nexus 5X. AnTuTu gave 67433, Geekbench 3 gave 1256 on single core, GFX Bench gave a gaming score of 34FPS and so on.
In terms of heating, the phone does get hot while gaming and this is particularly evident around the metal edges and the rear side does get warm too. But for most other applications the phone did not have any heating issues. Safe to say that the phone manages the heat well.
Lenovo has added in a 21MP rear camera along with an 8MP front-facing camera. The rear camera comes with an f/2.0 aperture and uses the Sony IMX230 sensor, which we had last seen on the Moto X Play and has a dual LED flash unit. The camera app has a lot of interesting additions which add much more value than a stock Google camera app. It comes with a Smart auto mode, which analyses the scene and accordingly activates the right mode while taking the picture. For the more advanced users, there’s also the Pro mode. Then you have slow-mo video recording as well as time-lapse modes as well. All in all a wonderful camera app package to complement the high end camera.
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 X3 album on Flickr
The daylight images are good but the output is a bit inconsistent. There were images where got a detailed output, but this was also complemented by a lot of images where there has been some oversharpening. When you zoom in 100% you will notice that the noise processing is a lot on skin tones, specially in street photographs. Also the Smart mode is not able to handle the highlights well. Many times we realised that we got washed out regions in many photos taken in daylight. The HDR mode offers four variants - automobile, city, portrait and still life. Barring portrait and still life HDR modes, we found the others to be quite gimmicky, especially the automobile mode which adds unnatural colours to the photo.
The focussing speeds are good for this category of phones and the focus hunting becomes obvious in low light scenarios. The low light photographs are only good enough to be shared online. Noise is quite prominent in low light images. Also there is a marked loss of detail on fine objects or hair or animal fur giving a sort of waxy output.
Slow motion and time lapse modes are interesting value adds, but we did notice jaggies in slow motion videos, which is not good. The camera is capable of shooting fullHD as well as 4K videos. The full HD videos are quite good for casual use. We did end up shooting a lot first impression videos with the Vibe X3 and the video quality was quite good, with the microphone picking up the voice quite well. But we wished Lenovo had paid more attention to still photo image quality. It really needs to release some software patch to take care of it, because the Sony IMX230 sensor is capable of giving out good images.
Battery Life: 7.5/10
Considering this is a 5.5-inch full HD device, Lenovo has added in a 3,500mAh battery which is sufficient for this configuration. The phone easily lasts you for a day involving activities such as calling, emailing, messaging, capturing photos and streaming music and video. The PC Mark for Android gave around 9 hours and 6 mins. Heavy users will require phone charging after around 8-10 hours of usage, but if you are a mild user, you can even go beyond a day of usage.
Verdict and Price in India
Lenovo Vibe X3 is a good phone under the Rs 20,000 price bracket and will certainly be a strong competitor to its own sibling - the Motorola Moto X Play (which is selling for slightly less), the only exception being the clean OS on the Moto X Play and Android 6.0. The Vibe X3 performs well on most fronts except the camera, where we feel that the camera is capable of better image quality. It surely needs some software updates on the camera app to tone down on the noise processing.
In terms of performance, battery life, build quality, the Vibe X3 impresses. The audio output is definitely among the best we have heard on a phone so far. So yes, the audio does give it an edge over competition.
If you want a stylish phone with a good battery and performance, then Lenovo Vibe X3 is surely one phone to look out for, but beware of the camera’s inconsistency. After the Vibe S1 which was quite impressive, Lenovo has delivered yet another good phone.
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