Yes, Lenovo make smartphones worldwide now. I thought that would be an appropriate opening since I keep getting the question mark look on people’s faces when looking at the phone placed in front of me and then ask “Lenovo make phones?”.
At first I didn’t even realize they had phones and when I did, I was surprised they actually had quite a decent range. Not only that, they had their own Lenovo UI of Android. It seems they have been working really hard to get great devices out and guess which device I managed to get my hands on? The flagship. How exciting! So, lets take a look at this phone.
That is not a perfectly angled shot to make the device appear really thin.. Okay it is, but the device really is thin! it’s stated at 6.9mm only!
Quick Spec Sheet
You have to re-think your understanding of big phones with the K900, the dimensions are 157 x 78 x 6.9 mm! So it is pretty huge, but in exchange for carrying the sizeable device (or phablet if you want to call it that) you get a 5.5 inch Full HD IPS screen with about 400 PPI with the screen resolution of 1920×1080 (It is very responsive and even recognizes use with fingernails and pens) above the screen sits an aray of sensors and a 2MP fixed-focus camera. Taking a step deeper into the device, we find an Intel® Atom™ Z2760 Dual Core™ 4-thread processor running up to 2.0 GHz with 2GB of RAM. The graphics centre is an Intel® GMA graphics with 533MHz clock, and both assist in running Android 4.2.1. All this powerful hardware comes in a Brushed Stainless Steel, Polycarbonate and Corning® Gorilla® Glass 2 package that weighs 162 grams. On the back is the 13MP camera with auto-focus and dual flash, capable of full 1080[ video at 30 FPS. In regards to communication, it has Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and HSPA+ (up to 42MBPS) and wireless hotspot functionality. As for sensors, the K900 has A-GPS, Gravitation (I am guess a gyroscope?), Ambient light sensor and a Proximity sensor.
This is always the excitement of opening a box of a brand you have never dealt with before, I had no clue what to expect.
the box had a cover which had the K900 branding in a huge cut out. Being that the box was black it didn’t make sense. Till..
The inside of that cover was in red! So taking the box out lights up the K900 branding. Sexy! Lifting the cover reveals the phone. In first impressions I thought the phone was going to be smaller than the big box, turns out it was the size of the box.
I know there isn’t anything out of the ordinary to expect in an unboxing, and so nothing unusual here. A Micro-USB Cable, a pair of ordinary Headphones and a SIM-Card ejector tool attached to the small manuals card. Weirdly, I have not received a wall charger, but I have so many of them laying around there is no problems and of course, the retail units will have one without a doubt.
Design, Body and Display
The device is a very good looking device despite its large size. I have used many devices over the past few months from iPhones, Galaxies, HTC Ones (Normal and Mini) and others and not a single one got the stares and questions asked as the Lenovo K900. It does have a personality and it is eye catching.
To start things off, lets talk about the front (Apologies for the low quality pictures) From the top sits a small cut out for the speaker and to the left the front facing camera. The sensors are nearly impossible to notice, perfect integration that is. Lenovo branding in the center and then the huge screen all the way till the bottom where three Android buttons sit, Back, Home and Options/Settings.
Flipping the phone to the back is where things start to get an even more premium look. Up top sits the 13MP camera, Dual-Flash and the secondary noise cancelling microphone, then comes what appears to be a back cover, but it isn’t removable. It’s in stainless steel brushed with 4 corner screws to make it look somewhat industrial? I think it has a nice touch. There is an engraved Lenovo logo towards the top and below sits the Intel logo. Finally towards the bottom sits the loud speaker.
For all of you wondering about the stainless steel durability with us, yes the sides do scratch up a bit. I could recommend trying to find a case but I just think it looks so good without one. Also, not too sure you can find a case that easily as well.
They kept the design clean, which means there is nothing to the top of the device. I think with a device this big, anything on the top would be suicidal because it would drop functionality dramatically. Fortunately, the 3.5mm headphone jack, Micro-USB port and primary microphone are on the bottom with nothing on the top. Thanks Lenovo.
The volume buttons are found to the left of the device, but as one button. To the right side sits the lock/power button and towards the middle, the SIM-Card tray. Please be gentle with the tray if you get one, because as with my past experiences with metal trays, if this bends just a tiny bit, it will ruin the look and the flatness will never return again. Either way, pretty straight forward and all buttons feel metallic while the lock/power button have a little pattern on them.
The feedback on the buttons are good but the lock/power button is slightly too soft, which may click on while holding the device in one’s hand.
So yes, the size… Here is the K900 beside the Nokia Lumia 925 and HTC One Mini.
The Nokia has a 4.5 Inch screen while the HTC has a 4.3 inch one, clearly being 5.5 makes it huge, plus the device is actually quite tall.
The device feels really nice in the hands, but it does need a lot of getting used to being a phone of this size. It does slightly stick out of my jeans pocket. I have almost dropped it a few times because I am not used to using such a big device. Certainly if people are used to 5+ inch devices this might not seem too big, but I have never gone over 5 in my pockets before. It is a big device, that I started to get used to after about a week or two of use. I started to carry it differently, more towards a small notepad than a normal smartphone. I got used to it eventually! The metal back does get cold quickly especially in air conditioned areas so picking the phone up does feel special.
As for the screen, it is absolutely brilliant. The clarity is amazing, the brightness can go up to levels that could be uncomfortable (but means brilliant in the sun). The only downside to the brightness is in the OS side as it can only be set at 30%, 60% and 100%, I would have preferred a slider but I am just being picky. Being 400PPI no pixels can be seen and the color representation is just brilliant, one of the best screens I have used in a smartphone, should be thankful to the IPS technology then. This is possibly the most inviting smartphone I have ever had in terms of wanting to watch videos on it, and I often just load videos from the laptop to the device to watch it there instead.
Memory and Data
This is where things complicated, and a bit unusual. Essentially the device comes with 16 GB of internal storage, which supposedly nearly 10 GB is free to the user, but what makes no sense is how it is managed..
The device states that internal storage is 4.68 GB out of which I have nearly 600 MB free, and the USB storage is 9.77GB. On the bottom is the option to erase the SD card. There is no SD card. At first glance, it seems that the device has 5 GB of internal memory and like 10 GB of a separate internal memory, but this is actually a security thing that Lenovo has implemented, they have partitioned the drive so the system’s section of the storage remains untouched. Connecting the device to the computer, or accessing the built in file manager only displays the 9.77 GB partition.
Sadly, as I have often stated, getting 16 GB of storage on a smartphone today is a low amount of storage, especially considering only nearly 10GB is only ever free with no external memory card slot option. Being on Android, every single cloud storage platform has an app, but Lenovo do not provide any free cloud storage on any service.
As with typical modern day Android device (The K900 was launched in January in some markets) it comes with 2GB of RAM. With normal use, I average around 700-900 MB of free RAM. So the system seems to be managing its RAM fairly decently, and I have never experienced any memory issues in my use.
The K900 comes with a 13 MP camera with every option one could need on a smartphone.
I wanted to really show the settings and viewfinder, but the K900’s screen shot utility is limited to only areas where the notification center is accessible, and all attempts to get a decent screen shot app without rooting failed miserably (before I forget, rooting this device is not an easy task, near impossible to find sources online)
On the bottom left of the screen is where the main settings live and it has three main sections. The Basic section includes toggles for switching between cameras, flash settings, resolution, scenes (normal, low light, motion, etc), adjustments (brightness, contrast, etc), image quality settings and guide lines. The Advanced section covers the ISO, white balance, stroscopic settings and a toggle to enable or disable image capture by touching the screen. The last section is the other settings where the user can control GPS tagging, sounds, animation, focus modes and a reset tool.
On the left of the screen there are two quick toggles for the flash and switching to the front camera. towards the right there is even more settings! on the top there is a small tool to display the selected settings in tiny icons and a arrow button to set the camera modes (HDR, low light, smile detection, macro, timed photos, burst shot, panorama, and night portrait mode.
To the bottom of that.. is even MORE settings! well okay, not settings but there is a button that opens a whole table of effects for the photography, there is about 24 different effects to play with. To the far right sits the buttons to switch to video mode, capture an image and a thumbnail of the last photo taken.
Here are some sample pictures taken with the K900 in various real world situations.
A nice, decent lit Macro soft of the Blackberry Q5 (Review of the Q5 can be found here)
Low light shot of the HTC One Mini (Review of the One Mini can be found here)
A shot with decent lighting of a new packaged headset, lit well but notice how the device itself is over exposed.
Decent interior lighting, the text is fairly clear at zoom, the disclaimer line is blurred though.
Outdoor shot in daylight
Indoor shot with decent lighting of a portrait (best focus and lighting on the picture).
The quality is really good, one of the best cameras I have come across in smartphones. The best? No, but very close I have to admit.
So is it all perfect? Almost. Although there is a nice hidden feature where pressing the volume down and capture button on the screen will activate burst mode without having to go through the settings, the zooming is bad. Not the zooming itself, but the on screen controls for zooming. Tapping the screen will bring the 4x zoom bar, and it is really thin and 9 times out of 10 trying to zoom in or out, it will focus on that spot on the view finger rather than lower/increase the zoom, its very hard to zoom effectively and the volume keys don’t adjust the zoom which I think is a waste of the keys but in essence of taking pictures, it does a very good job.
The K900 runs on Android version 4.2.1 with Lenovo’s own UI. It is a very interesting looking system, with tons of customizable features. No, I mean seriously, tons. Almost every single aspect of the experience can be changed, from the icon sets, size of the icons, backgrounds of the icons, special effects, tens of page transitions for the home page and various transitions for the apps page, automatic clean up (where inactive apps can be automatically removed), desktop layout backup, tens of built in apps, with up to 9 desktops!
And I wish that was it.. there is a lot more to this OS that I thought, Lenovo did a great job.
Let me start things off at the home screen and this essentially gives you an idea of how the operating system looks like. Pressing the menu button brings up the list of options (most of which are mentioned above) but this gives an almost unlimited amount of customization. Tapping and holding on an empty spot brings up the tools for transitions (known as effects), and the options to add apps, shortcuts, widgets and more! Lenovo’s power app has its own widget as well, which shows estimated time before battery runs out and quick toggles.
Although most of our smartphone use doesn’t include phone calls or sms somehow, it is the base of a phone. Lenovo has done a great job here with their all in one approach. Call log, messages and contacts are all under one section. They have done it in a smart way where the dialler is on top of the log instead of two pages, certainly is more productive. The messages have a very interesting look to them, which I thought looked nice. Moving all the way into info center brings up a set of settings including a way to backup and restore contacts. It may not be a big deal to many but i think this all in one spot is a nice touch.
The took the extra step in small touches, for instance when you call someone, the phone will vibrate the second the receiver picks up, not sure if any other manufacturer has that or not (never paid attention to it) but it is really cool especially in noisy situations.
Before I go on, Lenovo has done something to this phone that evokes a sense of professional use or focus that has driven the development of the user interface, in my opinion.
The applications list/page is a typical experience, but Lenovo has put their own touch. The device comes with built-in applications such as Flashlight, a whole array of google apps, file manager, evernote, uc browser, skype and a few others. The transitions are various as well, and can be set to flip as a cylinder, apps snake through each other and others.
The device does stutter and lag a bit sometimes, but the general transitions are always smooth. I guess this always goes back to the optimization aspect, because the device is certainly more than capable, hardware-wise.
The notification center is the typical Android 4.2.1 with a strip of quick toggles and the whole list is just a tap away. Activating Lenovo’s power app also adds a little information strip for the battery life and active functions. Two finger swipe down brings out the whole short-cut list.
Another important aspect of the device (being the most used feature) is the keyboard. The keyboard is nice, smooth and easy to type on, no troubles there but there are a few loose ends. One of which, is the feedback vibrations. Initially it would vibrate when tapping and then suddenly it would stop vibrating for no apparent reason. In SMS mode, the enter button only appears when the keyboard is in Capital mode. Surely, these aren’t concerns but with an attempt to be so refined, they could have entirely eliminated keyboard issues. The numbers and symbols are a tap and hold away although I wish they applied more symbols in the same way throughout the keyboard.
The settings menu is a whole operating system on its own! Under common settings the user will find the typical essential settings of the phone. Under Feature Settings is where things start to get interesting. The Lenovo K900 has many smart sensory features like engaging maximum volume when it detects its in a pocket, decreasing of volume when device is picked up while ringing, enabling the volume keys to turn the screen on, shake to lock the device and knock to turn the screen on.
Do these really work? They all do but not without fault. The shake to lock the phone comes in handy because the device is huge and if it is being held one handed, it would eliminate the need to go up to press the button. The problem with this is, it would lock when moving around the device. In regards to the knock to unlock, it works by sudden movement rather than tapping/knocking the screen, which in my use, meant the screen came on when I would move about or place the phone on a table or anything solid. The rest worked fine. Cool features just need to be optimized perhaps.
Under All Settings, the device can be almost completely be adjusted to liking from communications, application and account settings, device storage and running applications and finally system settings and all these can be seen above.
In typical Lenovo way, everything built in has its own Lenovo touch. The file manager is quite smart! It allows traditional folder access, search, history, etc and also an automatic access of files based on their categories.
Lenovo has done a very good job with their own Android UI. There are various applications built in, a lot of customizable options to keep things individual and all transitions and UI related functions run flawlessly. The processor I believe is the only source of things being out of hand. It runs up to 2.0Ghz, with no mention of what it’s general speed is and due to that, there are times when there would be stutters and lags. When the processor is running on full speed, everything is super smooth but I cannot deny when it is not.
Applications on the K900 run absolutely smooth being in full 1080p. I have not experienced any applications having any issues what so ever, but what did have negative experiences was some games. The general non-resource hungry games always work, but games like Real Racing 3 were really out of order. It would stutter and eventually crash. I even downloaded Asphalt 8 (just out by the way, nice game, I somehow prefer 7 till now) and although it didn’t crash, it would lag! I tried it earlier today and it ran for much longer than the last time, then lagged.
Again I believe this must be due to the processor’s optimization and Lenovo’s focus on professional use I guess. Without a doubt it isn’t a slow or weak device, just lacks a little.
The imaging on the K900 is called SuperCamera and the image viewer is called SuperGallery. The self-claimed Super Gallery is quite feature-full and it allows creation of combined images and GIFs. It also is capable of providing the complete details of an image (such as size, resolution, device used for capture, etc)
Multitasking is taken care off in the typical Android way, but for some reason, there is no button to clear all open applications and being that there is no limit to open apps in the list, it can get a bit annoying swiping away all the open applications to clear it.
Aside from those few criticisms, with the huge and beautiful screen on the K900, and good performance (especially when its running at maximum juice) it is a very solid device in regards to the operating system.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a powerful device, because it really is but with the processor feeling not entirely optimized, there is slight sluggishness while operating the device. Is it evident enough and noticeable? Slightly. There are times when I unlocked the device and the home page is still loading its widget, or swipe to another page and the icons pop up but weren’t already ready.
Switching between applications and running applications is really smooth, the processor really does handle it well, but I wish the processor ran on 2.0 Ghz the whole time because I feel when it is idle or nor running at maximum performance is when it gets sluggish. I have tried several attempts to really work up the processor and then try the general OS transitions and everything was perfectly smooth. I feel the Intel processor isn’t the best for Android or at least isn’t optimized well enough.
In typical, simple, basic ihabstech fashion, here is the quick fish tank test, which gives a rough idea of how good the device’s graphics and processor can be.
(running at 980×440 resolution)
With 100 fish, it held 18-21 FPS
With 250 fish, it held 11-13 FPS
With 500 fish, it held 9-11 FPS
Keeping in mind the HTC One had a 1.7 GHZ Quad Core Snapdragon processor, it had about an average of 1-3 FPS less, the Lenovo K900 is a performer!
To try it out the Fishtank Test for yourself, you can visit this link, and I think I shall be using this with future device reviews too.
The battery of the K900 is an interesting topic. Before getting into my experiences, the Lenovo Power application that integrates into the OS, is pretty cool.
This is the essential app, where there are quick toggles for the system tools and an estimated time, in the best case scenario, till the battery would die. There are also several battery modes and a custom mode with estimated battery life for each.
The following are two sample battery life tests I have experienced.
In first test, I managed to pull out 12 hours of battery life with nearly 6 hours of standby time.
While this second attempted pulled out 16 and a half hours of battery life with roughly 8 hours of standby time.
The shocker is that I have once managed to drain the battery in less than 6 hours of use. What this essentially tells me is that the battery life of the 2500mAh sized battery in the K900 is very variable to the users use of the device. I am sure if I had set things up rather than running at max, I could get a whole day’s use. I recommend anyone who buys this device to play and test a lot with the battery application and find the best of both worlds, battery life and active functions. It essentially has a decent battery, even though I have no idea how they fit that battery in there.
The Lenovo K900 has been a delight. Yes, the device does need polishing up in various aspects, but that does not take away the fact that this device is solid, right now.
The build of the device is phenomenal, the blend of stainless and full glass front is just a beauty and the device doesn’t even think of creaking. The camera is really powerful, full of features, and speaking of features the system really feature-full and is speedy, efficient and very smart. Sure, it does have a few loose ends in terms of battery management, operating system and processor optimization but for professional and ordinary use of the device, it runs near perfect.
I am sure Lenovo are already working on the next generation of models, including a new flagship, and if this is how they handled things early 2013, I can just imagine they would do really well in the smartphone market!
Device Pros and Cons
– Brilliant build quality
– Slim profile
– High resolution camera with good imaging features
– Excellent Full HD 1080p IPS screen
– Lenovo’s UI has well optimized applications and a lot of customization
– Hardware isn’t fully optimized for software (some apps don’t run smoothly)
– OS is sluggish at times and transitions aren’t always smooth
– Device is very big for most people
– Questionable battery life
– Not all gestures work well in real world use
– Limited storage