Lenovo Vibe Z review
6th Jan 2014 | 09:12
And you can't have it – neener neener!
Before I even begin: No, US, UK and AU readers, you cannot have this. Not yet, at least. (A bit more on that later.) This is the Lenovo Vibe Z, the Chinese ThinkPad maker's latest flagship Android phone, it's first LTE smartphone ever and probably one of the biggest teases of CES 2014.
Why? For one, just look at the thing. Housing a 5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 IPS touch screen, this hyper thin (0.31 inches) handset weighs just 5.12 ounces. For a phone that borders on phablet, it feels as if a 4-inch phone in weight. This is partly why Lenovo went with a polycarbonate plastic shell (in either a silver or "titanium" black textured finish) rather than metal, a Lenovo representative told me on the show floor.
And two: Check out what's inside. The Vibe Z runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip and 2GB of RAM. However, this handset comes with just 16GB of storage, which could pose a problem, given the 5MP camera up front and the 13MP shooter (complete with f1.8 aperture lens and dual LED flash) around back.
The ultimate selfie snapper?
Lenovo has made full use of the Vibe Z's two megapixel-rich cameras, with a suite of features that were put to good use in my own time with the device. For one, the 84-degree wide angle lens in front captures more in the frame than most lenses, making the all-important selfie even easier.
Features like photo filters, an array of scene modes and the tons of settings on offer are fun to play around with and should make for interesting shares. Speaking of which, the Vibe Z cameras' Beautify tool allowed me to give myself and a Lenovo representative "facelifts" and other subtle tweaks. Your friends on Facebook won't know the difference.
Given the look, feel and layout of Lenovo's new smartphone camera software, it's clear that camera tech will be more important than ever in the ongoing mobile wars. With its rich (if sometimes gimmicky) feature set and richer cameras, the Vibe Z seems on the right track.
Look, ma', just one hand!
Cool cameras aside, upon picking up the Vibe Z, I immediately noticed two things. One, this is an incredibly light and thin phone for its 5.5-inch screen size. And two, this phone is just too big for my tiny, pasty hands. Luckily for the Vibe Z, Lenovo thought ahead.
I struggled to reach the lock button atop the phone with one hand. Lenovo made it so the volume rocker unlocks the phone, too. I had trouble reaching my thumb across the other side of the screen. Lenovo added a Smart Dialer that shifts the number pad buttons in the direction you tilt the phone for easier one-handed dialing. (Also, Smart Call allows you the answer the phone by just holding it to your ear.)
The point is that Lenovo knows just how big it's flagship phone is, and it's working to make it easier to operate the Vibe Z more like the phone that it is and less like the tablet that it isn't. Other handset makers are trying, but I've seen nothing this clever.
Like I said, the Lenovo Vibe Z is one of biggest teases of CES 2014, namely because there are no signs of the thing hitting US, UK or AU soil anytime soon. Lenovo will launch the phone this February in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the Philippines for $549 (about £334, AU$611).
It's a real shame, too, because this phone could potentially bring the heat whatever the Samsung Galaxy S5 turns out to be this year. A Lenovo representative tells us that the company is working on entering these markets, but obstacles like carrier partnerships and regulatory approvals are holding things back. Well, hurry up already, carriers and regulatory bodies – you're keeping us from a potentially awesome phone.