Lenovo has been on a launching spree recently, and you can choose from among some impressive devices like the Vibe S1, Vibe Shot and the K4 Note. Adding to this list is the Vibe X3, which the company considers as a flagship smartphone. It was launched towards the end of last month, and is priced at Rs 19,999. Lenovo has crammed a lot into this smartphone, and the list of specifications and features really stand out in the sub-Rs 20,000 segment. On paper, the Vibe X3 seems capable of standing tall against tough competitors like the OnePlus 2, Nexus 5X and the YU Yutopia among others. We spent a considerable time with the smartphone to find out if it is really as capable in the real world too.
As far as the design is concerned, the Vibe X3 has carried over elements from last year’s Vibe S1, as well as the K4 Note, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The smartphone boasts a metal body, with chamfered edges and a curved backside that rests comfortably in one’s palms. At the back you will notice a pill-shaped setup, similar to the K4 Note, which houses the camera, dual-LED flash and the fingerprint scanner.
The overall build quality and design are top notch. While there are design-focused smartphones like the OnePlus X available under Rs 20,000, the Vibe X3 is right up there, and dare we say it is one of the best looking smartphones in this range. The device can be a tad slippery, but Lenovo has bundled a transparent plastic back cover, which we have been using since day one.
These days companies focus on aspects like battery, design or cameras when launching new smartphones, but it is rare to such attention paid to multimedia. At the front you will notice a pair of stereo speakers above and below the display, while under the hood, Lenovo has opted for Sabre 9018C2M DAC to offer lossless audio playback, as well as support for Dolby ATMOS. Needless to say, the Vibe X3 offers stellar audio playback.
The dual front speakers are a treat when playing games or watching videos. The speakers are placed in a way that you tend to cup the speakers when holding the handset in landscape mode, which only makes the sound louder and you get the full blast of the Dolby effect. At the top of the handset is the 3.5mm audio jack, which brings us to the sound experience when using headphones.
Lenovo has bundled an impressive set of earphones with the device, which do the job quite well when listening to music. But strap on a more high-end set of headphones — like a pair of Bose SoundTrue headphones — and you will get to experience just how good the Vibe X3’s audio chops really are. Be it the thumping bass of The Hills by The Weeknd, a chart topper like Major Lazer’s Lean On or the soul-stirring Für Elise by Beethoven, the smartphone consistently offers a great audio experience.
Lenovo also uses a Wolfson 8281 processor with three-microphone setup for phone calls. Barring issues with the mobile network, voice calls were amply clear — be it through the earpiece or when talking via the speakers.
Like the K4 Note, the Vibe X3 also supports TheatreMax technology, and you will need to buy the Rs 1,299 ANTVR headset to make use of this feature. There is also an IR blaster up top with Peel Smart Remote app preloaded. The app not only lets you use your smartphone as a remote control, but also provides local content guide, and the entire thing is fairly easy to set up.
Besides its multimedia capabilities, Lenovo’s Vibe X3 has a lot more to offer as well. When you add the ‘flagship’ tag to a device, you sort of expect a display with QHD resolution these days, and the Yutopia comes to mind. While the Vibe X3 sticks to a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display, by no means does it feel like a compromise. The display is quite vibrant, yet the colors look natural, and there is no oversaturation that you see on the AMOLED displays. Brightness levels are good too, and visibility under direct sunlight is no problem either. To keep the screen safe, Lenovo has also opted for Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection.
With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 hexa-core chipset on board, and 3GB of RAM, performance levels were quite impressive as well. Apps run with ease, while multitasking and graphic-intensive games like Marvel’s Contest of Champions and Asphalt 8: Airborne too are smooth. The device tends to get a bit warm when playing these games, but it is far from what you would consider ‘uncomfortable to hold’.
Just cramming the latest hardware to win the benchmark race doesn’t exactly translate into good performance, and again the Yutopia comes to mind. While YU was focused on making the “most powerful smartphone on the planet,” it was severely letdown by the software. It was a similar case with the OnePlus X as well.
Lenovo however has managed to strike the right balance with the software. The Lollipop-based Vibe UI is almost stock Android-like with an app drawer et al, and is also relatively light on the system resources. The UI was smooth from day one, and we have hardly come across stutters or lags. Though the UI seems mature, the themes and icon packs are far from it. Most won’t fancy the rounded icons and bright colors, and there aren’t many better options on the Theme Center app either.
The UI however offers a lot of customizing options and gestures to make life easier for Vibe X3 users. Lenovo has also preloaded quite a few apps, which is one of the reasons why you only get about 23GB out of the 32GB when you take the phone out of the box. Thankfully, you can uninstall most of the apps, and can also use a microSD card to expand the internal storage up to 128GB.
For photography enthusiasts, the Vibe X3 is a mixed bag of sorts, while casual photographers have a lot to love. It employs a 21-megapixel f/2.0 camera with phase detection autofocus (PDAF), dual-LED flash and a Sony IMX230 image sensor. As for video, the smartphone also offers 4K video recording capabilities along with slow-mo and time-lapse modes. There are a bunch of camera features like Smart mode that automatically detects lighting conditions and makes adjustments, as well as scene modes like Panorama, Art Nightscape, Artistic HDR, and Blur Background. There is also a Pro mode that gives users different camera settings to tinker around with.
Under ideal lighting conditions outdoors, the camera is able to capture some good shots with lot of details. Colors are reproduced well, though at times White Balance can be a tad iffy. The HDR mode offers four options — automobile, city, portrait and still life. We would recommend using only the portrait and still life modes, with the other two bordering on gimmicky.
With a drop in lighting conditions though you will have some noise to contend with, but in both scenarios the photos are good enough to be shared on social media platforms. Focusing is fast, but there were times (especially indoors) when the camera was unable to focus on the subject even after multiple taps.
Videos shot in full HD mode are more than satisfactory for casual users, while 4K video recording, considering the price tag, is impressive to say the least. Up front is an 8-megapixel selfie camera with Beauty mode. Again the photos clicked using the selfie camera are just about decent under ideal lighting conditions and can be instantly shared on social media. Indoors however, they are marred with noise and pixelation. One of the advantages of having a fingerprint scanner at the back is that it can be used as a shutter button when clicking selfies. Simply place your finger on the sensor for a couple of seconds to click a selfie.
This bring us to another important feature of the Vibe X3 — fingerprint scanner. While accurate most of the times, it does take some time to get used to where you should place your finger. Considering the size of the device, sometimes you will have to stretch your finger to reach the scanner. There were times when the smartphone would vibrate multiple times to notify that the fingerprint was not recognized. Only after a couple of tries were we able to place it correctly.
Making sure everything ticks is a 3,500mAh battery underneath. This is another impressive feature of the Vibe X3, as the battery easily lasts a day even under heavy usage. This sort of usage involved two email accounts pushing notifications, social accounts like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, a constantly buzzing Slack account and WhatsApp, calling and playing graphic intensive games. We only had to look for the charger before going to sleep. On a more judicial usage, we were able to just about get through the day and would then have to charge the device early in the morning.
Another interesting thing is just like the Asus Zenfone Max, the Vibe X3 also supports USB OTG and can be used as a powerbank to charge other smaller devices. Unfortunately, Lenovo doesn’t bundle an OTG cable with the device. Another great aspect is the support for Quick Charging, which ensures that the battery is charged to 100 percent in less than two hours.
The Lenovo Vibe X3, then is an impressive smartphone and one that will stake its claim in the sub-Rs 20,000 segment. Its audio capabilities are worth discussing again and again, and while camera performance may not be the best, it something we believe can be improved with a software patch. Taking into account the design, performance and battery life, there are simply too many pros that make it difficult to overlook the Vibe X3.
Talking of competition, they are aplenty with quite a few smartphones around the Rs 20,000 mark that are filled to the brim with features. It will compete against the likes of the OnePlus 2 and the Nexus 5X priced at Rs 22,999, and can even take on the Rs 24,999 YU Yutopia.
Lenovo clearly has a winner on its hands, and the Vibe X3 will be a serious contender when we list the best smartphones launched in 2016 at the end of the year. If you are looking for a smartphone under the Rs 20,000 mark, we would strongly recommend the Lenovo Vibe X3.