In the last two months, Lenovo has launched three new smartphones in India under its K-series. Called the K8, K8 Note and K8 Plus, all three smartphones run near-stock Android 7.1.1 Nougat out-of-the-box. Out of the three, two of them feature a dual-camera setup at the back. We have already reviewed the Lenovo K8 Note, and today its time we take a look at its younger sibling, the K8 Plus.
The K8 Plus is offered in two variants – 3GB RAM with 32GB storage for Rs 10,999 and 4GB RAM with 32GB storage for Rs 11,999. The smartphone is available exclusively via Flipkart. In its price range, the Lenovo K8 Plus will compete with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Honor 6X and YU Yureka 2 to name a few. With popular smartphones competing against it in a crowded price segment, does the K8 Plus have anything worth going for? Read our review to know more. ALSO READ: Lenovo K8 Note review: Good smartphone with room for improvement
Lenovo K8 Plus design and build
The K8 Plus is basically a compact variant of the K8 Note, and design wise, both smartphones are practically the same. You get a 5.2-inch full-HD display on the K8 Plus, as opposed to the 5.5-inch one on the K8 Note. Just above the display, you have an 8-megapixel front camera, the earpiece and LED flash, while the capacitive Android navigation buttons are at the bottom. Sadly, they aren’t backlit.
The back comes with a metal plate, while the top and bottom sections are made of plastic. You have the vertically placed dual-camera module and dual-tone LED flash on the top, along with a fingerprint scanner below it. The edges are smoothly curved, and because the device is compact, it is easier to hold and operate with one hand.
The 3.5mm audio jack is placed on the top, whereas the microUSB port for charging and data transfer is at the bottom. The power / sleep button and the volume rocker is on the right, whereas the SIM card tray is on the left. Just like the K8 Note, the SIM card tray allows you to use two nano SIM cards along with one microSD card. So you no longer need to compromise on having to choose between a microSD card and second SIM. ALSO READ: Nokia 5 Review: The return of an icon, but this time with Android
The Lenovo K8 Plus also comes with a dedicated music button on the left, allowing you to quickly play / pause music, and skip tracks. The company also lets you customize the key for other functions. You can head over to Settings > Music Key, and use it for quick access to the flashlight, to start the camera, take a screenshot, or do nothing.
Lenovo K8 Plus cameras
Before we jump into the overall performance, let’s first talk about the key USP of the smartphone, the dual-camera setup. Lenovo has gone with a setup of a 13-megapixel primary camera, supplemented with a 5-megapixel camera that acts as a depth sensor. While the main camera captures photos, the depth sensor helps to add DSLR-like bokeh effects to your photos. The camera app is slightly sluggish, and there is a significant shutter lag, from the time you click the photo, till the time it gets saved in the gallery.
Lenovo’s photo editor app also offers a couple of handy software tricks which lets you keep the subject in color, while the background is black and white. The app also lets you adjust the blur intensity, and crop the foreground, while replacing it with any background of your choice. As mentioned earlier, we have already reviewed the K8 Note and were not too pleased with the camera. And with that, I am eager to find out if Lenovo has done enough to improve things on the K8 Plus. ALSO READ: Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Review
Cutting right to the chase, Lenovo sure seems to have made some improvements to the camera. Indoor still shots captured under ample lighting are bright, detailed and produce good amount of colors. And there is nothing much to complain about. Even outdoor shots captured under sunlight look good with adequate details. And the same goes with close-up shots too, where you can see the right amount of depth-of-field, good color reproduction and an overall sharp image. Low-light shots also turn out to be decent, at least considering the price point of the K8 Plus. Even the selfies captured on the front-facing 8-megapixel camera turn out to be decent. Below are some camera samples.
However, the dual-camera setup that is the highlight of the smartphone tends to disappoint. To begin with, you will need to tap and focus on your subject a couple of times to get the shot right. Also, there are certain areas that the depth sensor considers as foreground, even though it is the background. Take the below photo for an instance, the depth is applied properly at the back, but if you look at the side where the laptop is placed, it is in focus, instead of being blurred.
Now, in the following pictures, the bokeh effect is slightly better, where the sensor is able to measure the depth and apply effects properly. But then, when you closely look at the edges, especially after zooming in, you will notice the inconsistencies in applying the effect.
Next, let’s talk about the camera tools that let you apply black-and-white effects to the background while keeping the subject colored, and the crop background option. Because the camera isn’t properly able to gauge the depth, these effects go for a toss, and Lenovo needs to improve the algorithms to make those effects feel even more natural, rather than looking like a bad Photoshop job. Look at the example below, where it cannot determine the foreground, in the simplest of scenarios.
Software, performance and battery life
Just like the K8 Note, the K8 Plus also runs stock Android 7.1.1 Nougat OS out of the box. The smartphone runs on the June security patch, which is pretty outdated, considering the vulnerabilities Android OS regularly faces. However, unlike Google which rolls monthly updates for its Nexus and Pixel devices, Lenovo is only promising quarterly updates with bug fixes and security patches.
Powered by the MediaTek Helio P25 octa-core SoC, Lenovo had sent us the 4GB RAM variant of the smartphone. During my week-long usage, I did not come across any performance issues on the K8 Plus, and things ran pretty smooth, even with a few apps open in the background. In terms of bloatware, Lenovo has added Microsoft apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Skype, and none of these apps can be uninstalled. Besides these, the only other additions Lenovo has made is in the form of camera app, Dolby Atmos for enhanced audio listening experience and support for TheatreMax, which is a split screen VR mode.
Gaming performance on the K8 Plus is good. I had no issues playing games such as Sonic Dash and Super Mario Run. Even graphics intense games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne run smoothly, without any hiccups. However, after playing for about 10 minutes or more, the back of the device got slightly warm, which is normal.
Armed with a 4,000mAh battery, the Lenovo K8 Plus lasts about a day-and-a-half with moderate usage. I was able to get screen on time of a little over five and a half hours on my typical usage. With slightly heavier usage, I was able to easily get through the day. Sadly, there is no fast charging, and the battery takes about three hours to charge to full.
The Lenovo K8 Plus has a few things going in its favor. It comes with a design and build that is now standard for most affordable smartphones. Having a decent SoC and enough RAM, backed with near-stock Android helps to offer a good performance. The battery life on the K8 Plus is also impressive.
With the dual-camera setup being the highlight, the K8 Plus slightly disappoints. Standard photos turn out to be good, and the same goes with the selfies and low-light photos too. However, it’s the depth mode that goes for a toss. It isn’t that the K8 Plus cannot take decent depth shots, but it isn’t easy as point and shoot. You need the right setup, and proper lighting conditions to get the shot you want. ALSO READ: Honor 6X Review
If you can compromise on the dual-camera bit, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is a very good alternative in this price range. And if you still want to go for a smartphone with a dual-camera setup, the Honor 6X is a decent option in that price range.