Lenovo recently launched a slew of smartphones in India, all targeted towards different audiences at different price points. The Vibe Shot is a camera-centric smartphone that resembles a point-and-shoot camera, the Phab Plus is a phablet with a massive 6.8-inch display, the Vibe P1 comes with a humongous 5,000mAh battery whereas the Vibe P1m is a slightly toned down version of the Vibe P1. Latest to join the family is the Vibe S1.
With the Vibe S1, Lenovo is aiming the design-conscious audience. Added to that, the Vibe S1 is also one of world’s first Android smartphone that sports a front-facing duo camera. It has an 8-megapixel camera for capturing photos and a 2-megapixel camera for sensing the depth. Using the depth information, users can refocus on the image and add blur background effects to their selfies, but more on that later.
Priced at Rs 15,999, the Lenovo Vibe S1 will compete with the likes of OnePlus X, Xiaomi Mi 4, Motorola’s Moto X Play and Asus Zenfone Selfie. Equipped with good hardware and additions like the dual selfie camera and a premium design, does the Vibe S1 makes for a good buy? We used the Vibe S1 for over two weeks to find out.
Currently, while most smartphone manufacturers are engaged in the price versus specifications battle, Lenovo has attempted to differentiate itself from others by focusing on the design. Premium metal unibody construction was once the USP of most flagship smartphones, but it has now made way to mid-range handsets too. Xiaomi with its Mi 4, Samsung with its Galaxy A5 and other A-series handsets, OnePlus with its recently launched OnePlus X and HTC with its One A9, all are focusing on the metal design-centric approach.
Lenovo’s Vibe S1 is a looker, right from the first glance. It has a metal frame made from sturdy aluminum and also has diamond cut chamfered edges. The design is also slightly reminiscent of Motorola’s Moto G-series, especially the metal frame. It has a nice glass back that looks stunning and fits the hand well thanks to a pronounced curve added to the rear.
The front is dominated by a 5-inch full HD (1080p display). Instead of going with onscreen buttons, Lenovo has added the capacitive buttons for recent, home and back, just below the screen. However, they are not backlit, which is a bit of disappointment. Despite the 5-inch screen size, the handset is pretty compact and easy to hold in one hand. However, the glossy finish at the back makes it a little slippery, especially if you have sweaty hands.
Up top is a 3.5-mm audio jack, whereas the micro-USB port is at the bottom flanked with the speaker grille. The right edge has the volume rocker and power / sleep buttons, both of which are made from metal and have a nice click to it. Thanks to the compact size of the handset, the buttons are easily accessible too.
The left edge has the hybrid-SIM card tray, allowing you to insert two nano-SIM cards or one SIM card and a microSD card, but not both. The Vibe S1 is equipped with 32GB of onboard storage, but if you want to expand it further, you’ll have to sacrifice on the dual SIM functionality.
Under the hood, runs MediaTek’s MT6752 64-bit octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz and its paired with 3GB of RAM. On paper, this is good enough to offer a smooth performance and during our two weeks of usage, did not notice any lag, even with a few apps running in the background. The touch responsiveness of the screen is smooth and accurate.
The 5-inch full HD display is sharp, offers good color reproduction and is bright enough to offer good sunlight legibility. The colors look vibrant, without appearing too oversaturated. The screen has good viewing angles, the white levels are bright and blacks are deeper, all of which offers a good experience while watching movies. Under display settings, Lenovo has also added ‘display color balance’ option that lets you tinker around with the level of color saturation based on your preferences.
The Vibe S1 runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop OS, with a layer of Lenovo’s heavily customized UI running atop. There are too many customizations, right from the launcher, app icons, themes to features such as “wide touch,” which brings floating shortcuts on screen and secure zone that brings a minimal interface and necessary apps while hiding all other installed apps. The secure zone mode can be used when you don’t want others to access your apps and games. Features such as double tap to wake and high sensitivity touch to use the touchscreen while wearing gloves, are really handy.
Lenovo has also preloaded some apps such as Evernote, the notes taking app, SHAREit, a Wi-Fi Direct based app to wirelessly share content between Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and SYNCit app to backup and restore your contacts, messages and call logs. Other apps include Truecaller, WeChat, WPS Office, UC Browser and Guvera Music.
Now, coming to one of the USP’s – the front-facing duo camera setup. As mentioned above, the setup along with some software tricks lets you add blur background effect to the selfies. The camera app interface is pretty slick and clutter free. There is one touch toggle to switch between single and dual cameras while taking selfies. Auto selfie mode is also present, which clicks photos after detecting faces.
Once the photo is clicked, you can tap and refocus on the subject. Lenovo has also added a swap background feature, using which you can easily mix and swap backgrounds to create a completely new image. Selfies clicked using the duo-cameras will give you two options – to add blur or cut-out. There are three different types of blur effects – simple, spiral and fast, all of which work pretty good.
The cut-out feature has auto cut and manual cut options, both of which works smoothly. During our testing, we noticed that photos with plain background (such as a wall) or those where there is enough depth between subject and background, tend to offer a better cut outs.
After cropping the subject, you can place it over existing backgrounds such as the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Pyramids to name a few, or place it over other photos from the gallery. We tried cropping out some selfies and placing over the preloaded backgrounds and it worked pretty flawlessly.
Selfies taken outdoors look pretty detailed. While skin tones look natural, the camera is able to capture accurate colors. However, when you are inside a pub or in rooms with ambient lighting, the quality drops down and some noise is visible too. Lenovo has also added screen flash feature but in our experience it doesn’t really enhance the quality of selfies when taken in low light.
The 13-megapixel rear camera offers a mixed bag performance. The camera is quick in locking the focus and it captures good amount of details when used outdoors. Close-up shots looked good and most times, it was able to capture decent amount of colors and details. However, the low light performance is pretty average. We noticed a bit of yellow tint in photos when the dual-tone LED-flash was fired.
The full HD (1080p) video recording capability of the front and back cameras is pretty good. The recording quality of sample videos that we shot was good and the playback was pretty smooth too. The camera app also lets you capture photos while recording videos, but they look a little grainy and blurry.
Lenovo has bundled Google’s stock Music player app, but the equalizer is missing. The app supports playback of MP3, AAC and FLAC files too. The output on headphones is fairly loud, clear and detailed. The built-in speaker is pretty impressive too. When you crank it to full volume, it’s very, very loud. However, if you pay attention to minute details, you’ll notice slight amount of distortion.
The video playback was very smooth, and we had no issues playing full HD (1080p) videos. The video player app lets you grab screenshots of the videos that are playing. That’s not all, you can also pop-out the video player while using other apps, thus making multitasking a breeze. Once popped out, you can drag player across any corner of the screen, while continuing to do other tasks, such as texting, reading or replying to emails and web browsing.
When it comes to gaming, we were quite pleased with its performance. We tried casual games such as Subway Surfers, Temple Run and Angry Birds Go, all of which ran smoothly. Next, we also installed some graphics intense games such as Fifa 15 and Asphalt 8: Airborne, both of which also ran smoothly. However, after playing games at a stretch, we noticed the handset getting a little warm.
The 2,420mAh non-removable battery on the Vibe S1 offers enough juice to last through the day. That of course, depends on how you use the phone. With moderate to slightly heavy usage, which includes two hours of music listening, 20 minutes video streaming on 3G, phone calls for an hour, social networking for a couple of hours throughout the day, clicking some photos and three email accounts configured in real-time sync, the battery lasted for a little over six hours of usage on full charge.
On a more controlled usage, by turning off real-time email sync, mobile data and Wi-Fi when not required, we could easily sail through the entire day, with around 45 percent battery still remaining. Lenovo has also added an ‘Ultimate Power Saver’ mode. It reduces processor clock speed, cuts down on unnecessary services such as Wi-Fi, GPS, mobile data and background apps to conserve the battery. Under this mode, only options such as dialer, alarm clock, messages and contacts are available, which is more like basic phone functionality.
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To sum up, we’re quite pleased with the Vibe S1. At Rs 15,999 price point, the phone offers smooth performance, battery life is good and the multimedia experience is noteworthy. The front and rear cameras are pretty decent and the metal frame construction with curved glass back adds a dash of premium feel. Overall, we’d recommend the Lenovo Vibe S1 to those who are looking for a premium mid-range Android smartphone. The OnePlus X has better specifications but loses out on its average camera performance. Another option could be the Motorola Moto X Play.