Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software
Camera
Audio & video
Performance
Battery life
Conclusion
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Lenovo K3 Note Review

The best phablet in the under-10k segment
By Samir Makwana on 2015-09-04
Key Features
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 5.5-inch 1080p display
  • 13-megapixel rear camera
  • 2GB of RAM
What we like
  • Bright, crisp display
  • Great camera
  • Good sound output
  • 4G in both slots
What we don't like
  • Graphics-intensive games tend to stutter
  • Average battery performance
  • Expandable storage up to 32GB only
8.1
Our Score
Introduction

Lenovo introduced the K3 Note in the country back in July, with the intention of launching a device that would be capable of leading the budget-phablet segment. The hyped flash-sales mechanism that Lenovo usually makes use of, was specifically eased down for the K3 Note. Priced at Rs.10,000, the Lenovo K3 Note stands as a strong contender against the likes of the YU Yureka Plus, Huawei Honor 4X, Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime 4G and Meizu M1 Note.

With the launch of this device, the sub-Rs.10,000 category had finally received a phone that offered a Full HD display, a good 13-megapixel camera, and a decent battery capacity. After having released devices such as the A6000, A7000, and A6000 Plus within quick succession of each other, Lenovo launched the K3 Note with the hope that this phone would generate great interest in the budget-phablet segment. We got our hands on a retail unit of the K3 Note, and here’s what we think of this device.

Design
8

The Lenovo K3 Note has a very understated yet classy look. Carrying the same design as the Lenovo A7000, the K3 Note comes in decent quality plastic body with a matte-like rear, which gives the device a slightly better look than the glossy back panels. 

An earpiece and a front-facing camera sit on the front fascia. There are three capacitive buttons at the bottom, but they aren’t backlit. This device weighs 150 grams and is merely 8mm in thickness. 

On the right side, we have the volume rockers and the power button. We have the 3.5mm port as well as the micro-USB port on the top. At the back is a 13-megapixel primary camera with an LED flash under it. The secondary microphone and a loudspeaker too are seen on the back panel. Pulling off the back panel reveals a 2,900mAh removable battery. 

Some of the units from initial batches had an issue with removing the battery, however, our retail unit did not give us any trouble. The twin SIM card slots as well as the memory card slot are located underneath the back panel.

Display
8.5

The K3 Note sports a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with Full HD resolution and offering a pixel density of 401 PPI (Pixels Per Inch). This phone also bears the distinction of being the first to offer a Full HD panel just under the Rs.10,000 mark. The display, which is made using an IPS panel, is vibrant and offers good viewing angles. However, Corning’s Gorilla Glass technology is missing so one has to be careful with scratches. Legibility of images and text under directly sunlight is just about average and bumping up the brightness makes the device usable.

Hardware
8

At the heart of the Lenovo K3 Note is a MediaTek MT6752 chipset that houses an 8-core ARM Cortex A-53 cores clocked at 1.69 GHz. Along with this chipset, you get the Mali T760 GPU which is also found in several smartphones, ranging from entry-level Meizu M1 Note to the high-end Samsung Galaxy S6. There is also an impressive 2GB of RAM in the device. However, we noticed that at any point in time, even when all the apps were closed, the phone barely had 900 MB of free RAM available. The phone has 16GB of internal memory, out of which nearly 11GB is available to the user. The phone supports memory expansion using SD cards. This Dual SIM smartphone supports 4G network (Band 40 for India) in both the slots, but only one can be used for the LTE network, while the other falls back on 3G.

Software
8

The Lenovo K3 Note comes with its own custom UI known as the Vibe UI 2.0 that is layered on top of the Android 5.0 Lollipop. It comes with a bunch of themes preinstalled that you can use to customize the look and feel of your phone. Just like many other mobile UIs from the East, the Vibe UI lacks an app drawer, too. Though many are likely to cringe about this lack of app drawer, there are a few nifty advantages that the UI gets for this.  

Hidden under the Settings icon are few features that you might use quite frequently. The “Quick Snap” feature lets you take a quick picture without having to unlock the phone, simply by pressing the Volume key twice. We have in the past, seen this feature on the Huawei Honor 4X and, we feel that the Honor 4X was slightly faster at it. The phone also supports the Double Tap to Wake Up feature which is switched off by default. There are also gestures for opening various applications from the lock screen on this device. For example, drawing a ‘V’ on the lock screen opens up the camera app and drawing an ‘O’ opens up Chrome. You can always set custom gestures for these apps as well. The Lollipop version enables support for various user profiles. This means that you can enable a guest mode profile so that any other user is unable to access your messages and other data. The ‘Ultimate Power Saver’ mode makes the phone last for several days. However, you will only be able to access the dialer, contacts, messaging and clock in this mode.

Camera
8.5

The K3 Note gets a 13-megapixel rear camera with an F2.0 aperture and optics made from a 5-element lens. The 5-megapixel front camera can be used to take selfies. This is a 3-lens element, with an F2.2 aperture. The main camera on the K3 Note captures images with a lot of detail and keeps the noise to the minimal. The images offer a good natural-like colour quality and have decent white balance. The low light imaging was commendable with the dual LED flash, adequate to light up a small room. 

The camera UI is very simple to use and does not have too many options that would confuse you. Focusing takes half a second to lock on a object. However, the presence of a manual ISO control can be handy while shooting images in low lights. The phone supports HDR but takes a while to process and one needs to keep the device steady until it finishes doing so. The front camera takes good images as well. Video recording is supported in Full HD at 30 fps, but the lack of Optical Image Stabilization results in slightly shaky videos. Even the front camera supports Full HD video capture. For such an aggressively priced smartphone, the camera performance did impress us.

Audio & video
8

Being an Android device, the K3 has high expectations in terms of its multimedia capability. The phone supports a wide variety of audio and video file formats. It comes with a native video player and plays Full HD videos quite easily. The default audio player is Android Play Music. It also comes preinstalled with the Guvara Music streaming app. One of the much touted features of the K3 Note is the support for Dolby Atmos. The good thing about this feature is that it acts as a universal equalizer and music control tool across various applications. However, in daily usage Dolby Atmos fails to impress. That said, with or without Dolby Atmos, we were pretty happy with the music playback capability of the phone. The K3 Note even managed to drive the variety of in-ear and over-the-ear headphones with ease. The phone also has an app for FM Radio, although it requires a pair of earphones for it to work. The FM radio app is pretty feature-packed and supports recording as well. You can store your favourite stations and play using the loudspeaker as well.

Performance
9

Our experience with the K3 Note started off on a good note, with the display and the UI impressing us. However, over a period of time, certain issues did leave us frustrated. The phone lagged occasionally and when it did, it became unusable and the only solution was a reboot. When I tried a game on the phone (Asphalt 8:Airborne), it started off well but after a while, it would lag. 

This was disappointing because the Meizu M1 Note which has the same chipset, plays the game with ease. Having said that, this phone easily handles less intensive games. Overall though, we feel that there were some rough edges that Lenovo should be able to fix in the future to improve this phone. The call quality is average and the volume through the earpiece is exceptionally loud. We also noticed that the phone tended to heat up during calls. The rather high SAR value than usual, also added to our worries.

Battery life
7

Lenovo acks a 2,900 mAh removable battery that promises a decent run time. During our usage, the phone easily managed to last a day on usage that included a few calls, two hours of cumulative web browsing on Wi-Fi and cellular data, streaming a few videos on YouTube and using the camera occasionally. Unfortunately, there is no QuickCharge feature support so the phone takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes for the battery to charge from 0 to 100 percent.

Conclusion

The Lenovo K3 Note is a great handset for the entry-level segment albeit with a few rough edges. 

Featuring a number of key improvements in the hardware department when compared to the A7000, the new K3 Note can basically be called a beefed up version of the A7000. The Full HD display, 16GB storage, and the microSD card slot are what make the K3 Note a strong contender at its price point. The only real competition to the K3 Note, however, comes from the Meizu M1 Note which had a price cut recently. However, while the M1 Note flaunts a brighter display and gives faster performance, it does not have a memory card slot. The YU Yureka Plus competes neck to neck with the K3 Note, but falls short in terms of battery life and standby time. Moreover, the software update cycle of the Cyanogen 12 OS is almost as slow as that of Lenovo. 

Overall, the Lenovo K3 Note performs well as a daily driver and comes with a good camera for those wishing for quality images. If Lenovo releases an update soon to iron out gaming and a few imaging related issues, then the K3 Note can certainly be called the best device to buy at Rs 10,000.

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