Is 4G LTE for all? The Lenovo K3 Note tries to answer this question in this Review

Lenovo K3 Note hero

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[/blockquote]The Lenovo brand is synonymous with personal computers and laptops in Uganda, but over the years the brand has crept into the smartphone game just like all other major electronics manufacturers. The Lenovo K3 Note marks the company’s legitimate foray into Uganda’s smartphone landscape courtesy of Vodafone Uganda. It can be found at  any of the latter’s retail outlets for as low UGX 524,925 (With Vodafone’s Easter Promo), down from the initial UGX 700,000 price tag.

Before we delve deep into this long anticipated review, here is a summary of what you will getting with this Phablet;

  • 4G LTE (Dual SIM)
  • 5.5 Inch Full HD display.
  • 2GB of RAM & 16GB ROM.
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 13MP primary camera & 5MP secondary camera.
  • 3,000 mAh battery.

Microsoft Lumia-esque hardware build

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The polycarbonate build reminiscent of Microsoft’s Lumias affirmed the 146g weight making the K3 Note less chunkier than I had envisioned. It incredibly felt light with no metal,glass or aluminum builds like we’ve come to witness from the likes of the Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6S. The plastic outright conforms to its cheap build.

The chamfered edges eased grip but one handed use is a tough one to pull off owing to the 5.5 Full HD TFT screen. The volume rockers are placed on the right thumb but confusion sprung up since they come first before the power button, which is a few millimeters away. I must say the two confused me but all blame should be directed to my Samsung Galaxy S4 whose hardware department is a serious departure from the K3 Note. The 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top together with the micro USB port for charging and wired transfers.Speakers at the back with the two tone camera flash plus the sensor itself.

Plucking off the plastic cover reveals the removable 3000mAh battery,two micro sim & SD card slots. The 5.5 inch 1080p display of 480 ppi is vivid. It even allows for one to use it in well illuminated outdoor conditions without having to adjust it’s brightness. It nonetheless made one handed use a nightmare given it takes on the phablet form factor. Its best suited for watching videos, playing games,long reads and a whole bunch of stuff that makes your curious self choose a large display.

Software: Interesting but there is still room for improvement

Lenovo K3 Note UIThis is one area where the K3 Note scores with honors. The K3 Note runs Lenovo’s proprietary skin, the Vibe UI atop Google’s Android 5.1 Lollipop. With no app drawer to talk off, it takes the same iphone-esque approach long honored by its Chinese foe, Huawei, which they term as the the Emotion UI.

However Vibe UI has so much to offer. From theme customizations that allows you do whatsoever tweaks to your smartphone, and while you still yearn for more, there is a theme store from which you can purchase a wide selection of custom themes. The only demerit is that you have to pay in Yauns, or call them Renminbis if you prefer.

Features like wide touch, that assist you with one handed use offering a shortcut to your recent or most used apps, while you whisk away from app to app. Night Eye pro, for the insomniac who prefers to peruse through reads at night. App notification center allowing you to decide whatever push notifications can make it to your welcome screen and a la carte of other items.

Lenovo did away with the camera app only to replace it with a somewhat slower SnapIt, that came as the default app for all photography needs. Lenovo also threw in a mixture of apps like SynIt that syncs across your Lenovo hardware, Maxx Audio for the audiophiles, CM ware like; CM security, browser and clean master. These painstakingly refused to uninstall at my every attempt.

The other discourse being them leaving you with only 10GB free storage of the supposed 16GB. Complain not, a microSD card slot of up to 32GB solves you this mysterious drama, since you can max your storage. I must as well add that there was no differentiation between the default SMS app and the phone dialing app given both acted like twins and carried the same functionalities like; grouping messages, the dialer, Contacts and an interesting discovery feature. This last feature borrows heavily from TrueCaller since they do more or less the same job.

The Vibe UI allows for multiple windows working side by side, enlarging one while  downsizing the others and made switching between these windows seamless. Finally, we have to reach an amicable understanding that there is software to make use of the larger 5.5 inch display, though it can’t put the extended features of Samsung’s Touch Wiz with the Note series to shame. In other words, there is still room for improvement on Lenovo’s side.

 

The camera is just decent

 

Lenovo K3 Note HW camera
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Its primary 13 megapixel (4160×3120) shooter capable of 4K imagery is decent but can’t be crowned a photography king. No, it can’t otherwise another world war would erupt since the S6 Edge +, iPhone 6S Plus and the Note 5 would pick up arms to contest such a declaration.

The rear camera was marred by shatter lag, somewhat noisy images that lacked attention to detail and was incredibly slow when I took on the fine side of HDR. Outdoor shots are: hmmm… decent. But, indoor shots especially in low lit conditions called in for some trickery to get the best of the camera. But Still,they were decent and nevertheless the camera gets the job done if you can put up with such minimal flaws(Read the price tag and do away with the complaining).

Videos were no different. They can work well for the 6 minute clips off Instagram but won’t mesmerize a Vimeo addict like yours truly, however much Lenovo touts the camera as a 1080p shooter, with capabilities of shooting video in 4K quality.

SnapIt prompted me to download Google’s own Camera up since Lenovo’s stock offering is no game changer. Plus the 5MP secondary front facing camera plays on the same turf with it’s primary brother. Selfie addicts will have to improvise.

The K3 Note Camera Samples

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Performance

The K3 Note took a considerable amount of time on its first boot! Booting only became quicker became after I tapped quick boot for every successive reboot I encountered. At first, it made me doubt its 64 bit Octa-core processor prowess paired with 2GB of memory and the polished Lollipop flavor. Which reminds us of the infamous quote “Not always about the processor core numbers a smartphone carries, but software optimization with hardware that brings the best of performances”. You should read the next paragraph to tell.

My casual collection of Subway Surfers & Crossy Road made good use of this gargantuan processing power and of course the OpenGL ES 3.1 GPU with a Mali-T760 render but broke down of a few occasions.

Slower app registrations didn’t often cross my sight, even with multiple tabs open and music playing in the background.

 

4G LTE at it’s cheapest or is it!

 

The K3 Note worked well with Vodafone’s 4G LTE with seamless download speeds and uploads but often slowed down on switching to 3G (In areas where Vodafone’s 4G reception is sketchy). You could noticeably tell the difference in speed loss owing to the slow responsiveness of apps that solely rely on the quality of network signals. I couldn’t complain in areas where all network bars were full and getting reminded about availability of 4G.

The K3 Note’s 4G is compliant on both Vodafone’s 4G and MTN’s LTE network and is only supported by the first sim slot. The second SIM can only max HSPA+ (42 Mbps) speeds where the likes of Airtel & Smart fall.

Call quality was superb with no glitches though the second sim on my review unit often lost reception. Check the summary below for pricing details.

Battery

The extra real estate and dense screen played well with the battery juice. Overall I could go a day without visiting a wall docket on average usage, but couldn’t last a day without charge with heavy handedness.

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