The Vibe X3 is one of the company’s recent launches, and it’s a flagship device. As with Lenovo’s other offerings, the Vibe X3 plays the value card instead of getting into the spec race. That’s not to say the phone isn’t well equipped, but as Lenovo would repeatedly tell you, it’s not about the specs with this one but rather the overall package that you are getting for the price. So let’s take a brief look at what you’re getting for your money.
Lenovo Vibe X3 at a glance
- Hybrid DualSIM/microSD slot
- Aluminum frame with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- 5.5-inch, 1920×1080 resolution, IPS LCD with 401PPI density
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SoC, 4x 1.2GHz Cortex-A53 + 2x 1.8GHz Cortex-A57, Adreno 418 GPU
- 3GB RAM, 32GB eMMC storage, support for microSD cards up to 128GB
- 21MP rear camera with PDAF and 4K video, 8MP front camera
- LTE Cat. 6 (300/50MBps), Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, A-GPS, GLONASS, NFC, IR
- Fingerprint sensor
- 2x 1.5W front stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
- 32-bit Sabre ES9018K2M DAC with 3-amp for music
- Wolfson WM8281 Audio Hub for calls with a 3-mic noise cancelling setup
- 3,500mAh Li-Polymer battery
- Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
Lenovo Vibe X3 (White, 32GB)
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The design of the Vibe X3 will be no stranger to those who have seen the K4 Note. The two phones are pretty much cut from the same cloth, with minor visual differences, most notably the aluminum frame on the Vibe X3.
The front of the device has the stereo speakers at the top and the bottom, which are particularly noticeable on the white Vibe X3 due to the white color bezel. And white, by the way, is the only color option available.
Between the speakers is the Gorilla Glass 3 panel covering the display in the middle, the front-facing camera at the top, and the three capacitive buttons below. The buttons aren’t backlit, which has become an increasingly common cost cutting measure among manufacturers. It’s not a huge inconvenience but having the keys backlit takes out some of the guesswork when using the phone in the dark.
The aluminum frame runs all around the phone but on the right, it hosts the power and volume buttons. The buttons are sensibly placed, and the power button, in particular, falls well within easy reach.
On the opposite side is the SIM tray. The tray can hold either two nanoSIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card. The hybrid slot is a fairly typical arrangement these days and makes the dual SIM claim somewhat disingenuous as there is no way to have two SIM cards if you also want to use a memory card. Vice-versa, a memory card is out of the question if you choose to use two SIM cards, forcing you to rely on the limited 32GB internal memory.
The back of the phone is a smooth matte plastic surface, with the camera surround being made out of metal and slightly sticking out. It also houses the two-tone LED flash, along with the fingerprint sensor.
The Vibe X3 has a 5.5-inch 1920×1080 resolution IPS LCD, with a claimed 100% coverage of NTSC color gamut and 1500:1 contrast ratio. The display is big, bright, and beautiful. Colors look vivid and brightness is plenty indoors and outdoors, but if you need more there is a higher brightness mode that you can activate manually on particularly sunny days. You can also adjust the display color and temperature although the default settings are quite usable.
Software and Performance
The Vibe X3 runs on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Lenovo made a note of scaling back on its custom Vibe UI for this one and going for a more stock look. Right off the bat, you will notice that the company now has a standard launcher with an app drawer, similar to the Google Now Launcher, whereas previously all the apps would appear on the homescreen. The pop-up dialogues in the UI also have the native Lollipop look to them.
Beyond that, however, things are a bit disappointing, as it is very much the Vibe UI but with a white and gray theme designed to mimic stock Android look. The way Vibe UI is trying to replicate the vanilla Android experience is equal parts amusing and frustrating. Just imagine all the time the company must have spent trying to make its UI look like stock Android when it could have just used… you know, stock Android.
As for the performance, the phone performed very well in day to day tasks. The Snapdragon 808 is not exactly a flagship chipset, but it has more than enough power for your messaging and social networking apps to work without a hitch. Where it falters is in gaming, an area where it could have used some more juice. This is especially true for heavy 3D games, which don’t run as smoothly as you’d like. Lighter 3D games and 2D games are not an issue.
The Vibe X3 has a 21 megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with hybrid autofocus, which has added phase detection autofocus. It’s, essentially, the same sensor as on the Moto X Style but the results aren’t quite as good, a fact we are willing to attribute to Lenovo’s take on image processing.
The camera often blows highlights in brightly lit situations and Lenovo’s artistic HDR modes are quite useless as they turn the image into a Jackson Pollock painting. In low light, focusing is a hit or miss, and the image quality itself is not satisfactory. The camera makes you work a bit to get the best out of it, which not everybody would have the patience for. Lenovo’s camera app, however, is pretty good, and better than what you find on Motorola or Nexus phones.
Lenovo made a big fuss about the sound quality on the Vibe X3, and it’s not hard to see why. The phone comes with a 32-bit ESS Sabre ES9018K2M DAC (same as that on the LG V10) with 3x TI OPA1612, and that’s just for the music playback, with a CirrusLogic Wolfson WM8281 doing phone call duty. A combination of an audiophile-grade DAC and amp combination gives the phone some serious audio chops.
The phone sounds loud and clean through its headphone jack and has the power to spare for bigger, more demanding headphones. Lenovo has also added additional steps in the volume bar for a finer adjustment of volume, but it’s still not quite the same as the smooth volume slider on iOS devices.
The Vibe X3 has a 3,500mAh battery. In our preliminary tests, the battery life seemed adequate, with about 4-5 hours of on-screen time and around 20 hours of overall battery life. Unfortunately, the phone does not support Quick Charge 2.0, something we confirmed for ourselves. It also takes two and a half hours to charge completely from 0%.