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Posts tagged ‘Lenovo’

30
Aug

What to expect at this year’s IFA


IFA, one of the world’s largest consumer electronics trade shows, starts this week in Berlin. It’s not quite as big as CES, but it can be a good insight into what lies ahead in the holiday shopping season. IFA is often the place where companies announce washing machines and kitchen appliances, but there’s usually plenty of phones, wearables, PCs and TVs too. Here’s what we expect to see at IFA this year:

Smartphones and tablets

Samsung used to make IFA the home for its annual Note announcements, but that changed last year. 2016 marks the second year in a row the company opted to launch the newest Note, as well as the latest Gear VR, at their own Unpacked event. That doesn’t mean Samsung won’t have anything to show at IFA, but it likely won’t have any phones on the docket.

Still, IFA won’t be completely bereft of mobile news. Sony has made a habit of revising its Xperia lineup at IFA and we expect to see more of that this time around. We’ve heard tales of an Xperia X Compact, which appears to be a smaller version of the Xperia X Performance. Leaked specs have pointed to a 13-megapixel rear camera, 4GB of RAM, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor as well as 32GB of internal storage. Seeing as it’s a “Compact” model, we also expect a 4.7 inch display with full HD resolution.

Moving on to other mobile events, Huawei’s September 1st event invitation entices us to “Defy Expectations” with what looks like the curved edge of either a phone or a tablet. Though ASUS announced the ZenFone 3 series at Computex, it could unveil a mid-tier offering at IFA. ZTE, which already showed off the Axon 7 and the Zmax Pro earlier this year, could have more to say about Project CSX, its unique crowdsourced handset. Nubia, a ZTE sub-brand, is also holding an event of its very own, which likely means we’ll see one or two new phones there as well.

Plus, just because Samsung has already shown its hand as far as phones go, doesn’t mean that we won’t spy any new tablets. Rumors point to a possible Galaxy Tab S3, the successor to last year’s Galaxy Tab S2. There could also be a new tablet from Lenovo with a “new kind of intuitive keyboard,” if this brief peek at Lenovo’s IFA 2016 event is to be believed.

Wearables and other accessories

Much more than just phones and tablets, IFA is becoming a bit of a wearables show. Samsung already made a not-too-subtle hint that its first event in Berlin will focus on the Gear S3. The invitation has a watch face design on it as well as the words “Talk About 3” and “Gear.” There are also rumors that there’ll be three versions of the S3: The Classic, the Explorer and the Frontier. The latter two will supposedly focus on fitness, with various sensors like an altimeter and a barometer.

We could see other companies refresh their Android Wear offerings too. Huawei hasn’t updated its premium Watch wearable since last year and ASUS’ ZenWatch 2 could use a refresh as well. On the simpler side of the wearable spectrum, Fitbit has already announced the sequels to the Flex and the Charge, which we’ll see at IFA this week. It’ll also be interesting to see if Nokia-owned Withings will have anything to show — an update to the Activite is a long-time coming after all.

We could see other companies update their Android Wear offerings too. Huawei hasn’t updated its premium Watch wearable since last year and ASUS’ ZenWatch 2 could use a refresh as well. On the simpler side of the wearable spectrum, Fitbit has already announced the sequels to the Flex and the Charge, which we’ll see at IFA this week. It’ll also be interesting to see if Nokia-owned Withings will have anything to show — an update to the Activite is a long-time coming.

Aside from the Xperia phone, Sony will probably also give us a closer look at the Xperia Eye, a lifelogging camera you wear around your neck, plus the Xperia Ear, a Bluetooth headset that looks a lot like Moto’s Hint.

Everything else

Aside from the usual phones and wearables, we’ll also likely see a bevy of new 4K and 8K televisions from the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG. New laptops are also on the horizon; Acer’s press conference invitation shows what looks like a profile of an extremely thin notebook and Lenovo might surprise us with yet another Yoga laptop or two. As with so many trade shows this year, we also expect to see the odd robot or drone on the show floor.

Last but not least, we have to mention virtual reality. 2016 is said to be the year VR goes mainstream, and we could see more evidence of that at IFA. We’ve already seen a sneak peek at what looks like an ASUS VR headset and Huawei has promised that it would be making a Gear VR competitor too.

As always, there will probably be products at IFA that we don’t expect as well. We’ll be liveblogging the Samsung mobile event on August 31st at 12pm ET so stay tuned for that and keep your eyes glued to the site for more news out of Berlin.

27
Aug

Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Yoga will make you want OLED everywhere


The dream of large OLED screens has, for the past few years, seemed perpetually on the horizon. LG has had OLED TVs on the market for a while, but they’re still far more expensive than comparable LCDs. If you’ve wanted to get your OLED fix recently, you’d have to get it on a smaller phone or tablet screen. Now, the technology is finally making its way to laptops from the likes of Dell’s Alienware, HP and Lenovo. So you can bet that I jumped at the opportunity to test out the new OLED-equipped Thinkpad X1 Yoga as soon as review units appeared. For the most part, it’s a pretty typical Thinkpad convertible PC, but its screen is truly a thing of wonder.

Hardware

The Thinkpad X1 Yoga doesn’t offer up many surprises design-wise. It sports a black matte case, clean lines and it’s built out of some sturdy material (a combination of a carbon fiber cover and magnesium alloy elsewhere). Its understated aesthetic befits its purpose: it’s here to do work, not game or be an entertainment powerhouse. That doesn’t mean it’s ugly, it just resembles very traditional PC laptops, much like its sibling the X1 Tablet. Really, the X1 Yoga doesn’t need any design flourishes, as it ensures the 14-inch OLED touchscreen is the real star of the show. (More on that below.)

While it’s built like a workhouse — there’s no flex to the case, and it feels like it could survive some major tumbles — the X1 Yoga is also impressively portable, at 2.8 pounds and 0.67-inches thin. That’s about on-par with most other Ultrabooks (and it’s even 0.2-pounds lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air). It’s not as razor-thin as HP’s stunning new Spectre, but because of that it’s surprisingly versatile, with three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and miniDisplayPort connectors, and a microSD card slot. There’s also a proprietary OneLink+ port for connecting to Lenovo’s docks, as well as a fingerprint sensor to the right of the trackpad.

Being a Yoga device, the X1’s screen can bend a full 360-degrees around the case, effectively turning it into a very large tablet. (In that mode the keyboard also recesses into the case, to prevent stray strokes and key damage.) You can also fold the screen over at an angle in a “tent” formation. That’s ideal for standing it up on a table, or on your lap in bed. Lenovo designed a new double hinge for this device, and it’s one of their smoothest implementations yet. The screen is easy to move around, but it also feels secure once you set it in place.

Lenovo also tucked a stylus into the side of the X1 Yoga, which is useful for drawing or quickly jotting down notes. It’s powered by super capacitor technology, which charges it whenever it’s sitting inside the case.

Display and pen input

The X1 Yoga’s OLED display doesn’t waste any time impressing you. The red border around Lenovo’s logo has an almost electric feel upon boot-up, and that carries over to everything in Windows. OLED displays are known for their bold colors and deep black levels, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Watching videos and perusing photos is a revelatory experience. OLED adds an enormous amount of depth to images that makes them seem almost three-dimensional.

With a resolution of 2,560 by 1,440 (1440p/2K), the X1 Yoga’s OLED screen is significantly sharper than a 1080p display, though it’s not quite 4K. That’s just fine, though, as Windows 10 still isn’t well suited to 4K, and the benefits of such a high resolution are wasted on laptop screens.

The X1 Yoga might not look like an ideal media machine from afar, but it ended up being one of my favorite ways to watch Netflix in bed. Mostly, that was due to sheer immersiveness of the screen. Its speakers sit right below the screen, and as is usual with Lenovo’s gadgets, they were merely adequate. If you really want to get into a movie or TV show, bring along a good pair of headphones.

The laptop’s ability to flip around in a variety of different orientations also made it very useful. When I needed help in the kitchen, the tent formation was perfect on my countertop for watching videos and references recipes. And when I wanted to dive into the NYT, Comixology or a digital magazine app, the tablet mode was immensely convenient. It also worked well in direct sunlight, but be prepared to deal with some reflectivity depending on how it’s oriented.

While the built-in stylus was convenient for jotting down quick notes, it’s also too light and flimsy to use for a very long time. It doesn’t feel as substantial as Microsoft’s Surface Pen or Apple’s Pencil, instead it’s like trying to write with an incredibly skinny pen. If you’re really looking forward to handwriting on the X1 Yoga, though, you’re probably better off investing in something that won’t cramp your hand after a few minutes. On the plus side, the stylus is pressure sensitive, which could be useful for artists.

Thinkpad+X1+OLED++gallery+3.jpg

Typing and trackpad experience

If there’s one thing you can be guaranteed to find on a Thinkpad, it’s a solid keyboard. That’s been true of the line since IBM debuted it decades ago, and it’s something Lenovo has maintained ever since it took over Big Blue’s computer arm. The X1 Yoga’s backlit chiclet keyboard is one of the most comfortable I’ve used in an Ultrabook. I had no trouble quickly typing up notes and reports from Intel’s Developer Conference, or banging out most of this review. The keys are sloped inward slightly, which feels comfortable as you’re resting your fingers on them, and they have a satisfying amount of depth.

Basically, the X1 Yoga’s keyboard feels like a balance of traditional Thinkpad typing with the modern chiclet style. I wish Lenovo included some media keys among its second functions though. Even the ability to start and stop music would be helpful (and being able to move between tracks would be even better). Lenovo used to offer some media keys on the X1 Carbon’s capacitive touch strip, so hopefully we’ll see those return eventually.

The Thinkpad’s trackpad is incredibly smooth, though it’s not as roomy as the MacBook Air’s or those found on other Ultrabooks. And if you’re a Thinkpad diehard, you’ll be pleased to learn there’s also red Trackpoint nub among the keys, as well as mechanical mouse buttons right below the keyboard. For the most part, I relied on the X1 Yoga’s trackpad, which was accurate for mousing, though it sometimes got confused between left and right clicks. I’m not a huge Trackpoint fan, but it was admittedly helpful while I was cramped in a middle airplane seat. In situations like that, being able to mouse with just your finger, and without moving your elbows, is immensely helpful.

Performance and battery life

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 OLED (2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U, Intel HD 520) 4,892 4,186 E2,609 / P1,419 3,577 2.2 GB/s / 1.3 GB/s
HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,046 3,747 E2,790 / P1,630 / X375 3,810 1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Huawei MateBook (1.1 GHz Core M3, Intel HD 515) 3,592 2,867 E1,490 / P887 2,454 538 MB/s / 268 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (1.2 GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515) 4,951 3,433 E1,866 / P1,112 2,462 545 MB/s / 298 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,368 3,448

E2,707 / P1,581

3,161 556 MB/s / 511 MB/s

On the hardware front, the Thinkpad X1 Yoga offers everything you’d expect from an Ultrabook today. It starts with an Intel Core i5-6200U, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD. The model we reviewed is a bit beefier, with a Core i7 6600U, 16GB of RAM and 256GB SSD.

It tackled just about every productivity task I threw at it: My daily workflow typically consists of having several browsers open with dozens of tabs, Slack, Spotify, and photo editing software running all at once. The Thinkpad handled video streaming from Netflix and Hulu just fine, and it processed dozens of large photos without any issues. It was about as fast as other recent ultraportables, like the new HP Spectre, when it comes to benchmarks. Tough, since it’s sporting Intel HD 520 graphics, it can only tackle basic games.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the Thinkpad X1’s battery life. It lasted only around 4.5 hours during typical usage, and I always had to recharge it in the afternoons. In our battery test, which involves playing an HD video continuously at 50 percent brightness, it lasted 8.5 hours. It’s likely just far more efficient at handling video than a plethora of different programs running at once.

Configuration options and the competition

As always, expect to pay dearly for the privilege of using OLED. This Thinkpad X1 Yoga model starts at $1,682, while the standard LCD version starts at $1,400. Its hardware starts with the specs I’ve mentioned above, but it would cost you $2,168 to upgrade to all of the specs from our review model. Still, the premium is likely worth it if you’ve been hankering for some OLED goodness.

While there’s plenty of ultraportable competition on the market, there are few alternatives that pack an OLED screens. HP recently revamped its Spectre x360 convertible with the technology, which starts at a more reasonable $1,499. And Alienware’s gaming-ready OLED models come in at $1,800. It might be worth sticking with the Thinkpad if you want OLED with the best productivity build quality, but if you’re a gamer, Alienware’s option is worth a look too.

Wrap-up

It’ll likely be a while before OLED becomes the norm on laptops, but the Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a fine example of why we’d want it in all of our devices. Yes, even in a laptop that looks like it belongs in a boring corporate cubicle. That could also be appealing to some buyers: it looks like a dull Thinkpad on the surface, but it’ll blow your mind when you actually turn it on.

The Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a reminder that OLED isn’t just bright and bold, it’s a transformative display technology. Now if only it weren’t so expensive.

24
Aug

Moto Z’s Hasselblad camera add-on surfaces in fresh photos


When Motorola and Lenovo unveiled the Moto Z, they unveiled a host of MotoMods… except for one. Where was that camera add-on we’d seen in leaks? Apparently, it’s still coming — and it might be more than you were expecting. Moto G3 has come across community photos showing that the camera module is not only Hasselblad-branded as anticipated, but packs a 10X optical zoom lens. There aren’t any clues as to the sensor, alas, but we suspect that this is more likely to be a point-and-shoot quality (maybe mirrorless) sensor given the size, rather than Hasselblad’s signature medium format. You’ll be taking better photos than you would with the stock camera, then, but we wouldn’t count on magazine-quality Instagram shots.

If leaks are accurate, you won’t have to wait long for more details. The Hasselblad MotoMod may be announced at Germany’s IFA show, which officially starts on September 2nd. There aren’t any clues as to the price, but we can’t imagine that Hasselblad camera hardware will come cheap. We’d expect something in the ballpark of a previous photography add-on like Sony’s QX10, which cost about $230 when new.

Hasselblad MotoMod for Moto Z

Via: TechnoBuffalo, PetaPixel

Source: Moto G3

23
Aug

Microsoft inks a patent and software deal with Lenovo


Microsoft is dipping its fingers into the coffers of yet another Android device manufacturer. The company has just announced a partnership with Lenovo, which will put its apps in the Chinese’s manufacturer’s Android phones. It also includes a patent cross-licensing deal that covers Lenovo’s — and Motorola’s — devices’ giving it right to use some of Microsoft’s intellectual properties. According to Redmond, its new partner has agreed to preload Office, OneDrive and Skype on select Android phones. It didn’t specify which models are getting those apps, but company exec Nick Parker mentioned that they’ll be loaded onto the company’s “premium devices.”

Lenovo is the latest addition to the list of Android manufacturers sending money straight to Redmond. Microsoft started negotiating with hardware makers in 2010 after openly accusing Google of infringing on its software patents to make Android. It struck deals with numerous companies since then, including HTC, Samsung and even obscure phonemakers not active in the US.

Source: Microsoft

16
Aug

Lenovo unveils two compact, VR-ready desktop gaming PCs


Desktop PCs are becoming a tough sell, thanks to rival laptops with NVIDIA mobile graphics chips nearly as powerful as desktop graphics cards. That’s perhaps why Lenovo launched a couple of oddball Windows 10 desktop models at Gamescom that emphasize portability and gaming power. The first is the IdeaCenter Y710 Cube, a compact, handle-equipped model that, we can’t help but notice, slightly resembles a killer robot.

The idea is to give gamers high-end desktop power that’s easy to “transport between gaming stations,” as Lenovo puts it. Tucked in the small form factor is up to a sixth-gen Intel i7 CPU, GeForce GTX 1080 graphics, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB SSD (or 2TB hard disk). You can also equip it with Dolby Audio, high-end WiFi, an Xbox One controller and an Xbox One wireless receiver that supports up to seven additional controllers. With those specs, of course, it’ll easily handle your HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

The second model is the IdeaCenter AIO Y910 all-in-one, aimed at gamers who want power but lack space. The entire computer is packed into the 27-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 borderless monitor (with 144Hz refresh and 5ms response), freeing up space that a case would normally take up. Yet, Lenovo has managed to pack in the exact same specs of the Y710 Cube. You’ll get up to a sixth-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, GeForce GTX 1080 graphics, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 2TB HDD or 256 GB SSD and twin 5 watt Harmon Kardon speakers.

Even though they’re trapped in a fairly tight space, you can still swap out parts thanks to a detachable back panel. Naturally, this model also conforms to the virtual reality minimum specs set by HTC and Oculus.

There’s a price for the combination of power, small size and portability. While the basic Y710 Cube model starts at €899 (around $1,000), the VR-ready model with an NVIDIA GTX 1070 runs €1,699 ($1,900), quite a premium over what you could build yourself. The all-in-one Y910 starts at €1,799 ($2,000), with a VR-friendly GTX 1070-equipped model priced at €2,199 ($2,500). The basic Y710 Cube arrives this month, the VR-friendly Y710 and the basic AIO Y910 will be available in September, and the high-end, VR-ready Y910 AIO will hit shelves by October, 2016.

16
Aug

NVIDIA brings desktop-class graphics to laptops


With the GeForce GTX 1080, NVIDIA pushed the boundaries of what a $600 graphics card can do. That flagship card was joined by the GTX 1070 and GTX 1060, two lower-power cards based on the same 16nm Pascal architecture at a much more affordable price. Now, it’s bringing mobile versions of those cards that match their desktop counterparts in almost every area — including being VR ready.

That’s not hyperbole. The top-of-the-line 1080M has 2,560 CUDA cores and 8GB of 10Gbps GDDR5x memory. The desktop chip has the same. The only difference is clock speed: it’s set at 1,556MHz, while the desktop version is 1,607MHz. The two do share the same boost clock (1,733MHz) though, and both have access to all the new technology introduced for the Pascal architecture. That means simultaneous multi-projection, VRWorks, Ansel and the rest.

If you want an idea what those specs translate to in real-world performance, how’s this: when paired with an i7-6700HQ (a quad-core 2.6GHz chip with 3.5GHz turbo), Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, 126; Overwatch, 147; Doom, 145; Metro Last Light, 130; Rise of the Tomb Raider, 125. Those are the 1080M’s FPS figures when playing at 1080p with “ultra” settings at 120Hz. NVIDIA is really pushing 120Hz gaming, and many of the first crop of Pascal laptops will have 120Hz G-Sync displays.

4K gaming, too, is more than possible. At 4K with “high” settings the same setup can push 89FPS on Overwatch, 70FPS with Doom, and 62FPS with Metro Last Light (according to NVIDIA). Only Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and Rise of the Tomb Raider fall short of 60FPS, both clocking in at a very playable 52FPS. At the chip’s UK unveil, NVIDIA showed the new Gears of War playing in 4K in real-time, and there were absolutely no visible frame drops. With figures like that, it goes without saying that VR will be no problem for the 1080M. The desktop GTX 980 is the benchmark for both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and the 1080M blows it away. If you’re looking for more performance, the 1080M supports overclocking of course — NVIDIA suggests as high as 300MHz — and you can expect laptops sporting two in an SLI configuration soon.

The major drawback for the 1080M is power. We don’t know its exact TDP yet, but given the near-identical desktop version runs at 180W, you’d imagine it’s got to be at least 150W. NVIDIA has tech that counters that heavy power load when you’re not plugged in, of course. Chief among these is BatteryBoost, which allows you to set a framerate (i.e. 30FPS), and downclocks the GPU appropriately to save power — if your card is capable of pushing 147FPS plugged in, that’s going to be a fair amount of power saved. Whatever the battery savings possible, though, it won’t change the fact that the 1080M is only going to slide into big laptops.

That’s fine for those already used to carrying around behemoths on the go, but plenty of gamers prefer something more portable. Enter the 1070M. NVIDIA says this chip will fit into any chassis that currently handles the 980M, which covers a lot of laptops.

Just like the 1080M, the 1070M matches its desktop sibling in many ways. You’ve actually got slightly more in the way of CUDA cores — 2,048 vs. the desktop’s 1,920, but again they’re clocked slower (1,442MHz vs. 1,506MHz). Memory is the same — 8GB 8Gbps GDDR5 — and it too benefits from both the Pascal architecture itself and the new software features that come with it.

CUDA cores 2,560 2,560 1,920 2,048
Base clock 1,607MHz 1,556MHz 1,506MHz 1,442MHz
Boost clock 1,733MHz 1,733MHz 1,683MHz 1,645MHz
Memory 8GB GDDR5X 8GB GDDR5X 8GB GDDR5 8GB GDDR5
Memory speed 10Gbps 10Gbps 8Gbps 8Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 320GB/sec 320GB/sec 256GB/sec 256GB/sec

When faced off against the desktop 1070, the 1070M holds its own. In nearly every test we saw, it got within a couple of percentiles of the desktop card. We’re talking 77FPS in The Witcher 3 (1080p maxed settings, no HairWorks) vs. 79.7FPS on the 1070; 76.2FPS in The Division (1080p ultra) vs. 76.6FPS; and 64.4FPS in Crysis 3 (1080p very high) vs. 66.4FPS. The one outlier was Grand Theft Auto V, which dropped down to 65.3FPS vs. 73.7FPS on the desktop 1070. 4K gaming is a stretch on the desktop 1070, and that carries over here, but this card is more-than VR ready. NVIDIA says that it’ll support factory overclocking on the 1070M soon, so you may see laptops offering a little more grunt “in a couple of months.”

Rounding off the lineup is the 1060M, the mobile version of NVIDIA’s $249 “budget” VR-ready card. It’s something of the exception to the rule here. Yes, it offers 1,280 CUDA cores and 6GB 8Gbps GDDR5 memory, which is equal to the desktop 1060. But at the lower end of the range the fact that they’re clocked lower (1,404MHz vs. 1,506MHz) hurts performance quite a bit more. In side-by-side comparisons, NVIDIA’s benchmarks suggest you’ll get within ten percent or so of the desktop card. That’s not to say that the 1060M is a slouch. For traditional gaming, you’re not going to hit 60FPS at 1080P in every game without thinking about settings, but if you can play it on a desktop GTX 980, it’s probably a safe bet that the 1060M can handle it. That’s insanely impressive when you consider that the 1060M will fit into the same chassis as the 970M — think “ultra portable” gaming laptops.

CUDA cores 1,280 1,280 2,048
Base clock 1,404MHz 1,506MHz 1,126MHz
Boost clock 1,670MHz 1,708MHz 1,216MHz
Memory 6GB GDDR5* 6GB GDDR5 4GB GDDR5
Memory speed 8Gbps 8Gbps 7Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 192GB/sec 192GB/sec 224GB/sec

*Up to

In reality, the 10-percent gap between the 1060 and the 1060M probably makes it slightly slower than the GTX 980, but the difference is almost negligible. I wasn’t able to push the 1060M too hard on the “VR ready” promise — you can read about the demo and why the 1060M matters in a separate article — but the demo I had was solid. And really, being able to plug an Oculus into something as slim as a Razer Blade was unthinkable a few months ago, so it’s probably best not to complain.

Acer, Alienware, Asus, Clevo, EVGA, HP, Gigabyte, Lenovo, MSI, Origin, Razer, Sager and XMG are just some of the OEMs signed up to make laptops with the new Pascal chips. Many will announce updated and all-new models today, while some might hold off a while. But expect lots of super-powerful, VR-ready gaming laptops very soon.

10
Aug

Moto G4 Review: No longer a game-changer (Video)


Before Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014, the company created a few very interesting lines of phones under the Moto brand that sought to change the way we buy phones. One of these is the Moto G line, that was introduced a few years ago and offered an very reliable and speedy phone for less than $200 unlocked. The Moto G eventually became Motorola’s highest selling phone of all time.

Fast-forward to today, Lenovo hopes to carry on the legacy of the Moto G, and offer a quality, affordable successor in a world where most other smartphone companies are offering their new phones for lower prices. The Moto G4 is here, and literally bigger than ever.

Build

The Moto G4’s build quality hasn’t improved from the previous years iterations, but it feels solid for a $200 plastic phone. At 155 grams, it has the perfect amount of heft for me. I really like the plastic back of the phone which has a slightly textured feel to it and feels almost like rubber, although the oil from your hands will visibly show up on it after just a little usage. Wash your hands at all times.
IMG_7960IMG_7962

The front of the device brings the classic minimalistic style I’ve loved since the Nexus S came out a long time ago. In fact, the design of this phone reminds me so much of a bigger Galaxy Nexus – front and back. There’s nothing on the front except the secondary camera and a single front-facing speaker right above the screen. No Lenovo logo, no Moto logo. That’s a +1 right there. While I’m bummed they didn’t include dual speakers like last year’s Moto G, I can’t complain for the price. Plus, the single speaker does get very loud, and almost competes with speaker quality on flagship phones using single speakers on the bottom.

As for the power and volume buttons, someone at Lenovo should’ve spoke up about these. They feel cheap, and barely provide any feedback when pressing them. It takes more effort to press the volume buttons than any other phone I’ve used. The power button at least has a horizontal line texture on it to distinguish it from the volume.

Screen

Easily the highlight of this phone. I’ve seen quite a few cheap LCD displays on phones before, even on more expensive phones, but the 1080p LCD display on the Moto G4 rocks.

I was disappointed with Lenovo’s decision to put a 5.5 display on the Moto G, but after using it for a week, it doesn’t feel like a big phone at all. 71% of the front of this device is covered with screen, so it doesn’t feel bulky to me.

Aside from the size, the quality of this screen seriously impresses me for what it’s worth. If any of you still own the OnePlus One or OnePlus 2, the display quality is right with those. I will say, the viewing angles are not great, as the brightness decreases and colors go yellow as soon as the device is slightly shifted away from your eyes. However this isn’t a problem for me, as my phone is directly facing me 98% of the time I use it.

Comparing the screen to other LCD displays like the Nexus 5X and Nexus 5, I immediately prefer the display on the Moto G4. The colors look very washed out on the LCD Nexus devices compared to the Moto G4, which is able to produce colors almost as vivid as an AMOLED display.

The 1080p resolution is perfect for this device. I started using this phone right after using the OnePlus 3, and believe it or not, I prefer this screen. These phones both have 5.5 inch 1080p displays, but the pentile AMOLED screen on the OnePlus 3 holds it back in comparison in terms of image sharpness. Images are sharper, more accurate, and the whites on the G4 look much better. I still much prefer the deep blacks on the OnePlus 3’s AMOLED screen though.

Performance

In 2016, it’s hard to find a phone running Android 6.0 that doesn’t perform well. The Moto G4 runs on a Snapdragon 617 processor which was unveiled by Qualcomm in September of 2015. I was expecting a sluggish experience, and to this day I’m waiting for the inevitable crashes or hair-pulling slowdowns to happen. But so far, this phone runs well! If I were to compare the everyday speed of the Moto G4 to something else, I would say it’s neck and neck with the Nexus 5 from 2013 – which still runs like a champ on Marshmallow with its Snapdragon 800 chip.

After using the phone for a couple hours on AT&T LTE while browsing on Chrome, the phone didn’t get as warm as other phones have, and quick-charging it with the Motorola Turbo-Charger doesn’t make the phone as hot as previous Motorola phones, specifically the hot-plate that is the Droid Turbo.

If you’re into mobile gaming, you might want to look the other way. The Adreno 405 GPU here does not handle most games very well, and loading times are pretty terrible. I primarily play Fallout Shelter, and while I had zero hiccups and quick loading times playing it on a phone with a Snapdragon 820 chip, the loading time to get into my game on average took a staggering 72 seconds on the Moto G4. This was if the game didn’t freeze or crash mid-load, which happened 20% of the time. I experienced similar results with other 3D games.

Camera

Don’t expect miracles here, people. But also don’t expect a bad camera. The Moto G4’s 13-megapixel with f/2.0 aperture provides pictures more than deserved for a $200 phone. Pictures in daylight look a little more dim than they should be.

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Low-light pictures lose a lot of detail, but having HDR mode on really helps balance out the bright parts of the photos and the darks. Notice the overexposure of the Subway sign and interior in normal capture mode.

HDR off

HDR off

HDR on

HDR on

Daylight HDR on

Daylight HDR on

Daylight HDR off

Daylight HDR off

The camera app takes a couple seconds to open, which is annoying when trying to grab a quick shot. The app comes with some useful features such as professional mode that allows for manual tweaks, slow motion mode (although the 540p resolution for this is kind of a joke) and auto-HDR.

Software

I was a little nervous Lenovo would take Motorola’s near-stock Android skin and mess it up, but things have barely changed since previous Moto phones.

This is basically stock Android with the addition of a few useful features. First, we have Moto Gestures, which includes four ways of interacting with the phone. When it’s off, you can make a chopping motion with the phone to turn on the flashlight. Keeping the phone face down immediately mutes the phone and keeps it silent. When someone calls, picking the phone off the table cuts the noise of the ringer. Finally, whether the phone is on or off, twisting it will launch the camera.

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On top of this, Moto Display is back, showing your notifications when the phone is sleeping, however it;s nowhere near as useful as it is on the Moto Z, or previous Moto X phones that have sensor on the front for hand waving gestures, or the AMOLED screens that actually save battery when using the Moto Display. On this phones LCD display, you can totally tell the entire screen is on, and it just doesn’t look great.

Battery

A 3000mAh battery is becoming common for a high-end phone, so the decision to put one in the $200 Moto G4 was a great move from Lenovo. This phone lasts until the very end of the day for me with 10-15% left. To be exact, I unplug the device at 6:45 AM, stream Play Music for 30 minutes to work, browse reddit and Chrome for about an hour a day, text my imaginary friends using Textra, send between 20-30 snaps with Snapchat, and use a lot of GroupMe until I’m tuckered out at 10:30 PM. That’s 16 hours of “moderate” usage.

I haven’t felt concerned with running out of battery in a day yet, but if I do, this phone comes with a Turbo-Charger that supports Qualcomm Quickcharge. I remember when I had to pay extra for a Turbo-Charger when I bought a Moto X 2014… so I’m very pleased with this.

Conclusion

I’m satisfied with the Moto G4. I’m not blown away by it, and I’m not disappointed with it. Lenovo didn’t take risks with this device, and they didn’t push any boundaries. The build quality lives on from previous Moto G generations, and the display quality is something I never expected to see on a $200 smartphone. But is a bigger, better display worth the removal of dual front-facing speakers and a waterproof exterior? If I were to give an answer, I would say the screen is more important to me than speakers I rarely use, or having the ability to pour champagne on my smartphone.

At $199 for the 16GB model, the Moto G4 is less impressive than it was in its earlier generations, and faces serious competition from smartphones in similar price ranges, such as the all-metal, fingerprint scanner included Honor 5X. For $199, I would recommend the Honor 5X over this phone, but you won’t be disappointed with a purchase of the Moto G4, especially with the experience of customizing it through the innovative Moto Maker website.

You can purchase the Moto G4 here

 

1
Aug

Mini review video: Our quick verdict on the new Moto Z phones


For years, Motorola put out a flagship phone called the X, and for years it won positive reviews, thanks to its customizable design, clean software build and generally good value. This year, there’s no X. Instead, we have two new Moto phones, the Z and Z Force. And it makes sense that Motorola chose a different naming scheme, because these are indeed very different devices from what the company has put out in years past. The design is no longer customizable, and with prices reaching $624 for the Z and $720 for the Z Force, they’re not exactly what we’d call affordably priced either. Instead of being colorful and cheap, they have a modular design that allows you to snap in optional “Moto Mods” accessories, including a speaker, projector and battery pack. Another risk? Neither phone has a headphone jack. Oh, and they’re exclusive to Verizon.

While we’re not too pleased about those last two caveats, the Moto Mods make the Z line the best modular phones we’ve seen yet. The Z in particular is exceptionally thin and charges quickly, while the slightly chunkier Z Force adds longer battery life, a shatter-proof screen and a more robust 21-megapixel camera. For that reason, we gave the Z Force the higher score. But hey, if a thin phone floats your boat, you’ll be happy with the Z too.

28
Jul

Mini review: Our quick verdict on the Moto G4 and G4 Plus


Since 2013, the Moto G has been our favorite mid-range smartphone — or favorite budget phone, even, depending on how you define “budget.” Now in its fourth generation, the G series has expanded to include three models, two of which we got to take for a spin in a recent review. Indeed, the 5.5-inch G4 and G4 Plus mostly impress, but not every design decision feels like an improvement. Though the phones are more expensive than they used to be, at $200 and $250, respectively, the plastic build feels less durable than we would have otherwise expected.

What’s more, the G4 is no longer waterproof, and its camera suffers in low light, to boot. The G4 Plus at least offers a better camera and faster performance, though it too has a chintzy build that doesn’t feel likely to stand years of wear and tear. Those complaints aside, the handsets nonetheless deserve their strong scores of 84 and 86 — and they continue Moto’s tradition of holding down the “value smartphone” crown.

26
Jul

Lenovo K4 Note review


Lenovo is slowly but surely making an impact in the Android smartphone market, particularly here in India. Lenovo has some fantastic devices on offer, with a smartphone portfolio that is continuously expanding, and one of the most popular of their devices is the Lenovo K4 Note.

Its predecessor was very popular, and the latest offering takes things one step further, with the K4 Note bringing some of the best features of the higher-end Vibe X3 to this affordable series. What does this device bring to the table? We find out, in this comprehensive Lenovo K4 Note review!

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Unboxing

The phone comes in pretty standard packaging, with an image of the phone and the large VIBE branding splashed across the box. Opening the box reveals the phone in all its glory, and it’s nice to see the device already in a protective case. The hard plastic case isn’t the most impressive though, and if you are particularly clumsy, you may be better off picking something sturdier.

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Diving in deeper, you will find the standard documentation, an AC wall adapter, and a USB charging cable, and Lenovo also includes a screen guard with the device, which is another nice touch. There are no headphones included, but that does make sense, given the affordable nature of this phone. Setting up the device only takes a few minutes, and follows the standard steps that any Android smartphone user will be familiar with. Once the phone is setup, you will find the official update for Android 6.0 Marshmallow waiting for you.

Design

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The K4 Note sees a significant upgrade in terms of design and build quality, when compared to its predecessor. The device now features a metal frame and a polycarbonate plastic backing, which makes the phone feel sturdy and solid in the hand. The combination of dual-front facing speakers and a fingerprint scanner just below the camera makes the K4 Note aesthetically similar to the Lenovo Vibe X3, which isn’t really surprising, given that this device has been released in some markets as the Vibe X3 Lite.

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The plastic backing is removable, giving you access to the microSD card and SIM card slots, but the battery cannot be replaced. Removing the plastic back cover is when you notice how thin and flimsy it is, but despite appearances, it certainly holds up very well, and is something you won’t even notice when snapped in place. For those still worried, the device does come with a plastic protective case in the box, and there is also a version of the phone now available with a wood backing. The wooden back doesn’t seem to be sold separately yet, but is something that we can expect to see soon.

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Taking a look around the phone, the headphone jack and microUSB port are at the top and bottom respectively, and the power button is below the volume rocker on the right side. On the back is the camera that is centrally located along the top, and below it is the fingerprint scanner. Up front, below the display are the three capacitive navigation keys, but these buttons aren’t illuminated, which can make them quite difficult to see in the dark.

The power button doesn’t come with something like a ridged pattern to help differentiate it from the volume rocker, but the buttons are placed far enough away from each other for this to be a minor concern. The buttons also protrude quite a bit, so you can actually easily see which button you are pressing. The buttons don’t offer as much tactile feedback as might be expected, and the power button in particular feels quite mushy. However, with you being able to unlock the device and directly go to the homescreen using the fingerprint scanner, you won’t need to use the power button all that much anyway.

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As far as the handling experience is concerned, a slight curve on the back allows for the phone to nestle nicely in the palm of your hand, and unlike metal smartphones, the device isn’t slippery either, courtesy of the polycarbonate backing. Overall, the Lenovo K4 Note is a very well-designed smartphone, and as is also the case with some of its competitors, the design and build quality of the phone certainly goes beyond what you would expect from a sub-$200 device.

Display

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The K4 Note comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display, with a Full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. Many affordable smartphones are starting to boast Quad HD screens now, but 1080p gets the job done here, with text appearing sharp, and watching videos and playing games is a lot of fun as well. The viewing angles aren’t great however, and while the brightness at the highest setting is good enough to allow for easy outdoor viewing, the screen can be quite dull and dark when the brightness is set to less than 40% even when indoors.

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The default color balance is good enough, but the color temperature is on the cooler side. You do have some options available to set the color balance and temperature to your liking, including a manual mode that gives you granular control over these aspects. One preset setting is called Comfort Mode, that helps protect your eyes when browsing the phone for long periods of time. There is also Smart Brightness, which judges when the phone is in harsh lighting conditions and enhances the visibility. It works well enough, but as mentioned, the display brightness is cranked up anyway.

Performance

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Under the hood, the K4 Note comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T720MP3 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. There is also a version with 2 GB of RAM, but this iteration hasn’t been released in India. The performance has been pretty good, helped along by a clean software package, and there have been no glaring issues. The device handles day to day tasks very well, and opening, closing, and switching between apps has been smooth.

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Of course, the K4 Note isn’t a performance powerhouse, and the benchmark scores reflect that, but with average usage, this phone certainly impresses. The gaming experience has been enjoyable as well, and playing games like Stick Cricket 2, UFC, and NBA Live Mobile have been a lot of fun. Games do take a bit to load, and there are some instances of stutter when navigating through the menus and settings, but when it comes to the actual gameplay, things have been smooth and lag free for the most part.

Hardware

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16 GB is the only on-board storage option available here in India, but in other markets, there are 8 GB and 32 GB iterations to be found. However, something to keep in mind is that the latter two come with 2 GB of RAM, while this Indian edition features 3 GB of RAM. If storage is a concern, the device features a dedicated microSD card slot, allowing for up to an additional 256 GB of space.

You get two microSIM card slots here, and you can pre-select which SIM can be used to for calling, texts, and data. The option you select for data will allow for access to 3G/4G LTE, while the other sticks to EDGE. It’s also a nice touch that you can choose different ringtones and message tones for the two SIM cards, making it easy for you to distinguish between them. There have been no issues with voice calling, with both parties able to hear the other loud and clear.

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The K4 Note comes with dual front-facing speakers – which is always the best placement for speakers – with Dolby ATMOS features. While these speakers don’t get as loud as I would have liked, you get a rich stereo sound which further enhances the video-viewing and gaming experiences.

The Dolby ATMOS settings allow you to choose between preset options like Movie, Music, Game, or Voice, and you can also set up custom settings depending on your liking. You also get additional features, including Surround Virtualizer, Dialogue Enhances, and Volume Leveler. This is buried in the Settings menu however, and is found under the “Ringtones and Volumes” section.

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With headphones on, the audio is absolutely fantastic, with impressive bass that I haven’t found with other, more expensive, smartphones. Something to remember is that it can get really loud with headphones on, so much so that the default volume setting is set to 50%, and you won’t find yourself needing to go any higher than that. If good audio is one of your requirements, the K4 Note is definitely a great option.

The phone comes with a fingerprint scanner on the back, and this is another feature that was very impressive. The setup is quick and easy, and the scanner is very accurate, but while it’s definitely fast enough, it may not be as fast as other sensors out there. Using the scanner unlocks the phone and takes you directly into the homescreen, which means that you will rarely have to reach for the power button.

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The scanner comes with a few extra uses when the phone is as well. You can set it up so that a single tap can have it function as a back button or take you back to the homescreen, and a long press can open the Recent Apps screen, or again, take you back to the homescreen. Finally, you can have the scanner function as a shutter button as well, which is very useful when taking selfies. These are similar to the gesture support offered by rival Chinese OEM Huawei in some of its recent flagships.

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The K4 Note comes with a 3,300 mAh non-removable battery, that allows for really good battery life. I was able to consistently get up to 5 hours of screen-on time with the device, and an impressive stand-by times means that the device easily lasted through a full day of use, and sometimes even two, depending on my usage. With heavy usage however, while the screen-on time was still pretty good, it was easy to drain the battery rather quickly.

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You get the standard Battery Saver mode that automatically kicks in at the 15% mark, and there is also an Ultimate Battery Saver feature, that minimalizes the UI, and allows for only calls and texts. An interesting battery feature is “Scheduled Power On and Off,” that lets you preset a time period where the device automatically switches off and turns back on again.

Camera

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The Lenovo K4 Note features a 13 MP rear camera with a f/2.2 aperture, and a dual LED flash, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit, also with the same aperture.

The default camera app is very simplistic, and everything you may need can be found easily on the viewfinder. At the top left are the buttons to switch between the cameras and toggle HDR, and at the bottom is the button to toggle the flash. Only two modes are available in the menu, including Panorama and another that adds color filters to your images. Further in the settings is where you fill find the option to choose the settings for aspect ratio, photo resolution, snap mode, triaxial leveling, and guidelines.

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Using the front-facing camera adds the Beauty mode, and you also have an option called “fill light,” that adds two, pink or chrome, bars at the top and bottom of the screen to light up your face in dark environments, but it doesn’t really help much, and results in a pink or bronze hue in the shot.

As far as the image quality is concerned, the 13 MP rear camera is capable of taking some nice shots, especially in well-lit situations, and the images can be crisp and clear sometimes. Not surprisingly, some noise and grain starts to creep in as lighting conditions deteriorate though. The camera doesn’t handle shadows particularly well either, with very little detail to be seen, and while HDR tends to help here, it creates an oversharpened, unnatural looking shot. The camera also tends to underexpose shots in a few situations, and when you use the tap to focus feature, it also adjusts the exposure, leading to either overblown highlights or super dark shadows.

As far as video is concerned, the camera is capable of recording at a Full HD resolution at 30 fps. Video quality isn’t particularly impressive, and with no OIS, you can get some noisy and shaky videos. The phone comes with a 3 microphone system intended to help with background noise reduction, and while it does a good job when outdoors, the sound is somewhat muted when recording audio in quieter locations.

Overall, the K4 Note camera is serviceable and will certainly get the job done in a pinch, but it’s in the little details that the camera lets you down. It’s certainly not the worst camera we’ve seen on an affordable smartphone, but it isn’t close to the best either and if the camera is important to you, this is certainly something to keep in mind.

Software

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On the software side of things, the K4 Note is running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, but – following the update’s release in India last month – there is now an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow immediately available after you first set up the phone.

The software experience is very clean and minimalistic, at least on the surface, and while it does have significant differences, quite a lot of stock and Material Design elements are to be seen here. The Settings menu and Recent Apps screen are the same as stock, Chrome is the default web browser, and Google Keyboard is the preset keyboard of choice. The notification dropdown and Quick Settings menu are also similar in the look, but it is packed with a lot more options, with even more available when you dive deeper, allowing you to pick and choose which settings are more useful to you.

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The app drawer retains the Material Design look, but is side swiping, instead of a top to bottom scroll. A nice addition here is that the app search menu up to also comes with a section that houses the most recent apps opened. There is a lot of bloatware to be seen however, with a slew of unnecessary, often redundant, apps pre-installed on the device.

Luckily you can uninstall most of these third-party applications, and the only ones that can’t be removed are Lenovo staples like ShareIT, SyncIT, and the Lenovo Companion app. There is also a Theme Center, but it isn’t particularly robust, and all you can really do is change the look of the lockscreen, icons, and wallpapers.

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The Lenovo Companion app is a very useful tool to have, and provides a quick and easy way to set up service requests, or browse through the forums to find solutions to everyday problems you might come across. There are also video guides available, and also a robust diagnostics tool that lets you check whether all the device hardware is working the way it should be.

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Finally, another feature that can be useful to some is Secure Zone; it can be toggled in the Quick Settings menu, and allows you to set up two virtual zones, that help keep your professional and personal lives separate. You can set up each zone to have their own accounts, passwords, and apps, and settings of one don’t carry over to the other.

If a notification arrives in one zone, you will know via a red dot that appears in the status bar, and you will then have to switch over to be able to check it. App data and documents are also kept apart, and if you are looking to share anything between the two, the way to do it is a via an OpenUserData shared folder. However, call logs and messages are shared between the zones.

Specifications

Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD display
Full HD resolution, 401 ppi
Processor 1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor
Mali-T720MP3 GPU
RAM 3 GB
Storage 16 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0
GPS
NFC
FM Radio
microUSB 2.0
Camera 13 MP rear camera, f/2.2 aperture, dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
Battery 3,300 mAh
Software Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions 153.6 x 76.5 x 9.2 mm
158 grams

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The Lenovo K4 Note is currently priced at Rs 10,999 (~$164), and the wooden back version isn’t that much more, priced at Rs 11,499 (~$171).

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So, there you have it for this in-depth look at the Lenovo K4 Note! Lenovo has certainly done a fantastic job with this smartphone, and while using, it has been difficult for me to wrap my head around how affordable it is. With a solid design, decent performance, great audio, and good battery life, Lenovo checks all the right boxes.

The software package does have a lot of extras, but you always have the option to de-activate the various settings and enjoy a stock-like experience, and the only real caveat here is the camera performance, which isn’t poor by any means. There are a lot of great affordable smartphones out there, but Lenovo stands out with a great audio experience, and if that is a requirement, I would definitely recommend the K4 Note.

What do you think of the Lenovo K4 Note and do you plan to buy one? If not, what other affordable smartphone would you buy? Let us know your views down below guys!

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