Lenovo K8 Note quick review: Stock Android may make it the best Note ever
In terms of pure numbers, the Lenovo-Motorola partnership has been a great success in India. Lenovo's own smartphones however have suffered as a result of the company concentrating more on the Moto brand name as of late.
In the last six months alone, the company has launched seven Moto branded phones in India and only a handful of Lenovo devices. All that is about to change with the K8 Note - a smartphone which not only comes with a premium all-metal design and top of the line specifications but is also the first device from Lenovo's stable to run on a near stock version of Android.
At Rs 12,999, the K8 Note finds itself in a extremely competitive segment which ironically enough is dominated by the Moto G5 Plus - a smartphone which is in essence the K8 Note's blood relative. Lenovo claims that the performance, cameras and software experience are the key highlights of the smartphone. Let's talk about the software first.
It's all about stock Android
The distinction between a Lenovo and Motorola smartphone are blurring . Upon first impression, the K8 Note feels as if someone has crammed a Motorola handset inside the body of a Lenovo phone. The fact that a K8 Note feels a lot like a Moto device in use is high praise indeed as Moto's software is known to be the best in business.
Previous Lenovo smartphones ran Vibe UI which was notorious for being very heavy, laggy and full of bloat. Thankfully, Vibe UI is now dead in the water. Stock Android is truly the highlight of this device. Paired with the fairly powerful internals, the software just seems to zip along and rarely shows signs of slowing down.
The software looks exactly like the one found on Motorola's handsets - down to the custom icons for phone, file manager, camera and so on. Even the trademark Moto clock widget is on offer here. The only major distinction can be found in the settings. There is an option to customise the nifty hardware 'Music Key' which is found in the right edge of the device.
Stock Android is the highlight of this device. Paired with the powerful internals, the software just seems to zip along and rarely shows signs of slowing down
The Music Key can be used to control music playback. It can also be used to perform a variety of other functions such as opening a third party application or turning on the flashlight upon a long press. I personally love it when OEM's include such customisable hardware keys and this particular implementation reminds me of Nokia's old Xpress Music phones which used to come with dedicated music controls.
Premium all-metal design
The software is packaged in quite a premium body made entirely out of metal and glass - there is no plastic to be found here. The back is made entirely of metal and the front is an all glass affair protected by Gorilla Glass.
While the K8 Note is a little chunky and weighty, it looks very classy especially in the sleek matte finished Venom Black color. My only problem with the design is that it is not very original and looks a little generic from some angles. The build quality though is top-notch and the phone feels built to last.
Fairly powerful internals, crisp display
The Lenovo K8 Note comes with fairly powerful internals. The smartphone is powered by the deca-core MediaTek Helio X23 processor paired with the Mali T880 GPU, a 4,000mAh battery with TurboCharge support and either 3 or 4GB of RAM depending on the variant. In my limited time with the device, the K8 Note seemed to handle day to day tasks like web browsing and social media use fairly well. Further tests and evaluations are needed to determine the battery life and how the smartphone handles intensive use and gaming. Watch out for the full review.
A point of concern with the MediaTek processor is its efficiency. Even in my limited time of use, the device showed signs of overheating. While the X23 is quite a powerful processor, MediaTek chipsets are not very well known for their power management and efficiency.
The 'bokeh' shots produced by the dual camera look nice if a little artificial
The K8 Note comes with a 5.5-inch fullHD IPS LCD display which seems par for the course. It has nice and punchy colours and good viewing angles. It is also good to see Lenovo not follow in the footsteps of some of its rivals and equip a phone in this segment with a 720p panel. What I noticed within a few hours of using the device is that the maximum brightness is not enough to deal with Delhi's blazing sun. Also, the top and bottom bezels are a bit too big and make the phone a bit unwieldy to hold in one hand.
The smartphone supports all the usual stuff when it comes to connectivity - Wi-Fi, 4G, Dual SIMs and so on. Where it pulls ahead of the competition is that it does not come with the menace called a hybrid SIM slot - brownie points for Lenovo for that. However, the lack of NFC and the presence of microUSB port for charging and data transfer which just feels old fashioned in 2017 are downers.
Look Ma, two cameras
The K8 Note comes with dual cameras at the rear - a primary 13MP sensor alongside a secondary 5MP sensor. The primary camera seems to produce quite good images in well lit scenarios with good detail and dynamic range. On the front, there is a 13MP sensor with an aperture of f/2/2 which also seems to be above average.
Unlike the dual camera implementation found in the Honor 6X where the secondary sensor helps capture better low light shots, the secondary camera on the K8 Note provides no benefits in daily use. It is only used to capture depth of field images. The 'bokeh' shots produced by the dual camera look nice if a little artificial. A proper test of the bokeh mode and the camera's low light capabilities will follow in the full review.
All in all, the K8 Note seems like a solid mid-range offering from Lenovo that not only looks good and comes with dual cameras and powerful internals but also runs on a near stock build of Android. Truth to be told, the move to stock Android is one of the best decisions Lenovo has made in a long time.
The question mark on the processor's efficiency and power management might pull the K8 Note down. The upcoming Moto G5S Plus might also cannibalise sales of the smartphone. Let's wait and see how the smartphone performs in our upcoming full review. Till then the Lenovo K8 Note seems like a great, if not game-changing offering from Lenovo.