The game is changing in the Android smartphone world with there being a much larger focus on bang for the buck. While there used to be a clear distinction between the high-end, mid-range, and entry-level, in terms of specifications, features, and especially, price, these lines are now being blurred, with the slew of great affordable smartphones released in 2015 great examples of this. A lot of these devices are to be found in markets like China and India, manufactured by various local OEMs, and one such smartphone is the latest mid-range offering from Lenovo. Although this device makes a great first impression on paper, how well does it fare in day-to-day use? We find out, in this in-depth Lenovo K3 Note review!
The Lenovo K3 Note features quite a simplistic design language, with its angular design resulting in a boxy feel in the hand. The edges aren’t sharp though, and the device is easy to grip. The plastic rear comes with a matte finish, which makes it quite resistant to fingerprints and scratches.
Going around the device, the power button is found below the volume rocker on the right side. The buttons are positioned perfectly to be within easy reach, and come with a good tactile feel to them as well. The back cover is removable, giving users access to the replaceable battery, the microSD card slot, and the SIM card slot. The microUSB port is surprisingly found at the top, next to the headphone jack, but is a placement that does end up working, especially when listening to music using headphones while charging the device.
Another placement that is different from what you may be used to is the rear speaker that is found towards the top right corner, instead of along the bottom. The capacitive navigation keys below the display do not illuminate, but there won’t be any problems in finding them. Finally, there is a notification LED above the display next to the front-facing camera, with red showing when the device is charging, and green indicative of a missed call.
With a thickness of 8 mm and weighing 150 grams, the K3 Note may not be the sleekest device out there, but does feel very comfortable in the hand. Making up for the simplicity in design is the rather loud yellow color of the plastic backing, but a white or black version of the device is also available for those who prefer a more toned down option.
The K3 Note comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display, with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. Having a Full HD display on a sub-$200 device is a huge plus, a luckily, the display is a good performer as well, with accurate color reproduction, and great sharpness and viewing angles. Unfortunately the brightness isn’t the best, which does create some issues with outdoor visibility, but for the most part, this display allows for a really good viewing experience. While the device comes with Dragontrail protection, there were a few minor scratches on this unit after a few days of use as well.
Under the hood, the Lenovo K3 Note packs an octa-core 64-bit MediaTek MT6752 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T760MP2 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This processing package is certainly impressive given the price point of this device, but while the general performance has been very smooth, and the benchmark scores have been relatively high, the phone did hang a few times during my testing.
This is far from a major issue, and the device would return to its fluid, responsive state in at most ten seconds, but it can be pretty annoying when watching videos or scrolling through webpages. This does seem to be a problem with the software optimization though, and hopefully, a future update will come with a fix. The device otherwise handles general tasks, multi-tasking, and even some graphic-intensive gaming, very well.
The K3 Note comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, which is further expandable via microSD card by up to 64 GB. The device also features a standard suite of connectivity options, and the Wi-Fi and GPS signals are both pretty strong and stable, even in areas where some other devices may fail to have any connectivity. While the device does also come with 4G LTE support, that is restricted to markets it is officially available in, and in the US, you will be restricted to HSPA+.
The speaker of on the K3 Note is surprisingly good with regards to clarity, but could use a bump in volume. The different placement of the speaker at the top right corner means that it isn’t as easy to cover up when using the device in the landscape orientation, but as is the case with any rear speaker setup, the sound will get muffled when the phone is placed on its back on a flat surface.
The K3 Note comes with a 3,000 mAh removable battery, which provides for a far better than average battery life. With a day that included watching videos on Youtube, playing a few games, and running benchmarking applications, with the display brightness set at the highest, the device lasted for 14 hours with about 4 hours of screen-on time. A few power saving modes are baked in to get that little bit of extra juice out of the battery, and of course, you do always have the option to carry around a spare.
The device comes with a 13 MP rear camera with a dual LED flash, and makes for some good looking shots, although there were times when the camera faced some trouble with focusing quickly on a subject. Images are fairly sharp and with a good amount of detail, and the dual LED flash is very bright. As expected, low light photography is where this camera suffers, but overall, the image quality is certainly above and beyond what is assumed with a device in this price range.
As far as the camera application is concerned, the Lenovo app comes with the usual set of modes, the option to set specific scenes, and also allows for some granular control as well, over aspects like white balance and ISO, definitely making it a better than the usual MediaTek open source camera app that is found with a lot of the competitors of the K3 Note.
On the software side of things, the K3 Note runs Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, with Lenovo’s Vibe UI 2.5 on top. The Vibe UI has matured significantly over the past year, but could still use a bit more polish, such as the lockscreen not showing any notifications. The default launcher also doesn’t come with an app drawer, which can take some getting used to, and will require users to be dependent on folders to keep things organized.
That said, the software experience is certainly not bad by any stretch of the imagination. The implementation of the notification shade actually feels like it’s better than what is seen with stock Android, and there are quite a few gesture-based features as well. Finally, a themes center is available to change the look and feel of the software experience, and is fairly robust.
Keep in mind that some versions of the device, depending on where you pick it up from, might come with a lot of bloatware that resellers are including when adding Google Apps, and that could draw away from an otherwise positive experience. While Google Apps aren’t available in the Chinese version of the phone, this isn’t an issue in other markets where the device has officially launched, like India.
Android 5.0 Lollipop
13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
black, white, yellow
152.6 x 76.2 x 8 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
The Lenovo K3 Note is available officially in India for Rs 10,000, and users in the US can find it on Amazon starting at $160, with color options including yellow, white, and black.
So there you have it for this closer look at the Lenovo K3 Note! This device is certainly one of the best smartphones available for under $200, with its good Full HD display, excellent performance, and a large battery to keep it going. While not without its drawbacks, when it comes to aspects like outdoor visibility and the volume of the external speaker, the K3 Note does get the essentials right. Adding to the mix its impressively low price point, and what we get with the Lenovo K3 Note is yet another fantastic entrant in the budget-friendly smartphone space.