Earlier this year, Lenovo released the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note, which is a rather affordable 5.50-inch smartphone that promises the future of watching and shooting movies, and gaming via a virtual reality headset called AntVR. So what exactly can the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note and AntVR offer in terms of virtual reality?
Virtual reality is fast becoming the future of all digital gadgets. It started out in gaming, but now, a couple of smartphones are already elbowing their way in consumers’ hearts by offering virtual reality gear such as Samsung with the Samsung Gear VR and, of course, Lenovo with the AntVR gear.
The Vibe K4 Note is the first smartphone from the Lenovo family that boasts of a built-in virtual reality feature and TheaterMax. TheaterMax is designed to convert any multimedia into a virtual reality experience by immersing the viewer into a large and wide cinematic experience via the AntVR virtual reality gear. This means that in theory, you can actually just download any video, any movie, and view it in widescreen cinematic mode that is so immersive it could resemble that of a virtual reality experience. Partnered with two large Dolby Atmos speakers at the face of the device, it should deliver a surround sound that is on par with a theater setting. Imagine just sitting at home with your own personal cinema, delivered with an almost virtual reality environment–that is the promise of the Vibe K4 Note and the AntVR.
However, after playing around with the AntVR and the K4 Note, it doesn’t actually feel as amazing as it was meant to sound like. Virtual reality aside, the K4 Note as a device is just okay. Well, if you look at the price point the Vibe K4 Note is going for, you’re not actually expecting a Samsung S-series level of performance. If value for money is the measure point, then you definitely have a winner. But if you’re looking for overall excellence, you’re better off looking somewhere else.
In terms of the virtual reality experience the K4 Note promises to deliver, it’s not so much a virtual reality than a pair of binoculars.
Starting off, the AntVR is light, at 100 grams, and is supposed to not bring any strain to your head because it’s as lightweight as a feather. To the touch, it actually is. It feels like two coins would weigh more than the AntVR gear itself. However, when you wear it around your head, it doesn’t fit as snugly as it should be. It’s awkward, it feels like it’s going to fall off, and if you don’t support the AntVR gear with your hands, you’re going to end up with a slightly-distorted view of what you’re watching. Much like trying to focus on a cheap telescope bought at a novelty store.
In terms of the cinematic experience that TheaterMax brings, it is not as cinematic as you would hope it would be. The secret to creating the widescreen illusion is by generating two split screens and then merging them into one video. That is why when you turn on the Vibe K4 Note’s virtual reality mode, you will see two split screens on the phone screen. When you snap the Vibe K4 Note onto the AntVR and wear it around your head, the two images come together and forms a widescreen view. However, while the widescreen shape of the cinema is mimicked, it is not as comfortable at it should be. Since the view is sitting right in front of your eyes, motion sickness and eye fatigue is quick, depending of course on the threshold of every user.
This writer has astigmatism and uses black-rimmed glasses when coming into contact with digital devices such as laptops or televisions. Although the eyeglasses are able to fit just as well inside the AntVR, the discomfort of wearing the AntVR is not worth it.
In terms of virtual reality the Vibe K4 Note and the AntVR is supposed to deliver, it’s just wrong in all levels. The virtual reality that the AntVR powered by the Vibe K4 Note is bringing is not what virtual reality is supposed to look like. Note that the design of the AntVR comes with two square-shaped holes on the sides of the head. Although it boasts of its portability due to its weight and folding structure, the two gaping holes at both sides of the AntVR just doesn’t give the full immersive experience a virtual reality gear should offer. In fact, the Google Cardboard may actually be more immersive than the Vibe K4 Note’s AntVR since the whole view is covered by the device.
Gaming-wise, the Vibe K4 Note and AntVR are also not as great since they do not come with controllers. This writer has tried a first-person shooter game with the Vibe K4 Note Note and the AntVR and it just doesn’t make sense. You are supposed to shoot zombies by looking at it and the device detects where your eyes are focused. A minute into the game and I was still getting eaten by zombies (and mind you, I pride myself for being a rather good first-person shooter fan). An 8-bit Super Mario game would have been more fulfilling and entertaining.
Navigating with the K4 Note when it is worn around the head via the AntVR is also impossible. When watching a movie, you should pre-load the video first before wearing the device because navigating is literally impossible when you’re already wearing the AntVR. At least Google Cardboard had the effort to include a switch on the right side and motion-detected cues when maneuvering the device.
The AntVR gear is created in partnership with Lenovo for the Vibe K4 Note. However, the AntVR gear is also compatible with other Lenovo smartphones that come in 5.5-inch screens like the Lenovo Vibe X3 and the A7000 Plus. Are you willing to spill a couple of bucks for the Vibe K4 Note and the AntVR?