The Quick Take
In a short time, Lenovo has emerged as a force to reckon within the affordable smartphone market in India. The latest one from the company, the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus packs in quite a punch for a budget smartphone and doesn't look bad, but you'd have to make a few trade-offs here and there. You'd be inclined to, because the price is just right.
The budget segment in India is crowded, and a decent package just doesn't cut it. I spent a couple of weeks with the Vibe K5 Plus reviewing the smartphone, while simultaneously using a Huawei Honor 5X, a Redmi Note 3, and a LeEco Le 1S (yes, it's insane!) to put my experience in perspective.
- Sharp display
- Brilliant audio quality
- Decent camera
- Poor battery life
- Back panel is prone to scratches
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus specifications
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus
Android 5.1 Lollipop with Vibe UI
5-inch Full HD (1080 x 1920) IPS LCD
Qualcomm Octa core Snapdragon 616 | Quad core 1.5 GHz + Quad core 1.2 GHz
16GB internal memory, expandable up to 32GB via microSD card
13MP with LED flash
142 x 71 x 7.9 mm
About this review
I used the Indian retail variant of the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus that ran Vibe UI running on top of Android 5.1 out of the box. For most of the time, I used it with an Airtel 4G SIM in Delhi NCR. Out of the 16GB internal storage, a little over 10GB was available out of the box. During my usage, there was an OTA update too for performance improvements.
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus design
At first glance, the Vibe K5 Plus looks okay for a budget device. The built is sturdy, but it won't win any design contest. The K5 Plus does away with the all-plastic build of A6000/A6000 Plus, and goes for a hybrid design. The removable back panel features an aluminum plate in the middle flanked by two plastic strips. It's flimsy, and is prone to scratches.
Yet the phone is compact, and feels great in the hand, not once slipping out. The navigation keys at front are unfortunately not backlit, and you might fumble once in a while in dark.
The neatest touch on the Vibe K5 Plus is the twin speaker grilles at the back with the Dolby logo. Big props to Lenovo for including stereo speakers in a budget device.
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus display
The K5 plus sports a 5-inch Full HD IPS display which is pretty good for its price. I would've been contended with 720p display, but a 1080p display with 441ppi for a budget device is impressive.
It's sharp and vivid, and also offers great viewing angles. The text is sharp and the images are crisp. The colors are a bit dull and the accuracy too is only middling, especially when looked at an angle. The brightness and contrast is at par or better than most sub-₹10,000 smartphones in the market, although if you have a good eye, you'd rate Redmi Note 3's display better. The K5 Plus though has better color accuracy.
There's no Gorilla Glass protection but that's understandable for a budget device. For a budget LCD panel, the Vibe K5 Plus also does good enough in bright sunlight.
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus hardware
Powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus does well on the specifications sheet for a budget device. The performance though is middling, and once you've got a few apps on and are multitasking in real-life usage, a few lags start creeping in.
There are random freezes, too. Yet, the Vibe K5 Plus chugs along well for graphic-intensive gaming titles, although it does heat up within minutes. It doesn't get uncomfortably hot, but is annoying since it happens not just while gaming, but even while watching a local video or streamed from the Web.
The Vibe K5 Plus also misses out on nifty extras like a fingerprint reader or an IR blaster. Several other low-cost smartphones do offer these features, so Lenovo is betting big on its overall package to steer clear of these. Of course, it supports Lenovo's AntVR headset for an immersive media experience via TheatreMax technology.
One of the lesser appreciated highlights of the Vibe K5 Plus is the Dolby audio enhancement. The Dolby Atmos speakers offer crisp, clear sound and the twin speakers really do make a difference. The audio quality is brilliant – better than even several higher-priced smartphones.
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus battery life
In the age of unibody smartphones, the Vibe K5 Plus sports a modest 2750 mAh removable battery. As the battery life turns out, you'd thank Lenovo for the swappable battery. I started the day with full battery, and a few social apps and email on 4G had me going to about 15 percent battery by the afternoon.
While the battery life is just about okay for a light user, even on a moderate usage, you'd have to reach for the charger before end of the day. It's pretty inexcusable even for a budget device. The charging too is pretty slow which is a bummer considering the battery life.
The Vibe K5 Plus is no marathon runner, although it does well for the moderately sized battery it packs. Several smartphones with a bigger battery don't go significantly longer. However, if you play games and watch a lot of videos on the move, the Vibe K5 Plus is not for you.
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus software
The Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus runs the company's proprietary Vibe UI on top of Android Lollipop 5.1.1. Interestingly, the budget device doesn't come with the revamped Vibe UI that shipped with the Lenovo Vibe X3 earlier this year. While Lenovo smartphones have found a lot of takers, I'm yet to meet a Vibe UI fan and it's no different with the Vibe K5 Plus. It works, and that's about it.
The phone comes with the usual Lenovo software additions. There's the Lenovo Companion app which lets you check for software updates and perform system tests, as well as the familiar SHAREit and SYNCit for transferring files and backing up data respectively. There's a limited Theme Center too with a tacky collection of themes and wallpapers.
The Vibe K5 Plus comes with a lot of bundled apps like Game Store, Twitter, Skype, WeChat, UC Browser, Flipkart, Myntra, Evernote, McAfee Security, and Truecaller, but thankfully these all can be uninstalled if you are not interested. Still, the amount of out of the box bloatware on a device with limited hardware is awkward.
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus camera
The Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus is equipped with a 13MP primary camera with f/2.2 aperture and LED flash, as well as a 5MP front shooter. The front camera is okay for this price segment and allows you to click decent selfies in outdoor lighting, although only manages noisy shots indoors.
The rear camera is decent too for a budget device. For close-up shots and when the subject is right in front of lens, the photo quality is pretty good with plenty of details. Landscape shots are inconsistent though, and low light shots turn out to be quite dark and grainy.
The camera app is standard UI fare, and apart from the HDR and Panorama mode, there is range of filters you can apply to your photos in real time.
Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus The bottom line
The Vibe K5 Plus wouldn't shatter any sales records, but makes for a good enough, compact device that won't break the bank. It sports Full HD display, brilliant audio output, and a decent camera, but middling performance and a terrible battery life lets you down.
Should you buy it? Probably
All budget smartphones require you to compromise on one thing or the other, and you'd have a to make a few for the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus. At a price of ₹8,499 ($127) in India, the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus is a decent buy. It could, no, it should've been better because it sits between very capable entry-level budget phones and phones with better specifications that you can get by spending just a little more dough.
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