In 2015, phones like the Moto G challenged what we thought was possible around the $200 mark. And as we kick off 2016 with CES in Las Vegas, we're seeing more devices bring relatively impressive specs, performance and features to this relatively affordable price point. One of these comes from Motorola's parent company Lenovo — it's the Lenovo Vibe S1 Lite, headed to Asia later in January.
From the outside, the Vibe S1 Lite is a fusion of different design languages. There's an aluminum trim, just like many high-end smartphones, while the back panel is furnished in matte plastic. It's good-looking, if a little generic, and the overall impression is of a well-made, premium handset, in contrast to traditional budget phones like the Moto G. There's also a little bit of Motorola DNA going on here, with a slight curve to that plastic back.
The screen — a 1080p panel — is shockingly good for a $199 phone.
Around the front there's a pretty impressive 5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display. In fact, the screen is shockingly good considering the $199 price point of this phone. Above it are the usual assortment of sensors, and LED front flash, à la Moto X. That should help you get better selfies out of the 8-megapixel front camera.
The rear camera is also nothing to sniff at, especially for such a cheap handset. There's a 13-megapixel ISOCELL sensor which seems to perform pretty well in shots with a reasonable amount of light. For darker scenes, you've got a dual-tone LED flash.
The Vibe S1 Lite is powered by an octa-core MediaTek CPU — MTK6753, for those keeping track — with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, expandable via microSD. MediaTek doesn't have the brand recognition on Qualcomm in the West — but then this isn't a phone for Western buyers. Regardless, the Vibe S1 Lite absolutely flies. Performance is universally speedy, apps are quick to load, and we noticed no lag during our brief time with the device.
It's unclear how battery life will shake out, but with a 2700 mAh fixed cell inside the S1 Lite there should be plenty of juice to go around.
On the software side, it's running Android 5.1 Lollipop with Lenovo's own customizations and UI layers. This isn't a Moto phone, so there's a good deal of UI skinning going on in line with the company's own design language. The interface is best described as an acquired taste. It's not as completely customized as Huawei's EMUI — some parts of stock Android are recognizable — but the launcher, icons and notification shortcuts are done the Lenovo way. And there's also a full range of theming options available if you want to tweak things further.
The Lenovo Vibe S1 Lite isn't a phone for the U.S. But it does demonstrate what's possible at the $200 price point in early 2016 — a great screen, speedy performance and a camera that's not a total potato.
The Vibe S1 Lite lands in Asia later in January for the equivalent of US$199.