A smartphone that is made of metal chassis, and performs like Kobe Bryant, that’s how we describe the Lenovo K900, or rather how Lenovo themselves have marketed their flagship smartphone. Now, the Lenovo K900 has been sitting in our labs and have gone through our series of lab tests, not that we blend it or dump it, but merely a reviewer’s test. Shocked eh? Check out our full video review below.

Knowing the basics

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The Lenovo K900 is Lenovo’s flagship smartphone targeted at users looking for a premium smartphone without paying too much. The metal chassis sure looks high profile and we are amazed with how Lenovo, an OEM only known for manufacturing affordable laptops and tablets, is able to invent something that well designed and it looks even better than an iPhone. At 6.9mm and 162 grams, the K900 houses a 5.5 inch IPS LCD display at Full HD resolution. The hardware specifications are as below.

Intel Atom Z2580 Dual Core 2.0GHz with HT, 4 Threads
2GB LPDDR2 RAM
16GB Built-in storage, USB OTG supported
13MP Main Camera Sony Exmor BSI Sensor at f1.8
2MP Front Facing Wide Angle 88 Degree lens
AGPS/Bluetooth 3.0
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n with Intel WiDi
HSPA+ 850/900/1700/1900/2100 MHz
GSM 850/900/1800/1900
2500mah battery

Design and Display – Beautiful and Sharp

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The 5.5” IPS LCD display is wonderful, color reproduction is great and we definitely have no viewing angle issues and able to see it properly under direct sunlight. Touch sensitivity is also fine but can be unresponsive at times due to Lenovo’s heavily skinned launcher. We realize that Lenovo could’ve improved the form factor by cutting more bezels to fit the display as the phone simply feels long, and lengthier than our Galaxy Note 3 over here. We held the K900 with confidence, due to its fantastic build quality and form factor, the phone feels good and definitely feels much worthy than a insanely expensive Vertu smartphone, the sharp corners may not appeal to some but we love it.

The Lenovo Flagship Experience

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We’ve talked about the hardware design, which has given us a good impression. Software experience is totally a different thing. The K900 has Lenovo Launcher running on top of Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean, it is kind of refreshing as we are already seeing too much of TouchWiz and HTC Sense. The user interface can be quite fun and gimmicky, the fun part is that you get to play with changing app icons and navigation transitions, it can also cause confusion if you customize too much, therefore we prefer to stick to the basics during our review period.
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Lenovo’s software feels very Chinese oriented, especially on its built in apps. If we take the system settings page for instance, you are presented with three pages – Common, Feature and All settings, which feels very dummy proof and we feel that Lenovo could have grouped all settings into one page, just like how the stock Android interface does, it doesn’t stop here, if we take a look at the ‘Feature Settings’ page, you will find the direct translation on the menus, such as ‘bodysensor’, which you may refer as Sensors, and some funny words such as ‘Shaking lock screen’, ‘Knock light set’ etc.
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We also find inconsistent language experience in apps such as Lenovo power, a fantastic power management app that lets you choose the power profile and estimates battery life very accurately, when you attempt to access the user guide in the app, you are presented with Mandarin, we really can’t imagine how this will appeal to those Mandarin illiterate users.
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Lenovo does really make an effort to enhance the overall Android user experience by having useful apps preinstalled, but the inconsistent language and Chinese oriented experience makes us feel that Lenovo’s software is still not ready for the international market, which we are starting to suspect if Kobe learnt some Mandarin prior to the commercial shoot.

Camera and Video

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Lenovo has stated very clearly in the specs sheet on the type of sensor that it uses on the K900, the Sony Exmor BSI Sensor is capable of taking pictures at 13 Megapixels at f1.8 aperture. The camera does not disappoint, pictures come out with great detail and proves to be a very decent camera on low light photography. Check out the sample shots below.

The camera app on the K900 has very interesting filters and shooting modes, we personally feel that the filters are good enough that you don’t even need to install a third party camera app. Despite of that, applying the filters while taking pictures will cause serious lag to the camera movement, we prefer to apply them after taking that shot.
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One of the interesting shooting mode is the self take feature using the rear camera, which will instruct the user on how to hold the phone to capture the perfect shot, ironically the instructions are in Mandarin – bad Lenovo, bad.
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Video recording is supported up to 1080p resolution, here’s another underwhelming point, the camera app records video in 3GP format instead of the familiar MP4 format that we’re used to see in flagship smartphones. Therefore, video quality is disappointing, though not terribly bad, but it is one thing that should not be happening on a flagship smartphone.

Performance, Call Quality and Battery Life

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You may have seen enough negative points throughout the review, performance is the thing that we have to praise the K900, the Intel Atom dual core processor works brilliantly in apps and games, apps run smooth and gaming is superb with sharp graphics detail and acceptable frame rates with the PowerVR SGX 544MP2, never before we’ve seen such graphics quality on a mid range processor. The K900 scores 5869 points and 19803 points in Quadrant and Antutu respectively, which is on par with some quad core devices out there, and proves that Intel’s Atom processor don’t rely on the number of cores to get good performance. Of course, don’t expect Snapdragon experience in real world usage, because it is still not eligible to compete with that.
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Call quality is also fantastic with the two active noise cancellation microphones on the device eliminating background noise and we certainly enjoyed holding the phone while talking, it feels high class! The loudspeaker produces loud and clear call volume. Battery life on the K900 is quite decent, we measured battery life using the Lenovo power app and the estimated battery life seems to be accurate at around 19 hours with an hour of Spotify streaming via 3G, five phone calls and having three e-mail accounts synced. With the K900’s form factor, we believe Lenovo could have installed a higher capacity instead of 2500mah.

Verdict

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Beautiful hardware, futuristic design and poorly implemented software. This is what we conclude on the K900, we fell in love with its beautiful hardware at first glance, but little did we know that the experience on the K900 was that underwhelming, its like having a pretty girlfriend with bad hygiene. We don’t mean to criticize Chinese software over here, but we personally feel that if Lenovo were to market an international product, they should at least ensure that the software is implemented properly, rather than half-baked. Otherwise, they should just stick to the stock Android user interface which we would rather prefer to have. Also, no microSD expansion means that you would have to live with the mediocre 9.7GB of user storage out of 16GB, which is a challenge if you start piling up the phone with loads of apps.
If you are fine with all the Chinese oriented features in the K900, this handsome smartphone is available at a recommended retail pricing of RM1539, we recommend that you take look at the K900 if you are looking for a reasonably priced smartphone with a premium build quality instead of spending too much on an iPhone or HTC One. Here’s a summary of our review on the K900.

The Good
+ Unbeatable build quality
+ Decent hardware performance
+ Great camera optics
+ Decent battery life
+ Beautiful display

The Bad
– User interface is heavily skinned and gimmicky
– Chinese oriented software
– Broken English menus
– Chassis heats up terribly when under full load
– Only 9.77GB of user accessible memory
– No microSD expansion

We rate the Lenovo K900 at 4 out of 5 stars for its fantastic build quality and reasonable price tag.