Lenovo is in a sort of frenzy since the beginning of this year. At least in India. After being relatively quiet in the smartphone market until the end of 2014, the company has launched phone after phone this year. Mostly, it has targeted the mainstream market, offering people devices that can be deemed value for money.
It is a strategy that has worked, even though there is tough competition from companies like Xiaomi, Micromax and Motorola, which incidentally is also owned by Lenovo. Now the Chinese company is changing gears. There is a slight shift in the strategy. The focus is not only on giving people devices that they find good value for money but also on enticing them with a halo feature.
The Lenovo Vibe P1M and Vibe P1 are part of this strategy. The USP of these two phones is the battery life even though both are part of two different price brackets. The Vibe P1 is a more expensive phone with the price of Rs.15,999. But the Vibe P1M is affordable. It is priced at Rs.7,999 and for its price it offers a lot of value.
Design and build quality
In a price-sensitive market where every company is trying to keep the cost down, the design is the first casualty. Almost all phones with a price of less than Rs.10,000 have a drab design. They are boring to look at. And while some companies try to break the monotony in the design by using a strip of metal here and there, essentially all these phones use same rounded corners, straight lines and a seemingly flimsy back cover. The Vibe P1M is no different. But this is a utilitarian design and the reason why everyone follows it is also because it works well.
The Vibe P1M looks boring. Though Lenovo has tried to mix a few interesting bits. The frame around the phone, although made of plastic, has been given a coating of faux aluminium finish. But the small plate around the camera on the back cover is indeed metal.
The design would have been more catchy and attractive if Lenovo had used slightly better looking plastic for the Vibe P1M. This plastic is soft to touch and has matte finish, but it also looks and feels downright cheap. That said, the story is same for almost all phones in this price category. So in that in aspect, the Vibe P1M is hardly an outlier.
The build quality of the phone is good and inspires the confidence that it would take a few bumps and falls with ease. In a nice gesture, Lenovo bundles a cover for the phone in the box although the cover does feel a bit cheap. But hey, it’s free so there is nothing to complain here.
One nice bit about the Vibe P1M is the placement of the speaker. In is on the bottom of the screen, and not behind the back cover. This means it doesn’t get muffled when you put the phone down while playing music.
The Vibe P1M has usual set of buttons. The Android buttons — menu, back and home — are backlit. But there is one extra button in the phone. Similar to the iPhone’s silent button, this one is placed on the top of the left side of the phone. This button can be used to toggle between the battery saving mode and the normal mode. Good job with this one, Lenovo!
The Vibe P1M also comes with a coating that supposedly will save it from the accidental water splashes etc. However, for now this remains a Lenovo claim. We didn’t check how well the Vibe P1M resists water.
The back cover of the Vibe P1M is removable and there are slots to fit in two SIM cards and microSD card (up to 32 GB) in it. But battery is not removable.
The Vibe P1M has a 5-inch display with resolution of 720p. This resolution is fast becoming a norm in this price bracket. But as we noted earlier and as Apple continues to show again and again, more than the resolution it is the quality of the screen that determines the user experience.
The Vibe P1M has a decent screen. It shows crisp text and vibrant colours. The viewing angles are also good although the display is very reflective and that robs it of some legibility when the phone is used under direct sunlight. The maximum brightness too is on the lower side. In direct sunlight it is difficult to read something on the phone, especially if text is on a background that is not contrasting.
The auto brightness setting is very aggressive and turning it off helps. Another minor issue with the screen is that it collects smudges all too easily. Use the phone for half an hour or so and you will see fingerprints all over it.
The Vibe P1M uses Android 5.1 aka Lollipop. But as it is norm with Lenovo phones, the software and user interface looks fairly different from what users get with the Lollipop.
As common with phones made by the Chinese companies, there is no app drawer on the Vibe P1M. Instead, all apps are accessed through homescreens, similar to how it is on the iPhone. App icons, which Lenovo uses for the pre-installed and system apps, are different from what Google provides in Android. Lenovo’s icons are more colourful, more fuller and more rounded. But then Google’s apps use Material Design guidelines and when these icons are placed together with the Lenovo apps, the effect doesn’t look pretty. That said, this is something that may not bother most users.
The quick notification area too has been modified and apps like Settings sport user interface created by Lenovo and not by Google. In terms of software design and user interface, there is no doubt in our mind: The pure or unmodified Android on phones like the Moto G looks better.
But when it comes to functionality, the software in the Vibe P1M offers a lot. There are themes, ability to create own shortcuts, gestures like “re-arrange apps by shaking the phone” and many more other options. Though we don’t find them particular useful.
For example, why would someone like re-arrange apps every time he or she picks up the phone? After using the phone for a while, people often look for apps on the home screen or app drawer with muscle memory. But re-arranging everyday seems counterintuitive for this.
The Vibe P1M also comes preloaded with several apps. Preloaded apps like Twitter and Facebook are useful. Even Lenovo apps such as ShareIt and FileExplorer offer lot of functionality. But apps like Guvera Music, and Tap The Frog are bloatware. Though thankfully, the Vibe P1M is not so bad with these free bundled apps. We have seen phones that just go overboard with such useless apps.
The Vibe P1M comes with a 8-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. The camera performance is mostly good although you will have to keep your expectations low, especially while shooting in dim light.
In good light the Vibe P1M can click very nice photos. The colours that it captures are particularly great: clean and punchy. It really excels in the close-up shots although smearing of detail is evident. The camera does it, possibly, to keep the noise or grain low in the images. But still, if you hold the phone well and compose the image with some thought, you will be able to click nice macro and landscape photos with the Vibe P1M.
There are a few issues though. The metering is a hit and miss. On auto, the phone tends to over-expose images just slightly. Although, it doesn’t happen all the time because it depends on the amount of contrast and light in a scene. At the same time if you use spot metering by tapping on the area of the phone where you want it to focus, the phone underexposes the images just a little. In harsh light — read bright sunlight — the white balance is also little iffy.
The speed of camera is on the lower side, though compared to what other phones give in this price bracket it is good enough. But the phone may take a second or two while focussing in tricky situations and if the subject is moving, such as a pet dog, you will find it very difficult to get blur-free images with the Vibe P1M.
In low light, the performance is strictly average. Though again, if you use the phone carefully the Vibe P1M can click some excellent low light photos. But mostly, due to aggressive noise reduction, you will notice smearing of details.
The front camera is good enough for selfies in good light. In low light, you will not get any image from the front camera that you will like to share on Facebook. The video recording too is average. The phone can record 720p videos but they lack detail. We wouldn’t use the Vibe P1M to shoot the birthday party of a kid.
This one is a surprise: With a rather modest processor and an animation-heavy user interface inside the Vibe P1M, we were expecting it to perform on slower side. But it is anything but slow. The Vibe P1M is powered by MediaTek’s MT6735P processor that uses ARM 53 cores. There are four cores inside the MT6735P and they run at a speed of up to 1GHz. The phone uses Mali T720 graphics processor and has 2GB RAM.
It comes with 16GB internal storage of which a little over 11GB can be accessed by users.
As we noted, the Vibe P1M is a fairly capable performer. The user interface is smooth and while there is some lag in scrolling or in animations, it is by no measure something that would bother users. The Vibe P1M feels as smooth as a Rs.20,000 phone.
Running several apps, including a Chrome browser laden with tabs, do make the phone feel a little slow but once again we have to say that it is not something of a deal-breaker. The performance, irrespective of what you do, will be good enough on the Vibe P1M.
No, that doesn’t mean we are saying that the Vibe P1M is a fast phone. But compared to its peers it lacks in no way and feels as smooth as a Moto G or a Xiaomi Note.
The gaming performance is good though in games like the Asphalt 8 you will have more fun with graphics settings reduced to medium. The game runs at the high settings but it feels more responsive with medium graphics settings.
The best bit about the good performance of the Vibe P1M is that even with prolonged use, such as playing Asphalt 8 for over 30 minutes, it doesn’t get hot.
The voice quality during calls was surprisingly good. It was clear and crisp. We didn’t notice any call drops or poor network performance that we would attribute to the phone and not cellular service. The single speaker in the phone is loud but doesn’t offer any oomph that can make us say that is better than the speakers that you get in similarly-priced phones.
As we noted earlier, this is the USP of the phone. The Vibe P1M comes with a 3900 mAh battery inside it. For a phone that has a screen size of 5 inches, this is a huge battery.
It also offers a lot of juice and keeps the Vibe P1M going for longer than what an average phone manages. Depending on the use, we consistently saw around 15 hours to 16 hours of battery life on the Vibe P1M when we paired it with a 3G. This was with rather heavy use. With more frugal use, it should last more.
The stellar battery life of the Vibe P1M was also confirmed by the PCMark battery benchmark that we run. It was the first phone we saw that breached the 10 hour mark.
The Vibe P1M comes with a battery saver mode that can be toggled with a button on the left side of the phone. The battery saver mode puts the phone into a kind of greyscale or lite mode where only essential apps work. It is a neat idea.
Should you buy it
The Vibe P1M is not without its flaws. But overall we feel that the phone offers more than enough in terms of hardware, performance and utility to justify its price of Rs.7,999. It fact, it is a very good option at this price. The design is boring but the build quality is good. The performance is good. Battery life is fantastic. The camera is good enough. Screen could have been better as it is not bright enough to be legible under the harsh sunlight. User interface is slightly tacky but then that also depends on the personal preferences.
Overall, the Vibe P1M is a phone worth buying at its price. There is no particular weakness in the Vibe P1M. It is a well-packaged and well-rounded phone that performs well enough to be in your shortlist if you are looking to buy a phone for less than Rs.10,000.