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Lenovo Vibe X3 review: A one trick pony?

Does pricier really mean better?

Let’s start with performance

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The Lenovo Vibe X3 packs decent specs. Sitting under its 5.5-inch Full HD display, it’s got a hexacore Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. It’s also got a decent rear-mounted fingerprint sensor for an added layer of biometric security.

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When it comes to intensive tasks, the Vibe X3 falls short in a lot of categories. It gets rather warm when pushed in gaming and multitasking. The ageing Snapdragon 808 chip shows its underwhelming performance rather obviously as load times in games take an incredibly long time and multitasking (especially with WhatsApp) causes it to choke and apps to crash.

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I want to say that it performs as smoothly as a flagship should but it doesn’t and that’s a bummer. I was, however, very impressed with the device’s battery life, consistently giving me about five hours of screen-on-time with about 20 hours on the battery.

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A lot of that is down to the rather large 3,500 mAh battery that is keeping the phone running. Unfortunately, it doesn’t charge very quickly. From my testing, 30 minutes on the plug from 0% brought the smartphone up to 23% while a full charge took 2 solid hours.

It’s not something you can just plug in for a quick juice in the middle of the day when you’re running low but, thanks to its stellar battery life, you probably won’t have to.

A two-star camera performance at best

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In this day and age, you simply can’t skimp on camera performance when it comes to a flagship smartphone. Even the Mate 8’s rather average camera can still come up with some stunning images, it just needs more stars to align.

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Granted, the Vibe X3 is considerably cheaper than the RM2,099 Mate 8, but trust me when I say that if you want an awesome camera, the Vibe X3 isn’t the smartphone for you.

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The 21-megapixel snapper mounted on the back of the Vibe X3 doesn’t have great dynamic range nor does it take very sharp/noise-free photos. In good light, it can produce decent images, but once the sun decides to hide itself, you’re in for a bad photo time.

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For full sized images from the Vibe X3’s main camera, check out the gallery section of this review. I recommend you zoom into the trees in the full sized photo above to see what I mean when I say a 2-star performance. The leaves look like they were water-coloured on. Here’s a sample crop:

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But here’s where the Vibe X3 shines

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When it comes to build, the Vibe X3 feels pretty darn good. Its metal frame gives the device some solid heft in the hand and the soft-touch back complements the harsh metal very well. It’s pretty good for a flagship smartphone, but when you contrast that with the rest of the phone (performance, camera, etc.) the build feels like a big plus.

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One thing that you really can’t fault the Vibe X3 is its speakers. The handset sports a pair of Dolby Atmos enabled front-facing stereo speakers that get loud while remaining pretty crisp.

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We’ve always said that more smartphone manufacturers need to include front-facing stereo speakers on their flagship devices and we’re really glad that Lenovo has.

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These speakers really complement the smartphone’s video viewing experience and its ability to perform as a media-centric smartphone with TheaterMax. Gaming is really awesome too, but the gaming experience is ultimately hindered by the rather lackluster performance of the internal components. Loading times are just too darn long.

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So, we’ve arrived at the bottom line

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The Vibe X3 is Lenovo’s most powerful device in Malaysia. It’s a flagship smartphone that comes with a relatively premium build, relatively premium specs and a relatively premium price tag. Notice the keyword here is “relatively” because nothing, apart from the stereo speakers, really sets it apart from the other flagships.

It’s a decidedly average smartphone with a decidedly average price point. You will definitely find better smartphones for less, or even better ones for just a touch more. It’s really hard to recommend the Vibe X3 as a smartphone to anyone unless they really want TheaterMax.

But if that’s all they want, I would urge them to get the (significantly) cheaper Vibe K4 Note instead. You get the same awesome Dolby Atmos enabled stereo speakers, a 5.5-inch Full HD display and TheaterMax for RM900 less than the RM1,799 Vibe X3.

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