Lenovo isn’t a go-to brand if we are to talk about the design aspect in particular. The A series from the company, then the P series, both were good on performance and as an overall package, they were all worth the price. But, the company is trying to change the perception, with its Vibe S1, that is more about design and build than anything else. Of course, we had seen the Lenovo Vibe Shot with a pretty cool design, but that is a different price segment.
The Vibe S1 doesn’t have a unique build quality since we’ve seen the same dual-side glass body with a metal frame on a couple other phones this year, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the OnePlus X.
Design and Display
The design is where the Vibe S1 excels and reminds of the Lenovo Vibe Shot, which was similar with the build – dual-side glass and a metal frame on the side. But here, the body is curvy on the back, and that adds to the class, and the device doesn’t have any pointy edges anywhere.
The look in the bottom is similar to quite a few devices already in the market – the iPhone 6? Samsung Galaxy S6? but, it is fair enough because it looks really good, with the MicroUSB port and circular vents on the either side of it. The white variant of Vibe S1 has a silverish deep-etched VIBE and Lenovo branding, with a load of other information about certification, but they don’t really take away the overall good look of the phone. Towards the top on the back is the 13-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash.
The unusual setup of dual-front facing cameras is easily noticeable, and along with that is a set of sensors on the other side of the earpiece. You might better be covering the body with the transparent plastic cover, but it doesn’t change the look a bit.
The Vibe S1 has a brilliant 1080p display to add to the good looks on the design side, making it a completely good unit when it comes to the form factor and display experience. No over-saturation or washing out of colors and the display is quite sharp, thanks to the size of 5-inch that keeps the pixel density at a good 441 PPI.
The Lenovo Vibe S1 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with company’s Vibe UI layered over it, changing it a lot and giving it an experience no close to the stock Android, and that would be user’s personal choice on whether they like it or not. There is no app drawer, and a plethora of apps come pre-installed on the device.
There are six themes in the Theme Center, and quite a few wallpapers to choose from. For the home screens, there are transition animations that can be changed, and the user gets to decide whether to have infinite scrolling of home screens, and auto-arrange icons.
Wide touch: Though the screen on Vibe S1 isn’t really big, there is a Wide touch floating button that sticks to one of the sides of the device, and it has some shortcuts that one would want to reach out as physical buttons – power, home and some quick settings as well. Wide Touch also has the list of recently used apps, so as to make it also a useful tool for multitasking with ease.
There are some gesture features included as well in the Vibe S1, including Quick Snap that captures a picture even on turned-off screen when a volume button is pressed twice; Knock to light being the double-tap-to-wake function; Screen off unlock would unlock the screen when finger is slid on the left or right bottom of the screen; and Smart scene for smart profiles on different places and situations.
To be fair, Lenovo has done quite a lot to include so much that the user can do and change the way their interface looks, and the settings actually help them enhance the user experience.
The Mediatek chipset included in this device is the same that Lenovo has used in a couple of its previous phones, and the MT6752 is known to be very decent in terms of performance, not just while using the phone in day-to-day life but also with multitasking and gaming. I was a bit skeptical about GPU taking up the load while gaming to render the games for 1080p resolution, but it did quite well and rarely there were lags to complain about.
To add to the good rendering, multiple apps opened in the background didn’t pose an issue while a heavy game in being played, since there was near to 2GB of RAM available to the user and quite a lot of apps could be kept on the background (of course this very much depends on the apps). We played Asphalt 8, Modern Combat 5 and Dead Trigger 2, all of which played quite good. Just as we talk about gaming, OnePlus X showed occasional lags and frame drops while playing the same games.
Selfies were just about fun and quick captures, something one would not keep for always, especially for the artificial beautification and quality. Now, things are changing quite a bit, and the phone galleries have as many selfies as they have some good captures taken using the rear camera. That’s what the companies are learning, and thus implementing ideas to make the selfie shots better in every way.
Bokeh effects, blurring particular areas and working hard in bringing something else in the background while retaining the subject, all these are not easy to do using a software on the phone. Lenovo has tried to do the same on Vibe S1, with the combination of two cameras, an 8MP one and a 2MP one, where the 8MP shooter does the regular capturing while the 2MP camera is specifically made to determine the depth of field, asking you to stay far from the background, and then cutting you as a separate subject, so as to help you change the background or blur it. Very frankly, this looks easily artificial and made up, but that should save time for those who have been doing it, choosing the hard way.
While for those who want to still capture a standard selfie, the camera allows for that, but the Dual Cam thing is worth a try. Once the selfie is taken, you can choose the amount of blur, and have a spiral or fast blur orientation. But the fun part is with Cut-out, where you can do a manual cut (not as good as photoshop but not as the regular image editing programs) with Pen and eraser options.
There are some pre-determined backgrounds, or the user can choose a picture from their own gallery to insert the cut-out subject and try to bring out a selfie. As said, if not perfect, it still is a good feature that is worth trying out if you are crazy about taking selfies.
The battery on the Vibe S1 cannot be called exceptional, but cannot be written off as a poor one. It clearly gives the OnePlus X a tough competition since the battery on both performs almost the same. A screen-on time of about 3 hours and 30 minutes on average is what the Vibe S1 can achieve on regular usage though the standby is quite good.
Value for money is well defined here with the Lenovo Vibe S1 and even if the phone faces some stiff competition in its price range, the S1 can stand well at the cliff to claim a stake at being a worthy choice. The design is quite refreshing from Lenovo, and the dual camera concept is indeed, quite interesting.
The phone is great even on performance, and only if you are okay with the UI from Lenovo (which we still find quite interesting and good), there is no reason to ignore this particular phone from your shortlist while deciding to purchase one, keeping the OnePlus X and Moto X Play in mind as well.