Quick Tech Specs: 5.5-inch display (1920x1080 pixels, 401 ppi) | 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor | 2GB RAM | 16GB storage + no microSD slot | 13MP rear camera (1080p FullHD video), 5MP front camera (1080p FullHD video) | 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Wi-Di, Bluetooth 4.0 | GPS with A-GPS | 3000mAh battery | Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with custom UI
Design: The last Lenovo flagship and the Vibe Z's predecessor was the K900, which looked great with its sleek metallic design but didn't feel that good when you held it. This time, Lenovo has traded in the sharp edges and metal body for high-quality plastic and rounded corners. The result It doesn't look as premium as the K900, but it feels far better to hold in your hand. It's a big phone, so rounded edges make it a tad easier to grip. Plus, the Vibe Z is deceptively light for its size, much more so than the K900. And I'm glad the Vibe Z has capacitive touch buttons on the bezel rather than them taking up screen space. If you're going to have a bezel, it only makes sense that it's used when screen space is limited real estate. That said, at 15 cms in total height, this is a gargantuan handset and won't fit most people's hand properly.
Screen: Speaking of the screen, the 5.5-incher here reproduces colours well and is sharp, thanks to its FullHD resolution. The viewing angles aren't the best I have seen on a phone, but they aren't bad enough to be a deal-breaker either. The only issue is with sunlight legibility. Even on full brightness, it wasn't easy to read things on it while walking around under Mumbai's harsh sun.
Performance: With a Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, it's no surprise that the Vibe Z can handle anything you throw at it. Much like any other smartphone running this combination, there are zero performance issues.
Memory: The advertised 16GB translates to only 12GB once the OS and preinstalled apps have had their share. With no expandable microSD slot, 12GB is going to prove to be very little if you shoot videos with 1080p, take photos at 13MP, load up some songs and download a few FullHD games. Case in point, if you install HD versions of FIFA 14, Call of Duty: Strike Team and Asphalt 8, that's 5GB of space right there.
Connectivity: The Lenovo Vibe Z has an average antenna, on par with the likes of the LG Nexus 5 and Sony Xperia Z1.
Software: I have never been fan of Lenovo's custom UI but the Vibe Z is the worst it's ever been. For starters, all apps have weird rounded edges at the top part. It looks out of place with the flat notification bar and messes with the clean Holo UI (Android's default, flat design scheme) of many apps. The multi-tasking pane uses only logos instead of previews and scrolls horizontally at the bottom instead of verticallyit's difficult to use it with one hand now, as if that wasn't hard enough on this big phone. It only furthers my point that except in rare cases, Android does not need custom interfaces any more.
Camera: The cameras are where the K910 shinesthat's right, plural. The rear camera is a 13-megapixel affair that improves on the K900's stellar shooter. The camera is as good as that on the iPhone 5, and that's not a compliment I give lightly. The best part, though, is Lenovo's camera app. For all their software flaws, Lenovo makes the best stock camera app in the business. It's easy enough for an amateur to use and has enough customizations and options for the advanced user to fiddle around with, whether it's making GIFs, adjusting the white balance, getting the metering just how you want it, and more. And let's not forget the front-facing 5MP camera, which has a wider angle than most such cameras to let you take selfies more easily and include your friends in it too. The shots in this are good in bright light, but settings such as a dimly lit restaurant will give you grainy images.
Battery: On a day of medium-to-heavy usage, the 3000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery on the Vibe Z chugs on for a respectable 15 hours. On pure video playback, it ran for just about 4.5 hours. Playing FIFA 14 on airplane mode, it died out in 2.5 hours. FullHD gaming with lots of touch input seems to be the Achilles Heel of the Vibe Z, much like it was with the Sony Xperia Z1. Just for comparison, the Note 3with similar specslasts for 4 hours of FIFA 14. The Nexus 5, meanwhile, maxes out at 100 minutes.
Verdict: If you want a large screen, good battery life and a fantastic camera, the Vibe Z is worth it at Rs. 36,000, as long as you can live with the UI and the limited 16GB of memory, which I'm sure you will run out of soon.
For the same Rs. 36,000, you can get the 32GB LG G2 and the 16GB Sony Xperia Z1, while the 32GB LG Nexus 5 and 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 are retailing at roughly Rs. 32,000. And all of these other handsets have some sacrifices too, whether it's battery, screen, build quality or camera. In short, the Vibe Z is as good as its peers and as flawed as its peers. It's a question of which flaws matter most to you.