Lenovo S860 quick-read review: Good battery and looks but not as good as K900

Mihir Patkar Posted online: Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 0000 hrs
Mumbai : The Rs 20,000 mark is an interesting one in the Indian mobile market. That's the range at which flagship models of Indian manufacturers like Micromax and Karbonn are priced. That's also the range where international brands like Samsung and Sony strike a value-for-money proposition with their phones. The Lenovo S860 is the newest contender for the 20k crown, but is it worth that price?

Specs: 5.3-inch IPS touchscreen (1280x720 pixels, 277 ppi) | 1.3GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6582 processor | 2GB RAM | 16GB internal memory, no microSD slot | Dual-SIM (micro SIM + micro SIM) | 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.6-megapixel front camera, 720p HD video recording | 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, GPS | 4000mAh battery | Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean

Price: Rs 19,999

Design: The Lenovo S860 looks great and feels robust when you hold it. The metallic finish on the back makes it seem like a premium phone, especially with the unibody design. That said, it's perhaps a little too big for most hands. Although the screen is 5.3 inches, the bezel and thickness of the phone, compounded by the rectangular shape with no rounded corners, makes it impossible to operate with one hand—and I'm a guy who can use most big phones with one hand.

Lenovo S860

Screen: At 5.3 inches, the IPS screen with its HD resolution should be good enough for most users in terms of sharpness, unless you are someone who has a particularly keen eye for detail. The optimum viewing angles are low; if you look at the screen from the side, the colours distort to their darkest shade. The bigger problem with the screen is the lack of scratch resistance, which means you will need to use a screen guard if you buy this phone—and with that on, there's no telling how good it's going to look or how responsive it will be to touch.

Performance: The Lenovo S860 might have 2GB of RAM and a quad-core processor, but those two still can't handle the requirements of of the phone. On many occasions, it slowed down to a point where I had to wait a few seconds to tap the screen because my last action was still being executed—and that's for simple things like swipe-typing fast on a keyboard rapidly switching between two apps. The performance of the S860 is just not up to the mark.

Camera: On the positive side, the S860's camera takes sharp photos with a good amount of detail, and especially shines in accurate colour reproduction. Video recording is smooth too and the microphone does not pick up too much ambient noise. But the big negative is the autofocus.

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The S860 takes too long to focus on any image, but does not compensate for that by slowing down the shutter—the result is that out of every five photos I took, three were out of focus. If you are posing and taking photos, the Lenovo S860 is great. But if you plan on taking a quick photo of a candid moment, then forget about it, all you will get is a blurry, indecipherable image.

Storage: There's 16GB of internal memory with ample room for all your apps, games and media, so unless you never clean that up, it should be sufficient. Power users, the lack of a microSD card slot might just be a deal-breaker for you.

Software: The interface of the S860 is exactly like the previously reviewed Lenovo Vibe Z. The same rounded edges at the top, the same horizontally-scrolling multi-tasking pane that you can't use with one hand, the same weird design choices. I've already said that Android does not need custom interfaces any more, and especially not something like the S860. It makes Android ugly to use.

Battery: Where the Lenovo S860 far supercedes its competitors is the battery life. The 4000mAh battery will easily last for a day of even heavy usage. The tests clocked continuous video playback at 16 hours, Wi-Fi browsing on Chrome at 9 hours, and an overall time on average usage of 28 hours. It's a winner for the battery!

Verdict: So the big question, should you buy the Lenovo S860? Unfortunately, it's a no. And the reason for that is that Lenovo's former flagship phone, the Lenovo K900, has dropped its price to the same level as the S860. The K900 is a better phone in every aspect except battery and should be the one you go for.

If the Lenovo K900 isn't available, then Indian manufacturers like Micromax have better phones at the same price. But if you want an international manufacturer, your choice comes down to either the Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 or the Lenovo S860. In that, it's a matter of what you want: performance or battery life. For better performance, gaming and multimedia the Grand 2 should be what you buy, while for better battery and looks, the Lenovo S860 is the winner.