Lenovo K8 Plus Review: The new budget king

Detailed review Lenovo K8 Plus

The budget smartphone segment is without a doubt the most important smartphone category, for both consumers and businesses. The reason for that is quite simple; because most buyers are only interested in budget phones. Xiaomi has taken the lead here lately, but like last year, Lenovo has taken it upon itself to fight the Redmi attack. Equipped with dual cameras and large batteries, Lenovo’s latest K-series phones take the competition to the next level. While the K8 Note hasn’t made it to our rating table yet, the new K8 Plus looks like a worthy contender. We tested the phone thoroughly and here’s what we found.

Build and design
Speaking of specs, the Lenovo K8 Plus is a very different beast from last year’s K6 Power. However, both phones look quite similar at first glance. Like every other phone in this category, the Lenovo K8 Plus also has a metal construction, with the top and bottom made of plastic to facilitate the placement of the antenna. The build quality seems good for the price range, but the metal back is quite slippery and slipped from our hands almost several times during our review period.

On paper, the 5.2-inch display suggests a smaller form factor. However, with a large 4000 mAh on the back and thicker bezels on the side, the phone looks and feels quite chunky. In terms of ergonomics, it can be used with one hand, but unless you have larger hands you may have to shift your grip to reach the top of the screen.

To add some newness to the category, Lenovo has introduced a new physical button in addition to the volume rocker and the power button. Lenovo calls this the music button, but you can assign it for other tasks as well. In standard mode, press and hold the button for more than a second to launch the assigned app or play/pause music. It works as intended and from a buyer’s perspective is a better implementation of the side button as opposed to the Bixby button used on the high end Samsung phones. In addition, we think that the two physical keys on the right side should have had better tactile feedback. Overall, Lenovo has opted for functionality over form for the K8 Plus, which seems like a reasonable compromise.

Display and user interface
Like the K6 Power, the K8 Plus also has an IPS LCD screen, which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. While the phone doesn’t have 2.5D curved glass on the top, the edges of the screen are still smoothed for ease of use. . The color fidelity of the screen is decent and the same can be said about the readability in sunlight. Since this is an IPS panel, the viewing angles are great. There is a little bleed around the corners, but we don’t think it would be a deal breaker. The screen feels smooth and is supported by Lenovo’s new standard user interface.

The user interface of the K8 Plus, borrowed from Motorola, is very easy to understand and use. You get a good app drawer and an untouched settings menu. The icons are very similar to those used by Moto phones. Even the camera app is identical to the one we saw on the Moto G5s a while back. The phone runs on the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat and like Moto phones, Lenovo has promised at least one update on this device.

The fingerprint scanner on the phone isn’t the fastest we’ve seen in this category. It takes a second more to unlock than any of its competitors, but it’s accurate.

Performance
The Lenovo K8 Plus is powered by a MediaTek Helio P25 SoC. Here it is paired with 4 GB of RAM, but there is also a 3 GB variant of the phone, which is slightly more affordable. From what we observed, the Helio P25 does quite well here. There is no discernible slowdown when navigating the UI, browsing the web, watching Amazon Prime Video or taking a photo. Using the camera increases the temperature significantly. We got temperature readings of 40 degrees Celsius on the back, which isn’t particularly uncomfortable, but still on the high side. While gaming, the recorded heat reading on the back was 41 degrees Celsius. Speaking of gaming, we played demanding games on the phone such as Vainglory and Asphalt 8 and both ran smoothly the entire time, with no major hitches. We did see some minor frame drops, but nothing that would break your gaming sessions. Load times were also decent and comparable to current competition.

The phone has Dolby Atmos certification. Therefore, the audio quality through headphones is quite good and music lovers looking to buy a budget device should consider the K8 Plus. The pre-installed app offers various presets and switches that music lovers will appreciate. While we would have preferred a dedicated DAC to go with the Atmos support, it might be expected too much at this price point.

Battery
The phone runs on a 4000 mAh battery, which can easily last a working day even with intensive use. So you can easily play games on the phone for half an hour, stream a few episodes, make a dozen phone calls, check social media, click photos and still charge more than 30 percent at the end of a normal workday. In our battery test, the phone scored 8 hours and 6 minutes of screen time, further reinforcing our findings. Plus, if you don’t like heavy gaming or end up not watching entire episodes on your phone, you can get at least two days of use on each charge. In addition, the phone supports fast charging, so you can go from 0 to 50 percent in just under an hour. Those aren’t the fastest charging scenarios, but it works considering the impressive battery life.

Camera
While the phone has decent performance and reliable battery life, its best feature is the camera. Lenovo uses a 13MP OmniVision sensor, which is accompanied by a 5MP secondary camera from Samsung, which acts as a depth sensor. This dual camera setup produces the best footage we’ve seen on a sub-12K smartphone in a very long time. Photos taken in sufficient light have good details, decent color saturation and dynamic range.

The camera’s capabilities in low light are decent if you have the focus right. However, we found that the white balance is a bit less in low light. It also takes a little more time to save the image.

Thanks to the dual camera setup, the phone can also take portrait photos. Lenovo calls it the depth-enabled mode, in which you can change the aperture on the slider from anywhere between f/5.6 to f/0.8. This allows the user to add blur as desired. Plus, Lenovo’s software does a good job of keeping the subject sharp. It works better with people as subjects than with other objects. The phone also takes a second or two to save that image.

(LR) Normal Mode, Portrait Mode

The front-facing 8MP camera on the phone is relatively good. The camera captures a decent amount of detail, while the color saturation remains on the warmer end of the spectrum. It produces soft photos (beauty mode) by default, reducing dark spots and blemishes on your face. However, you can turn them off or change the intensity via a simple slider. The front camera also gets an automatic HDR mode and flash, which doesn’t add any extra value to the selfie experience.

(lR) normal light, low light with flash

bottom line
In short, the Lenovo K8 Plus is the best budget-oriented device you can buy right now. It has decent performance, reliable battery life and the cameras on both sides are pretty good. We can point out that the metal back is a bit slippery and fast charging isn’t the best, but we don’t think it’s a deal breaker here.

How it compares?
The Lenovo K8 Plus competes with those of the Xiaomi Redmi phones and the slightly more expensive and older Moto G5 Plus. While all phones perform almost equally, the K8 Plus is slightly smoother than the Redmi Note 4 or Redmi 4. Battery life is quite reliable and in terms of cameras, the K8 Plus is only surpassed by the Moto G5 Plus.

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