CES Hands on: Lenovo K800 smartphone

By Pat Pilcher

Senior VP of Lenovo Liu announces the K800 smartphone at CES. Photo / Supplied
Senior VP of Lenovo Liu announces the K800 smartphone at CES. Photo / Supplied

Intel's most serious foray yet into the smartphone market has seen it launch an Atom Medfield -powered device with partner Lenovo - it's headed to China first, but there's a chance that we'll see it in New Zealand later this year.

Having clocked up some precious hands on time with the K800 - which Intel pimped as a fast and energy efficient piece of kit during its Consumer Electronics Show keynote - I can say hand on heart that it is indeed a great phone.

Look and Feel

The K800 may be the first Intel powered 'proper' smartphone off the blocks, but it definitely has Lenovo DNA. Its black design is very Thinkpad-like - very square and angular with a bit of a Darth Vader aesthetic. I actually liked this pared-back look and it is quite refreshing seeing a phone not trying to emulate Apple for a change.

Under the hood

Digging into the 'about this phone' menu revealed that the K800 is running Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' with a Lenovo customised interface.

Indications are that it will be upgraded to Android 4.0, aka 'Ice Cream Sandwich'.

While I was unable to test its mobile data speeds, Lenovo said that it will launch in China on the Unicom WCDMA HSPA network, at 21 Mbit/s speeds. This bodes well for use in New Zealand market given the widespread deployment of HSPA+. Quick 3G mobile data isn't the only trick in the K800's kit bag, it also sports 802.11b/g/n connectivity, which means you can surf, download apps etc at home using Wi-Fi to avoid mobile broadband bill-shock.

Bluetooth 3.0 will allow it to be paired with latest headsets, handsfree units and other accessories, and there's the obligatory GPS - something that no smartphone user can do without given its power when coupled with Google Maps.

On the rear of the K800 is an 8-megapixel camera and there's also a front-mounted camera but its resolution seemed to be secret. Along side the Intel Atom CPU sits 1GB memory which translates into 500MB of internal storage. Packing apps into this memory shouldn't be an issue in China - Android Marketplace is not available there.

In Use

The K800's 4.5-inch multitouch TFT LCD screen offers 720p resolution - it feels big, crisp and is surprisingly vivid. The 1.6-GHz Medfield processor delivers plenty of computing oomph, and in use the K800 felt extremely responsive and largely lag free, even though the version I was testing was presented as an engineering prototype.

While the K800 looked like a solid black slab of a device, it felt extremely light and comfy in my hand, and decidedly un-bricklike.

Interface

In terms of physical buttons, the K800 is configured with three along the bottom of its screen: a menu/list button for accessing options, a home button for quick access to the home screen, and a back button.

The K800 also runs a customised version of Android called the LenovoMagic UI, which puts a button set on the screen to give the user access to their five most commonly-used actions with a simple screen tap or thumb swipe.

It feels intuitive in use although many of the sub menus were in Mandarin so it was sometimes difficult to tell if my on-screen actions were carried out correctly. As you'd expect from an Android phone, users can swipe between seven different home screens.

One feature I was unable to test was Wi-Di, or Wireless Display. which can pair the phone with a Wi-Di equipped TV (either via an adapter, or with Wi-Di built in) to stream content to your TV's screen - which could prove to be insanely useful for showing off photos and video shot using the 8MP camera - or its mysterious front-mounted counterpart.

Verdict

As the smartphone market becomes increasingly crowded, especially in the Android space, Lenovo's choice not to adopt a "me-too" design could put it in good stead.

The real killer feature here will be its energy efficiency. Being able to last up to 14 hours in standby or deliver eight hours of talk time will be a real boon for anyone fed up with the constantly hunt for a powerpoint.


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