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REVIEW: Why the new Lenovo K5 is no match for Swipe Elite Plus

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As expected, Lenovo has announced its entry-level Vibe K5 in India at a price of Rs 6,999, which brings it into direct competition with models such as the Coolpad Note 3 Lite, one of the most successful models of this year, and the Swipe Elite Plus.

This is a homecoming of sorts for Lenovo, which practically owned the entry-level 4G phone market last year with its A6000 and A6000 Plus, but loosened its grip when it priced the K5 Plus at Rs 9,000 earlier this year.

Now that the company has again ‘gone back to its roots’ with a Rs 6,999 model, can it again demolish the competition and dominate the segment?

The answer is: Not really, and the reason is that the K5 is too much like its predecessor the A6010. In other words, the new phone is an excellent entry-level model, if we are still talking about last year.

There’s very little incremental improvement from upgrading from Lenovo A6010 to the Vibe K5. Most of the specifications are the same — 2 GB RAM, 16 GB internal memory, low-to-mid range processor, category 4 LTE and a 5-inch 720p display.

Practically speaking, there are only two areas of improvement. The 8+2 MP cameras have been improved to 13+5 MP and the quad-core Cortex A53 processor has been replaced with the octa-core version.

But these improvements are not enough for the company to repeat its success of last year. Last year, when it unveiled the A6000, there were hardly any competitors. Though Xiaomi came up with its Redmi 2 model, the company could not match the manufacturing and logistical prowess of Lenovo, which easily flooded the market by bringing in lakhs of units per month to meet the demand.

This year, however, there are many competitors who offer not just comparable, but clearly superior specifications at the same price.

Of course, there are reasons why you would still want to consider buying the Vibe K5, but lack of choice is certainly not one.

For example, take the case of Coolpad Note 3 Lite. The phone is the most successful entry-level model in India this year, and offers very similar specifications to the K5 except for the processor.

While the Vibe has an octa-core processor, the Note 3 Plus has a quad-core processor comprising the same units. This has resulted in the Lenovo model having 25% more power compared to the Coolpad Note 3 Lite. (Geekbench score 1920 vs 2,500 for SD 415).

However, one thing to keep in mind is that this performance difference is apparent only when you are using heavily multithreaded applications. Most apps that you would be using on your phone would run on one thread at a time, or up to 4. And in such cases, there would not be any difference as both chipsets are made out of the same Cortex A53 core design at 28 nanometer. However,  unlike the Coolpad device, the Vibe comes with support for 4G voice or VoLTE.

On the other hand, if you are willing to compromise on the processor aspect and go for the Coolpad model, you get a fingerprint sensor that adds a touch of convenience and security to day-to-day operations. Besides, Coolpad is an established smartphone maker, though it used to supply its phones on a wholesale basis to Indian companies and only recently started selling under its own brand.

SWIPE ELITE PLUS

Swipe Elite Plus
Swipe Elite Plus

However, the Coolpad Lite is not the only competition that the K5 has to put up with.

In fact, the second big competitor — Swipe Elite Plus — clearly knocks out the Lenovo model on most counts.

The Swipe Elite Plus, which was unveiled recently, has none of the limitations of Coolpad Note 3 Lite. Despite its 6,999 price tag, it comes armed with the mid-range Snapdragon 615 chipset and not entry-level chipsets like SD 415 or the MT6735 inside the Coolpad unit.

Like the Lenovo K5, the Swipe Elite Plus also offers Voice over LTE and an octa-core configuration.

Moreover, the 615 chipset runs at a higher clock speed of 1.7 GHz versus 1.4 GHz on the K5’s chipset. This means that the Swipe Elite Plus has a chipset that delivers 28% more power (3,200 points vs 2,500 points for Snapdragon 415), including on single-threaded applications.

Another advantage of choosing SD 615 over 415 is that the Swipe model comes with a full-HD display, offering twice as many pixels (clarity) as both the Coolpad unit and the Lenovo K5. The 415 does not have the capability to support a full-HD display.

In the battery department, the new K5 has a capacity of 2.75 Ah, while the Swipe Elite Plus comes with a 3.05 Ah unit and Coolpad model has a 2.5 Ah battery.

Another advantage that the Swipe model offers is Dragontail toughened glass protection. Lenovo offers only generic protection for its screen.

All other specifications of the two models are the same.

CONCLUSION

Selecting a phone is never simply about comparing the specifications. The ‘touch and feel’ factor is equally important.

However, in today’s e-commerce led model, buyers cannot always hold the phones in their hands before making a decision.

This can be overcome to a large extent by reading other buyers’ reviews for the product.

And going by the reviews of Swipe Elite Plus, the phone seems to be fully delivering on its promises.

Out of 243 ratings on Flipkart — the exclusive seller — 156 reviews have given it five stars out of five — a remarkably high percentage given the relatively unknown nature of the brand itself.

The next most numerous rating is 4 out of 5. Only 28 people have given phone 4 out of 5, indicating that the vast majority of the buyers are very impressed with the model.

Going by the reviews, even the cameras — the weak point of most ‘cheap’ phones — are impressive.

“And the big thing in this mobile is camera is awesome in day light and also very low light..,” says Kumar Harsh. “And other thing of this phone is audio quality. It’s given JBL sound effect in setting. After JBL audio setting is on, you feel like u (are) sitting in (a) hall.”

In fact, almost every phone has a one or two weaknesses that most user reviews mention, but surprisingly, buyers of Swipe Elite Plus did not report any such consistent problem.

DOWNSIDES

However, it must be kept in mind that Swipe is a relatively new brand and the service network that you get may not be comparable to Lenovo’s.

In addition, the Elite Plus has a plastiky outer body, while the K5 has a metallic exterior. In terms of looks, there is no comparison as the Vibe clearly comes out on top with its shiny edges and clean cuts.

In short, if looks and branding are very important for you, the Lenovo model is something you must consider. But if functionality and value-for-money is what you prize above looks, then you should consider the Swipe Elite Plus.

Though the Coolpad Note 3 Lite has a lot of good reviews and feedback from users, the four-month-old model is already dated due to the use of last year’s chipset and lack of 4G voice (VoLTE). The only reason why the model should be in contention is the availability of a fingerprint scanner, something that the other two lack.

UPDATE: Micromax has also launched a model which has practically the same specifications as the Lenovo K5, at a price of Rs 7,499. The Canvas Amaze 2 also comes with SD 415, 16 GB + 2 GB RAM, 13+5 MP camera, but a smaller 2.5 Ah battery.
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