Sep 02, 2013 Nick Rego
Lenovo have been quietly but firmly pushing their Android smartphone lineup, and we’ve previously looked at two of their phones, the K900 and the S920. This week I played around with the Lenovo P780, a phone that despite its rather ordinary looks has a few rather unique tricks to boot.
The P series of Lenovo’s lineup is touted as being the ‘professional’ series, with long-lasting battery life. From the looks of it, the P780 looks quite ordinary, measuring only slightly bigger than my HTC One. The phone comes in a deep black color, and has the same brushed look on the back as seen on the K900. At the top of the phone you have the headphone jack and power button, as well as the microUSB charging port that’s covered by a small plastic flap. I’m not a fan of these little plastic port covers as I think they make the phone look a bit cheap, and can be a bit fiddly to close. I wouldn’t have minded if Lenovo axed the cover completely or moved the port to the bottom of the phone like on other Android phones.
The other comment about having the charging port at the top is that if the phone is charging it can be a bit unwieldy to use it with a cable sticking out. Another very odd thing is that every so often the power button would squeak faintly when I pressed it. Given that my unit was an unopened retail version, I think Lenovo have to take a look at what might be causing that squeak, as the last thing you want is for the power button on your phone to go bust. At the back you’ve got the 8 megapixel camera with flash, as well as the speaker grille located all the way at the bottom corner of the phone.
Popping open the back cover reveals two standard SIM card slots at the top, as well as a slot for a microSD expansion card. You’ll also come across the gigantic 4,000mAh battery, which surprisingly isn’t removable although it looks like it would pop out easily (there is a sticker that will indicate if the battery has been tampered with, thus voiding your warranty).
The performance on the P780 was certainly puzzling. Despite having nearly identical specifications as the S920, I found that running certain apps on the P780 brought the phone to its knees. Games like Fruit Ninja which ran perfectly fine on the S920 were subjected to occasional lag on the P780. Most other non-intensive apps ran fine on the P780, but running anything with a hint of 3D in it would cause a noticeable drop in framerate. Benchmarks in 3DMark ran at around 15 to 9fps at times, which means that you’ll have to think twice about running any 3D racing games on this smartphone. For watching HD videos or listening to music, the P780 just did fine, so as long as don’t run any high-end apps on the phone, you’ll be fine.
As with their other phones, Lenovo has slipped on their own custom UI onto the P780. It features switchable themes that re-skins the phone and various icons, and also offers things like app drawer animations, an updated notification bar, and quick access to frequent settings. The P780 also includes a small cable that turns your microUSB port into a fully fledged USB port, which means you can plug in a USB drive to access documents or save data to, which is quite handy.
Lenovo has bundled a few extra apps on the P780, the most noticeable one being the CamCard and CamScan apps. The CamCard app lets you take a photograph of someone’s business card and automatically create an entry in your Phone book with all their details automatically entered in. It’s quite accurate and a really easy way to remember someone’s details, given that it’s easy to misplace a business card. The CamScan app works in the same way, allowing you to scan an object or document as if you were using a flatbed scanner. The app simply takes a photo with the phone’s camera, and then automatically crops and skews the image until it looks like it was scanned with a regular flatbed scanner. It’s a handy app to have if you say wanted to quickly scan and email a signed business contract to someone, so kudos to Lenovo for including it.
The screen on the P780 is certainly bright, and has a fairly good range of viewing angles. What is a bit of a downer is that it doesn’t seem to have a scratch-proof screen – just after a few days of using the phone, I noticed a few scratches on the display, which was quite surprising. I’m not quite sure what I may have done to scratch the display, but I certainly started paying more attention to where I put the P780 after that. But scratches aside, the phone was great for streaming videos and browsing through photos in the aptly named “Super Gallery” app.
Speaking of photos, the 8 megapixel camera does take some decent photos, however in certain lighting conditions the sensor constantly kept trying to focus on a subject, so I had to maneuver the camera around until it was able to get a steady photo. Images snap almost instantly and can be quickly reviewed by swiping to the left. The P780 also has a very impressive amount of filters and effects available, which makes for some rather interesting photos.
The speaker on the P780 delivers crisp audio at max volume, and the slightly curved back of the phone means that audio isn’t muffled when the phone is laid flat on a table. Call quality was acceptable, with the P780 not dropping calls or experiencing interference at any time. Though on a rare occasion I would hear a faint ‘pop’ when talking on the phone, but this only happened about twice during my entire time using the phone.
The battery is really the true talking point of the P780. Clocking in at 4,000mAh, the battery is certainly the largest capacity I’ve seen on a smartphone to date, dwarfing those carried by the likes of the iPhone or other Android phones. The battery isn’t removable, but the real kick of having such a huge battery is that Lenovo says that you can use it to charge other phones. That’s right – with just one simple cable, you can turn your P780 into an emergency battery pack for someone’s phone. The feature only works on Android phones, and requires you to simply plug in the microUSB-to-USB cable that’s included in the box, and then plug in your other phone’s USB cable to start charging. With the P780 at 85% battery, I plugged in my HTC One which was at 80% battery and left it to charge. It took about 63 minutes for the HTC One to be fully charged, which brought the P780 down to about 72% battery. So for an emergency battery boost for a secondary phone, the P780 really does come in handy. On a fully charged battery at 7am, the P780 was at 31% battery the next day at the same time, with wifi always on and a suitable number of phone calls and apps running. So the P780 can more than easily last you the entire day without having to grab a charging cable.
In all honesty, the P780 is really just the S920 in a different color and a more durable battery. But despite having exactly the same specs, the P780 felt just a slightly bit sluggish at times, and certainly won’t be able to handle very demanding 3D apps. But its mammoth battery is certainly something to take notice of, so if you’re one of those people who frequently find themselves running out of juice on their phones, then the P780 will certainly be the phone for you. And priced just AED 100 more than the S920, it’s certainly not going to break the bank.
A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys playing videogames during work hours and tinkering with the latest gadgets.
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