“Lenovo’s newest flagship, the Vibe Z is in our hands for review, and here are our first thoughts about the latest phablet in the fray”Lenovo’s Vibe Z, the Chinese major’s latest flagship, first saw the light of day in its home territory last year, but pricing and availability details were revealed only at CES this year. An announcement regarding its launch in India was made just yesterday. The second in the Vibe series after the Vibe X, the new launch marches into the hotly-contested phablet segment, and as is apt for a flagship, boasts all the bells and whistles you might expect, and then some more. We have the enticing smartphone in our hands for a review, and while we prepare to run it through our review gauntlet, here are our first impressions on the Vibe Z. At first glance, you might just mistake it for an all-metal device, but don’t judge the book by its cover. The body materials, similar to the Vibe X, are actually plastic for the most part. However, you can’t make that out unless you hold it in your hands and observe it very carefully. While the front is almost all black when the screen is switched off, the rear is silver with a very fine texture – which means it doesn’t collect fingerprints and smudges so easily. Despite the plastic construction, the build feels quite sturdy, although only time will tell how it holds up to daily wear and tear. The solid build is further enhanced by means of the sealed body. The advantage of the plastic casing is that the device doesn’t feel too heavy – which is important from a usability perspective since this is a fairly large device. Talking about size, there’s a 5.5-inch display at the centre of proceedings. A metallic strip runs all around the sides, with a wide portion that extends inwards at the rear bottom, sporting the speaker grille. There’s a fair bit of black bezel surrounding the screen, with backlit, capacitive hardware keys at the bottom, and a Lenovo logo along with the front shooter and sensors on top. The microUSB port is at the bottom, and you’ll find the 3.5mm audio socket on top, along with the power / sleep key. A volume rocker is on the left, while the micro-SIM tray is on the right. The placement of the power key on top isn’t the most ideal, since the Vibe Z is a large device, and most smartphones of this size usually sport a power key on the right to make it easier to access. Thankfully, Lenovo’s added a software setting which, when enabled, lets you use either volume key to wake up the device from slumber. The rear is a sea of matte silver, with large Lenovo branding and a rectangular camera lens placed inside a metallic window alongside the dual-LED flash. Overall, the Vibe Z looks quite stylish. Combined with its svelte form factor and light weight, that makes it makes it fairly convenient to hold – although those with tiny hands may have a few issues handling it. Coming to those flagship-worthy specs, the 5.5-inch display offers full HD resolution and a pixel density of 401ppi. The horsepower is provided by a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 chip that uses four horses (or cores, if you will) to pull the chariot with the help of an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The device offers 16GB of storage, which isn’t expandable unfortunately, but you can make use of the USB OTG capability to connect external flash drives. Other connectivity options comprise of LTE, GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11 ac and Bluetooth 4.0. NFC seems missing in action though. Shutterbugs get a few things to boast about too – there’s a 13-megapixel rear camera on board that sports an Exmor BSI sensor and a f1.8 aperture lens. The front snapper is 5-megapixel and features an 84-degree wide-angle lens for group selfies. The show is fuelled by a 3,000mAh battery that promises to keep the device alive for at least a full day. Now these are all loaded specs, and we can’t wait to get started with the full review to see what the Lenovo Vibe Z can really do. However, so far, the screen looks quite sharp and it’s smooth sailing as far as using it is concerned. The story doesn’t end here, no sir. A large part of the Vibe Z’s story is actually made up of the software offerings. While it runs Android 4.3, Lenovo’s changed the UI drastically. There are a wide variety of options, settings and software tricks on board. For one, you can customise the interface completely as per your liking using options such as theme support. The notification bar is completely customisable too, letting you place different toggles as per your needs. A multi-window mode, similar to what was made popular by Samsung’s Galaxy Note is also there. The camera hardware is boosted with the help of a full-fledged camera app, which, from the looks of it, offers every imaginable feature, effects and filters you can think of. Lenovo has also preloaded quite a few apps, including sharing and security apps too. There’s a nifty SMS-based anti-theft feature as well. The Lenovo Vibe Z is priced at Rs 35,999 and should make its way to online and brick-and-mortar stores by the end of this month. The company will also be offering a well-designed smart window flip cover as an optional accessory for the smartphone. The sticker price definitely puts in the premium segment, pitted against the likes of the Gionee Elife E7 and the Oppo N1. With its current pricing, the LG G2 should also offer stiff competition. Safe to say that the going isn’t going to be easy for the Vibe Z, but it’s a loaded package by all means. We simply can’t wait to get started on the full review, so watch this space.