Lenovo Vibe S1 first impressions: double the selfie trouble

[Update]: The Lenovo Vibe S1 has been launched in India for Rs 15,999.

“The Vibe Shot is a Lenovo selfie smartphone that features not one, but two front cameras. Here’s our hands-on experience”

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At IFA 2015, Lenovo unveiled its attempt at a selfie smartphone in the form of the Vibe S1. The new device sports not one, but two front camera sensors, which make for some really cool effects which we’ll come to in a bit. The Vibe S1 also sports quality hardware under the hood, along with a design that’s more than easy on the eyes. Here are our first impressions.

We’ve (grudgingly) become accustomed to Lenovo’s blocky smartphone design standard over the last year, so believe us when we tell you that the Vibe S1 is like a breath of fresh air. The sleek device features an ergonomic curved glass rear panel that has a distinctly Motorola-esque feel to it. Adorning the facade is a 5-inch display with full HD resolution, and Lenovo has provided Gorilla Glass 3 protection for both the front and rear of the Vibe S1. With its pixel density of 441ppi, the screen reproduced crisp, vivid visuals.  

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Above the display you’ll find the two front cameras, earpiece and other sensors. The area below the screen is taken up by a row of capacitive Android navigation keys. The Vibe S1 is fairly slim at 7.8mm, and is quite lightweight at 132g, thanks in part to its aluminium frame. Around the edges, you’ll find the power button and volume rocker on the right and the ejectable tray for the SIM and microSD card (uses SIM 2) on the left. At the bottom, you’ll find an iPhone 6-inspired speaker grille and micro-USB port, while the top edge contains the 3.5mm audio jack and secondary microphone.

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While the rear panel is quite the stunner, the use of glass has a nasty side effect of picking up fingerprints – something that was far more visible on the Midnight Blue variant than the Pearl White unit. On the back panel, you’ll find the 13MP primary camera, dual-LED flash as well as Vibe and Lenovo branding. 

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Powering the Vibe S1 is an octa-core MediaTek MT6752 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, paired with 3GB of RAM. You get a generous 32GB of inbuilt storage, out of which approximately 24GB is available for use out of the box. The storage can be expanded by an additional 128GB via microSD. The smartphone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop as a base, overlaid with Lenovo’s Vibe UI. The device draws power from a sealed 2,500mAh battery. As far as the connectivity options go, the Vibe S1 offers 4G LTE, dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.

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The Vibe S1’s front 8MP + 2MP cameras are undoubtedly the stars of the show. The dual sensors allow you to play with depth of field, letting you change the point of focus after you snap a selfie. Lenovo calls this the Blur tool, and also lets you change the blur effect, with choices of Simple, Spiral and Fast. The other fun tool the front camera provides is Cut Out, similar to HTC’s Copy & Paste effect we first saw with the One M8 (review). This feature lets you cut out a portrait and paste it on any other photo. You can pick a photo from your gallery, or alternatively select one of the several pre-loaded backgrounds. While this effect is gimmicky for sure, what we liked is how simple Lenovo has made this entire process – the portrait is cut out automatically and works like a charm. There’s also a manual mode available if you’d like to fine tune it further. The Vibe S1 is also designed to be used with Lenovo’s Vibe Xtension selfie flash ring, which plugs into the audio jack to illuminate your low-light mug shots.

While there are tons of selfie smartphones available in the market today, the two front cameras on the Vibe S1 are unique enough to make it stand out from the crowd. Of course, other parameters like performance and battery life are more important considerations, but this is something we’ll be able to gauge only when we review the device. The Vibe S1 has been priced at $299, approximately Rs 19,800, and is expected to go on sale in India in the coming months. We’ll keep you posted on price and availability details as and when we have them.

Disclosure: This writer attended IFA 2015 in Berlin on Lenovo’s invitation 
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