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While the smartphone market may be dominated by a few distinct manufacturers, 2013 saw another contender join the race. Lenovo, a longtime manufacturer of notebooks and personal computers, announced that they would be releasing a slew of Android-based phones into the market, each one designed for a specific target audience. I previously looked at the Lenovo K900, which was ideal for business-users who demanded more screen real estate and a killer battery life. This week I swapped out my HTC One for the Lenovo S920, to see just what this phone was capable of.

Build quality & design

The S920 certainly is a handful, with its 5.3” display taking front and center. From a build point of view, the phone’s body is made of plastic, a material of choice for many smartphone manufacturers these days. Thankfully, Lenovo have been smart enough to make the back cover removable, so you can replace the phone’s massive battery or slot in your SIM cards. Yes, I said cards – the S920 has a rather brilliant feature of having two SIM slots, so you can use one SIM for personal use and the other for say work or when you’re travelling. It’s interesting to note however that only the SIM1 slot has 3G support, while any SIM put in slot 2 will operate at 2G / EDGE speeds only. There’s also a microSD card slot for additional storage, which is pretty much a necessity given that the phone only comes with a mere 4GB of internal storage. For average users this should be enough storage but for music enthusiasts or users who download a lot of apps, it’s wise to pop in a microSD card.

Lenovo S920 Review

At the top you’ve got the phone’s headphone jack and power button, as well as a microUSB port for charging and data transfer. The port is covered by a think plastic flap, which can sometimes be a bit tricky to close. You’ve then got the volume rocker around the side and a small groove at the bottom of the phone which helps you take off the back cover more easily. All in all, despite its plastic build, the S920 feels like a solid phone in your hand,

Benchmarks and Performance

The S920’s quad-core processor is more than capable for most Android apps, however there were times when I was cycling through apps that the phone hesitated for a fraction of a second. You can play most games comfortably on the S920, however something taxing such as real Racing 3 might not yield the best results. Still, for Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Candy Crush and what other app you love for Android, the S920 is more than capable of delivering.

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UI and Apps

While most manufacturers tend to crowd their phones with custom themes and a barrage of unnecessary apps, Lenovo have taken the high road and kept the customization to a minimum. Their UI mostly represents a vanilla Android interface, and save for a few cosmetic changes to certain icons, there’s not a lot to distract users, which is a relief.

Lenovo S920 Review

App-wise, my S920 only came installed with a link to Norton Mobile Security, and a custom app from Lenovo for prolonging battery life. For everything else you’re free to pillage the Google Play store to your heart’s content.

Screen and Camera

The screen on the S920 is an IPS one, with a resolution of 1280 x 720. It’s a lot brighter than you’d think, and both images and video display flawlessly on it.

Camera-wise you’ve got to contend with the 8 megapixel camera at the back, which is adequate for everyday photos. The camera does take a bit of time to adjust and click a photo, and you also can’t access the camera directly easily from the lock screen – you need to pull down near the top, and then swipe to the right to get the camera up and running. The camera app has a number of shooting modes and special effects, so you’re bound to get at least a few decent shots out of the S920. The front-facing 2megapixel camera is sufficient enough for quick Skype calls, though you’ll need to be in a well-lit room or outdoors to get a good image. Overall the quality of the photos wasn’t amazing, with some pictures coming out too dark or out of focus.

Sound & Call Quality

As with most smartphones, the S920 has a single loudspeaker located at the back. This is fine for conference calls when you can just flip the phone over, but when resting on its back the audio is quite muffled – propping the phone up alleviates this problem. Call quality was good and the S920 always maintained a good signal strength during phone calls.

Lenovo S920 Review

Heat levels & Battery Life

Despite running through a number of tests and streaming a fairly large chunk of multimedia, the S920 didn’t get warm or uncomfortable to hold, probably in part to its plastic body which wouldn’t conduct heat that well. Battery life on the S920 is great, with the 2250mAh battery seeing me through an entire day’s worth of use. The additional settings in the Lenovo Power app also means that you can tweak certain parts of the phone so that you squeeze out even more battery life from the device.

Lenovo S920 Review

Conclusion

There are many good things about the S920 that would tempt you to pick one up. For one it’s running Android Jelly Bean, which some other manufacturers are yet to release to their phones. Secondly, it’s priced rather competitively in the market, making it an easy choice for anyone looking for a decent Android phone that won’t break the bank. Yes, it’s size may just about push it into the ‘phablet’ category (shudder), but it’s certainly a good offering from Lenovo, who seem to be off on a good start to making a name for themselves in the smartphone market.

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