The new Lenovo K10 Note is one of the few phones under Rs. 15,000 to sport a telephoto camera, which in itself, sets it apart from the crowd. While most companies seem to be adding additional wide-angle cameras, it's nice to see Lenovo thinking a little out of the box here. Lenovo K10 Note price in India starts at Rs. 13,999 for the 4GB variant, which is what we'll be reviewing today.
In this segment, the Lenovo K10 Note competes directly with phones such as the Realme 5 Pro (Review), Vivo Z1 Pro (Review), and the Xiaomi Mi A3 (Review). On paper, Lenovo's latest offering is well equipped to take on the competition. It's got a big battery, a high-resolution display and a powerful processor. It's time to find out if the Lenovo K10 Note is worth considering.
Lenovo K10 Note design
We talked about the simplistic design of the Lenovo K10 Note in our first impressions piece, which while nice, isn't exactly attention-grabbing. The body is built from plastic, which is of good quality and the phone does feel sturdy. We also liked the fact that back and sides are made of a single piece of plastic, which makes it comfortable to hold. This ‘Knight Black' colour variant of the Lenovo K10 Note we had in for review is impossible to keep clean though. Smudges on the plastic back don't wipe-off easily, making the phone look messy just moments after you pick it up. The phone will only available in this colour when it goes on sale, at least for now.
The volume and power buttons to the right line up well with you fingers, as does the capacitive fingerprint sensor at the back. You get a hybrid dual-SIM slot on the left, which supports 4G VoLTE on both slots. You can expand the internal storage using a microSD card but in lieu of a second SIM card. All the ports are placed at the bottom of the Lenovo K10 Note. The 3.5mm headphone socket can get in the way if you're playing a game with wired headphones and holding the phone in landscape mode. Thankfully, the speaker isn't easily blocked as it's placed above the USB Type-C port.
The glossy back on the Lenovo K10 Note is a pain to keep clean
On the front, there's a 6.3-inch full-HD+ LCD display, which produces good colours. There's no Gorilla Glass, but according to Lenovo, the K10 Note uses Panda Glass. Viewing angles are also good and after about a week's worth of usage, we found the brightness level to be more than adequate for outdoor use. The display has a dewdrop notch and even though the bezels aren't very slim, it's not very thick either. The same goes for the chin at the bottom, which is only mildly thicker than the rest of the sides. The notification LED tucked away in the ear piece is a nice touch.
The rear fingerprint sensor recognised our fingerprint pretty much every single time, but Lenovo has added a fade-in animation when the display wakes up, which makes the overall process a little slower than we'd like. There is face unlock but it's Android Pie's default Smart Lock feature, which is a little slow and fails to work in low-light, so it's not something we relied on when testing the phone.
In the box, the Lenovo K10 Note ships with an 18W fast charger, a Type-C cable, SIM eject tool and some manuals. There's no case in the box, which would have come in handy.
Lenovo K10 Note specifications and software
As we mentioned earlier, the Lenovo K10 Note comes with a powerful processor, which is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC. This octa-core chip is built using a power-efficient 10nm fabrication process and has good processing capabilities, both computational and graphical. In fact, this chip has a better graphics chip compared to some of the newer Snapdragon 600 series chips in this segment, such as the Snapdragon 675.
The phone is available in two RAM and storage variants — 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (Rs. 13,999), which is the one we're testing and 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (Rs. 15,999). Both versions get dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, USB OTG, FM radio, GPS and Dolby Atmos for the speaker and headphones. Sensors include an ambient light sensor, proximity, gyroscope, compass and an accelerometer.
The interface of the Lenovo K10 Note is clean but is missing the latest security patch
The Lenovo K10 Note runs on a custom version of Android 9 Pie, but the customisation isn't very heavy so the overall look and feel is still closer to stock Android. Now, in our first impressions of the phone, we mentioned that there was a very mild lag or stutter which was occasionally visible in the system animations but after using it for about a week, this wasn't very bothersome.
The notification shade is designed to only show you two rows of toggle switches. Instead of doing a second swipe-down action for more toggle buttons, you have to swipe left. The order of the switches can be customised. The Lenovo K10 Note has a big clock widget on the home screen, which shows you the weather, along with two of your recently used apps other random apps from the Play Store. A swipe up from the home screen take you to the app drawer.
The Settings app has some extra features too such as a ‘4D U-Touch' menu, which lets you swap the three-button navigation keys for gestures. The rest of the menus are sensibly laid out. Sadly, our review unit was still on the May 2019 security patch, which is quite out of date. We would have also liked other additions such as a screenshot editor or in-built screen recording, which we're used to seeing on other Android skins.
The Lenovo K10 Note doesn't have a lot of bloatware and we didn't have an issue with ads of spammy notifications. However, it does have some not-too-useful apps pre-installed. App Daily is Lenovo's curated app store, which is quite redundant and there are some games pre-loaded like Asphalt Nitro, Puzzle Pets and Spider-Man: Ultimate Power. Thankfully, you can uninstall the games, if needed.
Lenovo K10 Note performance and battery life
The Lenovo K10 Note feels relatively compact, despite having a large display. The slim body and light weight of the device make the phone easy to use. Even some one-handed usage is possible, although reaching the upper corners of the screen is still tough.
The 4GB variant which we reviewed ran Android very well. Apps loaded quickly and heavy games ran well too. The phone didn't heat with general use but the back did get a little warm when playing games. In PUBG Mobile, which ran well on the ‘High' preset, the phone didn't overheat or get uncomfortably hot, even after 30 minutes of gameplay. In benchmarks, we got 1,62635 points in AnTuTu and a graphics score of 30,229 points in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test.
The K10 Note's display produces punchy colours and viewing angles are good
The Lenovo K10 Note did a good job with media playback. The display produced punchy colours; high-resolution videos looked good and the single speaker got quite loud thanks to the Dolby Atmos enhancement. You can choose between three presets in the Settings menu — Dynamic, Music, or Movie. The surround-sound effect isn't too prominent due to a single speaker, but it does make audio sound louder.
Battery life was good too. The 4050mAh battery lasted for 13 hours and 14 minutes in our battery loop test, which wasn't very high relative to the battery capacity but real world battery backup was a lot better. With regular use — which typically involved using chat apps, a bit of music streaming, camera usage and some gaming — we easily managed close to a day and half of runtime.
On days with less active use, we were getting almost two full days of up-time on one charge. The Lenovo K10 Note boasts of 18W fast charging, but with a battery this size, it still feels a little slow. For instance, the battery charges to only 63 percent in an hour and takes almost two and half hours to fully charge.
Lenovo K10 Note cameras
The Lenovo K10 Note has a triple rear camera setup. This includes a 16-megapixel primary sensor with a f/1.8 aperture; an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom and a f/2.4 aperture and a 5-megapixel depth camera. The main sensor has PDAF, so focusing speed was quick. The telephoto sensor takes a little longer to lock focus and we often had to tap on our subject to get the exposure right with it.
We haven't been having the best weather here this past week, so excuse the slightly gloomy samples. When shooting landscapes, the primary sensor on the Lenovo K10 Note was able to capture good detail, colours weren't oversaturated and white balance was generally good. We also liked that the images weren't sharpened too much, so there's little to no grain when you zoom into the photo. While details at the centre of the frame are generally sharp, objects around the sides tend to have softer details.
Shot using the primary camera of the Lenovo K10 Note (tap for full-sized image)
Shot using the primary camera of the Lenovo K10 Note (tap for full-sized image)
Shot using the telephoto camera of the Lenovo K10 Note (tap for full-sized image)
Shot using the telephoto camera on the Lenovo K10 Note (tap for full-sized image)
Close-ups fared well too but we had to often tap the viewfinder to get the exposure right. Simply bringing the phone closer to our subject didn't always yield the right exposure either. The telephoto camera offers a 2x optical zoom and details were generally good under ample lighting. Edges around objects weren't as sharp are the main sensor, but under enough light, we got some good shots.
Focusing was a little slower, making it a little challenging shooting fast moving objects such as pets. In very low light, the camera relies on a digital zoom rather than switching sensors. While the image quality is generally decent, we didn't find it to be drastically better than say, using 2x digital zoom from a large sensor camera such as the one of the Realme 5 Pro (Review).
Shot using 'Dual' mode on the Lenovo K10 Note (tap for full-sized image)
Portrait mode on the Lenovo K10 Note is called ‘Dual' and with this, you can add some extra background blur to your subject. The level of blur can't be adjusted, before or after you've taken a shot and it takes couple of seconds to save the photo after you hit the shutter button. Edge detection was good and portraits of people had pleasing skin tones. You also get panorama and a Pro mode, which lets you set the shutter speed and save a DNG RAW file.
Low light camera sample with and without Night mode on the Lenovo K10 Note (tap for full-sized image)
Low light camera sample with and without Night mode on the Lenovo K10 note (tap for full-sized image)
In an indoor, relatively low light scenario, the Lenovo K10 Note managed to capture relatively clean images, without a lot of noise. Details are also preserved quite well although finer details such as peoples faces look grainy and aren't very distinct. In very low light, the main camera struggled to capture good details. Images looked okay on the phone's display but upon zooming in, we noticed blurry textures and grain. There's a ‘Night' shooting mode for the primary camera, which gave us some decent results indoors, but outdoors in low light, it's not very effective. The resultant image looked brighter but details were still not quite up to the mark.
Lenovo K10 Note selfie camera sample (tap for full-sized image)
The 16-megapixel selfie camera on the Lenovo K10 Note captured very average quality selfies. Even with the beauty filters turned off, skin textures looked heavily sharpened and colours weren't always accurate. There's a beauty mode, which has a bunch of preset beauty effects. You also have the option to create a custom beauty filter for your face, where you can ‘enhance' various aspects of your face like your cheekbones, nose, eyes, etc and save it as a template, for future use. What's surprising is that there's no flash — screen lit or otherwise — so in low light, you're stuck with poorly lit selfies.
The Lenovo K10 Note shoots videos up to 4K resolution, but colours were grossly exaggerated. Continuous autofocus works very well though. Picture quality is also quite average, especially when shooting landscapes. At 1080p, the quality is slightly better but there's no stabilisation, which is disappointing. In low light, the camera does a good job with suppressing noise but the lack of any stabilisation can make videos unusable. Audio is a bit of an issue too, as it generally sounded tinny.
On paper, the K10 Note is a good comeback attempt from Lenovo in the budget segment. The pricing is decent too for both the models, as it checks most of the right boxes in this segment. It's light, has good app performance, the display is vivid, battery life is solid, and the rear cameras are decent as long as there's ample light around. Adding a telephoto camera was a nice touch from Lenovo as no one seems to be doing it in this segment, however, we found that you can get comparable results with digital zoom on competing smartphones.
Areas where the Lenovo K10 Note could have done better include the finish of the body. The plastic back is a nightmare to keep clean. The software isn't as feature-rich as some of the other custom skins we've seen and the cameras struggle in low light. The lack of electronic stabilisation is a little disappointing too and the selfie camera isn't particularly great either.
All in all, while the Lenovo K10 Note is certainly acceptable, other phones at similar price points such as the Realme 5 Pro (Review) and Xiaomi Mi A3 (Review) offer better value.