Hands on with the Lenovo Vibe Z2 — China only (for now, anyway)

Lenovo has been busy releasing new, interesting smartphones over the past few months, but rarely do we get the chance to have a close look at them, due to their restricted release. Luckily, at the IFA 2014 tech show, the company was showing off its most recent mobile devices on its large — and very noisy — stand. The giant, 6-inch, 2,560 × 1,440 pixel Vibe Z2 Pro was there, but for once, it was a less high-end device which caught our eye: the Vibe Z2.

Why would we shun alone time with the top-spec phone for a comparatively mid-range device? There are several reasons. It’s a good-looking phone for a start, encased in a brushed-metal unibody, with Lenovo’s now trademark camera lens enclosure giving the back a little more character. The screen measures 5.5 inches, and despite having a relatively low 720p resolution, still managed to look great. We were told the 600 nit brightness rating made a big difference to its performance, particularly in direct sunlight.

Handily, we were using the phone outside — on one of the sunniest days we saw in Berlin — and with the sun fully hitting the display, text was still just about clear enough to make out even with the brightness at the three-quarters mark. Additionally, a lower resolution helps battery life, and the Vibe Z2 has a big 3000mAh cell inside. Expect it to return at least two days of use if treated with respect.

Amazing for selfies, and it even knows if you’re too old to be taking them

The main reason we wanted to have a good look at the Vibe Z2 was the front camera. Lenovo hasn’t bothered fitting something as ordinary as 5 megapixels, preferring to give the phone an 8-megapixel selfie cam instead. That’s better than a great many rear cameras out there, and equal to the new HTC Desire 820. The pictures we snapped looked excellent on the phone’s screen, just as you would expect. We also enjoyed messing around with the Vibe Z2’s face recognition software, which adds a happiness rating and makes a guess at your age too.

Related: At IFA 2014, a drawing pencil for your iPad

It’s disturbingly accurate, usually coming within a few years of the correct age, and always catching a big cheesy grin. We managed a happiness rating of 80 with a very toothy smile, but sadly, couldn’t get it to register a negative number if we frowned. There’s really no obvious point to this, but it did add to the fun aspect of taking selfies, which is really what the phenomenon is all about.

Powering the Vibe Z2 is a Snapdragon 410 processor, which is one of Qualcomm’s latest 64-bit chips, meaning the Vibe Z2 is ready for Android L when it arrives. It won’t ship with the next version of Google’s OS, however, but with Android 4.4 KitKat installed instead. It’s also good to see 2GB of RAM being used on a mid-range phone. Other features include a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization, 32GB of internal memory, and 4G LTE.

All the phone you’d ever really need?

We were impressed with the Vibe Z2 because it’s all the phone we’d really ever need. The specs are excellent, it’s made from premium materials, it’s fairly future proof when it comes to the software, and the two cameras will be more than adequate for most situations. Sadly though, it’s not going on sale outside of China. At least not yet. We quizzed Lenovo about this poor state of affairs, and were told the company is still keen to change the situation, but won’t do anything until the Motorola sale goes through.

Related: The HTC One Remix review

That deal is apparently expected to close towards the end of the year, at which time Lenovo can start taking advantage of Motorola’s distribution contacts in the U.S. and Europe. There was little point in putting in the work now, we were told, when it could be far less difficult in a few months time. Let’s hope this is true, because with phones like the Vibe Z2 on its books, Lenovo smartphones could be a welcome new addition to our stores.

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