(Pocket-lint) - Hunting down the perfect phone will, for many, mean finding one with the greatest equal combination of screen, camera, software and design. If budget is available, that likely means ponying up for an iPhone, Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy S8; or, on a lower budget, a OnePlus 3T.
But what about battery? It's one feature that's all too often overlooked prior to buying. Nothing to worry about if you're looking for an affordable battery boss like the Lenovo P2; a handset that holds 50 per cent more capacity than many flagship devices and which, if managed properly, might even last you for three days per charge.
Perhaps more surprising is that the P2 costs just £199, squeezing it in alongside the likes of Lenovo's Moto G-series range. However, does its generally modest specification hold it back compared to its pricier A-list competitors?
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Lenovo P2 review: Design
- 153 x 76 x 8.3mm; 177g
- Fingerprint sensor/home button
- Metal back
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Lenovo P2 design is how "not-huge" its size is, considering that battery. You might think it would be larger than the iPhone 7 Plus, but the Lenovo is lighter, shorter and narrower than Apple's 5.5-inch flagship.
As a direct comparison to a more similar device, the P2 is less than 1mm thicker than a OnePlus 3T, just over 1mm wider and a fraction of a millimetre taller. Yet the Lenovo contains a battery with an additional 1,700mAh of juice, which equates to a 50 per cent greater capacity than that OnePlus.
Like most smartphones these days, the main material used in the P2's chassis is metal. This aluminium rear also features plastic panels on the top and bottom, however, which don't match the anodised grey finish of the metal particularly well - just as we said of the Moto G5 Plus. The metal does have some quality detail to its finish though: polished, with chamfers on both the front and back around the frame, plus the centre-placed camera, make it standout.
To help the phone feel comfortable in the hand, the P2 curves towards the edges on all four sides. It's also rounded at the corners and edges. The end result is a phone which, while seeming a little thicker than most, still feels like it belongs in your hand. It's not a monstrosity in the slightest.
On the front, Lenovo's design language is beginning to mirror the Moto brand too: it includes a chrome-trim home button which also acts as a fingerprint sensor.
It's on the edges you'll discover the P2's dedication to keeping battery life lasting. While it has the same power button and volume rocker makeup as most phones, the left side has a dedicated slider button. This button, when pushed up, launches the phone's software-based ultra battery saving mode that can add days to estimated lifespan.
Lenovo P2 review: Display
- 5.5-inch Super AMOLED
- 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Gorilla Glass 3 protection
It's fairly commonplace to see a 5.5-inch Full HD screen on a mid-range smartphone these days, which is exactly what appears on the front of the Lenovo P2. Thanks to the Super AMOLED panel used, it's a big, bold and very colourful experience. So whether enjoying your daily Netflix and YouTube catch-ups, slicing fruit to pieces in Fruit Ninja, racing cars in Need for Speed or just trying to catch that rare Pokemon, it's a capable panel for multimedia.
However, sometimes those incredibly vivid colours appear oversaturated. If the colour is too much for your preferences, there is a natural mode that's selectable from the display settings. In our experience, however, this makes colours far too dull and lifeless, and makes whites far warmer, giving an overall yellow hue that isn't pleasant (we found the whites were always a little too warm for our tastes).
None of these quibbles are surprising, however, given the price point of the phone. The P2 doesn't look as impressive as a flagship screen, simply because it's an affordable smartphone and corners had to be cut somewhere to get it in the £200 price. Thing is, you're unlikely to spot any downsides unless comparing it side-by-side to a flagship. So, overall, we still think it's a great panel for the money.
Lenovo P2 review: Software
- Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system
- Lenovo companion/diagnostic app
- Additional customisation options
Some parts of the Lenovo P2 software experience look and feel like stock Android Marshmallow, the straight-from-Google operating system. Not everything, though, as there's also added-extras from Lenovo. Thankfully, this means a successful marriage of bespoke features to pre-existing Android. Perhaps the only sad part is that the P2 currently doesn't run Android 7.0 Nougat, which has been out since November 2016.
Part of what's great about Lenovo's software is that it lets you pick and choose which areas you want to customise. By pressing-and-holding the wallpaper on the home screen you can choose a wide-ranging theme-picker. Here you can change the layout and appearance of the lock screen, home screen, multitasking screen and even the phone dialler.
There are other added elements of software that don't just change the way the phone looks, they change the way you use the phone. Digging into the settings you can choose to hide the navigation buttons, and reveal them again by swiping them up. Or you can choose to have the touch-sensitive home button react to gestures - primarily to act as the back or multitasking buttons.
You can even add a feature called Wide Touch which essentially adds a new all-action software button to the edge of your screen. Tapping launches a new popup menu on screen, giving quick access to camera, calculator, settings and recently used apps. You can also add other functions if you want, including search, home, alarm, menu and power off functions, among others.
There's also a Lenovo companion app which gives you easy access to software updates, web support, community forums and problem solutions, as well as diagnostic tests to make sure all your main hardware components are working correctly. Diagnostics also lets you see a quick snapshot of your current system usage, so you can see how hard your CPU, RAM and ROM are being worked.
Lenovo P2 review: Performance
- Snapdragon 625 processor
- 4GB RAM and 32GB storage
In the past, anything but the best from Qualcomm's Snapdragon range usually meant slow, stuttery performance. In more recent times, that's not the case - and the mid-level Snapdragon 625 processor has shown itself to be fast, smooth and reliable in most devices we've tested. The same is true in the Lenovo P2.
Switching between apps and opening various parts of the user interface is generally smooth, although not as fast and instant as you'd find in much more expensive flagship devices. The same is true of loading games: some particularly high-end titles with a lot of high resolution, fast-moving content resulted in the tiniest amount of stutter from time to time, but nothing too pervasive.
Lenovo P2 review: Battery life
- 5,100mAh capacity
There's no doubting the P2's ability to last. Even with really heavy use, we weren't able to completely drain the 5,100mAh battery in one day. Taking the phone off charge in the morning, we were comfortably able to get to the end of a second day with moderate usage. In fact, three days of use is possible, but only if you subject it to lighter-than-typical use.
We left the P2 in standby to see how long it took to drain to zero. After eight days in this mode it had only drained 47 per cent of the battery, with most of that consumption coming from Wi-Fi usage. And that's without switching on the aforementioned ultra power saving mode using the dedicated side switch.
As you'd expect from a battery of this size, there is fast charging support, although not as fast as we'd hope. Being a big battery means that it won't fill up as quickly as smaller-capacity competitors, meaning it takes over two hours to fill from 0-100 per cent.
Lenovo P2 review: Camera
- 13MP sensor
- 21mm f/2.0 (equivalent) lens
- 4K video recording
- 5MP front camera
As with the display, the camera is another area where Lenovo has made cutbacks to get it on budget. Saying that, it's not a terrible camera, it's just not the very best going.
The 13-megapixel sensor can take decent enough shots when there's ample light. Anything shot in daylight will normally come out in focus, with natural looking colours, and be perfectly good enough to share with your friends on social networks. Critical photographers likely won't be that impressed, though.
Like you find with many other budget-friendly phone cameras, the P2's sensor doesn't balance out light levels particularly well or offer a quality HDR (high dynamic range) effect like you would find on cameras built into phones like the Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy S8.
The P2 does have a smart detection tool, however, which automatically figures out what kind of scene you're shooting and adapts settings to help make the image look better. In our experience, this was a little hit and miss. Pointing it down at a keyboard on our office desk triggered the "Gourmet Food" smart setting (disclaimer: our keyboard wasn't covered in Hollandaise sauce).
There's a manual mode which you can select to adjust ISO sensitivity, focus, white balance and shutter speed. However, even with the manual focus set to macro, the end results of close-up shots are generally a little soft.
To put it succinctly: the Lenovo P2's camera is good enough for the price point, without being mind-blowing. It's the same with video capture and the front-facing camera quality: nothing incredible, but good enough for a budget phone.
If your primary objective when looking for a phone is a handset that lasts seemingly forever on one charge, then look no further: the Lenovo P2 is the big battery boss.
Sure, it's not a flagship in every department, but its affordable £199 price point makes that clear. And just because it doesn't have the latest chipset on board doesn't mean it's not capable: the P2 is plenty capable of gaming and all the usual daily tasks and apps, all wrapped into a decent design.
The only shortcomings are relatively minor quibbles: the screen can appear oversaturated, load times can be a little long, the camera is ok rather than great, while the clash of metal and plastic in the design doesn't look perfectly matched.
Where the P2 wins is with battery life. Nothing else in the mainstream market comes close to the two-plus days that this Lenovo offers. Not ony is it fantasic in that regard, it's also remarkably good value.
The alternatives to consider...
Moto G5 Plus
If you can live without the behemoth battery, the Moto G5 Plus still undoubtedly one of the best budget smartphones available today. It has a smaller display, but still has better quality full HD panel, runs Android Nougat, uses the same processor and has a versatile home button/fingerprint sensor. Its design is also a little more refined. The fact it's also made by Lenovo shows clearly that the company has its eye on the low end of the market.
Read the full review: Moto G5 Plus preview: A big dose of premium, without the prohibitive price tag
Vodafone Smart Platinum 7
At £299, it's a little more expensive than the Platinum 7, but is much closer to competing with genuine flagship phones than the Lenovo P2. At least, in terms of screen and build quality. It's big, has a better camera but doesn't quite come close to matching the P2's battery performance.
Read the full review: Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 Review: Power and elegance without the price tag
Huawei Mate 9
If you want a flagship phone with a huge battery, the Mate 9 is the way to go, although it is more than double the price of the P2. It's a 4,000mAh battery which can last up to two days with light use, it has a large, bright, sharp display and is really fast. Easily one of the most powerful phones available, somewhat hampered by Huawei's unusual software choices at times.
Read the full review: Huawei Mate 9 review: The big-screen boss?