Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Review
Interface and Functionality
For as long as it's been in development, Tango software still feels like it needs a fair amount of work
The Phab 2 Pro runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and while we know that involvement with Tango doesn't necessarily also mean Nexus-level access to the latest Android builds, it's still a little disappointing we don't get Nougat. Perhaps that's a limitation of Tango itself, but split-screen apps would have looked great on a display this big.
Since Marshmallow's been discussed to death, we're mainly going to focus on the Tango-specific aspects of the Phab 2 Pro's software, but it is worth pointing out one especially weak point of the phone's Android interface: notifications. By default, notifications show up as black text, and depending on the background you're using, that can make them insanely difficult to see.
Tango apps extend from simple augmented-reality measurement tools, to games, to apps that even let you perform a scan of the room you're in and create a 3D reproduction you can view from any angle.
That all sounds very promising, and Tango apps can be a whole lot of fun to use, but they're also plagued by a few problems – some more serious than others, but all annoying.
For one, Tango just doesn't seem very stable. Throughout testing, we routinely encountered error messages that the Tango system had crashed, or that apps just couldn't connect to Tango's cameras in the first place.
phone to measure distances has great potential, but when you can only get approximate figures – as with Tango – that tool becomes a lot less useful.
Then there's speed, and while simple Tango-based apps don't have a huge problem there, more advanced ones like Matterport Scenes seem to push the Phab 2 Pro to its limits, resulting in slow scan speeds. And even with the phone's 4GB of memory, we still hit out-of-memory errors when attempting to scan entire rooms.
For all these complaints, there's a ton of potential in Tango's software, but a lot of it is still in need of refinement. And despite Lenovo's delays in releasing the Phab 2 Pro, the phone's software experience still feels very much in the beta stage.
Processor and Memory
Would Tango apps benefit from a little more performance?
Considering the advanced software processing going on with Tango, when we first learned of the Phab 2 Pro we were more than a little surprised to hear about Lenovo's choice to power the phone with a Snapdragon 652 chip, instead of something like an 820. As a result, the phone exhibits the same kind of upper-middle-end performance as handsets like the Alcatel Idol 4S or the Honor 8.
Considering the Phab 2 Pro's $500 price point, we can understand the decision not to give the handset a super high-end processor, and honestly the 652 does a very strong job – it should be more than sufficient for many common smartphone tasks.
But like we mentioned when discussing Tango apps, there are also plenty of times when it feels like we're pushing up against the limits of performance. Our big question there is whether the bottleneck is in the choice of processor, limitations of the Tango hardware, or the need for optimizations in core Tango libraries (as well as apps taking advantage of all that scanning hardware). And unfortunately, there's no one obvious answer.
The 64GB of internal storage is great to see, and microSD expandability is the icing on the cake. And though the 4GB of memory should be sufficient, we did hit memory-limit errors when experimenting with third-party Tango apps. While that could just be a bad app or two, we'd still keep in mind that Tango memory requirements may exceed those of standard apps.
How are you going to pair next-gen camera hardware with tired, old microUSB?
Lenovo advertises carrier compatibility with AT&T and T-Mobile in the States, and there's support for dual SIM cards. With no special carrier partnerships, though, you're on your own getting the phone set up with your provider of choice.
The only oddity about wired connectivity is the subject of the Phab 2 Pro going with micro USB instead of the increasingly more common USB Type-C, but that's a distinction with little ultimate consequence.