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Shootout: The best smartphones under S$350

By James Lu - 26 Jun 2015

Lenovo A7000

Lenovo A7000 - $229

The most affordable phone in our shootout, the Lenovo A7000, costs just $229, making it a full $50 cheaper than the next cheapest, the Xiaomi Mi 4i.

Design-wise, the A7000 is about as safe as they come. The phone has a utilitarian rectangular design with slightly rounded rear edges for a more comfortable grip. If you like bright colors you’re out of luck, the A7000 only comes in matte black or matte white.

The entire phone is made of plastic, but feels relatively sturdy. One complaint we have is that the matte finish looks a bit cheap and tends to pick up grease and oily fingerprints quite easily. The right edge of the phone houses the volume rocker and the power button, which thankfully are made of metal and have a etched circular pattern on them for a bit of flair. The top edge houses the headphone jack and, unusually, the MicroUSB port can also be found here, leaving the left and bottom edges port-free.

The rear cover is removable and hides two micro-SIM card slots and a microSD card slot. Unfortunately the phone only has 8GB internal storage (which is actually only 3.5GB once you factor in the space taken up by Android), and the microSD slot only supports cards up to a measly 32GB.

The A7000 has a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 1280 x 720 pixels resolution (267 ppi), giving it the lowest pixel density of any of our phones. Clarity on the phone isn’t too bad, but it is noticeably worse than the Full HD display on our other 5.5-inch device, the ASUS ZenFone 2. Color reproduction is decent if a little warm, and viewing angles and brightness are quite good overall. The screen is protected by Asahi Dragontrail glass, which is said to have a similar level of toughness as Corning’s Gorilla Glass. Below the display, there’s a row of capacitive buttons but unfortunately there aren't backlit, so finding them in the dark can be a bit tricky.

One of the unique features on the A7000 is that it is one of the first phones to support Dolby’s Atmos technology. This technology replicates a surround sound experience with any pair of headphones. Obviously this only works with headphones plugged in, and doesn’t do anything to improve the A7000’s single rear speaker, which isn’t very impressive anyway. However, with a pair of headphones plugged in we were quite impressed by the simulated surround sound experience. Do note that you need to be watching Dolby Atmos certified movies or trailers for the technology to work. Sadly, such content is scarce at this point of time and that makes this feature more of a marketing angle than of real value for consumers.

On the rear of the phone you’ll find an 8-megapixel camera with a 1/4-inch Sony Exmor IMX219 sensor and a dual LED flash. On the front, there’s also a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Lenovo’s default camera interface is fairly clean and easy to use but a little on the basic side.

Image quality from the A7000 is quite poor. Images are soft with low contrast.

The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT6752m octa-core processor and runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop with Lenovo's Vibe UI 3.0 skin on top of it. Like most Android phones from China, this skin does not use an app drawer. Other than that, Lenovo hasn’t done too much tweaking, and most of its pre-installed apps can be easily removed.