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Lenovo K800: hands-on photos of the first Intel Atom Android phone

As well as demonstrating the reference handset it’s built to demonstrate how Android will run on the new ‘Medfield’ Atom CPUs it’s launching for smartphones, at CES Intel showed us the K800 smartphone Lenovo will be launching in China with mobile operator Unicom in Q2 this year.
Except for the custom LeOS skin Lenovo’s put on the handset, the K800 looks much like any other Android 2.3 phone, with a big bright 4.5” screen and three capacitive buttons at the bottom, but it’s rather different inside the case. Bluetooth 3, GPS and the 8 megapixel camera don’t stand out, 802.11n Wi-Fi is only a little unusual; but the 1.6GHz processor isn’t just a little faster than the average ARM handset. It’s also Intel’s first Atom processor that’s low power enough to put in a phone.
This is the Atom Z2460 processor (codenamed Medifield) with 512K L2 cache and 512MB RAM, with the XMM chipset giving it HSPA+ connectivity and a 400MHz PowerVR GPU with DDR2 memory, all packed into a handset that feels no thicker or heavier than an ARM-based smartphone with this size of screen. It’s a single core CPU, but it uses Intel’s HyperThreading to run two threads; technically that makes it comparable to a dual-core ARM handset, but that’s going to depend a lot on how efficiently Android and Android apps use a second core anyway.
Certainly the phone feels about as zippy in use as a typical Gingerbread handset for most tasks, but Web performance was fast, especially for JavaScript, and we were impressed by the speed of the photo processing tools we tried in the PhotoWonder app. That’s not just your usual Instagram-style filters but also more powerful tools like making a photo look like a hand-drawn sketch.
The processing power also gives the K800 an advantage for recording video and snapping pictures; you can record 1080p video or shoot still images in 15fps burst mode.
The 4.5” screen is excellent, with deep saturated colours (even though this is a TFT rather than AMOLED) and the 720p HD resolution makes photos and video look really good. If you’d rather see video on a larger screen, the K800 has Intel’s WiDi wireless display connectivity; plug a WiDi receiver into your TV and you can connect to it directly from the phone and stream your content.
We haven’t been able to test this out ourselves, but Intel tells us you should get two days of real usage from the 1900mAH battery before you need to plug in, which is considerably more than most Android handsets we’ve used. If you’re using it continuously, Intel says you’ll get six hours of HD video playback or five hours of Web browsing. That doesn’t match the very longest smartphone battery life you’ll find but it’s certainly not shabby.
There’s no word on price yet, and while Intel suggests that the vast majority of Android apps will run on Atom handsets, we don’t have the details of how it’s going to achieve that for apps using native ARM features for performance. But this was far more impressive than the Intel smartphone prototypes we’ve seen in years past. At first glance, the K800 seems to be the first credible Intel-powered smartphone.


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