Lenovo K4 Note is being marketed as a device you should buy for the best multimedia experience. Our time with the handset tells us there is some substance to these claims, but we will examine them closely in our full review soon. Let’s talk about TheaterMax, the enticing, sly arrow in Lenovo’s armor which might be keeping you from your final decision.
What is TheaterMax?
TheatreMax aims to create an illusion and export you to a virtual theatre the moment you strap Ant-VR headset to your forehead. You can buy them separately from Amazon or you can buy them bundled with K4 Note for an extra 500 bucks. Apart from K4 Note, Lenovo Vibe X3 also has TheaterMax baked in.
What TheaterMax precisely does is split your screen in two halves. Rest is the VR headset talking. So you can switch to Thearemax mode or VR Mode in K4 Note, play any video in any player of your choice and experience an immersive theatre like experience.
How is it different from Google cardboard?
TheaterMax is more of a hardware-software combination. The software splits the entire screen in half, which means you can even have split-screen feed of YouTube videos or any other content otherwise available in normal mode.
Compared to most Cardboard VR headsets out there, Ant-VR has better design and quality. Most importantly, you don’t need to remove your specs to wear Ant-VR headsets. The quality of lenses uses is better and makes it less strenuous on our eyes.
How to use Lenovo TheaterMax?
If you just got your brand new K4 Note, you will have to navigate to Settings>> Features >>VR Mode Swith and turn it on. Post that, you can simply long press the power key to toggle VR Mode On/ Off.
That was the easy part. Sticking the phone in the VR headset is a task in itself. Firstly, you need to avoid smudges as far as possible, since smudges are magnified on the display while using TheaterMax). You have to play the content you wish to watch before fixing your handset in, and the tussle involved often results in accidental touches and accidental navigations to random apps.
To make our task easier we tried following approaches
- Use Mx Player for watching videos and locking the player before inserting the handset in Ant VR (worked)
- Configure tap on fingerprint sensor as back key, and long press action to recent apps (Settings >> Features>> Fingerprint gestures). Fingerprint unlock is almost mandatory, because hitting power key and punching unlock codes isn’t convenient when you fit the handset inside the Ant-VR and the display goes off.
- Use USB OTG and navigate using a mouse [doesn’t work very well, UI on K4 Note doesn’t auto-rotate either]
Was the TheaterMax experience worth it?
So once you are done with the setup, the Lenovo TheaterMax does add value to watching multimedia content. The powerful dual front facing speakers on K4 Note further enhance the experience. When using it in well-lit rooms, light bleed all over and you don’t feel like sitting in a theatre. It feels best when your turn the lights off.
Was it harsh on our eyes? Well it isn’t as tiresome as watching 360 degree videos on cardboard for long duration, but we are still not comfortable using it for watching videos for more than 30 minutes at a stretch.
The VR kit comes with a very handy microfiber cloth to wipe off smudges from the lens and your phone display. As mentioned earlier, smudges are magnified while using TheaterMax and so are the scratches on display or screen protector. So if you want to keep enjoying it, take good care of your smartphone display.
I demonstrated TheaterMax in action to friends and family who didn’t have any prior experience with VR headsets and they were all enchanted.
Can you replicate TheaterMax on other handsets?
Not really. There are several media players which let you split screen in half while playing videos, but the experience isn’t as refined. TheaterMax splits the entire screen which means you can also enjoy all sort of content without any restrictions. That is to say, you can also watch YouTube videos or continue using your favorite media player.
Can you use Ant-VR for watching 360 degree videos?
Answer – Nope. Watching 360 degree videos and demos on cardboard app didn’t work on K4 Note. Everything was way too fuzzy (To try that you need to switch off VR Mode first). However, it worked fine when we tested it using Zenfone Zoom.
The Lenovo TheaterMax is interesting technology and is more than a gimmick. It is worth spending the extra 500 INR if you have already decided on K4 Note as your next smartphone, but at the same time, it doesn’t make that big a difference that you let it trick you into buying K4 Note.