Categories
Smartphones

Huawei P9 Review: A Smartphone every Photographer would Love

Smartphones have always tried to replace our cameras. In true world, it does make sense, as you don’t carry your camera wherever you go unlike your mobile devices. While some companies claim to make camera phones, that would replace a DSLR, its nothing but just a joke. Each have different purposes and it would be wiser if we do not compare these two. However, on a regular daily usage you do not need a DSLR for everyday pictures; it would be nice to have a good portable Smartphone that couples as a camera which clicks quick and great pictures.

Huawei announced its flagship, the Huawei P9 today in India. The phone will be available for 39999 INR on Flipkart. The Huawei P9 is one of the best phones the company has every made. It is targeted at people who love creating photographs. Especially, with its association with Leica, it makes it even more worth looking at. I have been using this phone for over a couple of weeks and I am very impressed. Let us look at a detailed Huawei P9 review in this article. If you are keen on the camera review, read it here.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The Huawei P9 is made up of aerospace-class unibody aluminium and a 2.5D glass with a brushed metal effect for a smooth look. The edges are flat and straight design makes the device easy and comfortable to hold.

The phone is very light and feels great to carry along. Might feel slightly slippery. The back is quite ergonomic and the rear flows very well to the front. A protective case will still be a good idea.

Huawei-P9 rear antenna

The power button and volume rockers are placed on the right side which feels vey neat and also offers a good amount of tactile feedback. The power button also have a textured feel to it making it more comfortable to use.

The left side is for the SIM and SD card slots. There is a single slot with a dedicated SIM and a Hybrid slot. You could either pop-in two SIM cards or use one for a expandable micro-SD card.

The phone is powered with an octacore Kirin 955 chipset (This octacore processor comes with 4 x Cortex A72 cores clocked at 2.5GHz and 4 x Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz), Mali T880 GPU, faster EMMC 5.1 and 3GB RAM. The Huawei P9 is the first phone with a processor, that has a Depth Image Signal  Processor onboard.

The phone has a onboard 32GB ROM, expandable upto 128 GB. The phone doesn’t support adoptable storage though.

There is a very slight lag on the app-load when you launch 3rd party apps; its certainly not a major deal breaker. Probably, it would’ve been better on a 4GB/64 RAM model. However, the Emotion UI makes the OS much user friendly and optimises the OS with a good RAM management.

The OS also provides some good tweaks that help in better performance when compared to other phones in  this segment. The Gaming performance on this phone is very impressive as well.

The rear of the phone sports the camera and the finger print sensor. The Leica branding on the rear adds to the premium feel to the phone. Although, I still wonder why the SUMMARIT H1:2.2/27 ASPH was needed. They could’ve just kept it subtle with just Leica.

Huawei P9 Dual Camera Leica

The finger print sensor is an impressive feature on this phone (or in any Huawei phone in that matter). The finger print reading is fast (the company says 0.5 seconds to unlock) and also, has worked well all the times for me. When compared to other phones, the accuracy is pretty neat.

The Kirin 955 chipset also helps with silicon-chip level protection. There is a dedicated security module within the silicon chip that ensures user security, handling key information like fingerprints, keypad, and voice.

The phone has a 3000 MAH battery which offers a decent battery life of around a day. The charging speed isn’t one of the best either. Considering the phone to be a flagship, the battery life could’ve been better for sure. However, With Emotion UI, there are tons of more customisations which you can apply, to make your phone even better in terms of battery saving. Thanks to the patents Huawei has on the same.

With triple Antenna, the call drops are fairly less. Also, you don’t need to worry about your hand position under different signal conditions. Better RF performance- system automatically switches to the antenna with the best signal to prevent dropped calls.

Huawei P9 Leica Dual Lens back rear

The call quality is very impressive and the volume is good too. The Wi-Fi+ 2.0 automatically connect to the strongest available Wi-Fi network. The phone ranks the Wi-Fi hotspots, and prioritises the best connection.

The combination of beautiful design, powerful hardware, and a great camera gives this phone an edge when compared to the rest of the competition.

Display

The Display is very impressive and sharp. I find it to be one of the real good features of the phone. Its a 5.2″ FHD display with 96% colour saturation and high contrast. The quality and the details are neat. Images aren’t over-saturated or too warm/cold. the colours are vibrant and the brightness on the screen is impressive as well.

The LCD ensures blacks are nice and deep. It’s quite good even in a broad day light. Reading text on the phone is pretty good. I like the fact, it isn’t too sharp giving a realistic clear text.

Huawei P9 EMUI

If you want to nit pick, the display brightness could still look slightly low when compared to other flagships who offer Quad HD displays and much brighter nits. Huawei has managed to offer a better battery life with a full HD display here.

Software, User Experience:

The Huawei P9 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box with the customised version. These days, Every company have their own android skins for their phones. Out of all, my personal favourites have been the Flyme OS, MIUI and Emotion UI. They are not just basic customisations, but give users few features which are actually worth trying.

This phone offer Emotion UI 4.1, featuring Marshmallow.  There are few software features which makes the phone pretty good. My personal favourite is the notifications window. They show a lot more detail on a timeline about the app notifications and your system.

Shake to re-align icons is cool as well. Themes would also fancy some people for sure. I also like the screenshot gesture, where you just have to knock the screen.

step counter emui healthI love the Health App; that little notification on the lock screen is super cool. This version of EMUI also brings in some performance improvements.

The emotion UI provides you way more options to further make use of the finger print sensor, than to just unlock your phone. Gestures help you do that. For e.g.: Swiping up on the finger print scanner shows the recently used apps. Swiping down brings in the notifications page to quickly read through and toggle settings. A tap can be configured to take you to back screen or even click a picture while you take a selfie. You can even take a call, or use it like a home button with customisations available.

Camera:

With dual cameras, the P9 does a lot more than the competition. This is the second phone after LG G5 to come with a dual lens this year. While on the LG G5, the secondary module acts as a wide-angle lens, Huawei’s approach is different here.

With being, co-engineered with Leica, The Huawei P9 has a 12MP RGB main sensor and accompanied by a 12MP monochrome chip on board. The Huawei P9’s merging algorithm, intelligently combines the colours taken by the RGB sensor with the detail of the monochrome sensor.

Huawei P9 Dual Camera Leica

According to Huawei, the image information from both sensors makes the P9 camera 100% more light-sensitive than other smartphone cameras. Further, using the colour and monochrome camera simultaneously helps in producing a superior image with deeper blacks, vivid colours, and natural looking depth of field. Read our in-depth camera review here.

The Dual Lens on the Huawei P9 also helps in simulating shallow depth-of-field.

The camera is powered with a 12MP sensor, a f2.2 aperture, 22mm Leica optics, which does allow a lot of light and a dual tone LED flash to use in low-light conditions. The device doesn’t have an optical stabiliser though.

In outdoors, the camera performs very well and is quick. The quality of pictures is fantastic and the details are sharp with colours being good as well. The bokeh (background blur) is natural unlike the other phones in this segment. Thankfully, the software doesn’t over-sharp the images and hence, images feel realistic. Emotion UI also offers a great camera software which gives DNG Raw capture and other modes.

The monochrome pictures out of the Huawei P9 are worth falling in love with!

The Huawei P9 also offers manual shooting controls (professional mode) for people who like to create photographs. Here are some of the pictures I clicked with this camera over the past 2 weeks.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

In the past two weeks, I have been using the Huawei P9 as my primary phone, and I am very impressed with it. To begin with, the phone feels great on hands, software is optimised, the images aren’t too saturated; the colours and details feel real etc.

The Huawei P9 has been my favourite Smartphone, not just for the fantastic camera capabilities, but for a great User Experience.

Well, at this price, although it looks quite expensive, we need to consider that, this is a device from Huawei (not Honor, which has been making the budget phones) and they are competing it along with other flagships in the market. The company seems to be aggressive in getting out the brand Huawei in the country and they would like to keep it at a premium point.

While the camera is the most interesting feature on this phone, the oct-core chipset, The EMUI, and a fast fingerprint scanner are worth appreciating as well. Something I really miss on this phone is a hardware camera button. That would’ve been a nifty addition. The phone is perfectly sized, feels premium and the software is top-notch as well.

If you are behind the latest and greatest of hardware, you may see various other options in the market. However, if you love clicking pictures and value great user experience than hardware, then Huawei P9 is the camera phone for you. Like I mentioned the, photos are great and the monochromes are something worth falling in love with. The P9 is one of the best phones Huawei has ever made.

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

HTC 10 Review: Great Design Let Down by a Mediocre Display

We reviewed the all new HTC 10, the company’s 2016 flagship which is currently available in India for a price of 52,990 INR. HTC 10 competes with other flagships like Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5, Xiaomi Mi5 & OnePlus 3 which feature the mighty Snapdragon 820 processor.  Without further ado, let us get in to the HTC 10 review in detail.

The HTC 10 is powered by the latest 64-bit Snapdragon 820 quad core processor clocked at 2.2 GHz and comes with 32/64 GB inbuilt storage depending upon the variant with additional microSD support up to 2TB and 4GB of RAM. Additional features include Quick Charge 3.0 through the Type-C port which supports USB 3.1 standards with a battery capacity of 3000mAh.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The HTC 10 is a 5.2” 4G LTE Nano-SIM device with a Curve Edge Display at the front which blends seamlessly to the metal unibody. The Design is exquisite. The highlight of the device is the bold chamfered contour on the back that runs around the edges.

Users familiar with the Mi5 will find the phone very similar in terms of in-hand feel attributed by the 5.2” form factor. However unlike the Mi5, the back has a gentle arch resulting in a slightly thicker body of 9mm and little heavy at 161 grams.

HTC 10 Review

The phone is well-built and actually sturdy enough to withstand everyday bumps and knocks. Full marks to HTC for the impeccable construction quality and attention to details. The phone is designed to last. We were thoroughly impressed by the quality of buttons too.

HTC gets full credit for focusing on minute details like going with metal buttons and especially the textured finish for the power button to distinguish it from the volume keys. Other fine touches include a fast fingerprint sensor with a matte finish touch sensitive key. We liked the idea of HTC not going with a physical button here.

HTC-10-Finger-print-sensor

During our review, we stumbled upon an online drop test video where the HTC 10 is pitted against the Samsung Galaxy S7. The HTC 10’s screen is operable and survives 32 continuous drop tests before giving up. On the contrary, the Samsung Galaxy S7’s screen freezes in the first test. Although both screens shatter and develop spider webs in the first round itself, it’s clear that the HTC is the ultimate fighter here. The HTC 10 also currently tops the list in the bend test for being non-bendable. Of course we have Samsung’s Galaxy S7 in the league as well.

The trademark HTC boom sound speakers that went missing in the HTC one A9 mark their return in the HTC 10 but in a different avatar this time. The front facing stereo speakers from the recent HTC One M9 are not available anymore and HTC calls the new audio setup as Boom Sound Hi-fi edition.

So, we have a front facing speaker (tweeter) at the top for the highs and a bottom-firing speaker (woofer) for the lows. Even though the new speaker setup is definitely better than the ones from other flagships, we cannot deny the fact that the original boom-sound front facing stereo speakers sounded better.

Unlike speakers from other phones like the mi5 and Galaxy S7, the HTC 10’s speaker audio does not get muffled while blocking either of the speakers, which is good. To enhance the audio experience further, we have a music/theatre mode audio profile available. We liked the theatre mode which sounded better while watching videos.

Display:

The HTC 10 sports a Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels) Curved Edge LCD Display protected by Corning® Gorilla® Glass with an impressive 564 PPI pixel density and offers a maximum brightness of 372 nits.

Display is vivid and images are sharp. The display is however a big letdown when it comes to outdoor visibility. The screen is barely visible in bright daylight conditions. To compare, the LG G5 offers a maximum brightness of 800 nits and the mi5 with around 600 nits of brightness. Our current favourites in terms of display under direct sunlight are the mi5 and the OnePlus 3.

Other software features include display options to specify custom color temperature.

Camera:

One of the highlights of the HTC 10’s camera is that it features OIS in both front and the rear camera.

The Rear camera is a 12MP (1.55μm pixel) BSI sensor with laser Autofocus and f/1.8 aperture with OIS and supported by a dual tone LED flash. There is Pro mode for manual control and 12 bit RAW file support as well.

HTC-10-back-rear-design

Other camera features include Face Detection, Auto-HDR, Panorama, Zoe capture and Video Pic for photos. Video options include Hyperlapse, Slo-mo and 4K Recording with stereo 24-bit Hi-Res audio support. Gesture support for camera includes a double swipe up gesture for launching the interface.

The camera performs pretty well in most of the lighting conditions. Colors are natural and aren’t over saturated. Auto exposure adjustments and light metering could’ve been better though.

The Front camera is a 5MP shooter with 1.34μm pixels and f/1.8 aperture that does a great job while taking selfies. There is screen flash available for those night time or low-light selfies. Selfie shots can be triggered using smile, voice etc.

There is Live-makeup support but results are not so great. Front camera supports Full HD 1080p video recording with OIS which comes handy for vloggers.

Have a look at some of the pictures clicked using the HTC 10.

Software, User Experience:

The HTC 10 runs Android™ 6 Marshmallow with HTC Sense on top which offers a near stock android experience.  HTC tied up with google and reduced duplicate apps and bloat ware by choosing the best from Google and HTC. HTC has already announced that the HTC 10 will receive the Android Nougat update.

Gone are the black bars at the bottom of the screen and the on-screen keys should now provide more screen real estate for apps.

HTC 10 Review

In addition to the built-in 32 GB of storage, the HTC 10 offers support for Android’s Flex Storage through micro SD card. This is the only flagship in the market at this moment which supports this feature.

Audio:

The HTC 10 offers an incredible high resolution audio experience through headphones, driven by a 24-bit DAC built into the device. The Personal Audio Profile feature measures individual hearing abilities and dynamically adjusts specific sound frequencies to each of your ears thereby offering an enjoyable music experience which we loved every bit of it. I tried listening to hi-res music on an Audio-Technica ATH M50x and I was blown away by the quality.

There is built-in theme support for personalising your phone. In addition to classic themes, there is a new Freestyle Layout that frees you from an on-screen grid and lets you drag icons, stickers and widgets anywhere. You can link these stickers to apps, and get rid of on-screen icons entirely.

Theme store offers access to thousands of professional looking themes, each with its own icons, background, sounds and more. The only downside we see with the themes app is the need for an active internet connection for applying offline themes.

On the software front, HTC 10 features a Boost+ app for power & system management. Boost+ regularly cleans up accumulated junk files, makes switching between apps smoother and maximizes battery life by reducing the power usage of background apps. It can even give games a performance boost by lowering the screen resolution to FULL HD during gameplay resulting in less battery usage.

Powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor, the phone is incredibly fast while opening apps, unlocking the device and watching videos. Thanks to the Adreno 530 GPU, gaming performance on the HTC 10 is great and there are no issues like frame drops or lag during game play.

Gesture support include Double-tap to wake/sleep, Quite ring on pick up, pocket mode, flip to mute etc.

Connectivity options include NFC, DLNA, Miracast, Chromecast. HTC is currently one of the fewer Android phones to support AirPlay out of the box. We sorely miss the IR Blaster from the older HTC flagships.

Call quality is really good. With the Quick Charging 3.0 rapid charger, the 3000 mAh battery on the phone charges up to 50% in just 30 minutes and gets fully charged in 1.5 hours without much heating issues.

To help better battery life, the HTC 10 includes a Power saving mode and an Extreme power saving mode for extending the last drop of juice from the battery.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

Great design, styling & performance are the positives for the HTC10. The phone offers close to Stock-Android User Experience for simplicity. Battery life and Camera are worthy mentions too.

The device is slightly expensive in some of the regions.  The display lacks adequate brightness when compared to the competition. It doesn’t matter indoors; however, when you step outside on a bright day, the visibility gets difficult. The Auto-exposure adjustments on the camera could’ve been better.

Summing up, the HTC 10 is meant for hard core HTC fans and audiophiles who warrant exclusivity and do not mind spending the extra buck for a great experience. The HTC is currently available in India in Carbon Grey and Glacial Silver colours.

Thanks for reading. Do let us know your thoughts and questions.

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

LeEco Le2 Review – The New Budget Favourite

LeEco is back into the budget smartphone game with their new smartphone Le2. When Le1s was launched early this year, it was a huge hit in India with LeEco selling over 2 lakh units. Banking on the success, Le Eco launched the Le2 pretty quick this time within a month, compared to its china release. If you are still not aware, the Le2 is the successor to the Le1s Eco and the original Le1s smartphones. The Le2 comes with a free one year subscription of Live TV content and the Hungama music streaming subscription.

LeEco Le2 Media ContentThe LeEco Le2 is currently available exclusively on Flipkart through flash Sale on a registration basis for a price of INR 11,999. Let’s see if the Le2 truly lives up as a successor to the Le1s.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

Sticking to the winning formula, the design of Le2 is very similar to its predecessors. Le2 retains the full metal uni-body construction from the Le1s. The Rose Gold version looks attractive with the metal body and there is a silver and a grey variant as well to choose from.

There are no major design changes to the front and on the rear we have two antenna bands running across with the primary camera on top and a square finger print sensor located below on the center with LeEco’s typical mirror finish.

We have the volume and power buttons to the right and a dual nano-sim slot to the left. On the bottom, we have the type-c port in the center and two grills on either side. While the right grille houses the loud speaker, the left grille is just for symmetry.

LeEco Le2 bottom GrillThe top is left rather clean with just the IR blaster towards the left. LeEco has done away with the 3.5 mm audio jack and come up with their proprietary CDLA (Continuous Digital Lossless Audio) audio output format through the type-c port.

LeEco claims that the CDLA format will offer high quality audio output compared to a traditional analog connection and will offer an immersive sound experience when listening through earphones that support CDLA. LeEco is currently giving away LeEco’s in-ear CDLA headphones worth 1990/- absolutely free for a limited period as part of the Le2 flash sale. However if you want to use your own pair of headphones, there is a type-c to 3.5mm adapter bundled with the phone.

Despite its 5.5 inch form factor, Le2 is very comfortable to hold and lighter this time weighing 153g compared to the 169g weight of the Le1s. Although the phone feels slippery with single handed usage, the bundled clear case comes to our rescue.

LeEco Le2 Back Rear Design

Under the hood, the Le2 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor clocked at 1.8 GHZ which is the successor to the Snapdragon 650 seen on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. There is Qualcomm’s Adreno 510 GPU for GFX support. There is 32GB inbuilt storage available which is non-expandable and 3GB of RAM as before. 4G LTE support is available on the dual slim slots which offer dual standby. Also, there is 4G VoLTE support for high definition calls.

The phone has been in news for the infamous creaking sound while pressing the screen hard with your thumb. LeEco acknowledged that it’s not a build or quality control issue and the emanating sound is due to a gasket placed between the protective glass and the display.

We at tech.ink believe that the build quality is comparatively stronger and durable for this segment and definitely better than phones like the Redmi note3. If you are still not sure, there are multiple online bend test videos where the Le2 emerges out as a clear winner.

Display:

Just like the Le1s, the Le2 sports a 5.5 inch Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) LCD screen with In-cell display. With a pixel density of 401 PPI, the display is crisp and offers good viewing angles. On the software front, there is a color mode setting available with different color schemes like LeEco, Vivid, Natural and Soft to choose from.

LeEco Le2 Front UI DesignWe liked the soft mode in particular where the Blue-light filter technology integrated into the display hardware cuts down the blue light, ensuring your eyes are not stressed during long hours of content consumption. Outdoor visibility is decent and there is nothing to nit-pick here.

Camera:

On to the camera, there is a 16 megapixel primary shooter available with f/2.0 aperture and PDAF support resulting in a focus time of 0.09 seconds. There is a dual tone LED flash for night shots. Video recording options include Slo-mo & 4K video support.

LeEco Le2 Back rear CameraCamera UI reminds us of the iOS camera interface. There are 9 preset camera filters available to choose from. Details like saturation, sharpness and contrast levels can be set as per user liking. Camera performance is decent in good outdoor lighting conditions, but strictly average in low light scenarios. Pictures shot in low light lack detail.

On the front, we have an 8 megapixel camera (1.4 µm pixel size) with f/2.2 aperture. The rear finger print sensor can be used to capture selfies. There is beauty mode built-in, but it fails to impress. Front camera supports video recording up to 1080p.

Have a look at some of the camera samples below.

Software, User Experience:

Le2 runs on LeEco’s custom version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, EUI OS (5.8 version).  One noticeable difference with EUI is the absence of quick settings on the notification drawer.

The Quick settings is available rather on the multi-tasking view which looks more like the iOS control center with the app switcher and shortcuts to system apps in a single interface. There is option to customize the order of quick setting toggles and app shortcuts.

Finger print sensor works accurate most of the times from any angle, unlocking phone in 0.15 seconds, but it’s not one of the fastest we have seen on smartphones.

IR blaster currently works only with LeEco’s stock remote control app and not with popular 3rd party android apps like Peel which provide detailed channel guide based on your D2H provider. In other words, Indian set-top boxes cannot be controlled with the Le2 which is a bummer.

LeEco Le2 Front Camera

There is built-in theme support in EUI. However, there are only 3 themes available by default. We do have an online theme page, but sadly there we have only 9 themes available in total.

Le Ecosystem content and membership continues from the Le1s Eco. LeEco currently offers 1 year subscription free of cost and you can choose to upgrade after the subscription period. Even though Hungama music streaming is not yet available on the Le2, we do have the Live TV up and running.

People who are into watching soap opera and news will find the Live TV interesting. It’s a great way to catch up your favorite late night serial right from bed after switching off your TV at the drawing room. Please note that there are no movie channels available if you are looking for one.

LeEco Le2 Front DesignPowered by the Adreno 510 GPU, gaming performance is excellent and there are no frame drops while playing graphics intensive games. Call quality is good and the built-in speaker is loud. The loud speaker output does crackle on increasing volume.

The Le2 features a 3000mAh lithium-ion polymer battery that supports Le Super Charge with Type-C port using Quick Charge 2.0 standard. There is a Dynamic Voltage Scaling technology which adjusts the charging voltage according to charging cycles. According to the company this should translate in to longer battery life.

During our battery test, we did notice the phone getting warm as a result of charging. Battery life is excellent and the phone easily lasts a day with 20% of battery juice still left. If you still crave for more, there is a detailed power management feature with a variety of options to improve battery life. Also, there is a phone manager app to clean junk and limit data usage.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

The Le2 is slightly expensive at INR 11,999 compared to the previous generation Le1s LeEco. However, with a powerful processor that guarantees impressive performance and gameplay, it’s worth spending the extra buck. Barring the average camera performance, if you find the LeEco Ecosystem and content to be interesting, then the Le2 is a fair option to choose when comparing what competitors like Redmi Note3 offer at the same price point. If you are tight on budget, the Honor 5C is a great phone as well.

Do share your thoughts and questions if any. Thanks for reading.

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

Swipe Elite Plus Review: Camera makes this phone a Winner!

The Indian Smartphone market is one of the best places for business today. Its no more a race between the big players; we have quite a few other Indian and Chinese brands in the market who have seeded some amazing devices as well. Swipe has joined this league with its Elite range of phones. They have been quite consistent in launching various products. Today Swipe has over 1.5 Million customers. Early last month, Swipe launched the Elite Plus, a dual sim phone which is available for 6999 exclusively on Flipkart. The device is available in 2 variants. Let us look at the Swipe Elite Plus review in this article.

Swipe Elite Plus Review

Under the hood the phone is powered by a Snapdragon 615 octa core processor clocked at 1,5 GHz, 2GB RAM, 16GB of Internal Memory and a non-removable 3000mAh battery. The phone also has a dedicated expandable storage slot which supports microSD cards upto 64GB; the phone also provides an OTG support.

The phone weighs around 150 grams and is 8.9 mm thin. The phone also supports all the bands in India – LTE, GSM and even CDMA. The back-panels on the phone can be swapped. The call quality and speaker volume is pretty good too.

This device offers a 5 inch full HD display protected by a DragonTrail glass. The glass looks gorgeous and the text is crisp too. The colors aren’t over saturated and are very true to life.

The phone has a good design with chrome rims and good quality plastic around the body. The build quality feels surprisingly good and quite comfortable to hold. You can find the power-button towards the right-side of the phone and the volume rockers in the left. I personally thought, we could’ve had the Elite branding in a subtler way.

Swipe Elite Plus Branding

The rear camera is a 13MP and the front is a 8MP sensor camera. The camera is one of the strongest points of this device. By far one of the best phones for the performance regardless of the segment it falls in. The color re-production is perfect and the saturation levels are top notch too. The HDR mode also works quite okay.

In terms of improvements, the camera does have a scope of improvement while shooting landscapes. With close distant subjects and macros, the depth of field is fantastic. Do have a look at some of the pictures shot using this phone. Truly one of the best things about the phone.

On the software side, the Elite Plus runs on Android 5.1 with Freedom OS on top of it. The Freedom OS is fast and works neat. The OS has been optimized for the hardware and the 2GB RAM looks sufficient to do most of the system tasks.

The performance lags a bit when 3rd party or resource intense applications are launched. They tend to slow down the performance of the phone by a bit. Even, while viewing photos in the gallery app, the phone does take a while to render the image. I think, including a 3GB RAM, would’ve avoided it. Otherwise the Freedom OS is very light and gives variety of customizations for the users. I wish we had an option to tune the vibration strength too. Sometimes its too irritating.

Swipe Elite Plus OSThe phone does heat up a bit. Charging the phones takes a lot of time. Maybe, now that, we are used to fast charging, this looks very slow. A full charge from 0 to 100 takes about 3 hours to complete. However, at the segment this device is competing in, there shouldn’t be no complaints as such.

We have seen a lot of junk smartphones in this segment claiming to make better phones and they spoil the entire Android ecosystem. The Swipe Elite Plus is definitely a very good entry Level Android Phone. The phone delivers what it promises and it does it quite well. The camera makes it the obvious winner when compared to the rest in this segment. If you are in the market, looking for an entry level internet powered smartphone which offers a pretty good camera, then, this is a very good option for you.

‘Internet for everyone’ is the new mantra in every industry. The IoT devices are targeting the very same purpose and has already offered some ‘connected’ solutions which eases people’s life. Well, more than one billion people in India are yet to be connected to the web. One of the easiest way to reach people for this are smartphones. The affordable range of smartphones are just in a look out, to see if more and more people can get connected. However, to a large extent the network service provider also plays a big role here. Lets hope they take the step forward too.

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

OnePlus 3 Review: Killing the Flagship Game!

OnePlus unveiled its long-awaited flagship smartphone OnePlus 3 in a VR event couple of weeks ago. The Graphite variant of the OnePlus 3 is currently available from Amazon.in for INR 27,999/- and the Soft Gold variant will be launched in the near future.  Let’s review and see if the phone stands true to the “flagship killer” moniker at the current price point.

Gone are the days where an invite was required to purchase an OnePlus phone. Kudos to the team for getting rid of invites. This feels super awesome as a buyer. Inside the box, you also get this note from Carl Pie where he talks about the company, customers and how to reach him.

OnePlus Founder Carl Pei Letter OnePlus 3

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The OnePlus 3 is a 5.5” 4G Dual-SIM device featuring an ultra slim uni-body metal design which according to the company is carved out of single slab of space-grade aluminum alloy, pretty much like what we have seen on the HTC 10. The build quality is solid and the phone looks premium. Weighing 158 grams and at 7.3 mm thickness, it ranks 3rd in thinnest flagships available currently in the market. Make no mistake in underestimating the build quality of the phone. Its strong and durable in every aspect, be it the keys, glass, finger print scanner or the whole construction.

The Dual-SIM tray & power keys are located on the right, while the alert slider & volume rocker are placed on the left. Top stays flat and the bottom houses the speaker grill, type-c port and the 3.5 mm audio jack. The Alert Slider from the OnePlus 2 has been retained in the OnePlus 3 as well. This helps in toggling between silent, priority and all notifications with the reach of a button and is unique to the OnePlus phones.

OnePlus 3 Slider

A ceramic finger print sensor is available on the front similar to the HTC 10. Unlike the Xiaomi mi5, the sensor is not located on a physical home button, but on a capacitive home key. The Sensor is blazingly fast unlocking the device in 0.2 seconds from sleep and accurate most of the times. It’s a true 360 degree sensor in a way that it works perfect when pressing from any direction.

Another interesting thought with the OnePlus 3 sensor implementation is, it does not wake the screen up with incorrect inputs like the HTC 10 does. The sensor just vibrates the phone when finger print is not recognized and wakes up only when there is a match. This is a good use case since there will be multiple instances you ending up touching the sensor by mistake while holding the phone.

OnePlus 3 FingerPrint Sensor

Primary camera is located on the centre of the back with a visible protrusion which according to us is not the best in design and may not be for everyone’s liking. With a phone case, this protrusion should not be too annoying. OnePlus has released a variety of cases for this device which are available on Amazon.in

The OnePlus 3 runs on top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor seen in 2016 flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7 (US), LG G5, HTC 10, Le Max2 and the Xiaomi Mi5. Out of the four Kryo cores available, two are clocked at 2.2 GHz and other two at 1.6 GHz. There is Adreno 530 GPU for handling those graphic intensive tasks.

The device comes with impressive hardware specs like 64GB storage (based on UFS 2.0 technology), 6 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, Dash Charge, Type-C port, Bluetooth 4.2. The device also supports NFC.

Currently this is the only smartphone available in India with a mammoth 6 GB of RAM. While this may sound an overkill by today’s standards, we appreciate this move from OnePlus since this makes the phone future proof. Also this combination of RAM and processing power makes the phone a very smooth device. UI is snappy, and even 4K video editing is a breeze.

Display:

The OnePlus 3 sports a 5.5″ FULL HD (1080p) Optic AMOLED display protected by a 2.5D curved gorilla glass 4 from Corning. With a pixel density of 401 PPI and a maximum brightness of just over 400 nits, the display is crisp & vivid with deeper blacks and brighter whites.

Outdoor visibility is excellent with the Adaptive brightness coming to play and automatically optimizing the screen brightness level based on available light conditions. There is a night mode when enabled filters out harmful blue light emission from the screen and reduces eye strain in the dark. Additional display features include a color balancing slider to choose between warmer and cooler color temperatures according to the user preference.

While the 2.5D curved glass looks gorgeous with the thin bezel on the OnePlus 3, we encountered a minor niggle while watching videos on YouTube. While holding the phone in one hand and scrolling through available videos, my palm would occasionally touch the sides of the screen and play an unintended video from the list. However this should not pose any problem since this can be avoided by going for a phone case or by using two hands. Not a deal breaker but slightly annoying.

Camera:

For the primary camera, the OnePlus 3 uses Sony’s 16MP IMX298 sensor (1.12 µm pixels and f/2.0 aperture) available on the Xiaomi mi5. There is hardware OIS and an additional EIS (Electronic image stabilization) for those less shaky photos & videos. The front camera is an 8MP Sony IMX179 shooter with 1.4 µm pixels and f/2.0 aperture.

Camera interface is simple and includes features like Auto HDR, a robust manual mode, Panorama and support for RAW images. Thanks to PDAF, the primary camera is quick to focus and shoots good pictures in both outdoor and artificial lighting conditions with very little noise. Occasionally, there are some focus stacking issues when the subject you click is busy. See Sample below. I believe, this would be fixed over a software update.

OnePlus 3 Focus Issues

Though the OnePlus 3 has an OIS built in, the videos aren’t as great as an iPhone even without an OIS. Maybe, the camera software needs better stabilisation algorithms. Video recording features include support for time lapse, slow motion (720p at 120fps) and 4K video (30fps). Recorded audio from video footage could have been louder.

Coming to the front camera, it can shoot up to 1080P video at 30fps. We personally liked the Smile Capture feature for selfies which triggers a 3 sec timer shot when you smile. The circle gesture for launching camera from sleep mode worked flawlessly every time. Unfortunately with the finger print setup on the device, we had to go through an extra step of unlocking the device to launch the camera.

Have a look at some of the camera samples below. We will add more samples as we use the device.

Software, User Experience:

OnePlus 3 comes with the latest edition of Oxygen OS which is based on Android Marshmallow 6.1. Oxygen OS is a clean, light, bloat-free OS supporting UI customisation, gesture support etc. A lot of bugs from the OnePlus 2 have been addressed in this update. There is option to enable software navigation buttons and they can even be customized for performing different actions based on user preference. For users who don’t prefer the white theme, there is a dark theme that can be customized with an accent colour.

Screen-Off Gesture support include features like double tap to wake screen, drawing a circle to launch camera, drawing a V for flashlight, two finger swipe downwards to play/pause music, </> for previous/next track navigation and all of them worked flawlessly during our testing. Unfortunately, these are the only options which have been available since OnePlus One. We wished if there were more options or custom gestures.

OnePlus 3 Oxygen 3 Android OS

With Oxygen OS, the same phone can be used by multiple users. New users can be added to the system and each user will have their dedicated space comprising of apps, wallpapers, layout etc. Also, features guest mode which is a nifty feature when enabled hides all photos, call history, messages etc.

Powered by the Adreno 530 GPU, gaming performance is excellent and there are no frame drops while playing graphics intensive games. Call quality is good and the Built-in speaker is loud and clear.

Dash Charge:

The OnePlus 3 features a 3000mAh non-removable battery with an impressive proprietary quick charge technology which the company calls Dash Charge. While keeping the phone cooler, Dash Charge replenishes more than 60% of the battery within half-an-hour. This is made possible by leveraging a large electric current (5V 4A) for stable, consistent charging speeds and shifting the power management system from phone to the Dash Charge adapter. While this setup helps in maintaining lower temperatures during charging, it brings another great advantage. There won’t be any CPU throttling issues and hence the charging speed won’t get affected by intensive phone usage in parallel like streaming video or playing heavy games.

During our battery charge test, the OnePlus 3 managed to stay cool throughout the time. While reaching 96% in under an hour, the phone managed to charge the battery to 100% in one hour and eleven minutes which is incredible.

The only downside we see with the dash charge technology is the limitation of relying on the dash charge adapter for faster charging. In other words, when using a 3rd party Type-C fast charging adapter, the OnePlus 3 will charge in regular charging speeds and won’t get charged quickly.

Power management options include a battery saver feature that can be trigged automatically when battery reaches a percentage level. However the battery saver settings cannot be customized.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

Great Display, Impeccable Finger Print Sensor, A very good Front & Rear Camera along with the 6 GB RAM definitely makes it worth the buy. The dash charge is worth a mention. The form factor is slightly on the larger side; however, it isn’t very uncomfortable to use. The performance is top-notch, and the phone gives a very premium feel; certainly making it the Flagship Killer.

OnePlus OnePlus 3 rear side

I would certainly recommend OnePlus 3 to anyone who is looking at buying a flagship smartphone with a bigger screen. However, if you are looking at a lighter phone with a slightly smaller form factor, then the Xiaomi Mi5 is a good alternative.

Do let us know your thoughts and questions if any. Thanks for reading.

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

Honor 5C Review: Software wins over Specs here!

In this article, lets review the Honor 5C, a budget entry segment smartphone from Huawei which was just launched in India today. Though, this device is priced as a budget phone, features, design and the user experience give it a feel of a good mid-range smartphone.

Honor is Huawei’s Smartphone e-brand for digital natives. Honor has been expanding aggressively in global markets, and has successfully launched in 74 global markets, entering the bestselling charts in most of the European countries honor launched. The Honor 5C will be available at INR 10999 in three colors – gold, silver and grey. The phone will be available on Flipkart and is available for pre-orders starting 2 PM today. The sale of Honor 5C will commence starting 30th June.

honor-5c

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The Honor 5C comes with a premium aircraft grade metal that also offers 5 layer heat sinks with copper shielding cover. It is made from brushed metal alloy wire-drawing finish that adds a very premium look and feel to this phone. The top and bottom of the phone are made up of plastic, but still the phone doesn’t look cheap at all.

The phone is neither heavy, nor very light. Its a good weight in the hands; and doesn’t slip-off easily. The curved back is quite ergonomic and the rear flows very well to the front. There is a LED notification on the top of the phone as well.

honor-5c-brushed-back

The power button and volume rockers are placed on the right side which feels vey neat and also offers a good amount of tactile feedback. The buttons also have a textured feel to it making it more comfortable to use. The left side is for the SIM and SD card slots. Its surprising why Honor dropped the 2 separate slots and included the Hybrid SIM slot this time.

The phone is powered with an octacore 64bit Kirin 650 16nm chipset, Mali T830 GPU, faster EMMC 5.1 and 2GB RAM. The phone has a onboard 16GB ROM, expandable upto 128 GB. There is a very slight lag on the app-load when you launch 3rd party apps; its certainly not a major deal breaker. Probably, it would’ve been better with a 3GB RAM. However, the Emotion UI makes the OS much user friendly and optimises the OS with a good RAM management. The OS also provides some good tweaks that help in better performance when compared to other phones in  this segment.

brushed-metal-honor-5c

The rear of the phone sports the camera and the finger print sensor. The finger print sensor is an impressive feature on this phone (or in any Huawei phone in that matter). The finger print reading is fast (the company says 0.5 seconds to unlock) and also, has worked well all the times for me. When compared to other phones in this segment, the accuracy is pretty neat.

The phone has a 3000 MAH battery which offers a good battery life of over a day; It gives me SOT of 5 hours which is pretty impressive. With Emotion UI, there are tons of more customisations which you can do, to make your phone even better in terms of battery saving. Thanks to the patents Huawei has on the same.

With Dual Antenna, the call drops are fairly less. The sound quality on the phone isn’t great when you play music on loud speaker; it gets slightly better with a headset. However, The call quality is very impressive and the volume is good too.!

Display

The Display is very impressive and sharp. I find it to be one of the real good features of the phone. Its a 5.2 inch, IPS Panel display powering a full HD resolution of 1080 * 1920 offering a 480 dpi. The quality and the details are neat. Images aren’t over-saturated or too warm/cold. the colours are vibrant and the brightness on the screen is impressive as well. Reading text on the phone is pretty good. I like the fact, it isn’t too sharp giving a realistic clear text.

honor-5c-display

Software, User Experience:

The Honor 5C runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box with the customised version. These days, Every company have their own android skins for their phones. Out of all, my personal favourites have been the Flyme OS (Find out why this skin is good), MIUI and Emotion UI. They are not just basic customisations, but give users few features which are actually worth trying.

This phone offer Emotion UI 4.1, the first Honor phone to feature Marshmallow. There are few software features which makes the phone pretty good. My personal favourite is the notifications window. They show a lot more detail on a timeline about the app notifications and your system. Shake to re-align icons is cool as well. Themes would also fancy some people. I love the Health App; that little notification on the lock screen is super cool. This version of EMUI also brings in some performance improvements.
Honor 5C Health App
The emotion UI provides you way more options to further make use of the finger print sensor, than to just unlock your phone. Gestures help you do that. For e.g.: Swiping up on the finger print scanner shows the recently used apps. Swiping down brings in the notifications page to quickly read through and toggle settings. A tap can be configured to take you to back screen or even click a picture while you take a selfie. You can even take a call, or use it like a home button with customisations available.  Here are some of the options, you can set.

Camera:

The camera is powered with a 13MP sensor, a f2.0 aperture which does allow a lot of light and a single LED flash to use in low-light conditions. In outdoors, the camera performs very well and is quick. The quality of pictures is pretty neat and the details are sharp with colors being good as well. Thankfully, the software doesn’t over-sharp the images and hence, images feel realistic. Emotion UI also offers a great camera software which gives you options for smart selfies, food mode etc.  Here are some samples pictures I clicked. will upload few more as I use the phone. 

The Honor 5C also offers manual shooting controls (professional mode) for people who like to create photographs.

Honor 5C Pro Photo

You can shoot a 1080p video on this phone. however, it doesn’t come with an optical image stabiliser built in.  The video processing on the phone can be better, but is certainly good enough for a mid range smartphone.

The slo-mo and time-lapse features are also there. Here is a sample time-lapse video, I shot early this morning. Not the best, and certainly not the worse either. One point worth mentioning is that, when I used this camera for a longer time to shoot this time-lapse video, it didn’t warm the phone – This is neat.

The follow-focus on the videos is a pretty good addition. The front camera performance is decent and does take some good pictures; and if you’re a selfie lover, there are tons of more options to play around.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

With a brushed metal, premium design and a good display its impressive. Today in the market, There are few other devices in this range which offers better specs; however, its not just about the specs at times. Its more on the user experience. I personally love how the honor phones offer a good user experience with its Emotion UI; and of course the accurate finger print scanner which doubles with great gesture controls. I believe, software updates with Honor aren’t going to be an issue either.

Summing up, This phone offers a good design, beautiful display and most importantly, finger print scanner which is accurate and does a lot more things than just unlocking your phone. This would be my new recommendation for anyone looking at a 10K phone.

Do let us know your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

Asus ZenFone Max Review: Good Camera and a Pretty Awesome Battery!

Few weeks ago, Asus unveiled an upgraded Zenfone Max which comes in 3 variants. This is a Dual sim device with a Micro SD card slot options. This is a successor to the last year’s Zenfone Max. The USP of this device is its whopping 5000 mAh battery. The phone does have some weight but it doesn’t feel bulky at all. In this article, let’s review the Asus ZenFone Max and see how it performs. The phone is available in Orange, Blue, White and Black colours.

Under the hood, the phone is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm  Snapdragon 615 processor clocked at 1.5 Ghz. It has a 2GB or 3GB of RAM (based on the variants you choose to buy) and a 32GB of Storage, in addition to an expandable memory of up to 64GB. While using the phone, I could feel a lack of optimisation in the RAM department. The app loads are very slow and there is a occasional frame drops when you play high graphic intense game. However, at the range this device is considered, it makes the best use of the hardware and gives you the value for money!

asus-zenfone-max

The display is a 5.5 screen which supports a HD ready (720p) display. The screen is protected by Corning Glass 4. The viewing angles of the phone is pretty good. The text are decently sharp and images are a tad high saturated. The contrast is pretty neat too; means the black and whites look good. I really wished if this had a 1080p display.

On the rear side, the phone adds a matte leather feel back panel to the phone which gives it a good grip and also adds to a style. Its just a plastic though. The sides of the phones aren’t metal either. However, the phone does give a good feel to the hands.

The Zenfone Max like the earlier edition, has a 13MP Primary camera sensor on the rear which is assisted by dual LED flash and a laser auto focus. The front camera has a 5MP sensor. The camera app comes with a lot of filters and features. There are various modes, such as: Auto mode, Manual mode, HDR mode, Beautification, Super Resolution, QR Code scanner, Low light mode, Night Capture mode, Depth of Field mode, Selfie Mode (Rear camera), GIF Animation, Panorama, Miniature, Time Rewind, Smart Remove, Slow Motion and Time Lapse. Also, the camera does record full HD videos.

Here are some of the pictures Praveen shot on his recent trip. Like you see in the samples, the camera performs pretty well in bright outdoor; the colors are quite impressive too. However, in a moderate lighting conditions, the pictures aren’t exposed right. Although, the laser auto focus helps in quick focus, I noticed that the pictures weren’t very sharp when shot in low light conditions.

One of the strongest feature of this phone is its battery. With 5000 mAh, its too good at its segment. The lithium-polymer battery offers a good 2-3 days of usage and has a standby time of 38 days, which is pretty impressive. The Power Saver mode helps users manage and extend the battery life even more. With five battery modes and two smart switches that users can configure to make their own battery optimization settings and help the battery last even longer. However, the phone takes a long time to charge and thats definitely a pain. The wall charger is a 5.2V at 1Amp charger. It takes a good 5-6 hours to charge from 0 to 100. Wish, Asus had included a fast charger in it. The battery on the ZenFone can also work as a power bank and share the power with other devices with the OTG cable that comes along with the box.

zenfone-max-marshmallow

This Zenfone brings in all the goodness of the Android Marshmallow with ZenUI skin. The phone also wakes up on double-tap and there are options to clear the cache memory right from the multi-tasking window. There are few more tweaks which are made in the OS level that helps in better memory management and app loads; however, ZenUI still has a long way to go. There is still a lot of scope of improvement in the area of RAM management and optimisation.

Given the price of 9,999 INR, the device is definitely worth the buck. The battery and reverse charging are definitely a neat addition.

 

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

Lenovo Zuk Z1 Review: Best Mid-Range Phone you can Buy Today!

2016 is already witnessing a flurry of mid-range smartphones hitting the Indian Market, starting with LeEco introducing their Le1s which was a phenomenal success, followed by Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3, which was also a great hit (Mi declared over 6,00,000 Redmi Note 3 phones being sold in the past quarter). Joining this bandwagon is Zuk Z1 from Lenovo, which goes on sale starting tomorrow. If you observe the trend, every company is trying hard to push other competitors down by introducing great “value for money” phones with impressive specifications thereby redefining this segment every time and setting the standards higher than others.

The Lenovo Zuk Z1 was announced in India earlier this month and made its way to the headlines when it was introduced at a jaw dropping price of INR 13499. Even though the Zuk Z1 was launched sometime back in China, Lenovo is bringing it to India at the right time and we believe it will give a tough competition to other smartphones in this range given the attractive pricing and the software features. Let us look into the detailed review.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The Lenovo Zuk Z1 is a 5.5” 4G Dual-SIM (Nano) dual standby device featuring a premium design with a full HD display on the front supported by a metal frame with chamfered edges that runs around the phone and a gently arched back with a matt finish. There is a subtle branding of Zuk on the rear side.

The Lenovo Zuk Z1 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor which was very popular and powered many flagship smartphones like the OnePlus One, Xiaomi MI4 and on the recent mid ranger, the OnePlus X. The device comes with impressive specs like built-in 64GB flash storage, 3 GB RAM, FingerPrint Sensor, USB 3.0 and Type-C port.

Lenovo-Zuk-Z1-TypeCDespite the larger 4100 mAh battery, the phone is not too bulky – measuring 8.9mm in thickness and weighing around 175 grams. Even though the phone is little heavier than the Redmi Note 3, the overall in-hand feel is good; thanks to the narrow form factor. The Loud Speaker is surprisingly loud and clear for a mid-range smartphone.

Lenovo-Zuk-Z1-Hands-onThe phone lacks an external microSD card option; however, it isn’t a great deal considering the fact that, Zuk Z1 has 64GB internal storage which none of the competition is currently offering in this segment. Another highlight is the Cyanogen OS 12.1 software which powers this phone. Lets look into it a little later.

Display:

The Lenovo Zuk Z1 sports a 5.5″ FULL HD (1080p) IPS display with 401 PPI pixel density and offers a maximum brightness of 450 nits. It also features the Live Display from CM 12.1 which automatically optimizes the screen depending on the time and ambient light conditions to reduce eyestrain and improve readability. Additional display features include options to specify custom color temperature depending on the time of the day and calibrate colors based on user preference. There is also an outdoor mode when turned on, increases brightness and saturation under direct sunlight. The LCD Density feature allows users to modify the screen DPI (Dots per inch) enabling more screen content depending on the DPI selected (320 to 560 DPI). The text on the phone is clear and very readable. Pictures on the display are neither too over-saturated nor artificially sharp.

Camera:

The Rear camera is a 13MP (1.12 micron pixel) Sony IMX 214 with OIS and supported by a double LED flash. Camera is capable of shooting great pictures in outdoor lighting conditions. However it does struggle with the focus while capturing indoor close-up shots.The Front camera is an 8MP shooter with 1.4 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture which does a decent job while taking selfies. With Qualcomm ISP image processing on board, it gets a good 3400w Pixels Image.

Lenovo-Zuk-Z1-RearWe were surprised by the camera presets (with over 25 options) available on the camera interface. A subset of these presets for example Auto, HDR, Action, Night etc. can be selected and with a swipe up gesture we can quickly switch between these presets while shooting pictures. Have a look at some of the samples captured using this phone.

For best results, leverage the built-in presets available in the camera interface. For example use HDR mode while snapping landscapes, night mode for low light photos and action/sports mode for fast moving subjects in daylight.

Software, User Experience:

The Lenovo Zuk Z1 runs CyanogenMod 12.1 which is an open source custom version of Android 5.1.1. Early June, we will see a software update for this phone which brings in CM13, Android Marshmallow.

CyanogenMod offers lots of exciting features in addition to what stock android offers like native theme support, unlockable bootloader and root access etc. As per Cyanogen, CyanogenMod OS does not contain spyware or bloatware. It offers seamless True caller integration with the call UI which is great. In addition to the capacitive keys, App switcher, back and home buttons can be configured on the bottom of the display as on screen buttons.

Gesture support include Double-tap to wake and Double-tap to sleep. Caller blocklist is available for blocking unnecessary calls, messages etc.

Another noteworthy built-in feature is Custom Profiles. Different profiles like silent, automobile, office etc can be created, selected manually or automatically selected based on triggers. Triggers include events like phone connecting to your home WIFI, phone’s Bluetooth connecting to car stereo etc. Profile settings include turning on/off WIFI, Bluetooth, mobile data, volume levels, screen brightness etc.

With Cyanogen, the same phone can be used by multiple users. New users can be added to the system and each user will have their dedicated space comprising of apps, wallpapers, layout etc. Also, features guest mode which is a nifty feature when enabled hides all photos, call history, messages etc.

A Touch ID Finger print scanner is available in the front and embedded within the physical home button. As mentioned by the company, the scanner is a true 360 degree sensor; it works fine when pressed from any direction. The only pain point is the sensor needs to be pressed every time to unlock the phone. It would be great had it been just a touch.

Personally we didn’t find the PIN scramble feature to be useful since it reveals the PIN numbers on top while entering. Other security features include a Smart Unlock feature that unlocks the phone based on trusted devices, places, face, voice etc. There is a theme store available which has many Premium and few free themes to choose from.

Powered by the Adreno 330 GPU, gaming performance is decent and there are occasional frame drops while playing games like Asphalt. Phone gets a little warm during game play.

Call quality is definitely good. The loud speaker sounds better as well. With a 2.5 Ampere fast charger, phone gets fully charged in 2.5 hours. One of the advertised feature by the company is an intelligent cut-off circuitry between charger & battery for extended battery life. Battery options include Balanced, Performance and Power saving modes for extending the last drop of juice from the battery. While testing, we got a great SOT with this device.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

Good Hardware, Premium feel, stock android like experience with advanced options for customisations, OIS Camera, 64 GB of space, great battery life and the price of 13499 are the positives of the device. With lenovo backing, support for this device shouldn’t be a big concern. On the downside, we do have a ‘not that new’ processor on board. The camera could’ve been a little more snappier and focused better in low light conditions. The phone gets warmer over usage as well. I hope, the new software update can fix all these niggles. With 64GB internal storage, having a 4K video support would’ve been a great add. However, its a luxury at this point.

Summing up, this is one neat device which I would recommend anyone who is looking at buying a good smartphone in this range. With an onboard storage of 64GB and OIS in Camera, it stands out from the rest of the competition in this segment.

The first flash sale will begin 19th May on amazon.in and will be available in White and Space grey colours. 

Hopefully this review would’ve helped you in making a decision about this phone. Do let me know your thoughts and questions if any. Thanks for reading.

Categories
Product Reviews Smartphones

Xiaomi Mi5 Review: A Power House with a Beautiful Design

In this article we review the Xiaomi Mi5, which was announced early this year at the Mobile World Congress 2016. The phone was released in India last month and had a pretty good response in every flash/open sale the company did. Let us look at this device in detail.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The Xiaomi Mi5 is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with 32 GB inbuilt storage (no microSD expansion) and 3 GB of RAM. This is the first phone in India to be sold with this processor. According to the company, the MI5 is engineered for breakneck speeds and packed with latest breakthrough features like UFS 2.0 flash storage, LPDDR4 RAM, USB Type-C with Quick Charge 3.0, voLTE. Few of the areas where we could noticeably feel the speed of Mi5 is while applying themes (happens in a matter of 4 seconds), viewing trending or subscribed videos in youtube and while loading images in browser on search.

The Mi5 variant sold currently by Xiaomi is a clocked-down processor (1.8 Ghz as opposed to the 2.2 Ghz on the 64GB model); however, there is no considerable lag while you work.

mi5-xiaomi-rear

The Xiaomi Mi5 is a 5.15” 4G Dual-SIM (Nano) device made of a premium glass body that curves towards the edges on the back and blends seamlessly to an aluminum metal frame that runs around the sides. The Front is protected by gorilla glass 4 and the rear is covered by 3D glass/ceramic depending on the variant that result in a premium design.

First thing that you’ll notice when you hold the phone, is how light it feels in your hand; yet solid and well-built in terms of design and quality. With phone’s thickness being just 7.25 mm and with the tapered edges on either sides of the back, the result is an incredibly thin form factor that snugly fits in your palm. You merely feel like holding a 4 or 4.5 inch phone in spite of the fact that the display is 5.2 inches. It’s easy to use the phone in one hand, with the phone being light and the software giving you an option for one-handed usage.

Couple of interesting hardware design thoughts for longevity of the camera and fingerprint sensor are the sapphire glass lens cover for the rear camera and a ceramic finish on the front home button that houses the fingerprint sensor. This is also Xiaomi’s first phone with a physical button. Another design change with MI5 is that, you now have an option to toggle the back and overview button.

The only sore point is the loud speaker quality and grille design. Loud speaker could have been better in terms of clarity and loudness for a flagship device. Also, while holding the phone in landscape mode and watching videos, the audio tends to get muffled, with fingers blocking the speaker grills.

Display:

In a smartphone era where QHD display is being used as a standard for flagships, the MI5 sports a 1080p FULL HD IPS display, which is kinda out-dated. However it’s not a bad thing at all and it actually helps in translating to a promising one day battery life which is excellent.

mi5-user-experience

With 428 PPI resolution and the number of LEDs illuminating the display bumped up to 16, the MI5 is ULTRA BRIGHT with 600-nits of brightness and colors are vivid too. With Night Display, there is a wide brightness range available that provides dimmer options for reading at night. There is also a new READING mode when enabled, minimizes blue light radiation resulting in the display being easy on the eyes and reduces eye strain. The company continues with the Sunlight display in MI5 as well which provides excellent readability outdoors.

Camera:

The Xiaomi MI5 has all the bells & whistles in terms of the camera settings. For example the characteristics of output image (sharpness, contrast, saturation) could be set to one of the 7 available levels as per user’s preference. MI5 inherits the 4 MP (2 micron-pixel) wide angle front camera found in the MI Note. Rear camera is a 16 MP shooter with dual tone LED flash, PDAF (phase detection auto focus), 4-axis OIS and f/2.0 aperture that quickly locks faces and snaps pictures faster. 4-axis OIS does a great job while shooting videos and the resultant footage is less shaky compared to other smartphones without OIS. The phone also has options for 4k video, slo-mo and time lapse videos.
mi5-xiaomi-lens

For best results, use HDR mode while snapping landscapes, low light photos or anything that is immobile. For fast moving subjects in daylight, I recommend using manual mode with 1/1000s or 1/250s shutter speed for best clear results. Front camera takes really bright selfies even in low light.

Mi5 also offers a 32 seconds exposure for taking night shots. Check out the sample shot below which was shot in a very low light scenario around midnight.

IMG_20160508_232831

Other additions in camera include a new Tilt-shift mode which does a better job than many 3rd party apps. Also, its worthy to mention the Sketch filter which delivers amazing results.

IMG_20160416_110515_HDR

In addition to camera timer, there is a new Voice activated Trigger available, that snaps pictures within 3 seconds after a sound is heard. Check the other camera samples below.

IMG_20160430_080326

IMG_20160417_132427

IMG_20160430_075333

IMG_20160417_132639_HDR

Software, User Experience:

The Mi5 runs MIUI7 on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Few of the features that make users stick to MI phones is ease of use UI offered by MIUI,  its plethora of UI customisations, theme support with 1000s of free themes available, privacy features, in-built utilities (FTP server, RAM Cleaner, Mi Mover, Data Saver, Virus Scanner, Battery Saver, Call Recorder) etc. With lots of features built-in (one-handed mode, double tap to wake, flip to silence, mute when lifted, do not disturb, blocklist) the necessity to install 3rd party apps is drastically reduced. The phone also offers support for Child Mode which is indeed a great addition.

MIUI is the most important component to Mi Phones that makes it stand out from its competition regardless of the budget segments. Sometimes this makes you wonder if Mi is a software company or a hardware one!

Unlike other phones like Le 1s, where IR blaster works just with the stock apps, the IR blaster in Mi phones work seamlessly with 3rd party software like peel which provides lot of options like support for Indian set-top boxes and channel guide.

Fingerprint scanner is fast and works perfectly every time. Since the finger print scanner is placed on a physical home button, the phone does not wake on touching the sensor. Instead the home button has to be pressed every time to unlock the phone from sleep mode. You can add up to 5 fingerprints on the phone.

Powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor, the phone is incredibly faster while opening apps, unlocking the device and watching videos. Thanks to the Adreno 530 GPU, gaming performance on the mi5 is great and there are no issues like frame drops or lag during game play. Call quality is decent. We could not test the voLTE feature that supports HD calls and high speed call connections due to the unavailability of network support.

The Xiaomi Mi5 supports Quick Charge 3.0. Unfortunately the Indian 32GB unit that is currently available ships with Quick Charge 2.0 adapter. Thanks to our government certification authorities, the QC 3.0 adapter is still in the process of getting certified.  We hope the future units do get shipped with this adapter. However the good news is that, even with this adapter, the phone charges 60% in 40 minutes, 80% in 55 minutes and reaches 100% in 1 hour 30 minutes, which is good. With a high density 3000mAh battery, the phone easily lasts for a day with moderate usage. The phone does get warm near the rear camera while shooting photos/videos; however, this is pretty common in phones these days.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

If you are looking for a flagship android phone which has a great front & rear camera, fast processor which provides an excellent game play and a light weighted phone that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket the mi5 is an excellent choice, when compared to the other 2016 flagships. Currently the mi5 retails around 25k for the 32gb variant. We would really hope the other variants reach the Indian market soon. There has been a lot of talk online about the phone being overpriced at 25K. Lets be honest, this is the best bucks you can spend to get a SD 820 powered smartphone at this moment.

If you are an audiophile who stores music collection or an avid photographer who shoots 4k videos often, then 32gb variant won’t really suffice your need.  I recommend, you to wait until the company releases the 64/128gb variant in India. Otherwise, you may end up taking backups pretty frequently.

Summing up, its a no brainer to recommend this phone to anyone who is looking at buying a great quality product which has the latest and greatest of smartphone technologies built in for today.

Do let us know your thoughts and feedback. Thanks for reading.

mi5-xiaomi

I recently came across online that the Mi5 broke easily in one of bend tests. While, I haven’t tried to bend the phone to confirm, it would be good to have a good quality protective case and an optional tempered glass to increase the rigidity.

Categories
General IT News, Tech Information and Analysis Smartphones

Lenovo Zuk Z1 announced in India for 13499. Available starting 19th May

Update: The Lenovo Zuk Z1 review is up. Do have a look and let us know what you think/

The Lenovo Zuk Z1 will be available at INR 13499 starting 19th May; the registrations are open on amazon.in. The Lenovo Zuk Z1 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU, with a RAM 3GB and ROM 64GB. It has a Type-C interface which bases on USB 3.0, supports dual SIM dual standby. The Z1 is also powered with a 4100mAh Lithium-ion polymer battery to ensure a long usage between charges.

The Z1 comes with an IPS screen with 1920×1080 resolution, 100% NTSC, 1500:1 contrast, 401 PPI and 450nit bright view that gives you the perfect definition. The camera is powered with a 13MP OIS anti-shake camera with advanced larger 5Plastic lenses that makes pictures really vivid. With a hall sensor and gyroscope in OIS, the phone will be able to self-compesate automatically for beter image quality. With Qualcomm ISP image processing on board, it gets a good 3400w Pixels Image.

Other than the hardware, what really stands out is the software. The Zuk Z1 comes with Cynogen OS 12.1 preloaded. the CM is considered a powerful and a fast Android versions which gives you a number of advanced features that optimizes performance. It also helps with better power consumption, security and privacy. The CM also gives you options for deep customziations and themes.

The ZUK Z1 comes with an inbuilt 360° fingerprint reader button coupled with a 508 DPI high capacitive sensor that not only unlocks your phone but also makes multitasking easy.

Lets look at a detailed review in coming days.