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Asus ZenFone Zoom Review

Innovation tends to reach a saturation point after a while, which bogs down pretty much ever facet of technology. What do you do when those eureka moments start drying up and you find yourself looking for something new to wow your audience with? Putting a fresh spin on old technology seems like one way to go about it. Smartphone cameras with optical zoom have been around ever since Nokia launched the N90, way back when. This didn’t exactly catch on since no one likes carrying a bulky camera in their pockets, which is what these phones essentially were.

Samsung has toyed with this idea a bit, with its last attempt being the Galaxy K Zoom over two years ago. The 10X optical zoom was the highlight of this phone but it was still more of a digital camera than a smartphone.

Asus has never known to shy away from experimenting with hybrid devices and its latest incarnation is the ZenFone Zoom. This is its attempt at a smartphone with optical zoom and thankfully, it hasn’t compromised (too much) on it being a smartphone. Can the ZenFone Zoom breathe new life into this non-starter of a segment? Let’s find out.

Look and feel
The ZenFone Zoom is priced at a premium and it’s certainly dressed for the part. The unibody aluminium frame looks good and also gives the phone a good grip. The rounded sides make it very comfortable to hold too. There are chamfered edges and chrome accents thoughtfully distributed around the edges and the camera section on the back, all lending to the phone’s good looks.

The 5.5-inch full-HD IPS display is surrounded by very thick bezels, which dampens its cool quotient a bit. The capacitive navigation buttons are not backlit but thankfully, the notification LED was not left out.

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There’s a standard Micro-USB 2.0 port at the bottom along with a lanyard loop to its left. On the right side, we have the two-step camera shutter button and a dedicated button for video recording. Pressing either one for a few seconds will fire up the camera app. The volume and power buttons are placed further up and have good tactile feedback.

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The back cover is removable and gets a real leather treatment, although it’s easy to mistake it for faux leather. There’s a massive disc in the middle where the camera assembly is – this is where Asus has managed to fit in the zoom lens in a sideways fashion, as we’d explained in our earlier report. This means there’s no protruding lens like Samsung’s offerings and it makes the ZenFone Zoom a bit less conspicuous when you’re trying to capture some candid moments.

Asus has provided for a single Micro-SIM and expandable storage via a microSD card. The battery is non-removable. The ZenFone Zoom comes in a fairly compact box with a lanyard, data cable, charger, and in-ear headset. The quality of components is very good, just as you’d expect at this price level.

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Overall, the phone stands out from the crowd due to its camera-esque back side. But other than that, it could pass of as just another ZenFone. The build quality and finish of the phone are very good and we have to hand it to Asus for managing to squeeze an optical zoom lens into a body that’s just 11.9mm at its thickest point.

Specifications and software

Asus is probably the only major smartphone maker that’s so consistent with using Intel SoCs. The ZenFone Zoom is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3590 and comes with 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. We appreciate the generous amount of storage, and just in case it isn’t enough, you can expand it by another 128GB with a microSD card. Other specs include Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, USB OTG, FM radio, GPS and GLONASS.

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The phone ships with a pretty dated version of Android Lollipop, considering now that Marshmallow is out in the wild. There’s ZenUI 2.0 running on top of Android 5.0 and like we’ve seen in past offerings from Asus, you get a tonne of tweaks and Asus apps pre-installed.

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Productivity apps include Splendid, for adjusting the colour temperature and toggling the blue light filter; AudioWizard, which lets you fine tune sound profiles for movie, music, gaming, or voice calls; Auto-start manager, which gives you control over which apps run on boot; Mobile Manager, to get rid of junk files and free up system resources; Power Saver for setting your power profile depending on your usage type; and Do it Later, a task manager that can sync with Google Tasks. There are some pre-installed third party apps as well, which can be uninstalled if not needed.

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The default Android apps are also overhauled, like the Gallery app can show you photos and videos from cloud services as well. PhotoCollage and MiniMovie are Asus apps integrated into the gallery which let you customise and package your photos and videos for sharing. You can also customise the interface with themes, animations and icon packs.

As functional as the interface is, ZenUI is starting to show its age as it now feels a bit cluttered. It still functions very smoothly but with after using lighter skins from other manufacturers, ZenUI can be overwhelming, especially for a beginner.

Performance
In terms of performance, the ZenFone Zoom is like any other high-end Android phone. Apps run without a hitch and so do demanding games such as Asphalt 8. The phone tends to run a bit warm when gaming, and this also makes a dent in the battery life. 4G works well on Band 40, as we didn’t face any issue during our time using it. We did get a software update which added a new feature called Quick Find, which can be accessed by swiping downwards from the home screen. It isn’t a universal search tool since you can’t access files from your phone, but more of a quick way to search the Web and launch frequently used apps.

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The Zoom fares decently in benchmarks too, although it’s still far behind other phones with today’s top-tier hardware. We got scores of 63,352 in AnTuTu and 21,170 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. Despite the heavy skin and pre-loaded apps, you still have about 2.2GB free RAM on average.

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Even though the phone can’t record videos in 4K, it can play them with ease. The default video player is pretty barebones but the music player is slightly more functional. You can sort songs by folders, change the theme of the player, and tweak the audio with Asus’s AudioWizard enhancement. The bundled headset is of good quality and provides decent ambient noise isolation.

Camera
We now come to the highlight of the phone, and that’s the camera. At its heart is a 13-megapixel sensor with a 10-element lens made by Hoya. The lens arrangement is done in such a way that you get 3X optical zoom without the need for the lens to extend outwards. Add to this laser autofocus and Optical Image Stabilisation and you have a solid recipe for some good pictures.

Asus_Zenfone_zoom_zoom_ndtv.jpgAt 3X optical zoom (tap for full size image)Asus_Zenfone_zoom_hdr_ndtv.jpg HDR mode (Tap for full size image)

Landscapes and macros look detailed on the phone’s screen in daylight. Colours are punchy, although they tend to get a bit oversaturated with the optimisation set to Auto. Even at 3X zoom, the lens stays steady for blur-free shots. At maximum optical zoom level, objects in focus lose a bit of sharpness but this is only noticeable when you zoom in all the way.

Indoor shots under artificial lighting are good too with little to no noise. Low-light shots aren’t the best as the level of detail dips. The focusing speed is still pretty quick although there’s a delay when zooming in as the picture in the viewfinder takes a second to catch up to the zoom level. The front 5-megapixel camera is decent for selfies under good lighting.

Asus_Zenfone_zoom_indoors_ndtv.jpgAsus_Zenfone_zoom_nifht_ndtv.jpg(Tap for full-sized images)

Asus’s camera app is well designed, with a tonne of shooting modes and a quick toggle switch for manual mode placed just above the software shutter button. The physical buttons work just as well too. Video recording maxes out at 1080p and the quality is pretty good with a steady framerate. There’s an option for slow-motion video as well. Sadly, 4K video recording is not available. The dual-LED flash is also decently powerful but only for short distances. A xenon flash would have complemented the phone nicely.

Optical zoom is indispensable at times, but after a point, you wish you had more room to play with as 3X starts to feel a bit restrictive. Anything more would have compromised the size of the phone and perhaps this is the technological limit for optical zoom without a protruding lens.

Battery life
The 3000mAh battery lasted for 6 hours and 58 minutes in our video loop test, which is below average. Upon regular use with mixed usage of 4G and lots of shooting, we found that the ZenFone Zoom lasted us about 18-20 hours before needing a recharge. Thankfully, the phone supports fast charging and will get you up to 40 percent capacity in half an hour.

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Verdict
The Asus ZenFone Zoom comes at a premium for the sole reason that it’s the only smartphone in the market at the moment with optical zoom. At Rs. 37,999, it competes with Samsung’s Galaxy S6 range and the new Nexus 6P, both of which have excellent cameras. In terms of innovation, the ZenFone Zoom clearly has an edge over the others, but if you look purely at image quality, it doesn’t quite surpass them. The relatively low-resolution display, the older version of Android, weak battery life, and lack of 4K recording are also factors that work against the ZenFone Zoom.

The phone might be a weak contender at its high launch price but it won’t seem so bad when it drops to more reasonable levels. Asus has done a commendable job with the design and build of this phone. Optical zoom on smartphones requires many compromises and that’s one of the reasons that it never really caught on.

It’s a very innovative idea, no doubt, but we feel that having a larger sensor capable of producing better image quality is a better substitute, as you can simply crop and enlarge the image with little loss in quality. The ZenFone Zoom is not Asus’s current flagship; it seems to be more of a one-off attempt to inject something fresh into the company’s lineup before the next generation arrives.


Asus ZenFone Zoom in picturesOriginal Article

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 LTE Review: That Premium Feeling

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 LTE Review: That Premium Feeling

Apple has been king of the hill in the premium tablet segment ever since the original iPad launched back in 2010. We’ve seen some decent attempts from the Android camp over the years, but none have managed to create that “must-have” craze Apple has so successfully been able to achieve. Samsung wishes to change this with its newly launched Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet. This is the successor to the Galaxy Tab S, which the company launched last year.

In India, Samsung has decided to test the waters first by launching only a single model from the new Galaxy Tab S2 series – the Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 LTE. At Rs 39,400, the tablet goes up against the HTC Google Nexus 9 and the Apple iPad Air 2. So, has Samsung made a product compelling enough for you to choose it over the obvious choice? Let’s find out.

Look and Feel
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 gets a much-needed upgrade in the build and aesthetics department. Compared to last year’s model, which was made of plastic, the Galaxy Tab S2 gets a light-weight metal frame with a plastic back. It’s also slimmer than its predecessor. Add all this up and we have a tablet that’s just 5.6mm thick and weighs 389g. This makes it thinner and lighter than the Nexus 9 and the iPad Air 2.

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Samsung has also ditched the 16:9 aspect ratio for 4:3, due to which the screen size has reduced to 9.7 inches from last year’s 10.5 inches. The upside of losing a bit of screen real estate is that the tablet is easier to manage in your hands when you’re watching a movie or reading a book. We found it a bit odd that Samsung doesn’t mention any use of scratch protection for the display on their site or in any of its marketing materials. After a quick chat with a Samsung customer care representative, we can confirm that the tablet does not have any scratch protection for the display.

You still get a gorgeous Super AMOLED screen, but with a slight dip in resolution, which is now 1536×2048 pixels. In the real world, this doesn’t affect picture quality as text is sharp and colours are vibrant. Sunlight legibility is also very good. The tablet has sizeable side bezels which let you comfortably grip it without accidentally touching the screen. There’s a 2.1-megapixel camera near the Samsung logo up top, and the fingerprint-scanner-cum-home-button flanked by two capacitive buttons on the bottom. The chamfered edges add to the premium look of the tablet.

The headphones socket and Micro-USB port are placed on the bottom. We also have grilles for the stereo speakers here. Around the back, we have the 8-megapixel primary shooter and two nubs for attaching optional accessories such as the Book Cover Keyboard. The Nano-SIM and microSD card slots take their place on the right of the tablet, along with the power and volume buttons.

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 scores high points in the build and aesthetics department. The metal frame is a welcome addition and it doesn’t hurt one bit that the device is now thinner and lighter than before. It’s also more comfortable to hold thanks to the more practical screen aspect ratio.

Specifications and Software
Samsung has refreshed some of the internal components to keep this tablet up to speed. Powering the new Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 is an octa-core Exynos 5433 SoC and 3GB of RAM. Compared to the Exynos 5420 which powered its predecessor, the new SoC is based on the newer ARM-v8 instruction set and features four Cortex-A57 cores running at 1.9GHz as well as four Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.3GHz. This SoC is also built on the smaller 20nm (compared to 28nm) fabrication process, which should improve battery life and reduce heat. You also get LTE support for Indian bands, Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, GLONASS, TV-out (MHL), USB OTG, and expandable storage via a microSD card (up to 128GB).

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The tablet runs Android Lollipop 5.0.2 with Samsung’s TouchWiz skin. It’s business as usual in terms of preloaded apps and features which we’ve already seen in depth in our Samsung Galaxy S6 review. If you use an Airtel SIM, Samsung will treat you to 2GB of 4G data free for two months. You get the typical Samsung apps such as SideSync, Smart Manager, S Planner and the Galaxy App store. Samsung also preloads the Microsoft Office Suite, Skype and OneDrive. You get 100GB of free OneDrive storage space for two years. You can use the split-screen mode to multitask between two apps. Most of the stock apps and some third-party apps can be used this way.

Performance
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 LTE delivers very good performance for multitasking and handles any app you throw at it well. The interface feels smooth and we didn’t encounter any noticeable stutter in the animations. The tablet can also be used for making voice calls, which is a nice feature if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation and don’t have your phone with you. There’s no earpiece (thankfully) so you’ll have to either use the loudspeaker or a headset with the tablet. The stereo speakers do a good job as audio during calls is clear and distinct.

The updated SoC posts good numbers in benchmarks. We got a score of 44,893 points in AnTuTu and 29fps in GFX Bench. The SoC is still not as powerful as the Exynos 7420 which powers Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S lineup. The placement of the stereo speakers means that they get covered up and muffled when holding the tablet horizontally. We wish Samsung had placed them on two opposite sides for better aural separation.

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During our test period, the tablet never overheated. It only ever got slightly warm around the centre, but this was not too noticeable.

This tablet is also well suited for voracious readers. The low weight and slim body make it very comfortable for reading eBooks for long durations. We didn’t feel much fatigue in our wrists even when using it single-handed for extended periods. The ‘Reading’ mode in the display sub-menu makes the colour tone warmer, so it’s easier on your eyes.

The cameras fitted on the tablet do a good job of capturing detail in photos. If you zoom in to the sample picture, you’ll see the licence plate on the white car is quite legible. The camera app gets a ‘Pro’ mode like we saw in the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+. However, there’s no option to save as RAW and you don’t get controls for aperture and shutter speed. Video recording maxes out at QHD (2560×1440) for the rear camera and Full HD for the front.

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Due to the smaller screen and to keep the thickness to a minimum, Samsung has had to go with a smaller battery with a capacity of 5870mAh (compared to 7900mAh in its predecessor). We managed to get 11 hours and 44 minutes in our video loop test, which is good but we expected more. With regular use, which included watching a couple of movies and lots of web surfing, we easily went more than a day before having to charge it. This was with an active 4G SIM. If you use the tablet less frequently, you can easily go multiple days between charges.

Verdict
After spending close to a week with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7, one thing’s certain – this tablet is an excellent choice for those who want to travel light. Samsung has reduced the weight and size of the new tablet without compromising on build or rigidity, which is commendable. The 4:3 aspect ratio makes it comfortable to hold when reading or watching videos. At Rs 39,400 it’s also cheaper than a similarly specced Google Nexus 9 or Apple iPad Air 2. Samsung has the edge over the other two when it comes to expandable storage and the ability to make voice calls.

The tablet does have its share of shortcomings. The placement of the stereo speakers could have been better as your hand tends to block one of them when you hold it horizontally. We would have liked a bigger battery too but we’re guessing that would have compromised the tablet’s weight and thickness. It’s also disappointing that you don’t get any form of scratch protection for the display. Finally, Samsung’s Android updates won’t be as timely as Apple’s iOS updates or Google’s releases for Nexus devices.

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Original Article

Gionee Marathon M5 Review

Gionee Marathon M5 Review

Battery life was never a problem back in the pre-smartphone era, but ever since we became slaves to touchscreens, it has been a major concern. Until new technology is developed, we are stuck with Lithium Ion batteries and there’s only so much it can deliver. The most obvious way to get more battery life is increase size and capacity, which is exactly what Gionee has been doing with its Marathon series.

We reviewed the Marathon M4 (Review | Pictures) quite recently, which shattered our internal battery life record in a test of continuous video playback. We’re expecting the Marathon M5 to do even better, as this time, Gionee has squeezed in two 3010mAh batteries for good measure. But is the Marathon M5 a phone you can actually live with or is it merely a power bank masquerading as a phone? Has Gionee fixed all the issues with its predecessor to make it more likable? Let’s find out.

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Look and feel
The Marathon M5 features a combination of metal and plastic which feels sturdy and durable. You could probably knock someone unconscious with a well-aimed headshot! Gionee has managed to trim the thickness down to 8.6mm by increasing the length and width. However, the larger battery has made the Marathon M5 a lot heavier. Weighing in at 211g, it’s one of the heaviest smartphones out there.

The 5.5-inch Amoled display has a disappointingly low HD resolution, which should have ideally been full-HD. Since the pixel density is low, images and text aren’t as sharp as they should be. Colours tend to get oversaturated and feel jarring at times. Sadly, there’s no option to calibrate the screen in the settings app. There’s a 5-megapixel front camera, Gorilla Glass 3, and non-backlit capacitive navigation buttons.

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The microSD card slot sits on the right and can accept cards of up to 128GB. The two 4G Micro-SIM slots are placed on the left. The power and volume buttons are ergonomically placed and have good tactile feedback. Gionee has also added a IR blaster near the 3.5mm headphone socket on the top.

Around the back, we have a 13-megapixel camera and a single-LED flash. The unit ships with a charger, data cable, headset, manuals, screen guard, and a flip cover. The cover isn’t windowed or magnetic so it won’t turn the phone’s screen on and off automatically. It’s also completely devoid of branding, which masks the identity of the phone.

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We’re happy that Gionee made the Marathon M4’s successor slimmer but we guess the added weight was unavoidable with the larger battery. Some areas continue to remain pain points however, like the low screen resolution and non-backlit buttons. Gionee also talks about an ‘on-the-go’ cable on its website, for using the Marathon M5 as power bank but that cable wasn’t part of the bundle with our review unit.

Specifications and software
Powering the Marathon M5 is the same quad-core MediaTek MT6735 SoC we saw in the previous version. However, Gionee has upgraded some of the other specifications, so we now have 3GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. You also get Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, FM Radio, and USB OTG support. The Marathon M5 also supports Dual-LTE 4G on both SIMs for most bands, including Band 40.

On the software front, the Marathon M5 runs the Amigo 3.1 user interface (UI) which is a heavily skinned version of Android Lollipop 5.1. Since we’ve covered most of the UI’s features and quirks in in our Marathon M4 review, we’ll just gloss over the notable ones here. The interface is single-layered which means all your apps are spread out across multiple home screens, which can feels cluttered. Gionee installs a host of trial games and some third-party utilities but thankfully, you can uninstall them if they aren’t to your liking. The notifications shade only gives you notifications while the rest of the toggle switches and shortcut to some apps are placed in the ‘Control Centre’, which can be activated with a swipe up from the bottom.

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Gionee bundles Peel Smart Remote to go with the IR blaster. Setting it up is simple and the app has presets for Indian DTH providers. Another very interesting app is Gionee Xender. This lets you connect your phone to another smartphone (provided the app is installed on that device too) via Wi-Fi and transfer files between the two without an Internet connection. The advantage of using this is that transfer speeds are faster as compared to Bluetooth and the app consolidates all your media into different tabs, making it easier to share. The app is also compatible with Apple devices and PCs, provided you’re on the same network. Finally, the Chameleon app lets you chose a custom colour scheme for your phone’s theme by pointing the camera at anything and picking colours out of the result.

Performance
General interface and app performance is quite good. We didn’t encounter any noticeable lag or stutter during our usage, and swiping through home screens was very fluid. The phone handles demanding games surprisingly well, and we barely had any lag or drops in the frame rate in games like Dead Trigger 2. Call quality is also satisfactory and we didn’t encounter any call drops during our usage.

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Looking purely at the benchmarks, the numbers aren’t very good when you consider other phones in this price segment. We got a score of just 28,638 in AnTuTu while 3DMark Ice Storm recorded a score of 5,933. Once again, this only tells half the story as you’ll never feel any lack of power during actual usage.

The M5 supports DTS audio for the stock music and video player. This enhancement is not system-wide as it can only be accessed within the music player app. You can tweak the sound by selecting the type of headset you’re using and add effects from a bunch of presets or customise one yourself.

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The volume level is sufficiently loud for a small room but the sound is feels a little muddy due to the mono speaker. The bundled headset fares a lot better. The earphones have good build and feature flat cables. The silicon tips provide decent isolation from ambient noise and have a good enough sound signature.

The upgraded 13-megapixel camera does a good job with landscapes and macros in daylight. The level of detail is very good, even when zoomed in all the way, and colours are quite accurate. Pictures taken indoors tend to get a bit noisy, especially in low light. Night shots exhibit a bit of noise and details aren’t great but this can be remedied to an extent by playing around with the shutter speed and ISO settings in pro mode. The flash does help a bit but it isn’t very powerful. The front-facing camera is strictly ok since it lacks auto-focus, and indoor selfies aren’t the sharpest. Video recording maxes out at 1080p and video quality is, once again, pretty decent in daylight. The software stabilisation also helps eliminate minor movement by your hands.

Gionee_Marathon_M5_sample_ndtv.jpgGionee_Marathon_M5_sample2_ndtv.jpg(Click for full-sized image)

The camera interface is clean and easy to navigate. You have your basic toggle switches right on the main screen while the different shooting modes are hidden behind a separate menu. Gionee adds a professional mode, which lets you take control of ISO, White Balance, Exposure, Shutter Speed and Focus; Magic Focus lets snap a picture and adjust the focus later, which actually works well; Ultra Pixel doubles the resolution of the image in case you wish to print it out later; PicNote will automatically crop out and save only that portion of the image which has text in it. Take Anytime is strangely worded shooting mode but what it does is take multiple shots of a scene and then lets you erase unwanted objects, add motion blur, etc.

Gionee_Marathon_M5_night_sample_ndtv.jpgShot in Pro Mode with three-second shutter; ISO 100 (Click for full-sized image)

Now we come to the hallmark feature of the Marathon M5 – its battery life. The massive 6020mAh combined battery lasted 25 hours and 23 minutes in our video loop test – more than enough to shatter the M4’s previous record by exactly 4 hours. With regular usage, we easily managed to go three to four days without needing a charge. The supplied 2000mAh charger manages to charge the phone fairly quickly and you can top it up completely in a couple of hours.

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Verdict
The Gionee Marathon M5 is in a league if its own as far as batter life is concerned, and Rs 18,000 is not too high a price to pay when you might not have access to a charger for days, or simply prefer the peace of mind. Gionee has made some decent efforts in refining the device too, so that it’s easy enough to live with. The Marathon M5 is slimmer than its predecessor, but still built like a tank. It also has a vivid display and a pretty decent camera for most lighting conditions. We feel that Gionee could have gone with a full-HD screen at this price but that could have compromised battery life too, so we understand the trade off. On the other hand, low-light camera performance is a bit weak, it’s quite heavy and Amigo UI might not be to everyone’s liking.

If you’re looking for the ultimate battery life in a smartphone, the Gionee Marathon M5 is your best bet. That is of course, till the company announces the next version.


Gionee Marathon M5 in pictures

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Gionee Marathon M5

Gionee Marathon M5

R 17999 4.0

  • Review
  • Key Specs
  • News
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Insane battery life
  • Sturdy and well built
  • Decent camera
  • IR blaster
  • Fluid interface
  • Bad
  • Low-res screen with exaggerated colours
  • Very heavy
  • Amigo UI is not for everyone

Read detailed Gionee Marathon M5 review

Display

5.50-inch

Processor

1.3GHz

Front Camera

5-megapixel

Resolution

720×1280 pixels

RAM

3GB

OS

Android 5.1

Storage

32GB

Rear Camera

13-megapixel

Battery capacity

6020mAh See full Gionee Marathon M5 specifications

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  • Gionee Marathon M5 With 3GB RAM, 6020mAh Battery Launched at Rs. 17,999

More Gionee mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets

OnePlus X Review

OnePlus X Review

You’ve probably heard of OnePlus. This small smartphone manufacturer from China was founded less than two years ago by a former vice-president of Oppo and set up shop in India late last year. The company uses an innovative invite-based system for distributing limited quantities of its devices while creating hype and a level of demand that far outstrips the supply. The marketing department of OnePlus is run by absolute geniuses.

Soon after launching this year’s ‘flagship killer’, the OnePlus 2 (Review), the company launched a more budget-friendly model, the Rs. 16,999 OnePlus X. Our initial impressions of the device were that it is essentially a smaller OnePlus One (Review | Pictures). Is this all the ‘little’ OnePlus is about, or is there more to it? Find out in our review.

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Look and feel
Initially (and unofficially) referred to as the OnePlus Mini, the X is smaller and easier to handle than either of the company’s previous smartphones. Apart from the obvious difference in screen size that dictates the length and width, the OnePlus X is also considerably slimmer at 6.9mm. Combined with a metal frame, glass back and a slight curve in the glass front at its edges, the X is attractive and feels great to hold.

The device is available in two colours, Onyx and Ceramic. The latter is priced considerably higher at Rs. 22,999 and is expected to be a limited edition, although no availability details have been announced for India yet. Realistically, you’re limited to the Onyx variant, which is just a fancy word for black. The metal frame of the device is grey, with a striped texture that further contributes to the attractive look of the OnePlus X.

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The back of the OnePlus X is glass, and is surprisingly sturdy and resistant to damage. OnePlus has not specified if it is reinforced. The black material under the glass makes the back highly reflective, a look we rather like. The top-left corner has the camera and flash, while the OnePlus logo sits just inside the top-third. This minimalist look goes well with the reflective back.

The frame of the OnePlus X is metal, with a lined pattern that continues all around the device. The top has the 3.5mm socket and a secondary microphone, the left has the notifications slider, the bottom has the speaker grille and USB port, while the right side has the power and volume keys and the SIM tray. There are two visible grilles at the bottom, but only the one on the left actually houses a speaker. The right grille is designed that way only for design symmetry.

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It’s important to note that we had some issues with the power and volume keys within the first couple of hours of unpacking our review unit. The power key was bent out of position for no apparent reason, and forced the device to go into a reboot loop. While we were able to fix this quickly and the power key remained functional, it stayed bent for the remainder of our time with the phone. Additionally, on one occasion, the volume rocker also popped out of place till we pushed it back in. We aren’t certain if these build issues could affect all stocks of this phone, or are specific to our review sample, but it’s certainly something to be aware of if you plan to buy the OnePlus X.

The notifications slider is another feature we found interesting. This is a three-position switch which lets you choose how many notifications you wish to receive. The lowest position will allow all notifications through, the middle position will only enable priority notifications, while the top position blocks everything. While some users might like this functionality, we didn’t really find it useful. The switch could have been used to control ringer profiles, such as loud, vibrate and mute, which would have been much more appealing. Unfortunately, the switch’s functions are not customisable, so it’s something we ignored during our time with the device.

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The OnePlus X has a 5-inch full-HD Amoled screen which we absolutely loved. It’s incredibly sharp, detailed and vibrant, as is to be expected. It’s comfortable on the eyes and easy to view even from odd angles and under sunlight. Furthermore, the phone takes advantage of the Amoled technology to enable a low power ‘duochrome’ mode, which wakes the phone to show you the time and any notifications without lighting up the entire screen. This uses the proximity sensor and doesn’t always work well. Also important to mention is the fact that the soft keys at the front are not backlit, but can be deactivated and replaced with on-screen soft keys through the Settings app.

The OnePlus X comes with a factory-fitted screen protector film. This could be a welcome addition, since many people will want to apply a screen protector anyway. Unfortunately, the protector doesn’t cover the entire front of the device, leaving the curved edges exposed. This also takes away some of the tactile appeal of the curve. However, to most users, some protection is better than none.

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Specifications and software
The OnePlus X runs on a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC with an integrated Adreno 330 GPU. This chip was used in many of the popular flagship smartphones of 2014. Although it’s not the most modern now, it’s still a capable SoC that offers excellent performance and outdoes this year’s Snapdragon 615 in most benchmarks. Although the use of a previous-generation processor on a late-2015 smartphone might come off as questionable, we were more than satisfied with the performance of the OnePlus X for its price.

Apart from the SoC, the OnePlus X also has 16GB of internal storage, dual-SIM connectivity, 3GB of RAM, and a non-removable 2525mAh battery. The SIM tray has slots for two nano-SIM cards which both support 4G connectivity, but the second slot is hybrid and will force you to choose between expandable storage (up to 128GB) and a second SIM. Charging and data transfers are done through a standard Micro-USB port, but this phone unfortunately does not support fast charging. NFC and wireless charging are not supported either.

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While the OnePlus One initially came with Cyanogen OS, later versions switched to the company’s own Oxygen OS. The OnePlus 2 and X have stuck to the new operating system, and version 2 of Oxygen OS is preinstalled. On powering up the device and connecting to the Internet, an update to Oxygen version 2.1.2 was immediately available for the OnePlus X. The current version is based on Android 5.1.1.

Oxygen OS itself is very similar to stock Android Lollipop in terms of look and feel, especially in the app drawer and notification and quick settings bar. There are a few additions on top of stock Android’s typical features, such as a detailed app permissions screen which lets you tweak the permissions granted to specific apps, a ‘dark mode’ that changes the general look of the interface to darker colours, customisable colours for the notification light, and custom screen control gestures, among others. UI performance, too, is in line with what we’re used to on stock Android.

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The ‘buttons’ menu is something that Oxygen OS has taken inspiration from Cyanogen OS on, and adds some interesting customisation options. The non-backlit Android soft keys were quite bothersome, lacked proper markings and were hard to use, so we were quick to deactivate them and replace them with an on-screen navigation bar. Additionally, the Back and Recents buttons can have their positions swapped, based on your personal preferences. You can also choose to leave the off-screen home button active even when using on-screen keys. If you choose to use the capacitive keys, you can set up additional long-press and double-tap commands.

The Shelf feature, which can be accessed by swiping left from the primary home screen, is simply a weather forecast and list of frequently used apps and contacts. On the whole, it’s a decent custom user interface that retains the best of stock Android but still adds enough to keep the system interesting and useful to users who want more control over their devices.

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Camera
The OnePlus X has a 13-megapixel f/2.2 primary camera with single-tone flash, along with an 8-megapixel f/2.4 front camera. Both are capable of recording up to 1080p video in normal mode. The rear camera can additionally record slow-motion video at 120fps, but only at a resolution of 720p.

The camera app is designed to look like Google Camera, but has a few differences. There are buttons for quickly toggling the flash, self-timer and camera switcher, but accessing beauty, HDR and clear image mode is a two-step process. Video, panorama, time lapse and slow-motion modes also require some swiping to get to. Although Oxygen 2.1 brings a manual mode to the OnePlus 2, manual settings remain absent on the OnePlus X even after the update. You can, however, easily set the photo and video resolution.

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The camera itself is quick to shoot, and is excellent in terms of colour and lighting reproduction. Shadows and sunlight interweave splendidly in outdoor shots, while indoor pictures bring out the best in both well-lit and low-light conditions. Unfortunately, that’s where our praise for the camera ends. Looking at our sample shots closely, we found a glaring lack of detail in every shot we took.

Noise and grain are plentiful without even zooming in all the way, and it’s impossible to distinctly make out any detail in pictures of subjects that are more than a few feet away. Even in close-ups, anything outside the focus area is utterly lacking in definition and clarity. The front camera has the same issues, and is as such only somewhat usable outdoors. Indoor shots are far too grainy and noisy to be considered any good.

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Performance
Thanks to the capable Snapdragon 801 SoC under the hood and the efficient operating system and interface, the OnePlus X is a decent performer. It’s helped along by the 3GB of RAM, and moving around the interface and through most apps is snappy. The device ran our test videos well, including the heavily encoded files, and ran our usual test games comfortably too. There were slight heating issues when playing Angry Birds 2 and Dead Trigger 2, which also caused some heavy battery drain.

The OnePlus X performed capably in most of our benchmark tests. It scored 24fps in GFXBench and maxed out in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme, producing a score of 16,207 in Ice Storm Unlimited. AnTuTu returned a score of 40,773, while Quadrant produced a score of 24,013. All of these scores are in line with a lot of 2014’s flagship devices, and are excellent considering this phone’s Rs. 16,999 price tag.

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The phone does well in terms of call quality and holding on to Wi-Fi and mobile networks as well. Sound volume from the single speaker is a bit weak, but the device does produce good audio when you connect a pair of headphones.

The X ran for 11 hours, 54 minutes in our video loop test, which is excellent for a 2525mAh battery. However, we found that in practical situations, the battery wasn’t quite as capable. As previously stated, gaming and other intensive tasks would cause serious battery drain. The device will only last a full day on a complete charge if used carefully and conservatively. While calls and texting don’t affect the battery too much, Web browsing and gaming tend to eat away at it much more than we’ve seen on other similarly specced devices.

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Verdict
OnePlus has made serious waves in the smartphone industry since its rather dramatic arrival on the scene less than a year ago. It’s offered products that have matched flagship specifications at prices that are much lower. Questions have been raised over the company’s products from time to time, and the invite-only system for purchasing OnePlus phones, at least while they’re still new, continues to annoy potential buyers. However, despite all of this, they can still capture everyone’s attention.

Where does the OnePlus X stand in all of this? It’s a decent mid-budget device that offers strong performance using a dated but powerful SoC and more than enough RAM. It also boasts of great looks, a premium feel, good software, and a superb screen. However, the quality of the build is somewhat questionable, and the camera is utterly lacking in detail and definition. Heat dissipation issues have a tendency to negatively affect battery life. If you do choose to go for the OnePlus X and manage to get your hands on an invite, this is a decently rounded phone which offers a good combination of performance, looks and software.


OnePlus X in pictures

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OnePlus X

OnePlus X

R 16999 3.5

  • Review
  • Key Specs
  • News
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Looks good
  • Great display
  • Decent performance
  • Good software
  • Bad
  • Poor camera performance
  • Heat dissipation issues affect battery life
  • Questionable build quality

Read detailed OnePlus X review

Display

5.00-inch

Processor

2.3GHz

Front Camera

8-megapixel

Resolution

1080×1920 pixels

RAM

3GB

OS

Android 5.1.1

Storage

16GB

Rear Camera

13-megapixel

Battery capacity

2525mAh See full OnePlus X specifications

More OnePlus mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets

Micromax Canvas Selfie 2 Review

Micromax Canvas Selfie 2 Review

Indians, like many others, are obsessed with the selfie and smartphone makers are only happy to oblige. While some feel this menace should be banned, there’s no denying that the trend has given birth to niche market for gadgets and accessories to fulfil your selfie appetite. After our recent outing with the Asus Zenfone Selfie (Review | Pictures), which happened to be a pretty decent phone, we have the second generation of Micromax’s offering based on the same theme, the Canvas Selfie 2.

Unlike Asus, Micromax is targeting the cash-strapped individual for whom pouting in front of a lens is almost a religion. At Rs. 5,999, it’s one of the cheapest ‘selfie’ smartphones in the market, but is it worth it? Let’s find out.

Look and feel
The build and finish of entry-level smartphones have certainly improved over the years. The Canvas Selfie 2 actually has decent construction quality and the plastics used don’t feel overly cheap. Micromax has borrowed some design elements from its Yu series, which makes the phone comfortable to hold with a firm grip. There’s a soft-rubber finish for the sides and a rougher texture for the back panel.

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In the front we have a 5-inch, IPS display with a 480×854 resolution, which is quite low and results in slightly jagged icons and text. The selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and is placed towards the centre of the top. There’s also a notification LED between the camera and earpiece.

The phone has capacitive buttons for navigation, which are thankfully backlit. The power button and volume rocker are on the right and are comfortable to reach. The Micro-USB port and headphones socket are at the bottom and top respectively. The primary camera also has a 5-megapixel sensor, which presumably keeps the cost of the phone as low as possible. There’s a single LED flash to accompany it, and a Micromax logo in the centre. The speaker is placed at the bottom.

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The 2000mAh battery is removable. There’s also room here for the two 3G SIM slots and a microSD card. In the box, you get a modular charger, in-ear headset, instruction booklet and screen guard.

The Canvas Selfie 2 is 9mm thick and is comfortably light. The phone looks pretty generic on the whole but is built well considering the price. We’re surprised that Micromax didn’t throw in an LED flash for the front camera given that this is supposed to be a selfie phone.

Specifications and software
Powering the phone is a quad-core Mediatek MT6582M SoC with speeds of up to 1.3GHz, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of on board storage (4.74GB actually usable). MicroSD card support goes up to 32GB. There’s also Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and FM radio. There’s no USB OTG support, GLONASS, or NFC. The phone does not support 4G but you get 3G on both SIM slots.

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Micromax installs Android 5.0 Lollipop on the Canvas Selfie 2 along with a host of not-very-useful apps. There’s no custom skin but you have a choice between the stock launcher and Firstouch launcher. The latter gets rid of the app drawer and lays out all your apps on multiple screens. It’s not the best layout and is a bit confusing if you’re used to the organised style that an app drawer provides. You also get the option for switching the language to Hindi.

Coming to the pre-installed apps, there’s AppBazaar, which is a custom app store; App Center, which is yet another app store with even fewer apps; Chaatz, which is Snapchat-like messaging app, M!Live, which is the company’s own app store; and Scandid, which is a deal and coupon aggregator. Other apps include SnapDeal, Quikr, SwiftKey, NewsHunt, Kindle, Hotstar, and Clean Master.

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While most of the third-party apps can be uninstalled, you can’t get rid of the three app stores, which is quite frustrating since they are redundant and are unnecessarily eating up the limited amount of on board storage space.

Performance
Despite the lowly 1GB of RAM, the Canvas Selfie 2 is not what you’d call sluggish. There’s a slight delay in loading apps and demanding games like Dead Trigger 2 doesn’t give you the best experience, but on the whole, Lollipop itself runs quite smoothly. Neither the phone nor the display heat up much even when watching a video for a couple of hours.

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The display and the capacitive buttons don’t have the best touch response. We noticed that they would intermittently fail to register our touch input. The screen has decent viewing angles but the brightness level is quite low even when maxed out, which makes using it under sunlight a bit of a struggle. However, colour reproduction is satisfactory.

The quad-core Mediatek SoC managed 20,426 points in AnTuTu and 9.5FPS in GFXbench. This is decent considering the barebones hardware Android is running on.

We didn’t have any issue with network stability, and the phone latched on to 3G networks easily. Call quality was also decent with a good volume level for the earpiece. The same goes for the mono speaker, which is sufficiently loud for alerts and media playback.

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The Canvas Selfie 2 handles full-HD videos and even managed our high bit-rate test files without any noticeable frame skipping. The bundled headset is comfortable to wear and provides decent ambient noise isolation. However, audio quality is not very good so you’re better off buying a separate pair.

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(Click to view full-size image)
Coming to the main selling point of the phone, the Canvas Selfie’s front-facing camera leaves a lot to be desired. We feel that Micromax could have done so much more to make it a true selfie machine. The 5-megapixel sensor in the front does not have auto focus or a flash to help you out in low light. The sensor does a decent job under good lighting though, and you can also have the option of smile detection for automatically taking your picture when you smile, and face beauty to cover up blemishes.

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(Click to view full-size image)
The rear camera has the same sensor but with auto-focus and few more shooting modes such as Night and Live Photo. You can also use HDR mode. The camera interface is very basic and easy to use. Auto focus is decent under good lighting but gets very slow in low light. The level of detail and vividness of colours captured for landscapes and macros is strictly average so you really shouldn’t expect too much here. Video recording maxes out at full-HD and the quality is passable.

The 2000mAh capacity battery might seem too little, but due to the low resolution display, you can easily pull off a day’s worth of usage. We managed this pretty easily during our testing. In our video loop test, the phone managed to run for 9 hours and 7 minutes before shutting down automatically.

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Verdict
The Micromax Canvas Selfie 2 is not the worst option in the sub-Rs. 6,000 price bracket. We feel that the company could have done much more for the front camera considering the phone’s whole USP is taking selfies. An auto focus sensor and a flash are the bare minimum requirements in our books for a phone to be called selfie-centric. Without these things, it’s just another entry-level smartphone.

The Canvas Selfie 2 has good build quality, supports 3G on both SIM slots, runs Android Lollipop, plays full-HD video and is easy on the wallet. However, the display is low resolution, you can’t uninstall the redundant app stores, battery life is average, and the selfie camera leaves a lot to be desired.

If you can stretch your budget a bit more, the Meizu m2 (Review | Pictures) is a good bet as it also has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera but supports 4G and many other features that the Micromax lacks.


Micromax Canvas Selfie 2 in pictures

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Micromax Canvas Selfie 2

Micromax Canvas Selfie 2

R 5900 3.0

  • Review
  • Key Specs
  • News
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Good build and finish
  • Android Lollipop
  • 3G on both SIM slots
  • Decent battery life
  • Bad
  • Underwhelming selfie camera
  • Some bloatware can’t be uninstalled
  • Low-resolution display

Read detailed Micromax Canvas Selfie 2 review

Display

5.00-inch

Processor

1.3GHz

Front Camera

5-megapixel

Resolution

480×854 pixels

RAM

1GB

OS

Android 5.0

Storage

8GB

Rear Camera

5-megapixel

Battery capacity

2000mAh See full Micromax Canvas Selfie 2 specifications

  • Micromax Canvas Selfie 2 Review
  • Micromax Canvas Selfie 2, Canvas Selfie 3 Android Smartphones Launched

More Micromax mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets