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iBall Slide i701 Review: Don’t Judge Books by Their Covers

iBall Slide i701 Review: Don't Judge Books by Their Covers

How low can prices go? iBall’s announcement of the launch of its latest tablet, the Windows-based Slide i701, made us sit up and take notice. Our first reaction was disbelief, and then we had to resist the urge to dismiss it as a joke. There have been plenty of products over the years promising advanced functionality at unbelievable prices, and most of them have been absolute junk.

Such products infuriate us not only because they are essentially e-waste before they’re even out of their boxes, but also because the people who actually buy such things tend to be the ones who don’t have any money to spare in the first place; ones who trust advertisements and hope that they’re getting a killer bargain only to be devastated a short way down the line. Low-brow manufacturers know this and deliberately prey on those who are the weakest, which is something we cannot abide.

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We couldn’t help but be suspicious of the iBall Slide i701’s shockingly low price tag. This thing is even less expensive than the recently announced Intel Compute Stick, and it has a screen and battery. Added to that, it looks like quite a lot of iBall’s budget went into the packaging and accessories rather than the tablet itself.

However, we took a look at the iBall Slide i701’s spec sheet and couldn’t find any obvious points of failure. The Intel Atom processor and relatively mainstream configuration gave us hope. With question after question on our minds, and more than a little scepticism, we set about reviewing this device.

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Look and feel
The front of the iBall Slide i701 is entirely blank except for the camera lens above the screen. If not for that, there would have been be no way to know which way was up. We were surprised to note that there is no Windows or Microsoft branding – there isn’t even a capacitive Start button. iBall ships the Slide i701 with a protective scratch guard already applied, and it’s become normal for us to see this done badly leading to bubbles under the surface.

The device’s sole Micro-USB port, which is used for charging, peripherals and storage, can be found on the top along with a Mini-HDMI video output, a 3.5mm audio socket, and a reset button pinhole. The volume and power buttons are on the right, and there’s an exposed microSD card slot on the left.

iball_slide_i701_rear_ndtv.jpg

The rear of the tablet has a soft-touch texture which gets pretty slippery, and also tends to pick up dust and smudges very easily. The camera lens protrudes just a tiny little bit. The rear looks very busy, with labels for all the ports, slots and buttons around the edges and plenty of branding. From top to bottom, all in a line down the centre, you’ll see the camera lens, a red slash to match iBall’s Slide logo, the signature of a Bollywood actress who endorses the brand, an Intel Inside logo, a full iBall Slide logo with another red slash for good measure, and a few lines of regulatory text. There’s also a speaker grille off to one side.

The Slide i701 might be very affordable, but iBall has somehow managed to pack the box with accessories. There’s a thin sleeve and not just one but three brightly coloured plastic shells; a tiny chamois cloth for the screen; additional red slash stickers; a charger with a fixed cable; and a USB-OTG adapter. The box, which optimistically describes the i701 as a “performance tablet”, also promises that you’ll get an HDMI cable (presumably Mini-HDMI on one end) separately for free.

iball_slide_i701_covers_ndtv.jpg

The tablet is pretty small, but not especially thin or light. It would have felt good in the hand if not for the slippery rear. Construction quality is just about okay – the rear flexes when touched and the whole unit seems like it’s held together with glue.

Specifications and software
The processor is a surprisingly robust Intel Atom Z3735G, a quad-core Bay Trail model running at up to 1.83GHz (though more likely at its 1.33GHz base speed most of the time). This is the same processor we’ve seen in 2-in1 tablets in the Rs. 15,000-20,000 price range, such as the Micromax Canvas LapTab LT666 (Review), Notion Ink Cain (Review), and Swipe Ultimate Tab 3G (Review), so it’s interesting to note that iBall managed to squeeze it into such a low budget, and makes us wonder whether the Slide i701 might live up to its “performance” claim. On the other hand, there’s only 1GB of RAM and the screen resolution is only 1024×600.

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There’s also only 16GB of storage, so don’t expect to be installing many programs. MicroSD cards of up to 64GB are supported so at least you can store lots of media to play. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi b/g/n, and iBall helpfully points out that 3G will be possible using a USB dongle. There are no sensors other than an accelerometer for automatic screen rotation, and the battery seems rather weak at 3,200mAh. For some reason there is a 2-megapixel rear camera and a front camera which probably isn’t better than VGA quality – iBall didn’t even bother specifying its resolution.

Thanks to Microsoft’s fear of Android, iBall was able to offer Windows 8.1 and the now-standard one-year Office 365 subscription thrown in at no extra cost. This is the tablet’s most unique selling proposition as well as its biggest point of failure – Windows 8.1 is not at all suited to run on such a tiny device. Using the Windows desktop with touch alone is frustrating as it is, but this did not work at all, as we will soon explain in detail. Those considering this tablet should understand that they will largely be limited to Modern UI apps and should avoid the Windows desktop altogether.

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Usability
There’s a lot to like about the iBall Slide i701 on paper, but actually using it proved to be a neverending source of frustration for two huge reasons: the screen is absolutely horrible, and Windows 8 just cannot be used by touch alone on such a small device.

We had expected the screen to be at best a letdown, and we were correct. The resolution of 1024×600 is laughable; lower even than Microsoft’s own published minimum of 1024×768. Text is horribly jagged, thanks in part to Windows’ inability to scale, but also because colour reproduction and contrast are so poor.

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Viewing angles might be the worst we’ve ever seen – in fact it is impossible to use this tablet while looking at it head-on. You have to tilt it around in your hands till you find just a somewhat workable angle, and then try as hard as you can not to move it at all. Colours shift and invert when you tilt the device even a few degrees. In fact, you can’t even focus on the entire screen at once because no matter where you look, the rest of it will become a mess. Black areas are especially problematic, for example the dark on-screen keyboard which stretches across the screen becomes distorted and unreadable.

Multitouch is limited to five points, but you’ll never need that because there just isn’t enough sensitivity to perform even basic gestures such as pinching and scrolling. That might be attributed to the screen protection film though. Another problem was the lack of a Start button, which meant we had to rely a lot on Windows 8’s touch gestures and the Charms bar, which, to be honest, we’ve grown accustomed to ignoring over the years. This particular device really highlights the thinking that went into crafting the original Windows 8 touch-first experience, which has since been watered down.

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We constantly found ourselves wishing there had been a stylus in the box rather than three shells. Ultimately, we had to hook up a keyboard and mouse using a USB hub through the included OTG Micro-USB adapter. This was the only way we managed to run our Windows benchmarks, but it was hardly practical (and the slick back made it difficult to prop the tablet up too). Charging the tablet became a problem as well, because the sole Micro-USB port was occupied.

Interestingly, we were able to download Modern UI apps from the Windows Store and snap them to either side of the screen, although Microsoft explicitly says this shouldn’t be possible due to the low screen resolutioni. We should note that buyers will qualify for an upgrade to Windows 10 when it releases later this month, but after installing it they will lose access to the Windows desktop and only be able to run Modern apps. Windows 10 will behave largely like Windows Phone on sub-8-inch devices such as this.

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Performance
In terms of benchmark test results, we found the performance of the iBall Slide i701 practically indistinguishable from that of the Micromax Canvas Laptab LT666 we reviewed a little while ago. Render time for POVRay’s built-in test was 25 minutes, 10 seconds. SunSpider and Mozilla Kraken took 525.6ms and 9664.9ms respectively. SiSoft SANDRA reported subsystem scores nearly identical to those of the Canvas Laptab LT666 except for slightly weaker SSD performance and memory bandwidth which was only half as good, indicating that the 1GB of RAM in this tablet uses a single controller channel.

Full-HD video clips played without stuttering but weren’t very enjoyable because of the screen quality. Audio was loud enough but not particularly good. Photos and videos taken with the rear camera were absolutely dreadful.

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We tried a few casual games from the Windows Store, including Cut The Rope 2 and Microsoft Mahjong, and they ran without any trouble. By tablet standards, they were actually enjoyable. However, the rear of the tablet did get quite warm after about 10 minutes of play.

The battery lasted only 2 hours, 24 minutes in Battery Eater Pro’s standard scenario. This is awful by tablet standards, but we can’t really complain at this price point. We also observed that the device was very slow to charge.

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Verdict
There is almost no situation in which the iBall Slide i701 would be a pleasure to use. It’s impossible for us to conceive of getting any work done on it at all. If the usability doesn’t kill any purpose you might have had for it, the battery life will. That said, even Android tablets at this price point aren’t all that good, and we get the feeling that the Slide i701 would at least be more versatile. On its own, using it is an exercise in masochism. Combined with a USB hub, Bluetooth accessories and an external display, though, things could get very interesting.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a full-fledged Windows 10-capable X86 computer which costs half as much as products such as the Intel Compute Stick. In that sense, it is truly pathbreaking. We could easily see students and hobbyists use it to build projects with. We could also see ourselves strapping it to the back of a monitor and turning it into a cheap, no-frills desktop. We can even imagine people buying these, gutting them for their parts and building some really interesting low-cost devices (and we wonder how affordable a device of this calibre minus the screen and accessories could be).

We admire iBall for bringing this product to market for less than Rs. 5,000. Those who need a computer and can only afford so much now have an option they never did before. If the company is serious about value rather than just low prices and can pull off a far more useful product for maybe Rs. 1,000-2,000 more, we’d be truly impressed.

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Original Article

OnePlus X First Impressions

OnePlus X First Impressions

Soon after the launch of the OnePlus 2 back in July, OnePlus started creating buzz about another handset due this year which would cater to a different audience. The OnePlus X, the Chinese company's third smartphone, was finally unveiled on Thursday at simultaneous events in New Delhi and Beijing, among other cities.

OnePlus had also announced plans earlier this month to start manufacturing phones in India, further further affirming that the company considers India one of its most important overseas markets.

At the launch event, we asked OnePlus India General Manager Vikas Agarwal how the OnePlus X fits into the company's smartphone lineup, as the older OnePlus One still has better innards. Agarwal, without specifying an exact time frame, confirmed that the One will eventually be discontinued – though not this year. This made it clear that the OnePlus X is here for a reason, and the company wants to make sure that it caters to consumers looking for a powerful device but who can't afford the OnePlus 2.

The OnePlus X has been launched in two versions – an Onyx variant and a limited-edition Ceramic variant. Much like the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 smartphones, the OnePlus X will also go on sale in India through Amazon and will be only available via the infamous invite system.

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In terms of specifications, the OnePlus X is quite similar to the One. It features a 5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) Amoled screen and is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. It has 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 16GB of built-in storage, and also supports storage expansion using a microSD card (up to 128GB). The phone also has a 13-megapixel rear camera with flash and a f/2.2 aperture; an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with a f/2.4 aperture; and a non-removable 2525mAh battery.

We got to spend a little time with the new OnePlus X at the launch event. When we first held it in our hands, it definitely felt sturdy. We felt as though we could be comfortable using it with just one hand for hours; something that can't be said about the OnePlus One or OnePlus 2. The company had earlier stated that the OnePlus X was built for people with smaller hands in mind. The design of the OnePlus X also reminded us of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s.

oneplus_x_onyx_rear_ndtv.jpg

At the launch, OnePlus also stressed on the differences between the Onyx and Ceramic versions of the OnePlus X. Both versions are very similar in design and specifications – the biggest difference is the materials they are built from. OnePlus claims that the Ceramic version of the OnePlus X takes up to 25 days to be manufactured. This might be the biggest reason why the Ceramic version will be a limited edition. In fact, the company confirmed that there will only be 10,000 units of the Ceramic version available worldwide. On being asked whether there were any quotas of units for specific markets, Agarwal stated that availability would totally depend on demand.

The Onyx version features rounded edges while the Ceramic version has sharper angles. The OnePlus X Onyx features mirror-like finish on the rear which attracts smudges. The Ceramic finish was however even more of a fingerprint magnet. The back panels of both versions of the OnePlus X are shiny and reflective, making it hard for us to photograph them without reflections. At just 138 grams, the Onyx version is lighter than the Ceramic, which weighs 160 grams.

oneplus_x_onyx_settings_ndtv.jpg

Similar to the OnePlus 2, this new model features a physical Alert Slider, which allows users to switch between a totally silent mode, priority notifications, and all notifications. Below the screen, there are three capacitive buttons for Back, Home, and Recents. Unfortunately, they are not backlit.

The smartphone features a metal frame with dual speaker grilles on the bottom panel alongside a regular Micro-USB 2.0 port. The 3.5mm audio jack is on top. The company touted that the frame incorporates 17 micro-cuts for improving the look as well as grip of the device. The volume rocker buttons as well as the power key are on the right, while the Alert Slider is on the left. The company claimed at the launch that it has tested the physical buttons on the OnePlus X 10,000 times.

OnePlus has used an Amoled display for the first time, and it looked vibrant on the OnePlus X. It reproduced bright colours, and viewing angles were decent. Visibility under direct indoor lights was good.

The unit we were able to use for a limited time was running OxygenOS 2.1.2 based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. OnePlus parted ways with Cyanogen earlier this year which has led the company to introduce its own OxygenOS Android skin. The good news is that it looks like stock Android with some minor customisations.

The OnePlus X brings one of the most awaited features to the company's line-up -microSD card support. The smartphone features a hybrid dual-SIM design, with the second slot usable for either a second SIM or a microSD card. During the time we spent with the OnePlus X, we found that the smartphone responded well to touch input and was quick during multitasking. The 13-megapixel rear camera on the OnePlus X took crisp indoor shots under artificial lighting, though we could not test the camera in natural light. Shots taken with the front camera on the OnePlus X in low light were average and lacked detail. We will however reserve our verdict on the OnePlus X smartphone's performance and camera till we get a chance to put it through our detailed review process.

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The OnePlus X Onyx variant and the limited edition Ceramic variant have been priced at Rs. 16,999 and Rs. 22,999 respectively. Onyx will be available starting November 5 while Ceramic will go on sale starting November 24.,

At this price point, the Onyx OnePlus X can be expected to tempt potential OnePlus One buyers, considering the fact that the One will be discontinued within a few months. However, the Ceramic OnePlus X will have to deal with stiff competition from its own bigger sibling, the OnePlus 2. One of the biggest worries of OnePlus X buyers could be the dated hardware though this is unlikely to be a problem in day-to-day use.

One of the biggest barriers for those wanting to buy OnePlus phones has been the invite system. The company however has plans to expand the availability of the OnePlus X with open sales in the coming months.

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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

  • OnePlus X Goes Invite Free in India as Well

  • OnePlus X Goes 'Completely Invite-Free'

  • OnePlus X Ceramic Edition to Go on Sale in India Without Invites on Friday

  • OnePlus X Champagne Edition to Be Available From Tuesday, No Longer China-Exclusive

More OnePlus mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets

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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More Gionee mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets

Coolpad Note 3 Review

Coolpad Note 3 Review

Coolpad entered India less than six months ago with two models, the Coolpad Dazen 1 (Review) and the Coolpad Dazen X7 (Review | Pictures). Both grabbed quite a bit of attention for their low prices, especially the Dazen 1 which seemed like it would put a lot of pressure on Indian as well as fellow Chinese companies in the critical sub-Rs. 10,000 market. Following those two launches, however, the company went pretty silent.

Now, following a corporate restructuring, the company is leaving the Dazen name and identity behind. Here in India, Coolpad is making up for lost time with a dramatic new launch. Even though we should be used to companies throwing more and more features into low-priced phones, the Coolpad Note 3 really made us sit up and pay attention. For just a shade under Rs. 9,000, Coolpad is promising a huge screen, large battery, good looks, fast processor, 4G LTE, lots of memory – and as the icing on top, a high-quality fingerprint sensor. There's a lot of hype to live up to, so let's get started.

coolpad_note_3_fingerprint_ndtv.jpg

Look and feel
This is quite a large phone by any standards, though there's no denying the popularity of big screens. The 5.5-inch display takes up most of the front face, and Coolpad has done what it could to reduce size around it. The capacitive navigation buttons are placed on the narrow plastic chin, which makes them a bit hard to reach while maintaining a solid grip on the phone. On-screen buttons might have made more sense for this phone.

There's a metallic rim running around the front which has an unusual purplish tint, but this is only visible in bright light. While all plastic on the outside, Coolpad tells us that the Note 3 has an aluminium inner frame for stability, which is remarkable for a phone at this price level. The rear has a soft matte texture which is good for grip, but picks up scuffs and smudges way too easily.

coolpad_note_3_front_ndtv.jpg

The volume buttons are on the left while the power button is on the right. The 3.5mm audio socket on top and the Micro-USB port on the bottom are somewhat masked by the way the Note 3's edges taper. On the rear, you'll see slightly protruding camera right up top and in the centre, with its LED flash to one side and the phone's signature fingerprint reader right beneath it. There's a small Coolpad logo and a speaker grille towards the bottom.

The rear cover peels off with a little effort, but the battery beneath it is not removable. You only get access to the two Micro-SIM slots and the microSD card slot. Coolpad bundles only a charger, USB cable and headset in the box – no cover or adhesive screen protector like we've seen from some other companies.

coolpad_note_3_upperfront_ndtv.jpg

At 9.3mm thick and 155g in weight, this is not an easy phone to handle. The tapered rear edges and matte finish do help somewhat, but you'll wind up shuffling it up and down in your hand, and you'll have to be careful of your grip at all times.

Specifications
Coolpad has managed to cram some fairly impressive hardware into its low-cost offering. The Coolpad Note 3 is based on a MediaTek MT6753 SoC, which is a 64-bit, octa-core model running at 1.3GHz. 3GB of RAM is pretty pathbreaking at this price, though as we've seen before, that on its own doesn't mean much. There's also a healthy 16GB of built-in storage space as well as support for microSD cards of up to 64GB, and USB-OTG support.

coolpad_note_3_bottom_ndtv.jpg

The 5.5-inch screen has a resolution of 720×1280, for an effective density of 320ppi. LTE is supported on Band 40 on both Micro-SIMs. Wi-Fi, including 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 and FM radio are standard. The battery has a pretty solid capacity rating of 3000mAh. There's a 13-megapixel camera with an LED flash on the rear, and a 5-megapixel one in front. Then of course there's the fingerprint sensor, which the company says will be able to correctly identify an enrolled user no matter the angle at which he or she touches it.

Software
The Coolpad Note 3 comes with Android 5.1 and the company's own Cool UI skin. We weren't too impressed with the cosmetic changes Coolpad has made to stock Android – a lot of it felt unnecessary (though your mileage may vary), especially the customisations made to the Settings app, in which it isn't possible to search for specific things. You get a typical single-layer UI by default, with all app icons and widgets arranged haphazardly on the home screens, but there is a "traditional mode" option buried in the preferences dialog.

coolpad_note_3_top_ndtv.jpg

Our Coolpad Note 3 review unit had an enormous "Cool Store" widget on one home screen which showed a banner ad and a few examples of popular apps you can get from the company's own app store. Probably because of this, the installation of apps downloaded from third-party sources was not blocked by default, which is a potential security problem for users unfamiliar with Android. We would recommend removing this widget immediately to get rid of the ads and prevent background data usage.

The default keyboard is also replaced with something called Xploree, which uses some screen space to display prominent Yahoo search branding, and tracks everything you type in order to display targeted ads – which the company describes as "enabling search and discovery". We would have liked at least an opt-in prompt or a popup message on first use telling users what the keyboard does. We found this invasive and intrusive, and disabled it immediately – again, we recommend you do the same should you buy the Coolpad Note 3.

coolpad_note_3_corner_ndtv.jpg

Pressing the power and volume down buttons simultaneously takes a screenshot as usual, but instead of just saving it in the background, it's shown full-screen. You have to manually dismiss it though you can scribble an annotation or share it to social media first. This could be useful in some cases but it usually just gets in the way. More interestingly, pressing the power and volume up buttons will start recording a video grab of whatever you do on screen.

There are also a few other apps: CoolShow offers a few themes, though several sections such as Lock Screen Style and Font style have only one option with no visible way of downloading more. Cool Service is probably meant to help users get to an authorised service location, but we couldn't find a single one in India – perhaps this information will get added at a later stage. WeChat, Whatsapp, Facebook, WPS Office, and Amazon are also preloaded. Not all are removable.

coolpad_note3_fingerprintapps_ndtv.jpg

Fingerprint reader setup was quick and easy. An app called Fingerprint Management takes you through the setup process, where you can define up to five prints and assign shortcuts to them such as directly unlocking the phone and launching any app from sleep. You can also set one up as a photo trigger – you can launch the camera app and take a photo in just one motion even when the phone is asleep. A second app, FP Lock, lets you prevent unauthorised access to any apps on the device – but it works with all enrolled fingerprints, not a specific one of your choosing.

Performance
The Coolpad Note 3 was generally a pleasure to use, and we didn't see the slightest sign of any lags or stuttering in the UI. Apps opened quickly and multitasking was smooth. The rear of the device did get a little warm when stressed out, but no so much that it was uncomfortable to hold. We had a bit of trouble using the phone outdoors in bright sunshine, but faced no other issues with the display.

coolpad_note_3_slots_ndtv.jpg

The fingerprint reader is of course what we were most intrigued with, and in our time with the phone, it worked just fine. True to the company's claims, fingerprints are recognised quickly and in any orientation. However, with the sensor on the back, it isn't useful when the phone is lying on a table and you just want to check something quickly. It also only really feels comfortable when used with index fingers, maybe because of the size of this particular phone. You can enrol more fingers and assign shortcuts to them, but it's too awkward to become a habit.

We got a score of 35,674 in AnTuTu while Quadrant delivered 19,549 points overall. Graphics scores were also good, with 19fps in GFXbench and 4,461 points in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme. Performance is a little lower than that of the Lenovo K3 Note (Review | Pictures) and roughly on par with that of the Yu Yureka Plus (Review), taking into account the fact that both alternatives have 1080p screens.

coolpad_note_3_camera_ndtv.jpg

The phone stuttered a little when playing a heavily encoded 1080p video. Sound was surprisingly rich and clear, but the placement of the speaker on the rear means you can't leave the phone face up on a table when playing music or watching videos.

The camera app is well designed, and we liked the independent focus and exposure reticules. Pro mode copies the old Nokia concept of rings that act as sliders for different controls. You also get a few modes such as one for dim lighting and one for panoramas. Images looked really good on the phone itself, with impressive detailing in closeups and some nice depth of field effects as well.

They still looked great on a big screen, as long as we didn't zoom in to actual size. At that point, detail and textures clearly suffered. Compression was evident, though colours were still vibrant. Some of the shots we took in daylight were absolutely stunning for a phone in this price range. At night, things were heavily dependent on light sources. The camera did okay when there was at least some direct illumination.

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(Click to see full size)

The battery ran for 11 hours, 26 minutes in our video loop test which is pretty great. You can expect to get a full day of active usage from each charge, including games and a lot of Web browsing. 4G worked well for us and we had no problem with voice call quality either.

Verdict
Coolpad has major plans for India, including local manufacturing. The company will be leveraging all its strengths to drive costs down, putting pressure on every other player in the market. It is also prepared to refresh its product lineup every three months in order to deal with any new competition that might arise. On the other hand, the insistence on using flash sales through a single online retail partner will severely limit Coolpad's reach.

It might be really hard to get your hands on a Coolpad Note 3 for some time, but it should be well worth it. The combination of features, performance and material quality that you get at this price is surprisingly strong. The Lenovo K3 Note (Review | Pictures) and Yu Yureka Plus (Review), priced at Rs. 9,999 and Rs. 8,999 respectively are the most obvious competitors and are both now available without flash sales. Both offer full-HD screens but no fingerprint sensor and less RAM.

What it boils down to is the fingerprint sensor. If this is the feature you really want – and it's understandable that it would be – then you should get in line to buy a Coolpad Note 3. If not, you could also consider trading a few specs and picking up either of these two strong competitors.


Coolpad Note 3 in pictures

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Coolpad Note 3

Coolpad Note 3

R 8999 3.5

  • Review
  • Key Specs
  • News
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Quick and accurate fingerprint sensor
  • Good performance
  • Good camera
  • Good battery life
  • Bad
  • Limited availability
  • Unappealing UI customisations

Read detailed Coolpad Note 3 review

Display

5.50-inch

Processor

1.3GHz

Front Camera

5-megapixel

Resolution

720×1280 pixels

RAM

3GB

OS

Android 5.1

Storage

16GB

Rear Camera

13-megapixel

Battery capacity

3000mAh See full Coolpad Note 3 specifications

  • Best Camera Phones Under Rs. 10,000 [February 2016]

  • Best Phone Under Rs. 10,000 [January 2016]

  • Coolpad to Manufacture 1 Million 'Made in India' Phones in H1 2016

  • Coolpad Note 3 Review

More Coolpad mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets

Acer Liquid Z630s Review

Acer Liquid Z630s Review

After a long hiatus, Acer is taking another shot at the Indian smartphone market with two new budget offerings. The Taiwanese company recently announced the Liquid Z530 and Liquid Z630s Android smartphones, which we first saw at IFA 2015. The new offerings will be sold exclusively through Flipkart and will also be manufactured in India, come December. Acer is testing the waters now and if things pick up, we can expect other models to follow suit.

Today, we’ll be reviewing the Liquid Z630s, a lower-mid-range smartphone priced at Rs. 10,999. We’ve already taken a quick look at it and its smaller sibling in our unboxing video and it’s now time to see how this phone stacks up against the competition. In this space, we have plenty of tried and tested options from the likes of Lenovo, Motorola and Asus so let’s see if Acer’s offering has that special sauce to help it stand out.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_back_ndtv.jpg

Look and feel
The Acer Liquid Z630s features a pebble-like design with rounded edges and sloping lines, much like the Samsung Galaxy S3 (Review). It’s a good look and makes the phone comfortable to hold. The brushed-metal texture for the back cover is easy on the eyes and helps keep fingerprints at bay. There’s a gold trim which runs along the edges of the phone and the front earpiece is a matching colour, as are the ring around the camera and the Acer logo on the back. The battery is removable and the two SIM slots and microSD card slot can be accessed by taking off the back cover.

The volume rocker and power button are placed on the right and have good tactile feedback. The 3.5mm headphone jack and Micro-USB port take their place at the top and bottom respectively. There’s a fixed-focus 8-megapixel camera in the front and the same sensor, but with autofocus, around the back. Like most of its offerings, Acer has added DTS Studio Sound enhancement for the rear speaker and headphones.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_button_ndtv.jpg

The 5.5-inch HD IPS display gets Acer’s Lumiflex technology, which can be toggled in the Settings app. This is designed to improve colour rendition under direct sunlight. We didn’t find any major difference with it on or off when we tested it, as the display tends to wash out under sunlight either way. There’s also Asahi’s Dragontrail glass for protection. With this screen size and an HD resolution, the low pixel density rears its ugly head in the form of slight jaggedness around edges of icons and text, but you have to really look for it to notice it, and most users probably won’t.

We received a review sample from Acer without its retail packaging, which should include a headset, charger, USB cable and manual. Overall, the Liquid Z630s is built well with good aesthetics. It’s not particularly slim at 8.9mm but is fairly light at 165g. It’s quite a handful too due to the sizeable bezel all around the display, so single-handed use is largely not possible.

Specifications and software
The Acer Liquid Z630s packs in an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor running at 1.3GHz. There’s 3GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage which can be doubled by adding a microSD card. Other specifications include Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB-OTG, FM radio, and GPS. The two SIM slots support 4G but only FDD-LTE and not TDD-LTE so you won’t be able to use it with current 4G networks in India.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_battery_ndtv.jpg

On the software front, the phone runs Acer’s Liquid UI which is a heavily skinned version of Android Lollipop 5.1. Thankfully, it’s easy to find your way around as Acer has stuck with the app-drawer-style launcher. In addition to the standard set of toggle switches, Acer has added something called “Float Apps” for the notes, calculator and calendar apps. These are mini versions of the standard apps which can run on top of other apps, giving you some level of Windows-style multitasking. Sadly, you can’t change the size of the float apps. There’s an option to toggle the Bluelight Shield from the notification shade and vary the intensity through the settings app.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_apps_ndtv.jpg

Quick Touch is a handy gesture system which lets you open apps and skip music tracks by drawing gestures when the display is off. The DTS sound enhancement lets you tweak the level of bass and treble and set separate equalizers for music and video. This works well and the sound is noticeably louder, but we would have liked separate settings for headphones and the main speaker, which other manufacturers such as Motorola have implemented.

Acer also bundles a bunch of bloatware in the form of trial games, but thankfully, these can be uninstalled. There’s a Kids Centre and painting app for keeping kids occupied. You also get a bunch of Acer’s in-house apps including AcerEXTEND which lets you cast your phone onto your PC screen through an emulator. Setting it up is as easy as downloading the PC application and signing in on your phone and PC with the same Acer account.

Apart from receiving notifications, you can fully control your phone through the emulator. That includes listening to music that’s on it, and answering calls as audio routed through the PC. The one thing that we didn’t like was that the actions performed through the emulator are replicated on the phone screen in real-time, which means there’s no privacy if your phone is away from you.

Acer Portal is part of Acer’s BYOC (Build You Own Cloud) feature which lets you turn your PC into your own personal cloud. You get specialised apps called abFiles, abPhotos, abMusic and abDocs for the phone and PC. We managed to get abFiles working easily, which allowed us to transfer files between the PC and the phone. The other apps don’t work as seamlessly as abFiles and need some figuring out. abFiles is the most useful out of the lot though as it lets you access all your PC’s files on your phone.

Acer Aid Kit lets you manage battery life and RAM usage; Acer SnapNote helps you organise notes you capture with the camera; Liquid Select is an app store; Liquid Wizard lets you manage the phone’s theme, ringtone and font size; LiveScreen lets you share your sketches with friends in real-time (but this only works on Acer smartphones); and Quick Mode is an alternative launcher. There’s also Polaris Office, News Republic, and Opera Max.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_display_ndtv.jpg

Performance
The Liquid Z630s is an able performer when it comes to carrying out regular duties. The interface is snappy despite the heavy customisations and we didn’t encounter any noticeable lag while multitasking. Apps were quick to respond and the phone easily handled demanding games such as Dead Trigger 2. It does get a bit warm after prolonged use of the camera or video playback, but never uncomfortably hot. Call quality is good and the earpiece is loud enough even in noisy environments.

The phone performed admirably in benchmarks too. We got a score of 34,452 in AnTuTu and 21fps in GFXbench. 3DMark Ice Storm returned a score of 7,595 in the standard test. Overall, these are pretty decent numbers when compared to other phones at this price point.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_speaker_ndtv.jpg

Media playback is also quite good. The phone easily handles full-HD videos and even our high-bitrate test files played without any hiccup. The speaker is loud enough for alerts but sounds little weak for media. It’s decent when used indoors but tends to get drowned out when there’s lots of outdoor or ambient noise. Audio playback through the headphones is better. We feel that stereo speakers would have done the DTS enhancements more justice.

The camera interface is easy to navigate and use. You get a host of capture modes for the rear 8-megapixel camera, from HDR and panorama to multi-angle and gourmet. The options are easy to flick through with your thumb. You can change scene modes, add colour effects, set white balance and exposure compensation, and shoot time-lapse videos.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_sample2_ndtv.jpgAcer_Liquid_Z630s_sample3_ndtv.jpg

The camera is quick to lock focus as well as capture and save pictures. This works well with low-light shots too. Pictures look good on the phone’s display but lack a bit of detail when viewed in full size on a PC. This is most noticeable in landscapes shots. Macros fare a little better with good detail and colours. Low-light shots are not too shabby but darker parts of the picture appear less sharp. The front camera has a fixed focus but does a decent job with selfies. The quality of video recording is slightly less impressive. In daylight, video quality is good but not indoors or in low-light.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_sample_ndtv.jpg

The Acer Liquid Z630s packs in a massive 4000mAh battery but we found that it doesn’t translate too well to real-word battery life. We managed to get only 13 hours and 12 minutes in our video loop test, which is quite good, but we expected a lot more given the huge battery size. To put things into perspective, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which has a Quad-HD display, a much more powerful processor and a smaller battery delivered better results in our loop test. With normal usage, we found the phone lasted about a day and a half with a bit of calls, gaming and video playback.

Acer_Liquid_Z630s_ _ndtv (10).jpg

Verdict
The Acer Liquid Z630s is a bit of a mixed bag as some of its impressive specifications don’t translate too well in the real world. It has a good build and good aesthetics, decent display quality despite the size and low resolution, smooth app performance, and a couple of useful bundled apps like AcerEXTEND and abFiles.

On the other hand, there’s no 4G support for TDD-LTE carriers; the loudspeaker is a little weak for multimedia use; the rear camera struggles with details in landscapes; and the battery life could have been much better considering its mammoth capacity.

The Lenovo K3 Note (Review | Pictures) and the Micromax Yu Yureka Plus (Review) continue to be good options in this price segment and they offer better all-round performance.


Acer Liquid Z630s in pictures

Download the Gadgets 360 app for Android and iOS to stay up to date with the latest tech news, product reviews, and exclusive deals on the popular mobiles.

Acer Liquid Z630s

Acer Liquid Z630s

R 10999 3.5

  • Review
  • Key Specs
  • News
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Well built, good aesthetics
  • Nifty software features
  • Good performance
  • Spacious onboard storage
  • Bad
  • No TDD-LTE support
  • Battery life could have been better
  • Mono speaker is a bit weak
  • Average camera performance

Read detailed Acer Liquid Z630s review

Display

5.50-inch

Processor

1.3GHz

Front Camera

8-megapixel

Resolution

720×1280 pixels

RAM

3GB

OS

Android 5.1

Storage

32GB

Rear Camera

8-megapixel

Battery capacity

4000mAh See full Acer Liquid Z630s specifications

More Acer mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets