Karbonn S1 Titanium Review



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By Roydon Cerejo /  26 Mar 2013 , 13:54:07

Not long after Micromax announced the Canvas HD, Karbonn stepped up to the plate with the S1 Titanium. The handset boasted of a quad-core CPU as well, but was priced a lot more aggressively as compared to the Canvas A116. With a very similar feature set as Micromax’s offering, can the Titanium S1 prove to be a cheaper alternative to the A116? Let’s find out. 

Design and build
The S1 has a solid build and doesn’t flex or creak under pressure. The chassis is very sturdy and can withstand a few bumps and falls of everyday use. What we absolutely detest is the hideous lacquer finish of the phone. The sides have a very tacky fake brushed metal design and the mirror finish for the rear panel stays pristine for just a few seconds after removing the rear protective film. The entire phone is one big finger print magnet and is very difficult to maintain.

Not much of a looker

Not much of a looker

We have a microUSB port at the bottom, a volume rocker on the side and the power and headphone jacks on the top. The power button would have been more ergonomic at the side since there’s quite a bit of excess bezel above and below the phone, making it longer than it has to be.  Karbonn has also added four capacitive buttons but arranged them weirdly. The home button is placed not in the centre but to the extreme left, which can be confusing. The front also features an ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. Overall, the phone has good build quality, but the finish leaves a lot to be desired.

The S1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Play SoC comprising four ARM Cortex-A5 CPU cores running at 1.2GHz each and Adreno 203 for graphics. Compared to the MediaTek MT6589 chipset in the Canvas HD, the S4 Play isn’t very efficient. For starters, it still uses the older 45nm fabrication process instead of the 28nm process, and the CPU cores are based on the older Cortex-A5 architecture instead of the Cortex-A7 cores used in the MT6589 chipset. Even the GPU is older and only supports up to 720p video. You won’t notice much of a difference in simple apps and the UI in general, but the difference is apparent in stressful apps like games.

UI is quick and fluid

UI is quick and fluid

Coming to the 4.5-inch display, Karbonn says it’s an IPS panel, but we have a hard time believing them. The viewing angles and colours are very poor for an IPS panel and the screen sensitivity is not very good either. Colours feel oversaturated and the screen is not lit evenly, making the corners seem darker than the rest of the screen. There’s also very jarring colour shift, which happens when you tilt the screen even slightly in most directions.

Highly reflective back panel is a pain to maintain

Highly reflective back panel is a pain to maintain

The OS is stock Jelly Bean 4.1.2 with just minor tweaks here and there. You get toggle switches in the notification bar and a couple of extra settings for managing the two SIM cards. There’s no option for OTA updates nor an app to manage updates, so we doubt there will be any in the future. 

Media is handled by the stock video and audio player. Audio quality is strictly average, but audio through the loudspeaker is pretty good. You also get an audio manager that lets you adjust the audio from the loudspeaker and headphones individually. You can adjust the bass and even apply equaliser settings for the overall audio. We couldn’t find a radio app, however. There’s a video streaming app called nexGTv pre-installed as well.

Decent audio management

Decent audio management

The video player only supports MP4 files ad that too only up to 720p. Full HD 1080p videos do play but not without stutter.  There’s 4GB of onboard memory, which can be expanded via the hot-swappable microSD card slot.

This dual-SIM phone supports tri-band GSM and single band 3G. Only one SIM is capable of 3G data while the other one is only 2G. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth, GPS and USB for charging and data storage. Chrome is pre-installed as well, so web browsing is a pleasant experience. One big problem we did encounter was call quality, which wasn’t very good. The earpiece is loud, but the sound distorts even at medium volume and is not very pleasant. Also, the person on the other end is unable to hear clearly when you speak a little softly, which is not an issue on most handsets.

Browsing works well

Browsing works well

Misc. features
Other apps that are pre-installed include a File Manager, StopWatch, Yahoo Messenger, Kingsoft Office and WeChat.

The 5MP camera has an easy to use interface with plenty of options to tweak. There are options for adjusting the white balance, face detection, colour effect, anti-banding and red-eye reduction. The interface also has the option to use the front camera along with the rear camera, a feature that’s been touted a lot on the Galaxy S4. You can also shoot in a bunch of modes like Panorama, HDR, Smile, Speedily or Normal. Video recording maxes out at 720p and the dual-camera mode works for video as well.

The dual camera mode

The dual-camera mode

Picture quality is strictly average

Picture quality is strictly average

The overall image quality is strictly average even with good lighting conditions. Colours appear a bit washed out and the light metering is quite erratic, so the same shot looks very different even if you move slightly.

Battery life
The 1600 mAh battery managed about 6 hours and 20 minutes in our battery drain test, which is again just about average. Real world usage is quite different though, as the S1 easily lasted for 14-15-hours with proper 3G usage. We only tested the phone with one SIM, so if you’re using the other slot as well, expect the numbers to go down a bit.

Verdict and price in India
The Karbonn S1 Titanium is priced at Rs 10,500 and while it does seem like a good deal considering the specifications, we wouldn’t recommend it. The S1 may be powerful on paper, but it just doesn’t add up in reality. The two things that could be a bit of deal breaker are the poor quality screen and below average call quality. Besides, the S1 isn’t winning any design awards any time soon either. Instead of this, the XOLO Q800 looks like a more tempting buy around this price segment.

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