Tagged as a ‘Superfone’, Micromax’s A85 has been causing quite a stir in the mobile space, not due to its name, obviously but it’s due to the fact that this is the first dual-core phone in the sub-20K price bracket. That in itself is a very tempting proposition for many, but we weren’t so sure. Remember the Spice Mi-410, it looked like a solid performer on paper, but in reality, the implementation was quite poor, which didn’t make it a very good phone. Let’s hope Micromax hasn’t fallen into the same trap.
Design and Build
The first thing you’ll notice is that it does not look like a Micromax smartphone. I know that’s not saying much, since it’s built by some other OEM, but it looks like it could be a Motorola or an LG smartphone. Micromax have left their mark on the phone, but it’s tastefully done at the back. Gracing the front is a 3.8-inch capacitive touchscreen with a 480×800 pixel resolution. Around the screen, we have the front-facing camera, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. There is a row of touch sensitive buttons at the bottom, which sadly isn’t backlit making it next to impossible to use in the dark.
A decetly styled phone
The battery cover is made of stainless steel and the rest of the chassis seems well built as well. The microSD card is hot-swappable, but not the SIM. It is a little heavy and not extremely slim, but it’s manageable for a guy. Women may find it a bit bulky.
The 5MP shooter is pretty poor
The microUSB port is covered and placed on the top just beside the 3.5mm headphone jack. Overall, we felt Micromax have gone with a good design and build for the A85. A few things like no backlight for the shortcut keys is a bit of a downer.
For some unknown reason, Micromax have decided to use Froyo, instead of Gingerbread, which means you’re pretty much stuck with it, since they seldom (never, in fact!) release updates and you'd be hard pressed to find a custom ROM for a Micromax. They have added some nice touches, though, like the lock screen for instance. Instead of a simple ‘slide to unlock’, we have a pulsating blue ring, which you can pull in four different corners to either unlock the phone, messages, dialer and contacts, and it doesn't stop here. Micromax has also added toggle switches in the notification bar for Wi-Fi, Data, Bluetooth, etc, which is very thoughtful. The interface is not lag-free, unfortunately and we can blame Froyo or Micromax for this, but the bottom line is, it’s quite jerky, which is not something you expect from a phone with two cores.
The quality of the display is quite good, actually thanks to the high resolution; images and videos look sharp and crisp. The sensitivity of the screen is not the best, however and at times it refuses to respond to your input. Even the sunlight legibility leaves a lot to be desired. The worst bit is the capacitive shortcut buttons on the front, which aren’t too responsive, either and have no backlighting, so it’s next to impossible to use it in the dark, you’ll just have to guess and hope that you’re right. We ran a couple of benchmarks and in Linpack, we got a score of 37.3 in the single thread test and 52.1 in the multi-thread test. AnTuTu dished out a score of 4898 points, which is the same as the Optimus 2X, since both utilize the Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor.
The A85 also has something called ‘Gesture control’, in which the front camera is used to track hand gestures. While it looks all fancy in the adverts on TV, the reality is quite disappointing. You can enable this for Call, E-mail, Gallery, Music and Phone. You can browse through you albums or photos by simply swiping your hand to your left or right. The problem is, the gestures aren’t tracked every time and even if they are, nothing happens. If I could use these gestures in a game then it would be interesting, but you can’t. Symbian S60 had a better implementation of this, remember Ninja Strike?
For music, we just have the stock player, so file formats are a bit limited. To make up for that Micromax bundled a truckload of third party apps, just like they did with the A70. The media related ones, include Saavn, a streaming radio app with the latest Bollywood music.
Good number of media apps
Despite there being no audio enhancements, the audio quality is pretty decent; provided you have a good pair of IEMs like the EP630. Video playback can be enhanced by installing a good video player like Moboplayer. After this, the A85 will read most formats like AVI and MKV up to 1080p. You can dump all your media files in the onboard memory, which is 8GB (5.7GB is usable).
The A85 is a quad-band phone with full 3G HSDPA and HSUPA support. Along with this, there’s also Wi-Fi ‘n’ and Bluetooth, so you’re well catered for in that department. Extra features like Wi-Fi Direct or TV-out support doesn’t seem to be present. The screen is good for surfing the Internet, as pages are rendered well and pinch-to-zoom let’s you quickly zoom in and out with ease. It all works well and we don’t have any real complaints in this department.
Does a good job for browsing the web
There are plenty of Internet ready apps as well like AccuWeather, Opera Mini, Facebook, IPL T20 Fever, Nimbuzz, Quikr Classifieds, Times of India, WhatsApp. While all of these can be downloaded for free from the Marketplace, the point is that you get them out-of-the-box.
There are many productivity apps as well like Polaris Office and M!Trim for editing videos on the go. There’s also NetQuin Android Booster app for freeing up memory, AppManager, BSE/NSE Stock updates, File manager, Notepad, PostCard and a full game, Riptide GP. The game is designed for the Nvidia chipset, so it works incredibly smoothly with good graphics.
The 5MP autofocus shooter is a bit of a letdown. For starters, it lacks an LED flash, so photos under ambient light is very poor.
A pretty standard affair
The macro mode works well, though. Indoors, you’ll notice the white balance is completely off and there’s plenty of discolouration in the captured images. The sensor isn’t able to pick up colours accurately.
Macro mode works well
It gets worst in video recording mode. The camera can capture video up to 720p, but in 3gp format. While the video is smooth, there’s plenty of shift in colour tones and the temperature, while moving from left to right. Overall, the camera is very poor, not something you’d expect from a phone that costs nearly 20K.
The battery life is once again is strictly average. The bundled 1500mAh batter lasted for about 7 hrs and 40 min in our video drain test. Our loop tests revealed a slightly lower score of 6 hrs and 30 min. Under regular use, the phone should last you for about a day to day and half at best if you’re careful with your usage.
The Micromax A85 goes for a street price of Rs.19,500, which officially makes it the cheapest dual-core Android in the market. Sadly, this tag alone isn’t enough to justify a purchase because as a phone, it doesn't live up to our expectations. First the good things, it’s powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor, so it will playback 1080p (even though it can’t record in it), it comes with decently sized onboard storage and the bundled apps are a welcomed addition. But I'm afraid it all begins to fall apart from here. While the screen resolution is good, the touch sensitivity is a bit off and the capacitive buttons could use some backlighting. The phone is also bulky, a bit heavy, the hyped up gesture controls are a joke, it runs Froyo, average battery life, poor camera and the phone does act up randomly, like alarms will go off at the wrong time and the music stock music player would start when you you disconnected you ear phones.
If a dual-core phone is what your after, then we recommend you work a bit harder and buy the Galaxy S II, instead.
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Oct 27, 2016