Panasonic is one of the names that cross your mind when you’re looking to buy a plasma TV or an air-conditioner, but certainly not a smartphone. So when the company announced it was entering the smartphone rat race, we couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about how it would manage to break the stronghold of emerging brands like Micromax and Karbonn. The P51 is Panasonic's first attempt and after a rather shaky start due to inflated pricing, the smartphone is now back on everyone’s radar after a price drop. The phone competes directly with the Samsung Galaxy Grand as far as features are concerned and also goes up against the HTC One S, an older but still very relevant handset.
Design and build
The P51 has that typical “phablet” form factor. The 5-inch display has a generous bezel all round, which increases the size of the handset even further. There’s a lot of excess space at the bottom that could have been avoided since there aren’t any capacitive buttons. The sides and the entire back has a smooth rubberised coating, which feels nice to hold while offering good grip too. The back is completely sealed off, so all the slots for the microSIM and SD card are placed on the side, protected by flaps. The volume rocker and power button are placed rather inconveniently on the top, making it difficult to reach.
Very good build and finish
The handset is pretty light at just 135 g and slim too at just 8.5 mm. These are much better dimensions when compared to the Grand. Due to the slimmer chassis, the 8MP camera lens protrudes out a bit, so you’re going to have to be careful when placing it down. Overall, we are impressed with the fit and finish of the P51, which turns out to be a lot better compared to the Galaxy Grand.
Slim and sleek design
The P51 packs in a very good HD IPS display, bringing the pixel count up to 294 ppi. The panel is evenly backlit and produces bright, vivid colours and sharp text. The display is also protected by Dragon Trail Glass and features an oleophobic coating as well. Panasonic hasn’t tampered much with Jelly Bean (4.2.1) apart from the icon set and the addition of audio profiles. The interface is very smooth thanks to 1GB of RAM and the speedy MediaTek MT6589 SoC. This chipset packs in four CPU cores running at 1.2GHz each.
Easy to navigate UI
The P51 also comes pre-installed with a bunch of applications. There’s a file manager, Chrome, Evernote, Google+, Skitch, Media Share for DLNA, ToDo and WeChat. Panasonic also has a Quick Start feature to shorten boot time. The icon set is a bit confusing at first and takes some time getting used to. Apart from this, the P51 functions like you would expect a quad-core handset to function.
The phone also comes bundled with a flip cover and a capacitive stylus. The cover does not have a magnetic layer to lock/unlock the screen and, sadly, there’s no provision to keep the stylus anywhere with the phone, so we’re not sure how many people would actually use it.
Panasonic has added secondary video and audio players that aren’t too different from the stock players. The custom music player adds the ability to shake the phone to change tracks, but forfeits equaliser presets. Audio quality is better with the stock player, however, since you can tweak the sound. None of the players has a lock screen widget, though.
Media player is strictly average in terms of features
The custom video player gives you thumbnail previews of the videos. The codec support is the same as the stock player and AVI and MKV files playback just fine. There’s only 4GB (2GB usable) of onboard memory, but you can expand it via a microSD card. The phone easily handles 1080p video and the vivid display makes for an enjoyable viewing experience.
The P51 is a quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G phone. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB. There’s no video-out or NFC capabilities and even GLONASS is missing from the list. The volume level of the speaker is quite loud and is enough for you to hear it even in noisy environments. Panasonic bundles along some productivity apps as well like Kingsoft Office and ToDo. Browsing the web on the P51 is a pleasant experience thanks to the large screen real estate. Zooming in and out of web pages is smooth and without any lag.
Large screen is a boon for browsing
The 8MP shooter on the P51 is very good for both outdoor and indoor photography. Even without the flash, the camera is able to capture really good detail and very little noise. Zooming in on the image reveals slight distortion along the edges of objects, but it’s not too much. The flash is quite powerful and manages to evenly illuminate the subject up to a distance of 2 ft. It also does very well in macro shots with very good depth of field.
Very good details indoors
Video recording maxes out at 1080p, but the quality is not very good as the file format is still 3gp.
The Panasonic P51 features a larger 2500 mAh battery compared to the Grand’s 2100 mAh. This extra capacity is needed since it has to power four cores and a higher resolution screen. It certainly does not disappoint, as the P51 breezed through our 8-hour loop test with a good 18 percent battery to spare.
Verdict and price in India
The P51’s launch price of Rs 26,990 put many of us off; since on paper it seemed nothing more than a better built Canvas HD. Even taking into consideration the premium for the brand name, it was still overpriced. Thankfully, Panasonic quickly dropped the price and you can now find it for just Rs 21,500. This automatically makes it a better choice compared to the Samsung Galaxy Grand. The P51 may lack GLONASS and has lesser on-board storage but it more than makes up for it with a better screen (higher PPI and scratch resistant), larger battery and two extra cores. The only niggles we had with the handset was the awkwardly placed buttons, unattractive choice of icons for apps and the fact that there’s no place to keep the stylus when you’re on the move. Between the Galaxy Grand and the P51, we’d recommend the Panasonic.
We’ve rated the Panasonic lesser compared to the Grand because at the time when the Grand launched, there wasn’t any other device that offered those features and performance in that price range, until now. The Panasonic is finally a good alternative, but it loses points for the lack of GLONASS and lesser on-board storage, which shouldn’t have been compromised given its intended price.
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Oct 26, 2016
Oct 26, 2016