We all would like to go and buy a Samsung Galaxy S III or an HTC One X, but of course, price is a big issue and not everyone is going to go out and buy a Rs. 35,000 phone. Fortunately, when it comes to Android handsets, there are cheaper options, often with most of the features as the highly priced devices and sometimes, some more features, such as Dual-SIM capability. Of course, the device might not necessarily be from a posh brand. Spice is one of the newer, affordable handset manufacturers and they recently launched three Android phones from their Stellar line. We’re taking a closer look today at the Spice Stellar (no, not the 5-inch Dual-core Stellar Horizon). It’s a Dual-SIM Android smartphone running Gingerbread and its market price hovers around the Rs. 10,000 mark. Surely, it’s an interesting device, similar to the Mi-410 – a phone that was known for its good value-for-money proposition when it was launched.
Design and Build quality
The first thing that people often complain about when they see a phone that’s not made by a Samsung, an HTC or by any other of the top manufacturers is the design and look. The Stellar is in fact, a little stylish, at least when you look at it straight on. The front panel that holds the screen and the front facing camera is jet black and built well. It’s surrounded by a grey bezel that looks like metal, but it’s just plastic, as is the white back cover. That’s where you feel that the quality of the phone isn’t as impressive. It’s sturdy enough, but the back cover doesn’t feel great in the hand. There’s no mention of Spice at the front of the phone, and the branding can be found on the rear panel.
Looks pretty stylish fron the front and sides
The lower panel under the the screen has the usual touch buttons that you’ll find on most other Android phones. The Home and the Find buttons are oddly designed – we’re not entirely sure why it was necessary. There are other small things to complain about, such as the speaker on the rear, which is only audible through a small hole that when covered goes almost completely silent.The microUSB connector is positioned on the right bottom of the phone, without any cover. The volume switch is placed on the left top and the power button in its usual place. We wish the power button was a tad larger or had a slightly more prominent feel. It sticks just slightly higher than the rest of the body of the phone so powering on the screen and putting it off is just that tiny bit annoying.
The Spice Stellar Mi-425 doesn’t run the stock Android launcher – it uses something called Launcher+. There are no traces of it, but a quick run of the Home Switcher app reveals it. The interface is made to look a little like iOS. Personally, I don’t like the home screen interface too much, primarily because of the large icons at the bottom that take up a lot of space on the phone, messaging, browsing and the app drawer. Of course, this is Android and you’re free to install a launcher app of your choice.
The cheap, plastic back on the Spice Mi-425
There’s some lack of quality control as well – for example, if you enter a wrong password or a wrong pattern password on the lockscreen, the phone throws up a poorly written error message that reads – “error password and try again”. For a phone that’s going to sell in the thousands, one expects a certain level of quality in both the build and as far as the software goes, things like this can be a little awkward. The Stellar Mi-425 uses Qualcomm's MSM7227A SoC, that includes the Adreno 200 GPU. It manages to handle the OS fine with its performance, it’s only when you install a ton of apps that you notice that scrolling through the apps menu becomes a tiny bit sluggish. In terms of performance, it scores a AnTuTU score of 2866 and a Linpack single-core test of 25.
The touchscreen is pretty decent for gestures, but when it comes to typing, there’s a tendency to type a key twice and this happened quite often, while we were reviewing the phone.
One of the features for the Spice Stellar is its security and there are a few apps designed for that. One of them is the NQ Mobile Security app, which has an in-built anti-virus, anti-theft feature, a network manager that lets you keep track of your data usage and host of other small sub-features. The app also has an integrated feature where a small overlay display shows the current network transfer speed – handy, if you’re suffering from a slow connection.
The other app is called Vault and allows you to hide your messages, photos and other information from the eyes of others. The phone comes with 512 MB of ROM, which makes installing apps fun, but you begin to notice the lack of space. Spice doesn't bundle a memory card, along with the phone.
The display on the Spice Mi-425 isn’t too bad when it comes to viewing content indoors. When it comes to processing power, it has enough of it to handle standard resolution videos encoded using Xvid or DivX codecs. When it comes to formats and containers, the standard video player can’t open either MOV, MP4 or FLV formats. Use a third party media player, such as Moboplayer and formats open just fine. It’s just that the phone can’t handle 720p or 1080p resolutions well. The video loads, but there’s a ton of stuttering with 1080p – it’s completely unwatchable, whereas 720p content just about manages to play.
The 5MP camera, and flash at the rear
The 4-inch screen has a resolution of 480×800 – it’s not very bright at its maximum brightness setting, but it’s clear and looks great for apps, games and movies. However, it’s really bad when you use it outdoors in direct sunlight. The smudges that the screen attracts makes matters worse outdoors, with a lot of reflections showing up and the not-so-bright screen forcing you to cover it to see what’s going on.
When it comes to audio, there are no such issues. The customized media player has its roots in the default Music app, but there are some subtle enhancements in terms of design and colour schemes. As for the audio quaity goes, there’s not much to talk about other than the fact that it’s average. The audio itself is pretty low with any pair of earphones. We used a pair of decent earphones from Soundmagic and found the quality to be just OK, the bundled earphones, on the other hand are below average and we suggest buying a pair of earphones, if you like listening to music. The phone has FM radio capability as well.
As far as connectivity goes, it’s quite feature-rich. The phone has two SIM card slots and internet connectivity works on the master SIM card slot. There’s also Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, as expected. Call quality is good and it has decent reception all across. The earpiece volume is a little low, but it’s clear.
Two SIM cards at the back
The speakerphone quality is pretty bad in comparison and there’s some amount of distortion when you play music or if you turn on the speakerphone mode.
The camera on the Stellar records videos at 720p using the 5MP rear-facing camera. There’s also a VGA upfront. The images shot on the Spice Mi-425 are decent.
Outdoor test shot – decent colours and detail
They aren’t sharp, but colours aren’t overemphasized. There is the expected smudgy feel to the images, as you find with other phones in this price range.
Exposure can be inconsistent with photos
When it comes to videos, the quality is downright awful. Videos are recorded in the 3GP format, but at a very low bandwidth stream, so quality suffers a lot.
The battery on the Spice Stellar is a 2000mAh one, which is way more than what most Android phones come with. On our standard battery drain test, where we ran a video in loop, with brightness turned up and audio at maximum, it managed to run for a good 6 hours and 55 minutes.
The built-in 2000mAh battery is more than what most phones offer
This is way better than most other smartphones that offer a bit more performance, but suffer from an average battery life. We also noticed that the phone heats up quite a bit. There's some heating at the bottom half of the phone while charging and while running intensive apps on it.
The Spice Stellar Mi-425 is a great phone for its market price of Rs. 9,999. If you were to buy a phone to use with only a GSM SIM card, then it makes a good purchase.
The build quality could've been a tad better
Sure, the build quality isn’t excellent and the screen isn’t very usable outdoors. However, if you’re going to be using the phone indoors – at home, work or while travelling, you’ll find this to be a good companion. If you’ve wanted to move to an Android phone and you don’t want to spend anything more than Rs. 10,000, then this might be a good option to consider.
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Oct 25, 2016