Spice has been seen in a heavy competition with other manufacturers such as Micromax, Wicked Leak and Karbonn in the Android smartphone market space. Adding to the recent launches of large-screen and dual-core Android-based smartphones in the market, Spice has introduced the Stellar Virtuoso which features a dual-core processor and a 4.5-inch qHD display. Let’s see how well it fares in our tests. 

Power button on the right, the top features the Micro USB and earphone slots

Power button on the right, the top features the Micro USB and earphone slots

Design and build quality

The Virtuoso looks similar to the iPhone 4S from afar due to the slim look, the black front and rear panel and the silver banding around it. However, one can spot the difference immediately when up close with the missing home button and the larger screen size. The phone's build firm and rugged but has glossy front and rear panels which highlight fingerprint smudges immediately in broad daylight. The front panel has just a camera and the display panel. The bottom half of the front face has provisions for capacitive buttons, but there are none. The bottom wide bar which could hold the capacitive buttons for home, back and menu is a wasted space and could confuse the user as to the presence of non-functioning buttons. The buttons are incorporated on the display inside the user interface itself.

Moving on, the rear panel is neat and clean except for the large company logo on the bottom beside the speaker grille while the higher side is complete with a rear camera and an LED flash. The power button takes its place on the right side while the volume rocker is present on the left. Finally, the top features the micro USB PC interface and a 3.5-mm headphone jack. The rear panel houses the SD card, SIM cards and the battery. The rear panel is made out of a flimsy thin plastic which could break after a period of time if not handled properly while replacing the SIM or SD cards within—so be careful when opening or closing the rear panel. The phone has a thickness of just 9.5 mm and weighs about 150 grams.

4.5-inch qHD display with a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels

4.5-inch qHD display with a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels

Features

The  Spice Stellar Virtuoso is a dual SIM (GSM / WCDMA) dual standby Android-based smartphone. It is powered using a 1 GHz dual-core processor coupled with 512 MB of RAM. Escorting the processor is a PowerVR SGX 531 graphics processor. The phone has a 4.5-inch display with a qHD (Quarter of HD) resolution of 540 x 960 pixels. The internal storage is 4 GB which is shared between the ROM and app/data (1 GB) and the remaining 1.58 GB is left for the user. No doubt you can expand this capacity by using the SD card. The Virtuoso has two cameras, a 1.3 MP front facing one for video calls and an 8 MP rear shooter. Connectivity options are Wi-Fi, 3G and a-GPS apart from a micro USB PC interface. The phone runs on the Android ICS v4.0 operating system and is powered using a 1700mAh battery. Bundled along with the product is a charger, earphones, a micro USB PC cable, a protective screen guard and a leather cover. 

Rear panel with the 8 MP shooter and LED flash

Rear panel with the 8 MP shooter and LED flash

Performance

Being based on a dual-core processor, the phone tends to behaveat first. Run it for a while and it starts getting sluggish. Installing a proper RAM optimising app and an app killer would keep the phone running smoothly. The 512 MB RAM seems to be a bit low for the phone. We tested the phone to check if the hardware within performs as it should be and here are the scores after running a few benchmarking apps. AnTuTu scored 6741, Quadrant scored 2682 and Nenamark2 gave us a frame rate of 24.3 fps. Lastly, Linpack scored 40.402 MFLOPS and 48.974 MFLOPS in the Single-thread and Multi-thread tests respectively. The phone fares well when compared to similar dual-core platform based Android phones. 

Dual SIM operation, Micro SD card slot is not hot swappable

Dual SIM operation, Micro SD card slot is not hot swappable

Display and media

The display is a 4.5-inch qHD TFT screen and is pretty expressive. The picture quality is sharp and crisp. Watching a movie or viewing photos or pictures are enjoyable. However, as usual, the display’s viewing angle can spoil your mood while watching a movie if you tilt the phone slightly to the right. This means you can enjoy the movie from the right, top and bottom angles, but the colors darken and invert when viewing from the left. Ignoring this issue (which is common in all budget phones and tablets), the videos are crisp, bright and smooth. Full HD 1080p videos were almost flawless with a very mild jitter during fast motion scenes. 

Android ICS with a custom home launcher

Android ICS with a custom home launcher

The speaker on the rear panel is loud enough for enjoying short videos and casual music. The bundled earphones are glossy white in colour and have a decent build quality. The audio performance of the earphones are above average. You can enjoy some movies and music using the stock earphones.

Indoor shots are very poor even with a flash

Indoor shots are very poor even with a flash

Camera

The Spice Virtuoso features an 8.1 MP camera as the main shooter supported with an LED flash. However, the camera performance is very poor and we could easily make out the grainy picture due to the over sharpening of the images. Viewing the photos as a whole, they are still below average. Printing the photos are out of the question. 

Outdoor shoots are grainy and seem over sharpened

Outdoor shoots are grainy and seem over sharpened

Battery life

We were equally disappointed with the battery life of the phone as we were with the performance. On a full battery, we could run only three hours of video, which is almost half the time any other budget phone usually gives us. We did expect the battery life to be better, but were let down.

Verdict and Price in India

To sum up the whole experience with the Spice Stellar Virtuoso, the product could have been better. The poor performance of the camera, the sluggish user interface and the below average battery life are the major concerns. The Virtuoso is available for an MRP of Rs 12,499 and can be obtained in the grey market for around Rs 2,000 less. If you are in a similar budget and are looking for a dual-core Android phone, we suggest you focus on another model or brand.

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