Thursday, Nov 27, 2014

Spice Stellar Mi 526 review: Good performance, poor battery life

spice stellar Mi 526 review At Rs 11,499, Spice has tried to deliver a pleasing device.
Written by Debashis Sarkar | New Delhi | Posted: August 12, 2014 12:36 am | Updated: August 26, 2014 2:36 pm

Spice Retail Limited launched its first hexa-core powered smartphone, called Stellar Mi-526, this July. The company aims to provide a premium experience at an affordable price with its Stellar Mi-526. Here’s an in-depth review.

Specs: 5-inch on cell IPS HD display (1280 x 720), 1.5 GHz hexa-core processor, Mali 450 MP4 600 Mhz GPU, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB internal memory expandable up to 32 GB, 8 MP rear camera, 3.2 MP front camera, dual SIM (regular + mini), 2500 mAh battery, Android 4.4.2 KitKat

Price: Rs. 11,499

Design: Spice has been successful in adding a premium feel to its Stellar Mi 526. Despite the body being mostly made of plastic, the Stellar Mi 526 doesn’t give the feel of cheap plastic at all. The brushed aluminium paint job at the back along with the metallic rim surrounding the glass, which covers the entire front-side, gives it a premium look.

spice stellar 526 spice stellar 526

Featuring an irremovable battery design, the device offers good build quality. At the front, it sports a 3.2 MP camera along with the three regular Android navigation capacitive touch buttons at the bottom. On the back side, the smartphone mounts an 8 MP snapper with flash at the top and speaker vents at the bottom. The camera compartment (which can be opened) hides two SIM card slots (SIM 1: regular, SIM2: mini) and a micro-SD memory card slot.

spice stellar 526 spice stellar 526

The top surface has a 3.5 mm earphone port while the bottom surface has the micro USB charging port. The right hand side has the volume rocker keys and power/sleep button.

The Stellar Mi 526 measures 143.6 x 71.7 x 8.8 mm and weighs 162 grams. The device can be considered thin and light weight. Despite being a 5-incher, you will have no problems carrying it in your pocket.

Spice Stellar 526 review Spice Stellar 526 review

Display: Sharp and vibrant. The 5-inch HD one cell IPS display does a great job. The viewing angles are good. Indoors, you will have no complaints with the display at all. However, once you step outside, the screen literally turns into a mirror! To make calls or read messages, you will have to find some sort of shadow. Even then, the visibility is poor. The screen will disappoint you under direct sunlight. The display of the Stellar Mi 526 is better indoors or best when it’s a dark room. Overall, average users might get frustrated while using it under the sun but you will love it when you are indoors.

spice stellar 526 antutu benchmark spice stellar 526 antutu benchmark

CPU performance: The Stellar Mi 526 houses a Mediatek MT 6591CPU based on ARM Cortex A7 architecture with six cores. The frequency ranges from 728 to 1496 Mhz. It also comes with Mali 450 GPU. The device scored 22043 on AnTuTu, which is good and supports large apps and multi-tasking.

Average to heavy users shouldn’t face any difficulties whatsoever while playing graphics intense large games or apps or while multi-tasking. I played Blood and Glory on it seamlessly while using it as WiFi-hotspot device on my laptop. Background processes like a paused HD video, mail box and other minor activities were still running while I was playing. Throughout my usage, I did not encounter any lags or frozen screens at all. And for most users, I believe, performance shouldn’t be an issue.

The major issue is heating. My sister was playing Angry Birds Rio on it, while I was using the device as a WiFi-hotspot to connect my laptop to Internet. After half an hour, the device got heated up like crazy. Even on normal usage, the device got heated up. However, the heating issue did not mar performance.

Front camera image. Front camera quality test.

Camera: Satisfying. Armed with an 8 MP auto focus rear camera, the image quality generated is decent. I tried to shoot images in almost every kind of daily scenarios and the results were satisfying, if not great.

Spice stellar 526 camera Spice stellar 526 camera

Spice stellar 526 camera Spice stellar 526 camera

Spice stellar 526 camera

Spice stellar 526 camera Dark room flash test.

However, under low lighting conditions, the camera did not deliver much. Using flash helped, but then it did not give the desired results. Spice has also included HDR capability in this model, but low light images are far from perfect. The 3.2 MP front camera is just okay, nothing great.

Software: The Spice Stellar Mi 526 comes with a few tweaks to the Android 4.4.2 KitKat interface. The icons looks better than stock Android. Gallery comes with live preview of video files to name a few. Spice has also bundled a lot of apps out of box, which might be good for some users as few of them are useful. Spice is also offering a separate camera app, which is better than the stock Android version. Also, to enable users to multi-task, the device comes with a floating browser and video player. Other minor tweaks make the UI more user-friendly and attractive.

Spice stellar 526 UI Spice stellar 526 UI

Connectivity: No issues. The device comes with regular connectivity features like 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, hotspot, USB Internet and USB OTG support. You can connect your pen-drive or external hard drive to access content. The smartphone also supports Cloud printing.

Another weird issue is that the device only supports the earphone that is coming out-of-box, which is not of great quality. You cannot use other headsets or earphones with the smartphone. So, the only option is using a Bluetooth headset to listen to music.

Storage: Spice claims 8 GB of internal storage, out of which around 5.98 GB is available to users. The memory can be expanded up to 32 GB via micro-SD card. Users can also opt for 2 GB free space on Spice Cloud. Needless to say, you need to invest in a good micro-SD card with at least 8 GB of storage for carrying HD videos, games and other data.

Battery: Major pain point. The device reached from 100 per cent battery to 45 percent within three hours. How? I kept the display screen at 100 per cent brightness and used it as a WiFi hotspot (3G network) while my sister was playing Angry Birds Rio. When she stopped playing, the device reached to 24 per cent in another 30 minutes. If you keep it at medium brightness, the device might last longer. However, with a 2500 mAh battery and a hexa-core processor, even on medium multimedia usage, you will end up charging the device twice a day. In my case, I had to charge the battery thrice as I viewed some HD videos for a while, played Blood and Glory, used it as a WiFi hotspot, obviously kept it running on 3G network along with some other normal usage. Overall, battery life is poor.

Verdict: The Spice Stellar Mi 526 performance wise is good. It is a decent phone, that is, if you are carrying a power bank with you. Average users will have no issues with the device as such, but Spice could have made it even better without adding much to its expense. At Rs. 11,499, Spice has tried to deliver a pleasing device.

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