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Sunday, February 12, 2017



Ashutosh Desai reviews six new handsets to help you... Nowadays, you can pick a device with an all-metal body, scratch-resistant glass, and fingerprint sensor for anywhere between `10,000 to `30,000. You can also expect a crisp and bright Full HD display, clear call and audio-playback quality, support for USB OTG, as well as enough processing muscle to power through high-definition videos and 3D games without a stutter. That said, each of these handsets will have a couple of features that distinguish it from the others...

The OnePlus 3T boasts of sterling hardware. It posted the highest scores in all benchmark tests (when compared to the devices in this review), and it even performs smoothly while playing resource-intensive games and highdefinition multimedia. This handset outputs quality audio too; music sounds balanced, with tight bass lines and clear vocals.
On the camera front, the 3T's shooters capture details with natural colours.Its rear snapper fared well even in dim settings. These low-light photos contained some noise, but also retained lots of detail. The camera app is basic, with modes like Auto, Panorama, Time-lapse, Slow Motion and Manual. Simply , with the 3T in your pocket, you won't miss your point-and-shoot when on a holiday .
Notably , this is the only handset in this round up that received the latest Android OS update. With `Nougat', you can reorder the shortcuts in the notification area, work across two apps in a split-screen mode, switch between tasks with a double tap of the recent apps button, and more. The 3T runs a customised version of Android, but it is devoid of any bloatware. You get simple additions like gesture control to launch apps from the lock screen, the ability to configure the colour of the notification LED, and a night mode that cuts screen glare when you read in the dark.
Despite its processing muscle and bright display , you get over a day's use from a full battery . Plus, you get a fast-charger that can top up the battery to 50% in less than half an hour.
The OnePlus 3T is not only a good-looking device, it also packs in the most current hardware. Its performance and looks are on a par with handsets that cost almost twice as much, so if you have the budget, there's no reason why you should pick any other smartphone over this one.
SPECS: 5.5-inch (1920x1080px) Corning Gorilla Glass 4 | 2.4GHz Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor | 6GB RAM | 64BG storage | 16MP rear (LED flash), 16MP front camera | Dual SIM | 3400mAh battery PRICE: `29,999 (64GB) | RATING: 8/10

The V5Plus is for folk who take their selfies seriously; it boasts of two hi-res front-facing snappers and a dedicated soft flash for photos in low light. These cameras capture sharp stills with greater detail than almost all smartphone front shooters. A “bokeh“ mode even lets you adjust aperture after the shot is taken to blur out the background and create a DSLR-like effect. The results are impressive, but are better suited for portraitures, rather than large groups because the lens blur works within a small radius only .
The V5Plus' rear camera is capable of detailed captures, with vivid colours and excellent contrast in daylight. However, focusing can be sluggish when shooting close ups.Also, picture quality takes a hit in low light, with visible grain and loss of detail. The V5Plus' customised user interface lets you use gesture recognition to turn off the display , resize the screen for one-handed use and it even supports a split screen mode for messaging only , while you work in another app.
Its audio output is balanced, with clear vocals, clean bass lines and highs. Although the handset uses a dedicated sound processor, it lacks a graphic equaliser.
Apart from being “the“ phone for selfie-obsessed folk, the Vivo V5Plus (with a smooth back that looks almost identical to the iPhone 7) is a good-looking handset that works well for productivity tasks, but is better suited for hi-def multimedia content. And since you get over a day of use on a single charge of its fastcharging battery , you can be assured you won't be reaching for its charger within 24 hours even with a fair amount of photovideo shooting and some gaming.
SPECS: 5.5-inch (1920x1080px) Corning Gorilla Glass 5 display | 2GHz Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor | 4GB RAM | 64GB storage | 16MP rear (LED flash), 20MP + 8MP front (LED flash) camera | Dual SIM | 3055mAh battery PRICE: `27,980 | RATING: 6.5/10

The Lenovo P2 packs a huge 5100mAh battery inside its slim profile. It also comes with a slider button that lets you switch to an ultra power-saving mode--users will only be able to make calls and send text messages--when you need to conserve battery. For instance, with just 30% battery , the P2 can run for over 30 hours. Of course, you also get less aggressive powersaving modes to help prolong battery life.
The handset's UI customisations includes a call recorder; Secure Zone that allows you to create separate work and personal profiles, and Dual Apps that lets you run two WhatsApp accounts (each one registered with a different phone number) on the handset. Similarly , you can be signed in to two Flipkart or Facebook accounts simultaneously . However, Secure Zone can be enabled only when Dual Apps is switched off.
The P2's cameras are quick to focus and there are a number of modes, including a Pro mode with manual controls, to play around with. And while the photographs are good enough for sharing on social media, they are not as impressive as the output from the Honor 6X and the Vivo V5Plus. They lack detail even in broad daylight and there is noticeable image compression.
Also, here you get just 32GB onboard storage, along with a hybrid microSD slot. So you will have to choose between a second SIM or a memory card.
Overall, the P2 is a middling handset: Call quality is crystal clear; its speaker is powerful enough and you can expect decent audio over earphones. You can even watch movies and play 3D games on this smartphone, but none of these features are best in class.
Buy this one if battery life is your main priority . The Lenovo P2 is capable of going well over two days, on moderate use, without a charge. Plus, it supports fast charging and you get a USB OTG adapter to reverse charge any other device from its battery reserve.
SPECS: 5.5-inch (1920x1080px) Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display | 2GHz Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor | 4GB RAM | 32GB storage, hybrid microSD slot | 13MP rear (LED flash), 5MP front camera | Dual SIM | 5200mAh battery PRICE: `17,999 | RATING: 6.5/10

While the Vivo V5Plus comes with dual selfie snappers, the Honor 6X goes the traditional route with two rear cameras that work in tandem to take sharp close-ups with great depth of field.The resulting photos are rendered with neutral colours and quite a bit of detail. When it comes to selfies, its front camera auto-adjusts exposure, especially in low light, to result in pictures that work well for sharing on social networks and instant messaging. The 6X's camera app comes with myriad shooting modes including settings for food pictures, light painting, and Pro Video that lets you manually set exposure, white balance and light metering. Its built-in editing tool includes functions that let you pixelate parts of the photo, highlight only one colour in a monochrome shot, create a mosaic effect, and even a makeup mode for selfies.
The 6X's UI lets you configure its biometric sensor to trigger a range of actions: to take pictures, answer a call, or stop an alarm. It also recognises gestures: swipe downward to open the notification panel, and swipe left or right to scroll through photos in the Gallery app. You also get a Health app for fitness tracking and an SOS emergency service. The latter can be set to sound an alarm and send out a distress SMS with your GPS coordinates to three pre-defined contacts.
Consider the Honor 6X if you want a quality rear shooter coupled with a loaded camera app for post production. You can also expect great network handling for calls, and a battery that's capable of giving you over a day's use, which can be extended with the help of its power saving modes. It helps that the 6X is not a slacker in entertainment and productivity tasks either.
SPECS: 5.5-inch (1920x1080px) display | 2.1GHz Kirin 655 octa-core processor | 4GB RAM | 64GB storage, hybrid microSD slot | 12MP+2MP rear (LED flash), 8MP front camera | 3340mAh battery PRICE: `15,999 | RATING: 7/10

The Cool 1 also comes with two rear cameras that are capable of photos with greater depth of field: the snappers work together to capture a scene and even let you re-focus on any other part of the frame by simple tapping on it. You can then adjust the level of background blur you want to make the subject “pop out“. This feature works as advertised. The colours captured are neutral; indoor shots appear evenly lit and with a fair amount of detail. The Cool 1 even shoots stellar close-up photos. Selfies with the front camera are good for sharing online. You also get basic edit options to add “stickers“ and colour filters to your frames. Though these don't come close to the tools you get on the Honor 6X.
The handset fared better than the costlier Vivo V5Plus and Lenovo P2 in benchmark tests. It works flawlessly for productivity tasks; plays hi-def multimedia content and 3D games without a stutter. Coolpad uses LeEco's customisation of the Android OS, which is fairly basic, light on resources and easy to configure. You also get an IR blaster and a companion remote app to control your TV , set top box, etc.
On the downside, you don't get a memory card slot to expand its 32GB onboard storage. And since it has a USB Type-C interface, you will need to buy a USB Type-C adapter or a compatible pen drive for OTG. Consider this device for its strong processor performance in this price point, minimalist user interface and day-long battery life.
SPECS: 5.5-inch (1920x1080px) Gorilla Glass display | 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor | 4GB RAM | 32GB storage | Dual 13MP rear, 8MP front camera | Dual SIM | 4000mAh battery PRICE: `13,999 | RATING: 7/10

The Redmi Note 4 does not pack in performance-grade hardware, neither does it sport a dual lens camera system, yet it gets a lot of things right. Even though it does not match up to the Coolpad's processing muscle, it is equipped with a workhorse chip that ensures smooth operation while working on documents, browsing the web, watching movies and playing a game. You also get built-in sound optimisation that adds a subtle punch to audio without affecting clarity .
This handset runs a customised UI that lets you switch between two profiles, each with its own set of apps and accounts. Plus, you can secure profiles with a password or fingerprint to prevent snooping. For instance, you can have one for work and another for when your child uses it. You also get an IR blaster to control a TV , DVD player, etc; a call recorder and a basic video editor that lets you trim footage, add text and background music.
Its rear camera is capable of sharp, detailed captures in well-lit settings; indoor images show some muddling of details, but this is a minor grouse. Photo quality , however, drops noticeably in low-light environs. Also, it tends to take a second to focus on objects at times. The front camera produces average results and pales in comparison to the Vivo V5Plus and Coolpad Cool 1.
As far as battery is concerned, you can expect to get two full days of work before reaching out for the charger. Only the Lenovo P2 is capable of outdoing the Note 4 in this area.
In effect, the Note 4 checks all the right boxes when it comes to performance, camera output and battery life. If you need a phone that delivers on all these fronts without breaking the bank, then this one is a no brainer.
SPECS: 5.5-inch (1920x1080px) scratch-resistant display | 2GHz Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor | 4GB RAM | 64GB storage, hybrid microSD card | 13MP rear (dual-tone LED flash), 5MP front camera | Dual SIM | 4100mAh battery PRICE: `12,999 | RATING: 7.5/10


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