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Apr 29, 2010, 09.46 AM IST | Source: Chip Magazine

Superb phones for less than Rs 7000

Chip Magazine reviewed 35 phones that have everything from phenomenal sound, good connectivity to ho hum cameras. There's one here for your every need and all under Rs 7,000.

Superb phones for less than Rs 7000

Chip Magazine reviewed 35 phones that have everything from phenomenal sound, good connectivity to ho hum cameras. There's one here for your every need and all under Rs 7,000.

An alternate headline for our story could well have been “Attack of the clones.” If the dynamism in the early days of the PC market was created by the grey market or assemblers, the mobile market is giving birth to new companies launching budget handsets in almost every phone category. Micromax, Lava, Ray, Fly, Intex and Karbonn are some of the companies producing phones at alluring price points. From multimedia phones to models that offer social networking, whatever the big guys can do, these phones can too, but at lower price points.

Price point apart, these phones have some things in common. They tend to use the same Java based UI, which needs to be made more user friendly. Most phones generally have good sound quality, with some units from Micromax actually topping out at exceptional. Most of these phones also provide decent to great FM reception and are ideal for use during long commutes. Camera quality, however, is generally low despite claimed resolutions upto 3.1 MP. Another interesting fact is most of these phones are dual SIM (GSM GSM).

Seven of the 35 handsets we reviewed have QWERTY keyboards. These we like to classify as Blackberry clones. In terms of feature sets the QWERTY phones range from basic ones for under Rs 3,000 (this would be good only to receive calls and send SMS) to advanced versions set up for browsing and social networking. Prices of these handsets top out at Rs 7,000 and for that amount you can get pretty good value for money.

Another interesting point about the clones is the overall design quality and look and feel. Manufacturers have ensured that these phones have good designs, one that you would be happy to tote around. Be it the candy phones or the QWERTY sets, these handsets generally do not look or even feel “cheap”.

A few LG, Samsung and Nokia phones also made the grade of under Rs 5000/- for candy bar phones. Interestingly these phones only have single SIM slots. Samsung’s Marine and a couple of touch screen phones also beat our price target, therefore ensuring almost every type of phone category could be covered.

By aggressively pursuing rich feature sets at affordable price points, these phones raise the bar for manufacturers across the board. The big brands will have to do more to continue to attract premium pricing for their handsets. Some have already announced plans to intro HD recording as standard in their next generation handsets. Others are looking at dropping price points. Again this replicates the early days of the PC market, where assemblers forced manufacturers to either provide more for the same price or compete aggressively on price. The result of that is a vibrant market with a plethora of choices for customers with varied needs and budgets. We are beginning to see a similar story play out across mobiles.

 

 

LG's  GM200 phone has truly hit the sweet spot. This phone offers excellent value for money. It’s very tempting to think of it as a budget multimedia phone. The sound is very loud and clear, and it’s courtesy the Dolby Mobile engine, and speakers which include the 2.1-inch subwoofer. It’s so good, that you wouldn’t want to use the bundled earphones, which are quite decent too. You also have the option to use standard earphones, thanks to the 3.5mm jack. The phone has hotkeys, something uncommon in this range, for FM and music player, and has a dedicated volume control. You can even record FM and store files in the bundled 1 GB microSD card. For Internet connectivity, there’s EDGE/GPRS and WAP and for peer-to-peer connections, there’s Bluetooth. The 2 MP camera is average. It includes a timer, burst mode, color settings, and white balance. In daylight, the images are clear but since there’s no flash, don’t expect good results indoors.

Verdict: In this price we’d say it’s the best pick, especially for music lovers.

For: Excellent sound and FM reception, good ergonomics, battery life and voice clarity.

Against: Camera doesn’t impress and the navigation is slightly sluggish.

The M20 from RAY is an ultra-low budget phone which can playback your favorite MP3 tracks and FM radio apart from the basic “Hello Hello” in everyday life. This phone won the Best Value award plainly due ridiculosly low price. The phone has a very rugged build quality and rubber-finish keypad to withstand daily rough use. The presence of a mini-USB interface is only for charging via the bundled charger or a computer. The RAY M20 does not feature Bluetooth or any synchronizing software—backup or syncing music files is not possible. You would need a card reader to transfer your music to the microSD card. The performance of the phone, though average, is good enough for music and casual telephone conversations. The menu navigation is simple and easy but is very sluggish—
just good enough for first time mobile phone users. Overall, the RAY M20 is
just a phone with a built-in FM radio and an MP3 player and is best suited for those who want a telecommunication medium with a little bit of entertainment thrown in.

Verdict: The RAY M20 is a good choice for youngsters and elders who just need a little more than a phone.

For: Rugged build quality, economical

Against: Sluggish menu navigation.

Micromax’s Q5 is, on almost all counts, a really good device for the price. It may not be much to look at but it’s certainly got the others beat on functionality. Only the 2 MP camera was a bit of a disappointment and can be rated as average. Its keypad is well designed and manageable, in fact it seems like Micromax has focused on that particular aspect more than anything else. It has standardized connectivity options like a 3.5mm handsfree socket and mini USB port. The Q5 is equipped with a Yamaha sound engine that offers quite a few settings to enhance the overall audio quality. This was also the only handset that had no issues whatsoever with video playback. The only other issue with the ezpad Q5 is the slightly awkward LCD display that was a little hard to view unless held at an angle. Everything else, including the battery life are excellent value for the overall price.

Verdict: Micromax's ezpad Q5 is a well designed social networking handset with a couple of minor issues.

For: It has plenty of social networking features, it’s multimedia features work well and it has a good battery life.

Against: The Q5 display has a slightly awkward viewing angle and the camera quality isn’t too great.

 

The Olive G8000, is designed is a basic handset, that has been designed with price as the primary factor. The QWERTY keypad, with its small keys does make typing a bit of chore but it’s possible to get used to the feel of it after frequent usage. For those with slender fingers, it shouldn’t be a problem. The handset offers no connectivity options as it has neither WAP capability nor Bluetooth or USB transfer either. However it’s primary design was to provide texting support and clarity on calls. It may not deliver the best possible performance on both but calls are clear. The only multimedia functionality is an FM radio which works quite well. The UI is easy to navigate but the display tends to flicker when keys are tapped. The main part of the handset’s weight comes from the 1500mAH battery. If you’re looking at a handset that can only be used for the most basic functions this is it.

Verdict: The Olive G8000 is an extremely simple handset that offers no more than the most basic of mobile functionality.

For: It offers a good battery life with pretty decent FM reception.

Against: The handset’s screen flickers when keypad is used and the keypad itself is a bit awkward.

PERSONAL TAKE

Francis D'Sa

francis.dsa@chip.in

If you are strictly on a low budget and are looking for a mobile phone under the price range of Rs 5,000, check out one of these 28 phones. Yes, there are a whole lot of other manufacturers that are not included here, but they are almost similar in features, performance and price. The mobile phones tested and compared in this roundup are similar to unbranded Chinese mobile phones available in the market; but these ones are backed up by renowned companies with their warranty and support.

When opting for a cheaper mobile phone, you should consider a few important factors. Firstly, verify the build quality and ergonomics very closely. It is most crucial that the phone must have a good build quality. A poor build phone affects the overall ergonomics and indirectly the performance too. Also the quality of the shell is most important—continuous usage of the phone can wear out the shell, especially its looks. But if you are looking for a fully featured mobile phone in a budget price, look for aspects such as speaker performance, camera image quality, FM reception and shortcut keys. Operate the phone yourself, have a good look and feel of the device before finally purchase it.

Out of the 28 phones we tested, the LG GM 200 is a perfect all rounder phone. It has a good 2.1-channel speaker system which performed the best of the lot. The phone has a decent camera, sports a good look and the overall build quality and ergonomics is good too.

The Micromax X360 is another great phone—a good balance of performance and features, this one has a cool all-metal shell. Micromax has collaborated with MTV to market the product. Bundled with a 2 GB MicroSD card, loaded with exclusive MTV content—ringtones, fun videos, music videos, the phone features a 3.5-mm audio jack which can be used with any regular headphone. It also has a 2-inch large
display screen. I personally think this phone is a good buy.

Shayne Rrana

shayne@tech2.com

I’m all for these ultra cheap budget handsets and quite the fan of the QWERTY range irrespective of pricing. I have to admit that having a handset that looks like a BlackBerry from almost all angles including the onscreen UI and has the capability to easily integrate the use of two SIM cards, is quite appealing. What I don’t like about these handsets, the thing that’s really annoying, is that the UI, although fluid in most cases, isn’t designed for quick access. There’s always an unnecessary amount of button taps to access simple options. There’s also the bit that media must be put into specific folders if they are to be read by their respective players. Another reason to get irate is that only an extremely small amount of these budget handsets have the processing power to support standard 3GP or MPEG4 video playback. It seems like only videos with a very specific resolution and extremely low frame rate will play without framing.

On the plus side, almost all of these handsets that come with GPRS or even basic WAP access are loaded with Social Networking functionality. This makes them seriously worthy of consideration even with the flaws in the UI.

It seems like there’s a wanton lack of imagination when it comes to handset designs. I can understand that those who can’t afford the Nokia’s or LG’s can settle for those that at least look like them, but let’s face it, they aren’t fooling anyone. Or are they? There was a time when a mobile shop owner actually tried to sell me an ‘N96’ before the N96 actually made it to out from behind the curtain. He insisted it was the real deal and even informed me that Nokia upgraded the model to include a touchscreen. I realized then how well these handsets would sell in a country like ours where more means better and where any handset that looks like a Nokia and has a similar name IS a Nokia.

Another point of similarity with these phones is the quality of audio. These are generally of a very good quality, with some of them even having Yamaha chipsets.

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