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Gionee A1 Plus Review : Good All Rounder, Faces Tough Competition

Gionee A1 Plus

Chinese smartphone maker Gionee has announced the successor to its selfie-focused handset Gionee A1 with Gionee A1 Plus.  Gionee A1 Plus gets upgrades in camera, display and battery department. The phablet sports a massive 6-inch Full HD screen, a 20MP selfie camera, a dual-lens rear camera setup and a big 4,550 mAh battery unit.

From the tech specs perspective, the Gionee A1 Plus appears to be a great device but does it also deliver in real world? Lets find out.

Design
Gionee A1 Plus gets much bigger 6-inch screen compared to Gionee A1’s 5.5 inch one, and while in my fairly large hands fits well, most will find it slightly tough to use it with one hand. Rounded corners and gentle curves makes the device feel smaller than it actually is, and that means most of the tasks like basic screen navigation, calling, scrolling the Facebook etc is still comfortably one-hand operation for any one. The device is 9.1mm think and weighs 229 grams which is 50 grams more than Gionee A1, and is even heavier than the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 which even with larger 6.44 inch display and much bigger 5300 mAH battery is both lighter at 211 gms and thinner at 7.6mm. Gionee certainly is bulkier than it should be but that in our opinion is not a deal breaker.

GIonee-A1-PlusGionee-A1-Plus-front

Gionee A1 Plus is made out of metal and feels sturdy in hands and is also not as slippery as Xiaomi Mi Max 2. The phone has a premium look to, especially rear panel. On the back you have dual-lens camera setup, dual LED flash and Gionee’s trademark branding which can be easily mistaken for a circular fingerprint scanner. The right side of the handset has volume rockers and power button that offers good feedback, while the hybrid SIM card tray is placed on the left edge.

You can also click the power button thrice to trigger the panic button that automatically connects the call to the emergency number, a nifty feature in emergency situations. The clickable home button on the front has the fingerprint sensor embedded in it that unlocks the handset, though we found it to be slightly less responsive than Gionee A1, but that is because the later has ultra responsiveness and not that A1 plus is bad. The 3.5mm headphone jack is placed on top.

Display

Display-Gionee-A1-Plus
Big 6-inch Full HD IPS Screen 1080×1920 pixels resolution and 367 ppi pixel density. And as on paper the display delivers well in real life usage as well. The display is crisp and colours look vibrant. The screen is quite comfortable to use in daylight and the 2.5D curved glass makes for some good viewing angles.

Camera

Gionee-A1-Plus-camera-effect
In red circles: Hair gets blurred but rear wall remains in focus.
Gionee-A1-Plus-camera
Bokeh Effect, Rear Camera, Indoor

The phone boasts impressive camera specs a Dual camera setup with 13 megapixel and 5 megapixel sensors at the back and 20 megapixel selfie camera in the front. Both cameras are capable of taking portraits with bokeh effect.

Front camera clicks crisp and vibrant selfies. The front camera is also supported by a LED flashlight to brighten up the images in non-ideal light conditions. You also get Face beauty mode to tweak the selfies you capture. However, Bokeh effect on front camera is not polished enough and is more of software effect and therefore has its shortcomings, the camera also blurs the edges of the face and will retain focus in some areas around the face. However it is better to have this feature than to not have it at all, if you are careful you can get some cool bokeh effect selfies with this phone.

Dual-lens rear camera setup on the Gionee A1 Plus is in fact rather good. Camera delivers impressive depth of field effect. Bokeh effect works flawlessly on this. The camera manages really crisp pictures even indoors, though low light situations does produce some noise which is a grouse with most phone cameras. In Outdoor bright conditions, you do get some over saturated images, however the camera app offers manual settings which can easily control this. Overall a good camera for a mid range phone.

Software
Android 7.0 Nougat with Gionee’s Amigo 4.0 Gionee A1 Plus has the same customized skin- Amigo OS 4.0 based on the latest Android 7.0 Nougat that we have tested on Gionee A1. There is no difference between this phone and Gionee A1, you can read our Gionee A1 review Here. While it feels quite cluttered, it is also one of the most customizable software layers in the market. The settings menu also allows you to set smart gestures and manage touch capacitive buttons functionality to operate the handset with an ease in everyday usage. Besides, there are several nifty smart settings such as glove mode, edge bar that brings a window of predefined controls on the edges of the screen and skylight mode to make it easy to use the touch screen in case you have applied a flip cover on your smartphone.

Hardware
Gionee A1 Plus is backed by a MediaTek Helio P25 octa-core chipset paired with 4GB of RAM to support multitasking. The chipset comprises of 4 Cortex A-53 cores clocked at 2.5GHz and the other four clocked at 1.4GHz. On the Antutu bench mark it scored a descent 63336 and CPU score 17579 which is a mid to high end score. However it gets beaten by its rivals like Honor 8 Pro, which manages a much higher 140247, OnePlus 3T at 160500 and Nubia Z11 which scores 132020, while its phablet rival Mi Max 2 scores 63688 which is only marginally higher, however it scores 20845 in CPU test.

As the benchmark scores suggest the phablet does not deliver scorching performance but does all the daily tasks and even 3D gaming rather well. Even multitasking on the device is not an issue. In our time with the device we did not encounter any lag in performance.

Storage will not be an issue for users as Gionee A1 comes with 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded by up to 256GB via microSD card. The phone also gets Maxx Audio speakers which is fairly loud and crisp.

Battery and Connectivity
The device boasts a large 4550 mAH battery and that easily propels the phone for at least 2 days of usage for a moderate user. We have already managed without charging for more than 2 days. The added advantage with the phone is fast charging which charges the battery in under 2 hours. There are other battery optimization modes to reduce the power consumption as well. As far as connectivity goes, Gionee A1 has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, dual-SIM support, 4G LTE and VoLTE and GPS.

Conclusion
Gionee A1 Plus is a significant upgrade over the previous Gionee A1. Bigger Battery, Bigger Display and better camera means that it is better than a already very good device. However it has its share of issues, first being the size but that it a trade-off that one has to make, if you want bigger display and bigger battery you have to make do with slightly bigger size and weight.

The bigger issue is the pricing which at Rs 26,999 gets it pitted against phones like Honor 8 Pro (Rs 2000 extra), OnePlus 3T and Nubia Z11 and all of them get better benchmark scores and Honor 8 Pro even gets dual camera setup up its sleves, though all of them have smaller displays compared to this Gionee device. Mi Max 2 is almost Rs 10,000 cheaper also manages similar performance and offers bigger display and battery. However in camera department it is far behind.

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Vivo Y66 Review : Good Phone But Nothing Wow About It

vivo-Y66

Of late Vivo has become very aggressive with its marketing campaign and seems to have taken almost all the advertising space on India’s streets and even became the title sponsor of the Indian Premier League till 2022. The entire marketing is focused on Selfie cameras with their V series phones. While the company started focusing on Selfie camera in its premium range smartphones, gradually it has been extended to its budget phones as well with the introduction of Vivo Y66.

Vivo Y66, priced at Rs 13,990, comes with a 16 MP front camera assisted by a LED flash and a rear camera of 13 megapixel. The front camera, because of the little brighter flash than the conventional, is being marketed as moonlight camera by the Chinese phone maker. However the phone is priced in a price band where it faces formidable competition from the likes of Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Honor 6X and Moto G5 Plus.

Vivo Y66 Look and Feel
There is not much that designers can do in terms of altering the looks of a smartphone, however playing around with material and placement of camera logo etc does give few devices a very distinct look. Vivo Y66 is clearly not one of them. It gets a very run on the mill design though not a bad looking one at all. Vivo has gone with plastic instead of metal as the building material for the phones outer.

The front is dominated by the 5.5-inch IPS display with 2.5D curved glass, which comes with a pre-applied plastic protector on it, which is a good this for the protection and also removes the hassle of getting one applied at a shop. Above the display sits the 16 megapixel front camera flanked by a LED flash and metal earpiece and proximity sensors. Below the screen are the standard capacitive Android buttons that aren’t back-lit.

Vivo Y66 gets power and volume button on the right top which is a standard these days, bottom of the phone gets Micro-USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack and single speaker grill. The left of the phone only has the hybrid dual-SIM tray. It has one slot for a Micro-SIM and another for a Nano-SIM or a microSD card. There’s a chrome trim running along the sides of the phone sandwiched between the top glass and the back panel.

This Vivo Y66 has a 13-megapixel rear camera along with a single LED flash in one corner. Branding is right in the center and antenna lines run across the top and bottom. One of the big a surprising omission is finger print scanner which seems to have become a default feature specially in above Rs 10,000 segment.

In the box Vivo is supplying a clear silicon phone cover for protecting the phone, a basic headset with mic, a SIM ejector tool, a charger rated at 5V 1A, and a USB cable.

Vivo Y66 specifications and UI
The Vivo Y66 is powered by an octa-core MediaTek MT6570 processor with integrated Mali-T860 graphics. The processor is clocked at 1.5GHz and the phone has 3GB of RAM. The phone comes with built in 32 GB of storage, expandable by 256 GB through microSD cards.

The display on the phone is a 5.5 inch IPS one with 720×1280 pixels resolution, not a very high number but sufficient non the less. The quality of the screen is good though brightness should have been slightly more as it feels a tad low even at the maxed out level.

In terms of connectivity, the Vivo Y66 gets Bluetooth 4.0 along with dual-band Wi-Fi and supports 4G network. It supports USB-OTG, which means you can use a pen drive using an OTG adapter.

The phone comes with a non-removable 3000 mAH battery which sounds a bit small but does a decent job supporting the phone for more than a day under low to medium usage which is in fact great. The charger that you get in the box is a 5V 1A charger and therefore does not support fast charging another important miss in our opinion. The charger takes approximately 3 hour to completely charge the phone.

Vivo Y66 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Funtouch User Interface on top. The interface looks prity similar to iOS with even icons used, which means that there is no app drawer making it a single layer interface. All apps are on the home screen itself which makes it easier to use. Quick settings can be accessed by swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

The iOS inspiration can also be seen in the naming of apps which are names i Music, I Theme, and i Manager etc. cloud storage app called vivoCloud is also there which lets you back up everything on the phone.

Apart for these apps, you get UC Browser, Facebook, Amazon, WPS Office, and pretty much the entire suite of Google apps. Vivo has also added gesture shortcuts like double-tap to wake up display or trace alphabets to launch specific apps. You can light up the screen when you wave a hand over it. Overall the user interface is well designed and is easy to use but nothing is orginal Vivo has picked up bits a peaces from different smartphones mostly from iPhone.

Vivo Y66 cameras
Vivo has been aggressively pushing the Y66 for its 16-megapixel selfie camera and flash. The front flash here has a important trick up its sleeve, it gets a filter on top which diffuses the light so that it doesn’t blind you and this soft flash is the reason why its called a moonlight camera. The camera app offers a beautify mode which smoothens skin, you can set the level in this function. The front camera is indeed good for selfies and is specially useful in slightly low light conditions. Though beautify function does take away some details from the images.

At the back, the Vivo Y66 has a 13-megapixel camera with a single-LED flash. Again a decent camera which is a quick to focus in daylight, camera has manual mode as well which lets you control different parameters on your own, and we lowered the exposure level for better shots. In low
light, like most mobile cameras the camera takes a little longer to focus, and had lot of noise and lacked detail, but almost all mobile cameras have this issue and photos were acceptable, Vivo has even incorporated a night mode in the camera app which slight improves the result.

Vivo Y66 performance
We 3GB RAM and Octacore processor we were expecting a good performance and we were not disappointed. The phone does manage to perform normal tasks like browsing, most games etc with ease. However high-end games with lots of graphics does manage to unsettle to the phone a bit.

The phone does get warm under heavy usage but nothing alarming. Battery life of the phone is surprisingly good given that a 3000mAH battery is not really big. It managed to give us full day backup with 10-15% battery remaining consistantly for the time it remain with us which is good given that most phones need charging by the end of day.

Verdict
Vivo Y66 is indeed good in certain areas like User interface which is easy to use, camera which is decent and rather good battery back up. On the down side the phone lacks premium feel and also misses out on latest Android version and finger-print scanner.

As a stand-alone device its good to use and easy to live with, however the phone has a stiff competition in the Rs 14,000 price point that it retails at and it is here that those missing elements in the phone starts to pinch as competition like Moto G Plus or Xiomi Redmi Note 4 or Honor 6X do offer more features.

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HTC U11 Review : A Very Compelling Choice

HTC-U11

In a hotly contested flagship segment with phones like Samsung Galaxy S8, Sony XZ Premium, recently unveiled OnePlus 5 and iPhone7, winning the battle for HTC is not just a question of delivering a good phone, the phone has to be great not just in performance but looks as well. Has HTC got that with its latest HTC U11, here is our take on that.

HTC U11 – Design

The U11 follows the same ‘Liquid Surface’ design as HTC’s previous U Play and U Ultra handsets. Unlike most players and even HTCs metal uni-body design this is a combination of metal and glass.

I think its a good move as it gives this HTC a very distinct unmissable look and that I feel is a very big advantage given that phones like OnePlus 5 looks so similar to iPhone that it is hard to distinguish without getting a look at the logo. In premium category where look is as important as performance HTC has indeed done a good job.

HTC U11 comparo

However being different is not the same as being good. So is the design good? Personally we feel the device looks great and not at all very blingy even though its very shiny with glass at the back which in-fact changes colour based on the angle you are looking at. For example, the silver version I tested switches between hues of silver and blue, while the black takes on a greenish tint at certain angles.

htc-u11-2

The fingerprint scanner sits in the U11’s front home button, which for me is the most comfortable placement and it works like a breeze. While the phone does get 64GB and 128GB internal storage, yet HTC has added a microSD card slot for super heavy users.

Another important and very welcome aspect of HTC U11 is the fact that it meets IP67 certification standards, which means it can withstand drop in liquids at depths of 1 meter and below for 30 minutes.

However, there are certain niggles as well. The back panel is finger print magnet, even 1 minute of usage will cover the back with visible finger marks. Another problem is the thickness of the device which at 7.9mm is slightly thicker specially given the fact that the phone only gets a 3000 mAH battery. HTC u11 also lacks edge to edge display which makes the device slightly bigger than other flagships with similar display size, for ordinary phone it is a non issue but this one is a premium phone.

Another area which can be a cause for concern for many HTC U11 users is the phone lacks a headphone jack. While USB-C port does the work for supplied headphone, and HTC has even supplied an adapter for other headphones, it becomes yet another piece of hardware to carry (though very small) if you intended to use any other headset.

HTC U11 – Screen

Apart from its wide bezel, the U11’s screen is top-notch. The 5.5-inch panel’s quad-HD (2560 x 1440 pixels) resolution ensures text and icons are uniformly sharp.

The Super LCD 5 panel also offers decent colour temperature, with colours neither too warm or too cool, while it lacks vibrancy of AMOLED panels the images look more real.

The back-light of the display should be slightly more as visibility in direct sunlight is not great and gets very reflective.

HTC U11 – Software

HTC has been very good with software and have mostly been ahead of the league. Their new lean approach to the applications and user interface is being well received as one of the best part of the phone. There are no duplicate or unnecessary third party application in the device.

This makes the user interface less cluttered and space is better utilised as you can use what you want instead what was pushed to you. There are some services that have been added like BlinkFeed, Edge Sense and Amazon Alexa support.

BlinkFeed works exactly as it has done on past HTC phones, and can be accessed by swiping left from the main home screen. It offers a curated tile system showing news articles. The feed is customisable and I generally like it.

Edge Sense is a custom feature that lets you interact with your phone by squeezing it. Out of the box, the U11 is set to launch the camera app with one squeeze and take photos with a second. While it sounds cool the squeeze action naturally makes the phone shake, resulting in blurry photos. You can however customise which app you want to open with squeeze. You can also use short squeeze and long squeeze as command for say opening music app and skipping a song.

HTC U11 is the first phone to receive built-in Alexa support. According to HTC, it will be supported alongside Android’s native Assistant, which will make it easier for people to use their preferred virtual assistant without installing an additional application.

Sense Companion is another pre loaded service, which aims to offer recommendations on, for example, nearby restaurants or upcoming events based on the U11 owner’s user habits.

HTC U11 – Performance And Audio Quality

The HTC U11 is one of the first smartphones to run using Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 CPU. With a clock speed of 2.45 GHz coupled with 4GB of RAM, the phone is really fast, but given that OnePlus 5 gets 8GB RAM the fastest tag seems to have been taken.

The U11 however is still blazing fast, 3D games opens in a snap, loading times are amazingly short, and the phone easily deals with multiple-tab web browsing, no stutter or delay when running applications in split-screen mode.

Audio and voice recognition are both areas in which the U11 excels. Featuring support for 24-bit Hi-Res Audio files, the U11 is meant for audiophiles. It offers superb audio quality even with the supplied USonic headphones, which feature a built-in DAC (digital-to-analogue converter), active noise cancellation and a custom feature that creates an optimised audio profile by scanning your ears.

There are better headphones in the market in terms of audio quality but is clearly cut above most phones’ freebies. The ANC won’t drown out the noise of say public transport or a flight, but is good enough for background office noise.

The USB-C-to-3.5mm converter features its own powered amplifier, which further improves the U11’s audio capabilities and offers improved, less noisy audio than competing phones.

HTC has also upgraded the U11’s BoomSound speakers, audio volume and quality have been radically improved by adding an acoustic chamber that allows the highs and mids to sound richer.

The U11’s four omni-directional microphones also makes making and taking phone calls a much richer experience. It also makes vocal commands for Google Assistant respond more accurately due to proper pickup of commands.

HTC U11 – Camera

Of late, Photo quality is an area in which HTC has struggled to compete. This is because HTC’s custom UltraPixel tech has had a tendency to overexpose photos. The camera on the U11 does not seem to have this issue and is very good camera if not a stunner.

Taken in regular light, photos come out great with solid Colour balance. Shutter response is very fast if not fastest and in fact even zoomed in images have great amount of detail. Video recording was also suitably smooth and the four mics make the sound recording in video was a very rich experience with real 3D sound. The U11 is capable of taking above-average photos in low light, especially in pro mode, which offers manual controls for key features such as white balance and ISO. But the camera shutter speed drops to a snail’s pace.

HTC U11 camera pic

On paper, the U11 ticks all the right boxes for low-light photography, featuring a BSI sensor, OIS and impressive ƒ/1.7 aperture that matches that of the Galaxy S8’s but slow shutter speed in low light kills the experience.

The U11’s 16-megapixel front camera is also a pretty solid performer in self portraits and video calls, but again fails to impress in low-light.

HTC U11 – Battery

The HTC U11 features a 3000 mAh battery, which, on a phone this size, is a little small. And in our regular usage test did manage to last a full day. What helps this phone is the use of Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 which takes around 1 hour to charge the phone. However this could have been even better with newer 4.0 version.

The USB headphone converter is a big power sap and drains the battery considerably faster, which we think is a issue for people who travel often.

Verdict

The smartphone proved to be a mixed bag but that is the case with any smartphone. Do we recommend the phone as a good buy? Yes we do, as the phone offers exceptional sound quality, very good camera (falters in low light only), flawless performance and a good display and above all the device looks very different while looking great.

However there are niggles which can’t be ignored, and the prime among them is the fact that phone is a fingerprint magnet which other phones with uni-body metal design are not. Lack of headphone jack is another area of concern specially for music lovers.

Overall, we feel most people will tend to go with Samsung Galaxy S8 and they will be not wrong but HTC has made the HTC U11 which is equally compelling if not more and in certain areas out shines competition.

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