We review the Cherry Mobile Flare X!
Local brands have had it rough for the past few months when it comes to the 9-5K price segment. High spec, low price phones (the so-called bang for the buck devices) from all manner of international brands have slowly started to dominate the conversation in local technology circles, even if their actual sales are still a drop in the bucket compared to the overall sales volume of local brands. While Cherry Mobile hasn’t exactly been quiet the past few months, their recent product announcements haven’t struck a chord with local techies as much as the devices of international brands have.
This changed completely last week when Cherry Mobile officially unveiled what we’d call their Alcatel Flash Plus killer, the Flare X. The Flare X beats the Alcatel Flash Plus in nearly every category, but the question remains: does the Flare X deliver all that it promises, or is there a catch? Let’s find out.
Cherry Mobile Flare X
- 1.7GHz MediaTek 6752 octa-core processor
- 3GB of RAM
- 5.5-inch full HD IPS OGS display, Gorilla Glass 3, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 16GB of storage expandable via microSD card
- 13-megapixel rear camera, Sony IMX214 sensor, BSI
- 5-megapixel front camera
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC
- 3000mAh battery
- Android 4.4 KitKat with OTA for Lollipop
- SRP: Php6,999
Overly safe and uninspiring design
If you’re looking for a phone that has a design that pushes boundaries, then it’s safe to say you can take the Flare X off of your list. The phone is as unoffensive looking as dry bread and plays it completely safe in its design sensibilities. The Flare X uses a plastic cover that’s reminiscent of other Flare smartphones, and sport curved sides for better grip and handling during one-handed use.
The good thing about the overall design of the Flare X is the fact that users can access the battery compartment and the microSD slot (and the two SIM slots) easily, which isn’t present in its closest competitor, the Alcatel Flash Plus.
The volume and power buttons are located on the right side of the phone and sport metallic trims to break up the monotone matte black finish of the Flare X, though we noticed that the buttons are wee bit too small for our liking. The 3.5mm jack is located on the top while the USB port is located on the bottom.
The Flare X uses a 5.5-inch full HD IPS display with OGS and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Right below that are the capacitive Android Navigation keys that light up when in use. As far as overall display quality goes, we’re pleasantly surprised at how bright and vivid the Flare X’s display is. Viewing angles are very good, and the overall contrast ratio is excellent. The only complaint we have is that the display scratches rather easily, which is surprising considering the phone is advertised as having Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Our advice is to swaddle the Flare X like a newborn baby until you can find a screen protector for it when you buy one.
A beastly processor and RAM combination
The Flare X uses MediaTek’s MT6752 octa-core processor, which is the speedier variant used in the Alcatel’s Flash Plus and Lenovo’s A7000 (these two phones use the MT6752M variant, running at 1.5GHz). That processor is paired with 3GB of RAM and 16GB of on-board storage. As far as actual benchmarks go, the Flare X lags behind the offerings of other companies in the same price point, scoring around 39K AnTuTu.
Of course, benchmarks aren’t everything – that AnTuTu score reflects the challenges in driving a full HD display compared to the HD ones in its competitors. In actual use, the Flare X demolishes almost every app that we used on it, without any kind of lag whatsoever. That 3GB of RAM also comes in handy when you’re a multi-tasker, since there’s more space for apps to run in the background, which allows you to switch to apps quickly, without the phone needing to restart them when you work on something else. Games like Asphalt 8, Real Racing 3 and Modern Combat 5 ran well, as you can see in the gaming demonstration above. We did see some lag issues with Modern Combat 5 in some sections, but it never got bad enough that it’ll detract from the game.
As far as LTE performance goes, the MediaTek 6752 processor performs the same way as the ones in the other bang for the buck phones. The phone is capable of connecting to LTE networks though network stability and speeds are not as good as phones running Qualcomm or Kirin processors, sadly.
And while the phone isn’t in Lollipop, Cherry Mobile said that it’ll come with an OTA update for Android 5.1. We’ve discussed why the phone isn’t in Lollipop already before, but we’ll quickly remind you guys: stability. Android 5.0 has a lot of issues when it comes to overall stability and usability, and Cherry Mobile opted to go with a more stable and proven OS over the latest and greatest.
Surprisingly good camera for its price
While bang for the buck phones usually have good specs for the price, some sort of compromise is needed to prevent the price of the phone from rising uncontrollably. The compromise usually happens in the phone’s imaging capabilities as we found out in previous phones. That’s not true in the Flare X – we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the 13-megapixel camera is capable of taking rather good photos in both bright light and low light without too many issues.
For one, we didn’t see prominent purple tinge that another phone from a local brand, the Allure 64 LTE exhibited while taking photos in bright light. While there is purple fringing on the top of the first photo, it’s not as prominent as the one in the Allure 64 LTE. We were also surprised at the phone’s low-light performance – while there’s a definite loss in detail, the camera still produces usable photos that are perfectly acceptable for social media use.
Long battery life
MediaTek’s MT6752 SOC is shaping up to be the company’s most power efficient yet. We’ve seen the processor post rather long runtimes in other phones like Alcatel’s Flash Plus and Lenovo’s A7000, and the Flare X is no exception. While the Flare X takes a hit in overall battery life because of its hungrier full HD display, it’s still able to post around a day and a quarter of useful battery life with moderate use (LTE on, light gaming, internet, Facebook). That means you can probably get away with not charging the Flare X once the day is over and still have a little bit of battery left the next day before it completely discharges. We ran battery drain test with the Flare X, streaming a full HD video from our NAS via WiFi on 50% brightness and 50% volume and we got a result of 5 and 42 minutes before the battery went down to 15%.
Verdict: this is Cherry Mobile’s next hit phone
Cherry Mobile has seemingly done the impossible: offer a phone that meets and exceeds the offerings of international brands that have been dominating the sub 9K market in the past few months. While the Flare X is around Php 500 more expensive than its closest competitor, the Alcatel Flash Plus, that extra Php 500 gives you a better display, 1GB more RAM and a comparatively better camera. There’s been a veritable hype train surrounding the Flare X ever since Cherry Mobile announced it a week ago, and we’re happy to say that the hype is real.
With the official release of the Flare X into stores in July, Cherry Mobile now has a very, very large stick in which to beat the opposition senseless in the next few months. Unless the competition can respond with their own Flare X contender, then Cherry Mobile can expect the Flare X to fly off the stores once it hits stores in July.
The biggest challenge now is longevity – Cherry Mobile has a perceived problem with the durability of phones, with opinions on both extremes. To answer that, we’ll be doing another review after 30 days, and will be using the phone as our secondary unit.
The Flare X is priced at Php 6,999.
Read more about the Flare X: