Review: Spice Stellar Horizon Mi-500
A budget ICS smartphone, let down by a poor screen.
Dual-SIM functionality; Good camera.
Terrible screen; Mediocre battery life; Uncomfortable for one-handed use; Lacklustre video player.
Spice Stellar Horizon
MRP (As On 18-Oct-2012): Rs 16,000
The monsoon is gone, but the downpour of "phablets" hasn't stopped a bit. Right after my reivew of the Wammy Note, I was greeted with Spice's 5" Android handset. While there's seemingly not much to differentiate these budget phone-tablet hybrids, Spice's Stellar Horizon stands out due to its dual-core CPU. The manufacturer has been generous with the retail package. Apart from a charger, USB cable, and IEMs, it comes with a decent flip cover; check the gallery below. So how does it fare against the competition?
Design And Build Quality
I personally don't like "phablets" because they're too big for a one-handed use. The Horizon is not just big; at 205 grams it's considerably heavier than its competitors. Hurl it in a crowd, and you'll end up knocking a guy off! The design is so uninspiring, you'd be tempted to call it a piece of plastic and glass stuck together. The back panel is so flimsy that it feels more like a cheap Chinese radio than a smartphone! I've seen similarly priced phones, but the Horizon has the poorest design and build quality of the lot.
Like most budget phones, this handset's 5" screen has pixel dimensions of 480x800. The display isn't very sharp, but then you can't expect a 720p screen in this segment. It's slightly brighter than the Wammy Note's screen, but no better in terms of viewing angles. The screen's refresh rate is below average, which leads to blurry text when you're scrolling a list. Other UI elements and gallery images get affected by the refresh rate, too.
The Horizon is powered by a 1 GHz dual-core CPU, whereas most of its competitors have a single-core CPU. This makes the Horizon look strong at least on paper. We'll soon look at its real-world performance; here's the list of detailed specs:
- Dual-SIM (GSM + GSM), Dual-standby, Quad-band 2G (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), 3G (UMTS 2100 MHz).
- Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), Bundled with 6-month subscription to NetQin Antivirus.
- 5" TFT LCD multi-touch capacitive display with 480x800 pixels.
- 1 GHz dual-core ARMv7 CPU, PowerVR SGX 531 GPU, 512 MB RAM.
- 5 megapixel main camera with dual-LED flash, 0.3 mp front camera.
- Camera Features: Auto-focus, 4x digital zoom, Video recording.
- 2 GB internal storage, microSD card slot (supports up to 32 GB) .
- Wi-Fi with hotspot function, Bluetooth, USB, Assisted GPS.
- FM radio, 3.5 mm jack.
- Video Formats: MP4.
- Audio Formats: MP3, WAV, MIDI.
- Proximity sensor, Orientation sensor, Ambient light sensor.
- 5.6" (l) x 3.0" (w) x 0.4" (10.5 mm) (d), Weighs 205 grams.
- 2400 mAh Li-Ion battery, Micro-USB charging port.
- Available Colour: White (I wish it were also available in Grey and Black).
UI And Applications
Spice hasn't made much changes to the stock Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), except for a tacky clock widget. Thanks to the dual-core CPU, the device doesn't show much lag. It easily handles popular games such as Temple Run and Fruit Ninja. Don't get your hopes too high though — it's not the ideal phone to play Dead Trigger. If you're interested in synthetic benchmarks, this phone scores 5212 in AnTuTu. Coming to browsing, you'll be pleased with its page rendering speed. For security, the handset comes pre-installed with NetQin Antivirus, including internet protection, contacts backup, and anti-theft features. I'm not personally fond of using security apps on a cellphone, but it's a good addition nonetheless.
The phone ships with cheap earphones that sound terrible; replace them with a decent pair of aftermarket IEMs and you're good to go. With my regular earphones, I found the Horizon's sound quality very good for the price. The manufacturer has provided a plethora of equalizer settings and sound presets to play around with. Moving on to video playback, MP4 videos up to 720p work without any problem. For DivX, XviD, and MKV, you'll have to install MoboPlayer. Unfortunately, even with the help of third-party apps, the phone couldn't handle 720p DivX and MKV videos properly. The display size is ideal for watching videos, but like I said, the low refresh rate creates annoying ghosting effects.
The 5 mp auto-focus camera is accompanied by a single LED flash. It offers various features including Panorama, Burst mode (16 shots in 7 seconds), and Smile Shot. The images I shot showed a good amount of detail, with noise levels well in control. The handset is capable of recording 480p video at 30 fps. Clips are saved in the 3GP format and offer smooth playback most of the time. Click here to view a video sample.
Telephony, Messaging, Battery, And Verdict
Network reception and voice quality were satisfactory throughout our testing. This is a dual-SIM dual-standby device, so it offers the usual SIM settings. Thanks to a bigger screen, the onscreen keyboard is comfortable even in portrait mode. The smartphone's 2400 mAh battery couldn't even last for a 2 hour movie, though. With normal use, it lasted around 8 hours.
Available for around Rs 12,000, the Horizon scores with its fast processor and a good 5 mp camera. On the other hand, the desgin is bad, and video playback is mediocre. Its biggest drawback has to be the lacklustre screen. I'll recommend the Wammy Note or Mercury's mTABmagiQ over Spice's offering.
Design And Build Quality: 2/5
Value For Money: 2/5
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
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