Friday, February 8, 2013

Review Spice Stellar Virtuoso Mi 495


Spice is one of the few Indian manufacturers who are vying for the enviable position that Micromax enjoys in the market right now. With a portfolio comprising the hot sellers like Canvas 2, A110 as well as the upcoming Canvas HD, Micromax has gained the leading spot in the budget market. 

In hopes of expanding its share in the booming smartphone market of India, Spice has launched its Stellar Virtuoso Mi-495, a dual-sim budget phone powered by Android OS. But can Spice break Micromaxx's winning streak and take over the top spot with its new smartphone Stellar Virtuoso? Let's find out: 
Hardware 

Spice Stellar Virtuoso has a 4.5-inch touchscreen with display resolution of 960x540p and approximately 245ppi pixel density. This dual-sim smartphone is powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor, paired with 512MB RAM, and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. The rear camera has 8MP resolution and is coupled with LED flash, while the front snapper as a 1.3MP sensor. 

Looks 

On first look, Spice Stellar Virtuoso appears a lot like Apple iPhone 5, especially with its thin waistline and curved edges. Moving to the front panel, we were surprised to see there are no hardware or haptic keys below the 4.5-inch screen. When we turned it on, the keys were found to be integrated with the display, taking up a sizeable share of the screen without hindering the display area. Moreover, when we used the device in landscape mode, these keys also changed their orientation, making it more convenient for us to use the device while browsing. 

The rear panel of the Stellar Virtuoso is barren. save for the logo of the manufacturer, model's name and the speaker grille at the bottom and the camera and flash on top. With a clean and uncluttered design, this phone is a winner in the looks department. 

Software 

The device is powered by Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), an operating system that was launched in 2011 and has become outdated. This is a big downside for buyers, since we do not expect the device to be updated to the more recent Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) any time soon, if ever. There are only a few customisations in the software to speak of and the phone largely offers the true Android experience with this device. Some of the apps that come preinstalled in the device are Documents To Go, Nimbuzz and Facebook come preinstalled. 

Connectivity 

In terms of connectivity, Spice Stellar Virtuoso has the standard package, comprising features like 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB, nothing that would surprise us. All the features worked well and we found no problem while downloading data over the web or transferring files from one device to another. Call quality was fine, though calls did drop in places like basements and while travelling in Delhi metro. 

Camera and music 

With an 8MP camera on the back, Spice Stellar Virtuoso had us intrigued with the kind of imaging performance it would offer us. The rear camera did not disappoint, but neither did it surprise us with the photo quality. Overall, buyers are likely to be content with the pictures they get with Virtuoso's camera. 

Video calls on Skype and Google Talk went on without disruption on Wi-Fi and the picture quality on the other end was decent. Sound quality of the Stellar Virtuoso underwhelms, but we cannot ask too much from a phone costing Rs 10,000. 

Overall performance 

This was the real test for Spice Stellar Virtuoso as user satisfaction would depend on the performance it gave during moderate usage. The phone's dual-core chipset processes data well, but it would do well with a little boost in the memory department. The lack of RAM adversely affects the phone's performance, something that has been evident from the beginning. We downloaded about 40 apps that we would generally use and Stellar Virtuoso ended up hanging a lot. So, we reduced the number of downloaded apps a little, which improved the performance quite a bit. 

The touchscreen of the phone looks great, but when we used it while browsing, we felt some friction while swiping the finger up and down, a problem that was strangely missing while playing games. While testing HD games like Temple Run 2 on the phone, we were happy with the performance and enjoyed a lag-free game (after reducing the number of downloaded apps). Battery performance was also decent as the device lasted nearly a day on regular use. 

The YouTube app performed perfectly on Wi-Fi and mobile data, but when we tried to update it to the latest version of the app, it failed repeatedly. This is sure to be a big dissapointment for those who enjoy watching videos on the free-streaming website as the new version of YouTube is faster and has a better interface. 

Rivals 

The problem for Spice Stellar Virtuoso is that it competes with rivals like Micromax Superfone Canvas 2 A100 and Karbonn A30, phablets that are popular in India. Buyers in the country are enamoured with smartphones with 5-inch displays and Spice's phone misses a berth in that category due to its 4.5-inch screen. Apart from that, the hardware specifications are same in these devices but the popularity of these phones will be hard to match for Spice. Maybe, the recently launched Spice Stellar Pinnacle (with a 5.3-inch display) can break the stranglehold of Micromax and Karbonn in this segment, but it seems unlikely that Stellar Virtuoso can pose a challenge. 

Our take 

Spice Stellar Virtuoso is competing in a segment that is dominated by Micromax Superfone Canvas 2 A100. Though it will certainly find it hard to beat Canvas 2, it can certainly meet the needs of buyers who are fine with a phone with a smaller screen, something they can easily fit in their pockets or hold in the hands. There will be some compromises like RAM and screen size to be made with this device, but it will likely please buyers, especially in terms of looks.

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